WSOC: Aerial Attack, Staunch Defending Propel Penn State to Victory
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.−Second half goals from Elizabeth Ball and Frannie Crouse overshadowed an offensively futile first half in Penn State Women’s soccer’s 20 home win over Iowa on Friday night.
It took almost 55 minutes for Penn State defender Elizabeth Ball to break the deadlock with a flicked header on a setpiece from Nickolette Driesse. To that point, the Nittany Lions had only forced two saves out of Iowa goalkeeper Claire Graves.
The opening goal came seconds after Penn State midfielder Alina OrtegaJurado was clipped on the ankle just inside Iowa’s half. The Lions loaded the box with players, and it was Ball who was able to direct her shot just under the crossbar for her first tally of the season.
“It’s so much fun to go forward. Every time we have free kick or a corner I’m just so excited to get in there and see what I can do.” Ball said. “We pride ourselves on set pieces.”
Head coach Erica Dambach recognized that Iowa’s defense stymied Penn State’s offense in the final third during the first half, and ultimately it was the Lions’ prowess in the air that won them the game.
“[Iowa] did a nice job of trying to contain the attack, and I thought that we struggled a bit in the first half,” Coach Dambach said. “Iowa is good in the air, but we have some good sized players that we can target, and we took advantage of it.”
Penn State scored again just eight minutes later when leftback Brittany Basinger delivered a driven ball to from the left side that skimmed the head of striker Megan Schafer. Frannie Crouse, the Lions’ leading goal scorer, was in perfect position at the back post, and calmly lifted the ball over the rushing goalie’s head to double Penn State’s lead.
Penn State held the ball for the better part of the last half hour of the match, and Iowa forwards were never able to break through Penn State’s impenetrable backline.
“The attackers putting in that work and keeping possession up on the field is good for us as defenders because we’re more settled and we know when we need to step,” Ball said.
Ball also spoke highly of freshman goalkeeper Amanda Dennis, who made four saves en route to her third shutout of the season.
“We really respect Amanda,” Ball said. “It’s not even like she’s a freshman, and it’s really nice to have somebody who’s so solid back there.
With three Big Ten games under their belts, the Nittany Lions now look forward to their home clash with #10 Nebraska on Sunday.
“This group is in a good place,” Coach Dambach said. “A couple shutouts, and the backline is coming together. We have a balanced attack right now but a very tough Nebraska team on Sunday.”
Penn State will look to remain undefeated in conference play when the 73 Cornhuskers visit Jeffrey Field on Sunday afternoon.
Matt Lingerman is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.