By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- It was a matter of inches that separated victory and defeat for the Penn State men's soccer team Wednesday night.
At home against West Virginia, the Nittany Lions had numerous close chances come up short, including two shots that hit the crossbar, in a heartbreaking 2-1 loss.
"That's what I told them at halftime," Penn State head coach Bob Warming said. "A couple off the crossbar ... the game could be a little different. About two inches was the differences on those balls."
Coming off of consecutive losses, Penn State started fast and looked to be back to the form that helped it win 10 of its first 11 games.
Like many of the Nittany Lions' first halves this season, they generated plenty of opportunities with eight shots, yet were unable to score.
Mikey Minutillo was the first Nittany Lion to hit the crossbar, just missing an empty net opportunity on a play in which his jersey was pulled at the 21:40 mark. Just over 10 minutes later, fellow forward Mark Wadid would also nail a ball off the top bar as the game remained scoreless going into halftime.
"It's always discouraging when you hit the post," sophomore forward Connor Maloney said. "It's an opportunity to get one in the net but we just have to bounce back now."
Maloney has been the spark Penn State has needed all season, and as Wednesday night's game moved into the second half, he delivered once again.
Just into the fourth minute of the period, the 5-foot-6 forward blasted a shot past Mountaineers goalie Lee Johnston from 18 yards out to put the Nittany Lions up 1-0.
"We had a lot of opportunites don't get me wrong," Maloney said. "Our attack was pretty good. I wouldn't say our best, but it was decent."
Although it seemed like the Nittany Lions were on their way to snapping their two-game losing streak, the Mountaineers clawed their way back.
In the 62nd minute, West Virginia senior Andy Bevin got past the Penn State backline and one-timed a long cross from Paul Ehrenworth to tie the score at 1-1.
Bevin would strike again eight minutes later. After being brought down in the box by Mike Robinson, the Mountaineer striker converted a penalty kick to give West Virginia a 2-1 lead it wouldn't give up.
Although the Lions would continue generating chances, including back-to-back shots by Wadid and Minutillo that were just blocked in the 86th minute, they were unable to get another ball in the net and fell for the third straight game.
"You can't point at one guy who's playing terrible, you've got to say collectively as a group we're not playing very well right now," Warming said. "We should be better than this and they know they are."
Despite the disappointment, the Nittany Lions' season is far from over. They are still 10-3-1 on the season and have three regular-season games remaining, including two against Big Ten opponents.
After such a fast start to the year, Warming admitted that the grind of the season has been tough on his players lately.
"We were a great team there for quite a while," Warming said. "There have been a lot of factors. Guys have been sick, guys have been heavy under a lot of stuff with school, we gotta find a way to get it back."
One person who knows what Penn State is going through is West Virginia coach Marlon LeBlanc.
LeBlanc, who played at Penn State from 1997 to 2000 before serving as an assistant coach from 2001-2005, watched his Mountaineers squad start 3-0 before dropping three of their next four.
"We've gone through it," LeBlanc, who's Mountaineers are now 7-6-1, said. "You've just got to stick to your beliefs and continue to fight through. Sometimes the best teams don't always win and the best team on the night wins. This game was an even game for a long time."
"I'm saying this as an alum, they keep their heads to the grindstone and they're going to be fine. We want them to win every game the rest of the way through."
With a strong group of leaders, both young and old, the Nittany Lions will strive to keep their heads up as they fight through this tough stretch.
"I believe in everybody on this team," junior midfielder Drew Klingenberg said. "I think going forward we need to get that confidence back where we all believe in each other because we are a great team. It might be a little low right now but as soon as we start believing in each other again it's going to turn around."
Recently in Men's Soccer Category
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Andrew Wolverton has weathered plenty of rough storms during his four years as the goalie of the Penn State men's soccer team.
Just last season, he and the Nittany Lions lost their last two regular-season games and still rebounded to make it to the Sweet 16 a month later.
The senior goalie knows the team doesn't have to lower its goals this season just because it lost its second-straight game Saturday night to Michigan State, by a score of 2-0.
"There's a lot of things we can learn, and I think the biggest thing is taking those and working on the things that we aren't doing as well these last two games and getting back into it," Wolverton said. "This isn't the first stretch we've gone through in my four years where we haven't had a couple of good games in a row."
The Spartans entered the game with an 8-2-2 record, and early on, the two teams looked evenly matched, as neither squad was able to take control of the game in the first 20 minutes.
