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Penn State Men’s Soccer Outlasts Pitt To Claim 3-1 Victory

Penn State (7-2-2, 3-1-1 Big Ten) weathered an early attacking storm from a dangerous Pitt (6-5-2, 2-2-1 ACC) side Tuesday, securing a 3-1 win at Jeffrey Field.

Penn State captain Aaron Molloy opened the scoring in the first half from the penalty spot. A quick start to the second half saw strikes from Liam Butts and Jalen Watson clinch the match for the Nittany Lions long before the final whistle.

Tuesday’s fixture was the last of a three-match home stretch for Penn State. The Nittany Lions are in excellent form, and have realistic expectations to be ranked following Week 8’s matches after receiving three votes in the prior poll.

How It Happened

Jeff Cook made three changes to his team’s starting lineup after the overtime win against Northwestern. Brandon Hackenberg was immediately inserted back into the starting group following a suspension that kept him from Saturday’s match, replacing Nicholas Rieple.

Christian Sload returned to the lineup for the first time since obtaining a red card against Michigan, and Kris Shakes earned his fourth start in goal. Pierre Reedy and Liam Butts both remained in the XI despite Sload’s reentry, but Reedy dropped to left wing in Cook’s 4-4-2.

Pitt’s Alexander Dexter had the first chance of the match in the seventh minute after a long period of possession for the Panthers. A hard, low shot didn’t fool Shakes, who had only allowed one goal in his three appearances all year.

The Panthers maintained possession throughout the early stages of the match, thwarting rare breakaway chances from Penn State.

The Nittany Lions didn’t find a genuine opportunity until the 17th minute, when Molloy forced a handball a few yards outside the penalty area. The midfielder’s ensuing 25 yard free kick glanced harmlessly off of the wall.

Pitt’s most dangerous player, striker Edward Kizza, found himself through on goal with 13 minutes remaining in the first half. Kizza’s low shot was saved by Shakes, with the freshman managing to corral the ball and prevent a tap-in.

A Kyle May interception with eight minutes left in the half generated a breakaway for the Nittany Lions. Callum Pritchatt was tripped in the box by Tim Ekpone, and Molloy put away the ensuing penalty kick to give the Nittany Lions a 1-0 lead.

Sloppy defending at the end of the half from Penn State gave Pitt chances to equalize, and Cook’s team may have felt lucky to enter the locker room with a one-goal advantage at the break.

Despite the Nittany Lions’ first half struggles, Butts doubled the advantage within 62 seconds of the opening whistle of the half. The freshman dummied a ball to Molloy in a Carlos Vela-esque play. Molloy returned the ball with a creative flick, giving the in-form center forward his sixth goal of the season.

The floodgates were firmly opened within the first five minutes of the second half. A headed flick into the box found Jalen Watson, who calmly finished to score his first goal as a Nittany Lion. By the 50th minute of the match, Penn State had accumulated a solid 3-0 lead.

Pitt occasionally threatened throughout the second half, but nothing was too much for Shakes to handle. Halfway through the closing period, Sload missed just wide of the net in a one-on-one with Pitt goalkeeper Arie Ammann, who spent the first three years of his collegiate career with Penn State.

Bryce Washington found a deserved goal for Pitt with just over six minutes to go off of a corner kick. The 11th shot on goal for Pitt was a mere consolation for the Panthers, and the Nittany Lion flurry in the beginning of the second half proving too much to overcome for the visitors.

Pitt gave the hosts some nervy moments down the stretch, but the defense held its own to close out the match and secure a 3-1 win on a chilly night at Jeffrey Field.

Player of the Match

Liam Butts|Freshman|Forward

It was yet another dominant performance from freshman forward Butts, who tallied his sixth goal of the season. Off the ball, Butts has proven himself to be a valuable asset with his physical hold up play.

Butts was not only a nightmare for the Panther defense; additionally, his 47th minute goal offered the Nittany Lions relief for the rest of the second half. The Nittany Lions looked relaxed and composed following Butts’ slotted finish, a stark contrast from a tense first half.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will hit the road for the first time since October 1 to take on Wisconsin Saturday in Madison. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m. at the McClimon Soccer Complex.

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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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