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No. 10 Penn State Women’s Soccer Draws No. 2 North Carolina 0-0 In Season Opener

No. 10 Penn State women’s soccer kicked off fall Penn State sporting events Thursday with a 0-0 draw against No. 2 North Carolina at Jeffrey Field.

Getting off to a slow start, Penn State spent most of the first half in its zone, clamped down by a skilled North Carolina midfield. A strong defensive effort mitigated the North Carolina offensive for the first 45 minutes with help from a tactical change from Erica Dambach.

Turning the tide out of the tunnel for the second half, the Nittany Lions played direct and attacking soccer, pressing the Tar Heels at every opportunity. After a 45-minute thunder delay, the stadium emptied and players cooled off, but the sustained momentum generated by the Penn State offense carried the Nittany Lions to the final whistle as they continued their assault on the North Carolina defense. The unit wasn’t able to convert in the end though, as time expired with a score of 0-0.

How It Happened

Led by the trio of captains, Kate Wiesner, Cori Dyke, and Katherine Asman, the Nittany Lions returned to Jeffrey Field for the first time since October 22. Lining up in a 3-5-2, Penn State gummed up the midfield, controlled the tempo, and attacked by way of forwards Amelia White and Payton Linnehan.

After a rainy warmup, the clouds parted for a picturesque first whistle. The Tar Heels looked threatening in the first two minutes with a set piece from the corner, but after a skied shot from Maycee Bell, the danger was averted.

Though North Carolina held possession for the majority of the first 20 minutes, a swarming Penn State defense parried every advance without much trouble. The Nittany Lion offense, however, looked sluggish and couldn’t hold the ball for long. The blue and white took 23 minutes to register a quality chance, but it went begging after the offside flag went up. Penn State went back to relying on its defense to hold firm while the attack found its footing.

Around the 15th minute, Dyke left her position in the midfield to play center-back alongside Schiemann and create a 4-4-2. Dambach likely added another defender to the back line and slow Carolina’s unceasing attack.

In the 30th minute, Tar Heel Emily Colton set her sights on goal from distance, but the shot connected with the goalpost and the score remained level.

The rain returned as the half wore on, becoming a steady downpour in a matter of minutes. Pace slowed as the players had to adjust to the slippery surface.

With 10 minutes to play in the first half, Kaitlyn MacBean probed the Tar Heel defense with a weighted pass that found Linnehan behind enemy lines, but North Carolina quickly rallied and sent the chance packing.

Later in the 41st minute, Linnehan got steamrolled in the attacking box by an ultra-aggressive tackle from Emerson Elgin. The official kept the whistle in his pocket and Jeffrey Field made it known that they were unhappy with his decision. The Nittany Lions tacked on another shot from Riley Gleason while in the attacking end, but North Carolina took possession back in short order.

After surviving a quick onslaught in the final two minutes, Penn State retired to the locker room for halftime, where it’d need to focus on retaining possession and playing more soccer in North Carolina’s end.

The Nittany Lions returned to a comparatively drier field for the second half and began attacking from the whistle. The blue and white poked and prodded for space over the top of their opponents but were twice thwarted by an inch of extra reach by the North Carolina defenders.

The extra space demanded by Penn State’s lofted attack gave the midfield room to push up and maintain possession for the first time in the game. Though the 52nd-minute chance didn’t end in a shot, the side gained confidence with the ball on their feet.

White’s speed created a dangerous opportunity in the 56th minute but she was cut down as the play careened toward the end line. The official saw no foul, though, and play continued with a goal kick for North Carolina.

The Nittany Lions continued their barrage with the crowd finally at their backs and pressed toward the North Carolina cage. The 63rd-minute attack ended with a top-left heat-seeking strike from MacBean, but goalie Emmie Allen was too quick and deflected the shot to keep the score at 0-0.

Allen was called upon again in the 66th minute as MacBean streaked toward the net, but a brave charge saw the ball end in the goalie’s gloves.

The ball ping-ponged between teams for the following 10 minutes, but there was more bite in Penn State’s attack than its opponents. It routinely walked its defenders and passed the ball easily, a feat that the No. 2 Tar Heels couldn’t quite execute anymore. In addition, North Carolina seemed to lose its cool as the half wore on with Talia Dellaperuta taking a yellow card for unsporting conduct and the midfield conceding a pair of fouls within a minute.

Not getting as much action as the first half, the blue and white defense was still just as sharp. Protecting Asman from close shots, Dyke and Co. forced North Carolina to take low-percentage shots from a distance.

With 10 minutes to play, the Tar Heels probed their attacking zone and Penn State narrowly escaped a potential penalty kick as a North Carolina attacker hit the deck in the box. Taking the ball the other way, Linnehan had a chance to put the Nittany Lions in the lead but missed out after contact with the defender on her back shoulder sent both players to the grass.

With nine minutes left in the game, though, a lightning bolt crossed the sky above the stadium, forcing both sides into their locker room for a rain delay. After 45 minutes, the teams returned to a soggy field and set up for the final push.

The Nittany Lions continued their methodical, plotting pace and controlled possession following the restart. Earning its first corner of the game with eight minutes to play, Penn State had an eye for goal but Natalie Wilson’s shot was blocked by a diving Savy King.

Once more a Nittany Lion found their way over the corner flag with five minutes in the game, this time forcing a mad scramble by Allen to deny Penn State from going ahead off the boot of Michela Agresti.

In the 88th minute, the Tar Heels made their final push, collecting in the box and threatening the net. Isabel Cox’s shot went wide and the game was sealed at 0-0.


  • Through the first 35 minutes, Penn State’s offense couldn’t get off the ground. Forcing the ball into cramped windows and losing possession on heavy touches, the Nittany Lions fell victim to the Tar Heels’ high press.
  • Penn State’s defense held strong, not allowing North Carolina a solid look on goal during the first half. Pushing Cori Dyke back to defense helped the Nittany Lions shut off the Tar Heel attack as the unit continued their lockdown of the box.
  • The second half looked entirely different than the first when Penn State controlled the ball as it looked confident and attacking-minded. Choosing to exploit Carolina’s high press with speedy streaks and lofted passes, the Nittany Lions created space and looked dominant out of the locker room.
  • The Nittany Lions stayed disciplined and focused throughout the game. While its opponent began to concede fouls and force opportunities that weren’t developed, Penn State played smart and controlled soccer throughout the game, maintaining an attacking edge to the final whistle.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will return to Jeffrey Field on Sunday, August 20, to play the West Chester Golden Rams. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. and will be streamed on BTN+.

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About the Author

Jack Scott

Jack is a junior industrial engineering major from Pittsburgh, PA. Sometimes, he enjoys the misunderstanding of his friends and family that Penn State Club Ski Racing may be a D1 sport and usually won't correct them. Jack is way too into Thundercat for his own good. Follow him on Twitter @joscottIV and Instagram @jackscott._iv

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