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Penn State Women’s Soccer Moves Past Santa Clara 2-0 In Round Of 32 Of NCAA Tournament

No. 3-seeded Penn State women’s soccer (15-2-4, 6-1-3 Big Ten) took down No. 7-seeded Santa Clara (14-5-3, 6-2 WCC) 2-0 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night at Jeffrey Field. 

The game started fast despite the poor weather and rain, and Penn State looked comfortable. In just the third minute, Kaitlyn MacBean made an excellent move around a Santa Clara defender and put the ball in the back of the net to give the Nittany Lions the lead.

Santa Clara didn’t go down without fighting back and started to take control of the game in the following minutes. Payton Linnehan stopped all of its momentum by doubling the lead for Penn State in the 21st minute. The first half ended 2-0 in favor of Penn State, and the Broncos didn’t record a single shot on goal. Penn State’s defense took over in the second half and didn’t allow Santa Clara to take control of the match or get back into the game.

How It Happened

Head coach Erica Dambach made one change to the starting 11 from the last match against Central Connecticut State and brought Kate Wiesner on for Kaelyn Wolfe in a straight defender-for-defender swap. The remainder of the formation continued as its regular 4-4-2.

The rain poured at Jeffery Field, and Santa Clara couldn’t handle the classic Big Ten weather early on. The Nittany Lions wasted no time, taking the lead and finding the back of the net through MacBean in just the third minute. MacBean ran onto a perfectly-weighted ball and eased past the Santa Clara defender before burying the ball into the bottom right corner.  

Santa Clara didn’t fold following the goal and settled into the slippery surface. Until the 14th minute, the Broncos had a lot of the ball but never threatened to equalize. Penn State, on the other hand, looked determined to capitalize on every opportunity. In the few attempts it had during this time span, it looked very dangerous.  

With 30 minutes remaining in the first half, Penn State took control of the game again. The back four controlled the ball and settled the rest of the team, taking some sting out of the game. Penn State’s forwards played excellent holdup play, barely letting Santa Clara’s defenders see the ball.  

Penn State took advantage of the possession after lulling the Broncos to sleep. This time, it was Linnehan’s turn receive a tremendous ball. In the 21st minute, she found herself in a footrace with the Santa Clara defenders, which she easily won. Goalkeeper Marlee Nicolos slipped on the way to making the save, so Linnehan calmly chipped the ball over her to give the Nittany Lions 2-0. 

With 11 minutes left before the break, Penn State had another great opportunity off a set piece about 40 yards from the net. Cori Dyke whipped in a ball that just barely missed Mieke Schiemann’s head. Instead, it went out and resulted in a goal kick.  

The rest of the first half proved to be uneventful, and the Nittany Lions went into break up 2-0. Santa Clara didn’t record a shot on goal in the first 45 minutes. 

Santa Clara came out of halftime on a mission to make a comeback but still couldn’t convert its opportunities into shots on goal. The Nittany Lions’ backline remained disciplined and strong despite the constant pressure.  

The Broncos seemed to test Schiemann’s speed for much of the first 10 minutes of the second half. Multiple times, Santa Clara attackers put the ball past Schiemann trying to run past her. The Penn State defender proved to be quicker than anticipated and was first to the ball every time.  

Santa Clara finally got its first shot on goal from a corner in the 55th minute. The ball found the head of one of its attackers, but goalkeeper Katherine Asman did a great job finding the ball and keeping it under her. 

With 30 minutes remaining in the game, Penn State continued its defensive excellence. Santa Clara was putting a lot of pressure on the Nittany Lion back line, but they didn’t get beat easily. Penn State knew it would have to drop back to keep its two-goal lead and did it with perfection. With the game slowing down, Penn State never lost its focus. 

In the 69th minute, Olivia Borgen found the ball at midfield and took on six Santa Clara defenders in a display of immaculate skill. Borgen got to a one-on-one with the keeper but was unable to put it past her.  

Penn State dropped its holding midfielder Dyke into a centerback role with 15 minutes remaining. This effectively put them in a back five, making it even harder for the Broncos to break through and get a goal or even a shot.  

The final 15 minutes were more of the same, featuring lockdown play from the Nittany Lions despite constant pressing from the Broncos. The Santa Clara players were frustrated at the lack of shots and opportunities to get back into the match.  

The game ended with a Nittany Lion 2-0 victory. 

Takeaways

  • Penn State’s defense was the star of the match, allowing only four shots on goal and holding the Santa Clara offense to no goals. The second half was a real test, but the backline wouldn’t break and proved it was one of the best units in the country.  
  • The Nittany Lion attackers knew they would have a hard time against goalkeeper and National Champion Marlee Nicolos, but they had their way when it came to finishing. Penn State took only five shots, all of which hit the target and two of them resulted in goals.  

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will remain in Happy Valley for the third round of the NCAA Tournament to take on Saint Louis at 1 p.m. on Sunday, November 19.

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About the Author

Collin Ward

Collin is a first-year majoring in digital/print journalism. Born in Hartford, he now lives in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. As a die-hard Chelsea FC fan you can normally find him yelling at his TV screen each weekend. To reach him, follow him on Instagram: @cward829, or email him at [email protected].

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