No. 4 Penn State Women’s Soccer Draws No. 22 Michigan 1-1
No. 4 Penn State women’s soccer (9-0-2, 3-0-1 Big Ten) drew 1-1 with No. 22 Michigan (6-2-3, 2-1-1 Big Ten) in a tense, ranked battle on the road.
After getting out to an early lead thanks to a Payton Linnehan screamer from deep, the Nittany Lions lost their usual edge. Michigan battled back with the home crowd at its back and managed a goal before halftime. The second half saw the ball ping back and forth between the sides as both frantically sought a goal, but the game stayed level as no one could break the ice.
How It Happened
Penn State fielded a familiar 4-4-2 with captain defender Kate Wiesner making the starting lineup despite recent injury troubles. Katherine Asman made her 11th straight appearance between the sticks for the Nittany Lion, still leading the Big Ten with a .935 save percentage.
The game started slowly as both teams tested their tactics against each other but opted to turn around and keep possession when push came to shove. The first meaningful action in the match came in the 11th minute as Avery Kalitta fouled Kaitlyn MacBean at midfield. She was fouled again a minute later, this time by Tamia Tolbert, but neither set piece was close enough to affect Michigan’s defense.
Riley Gleason stepped up for the first shot of the match with 28 minutes to play in the first half. A pair of Wolverine defenders on both shoulders prevented her from putting much aim behind the ball, and it didn’t find the target.
After winning back the ball on the resulting goal kick, the Nittany Lions moved the play quickly to the doorstep of the box. Payton Linnehan saw a break in the defenders from deep range and pulled the trigger, putting a powerful, curling shot on net. Michigan goalie Stephanie Sparkowski couldn’t reach it as it crossed the goal line, putting Penn State up 1-0 in the 18th minute.
Penn State ran into trouble as the game passed the 20-minute mark. A physical stretch of play saw the ball bounce towards the end line but Asman couldn’t corral it, setting up a Michigan corner. The Nittany Lions cleared the initial chance, but the Wolverines wouldn’t leave the box. Gabrielle Prych took a shot from up close that Asman saved, but the rebound fell to Jenna Lang who stuffed it home setting the score even at 1-1 at the 26th minute.
With a half hour of play under its belt, Penn State opted to refresh the attack. Julia Raich, Olivia Damico, and Amelia White checked into the game. Raich almost made an immediate impact as she found space to run into the box but was dispossessed with a strong challenge from Michigan.
Michigan was relatively unfazed by the changes in the blue and white side as it continued to defend well, create dangerous chances, and ultimately hold the majority of the ball.
As time bled from the clock, it was clear Penn State couldn’t make any threats to Sparkowski and the Wolverines under their current tactics. The half expired quietly with a score of 1-1.
The Nittany Lions returned from the locker rooms inspired and immediately looked goal-ward. Gleason received a back pass from the box and hammered it at the cage. Her shot was too powerful, though, and sailed over the net.
Penn State saw another opportunity after Kalitta was caught tripping up MacBean 30 yards from the net. Aerial ace Mieke Schiemann chased after the curling serve but couldn’t steer it toward the net. Penn State earned another set piece five minutes later, this time a corner taken by Wiesner. Eva Alonso got to the ball in the air but she too missed just wide.
Penn State conceded a prime opportunity to Michigan with 30 minutes left in the match as Schiemann gave the ball away to Sammi Woods behind her other defenders. Woods passed to Abby Zugay but she skied the shot from in close and let the Nittany Lions off the hook.
With 29 minutes to play in the game, the blue and white found its way back into the box with a cross from Wiesner that landed on MacBean’s boot, but her shot missed the mark.
The game went on at a snail’s pace for the next 10 minutes as neither team could sustain possession. Michigan looked to break the ice with 17 minutes left though as Kali Burrell sent a threatening cross to the goalmouth. The ball flew behind both potential targets, though, and Penn State’s bench certainly sighed in relief.
Penn State relied heavily on Asman through the final 15 minutes of the match, asking its keeper to control the box and keep the score level. The Nittany Lion offense struggled to keep pace as fatigue set in, though it never stopped trying to push the play up the field. The Michigan backline sat further and further back to poach the lofted attack, effectively shutting it down.
Schiemann anchored the line with five minutes left in the half, deftly knocking the ball up and over her attacker with no defenders behind her to deny a sure goal opportunity.
Penn State had its last opportunity in the 88th minute as a misplay by Wolverine defender Aniyah League set up a corner kick. The entire side ran for the near post, and MacBean won the air battle, but the lack of angle made putting the shot on goal impossible.
The blue and white defense settled in for a draw, defending a final Michigan onslaught to see the game end tied at 1-1.
- After its early score, Penn State looked consistently out-hustled on the road. Michigan pressed high into the Nittany Lion formation to pressure ball carriers and ultimately dispossess them.
- The hostile environment might’ve contributed to the Nittany Lions’ multitude of fouls. Though Michigan played physical defense and often upended blue and white attackers, Penn State retaliated with much less tact on its tackles.
- Asman and the defense provided some bright spots on an otherwise dim draw. Their control of the box and ability to recover in tough spots let the Nittany Lions escape with a draw.
Penn State will extend its road trip with a visit to East Lansing, Michigan, to face the Michigan State Spartans on Sunday, October 1. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. and the match will be streamed on BTN+.
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