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Penn State Men’s Soccer Proves Grit In Home Stretch

Last fall, Penn State men’s soccer placed sixth in the Big Ten, with a 6-9-2 season record. This preseason, they were expected to match last campaign’s mark, with August’s initial projection placing the Nittany Lions at number six.

Fast forward two months, and Penn State is top of the heap in the conference and ranked No. 19 in the United Soccer Coaches Poll, its first top-25 ranking since 2015. If head coach Jeff Cook’s first season was an acclimation period, his second season has been a celebration of what’s to come.

While the team is at 8-2-3 with three matches remaining, it hasn’t been a walk in the park for the Nittany Lions, who have needed to grind out ugly results.

Take the past few weeks for the Nittany Lions as an example. An overtime win against Northwestern doesn’t scream “title contender,” and it was admittedly not Penn State’s best game. However, despite the 10-man Wildcats opportunistically equalizing in the dying moments, Cook’s squad found a way to win with a scrappy tap in from freshman Liam Butts earning them a golden goal.

A few days later, Penn State once again showed its alpha status, dispatching in-state rival Pitt with relative ease. The struggles returned on the road to Big Ten bottom-dwellers Wisconsin, who gave the Nittany Lions a scare on White Out night.

The Nittany Lions have learned that you must perform on a rainy night at Stoke, as they say in the Premier League. In an ultra-competitive Big Ten conference, there are no easy games, and Cook has instilled a fighting attitude that the team hasn’t seen in quite some time.

The scrappy, aggressive, team-first approach that the men’s soccer squad has taken to this season will be an advantage once the one-and-done postseason arrives. While the team will have nights like the Pitt game and run the competition off of the field, the hard fought matches that test the Nittany Lions’ grit will be most important in the coming weeks.

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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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