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‘This Wasn’t Us’: Penn State Men’s Soccer Seniors Bid Abrupt Farewell In Hofstra Rout

Sunday, November 14, was a historic day for Penn State men’s soccer when it defeated Indiana in the Big Ten title match to secure the conference double.

Just a week and 12 cases of the flu later, the Nittany Lions wrote history again…but in the worst way.

No. 12 Penn State got annihilated by Hofstra 8-2 in the NCAA Tournament’s second round on Sunday. It was a match that had the aura of being once in a blue moon — reminiscent of Brazil’s collapse against Germany at the 2014 World Cup or Bayern Munich’s shocking win against FC Barcelona in 2020 by the same scoreline seen at Jeffrey Field.

Hofstra punched the Nittany Lions in the mouth early by opening the scoring in the third minute and didn’t look back. The Pride tallied eight unanswered goals before Femi Awodesu and Danny Bloyou recorded consolation strikes long after the result was done and dusted.

No one doubted Hofstra’s ability heading into the match. With the win, Richard Nuttall’s team now has the longest active unbeaten streak in the nation, holds an impressive RPI, and was the Colonial Conference champion.

The surprise wasn’t Hofstra’s level of play. Instead, it was Penn State’s.

Like other teams around campus, Penn State men’s soccer had a tumultuous week dealing with a non-COVID-19 illness. As of Saturday, there were only nine fit players, and the team wasn’t able to practice together since the Indiana triumph.

But this wasn’t a cancelable game. It showed on the field, as the whole team looked slow and defeated as early as halfway through the first half when Penn State trailed by just a few goals.

Head coach Jeff Cook wasn’t going to make any excuses while acknowledging the adversity his team faced.

“Despite tonight’s result, I remain immensely proud of our players. It’s been a great season,” Cook said. “Tonight wasn’t us. We don’t want to make any excuses. It was a very difficult week for us, but Hofstra deserved to win and we can’t take anything away from that.”

“For me, we are just so disappointed not to have the chance to advance and continue this wonderful season we’ve had,” Cook continued. “The players deserve great credit for what they’ve done all year despite tonight going against us.”

The unceremonious exit from the Big Ten means the end for a few of Penn State’s most key players.

Long-time captains Brandon Hackenberg and Pierre Reedy will see the door after 11 years between them in the program, while the future remains unclear for other stars such as Bloyou and Seth Kuhn.

Of course, Cook doesn’t want to look ahead just yet to next year while the end of this campaign is still sinking in. However, it is tough to reconcile with the number of cornerstone pieces the Nittany Lions could be losing after the loss to Hofstra.

“First, it’s ‘thank you.’ From where we were when I arrived to where we are today, it is incredible and they deserve great credit,” Cook said of the seniors. “They did not deserve this week. Again, I want to emphasize that we don’t make any excuses in our program. Hofstra deserved to win tonight. To the seniors, thank you, and they didn’t deserve the week that we’ve all had to endure.”

“I feel badly,” he continued. “I hope that when the pain and frustration of tonight wear away, I know they’ll look back [fondly] at all they’ve helped for us to achieve.”

The Nittany Lions faced adversity at the worst time of the year and weren’t able to play to the standard of a Big Ten double-winning program. However, Cook isn’t going to dwell on the match or dole out blame, no matter how deserved it may be. After a once-in-a-career shock, a gut punch like no other, Penn State’s head coach went searching for positives amidst a shocking end to such a fantastic season.

“I don’t think tonight is a night for any criticism. The way they have battled through this. I am proud to be their coach. I am sorry tonight went the way it did go, and what I leave with is that I am bitterly disappointed that it is over,” Cook said. “You can lose a game here and there, things will go against you. It is so difficult in collegiate sports when it is over.”

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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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