Women’s Soccer Draws With West Virginia 1-1 In Season Opener
Erica Dambach’s defending national champion Nittany Lions took the pitch at a packed Jeffrey Field Friday night for their televised season opener against No. 6 West Virginia in a rematch of last year’s Elite Eight. No. 2 Penn State pulled away early in the second half thanks to a beautiful goal from true freshman Laura Freigang, but the Mountaineers responded in the 77th minute to force overtime and an eventual 1-1 draw.
The Nittany Lions are without five of their top players this season, as Dambach announced prior to the match that Emily Ogle, Kaleigh Riehl, Maddie Elliston, Ellie Jean, and Rose Chandler will take the year off in hopes of making the U.S. roster for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea Nov. 13-Dec 3.
How It Happened
Penn State, decked out in its fresh new blue kits, did an nice job of keeping the ball in Mountaineer territory early on, as true freshman goalkeeper Amanda Dennis didn’t face much pressure to begin her first career start. The San Diego native was tested in the 18th minute, though, and responded calmly with a pair of gorgeous saves to keep head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown’s West Virginia squad off the board.
Senior captain Nickolette Driesse nearly pulled off a stunning back-heel assist to Elizabeth Ball during the 26th minute, but the Mountaineers managed to clear it from the box before she could capitalize. Dambach later made her first pair of substitutions on the season, bringing in Salina Williford and Laura Freigang in the 31st minute prior to seeing what Kristin Schnurr and Taylor Campbell-Phipps could do in the 42nd. Despite matching the Mountaineers in shots with five during the first half, neither side could break through the opposition’s back line, leaving the match in 0-0 stalemate through 45 minutes of play.
Penn State drew up some changes during the intermission and came out firing a few minutes into the second half. Freigang, who hails from Oppenheim, Germany, beat West Virginia goalkeeper Rylee Foster with a blistering right footer in the 51st minute to give the Nittany Lions a 1-0 lead.
The blue and white really started to turn it on offensively toward the midway point of the second frame, unleashing a barrage of shots on net, but each time Foster had an answer. Junior forward Michaela Abam provided a clutch goal late in the 77th minute to tie things up for the Mountaineers at 1-1. Regulation wasn’t enough to decide a winner, so both teams huddled up before heading back out for two 10-minute halves of sudden death overtime.
Penn State had plenty of opportunities to walk off with a victory in the first half of overtime, but couldn’t finish one of its many set pieces just outside the Mountaineer box. The Nittany Lions battled extremely hard all match long, but after 110 minutes of play, neither side managed to break the 1-1 draw.
Player Of The Match
Laura Freigang | Midfielder/Forward | True freshman
Freigang picked up Penn State’s first goal of the season to give the Nittany Lions the lead early in the second half. She figures to be a key contributor this fall.
The Nittany Lions will return to Jeffrey Field for a Sunday showdown with Hofstra, who bested Buffalo 1-0 in the first leg of the Penn State Invitational, at 2:30 p.m.