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Penn State Men’s Soccer ‘Refining Offense’ After Season Opener

No. 21 Penn State men’s soccer opened its season with a 1-1 draw against Atlantic 10 powerhouse Rhode Island on Thursday. Despite lofty expectations for the reigning Big Ten regular-season and tournament champions, head coach Jeff Cook said there’s still a lot of work to do.

The Nittany Lions took nearly the whole first half to find their rhythm on the pitch. Each positional line played well individually but struggled to connect and convert in the offensive third. However, Penn State came out of the locker room fired up for the second half.

Sophomore Sean Bettenhausen scored his first career goal in the 47th minute, which was just two minutes into the closing half. Penn State dominated the opening minutes after the whistle and quieted the Rhode Island offensive momentum for nearly 10 straight minutes. Even though the Nittany Lions led 1-0 for the majority of the second half, the post-halftime energy wasn’t sustainable.

“We weren’t able to build on a great start to the second half. The quality we showed in creating and scoring the goal was excellent, and I think we’re capable of doing that more often,” Cook said. “I think the guys worked really hard, I can’t fault their effort, but I really feel that we’re better than we showed tonight.”

Rhode Island monopolized the possession for the rest of the game following Bettenhausen’s goal, forcing goalkeeper Kris Shakes and the Penn State back line to activate on the defensive side. Still, Cook encouraged his team to look for those veteran starters on the field to create some momentum.

“I asked them to be brave and to try and find pockets to get players like Andrew Privett, Peter Mangione, Liam Butts, and Seth [Kuhn] in possession, and they responded really well. I just don’t think we sustained it,” he said.

Although the Nittany Lions didn’t add a win to the stat sheet, there’s one bright spot to acknowledge in the lineup.

Senior Andrew Privett posted 87 minutes of field time against Rhode Island and was responsible for setting up Bettenhausen’s goal. The outside midfielder was instrumental in creating Penn State’s offensive opportunities and commanding the midfield.

“He’s so strong on the ball. He’s got a great first touch and great awareness when he plays. He’s got so much experience. He’s going to be key as we go on,” Cook said.

Privett absolutely led the midfield in terms of intensity and stamina. So much so that Cook indicated that he asked the senior to take a more extensive role after halftime in an attempt to flip the momentum in favor of the Nittany Lions.

“We asked him to get more central and get more involved, and I thought it helped us for large stages of that game,” Cook said. “We’ve got a lot of games coming up and I think we can continue to refine some of the things we’re doing offensively.”

With a road game against Syracuse on the horizon and three weeks until Big Ten play, Penn State has plenty of time to find its synergy and make modifications to the game plan.

Cook, Privett, and the Nittany Lions will head to Syracuse and face off at 6 p.m. on Sunday, August 28, followed by a home matchup against West Virginia at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 2.

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About the Author

Keeley Lamm

Keeley is a sophomore journalism major from Richmond, Virginia, and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She also talks about random, fun stuff on our podcast, Podward State. Keeley is a lover of grilled cheese, naps, and Kevin Jonas. If you would like to share your thoughts on the superior Jonas Brother, feel free to contact her on Twitter @lammkeeley or send your best Spotify playlist to her email [email protected]

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