Penn State Second Half Effort Wins Home Opener vs Towson
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa- No.12 Penn State opened their season at home, taking down No.11 Towson in a fierce second half effort at Holuba Hall on Saturday.
Captain Kelly Daggett got the Nittany Lions up early, taking a 1-0 lead just three minutes into the first half. Towson responded immediately, as Kaitlin Thornton was able to tie up the score, 1-1, just 22 seconds later.
Quinn Nicolai’s second shot found the back of the net, putting the Nittany Lion’s up 2-1 in another quick offensive effort. But the lead was never safe in this top-ranked matchup. Annie Sachs tied it up for the Tigers for the second time in the first half.
Putting the pressure on Penn State, Towson took their first lead of the game, 3-2, on a goal by Natalie Sulmonte.
The push continued by the Towson offense but clutch saves by goaltender Taylor Suplee kept the Nittany Lions in the game. Adjustments were eventually made by the Penn State defense, taking some pressure off of Suplee, who finished the day with eight saves.
“The defense was awesome,” Suplee said. “The energy was great out there.”
Shutting down the Tiger’s offense would require slowing down their speed from up the middle, while simultaneously interrupting how they calmly set up their shot.
Towson’s defense was also a challenge for Penn State’s offensive game in the first half, however, the Nittany Lions were able to break through and tie it up, 3-3, on a goal by Sophia Triandafils.
Triandafils’ goal sparked a little fire under Penn State, coming back from the timeout with just a bit more aggression. Still, Towson maintained controlled of the ball for the remainder of the half.
A foul on Penn State’s Mary Muldoon set up Towson for another scoring opportunity with just under three minutes left in the half. Annie Sachs would capitalize for her second goal and Towson’s second lead of the game. The game went into halftime with the Nittany Lions down on the Tigers, 4-3.
Tigers goaltender Kiley Keating continued to make save after save as the Nittany Lions came into the second half eager to put some much needed pressure on this Towson defense.
“We were playing balanced in the second half and we were able to put our shots away,” Penn State head coach Missy Doherty said. “Madison Carter really stepped up for us.”
And step up she did. Carter would finish the game with four goals and an assist, but it doesn’t end there.
When Carter found the net for the third time in the game, she nabbed a new record too, becoming the 15th Penn State player to hit 200 points in her career following the goal that put Penn State up 9-5.
Like any standout player, however, her priorities remained with her team.
“I’m more excited that we came out with the win today,” Carter said.
The storyline certainly changed in the second half, as a majority of the work for Towson shifted onto Keating and the Tiger defense as the Nittany Lions played a fast-paced game and continued to draw fouls. Keating, however, seemed unphased by the Penn State effort.
Momentum lifted this Nittany Lion offense, focusing more on setting up quick opportunities and taking more shots. But the key was the draw.
“One of the things that changed in the second half was our ability to get the draw,” Doherty said. “Getting possession was definitely key.”
The Towson defense was now struggling to defend this Nittany Lion team, drawing a total of 16 fouls, nine in the second half alone.
A late offensive push by the Tigers would put another two goals on the board, courtesy of Sulmonte and Thornton. With five and a half minutes of play left, Towson still found themselves down by three.
Penn State wasn’t holding back as time wound down, either. Lauren Craft recorded her first goal of the season and so did Kristen Roberto off a pass from Delaney Muldoon.
With just under a minute left, the Nittany Lions looked to secure their victory. Nicolai got her second goal of the game, and Penn State was comfortably leading by six with 46 seconds left to play.
Maintaining possession the rest of play, the Nittany Lions pulled away with the 13-7 victory over Towson.
“The way we played is really great,” Doherty said. “We played an even game, there wasn’t major ups and downs, we kept plugging away and thankfully came up with the win.”
The Nittany Lions take on Lehigh at home next Saturday, Feb. 16 at 1 p.m.
Carolyn Sistrand is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and history. To contact her, email email@example.com.
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Junior / Broadcast Journalism, History