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Penn State Men’s Soccer Mounts Ferocious Comeback, Ultimately Defeated By No. 8 Georgetown 3-2 In Sweet Sixteen

Penn State men’s soccer (9-2-2) couldn’t complete a wild comeback against No. 8 Georgetown (10-1-2) in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen on Thursday afternoon in Cary, North Carolina.

Peter Mangione converted a penalty kick in the first half and Danny Bloyou scored at the hour mark, but three first half goals were enough for the Hoyas.

How It Happened

Jeff Cook trotted out virtually the same lineup as in recent contests, with one exception. Andrew Privett rejoined the midfield, replacing Keegan Ness.

Both teams began the game aggressively, and it had the makings for a very exciting encounter. Defensive challenges were coming thick and fast, and controversy soon followed.

In the ninth minute, the Hoyas had the ball in the penalty box.

The ball bounced up onto an attacking player’s arm, before hitting Brandon Hackenberg in the same spot. The referee didn’t see the first, but certainly saw the second, and Georgetown earned a penalty. Despite the Penn State fans’ protests, without VAR these things are hard to catch, and it was an understandable, albeit unfortunate, mistake.

Dante Polvara stepped up confidently, and within 10 minutes, the Nittany Lions were down 1-0.

However, karma works in funny ways. Penn State came back energized, and it didn’t take long to get the ball at the feet of striker Danny Bloyou. The Old Dominion transfer slalomed his way into the penalty area, and the last defender could only bring him down.

Just four minutes after Georgetown took the lead from the spot, freshman Peter Mangione returned the favor, cooly slotting past Giannis Nikopolidis to equalize.

While the score was equal, the possession was not. Georgetown had the ball in good areas way more than Penn State, and consistently challenged Kris Shakes.

At the half hour mark, a brazen foray from the Nittany Lions hurt them on the counter attack. The whole midfield line pushed up, exposing the back four to Georgetowns wingers, who had enough speed to get on Coach Beard’s scouting report.

The Hoyas had a 4-on-3 advantage, and Zach Riviere was the open man. The Piscataway native pivoted and fired past Shakes to regain the lead for the favorites.

Following the goal, Penn State played a more cautious brand of soccer. However, despite being aggressive in the last few minutes of the half, the Nittany Lions let their guard down at the worst time. With just 21 seconds to play in the half, an inch-perfect cross went directly to Martin Ngoh, who gave Georgetown daylight with a 3-1 lead.

Cook’s intentions were clear in the second half. Liam Butts started with Mangione and Bloyou, while freshmen Femi Awodesu and Tyger Evans played as wingbacks instead of the more defensive-minded Jalen Watson.

The changes seemed to shock the Hoyas at first; Mangione facilitated the attack, finding Reedy in good spots out wide. After mitigating a few Hoya chances, Reedy did great work on the right wing to play the ball in to a crashing Bloyou, Butts, and Alex Stevenson.

Just like prime Chris Wondolowski, Bloyou darted in and stabbed home the goal at the near post. 3-2.

From there, the half was all Penn State. The Nittany Lions came close on countless occasions, including with just one minute to play.

On a long ball, Bloyou’s attempted header fell to Andrew Privett. The midfielder volleyed it low and into the far corner for the supposed equalizer, but the lineman raised his flag, indicating a player was offside. With one swift raise of the flag, the Nittany Lions’ season came to a close in heartbreaking fashion.

It was a fantastic third season in charge for Cook, and yet another progressive year in his tenure. From a 2018 season that saw the Nittany Lions finish with a losing record, Cook brought his team to two consecutive NCAA Tournaments, and finally breaking into the Sweet Sixteen.

While today’s result will weigh heavy on the players and coaching staff, they once again showed that Penn State men’s soccer is back, and it is back for good.

Player Of The Match

Pierre Reedy | Redshirt Senior | Right Winger

It was no secret as to why most of the second half attacks went through the right side. Pierre Reedy was dynamite on the wing, and troubled the defense every time he began to carry it forward. This was most apparent when he assisted Danny Bloyou on the second goal; the captain got wide to a good spot, beat his man, and delivered the decisive pass.

For what it’s worth, Bloyou gets an honorable mention for drawing the first-half penalty and scoring in the 62nd minute.

What’s Next

The loss ends the Nittany Lions’ campaign, but Cook and his team will only have a 90-day offseason before the fall season kicks off.

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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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