It was then that the Michigan State offense got going, as Jason Stacy blasted a shot off a corner kick from 20 yards out past Wolverton to make the score 1-0 at the 20:43 mark.
Five minutes later, Jay Chapman slipped past the Nittany Lions' backline and put a pass from Adam Montague in the back of the net to give Michigan State a 2-0-halftime lead.
"[Stacy] hit a nice shot and that was a little disappointing," head coach Bob Warming said. "We talked about it at halftime said that would be the last one of the year like that.
"The first 25 minutes of the game, they hardly touched the ball, we passed it so well. I thought it was as good as we've passed the ball all of year."
With the rain picking up in the second half, the Nittany Lions registered nine corner kicks and outshot the Spartans eight to zero yet couldn't get on the scoreboard with Michigan State keeping its defense packed in the back all half.
"Once you get behind a goal to Michigan State, that team is so well organized defensively, you can have a lot of possessions and pass a lot of balls between the centerline and 35 yards out," Warming said. "That's when things get tough."
Having watched his team generate the number of corner kicks and shots that it did, Warming is pleased with the effort of his players. Moving forward, he wants them to work on improving the quality of their chances.
"When you take a long time to build the ball up, it allows them to get nine players behind the ball," Warming said. "And then things get tight when you've got a bunch of big bodies in there."
Warming knows the Nittany Lions can produce good shots, as they created plenty during a 10-0-1 start to the season that included four victories over Big Ten opponents.
If there is one thing that reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year believes after over 30 years in the business, it's that its one thing to stay positive when you're playing well, and another to keep the same attitude after a tough loss.
With four regular-season games remaining prior to the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, there is still plenty of time for the Nittany Lions to get back on track.
"Everybody goes through tough stretches in one way or another, in sports or in life and everything else," Warming said. "This is where your character gets tested, when things get tough. Things aren't right now and we don't want to make excuses."
After having a week in between its last two games, Penn State has a short turnaround with West Virginia coming to State College on Wednesday. The Nittany Lions will look to get back to the form that had them outscoring opponents 21-3 over their first 11 games.
"Really just stay focused and keep working hard," Wolverton said. "Just keep working and it'll all fall out how it should."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Saturday can't come soon enough for the Penn State men's soccer team.
Not just because it's an opportunity to take on conference rival Michigan State. For the Nittany Lions, it also represents a chance at redemption.
The last time the Lions stepped on the field, they lost for the first time this season, an uncharacteristic 4-0 defeat on the road at Maryland.
Now, with another Big Ten opponent on deck, the Blue and White are anxious to prove they are the same team that opened the season with a 10-0-1 run.
"They say great teams never lose twice," senior captain and midfielder Owen Griffith said. "After a loss that bad, [this game] is going to be huge for our confidence and overall league standings and all that stuff."
After going 11 straight games without a defeat, the pressure on Penn State to avoid mistakes was enormous. Now that it is behind them, they can get back to concentrating on each game instead of worrying about finishing undefeated.
That doesn't mean that the Nittany Lions aren't taking the lessons they learned against Maryland seriously, they are just trying to keep the big picture of the season in perspective.
Entering the season, the team's goal was to win the Big Ten and win a national championship, and nothing about that has changed because of one loss.
"After the loss, we were all devastated and the bus ride home wasn't the best of the season," redshirt junior Kyle MacDonald said. "After reassessing all of our goals, which are the same as at the beginning of the season, we all realized that if we remain that strong unit that we were at the beginning that nothing can tear us apart.
"Getting a loss at this point of the season isn't the end of the world. It does take a little pressure off us and now we're just looking to go further and make another run."
During the team's training session on Wednesday, MacDonald and his teammates certainly didn't look like a group that was hung up on a loss.
With rainy conditions keeping them inside, the Lions looked loose and upbeat as they played racquetball in Rec Hall with assistant coaches Chad Duernberger and Michael Behonick.
Still, when asked about the rest of the season, Griffith was honest and said that staying focused is more important now than ever, as the team doesn't want to enter the postseason out of synch.
"Definitely there was pressure [being undefeated]," Griffith said. "But there's always going to be pressure when you're playing at the highest level of college soccer. We're right in the thick of the season and this is the part of the year we play all the good schools.
"Every team no matter what is going to be a battle. It's not like you get one hard team and then you get a break the next game. We're going to have to come out and prove we're much better than we were [against Maryland]."
Not only is Saturday's contest going to be back at Jeffrey Field, it will also be the main show in town with the football team on a bye week and other teams including women's volleyball and women's soccer on the road.
