Women’s Soccer: Cats fall behind early in 3-0 loss to Penn State

Charlotte Vaziri, Reporter

Women’s Soccer

Streaks are meant to be broken.

The No. 24 Wildcats (9-2-2, 3-1-1 Big Ten) weren’t able to claw their way to victory and extend their eight-game unbeaten streak against No. 12 Penn State (8-2-2, 3-1-1 Big Ten) on Sunday.

The Nittany Lions came in roaring, and just nine minutes into the game, their midfielders pounced. Emily Ogle fed Mallory Weber at the eight-yard mark, where Weber slotted the ball into the lower far post, past the strained reach of sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Clem.

Penn State’s early offensive domination has become a trademark of its season. Prior to facing NU, the Nittany Lions have outscored opponents 9-4 and outshot them 81-43 in the first 45 minutes of play.

At the 15-minute mark, NU’s leadership surfaced and set the tone as the team’s aggression picked up. Senior midfielder Nandi Mehta scraped up the 50-50 balls, alleviating the pressure on the defense and allowing them to gather offensive momentum. Junior forward Addie Steiner worked sideline to sideline to receive outlet balls to try to capitalize on any opportunity, as seen in her shot from 32 yards out.

Leading up to this point, the Nittany Lions offense on NU’s backline posed the biggest threat, paralyzing NU’s ability to transition the ball out of the backfield. Thus, the Cats’ positional lines kept sinking farther and farther back, to the point that Steiner was the only white jersey in the opposite 30. Consequently, the Nittany Lions constantly forced the Cats back onto their heels.

NU’s defense had more trouble containing the No. 12-ranked offense, after injuries days prior plagued the unit. With typical starting defenders sidelined, other players stepped in to fill these positions.

“Having a couple of kids out with injuries made a big impact for us with the result,” coach Michael Moynihan said. “I felt like we gave up some soft goals defensively. They came from sloppy play on our part.”

At the 26-minute mark, the Cats were caught off guard when Nittany Lion forward Raquel Rodriguez carried the ball into space. Rodriguez rocketed a shot through the posts from 25 yards out, and this allowed Penn State to take a 2-0 lead into the break.

Moynihan made adjustments in the hope of rendering a different result in the second half. The Cats offense turned the tables on Penn State by pressing higher and more aggressively, testing the Nittany Lions defense. Junior defender Rachel Scott and sophomore defender Kassidy Gorman played as if they were midfielders, which exposed Penn State’s right flank.

With the defense attacking, NU had more numbers up, translating into four corner opportunities.

The Nittany Lions, however, continued to attack. They fought NU’s firing offense with their own and turned the game into a back-and-forth scramble. As a result, the ball was often caught in the midfield, making it hard for NU to create shots.

As time trickled down to the 88th minute, Penn State forward Alina Ortega-Jurado crushed NU’s lingering hopes for a comeback, as she lobbed a shot over Clem from 20 yards out.

“We had our chances,” sophomore forward Mackenzie Howe said. “The biggest difference in our performances with them is they capitalized on our mistakes and made the most of their chances.”

The Cats’ 3-0 loss gave them their first Big Ten loss and blemished their eight-game unbeaten streak.

Mehta is using this as a teaching tool and is already looking forward to the team’s next game, a contest against Michigan in Ann Arbor.

“We will take this game as a good opportunity to learn and grow as a team,” she said. “It’s on to Michigan now.”

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