Penn State Women’s Soccer 2023 NCAA Tournament Preview
After losing in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals to Iowa, No. 5 Penn State women’s soccer is moving forward to facing some of the nation’s best in its postseason run in the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
The Nittany Lions have been ranked inside of the top 10 all year by the United Soccer Coaches, Top Drawer Soccer, and the selection committee. Head coach Erica Dambach led the team to a 13-2-4 overall regular-season record and a 6-1-3 conference record.
For most of the season, it looked as if the Nittany Lions would go undefeated and win the Big Ten, but an unfortunate loss to Wisconsin on the last day of the regular season saw them drop to the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament.
On the offensive front, Penn State will continue to unleash several players to keep the offensive production up. Kaitlyn MacBean and Olivia Borgen each scored a team-high six goals this season. Payton Linnehan, who recently returned from an injury, should also provide the team with goals in the tournament.
On defense, a lot of pressure will be put on the senior midfielder and Big Ten Defender of the Year Cori Dyke. Defenders Michela Agresti and Mieke Schiemann will also be in charge of shutting down opposing attackers as they have successfully done all season.
First Round: Central Connecticut State
The No. 2-seeded Nittany Lions will face Central Connecticut State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at 6 p.m. on Friday, November 10, at Jeffrey Field. The 10-4-5 Blue Devils travel to Happy Valley fresh off the Northeast Conference Tournament Championship with a win over Wagner in penalty kicks.
The Blue Devils have only gotten better as the season progressed with three of their four losses coming in the first five matches of the season, as their last loss was on September 10 against Dartmouth. Central Connecticut State dominated its conference, completing an undefeated regular season and winning the double in the conference tournament final.
The Blue Devils are led by senior forward Giavanna Inzerillo. She leads the team in goals with 15 and 36 points. Inzerillo was named first team all-conference and was the Northeast Offensive Player of the Year.
Second Round: No. 7 Santa Clara Or Arizona State
If the Nittany Lions can pull through with a win Friday, they’ll play the winner of Arizona State and No. 7 Santa Clara in Happy Valley at a time still to be determined.
Arizona State had something great going at the beginning of the season but lost the last four matches of the year. Still, boasting a 10-6-4 record is no easy feat. Santa Clara, however, won its last two games and has a record of 13-4-2 on the year.
Both teams had a commanding presence on the pitch this season, so the Nittany Lions will need to focus on being present for every match to make it to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.
The Nittany Lions have a straightforward path to the third round of the tournament. If seeded teams win and the bracket continues as it is ranked, Penn State will face the Big East Conference Champions in No. 3 Georgetown following two potential victories at home.
The last time these two teams met was in 2022 during the regular season. That match ended in a 2-2 draw.
The Bulldogs have now won the last four Big East Conference Championships and are full of momentum going into the NCAA Tournament. With 12 shutouts this year, the Bulldogs are one of the hardest teams in the country to break down. Allie Augur leads the nation in goals-against-average and defender Julia Leas has played lockdown defense all year.
The Nittany Lions might not have won the Big Ten Tournament, but all season they’ve proven they are one of the best in the nation. With a high-powered offense and an experienced backline, any team that has to get through Penn State is going to have a difficult time. Sitting as the second seed in their region, the Nittany Lions are one of the favorites to make a run at the College Cup.
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