It was my job to cover Penn State soccer this year. Unfortunately, studying for the LSAT has prevented me from being able to watch most women's and men's games, let alone fairly and accurately write about them. Don't worry, #PennStateFutbol will return to BSD in earnest next fall. But for now, the women march into the postseason tournament playing with their hair on fire, while the men bow out with honor after a brutal game against Ohio State. The men's column will be slightly longer as it's a post-mortem. Hopefully, the women's one won't be written until early December.
Under Erica Walsh, Penn State women's soccer has become a powerhouse. This season, they went 16-3-2 on their way to a sixth Big Ten title under Walsh, finishing the season No. 5 in the nation. They beat No. 2 Stanford 2-0 in Palo Alto, and drew No. 21 Duke at home in as thrilling a scoreless 2OT draw as you'll ever see. Their only losses were to No. 12 West Virginia and 1-0 defeats in rough conference matchups against Minnesota and Rutgers.
With a high-powered offense led by, amongst others, Raqui Rodriguez, Frannie Crouse, Megan Schafer, and Mallory Weber, PSU outscored opponents 44-14 on the season and outshot them 336-173. Goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom's 82 percent save percentage was astonishing, and spoke to both her skill and the talent of the defense in front of her to keep their opposition from getting good position to shoot.
Yesterday, they defeated third-seeded Rutgers 2-0 in the Big Ten championship game at home in the Jeff, getting revenge on the Scarlet Knights for an earlier loss. Elizabeth Ball scored a goal that everyone (including PSUWSOC's Twitter) at first thought belonged to Raqui Rodriguez. Emily Ogle's goal in the 26th minute put the game away for good. Eckerstrom only had to make one save all day, as a dominating performance gave them the crown. Ogle, Eckerstrom, and Crouse were named to the All-Tournament team, with the latter two taking home defensive and offensive player of the tournament awards, respectively.
Today at 4:30 p.m., the Women's College Cup selection show will stream live on NCAA.com. Be sure to tune in to see who the Nittany Lions will take on on the first round, and where their road to the December 6 title game in Cary, N.C. will go through.
It was a tough season for Bob Warming's boys, especially when it came to attacking play. Penn State went 7-8-3 this year, a rare losing season in the career of a head coach who has 32 winning ones on his record. After starting the season 4-1-2, including a draw against the Big Ten's top team in Ohio State, the Lions looked set to put together a typically strong season, hoping to avenge last year's second round loss to Syracuse in the College Cup.
Unfortunately, the team would go 3-7-1 to close out the year, and will likely miss the Cup for the first time since 2011-12. After an overtime victory against Michigan State put them through in the conference tourney, the team took on Ohio State. While they had chances, including a 2-on-2 chance with Riley Grant's pass across the face of goal to Connor Maloney coming just a second too late, Ohio State scored a golden goal that just escaped the fingertips of keeper Evan Finney, who along with Matt Bersano valiantly filled the massive shoes left by Andrew Wolverton (now of the LA Galaxy).
The absurdity of golden goals still being a thing in college soccer notwithstanding, it was an absolute battle on both sides, with Finney making some great saves, Ohio State nearly missing multiple times, and a late-game series of about eight failed clearances that stopped every heart watching.
Maloney, a junior and the team's best player, as well as one of the best attackers in the country, put up a strong year with seven goals and two assists in 17 matches. However, the offense as a whole was rather listless. Penn State scored just 22 goals and conceded the same amount. They were outshot 251-200, including a brutal 131-94 in the second half of matches. Penn State's two keepers recorded 66 combined saves while opponents recorded 69, which shows the gulf between the attack and defense this year.
However, it's not all doom and gloom. In fact, quite the opposite – it was a rare down year for a traditionally excellent program. Look out for this team when they come back next fall, as they're absolutely loaded with top-end young talent and will be hungry to win. The players that underperformed this year certainly didn't do so for a lack of skill, as anyone will tell you the Nittany Lions have top-25 talent all over the lineup. Expect a return to the top of the Big Ten next year. Oh, and they add Christian Hackenberg's brother, Brandon. Coach Warming is gonna have fun coaching these guys next fall.