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No. 8 Penn State Women’s Soccer Bests West Virginia 2-1

No. 8 Penn State women’s soccer took care of business 2-1 in its first road trip of the season against West Virginia Thursday. Both teams entered the match with record-breaking wins in their last outings.

The Nittany Lions went up early on the boot of Olivia Borgen, who scored her first collegiate goal in the 15th minute of the game. After an injury to outside back Kate Wiesner, the Mountaineers pushed freshman Kaelyn Wolfe and exploited the rookie defender to notch a tying goal. West Virginia held possession for the majority of the remaining minutes, but a threatening Penn State counterattack finally uplifted the Nittany Lions to seal a 2-1 win.

How It Happened

Penn State fielded a familiar lineup for the out-of-conference game, choosing to field its usual pieces in Cori Dyke, Kate Wiesner, and Payton Linnehan in the starting 11.

Getting underway, the game bounced around midfield as both teams sought to figure their opponents’ defenses out. Goalkeeper Kat Asman was called upon to make an early save, but a low shot from Mountaineer Olivia Shertzer didn’t threaten the veteran. Two early fouls from West Virginia’s Maya McCutcheon and Dilary Heredia-Beltran showed some early physicality, but the Nittany Lions seemed unfazed and continued to plug away.

Penn State allowed West Virginia to move the ball through its midfield, but a hawking back line rarely let the ball get near the box through the first 15 minutes. On the attack, the Nittany Lions looked for direct passes into the box but couldn’t connect.

Finally, in the 15th minute, Olivia Borgen broke the ice as she received a lofted pass from Linnehan. Borgen used her body to shield the ball from her defender and got close to beat goaltender Kazya Massey with a powerful ground strike. Borgen’s first collegiate goal set the score to 1-0.

Within a minute of the goal, Linnehan had a similar up-close opportunity, missed the conversion and the game remained at 1-0.

With 28 minutes to play in the half, the Nittany Lions brought on transfer Rebecca Cooke for Borgen to refresh the midfield.

Solid attacking opportunities presented themselves to Penn State’s attackers, but the unit couldn’t find much aside from a wide shot from Amelia White.

In the 30th minute, both sides made major substitutions. The Nittany Lions gave depth a try on attack as Rowan Lapi, Kaitlyn MacBean, and Michela Agresti made their way to the pitch to replace Linnehan, White, and Riley Gleason.

Though both sides had newly fresh legs, the pace of play dropped significantly as Penn State chose to hold the ball at its backline and prioritize possession when pressured upfield.

West Virginia widened its formation in the final 10 minutes of the first half. Making quick, consecutive, field-switching crosses at midfield, the Mountaineer attack forced the compact Penn State defense to scramble to meet the ball. A wide shot from Julianne Vallerand ended the long possession.

As the half closed, West Virginia turned up the tempo and pressured Penn State’s ball carriers all the way up the field. Taking advantage of the over-aggression, Ellie Wheeler played the ball to Lapi, who sent a long, lofted pass for Borgen to track down. Borgen steered the play to the top of the box but just missed the net with a booming shot. The half ended 1-0 for Penn State.

West Virginia took possession for the start of the half and moved quickly toward the attacking box. Wiesner got in the way on the wing but was tripped and taken down. In need of a substitute, freshman Kaelyn Wolfe took her place on the field in the 45th minute.

West Virginia took advantage of the new player and directed its offense through Wolfe’s wing three possessions in a row. On the final try, Taylor White dribbled through the defense and into the box, but Wolfe recovered to win the ball back with a deft tackle in the box.

The Mountaineers liked what they saw, though, and played the ball up and over to their speedster White on the left wing. She took the pass in stride past Wolfe and mashed the ball into the net for the 1-1 goal in the 52nd minute.

West Virginia, feeling the home-field advantage, held possession and kept the Nittany Lions to their own half for the next five minutes. Physical play ensued from both teams as players were sent to the grass on strong challenges, but the official didn’t see enough to stop play through the sequence.

With 30 minutes left in the game, Wiesner returned to left back with a taped finger to quell the Mountaineer advance. MacBean also returned to freshen up the offense.

The new substitutes made some headway for the Nittany Lions, as MacBean found the ball on her foot at the top of the box. Striking the ball hard towards the net, Massey corralled the shot, and the game stayed level.

On the swing back, Chloe Adler dribbled patiently through the midfield for West Virginia. Unpressured five yards back from the box, she booted it toward the goal. Asman stretched just far enough to steer the shot to the crossbar, where it deflected out of play. Off the corner kick, Asman leaped up to control a contested corner kick following the chance, and the danger was averted.

Through the next 10 minutes, the Mountaineers held the majority of possession but couldn’t make any meaningful progress toward the goal. The Nittany Lions continued to push on the counter-attack, now working from the wingbacks and up the sides of the fields, but West Virginia’s backline rebuffed its advances.

In the final 10 minutes, West Virginia played more directly on the attack, sending the ball into the box much quicker than it had been. When Penn State did possess the ball, it was quick to advance the ball upfield but didn’t commit enough players to the attack to really push for a goal.

The Nittany Lion counterattack finally broke through with six minutes to play, taking advantage of a full offensive push by West Virginia. Working quickly up the field after dispossessing the Mountaineers, Olivia Damico found MacBean open at the net with no one around. She took a touch and slotted the ball home for the go-ahead goal and set the game 2-1 for Penn State.

West Virginia committed even more players to the attack and earned a late free kick from close on the right side of the field. The cross went up and over the box and was clear of danger. After a tense final three minutes, time expired and the game finished 2-1.

Takeaways:

  • Penn State was quick to be direct on the goal, playing the ball up and over the defense and into the box in transition as their attack of choice. Looking to hook up with attackers Olivia Borgen and Payton Linnehan, the Nittany Lions relied on their lightning speed to good effect and terrorized the Mountaineer backline through the first half.
  • The Nittany Lions were sluggish out of the tunnel for the second half and allowed their opponents to possess the ball all the way up to and into the penalty area. Penn State snapped out of it, though, and continued to press West Virginia on the counter-attack; a threat that forced the Mountaineers to leave would-be attackers back to defend.
  • The veteran presence of Kate Wiesner on defense can’t be overstated for the Nittany Lions. In the 15 minutes she was off the pitch, the defense looked scrambled and not as set as usual. With her back on the field, the unit was confident and compact, more easily rebuffing the Mountaineers’ speedy attack.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will return home to Jeffrey Field to face TCU. The match is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday, August 27. Folks can tune in to the match 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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