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Women’s Soccer: Northwestern falls to Penn State to open Big Ten play

Kayla+Sharples+heads+a+ball+away.+The+junior+defender+and+the+Wildcats+dropped+their+Big+Ten+opener+at+Penn+State.
Kayla Sharples heads a ball away. The junior defender and the Wildcats dropped their Big Ten opener at Penn State.

Kayla Sharples heads a ball away. The junior defender and the Wildcats dropped their Big Ten opener at Penn State.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Kayla Sharples heads a ball away. The junior defender and the Wildcats dropped their Big Ten opener at Penn State.

Charlie Goldsmith, Reporter

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Women’s Soccer


Barely three minutes had passed when No. 8 Penn State struck its first blow against Northwestern (3-4-1, 0-1 Big Ten) and its Big Ten championship aspirations. Still, the Wildcats, the reigning conference co-champions, are staying true to their preseason expectations and dismissing any sense of disbelief.

“We have some tendencies to have a lack of focus,” junior defender Kayla Sharples said. “But we are a team that people can fear. So we just need to keep that in the back of our brain every single time we’re out on the field.”

NU lost 3-0 to the Nittany Lions (5-2-0, 1-0) on Thursday in State College. Even though the two teams shared the Big Ten championship last season, Penn State, the conference’s highest ranked team, made a strong impression to start its Big Ten slate.

In the third minute, Penn State forward Megan Schafer scored on a header off a cross from defender Brittany Basinger. Emily Ogle’s free kick goal from 24 yards in the 41st minute put a close to a first half that Sharples and coach Michael Moynihan acknowledged was dominated by the Nittany Lions.

“We knew exactly what they were going to try to do,” Moynihan said. “We thought we would be able to neutralize it a bit, and we weren’t thinking quick enough. … I don’t know if it’s a lack of focus or what but they punished us for it.”

Penn State had more shots on goal in the first 20 minutes of the match than they had in any half all season and tallied 15 of its 17 shots in the opening 45 minutes. Then, the Nittany Lions scored two minutes into the second half, when Charlotte Williams knocked it past senior goalkeeper Lauren Clem from eight yards.

The Cats shared the Big Ten championship last season with Penn State, but the Nittany Lions showcased their improvement throughout the match. Penn State returns four players who missed last season to play in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, Moynihan said.

While NU did not face the Nittany Lions in 2016, the Cats only lost once last year against a conference opponent. NU’s upcoming matches are against Ohio State, who received votes in this week’s poll, and No. 13 Rutgers, so the Cats’ loss in the Big Ten opener, along with their losing record overall, prompts urgency.

“Immediately after the game, we talked to the players about ‘is this a team that you think we can beat,’” Moynihan said. “All of them said yes. They need a little rest right now, but they’d like to see them again (in the Big Ten Tournament) and get another crack at them. There’s more in us.”

Email: charliegoldsmith2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @2021_Charlie

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