Penn State Women’s Soccer Unlocks Compact Indiana Defense In 1-0 Win
Penn State women’s soccer (8-6-1, 4-3-0 Big Ten) overcame a compact and well-organized Indiana (6-6-1, 2-3-1 Big Ten) defensive to secure a 1-0 road win Thursday evening.
The Nittany Lions were frustrated by the Hoosier’s impeccable defensive shape and dangerous counter attacks throughout the first half, but attacking magicians Frankie Tagliaferri and Kerry Abello combined to break the deadlock in the 63rd minute.
How It Happened
Penn State faced the unique challenge of breaking down a five-defender backline against the Hoosiers Thursday evening. Indiana head coach Erwin van Bennekom’s side attempted to possess in the defensive third and find forward Chandra Davidson with long passes forward.
Caitlin Haislip and Kaleigh Riehl limited Indiana’s opportunities going forward, but Penn State struggled to test Indiana’s packed-in defense throughout the early going. Sam Coffey’s left-footed shot came close to putting the Nittany Lions ahead in the third minute, but was just wide of Bethany Kopel’s left post.
Indiana’s best chance arrived ten minutes later, when miscommunication between Haislip and goalkeeper Amanda Dennis gave Melanie Forbes a shot from outside the penalty area. Dennis made an excellent diving save to tip the winger’s chipped shot off the crossbar.
Penn State’s high press, lead by Coffey, yielded several opportunities for the Nittany Lions, but Indiana’s plan of keeping possession at the back, playing lock-down defense, and furiously pursuing their few attacking moves was clear throughout the first half.
It worked, too. Even when Penn State won the ball well forward, Coffey’s shots were blocked, Tagliafferi’s through passes were cut out at the last minute, and Kerry Abello’s usually dangerous crosses drifted untouched through Indiana’s penalty area. By the end of the half, Penn State was dropping its lines when Indiana gained possession in a strange reflection of tactics.
The two teams entered the break without a goal to separate them.
“Now we’ve got to figure out a way to be more dangerous,” Dambach said at halftime.
Ally Schlegel must have been listening. in the first minute of the second half the Big Ten’s joint top scorer broke into the Indiana penalty area and curled a shot that just floated past the outside of the far post.
The Hoosiers pushed forward as well, with Forbes curling a left-footed shot just past Dennis’s right post in the 50th minute.
Schlegel dropped into midfield as the Hoosiers gained some attacking traction, freeing Frankie Tagliaferri and Payton Linnehan to push even further forward.
Tagliaferri showed her dribbling skills in the 55th minute, beating several defenders after picking up the ball at midfield and before firing a dangerous shot just wide of Kopel’s post.
Tagliaferri’s drive seemed to spark something within Penn State’s offense. Cori Dyke, standing on the top of the penalty area, collected a cross from Linnehan in the 59th minute and sent a perfectly struck volley towards the top corner that Kopel tipped off the cross bar.
Four minutes later, Penn State finally broke the deadlock on its tenth shot of the evening. Tagliaferri played a teasing through pass between Indiana’s center backs to Abello, who lobbed the ball over Kopel and into the back of the net.
As Indiana tired and Penn State’s confidence grew, the Nittany Lions took full control of the match. Tagliaferri left the match with an apparent injury in the 75th minute.
Davidson latched on to an awkwardly bouncing cross with two minutes remaining in the match, but her point-blank volley fell straight to the arms of Dennis, and Penn State held on to secure a 1-0 win in Bloomington.
Penn State now sits fourth in the Big Ten table, three points ahead of Rutgers and Maryland with a game in hand.
Player of the Match
Amanda Dennis| Senior|Goalkeeper
Dennis made only two saves in the match, but her first-half dive to tip Forbes’s shot off the crossbar was a crucial play. She remained calm in the final moments of the match, stopping a dangerous last-minute volley and keeping out a floated Hoosier free kick.
Penn State travels to West Lafayette to face Purdue (6-5-2, 2-3-1 Big Ten) Sunday, October 13 at 11 a.m.
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