The Lions know there will be plenty of fans in attendance, and they are eager to give them a good game.
"One of the best, if not the best fan section in the country," MacDonald said. "They give us support more than they can even imagine. Just the whole atmosphere of Jeffrey Field under the lights with the support of the community, we look forward to that every time."
Taking a Look at the Spartans
A year after making it to the Elite Eight, Michigan State is once again one of the top team's in both the Big Ten and the country.
Entering Saturday, the Spartans are ranked 16th in the nation and have an 8-2-2 record with a 2-1-1 mark in conference play.
The team's three leading scorers from last year, Tim Kreutz, Adam Montague and Jay Chapman have all returned, though the team has gotten it's biggest spark from new addition Jason Stacy.
A junior transfer from Michigan, Stacy was forced to sit out last season but has been very productive in his first year in green and white, leading the team in goals (three), assists (six) and points (12).
Also returning is goalkeeper Zach Bennett, who has started every game for Michigan State the past two seasons and has only allowed five goals in 12 games this year.
Head coach Damon Rensing, a former player and 10-year assistant with the Spartans, is in the middle of his sixth year at the helm of Michigan State. During that time, he has led them to four NCAA Tournament appearances.
"They're another team that's doing really well in the Big Ten," Griffith said. "They have some dangerous guys and besides Maryland, probably the best team that we'll play in the Big Ten. It'll be a good match."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
COLLEGE PARK, Md.- Bob Warming has seen it happen before.
In a college-coaching career that spans back to 1976, the head coach of the Nittany Lions knows all too well the pressure that comes with being undefeated.
"I coached a team a few years back [at Creighton in 2008] that was [unbeaten for 15 games]," Warming said. "The pressure that started to build up on them was unbelievable because in our sport, people drop games."
The Penn State men's soccer games has dealt with that same pressure all season, having opened the season with a 10-0-1 run that earned them a No. 3 national ranking entering Sunday's contest against Maryland.
The dam finally broke against the Terrapins as the Lions met their first setback of the season.
Afterwards, Warming said he hoped the Lions would be able to use the loss as a way to relax after having a bull's eye on their backs the entire season.
"When the match was over today, I basically said, 'look, everybody has something today that they would have liked to have done differently,'" Warming said. "But for me, as crazy as it sounds, I'm relieved we dropped one.
"'['I said] now lets get on another run, lets start another run now, and learn from this game.'"
Mael Corboz's goal marked the first time all season the Nittany Lions trailed; an astounding feat considering it was their 13th game.
Considering Penn State entered the season ranked fourth in the Big Ten, its current 10-1-1 record and 4-1 mark in conference play is still nothing to scoff at.
With five more regular season games, including three against conference opponents, the Nittany Lions need to put this loss behind them as they strive to regain the form that helped them allow just three goals all season entering Sunday.
"There wasn't one [specific] thing today," Warming said. "But the one thing that comes out of today is we got a loss behind us. We're still a great team, we're still a family, we're still a bunch of fun-loving guys. We're disappointed now but we're gonna move on and get on another run."
Warming is also well aware that his team could run into Maryland down the road in the Big Ten tournament.
Last year's national runner-up, the Terrapins got off to a surprising 4-5-2 start this season, and looked like a team desperate for a win against the Nittany Lions.
"Maryland's good, man," Warming said. "They needed this game badly today. Here's the deal. It wasn't like our guys quit running, it wasn't like our guys quit working, it wasn't like our guys gave up. Those are qualities you can control.
"Some days, your touch is bad. Some days you aren't as bright in your thinking as you'd like to be and that was our day today."
Another disappointment for Warming was that he wasn't able to give a victory to the group of Penn State students that made the over three-hour trip for the game.
For the first time in school history, Penn State offered a bus service to fans interested in traveling for a road game. In total, 35 people took part to give the Lions some home-field atmosphere on the road.
Before departing back to State College, Warming and the team posed for a group picture with their supporters. Even on a day that featured a disappointing loss, it was a great moment for a program enjoying a standout season.
"Awesome, awesome, I love those kids," Warming said. "They stuck around here and supported us. I can't say enough about them. The biggest win out of today wasn't Maryland 4-0, it was that we have established a group of students that are with us win, lose or tie, and that's a real supporter. That's not a fan, it's a supporter."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Owen Griffith can't recall the first time he attended a Penn State sporting event.
It's not because he has a bad memory. He was just a little too young to remember.
"Oh gosh, probably before I was a year old I was up at something," Griffith said. "My mom and dad were always bringing me up to football games, soccer games, women's basketball, you name it."
