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Top-Seeded Nittany Lions Oust Boston College

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By Scott Traweek, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The top-ranked offense in the country was on display Friday night at Jeffrey Field when Penn State knocked off Boston College in the second round of the NCAA tournament by a score of 5-2 and advance to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.

The Nittany Lions unleashed their attack on the Golden Eagles early as junior forward Maya Hayes received a cross from fellow junior forward Taylor Schram and scored 48 seconds into the game.  It was the fastest goal scored in Penn State history.

"We talked about it, we scouted it," said Hayes.  "We knew exactly what their backline was going to look like and it played right into how we like to play."

Hayes would add a second goal in the 28th minute off of a thru bal from senior midfielder Christine Nairn to put the Nittany Lions ahead 2-0 heading into halftime.

At the start of the second half, Penn State capitalized again when freshman forward Mallory Weber netted her first goal of the post season.  Sophomore midfielder Emily Hurd garnered the ball on the left wing and sent a cross in to Weber, who put the Nittany Lions up 3-0.  Weber would later score her second goal of the match to seal the 5-2 victory.

"It's just exciting knowing that I can work hard and keep producing and help this team go forward each game," said Weber."

Though Penn State had developed a substantial lead in the second half, Boston College refused to give in.  Despite outshooting the Nittany Lions 18-10 in the first period, the Golden Eagles earned their first goal in the 48th minute when a player was tackled in the box on a breakaway, resulting in a penalty kick.  Senior midfielder Kristen Mewis took the shot and scored.  Penn State senior goalkeeper Erin McNulty guessed right on her dive, but was unable to make the save.

Mewis proceeded to score again less than three minutes later, pulling Boston College to within one.  All the momentum was with the Golden Eagles and the offensive surge could have been enough to even the match, but the Nittany Lions never lost focus and continued to do what they do best: score goals.

"We hit a critical moment when the game went to 3-2 and it was, I just told the team, do or die at that point," said head coach Erica Walsh.  "Everything about their body language was right and so much of it was the crowd and the confidence of playing on Jeffrey Field."

It was veteran Christine Nairn who scored the decisive fourth goal.  In the 75th minute, freshman Rookie of the Year Raquel Rodriguez passed the ball forward to Nairn who rifled a shot into the lower left corner of the net.  The clutch goal defines the impact this senior class has had on the team this year.

"It's do or die right now," said Nairn.  "We [the senior class] realize that this team is very special and we're not ready to give that up yet.  We've been working hard.  We've been doing absolutely everything we can to make this team special and to stay together."

Weber would add a fifth goal in the 79th minute after a ball ricocheted off her back, deflected off the Boston College goalie's foot and spun into the net.  Penn State just couldn't be stopped.

"Certainly it's a dangerous attack," said Boston College head coach Alison Foley.  "They attack with six and all six are quite capable of scoring goals.  They serve balls well and they get in the box, so certainly a team that is opportunistic."

The Golden Eagles outshot the Nittany Lions 24-20 during the game, but were unable to out-perform Penn State's attack.  McNulty had a tremendous game in goal with six saves and acted as a leader on defensive while Boston College launched shot after shot her way.

"She just brings us so much confidence at this point," said coach Walsh on McNulty.  "She will help guide this team.  She's got the experience and she's got the confidence to do it.  She's playing her best soccer right now."

The two critical moments during the match were the first goal of the game by Hayes, which ignited the Nittany Lions' prolific offense, and the fourth goal by Nairn, which shifted the momentum back in Penn State's favor following two goals by the Golden Eagles.  Both goals were facilitated by the transition game, which the players had been focusing on throughout practice the week before.

"Obviously we created goals off of transition and I thought we were better in transition in this match," said coach Walsh.  "We'll continue to learn and get better, but I thought as far as the important points of transition, trying to score goals, we did a pretty good job."

Playing on Jeffrey Field was another factor as the electric atmosphere of 1,258 fans fueled the Nittany Lions throughout the contest.  Naturally, the Park Avenue Army was out in full force and the players truly appreciated the support.

"It means the world to us," said Narin.  "We needed them tonight and they're the 12th man, so we can't thank them enough for coming out and supporting us."

Penn State will face Michigan at home on Sunday in the third round of the NCAA tournament at 7 p.m.  The Nittany Lions tied the Wolverines 1-1 at the end of the regular season, despite outshooting their opponent 31-9.  One thing is certain, coach Walsh and the players are looking forward to the rematch.

"I was crossing my fingers and hoping that we'd see Michigan again," said coach Walsh.  "We missed out on an opportunity at home, that bitter taste in our mouth for the Big Ten Championship, and I've been waiting for this moment since that day."

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