Penn State Men’s Soccer Beats Wisconsin 2-1, Takes Over Big Ten Lead
Penn State men’s soccer (8-2-2, 4-1-1 Big Ten) defeated Wisconsin (2-10-2, 0-3-1 Big Ten) 2-1 Saturday night. A first-half goal from Callum Pritchatt and an Aaron Molloy rebound just after the hour mark gave the insurance the Nittany Lions needed to outlast bottom-ranked Wisconsin away from home.
The Badgers brought the match back within one through Inaki Iribarren with 10 minutes remaining. Although the rest of the match was nervy, the Nittany Lions proved their grit to remain unbeaten on the road in 2019.
How It Happened
For yet another match, Penn State lined up differently than its previous opponent. The only replacement in the starting 11 was Pritchatt, relegating Duke transfer Seth Kuhn to the bench.
Jeff Cook’s adjustment notably paid off just 14 minutes after kick off. A strong run through the left side of the box by Jalen Watson opened up the Badger defense.
Watson hit a low, hard ball to the back post, where Pritchatt slid to tuck it into the goal for a 1-0 lead. The goal was Pritchatt’s second of the season.
The rest of the first half did little to trouble either net-minder’s goal, however freshman Kris Shakes was called upon a few times as intermission loomed. Shakes’ pair of one-handed stops were enough to keep Wisconsin off of the board heading into the half.
Due to Indiana’s collapse at Maryland on Friday night, the Nittany Lions knew they would assume top of the Big Ten with a win in Madison. The team pushed for a goal that would seal the game, and found one through Aaron Molloy in the 66th minute.
A Penn State corner kick was driven into the scrum within the six-yard box. There were enough bodies to not let goalkeeper Dean Cowdroy get a hand to the ball — the rebound fell to the Nittany Lion captain, who fired a volley from the top of the penalty box.
Despite the relatively comfortable lead, Cook’s men once again made it interesting for themselves, a theme seen throughout the year in seemingly routine victories. With 10 minutes remaining, a goalmouth scramble was enough for Iribarren to put the Badgers within striking distance.
While Penn State was expected to go 2-0 this week, fans will be happy to see that — despite being an inexperienced team — it got the job done in precarious situations. It would be shocking to see the Nittany Lions not grace the Top 25 in the United Soccer Coaches Poll after a top 10 RPI rank and a 22nd mark in the Top Drawer Soccer rankings.
Player of the Match
Pritchatt has quietly been a force on the wing this season, and Saturday night was no different. The Englishman made the most of his starting role, scoring the first half’s only goal.
The hustle on the wing by Pritchatt has opened up a wealth of opportunities for main attacking threats Liam Butts, Christian Sload and Molloy. The winger position has seen a lot of rotation with the likes of Kuhn and Pierre Reedy also in form. Pritchatt showed on Saturday that Penn State is far from a team of individuals, and have embraced the next man up mentality all year.
Penn State will return to Happy Valley for part one of a three-game homestand on Tuesday against No. 18 James Madison. Kickoff at Jeffrey Field is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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