Griffith, a senior midfielder on the Penn State men's soccer team, has been a Nittany Lions fan since birth. His parents, Sam and Amy, are both graduates and raised their son to bleed blue and white.
Today, Griffith is the captain of the No. 3 ranked team in the nation. While that may sound like a pretty sweet situation for any college soccer player, it means a bit more to him.
Growing up 45 minutes outside of State College in Lewisburg, Pa., Griffith only had one major aspiration growing up and only one school where he wanted to pursue it.
"My teachers would laugh when I was little because I would say I wanted to be a pro soccer player, and they would laugh and say, 'that's way out of reach,'" Griffith said. "But I've playing since I was little and I'm just following my dream.
"Playing at Penn State is an absolute honor and I'm thankful everyday to realize my dream. When I finally committed here, my mom was so happy because it's just a tradition for my family."
As a junior at Lewisburg Area High School, Griffith knew he wanted to play for Penn State but didn't feel like the interest would ever be mutual. That all changed the next year when Bob Warming was hired as head coach of the Nittany Lions.
During a senior season in which he was named first team All-State, Griffith began to be recruited by Warming. Although he was also drawing interest from a number of Big Ten schools, the lifelong Nittany Lions fan made his intentions clear to the coach.
"As soon as I started talking to him, I told him, 'coach, if you'll have me there's not another choice in my mind,'" Griffith said. "Sometimes that's a risky thing to tell college coaches in the recruiting process because it could maybe give them the upper hand. With coach Warming, he's such a trustworthy guy that he just had my best interest in mind."
Even if Warming didn't have a spot on the roster for him, Griffith says he still might have picked Penn State anyway.
"I was definitely thinking about [coming to Penn State just as a student]," Griffith said. "When I was in the recruiting process I had a couple of other schools in mind. But Penn State was always in the back of my head like, 'even if I don't play soccer in college...there's still Penn State and I would love to go there.'"
Luckily for both parties, things worked out and Griffith has been a mainstay for the Nittany Lions ever since.
Although he entered 2014 with two All-Big Ten second team appearances already on his resume, the senior has in many ways saved his best performance for his last season.
As the team's defensive center midfielder, Griffith doesn't get on the stat sheet much with just one goal and one assist in Penn State's first 11 games. He has however, been the leader of a defense that posted nine shutouts and allowed just three goals in that same time frame.
While Griffith has been invaluable to a Penn State squad that is 10-0-1 a year after reaching the Sweet 16, he rarely talks about himself. Instead, he credits his development as a player to his coach.
"[Coach Warming] is the most knowledgeable soccer coach and he's taught me so many things," Griffith said. "I've always been an athletic and fit guy but there were a lot of aspects of my game I could improve and he's just made me a better soccer player."
Despite the midfielder's talent on the field, the first that comes to mind when you ask his coaches about him is his leadership. And for good reason.
Two years ago, Warming approached Griffith with a proposition. He wanted the 19-year old sophomore to be one of the team's captains, a role he has held ever since.
"He's a culture changer," Warming says. "He is one of those guys that has improved every aspect of his game. He's been a great citizen off the field, he's been great in the classroom, he's been a real teammate. For me, if there's a reason why were doing so well it's because of him and the seniors."
What exactly makes Griffith such a terrific leader? According to his teammates, it's the way he leads by example.
This Wednesday, Griffith and a number of other seniors were given the day off. Instead of relaxing, the third-year captain had a better idea.
"We went for a 10-mile hike yesterday, just on a whim," senior defender Eli Dennis said. "He's really active and always go-go-go. He's game to do whatever you want to do."
Though his time as a Nittany Lion will soon be coming to an end, Griffith has no plans to walk away from soccer entirely.
A kinesiology major, Griffith hopes to join the coaching ranks after he decides to hang up his cleats, though he doesn't know when that will be.
"I'd like to play after school, and depending on how long that lasts I'd like to go to grad school for exercise science," Griffith said. "I think that would make me a marketable soccer coach. A former soccer player with a masters level knowledge of how the body works in terms of the game I think would make me a very marketable coach."
Until that day, Griffith will keep living out the dream of a kid who went from sitting in the Jeffrey Field bleachers to starring on the field.
"To be part of the sports community at Penn State that people are so fired up about," Griffith said. "It's amazing."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Connor Maloney settled himself and took a deep breath.
There was just under 24 minutes remaining in the Penn State men's soccer team's contest against Rutgers, and the star sophomore was having a frustrating night.
