No. 6 Penn State Women’s Soccer Edges UCF 1-0 With Late Game-Winner
No. 6 Penn State women’s soccer took down UCF 1-0 Thursday night at Jeffrey Field by way of an 87th-minute game-winner from center-back Mieke Schiemann.
The Nittany Lions pushed hard from the starting whistle, opting for their usual tactic of putting the ball in front of their forwards and letting them chase it down. After UCF shifted to defend the long ball, Penn State used the available space to claim the midfield and lock its opponents to their own half.
The Nittany Lions dominated possession and shots, but a parked Golden Knight defense looked to end the game with a draw. Refusing to go home empty-handed, Schiemann played the hero for Penn State with two minutes to play with a game-sealing strike to close out a 1-0 victory for the blue and white.
How It Happened
The Nittany Lions fielded an identical lineup to Sunday’s squad against TCU, opting for the sturdy 4-4-2 with Kaitlyn MacBean returning to the forward line with Payton Linnehan.
Winning the ball after kickoff, Penn State felt out its opponent’s willingness to come and take it back. The blue and white pinged the ball around its backline and waited for the Golden Knights to over-extend. UCF did just that in the third minute, allowing the Nittany Lions to rapidly advance the ball and set up Eva Alonso for a cruise missile of a shot. It beat Caroline DeLisle but hit the crossbar and left play.
Following the near-goal, UCF got its share of the ball as well, but dribbled into quickly closing windows where the awaiting Nittany Lions feasted. Penn State had another quickly developing opportunity when Olivia Borgen did it herself and cut up the entire Golden Knight midfield. A crafty pass to Natalie Wilson presented the attacker with a one-on-one with the goalie, but DeLisle got enough of the ball to send it backward. Possession fell to Linnehan but she couldn’t get the first touch shot on target, and the game remained level.
As the game passed the 15-minute mark, Penn State pushed harder for a goal, committing its wing backs and all four midfielders to the attack. This left Cori Dyke and Mieke Schiemann exposed to deal with a turnover-induced three-on-two, but Dyke cut her attacker’s angle and force the ball out of bounds.
In the next 10 minutes, both sides controlled the ball pretty evenly and couldn’t push it into either attacking area as Penn State pulled back its attackers and UCF struggled to break the resulting wall. Michela Agresti entered the contest for Schiemann in the 25th minute, further shifting the blue and white backline.
With 17 minutes to play in the first half, UCF had its first meaningful look on goal when Ellie Moreno dribbled high into the right wing before serving Dayana Martin a high cross. Martin couldn’t put it on net, though.
The Nittany Lions returned to possession and refused to give it up after the missed opportunity. During Penn State’s cycle of the backline, Kate Weisner was held up by Sanja Homann. The official, having already spoken to Homann, gave the midfielder a yellow card for the unsporting play.
On the subsequent set piece, Penn State zipped the ball up and into UCF’s formation, relying on an attacker to bring it down. The forwards did just that and sent the ball to Linnehan whose shot died in traffic and fell to Rowan Lapi for another strike that slammed the post. Behind the play, Golden Knight defender Ariel Young needed assistance, so the play was blown dead in the 32nd minute.
With the clock melting past the 10-minute mark in the half, Penn State still held the lion’s share of possession but couldn’t create a shot on the goal. The quick counterattack seemed to have been solved by an ultra-defensive decision by UCF to leave its backline behind and deny the long ball. The midfield took the open space and looked for opportunities, but the opportunities weren’t as plentiful. With one minute left, Linnehan fired away from distance but the shot didn’t threaten much and the half came to a close 0-0.
The Nittany Lions returned to the field with the majority of the starters returned to the field. After charging upfield on the kickoff, Penn State was forced all the way back to its box with a quick sequence of passing from UCF. Katie Bradley put the ball on net but Katherine Asman was ready and trapped the ball easily.
In the 49th minute, Homann fouled MacBean close to the end line, narrowly avoiding her second yellow and effectively presenting Penn State with a corner kick. Agresti and Dyke both put shots toward the goal but they were both blocked by defenders. A counterattack ensued with serious teeth for the Golden Knights but a sliding Wiesner saved the day and sent the ball out of play.
With 39 minutes to play, Olivia Damico won the ball in the Nittany Lions’ half before charging the length of the field for a one-on-one with the backpedaling defender, Jessica McCullen. She made her move and set her sights on goal but was sent to the turf by Homann.
She was awarded her second yellow card and sent off the pitch. Penn State turned the set piece into two corners, the latter presenting Agresti with the ball on her feet in a congested box. She spun off her defender and teed up the shot, but DeLisle stretched out and trapped the ball with her fingertips and denied the transfer defender her first goal in blue and white.
Penn State refused to concede possession for any longer than a few touches as its siege of UCF’s box was seemingly never-ending. With 27 minutes to play, Agresti launched another well-placed shot on the cage, this one a booming strike after a corner kick fell in her lap. A diving defender deflected the shot out of bounds, though, and the game stayed even at 0-0.
UCF continued to rack up fouls with Maggie Jenkins grabbing a yellow card and Talia Gabarra caught tripping with 19. The Nittany Lions played Gabarra’s foul quickly and set up MacBean with a shot on goal that resulted in a corner kick. Wiesner bent the cross toward the net and struck the post.
In the 72nd minute, it became clear that Penn State was pushing hard for the goal as Rebecca Cooke checked in for MacBean to freshen up the attack, and every available player pressed up into UCF’s territory. Schiemann and Linnehan sent a barrage at DeLisle after a 73rd-minute corner kick but just couldn’t crack the goalie. Amelia White tried her hand, too, but DeLisle was too quick and dove to block the shot.
In the final 10 minutes, head coach Erica Dambach emptied her bag of tricks and pushed Schiemann, usually a center back, all the way up the field to play a shadow striker role. Penn State’s propensity to cross the ball doubled with its towering new striker, and when not in possession, she terrorized the Golden Knight back line with her skill as a defender.
With two minutes left to play, Linnehan settled the ball high up the left wing and stared down a double team. Using a nifty hand fake and slipping underneath the duo of Knights, she served the ball to Schiemann on a platter. The now-attacker hammered it home to finally break the ice, the unorthodox move having paid off in spades. Jeffrey Field erupted as the entire team celebrated the would-be game-winner.
Unable to muster a comeback, UCF earned two yellow cards for two fouls behind the play before the final buzzer sounded with a score of 1-0 for Penn State.
- Penn State entered the game with a plan to exploit its speed advantage along the wings. The midfield was content to allow its opponents in close before sending pass after pass over the defense’s heads for its sprinting wingers to track down. This play created some quality early opportunities on cross-backs and direct shots alike before UCF yanked its defense back and parked the bus on the long ball.
- After its opponents decided to defend the lofted attack, Penn State seemed more than happy retaining possession just outside the box to make the Golden Knights sweat out extended defensive sequences and force corner kicks. Agresti, Schiemann, Damico, and MacBean each had opportunities on the set pieces, but gummed up shooting lanes and miraculous blocks by UCF kept them from breaking the tie.
- If the Nittany Lions were going to rely on high crosses, Dambach asked why not put the tallest player on the receiving end? The slick tactic ended up being the final piece Penn State needed to seal the victory.
The Nittany Lions will continue their homestand this Sunday, September 3, against Monmouth. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. and will be streamed on BTN+
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