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Penn State Women’s Soccer Falls To Relentless No. 1 Florida State 3-1, Eliminated From NCAA Tournament

Penn State women’s soccer (12-3-1) couldn’t handle No. 1 Florida State’s (13-0) impressive attack, and ultimately fell 3-1 in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament in Cary, North Carolina Wednesday afternoon.

The Nittany Lions took the lead in the first half against the run of play via Frankie Tagliaferri, but the Seminoles put three unanswered goals away to advance to the quarterfinals.

How It Happened

Once again, Erica Dambach went with her trusted starting eleven to begin the match. However, the formation switched to a 4-5-1 on defense, with Ally Schlegel the lone attacker, a wise decision considering the opposition.

Florida State immediately showed its quality, earning a corner kick in the third minute, and barely missing over the bar on the ensuing header to set the tone. Just two minutes later, the Seminoles recorded another shot that missed wide.

The Nittany Lions were a little stunned with the initial pressure, resulting in long balls to the Seminole backline as the best option. This was ill-advised as a long-term option, however, considering United States women’s national team player Jaelin Howell would recover the ball in the midfield and facilitate the next attack.

However, it only takes one chance.

After 20 minutes of mitigating Florida State’s multiple waves of attack, Sam Coffey began a counter attack deep in Penn State’s half in the 20th minute. Coffey played a nice one-two with Schlegel at midfield, before finding the seam to play in Frankie Tagliaferri. The senior, who has been playing at a player-of-the-tournament level, made no mistake in giving the Nittany Lions the shock lead.

Penn State 1, Florida State 0. Sam Coffey 1, Jaelin Howell 0.

Penn State began to grow into the game from there, although Florida State never stopped being dangerous. While the Nittany Lions were buoyed from the goal, along with a partisan crowd favoring them, the Seminoles dominated in the air.

In the 31st minute, Yujle Zhao sent in a corner kick to the six yard box. Kat Asman was shielded, and the ball set up perfectly to Kristina Lynch, who just had to dunk it in for the equalizer.

It seemed as if Dambach’s team played the rest of the 45 minutes with the goal of survival — either that, or Florida State gave them no choice. Regardless, the Nittany Lions succeeded in getting to the locker room on level terms.

Just like the first half, Florida State came out on the front foot once again. The Seminoles should’ve had a go-ahead goal in the 50th minute through a wide open shot at the penalty mark. Incredibly, the attempt went wide.

The Seminoles kept the squeeze going for the first 15 minutes of the half. It was either incredible defense, incredible luck, or a combination of both as to how the game remained knotted at 1-1 at 60 minutes. Florida State’s chances came thick and fast, including a “double doinker.”

Luck finally ran out for the Nittany Lions in the 62nd minute. While all of the initial chances came within the penalty box, Clara Robbins controlled the ball at the top of the 18 and fired an inch-perfect strike beyond Asman’s outstretched arms to take Florida State’s first lead of the game.

Down one goal, the Nittany Lions still had a fighting chance to catch the Seminoles on the counter attack. However, a ~questionable~ penalty kick call gifted Florida State the 3-1 lead, which was virtually insurmountable with 20 minutes to go with the lack of possession.

It was an odd season for the Nittany Lions, but they had a hell of a campaign. Sam Coffey proved she was a top defensive midfielder, Kat Asman developed into one of the nation’s best goalkeepers, and while she ended the campaign on a disappointing note, Ally Schlegel was a force to be reckoned with at the top. The list could go on — when it came to year-over-year progress, each Nittany Lion improved drastically from last year, and should get even better, despite an extraordinarily short offseason, in the fall.

But the individual players weren’t the reason this team made it to yet another Sweet Sixteen. Dambach’s squad grew together as a team through a season riddled by a global pandemic, and despite various committees underrating the Nittany Lions, they went toe-to-toe with the best team in the country and nearly surprised them.

Next fall, this team will be a national contender. You can count on that.

Player Of The Match

Eva Alonso | Freshman | Defender

It isn’t easy for a foreign player to come to the NCAA scene and play solid day in and day out, yet that is exactly what Eva Alonso did in her first season as a Nittany Lion.

Today, the Spaniard was everywhere on defense.

Florida State has some of the best attackers in the nation, but Alonso was a big reason Penn State stayed in the match until the 70th minute or so. She did her best Ruben Dias impression by blocking everything that came her way, closed down the forwards fearlessly, and commanded the backline like a veteran.

It’s safe to say that Alonso will be closely monitored by multiple NWSL teams as her collegiate career progresses.

What’s Next

That’s it for the Nittany Lions. After another fantastic season, Penn State women’s soccer will return to the field in the fall.

Luckily for Erica Dambach and the squad, everyone except for Kristin Schnurr will return to the squad next season, as the three senior captains announced their return to Happy Valley for one more campaign.

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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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