He and his teammates had dominated the ball possession and gotten off shot after shot, yet the game remained scoreless. To top it off, he had just been called for a yellow card after a foul.
"It hurts the team if you get out of place," Maloney said. "You've got to keep your head in the game at all times and don't let your guard down."
Keeping his focus, Maloney once again delivered for the Nittany Lions as he has so many times this season.
With the game still scoreless and less than 12 minutes remaining, the 5-foot-6 forward found himself on a breakaway after receiving a long pass from Brian James. Without panicking, Maloney deftly moved to his right to get separation from Rutgers goalie David Greczek and put the ball into the back of the net, giving the Nittany Lions their only goal in a satisfying 1-0 victory.
"I saw the ball in flight, and coach always says, 'be a beast at all times, regardless if you're small or not,'" Maloney said. "I kind of waited and [Greczek] went down right away and I took a touch past him and it was in the goal."
Maloney's game winner was Penn State's 20th shot of the game. By the end of the night, the Nittany Lions had outshot the Scarlet Nights by a whopping 22 to 5 margin.
A minute into the game, it didn't seem like the Blue and White would need more than 78 minutes to score. Just 10 seconds after the opening whistle, Maloney ripped a shot that looked good until it ricocheted off the post.
"No I didn't think it would take that long [to score]," Maloney said. "It came to me and I thought why not have a shot first play of the game."
For the rest of the first half, the Nittany Lions would create numerous chances without being able to get the ball past Greczek, who played terrific and stopped five shots in the opening 45 minutes.
Six Lions would get shots off in the first half, with Maloney (two), Owen Griffith (two), Drew Klingenberg (two) and Mikey Minutillo (four) all taking multiple attempts. By the end of the period, Penn State had shot 12 times without allowing a single shot by Rutgers.
It would take until the 55th minute for the Scarlet Nights to finally get a ball on net, when JP Correa nailed a ball that Andrew Wolverton knocked away.
"It was weird because they had three strikers that were pressuring our backs pretty good," senior midfielder Owen Griffith said. "That's just a credit to those three backs (Eli Dennis, Mason Klerks, and Mike Robinson). Everything we can do is just dedication from those guys to help Wolvie get more shutouts."
As the second half wore on and the Lions' opportunites continued to come up just short, it seemed like just matter of time before they managed to break Rutgers' defense.
Still, with the possibility of overtime looming, Griffith and his teammates knew they needed to stay focused.
"[The thought of overtime] is there, especially when you've got tired legs," Griffith said. "If we hadn't gotten them in regulation I think we would have gotten them in overtime."
Head coach Bob Warming agreed that while an eventual goal seemed likely, nothing is ever certain in soccer.
"Soccer is a funny game," Warming said. "We got 22 shots and they weren't like wild shots from 35 yards out. I don't know many college soccer teams that can play like we did tonight."
Now a member of the Big Ten, Rutgers gave Penn State the type of battle it is used to facing from its conference opponents, a low scoring, grind-it-out affair that wasn't decided until the very end.
If there was one thing that Warming was proud of besides his team, it was the performance of Penn State's fans and student section. A total of 2,532 fans turned up on a 40-degree night to watch the Nittany Lions improve to 10-0-1 on the season.
"I love our students," Warming said. "They're so funny...the guy over there in the referee uniform and shorts when it's freezing out. They kept things clean and our kids did a great job."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- When it comes to Penn State men's soccer goalie Andrew Wolverton, numbers go a long way in telling his story.
Like the fact that he has started 60 of a possible 70 games for the Nittany
Lions over the past four seasons. Or that he holds Penn State's record for
career shutouts (30), single-season shutouts (12 in 2011) and career
goals-against-average (.72 entering this season).
Still, numbers don't tell the entire tale of what Wolverton has meant to the Nittany Lions. For the past four years, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound goalkeeper has been a role model to his teammates as an example of hard work, dedication and leadership.
How integral is Wolverton to the Nittany Lions success? At the team's preseason press conference in August, a reporter remarked to head coach Bob Warming that Wolverton had seemingly been on the team for "decades," to which Warming responded, "thank god."
Everyone in the room chuckled, but at the same time, it was an indicator of just how much the Lions value their goalie. For a team that has won 11 games by a score of 1-0 over the past two years, there really is no substitute for having someone with Wolverton's combination of size and agility between the pipes.
With the Atlanta native having registered his team record 29th shutout last Sunday against Michigan before adding his 30th on Wednesday against Bucknell, we caught up with him to hear some of his thoughts on his Penn State career.
