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Big Ten Title Race on the Line for Men's Soccer on Senior Day

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By Mike Esse, Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In what will be its last match on the turf of Jeffery Field, senior day is on the minds of the 10 seniors on the Penn State men's soccer team (9-4-2, 3-1-1). However, there is a little more at stake when they face Ohio State (6-9-1, 0-4) on Sunday at 1 p.m. as a win for the Lions would put them in position to be at least in the hunt for the Big Ten regular season title.

8234223.jpeg"Obviously it is a big day since it is the last game on Jeffery Field for the seniors," said captain John Gallagher. "It is definitely a big day. We want to get a win and we need to get a win if we want to win the Big Ten."

Gallagher, along with senior captains Brian Forgue and Jacob Barron have been the vocal leaders for the Lions in 2012. The team has won three straight matches including a 1-0 double overtime victory on Oct. 21 against a ranked Northwestern team.

With the combination of senior day and a Big Ten championship on the line, it has been stressed that they must stay focused on Ohio State and then take in the experience with their families and friends after the match.

"We just have to focus first on beating Ohio State and working on the things that we have done in practice the last couple days," said Barron. "If we win, we can enjoy senior day with all of our parents and everyone else."

However, the thought of potentially beating Ohio State in their last career home match, being in a good position to win the conference title and celebrating it with not only their teammates, but also their families, hasn't escaped the minds of some of the Nittany Lions.

"That would be awesome, that would be ideal," said Forgue. "The last four years here have been some of the best I have ever had. Getting to compete for this university and play on these types of facilities day in and day out."

"I'm definitely going to miss it, but if we go out with a win and potentially line ourselves up to win the Big Ten that's exactly what we are working towards."

Third-year head coach Bob Warming loves senior day because it is a confirmation that his players have made it through their college experiences at Penn State and are prepared to go into the world and do something great.

What Warming hopes his seniors take out of the ceremony on Sunday and their experience at Penn State as a whole is a lifelong connection with the program and the value of their time at Penn State.

Warming wants his seniors to emulate what a past alumnus did during alumni weekend a few weeks ago, and that is come back to the program no matter how long ago they graduated.

"Penn State soccer alum Dick Packer, who graduated 57 years ago, came back 57 years later and is as passionate as can be about Penn State soccer," said Warming. "I told all of these seniors, I want somebody in this room, hopefully multiple guys, 57 years from now back in the locker room with the team and talking about how valuable their experience was at Penn State."

The relationship of the seniors, as well as the rest of the team has not gone unnoticed in 2012 and the leadership that has developed has led to the Nittany Lions being on the brink of their first conference championship since 2005.

"Everybody on the team is real close with each other, but for the seniors that leadership expectation brought us all together," said Gallagher. "Guys haven't had to do that from their freshman year to now, but since they have this year we all just came together and led the team."

Sunday will be another tough Big Ten test for the Nittany Lions as Ohio State comes in after nearly beating No. 1 ranked Akron on Wednesday, reminding Warming of his Penn State team from a year ago.

"Ohio State is an absolute handful, they are certainly the Penn State of last year," said Warming. "They are the team that nobody wants to face right now."

Kickoff on Sunday is set for 1 p.m. at Jeffery Field.

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