No. 4 Penn State Women’s Soccer Bests Rutgers 2-1
No. 4 Penn State women’s soccer (8-0-1, 2-0) traveled to Rutgers (4-4-2, 0-2) Thursday, dispatching the Scarlet Knights 2-1.
The Nittany Lions got out to an early lead as Payton Linnehan volleyed a crafty cross to the top-netting a half hour into play. Amelia White doubled down five minutes later with a long-range missile to send the blue and white into the half up by two. Rutgers was able to get one back in the second half but a solid defensive effort kept Penn State ahead as they improved their win streak to eight.
How It Happened:
The Nittany Lions lined up in their 4-4-2, the starting 11 unchanged from the last few contests with Eva Alonso and Mieke Schiemann anchoring the backline and Kaitlyn MacBean and Linnehan heading up the attack.
Starting with possession, Penn State refused to give up the ball for the opening five minutes. While no shots found the net, the blue and white contained Rutgers to its own half, winning possession in the air following three separate goal kicks.
Rutgers found its footing in the seventh minute, but an intimidating collapse from the entire defense forced a missed strike from Allie Post that saw the ball out of play.
Penn State returned fire in the ninth minute as possession found its way to Payton Linnehan at the top of the box. She swam through two defenders before crossing back to Olivia Borgen, though Borgen was unable to head the ball goalwards.
The ball pinged back and forth for the next five minutes with Penn State pushing to put the ball in the box, but often conceding goal kicks as errant passes flew over their targets. The Nittany Lions then decided to put the ball on net from distance with MacBean and Riley Gleason both taking on long opportunities in the 16th and 17th minutes. Both attempts missed the net.
Even though Penn State couldn’t find the target, it still dominated the ball when the Scarlet Knights attempted to move it forward. The midfield was more than happy to play safety-like coverage while MacBean and Linnehan badgered the ball-carrying Rutgers defense, allowing for easy challenges on contested passes.
After a long stretch of over-cautious play from Rutgers, the Nittany Lions finally regained the ball with 18 minutes to play in the first half. Alonso settled the ball at her feet midway up the Penn State half before she launched it up and into Rutger’s box, bound for Linnehan. Linnehan boxed out her defender and earned a first time strike close on net, but with the defender on her back, was unable to put the shot on target.
Penn State retained the ball for the next stretch of play and created two solid opportunities that were cut short in physical fashion in the box. Both Ellie Wheeler and MacBean were sent to the turf along with their defenders, but the official saw no fowl in either case and play continued.
With the lion’s share of possession and attacking opportunities, a Penn State goal felt inevitable, and the Nittany Lions finally broke the tie in the 33rd minute. Gleason found a pocket in the high-midfield to tee up a curling cross to Linnehan, who gained position on her defender for a volley to the top-netting to secure the opening goal.
Possibly frustrated after the ice-breaker, Rutgers’ Riley Tiernan swept Alonso’s feet from under her on a double team, prompting the official to show her the yellow card with 10 minutes left to play in the first half. Three minutes later, Alonso earned a yellow card herself after trying to argue a call with the referee.
Penn State opted to refresh its midfield at this time, subbing in Olivia Damico, Julia Raich, and Rebecca Cooke for Borgen, Linnehan, and Natalie Wilson.
The Nittany Lions struck again with six minutes to play in the half. A jumble of players at the top of the box allowed White to get lost in the shuffle and create enough space for Raich to play her on with a nifty first touch. White controlled the pass and uncorked a smash to the bottom right corner of the cage that zipped past goalie Olivia Bodmer before she knew to dive after it. The scoreboard now read 2-0 Penn State.
Penn State forced Rutgers to sweat out the final minutes of the half as it subbed in Elle Kershner for Alonso, pulling Cori Dyke to defense to add another attacker. Kershner and White terrorized the Scarlet Knights’ box, but a save from Bodmer and solid tackling from Kassidy Banks kept the Nittany Lions from striking again, the half expiring 2-0 in Penn State’s favor.
The second half got off to a similar start to the first, with the Nittany Lions hoarding possession and prodding an ultra-defensive Rutgers defense. The Scarlet Knights opted to house six of its outfield players in the box and tightly pack another two outside, daring Penn State to attack it.
This parked style of play ended up working against the Scarlet Knights, though, as Gia Vicari poached the ball from Penn State’s backline but had no help as she was swarmed and dispossessed at the end of her run.
Penn State found another opportunity as Wilson received a forward pass into the box all alone. She drew in defenders before dishing the ball to White, unmarked at the top of the six-yard box. The pass was just out of reach though and the chance fizzled out.
The Nittany Lions continued their domination and continued to bungle any chance that Rutgers thought it had, keeping the ball forward near the Scarlet Knights’ box. MacBean lined up a choice shot from the top-right elbow, but it curled off target and struck the stanchion behind the cage with 35 minutes left to play.
With 30 minutes left in the game, fifth-year outside back Kate Wiesner was forced off the pitch with a non-contact injury. Rutgers capitalized on the captain’s absence as Sam Kroeger snatched the ball off a lazy pass and streaked to the cage. A perfectly placed shot beat Kat Asman to give Rutgers a second wind, cutting Penn State’s lead to 2-1.
The Nittany Lions continued to try to press into the now more balanced Rutgers backline, this time with 20 to play on the foot of Wheeler. She aimed at Borgen, who made a horizontal run to get lost between the center backs, but the pass had too much pace and ended up in Bodmer’s gloves.
Not content to sit on the one-goal lead, pressure ramped up from Penn State as the side pushed even higher into the Scarlet Knights’ half. Wheeler sent another ball forward, this time getting deflected out of play for a corner kick. The set piece looked like it had teeth as the ball fell to Borgen, but an errant handball from the forward saw it blown dead.
Rutgers in return sent more players on attack to try to knot up the game. Penn State didn’t allow its opponents any space, with Rowan Lapi winning a difficult challenge before turning back upfield. She was tripped up by Olivia Russomanno, though, and the Scarlet Knight was awarded a yellow card.
With 14 minutes to play, Wiesner was well enough to return to play, checking back in for Kaelyn Wolfe. Spurred on by her teammate’s return, Raich picked Banks’ pockets at the top of Rutgers’ box and created a one-on-one with the goalie. Bodmer was barely able to steer it off target but kept the ball out to nullify a potentially costly error for her defender.
Penn State saw another big opportunity with 10 minutes to play as Borgen teed up from just outside the box. Her strike bested the goalie but met the post, the insurance goal continuing to elude a very attacking Nittany Lion side.
For the final five minutes of the game, Penn State resolved to park the bus, keeping the majority of the team on defense and clearing the ball in a hurry when it got it back.
- The Nittany Lions met strong competition on the road this week but were still able to retain the vast majority of possession in a hostile environment. Never a side to lose the ball for long, Penn State took a more proactive approach than usual in double-teaming lone ball carriers and pressing cut-off attackers.
- Penn State’s defense looked flashier than usual, displaying heroic slide tackles and dashing Rutgers’ hopes on many opportunities. Wheeler, Alonso, Schiemann, and Dyke were as sure as ever as they left their feet to dispossess the Scarlet Knights, showing that they could be counted on when the rest of the play broke down.
- The Nittany Lions shot the ball a lot. Sometimes it felt like too much, though, as developing plays would be cashed in prematurely with low-chance long shots. It might have been frustration as Penn State wasn’t as successful at finding its speedy wingers, but holding the ball and waiting for a better opportunity is a mantra of this team that can’t be abandoned.
The Nittany Lions return to Jeffrey Field this Sunday to face Big Ten opponent, Nebraska. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on BTN+.
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