By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior captain Nickolette Driesse has been a key contributor to the Penn State Nittany Lions throughout the first 19 games of the season, making multiple big plays in key moments.
There is no surprise that game 20 was no different on the biggest stage in college soccer, the NCAA tournament. Under the bright lights at Jeffrey Field in a do-or-die game, Driesse rose to the occasion once again and scored her first goal of the year to lead the Nittany Lions to a 6-0 first round victory against Bucknell Friday night.
In the 15th minute Driesse received a pass from Frannie Crouse just outside the box and ripped a left-footed strike to the top left corner of the net. The shot couldn't have been placed any better.
"We've been working as a midfield just kind of rotating into that holding mid position, and as soon as I took that touch I saw [Salina Williford] going out, and I just thought that I would take a chance," Driesse said.
This isn't anything new to Driesse. The bigger the moment, the brighter she shines.
Just look at her NCAA tournament resume. Three years, three championship appearances, two championship trophies. It doesn't get much better than that.
She spent her freshman and sophomore years at Florida State, where the team reached the championship in 2013 but lost to UCLA. In 2014 the Seminoles made it back to the final and came away victorious.
Driesse transferred to Penn State before her junior season, and led the Lions to their first ever NCAA championship. The girl is simply a winner.
"This time of the year and knowing that it's my last game on Jeffrey, the last time I'm going to be playing in front of some of these fans," Driesse said. "I kind of just knew that I needed to do something to make a mark here."
Driesse is out for her third consecutive NCAA title and her second in Blue and White. Anything less would be a failure by her standards.
Following Driesse's opening goal, Charlotte Williams added another in the 41st minute. It marked the first time since Sept. 11 Penn State scored two first half goals.
In the second half, Haleigh Echard and Marissa Sheva scored goals to stretch the lead to four. It was Echard's first goal of the year and Sheva's second.
Williams added another goal in the 70th minute for her sixth goal of the season and Schafer tacked on another in the 81st minute, her sixth of the season.
Frannie Crouse notched two assists in the game to lead the team. She had only one assist all season coming into the match.
Penn State's six goals in the match marked its season-high in 2016. The Lions hadn't scored more than three goals in any game prior to Friday night. Penn State outshot Bucknell 19-5 and held the Bison to zero shots in the second half.
"I actually saw quite a few elements in our attack today that I really was impressed by, things that we have been trying to put in over these last few weeks that just haven't come off against some of these other opponents that seemed to really click tonight," said head coach Erica Dambach. "Hopefully this game will give these guys a ton of confidence in their ability going forward."
Penn State is now 16-3 in first round NCAA tournament games and has won eight straight first round matches.
"This is the perfect way to end the season on Jeffrey Field in front of another great crowd," said Dambach. "With Nikki Driesse having the game winner in her senior year, and to get a shutout. I think we were firing on all cylinders tonight."