Penn State Falls to Michigan at Home in Big Ten Opener
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – No. 23 Penn State (4-4-1) suffered its third loss in a row and fourth of the season Thursday, as the Michigan Wolverines (6-2-0) held on to defeat the Nittany Lions 1-0 to open Big Ten play.
The Nittany Lions controlled possession in the early minutes of the match as Michigan could not find its legs on the defensive side, but with 40 minutes left in the first half, a turnover by Penn State led to a Michigan counterattack that resulted in a save by senior goalkeeper Amanda Dennis. After that attack, the Wolverines started to control possession, as they capitalized on Penn State’s sloppy passing and lackadaisical play.
Another turnover by the Nittany Lions with 36 minutes left led to a goal, as Michigan junior Sarah Stratigakis played the ball across the box to freshman Meredith Haakenson, who took one touch and finished her shot as the ball went into the back-right corner of the net to beat Dennis and put the Wolverines up 1-0.
Penn State had opportunities throughout the half, but poor touches and miscommunication made it difficult for the Nittany Lions to gain any quality chances at a goal. This was highlighted with 17 minutes left in the half when junior Sam Coffey crossed a ball into the box, but there was no one present to receive the ball and take a shot on goal, giving Coffey a look of confusion.
Freshman Payton Linnehan provided a spark off the bench for the Nittany Lions as she had three shots on goal throughout the night. Her best chance was with four minutes remaining in the first half, as she intercepted a long Michigan pass and took it all the way to the top of the box before firing a shot that was stopped by Michigan goalkeeper Hillary Beall.
The second half of play showcased Michigan’s stellar defense and goalkeeping. Alia Martin made two big stops on the Penn State attack, as she used her body to shield the ball, stopping a strong attack from Linnehan with 40:25 remaining.
With 10:08 on the clock, the Nittany Lions cranked up the attack as redshirt freshman Ally Schlegel, who had a quiet night, played a ball into the box for junior Frankie Tagliaferri. However, Tagliaferri stopped running and turned the ball over to Martin, which squandered a great chance for the Nittany Lions to tie the game.
Down the stretch, the Nittany Lions had limited chances, as Michigan controlled the ball and ultimately held on for a big road victory.
The Nittany Lions outshot the Wolverines 9-8 and had more corner kicks 7-4. Despite having more chances to score, the Penn State attack could not finish when it needed to most.
“We’ve got to find our belief right now,” Penn State head coach Erica Dambach said. “You can see that in our play, you can see that in the way we carry ourselves. It’s time to take some risks. We’re being too cautious in our actions, trying to protect something rather than go after something.”
The Nittany Lions will be at home again on Sunday to take on Michigan State, as they look to end their losing streak and get their first win in Big Ten play.
Andrew Field is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.