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Penn State Men’s Soccer Falls To Michigan 1-0 In Big Ten Semifinal

Penn State men’s soccer (12-3-3) couldn’t answer a Jack Hallahan free kick and fell to Michigan (11-4-4) 1-0 in the Big Ten semifinal.

The No. 2 Nittany Lions were eliminated in heart breaking fashion at Ludwig Field in College Park, Maryland. However, the season isn’t over for Penn State, which will likely earn an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.

How It Happened

Jeff Cook didn’t make too many changes from the comprehensive 3-0 victory over Wisconsin. The only addition was Pierre Reedy returning to the fold after being injured in the 3-2 victory over Maryland. Callum Pritchatt was relegated to the bench after enjoying a stint in the starting lineup.

Early combination play from the Wolverines nearly fooled Penn State. Michigan earned two corner kicks within the first two minutes of the match. The Nittany Lions quickly got themselves into the affair, and a scrum in the box in the eleventh minute almost brought a 1-0 Penn State lead.

Goalkeeper Owen Finnerty saved Michigan minutes later after Christian Sload chance was squandered. The freshman shot-stopper blocked Sload’s point-blank effort.

Penn State’s freshman goalkeeper wouldn’t be outdone early on. Kris Shakes risked his body to thwart Umar Farouk Osman’s advances, picking up a knock in the process. Worryingly for Penn State, Shakes needed a discussion with the trainer halfway through the first period, and he taped his fingers before play resumed one again.

While Penn State wasn’t playing Michigan off the pitch, the Nittany Lions’ defense did well in the first half to limit the Wolverines’ chances. Chaka Daley’s men, who average more than 13 shots per game, only recorded two shots through 45 minutes.

The first half was largely played in the midfield, and the teams went to the locker room still tied at 0-0.

For the second half in a row, Michigan were the early aggressors. Hallahan hit a low-driven shot from the top of the box that nearly found the right corner as Shakes had no chance on the Michigan attempt. While only recording two shots in the first half, Michigan had three in the first five minutes of play coming out of the break.

The match’s decisive moment came in the 62nd minute. Michigan star forward Nebosja Popovich was through on goal before getting cleaned out by Shakes. The goalkeeper was the last defender, and referee Sergio Gonzalez should have produced a red card and ejected the goalkeeper. However, Gonzalez took mercy on Shakes and only gave him a yellow, avoiding a situation mirroring Penn State’s last defeat to Indiana.

The good fortune for Penn State was short-lived, as Hallahan smashed the ensuing free kick into the right corner to lead 1-0. Hallahan’s score was the first of the year in the Penn State-Michigan fixture in 172 minutes of play.

With 16 minutes to play, a good offensive sequence gave Molloy a chance at the back post, but his header found Sload in an awkward spot.

Penn State won a corner with two minutes to play, and it resulted in the ball bouncing right at the doorstep. Molloy was closest to the ball, but an agonizing deflection saved the Wolverines, who prevailed to win the match, 1-0.

Player of the Match

Aaron Molloy | Senior | Midfielder

The Big Ten Midfielder of the Year didn’t have a career match by any stretch of the imagination, but the Irishman did his part in a hard-fought encounter. Molloy continuously broke up Wolverine attacks, and he created on the offensive end as well.

What’s Next?

Penn State will wait for the Selection Show on Monday to determine its first opponent in the NCAA tournament.

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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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