Penn State Opens Big Ten Tournament with Win Over Michigan
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — On a soggy afternoon at Jeffrey Field, Penn State turned to senior Marissa Sheva when it mattered most.
After winning seven matches in a row entering Sunday’s contest, the Nittany Lions were looking to make it eight in the opening round of the 2018 Big Ten Tournament and needed almost the entire match to do so.
“I thought the group really battled today,” head coach Erica Dambach said. “That team (Michigan) is as talented as we see all season long.”
In the 88th minute with the match tied 0-0, Sheva took a cross from junior defender Ellie Jean, who sprinted down the near side with the ball to set up Sheva. Sheva then buried the ball in the back of the next past Michigan goalie Hillary Beall for what would become the game winner.
“I saw Ellie Jean sprinting down the sideline and knew she was going to beat the defender,” Sheva said. “She played the perfect cross, and all I had to do was get a touch on it.”
Almost 90 minutes before Sheva’s goal, things got underway slowly with the two sides taking plenty of time to adapt to not only each other but the rain bearing down as well.
After barely making it to the tournament in the first place, Michigan was the first team to find momentum, dominating possession for the first 20 minutes of the match, taking two shots on goal and three corner kicks before the Nittany Lions’ first opportunity of the match.
Penn State eventually found offensive opportunities late in the first half, registering eight shots throughout the first 45 minutes to double Michigan’s four shots, yet as the teams headed off the pitch, the match remained scoreless.
“That Michigan team is talented,” Dambach said. “There’s talent all over the field.”
Unlike the first half, the Nittany Lions came out firing early in the second half, dominating the pace of play until two dangerous attacks from the Wolverines in the 52nd minute, one of which banged off the crossbar of the net.
While the second half was filled with offensive opportunities for each team, the match remained scoreless with neither team able to turn numerous good looks into goals.
Finally, in the final two minutes of the match, the Nittany Lions netted the goal they needed, then held off one final charge from the Wolverines as Michigan attempted a corner kick with six seconds remaining.
Although the ball bounced around in front of the net for what seemed like forever, when the final whistle sounded Penn State had preserved its tenth shutout of the season behind the strong play of Nittany Lion goalie Amanda Dennis.
“I thought Amanda Dennis was the player of the match,” Dambach said. “I thought she did everything she needed to do for us to win that game, and that’s what you need in the postseason from your goalkeeper.”
Ben Jenkins is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and community & commercial recreation. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.