Women’s Soccer Clinches 18th Big Ten Title, Downs Ohio State 2-0
No. 21 Penn State played host to Ohio State Wednesday evening at Jeffrey Field with Big Ten regular-season title aspirations on the line during its annual Pink Zone “Kick for a Cure” match.
Erica Dambach and the Nittany Lions needed a win, plus either losses or draws from Minnesota and Northwestern, in order to claim the conference crown outright. Their respective tilts were just getting started when Penn State finished up a convincing 2-0 victory over the Buckeyes to clinch at least a share for the 18th time since joining the Big Ten in 1994.
How It Happened
Penn State (11-3-4, 7-1-3 Big Ten) and head coach Lori Walker’s Buckeyes battled back and forth throughout the early going. Junior captain Megan Schafer had an excellent opportunity on a breakaway in the 12th minute, but her shot sailed high over goalkeeper Devon Kerr and the crossbar.
Ohio State’s Lindsey Agnew barely missed providing the match’s first fireworks in the 34th minute. The senior forward rocketed a shot bar-down from way out, but Amanda Dennis was there to keep the ball from crossing the goal line. Both sides would rattle off five shots apiece in the first half, but neither could find the back of the net despite plenty of action in and around the box.
It didn’t take long for freshman Laura Freigang to break things open. Haleigh Echard placed a beautiful pass right where the German standout could get her head on it, and she finished a tremendous highlight-reel goal to put Penn State up 1-0 in the 51st minute. Freigang scored her first career goal in a 1-1 draw with now-No. 1 West Virginia in the season opener (wouldn’t you know it, also in the 51st).
Late in the 73rd minute, junior center back Elizabeth Ball boosted a pass downfield for Schafer, who immediately found sophomore Charlotte Williams for the match’s second goal. Williams’ fourth tally of the season was a huge one, as the Nittany Lions needed as many goals as possible in case of a Big Ten tiebreaker. Penn State’s defense dug in over the last 17 minutes to finish off its seventh clean sheet of the season.
“That was the first time in 10 years that I shed tears after a Big Ten Championship,” Dambach said in her postgame press conference. “And that’s just out of pure pride for what they did all season long. We had our ups and downs, but they came out here tonight with a set of belief. It took the entire Penn State soccer family tonight.”
Player Of The Match
Laura Freigang | Freshman | Midfielder/Forward
Freigang’s breathtaking header broke the stalemate and spurred an impressive win for the Nittany Lions when they needed it most. “I kind of saw it coming, and I was like, ‘I need to score this one,’ Freigang said of her goal. “It was just a great feeling to help the team.”
Penn State will be back in action this Sunday at Jeffrey Field for the Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals at 1:00 p.m. Its opponent has yet to be announced.