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Penn State Men’s Soccer Falls To No. 8 Indiana 3-1

No. 8 Indiana (7-1-2, 3-0 Big Ten) defeated 10-man Penn State (5-2-2, 2-1-1 Big Ten) at Jeffrey Field on Sunday afternoon.

An early red card to Brandon Hackenberg put the Nittany Lions in a tough position, and they conceded three goals to the dangerous Hoosier attack. Indiana capitalized with first half goals through Joris Ahlinvi, A.J. Palazzolo, and Spencer Glass.

An Aaron Molloy second half strike was a mere consolation for Penn State, who lose their top spot in the Big Ten for the first time this season. The defeat is the team’s first since an opening day loss to Stanford, snapping a seven game unbeaten streak.

How It Happened

Penn State made just one lineup change from its 3-0 victory at Michigan State, with Jalen Watson replacing Alex Stevenson at left back. Christian Sload remained out of the starting XI; the star striker served a one game suspension on Tuesday following a red card against Michigan.

The first big chance of the game came in the tenth minute, when Indiana forward Herbert Endeley tested Josh Levine from short range.

Minutes later, a long ball over the top put Palazzolo through on goal. Brandon Hackenberg brought the Hoosier down just outside the box, resulting in a red card. Levine was forced to make his second save of the game against the resultant free kick.

Ahlinvi capitalized on the man advantage in the 16th minute, rising above Levine to power a header home from close range. Palazzolo added insult to injury for the Nittany Lions just over a minute later, heading in off of a free kick to double the Indiana advantage in the early going.

Halfway through the first half, the eighth-ranked Hoosiers added a third. Midfielder Glass caught Levine napping off of a short corner kick, hitting a snap shot inside the near post.

Penn State was forced to drop into a 4-4-1 following the Hackenberg ejection. However, after conceding three quick goals, Jeff Cook opted to play more offensively, reverting to a 4-3-2. Sload returned to action with 20 minutes left in the opening half, and seemed to temporarily reenergize the 10-man Lions.

Penn State went into the second half with just one recorded shot. After Hackenberg left the field, the Nittany Lions’ offense failed to generate any meaningful possession.

Despite the man disadvantage, Penn State began the closing half well. In the 55th minute, Dax Hoffman received the ball in the box in a goalmouth scrum. The defender played it back to Molloy, who smashed a low driven volley off the post and in to bring the match to 3-1. The rejuvenated Lions began to win contested challenges after Molloy’s goal for the first time in the match.

Indiana resumed their pressure at the hour mark. A free header in the box forced Levine to make a one hand save, his fifth of the afternoon.

Despite allowing the floodgates to open midway through the first half, goalkeeper Levine made his case to maintain his starting position against the also solid Chris Shakes. With seven saves in the match, the senior kept the Nittany Lions within striking distance of the Hoosiers.

With 10 minutes left, Cook made four high-profile substitutions. Pierre Reedy, Seth Kuhn, Butts and Sload all reentered the match in an attempt to score two goals.

Penn State pushed forward in the dying moments of the match, but goalkeeper Roman Celetano — making his first road start of his college career — held firm. The Nittany Lions’ frustration boiled over in the final minutes of the match, resulting in a chippy end to the 3-1 loss.

While Penn State looked second best for most of the match, Cook’s men will be able to take some positives from the loss. Going down to 10 men in the early going appeared to run the Nittany Lions off the field, but the second half showed the squad’s grit. If not for the Hackenberg red card, the scoreline may have looked different.

Player of the Match

Aaron Molloy|Senior|Midfielder

Molloy was the best player on the field, even if his second-half goal for the Nittany Lions is excluded from an evaluation of his performance. The senior did a good job facilitating the midfield, and found Butts and Sload on many occasions.

Molloy’s 20-yard strike in the 55th minute kept the Nittany Lions in the match, and gave them an ultimately untaken chance to steal a point against Indiana.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will host Northwestern (5-4-1, 1-1-1 Big Ten) next Saturday at Jeffrey Field. The match will kick off at 7 p.m.

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About the Author

Otis Lyons

Otis is a sophomore majoring in print journalism and is one of Onward State's associate editors. He lives just north of San Francisco, and is a diehard San Jose Earthquakes fan. Feel free to send over your soccer hot takes to his twitter @otisnlyons1 and instagram @otislyons

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