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Penn State Women’s Soccer Bounces Back In ‘Professional Win’

Penn State women’s soccer did its job on Wednesday night and left no doubts in a 5-0 drubbing of Alabama State to open the NCAA Tournament.

Wednesday’s match had a lot of similar qualities to the Nittany Lions’ most recent outing, which resulted in a Big Ten semifinal loss to Iowa. Penn State had far more shots, far more possession, and the odds on its side.

This time, the Nittany Lions were clinical.

“From start to finish, it was professional,” head coach Erica Dambach said after the match. “We had players come off the bench who gave us important minutes. At this point in the season, you want to feel like you’re firing on all cylinders, and that’s what tonight felt like to me.”

While striker Ally Schlegel didn’t get in the scoring column, it seemed like every player had at least a scoring opportunity on Wednesday. Frankie Tagliaferri wound up leading the team with a brace, while bench players also had the chance to step up.

Freshman Olivia Damico scored her first in her collegiate career on a cross from Elle Kershner towards the end of the first half. Neither are starters, but the Nittany Lions were able to produce in the early going, letting everyone get in on the fun.

The free-flowing attack was in stark contrast to the Iowa loss two weeks ago, which can only embolden the squad moving forward. The likes of Tagliaferri, Linnehan, Schlegel, and more were stellar despite a standout performance from Alabama State goalkeeper Madison Roop.

“Their goalkeeper was exceptional. Right off the bat, she made three big saves and really did a nice job for that team tonight,” Dambach said.

Dambach was pleased with the outing but knows that the team must be sharper when No. 16 Vanderbilt is on the other side of the field on Saturday.

“You want to walk out of this game with a good feeling, and I don’t think a win necessarily would give this group a good feeling,” Dambach said. “Right now, you want to perform. There were certainly moments in this game where I thought we fell off.”

If there are any negatives to take away from a clean, five-goal match, it would be how the team came out in the second half.

The Hornets sprang on Penn State early in the closing 45 minutes, knowing they needed to act fast. The Nittany Lions weathered the storm and wound up dominating the rest of the game, but a better team would have made them pay.

“They talk about that in our sport, five minutes before and after half and after a goal [are important],” Dambach said. “That was a crucial five minutes, and we will address that point with the group going forward.”

Penn State will now play No. 16 Vanderbilt in a highly-anticipated second-round matchup on Saturday. After such an amazing season, the Nittany Lions should’ve also received a bye, although the questionable decision by the selection committee will no longer affect Dambach and her team.

At this point, only 32 teams remain. Now, it is all about the next game leading to the next win.

“I think that the group was a little taken aback [with the draw result],” Dambach said. “However, I think that lasted about an hour after the bid came out, and then they got back to business. There is such a thing as a harder path than others. But at the same time, we want to get the chance to play against the best teams in the country. We are getting that opportunity.”

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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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