Weekend Sports Recap: Busy Weekend Ends With National Championship For Women’s Soccer
Penn State athletics enjoyed a particularly successful weekend, capped off by the women’s soccer team bringing its first National Championship trophy back to Happy Valley. Practically every winter sports program competed at some point while fall sports began to wrap up with post-season play. And though Penn State football didn’t play this weekend, the team was selected to play in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Georgia on January 2.
The excitement built early in the weekend as the women’s soccer team shut out Big Ten opponent Rutgers 2-0 on Friday night in the College Cup semifinals to punch its ticket to the final on Sunday. Sophomore Frannie Crouse put the Lions on the board in the 24th minute, recording her 11th goal of the season. Penn State’s second tally didn’t come until later, when freshman defender Kaleigh Riehl sent one past Rutgers’ keeper.
Duke defeated Stanford and Florida State to set up the College Cup final in at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina. The Blue Devils tested Penn State early, forcing the defense to stop a penetrating Duke offense throughout the first half. The second half continued in the same defensive battle until Raquel Rodríguez recorded a go-ahead goal in the 72nd minute of her last match as a Nittany Lion. Penn State was able to hold on for the remaining 18 minutes to capture its first National Championship, ultimately defeating Duke 1-0.
In other post-season play, Russ Rose’s women’s volleyball squad began its quest for its eighth national championship Friday night in Rec Hall against Howard University. The match started pretty even until the Nittany Lions pulled away to take the first set. A strong second-set victory set the ladies up for a third set that resembled the first, but Penn State ultimately swept the Bison (25-15, 25-8, 25-18) to move on to the second round Saturday evening.
Back in Rec Hall the next day, the women’s volleyball team struggled a little more against unseeded Dayton. The Flyers kept things close throughout, and only let the Nittany Lions escape with a 25-17 victory in the first set. The second set was hard to swallow, seeing Penn State fall to Dayton 25-13. Invigorated by the dropped set (and surely Coach Rose in the locker room), the Nittany Lions came back out to take sets three and four 25-14 and 25-17, respectively to take down the Flyers, 3-1.
In Pegula for the Big Ten opener, men’s hockey swept Michigan State. On Friday night the Nittany Lions utilized a big second period to put the Spartans away 4-2. Penn State scored all four of its goals in the second, including a program-record score by Andrew Sturtz 10 seconds into the period.
Things only got worse for Sparty Saturday afternoon when Penn State skated to a dominant 6-1 victory. The Nittany Lions wasted no time, burying an Eric Scheid shot in the first two-and-a-half minutes, then another a minute later. Michigan State’s lone goal came in the beginning of the second period in what was otherwise Penn State’s show.
Across the street in the BJC, the men’s basketball team decidedly downed Eastern Michigan 81-70 Saturday afternoon thanks to a career-high scoring effort by Brandon Taylor. The senior contributed 27 points as well as 12 rebounds to lift the Nittany Lions over the Eagles.
The women’s hockey squad didn’t make out quite as well as its male counterparts. The ladies played a series against Syracuse in New York on Friday and Saturday and came out with a loss and a tie. On Friday night, Penn State fell 3-1 and was able to hold Syracuse to a 1-1 tie in Saturday’s rematch, but the team’s record dropped to 4-10-4 overall.
The men and women’s swimming and diving teams were a little spread out this weekend, sending competitors to both the UGA Fall Invitational and the Big Al Open at Princeton. The No. 15 ranked women took fourth in Georgia while the men placed sixth. In New Jersey, two women advanced to the finals, though both the women and men came in seventh, with scores of 67 and 122, respectively.
Women’s basketball only had one game this weekend, on Sunday afternoon, but it wasn’t pretty. The Lady Lions fell 101-79 at the hands of the USF Bulls, but five women recorded double-digit scoring efforts, which hasn’t happened since February, 2012.
The wrestling team also dominated, with seven Penn Staters taking first place at the Nittany Lion Open, a competition which featured more than 300 wrestlers.
Next weekend will be a busy one as well, with women’s volleyball continuing its quest for the NCAA title in Iowa. The wrestling squad will host its first of two BJC Duals on Sunday at 1 p.m. against the Wisconsin Badgers. Coach Chambers’ team will also have a change of venue in its “Return to Rec” to face Canisius on Thursday at 7 p.m. and the University of Louisiana at Monroe on Saturday at 2 p.m.