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Penn State Women’s Soccer Triumphs 5-3 In Penalty Shootout Over No. 3 USC, Returns To Sweet Sixteen

Penn State women’s soccer (13-7) upset No. 3 USC in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday in Los Angeles.

Ally Schlegel scored twice, but two equalizers for USC sent the match into overtime, and then the dreaded penalty shootout. All five Nittany Lions converted, and a Kat Asman save sealed the deal for Erica Dambach’s side. With the win, Penn State clinched its fifth-straight Sweet Sixteen appearance.

How It Happened

Erica Dambach made just one change to the starting lineup that defeated Monmouth 3-1, with Devon Olive slotting in ahead of Ellie Wheeler. Sam Coffey made the 100th start of her illustrious career.

It was a frenetic start at Soni McAlister Field. In promising fashion, the Nittany Lions didn’t play scared against the higher-ranked Trojans, and Coffey’s vision proved dangerous right off the bat.

Coffey used the speed of Ally Schlegel early and often. The midfield general sprayed the ball in a progressive manner, and Schlegel even had the ball in the net just eight minutes in, only to be disallowed due to offsides.

Early on, USC wasn’t able to show its quality due to Penn State’s suffocating defense. While the Nittany Lions weren’t necessarily dominating, they were able to control the tempo of the game.

In the 21st minute, Penn State found the breakthrough. Kerry Abello got the ball in an advanced position, danced around her defender and played a fantastic ball in to the middle. Schlegel didn’t get the cleanest touch, but put it in the right spot to thwart goalkeeper Anna Smith for the 1-0 lead.

USC responded well in the second “quarter” of the match, although the Nittany Lions didn’t concede a shot of consequence until the 33rd minute.

Things changed in the last five minutes before the break, when Kat Asman was forced into action multiple times to keep the deadlock. Savannah Demelo even forced Asman into a heroic stop with just five seconds left in the half, and the Nittany Lions were lucky to get to the locker room with an advantage.

Penn State had good energy out of the break, with Coffey once again earning the side a quick corner kick. However, seemingly against the run of play, USC star Penelope Hocking tied it up just minutes later with a moment of brilliance.

The Nittany Lions had done well all game to shut down the Pac 12 Offensive Player of the Year, but Hocking only needed one moment to shine.

Penn State didn’t crumble following Hocking’s strike, but USC had the momentum to look for a lead of its own. The Nittany Lion backline did well to hold their ground for the five minutes after the equalizer, the most dangerous time to let in a goal.

The Nittany Lions decisively struck once again nearing the hour mark. Sam Coffey found Schlegel, and the forward earned her brace by cooly slotting past Smith for the 2-1 lead with 30 minutes to play.

Hocking seemed to be the main danger for the Nittany Lions to deal with as USC got more and more desperate. Penn State got a few chances on the break, but mostly focused on shoring up the defense and keeping what it had.

With under five minutes to play, it seemed like Penn State had the game more or less in its hands. USC couldn’t break the Nittany Lions down, but a long range screamer from Simone Jackson stung the back of the net for the 2-2 equalizer to stun Penn State and send the match to Extra Time.

Both teams looked relatively timid in the added time, as one goal would end a season. USC had an early corner that was put in a dangerous place, but Asman was once again up to the challenge, punching it away in the 94th minute.

The Trojans began to look like the better side as the first 10-minute period wore on, but the Penn State defense got a foot in to each searching ball. Neither side had a clear cut chance in the first half of Extra Time, and the squads got to discuss their plans for a final 10 minute period.

The second half of overtime began much the same as the first 10 minutes. USC had better chances, but neither side had an opportunity that should have gone in. USC’s Anna White had the best shot of the golden goal periods from either side, but her attempt was blasted over Asman’s net. With just 20 seconds to play, Asman came up huge once again, denying Hocking’s volley from six yards to force the game into the decisive penalty shootout.

Sam Coffey stepped up first for the Nittany Lions, and calmly converted. USC’s Olufolasade Adamolekun was next, despite not touching the field in all of regulation. Asman stopped Adamolekun’s attempt for the early advantage.

Jordan Canniff and Helena Sampaio traded makes before Maud Asbroek secured Penn State’s third consecutive attempt. USC brought it back to 3-2 despite Asman nearly stopping Zoe Burns.

Cori Dyke was next for Penn State, and she fired it in above Smith’s outstretched hand. Needing a goal to keep USC alive, the talisman Hocking converted, leaving Schlegel to secure the victory for Penn State.

After already scoring twice in regulation, Schlegel sent it into the upper left-hand corner of the goal, and Penn State survived the instant classic with a 5-3 penalty shootout win.

Player Of The Match

Kat Asman, Goalkeeper

Sam Coffey was her typical self in the midfield, and Ally Schlegel scored twice. However, Asman recorded 11 saves in live play, including a few that she shouldn’t have reached. If it wasn’t for her heroics on Penelope Hocking’s late volley deep into double overtime, Penn State would never have reached the penalty shootout.

Asman cemented herself as the Player of the Match by saving Adamolekun’s penalty, and subsequently sending the Nittany Lions back to the Sweet Sixteen.

What’s Next

Penn State will play South Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen on Sunday at 3 p.m. Broadcast time is TBD.

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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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