Q: When did you start playing soccer and were you always a goalie?
Wolverton: "I've played soccer pretty much my entire life. My older sister always played and I kind of just took after her. I started playing goalie pretty young, like nine or 10 I think. One of my coaches just threw me there and it just fit. Before that, I wouldn't really say I had a set position because I was so young."
Q: Who was your favorite athlete growing up?
Wolverton: "I would have to say Michael Jordan. I always loved basketball and played it growing up and he was obviously the best at it. I played basketball until my freshmen year of high school, then I focused on soccer."
Q: What led you to come to Penn State?
Wolverton: "I visited the school when I was in high school before Coach Warming came here (in 2010). At the time I wanted to major in engineering (he switched to management) and I knew it was a great school as well as a great soccer program. What drew me to Penn State was just the unity and all the bonding in the community that was here."
Q: Who has had the biggest impact on you as a player during your time in college?
Wolverton: "For my first three years it was definitely [former goalie coach] Bo Oshoniyi. But this year [new goalie coach] Mike Behonick has helped me out a lot. Mike has a little different style of teaching goalkeeping, but they both have helped push me to get better and to stay focused."
Q: What has been your biggest challenge during your time at Penn State?
Wolverton: "Just continuing to be a leader. I've always tried to lead and make good decisions for the team. Luckily we've got a great staff and a lot of other good leaders like Owen [Griffith] to help me out. I know a lot of players can lose focus after a while and stop caring, so just continuing to care and trying to always get better has been big for me."
Q: What has been the most memorable moment of your career?
Wolverton: "I don't know if I could single out one moment, but last year (Big Ten Championship, Sweet 16 appearance) was pretty cool. We had some big wins on the road that were a lot of fun for our team, especially in the NCAA Tournament in California (beating UC Santa Barbra 1-0). Obviously, winning the Big Ten the past two years was sweet."
While Wolverton may not have a single favorite moment of his own, he has produced many highlights and memories for his teammates, both on and off the field. The Nittany Lions current starting defenders, Eli Dennis, Mason Klerks and Mike Robinson, as well as senior co-captain and defensive center midfielder Owen Griffith, all shared their favorite Wolverton moment.
Redshirt Senior Eli Dennis: "When he's on the field, he's loud and always communicating, but off he field, he's not really much of a public speaker usually. Before the Indiana game this season, he gave us a pep talk because he couldn't travel with us (Wolverton had been given a red card the previous game). He had trouble saying it at first and we all just cracked up. He had a great message though. Basically, he told us we can play against anybody and it doesn't matter which 11 guys are on the field. No matter who was out there, he thought we could get it done."
Sophomore Mason Klerks: "On the field, I guess he's made a lot of good saves, but the one that sticks out is last year against Northwestern. We beat them (2-1 in double OT) to win the Big Ten title and he made this awesome diving save (in the 36th minute) to keep us in the game.
"Off the field, when I came here on my recruiting trip, I stayed with him one night. He was just a real cool guy and we had a great time. It was one of the reasons I came here."
Senior Mike Robinson: "The Northwestern game, that's a good one. My favorite game memory would probably be the Michigan game that just happened when he set the shutout record. I was closest to the ball when it looked like it was going in (in the 82nd minute). Just when it looks like it's going in the goal he makes this incredible save. It just goes to show you that even when you think you've seen everything he can do, he ends up surprising you with a little more."
Senior Owen Griffith: "Probably for me would be the Northwestern game. He made a huge save and we would have lost the Big Ten if it weren't for that.
"Our sophomore year though, we had our first apartment together. We ended up getting a [husky] dog that Andrew still has to this day. We named him Rooney. We always had to let him out of the apartment like 10 times a day."
With plenty of soccer still to be played this season, it is likely that Wolverton has yet to produce his finest moment. At the same, he has already given Nittany Lion soccer fans plenty to cheer about.
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Penn State men's soccer team set a school record on Sunday against Michigan.
technically, the record belongs to Andrew Wolverton. The senior goalkeeper
notched his team record 29th career shutout as the Nittany Lions
defeated Michigan 1-0.
At the same
time, it goes a bit deeper than that. While Wolverton has been a lynchpin for
the Nittany Lions for four years, shutouts are the ultimate mark of team play.
It takes solid defense, enough offense and great goalkeeping to pull one off.
the Nittany Lions received all of that. Connor Maloney scored his
conference-leading seventh goal, the backline allowed just four shots on net,
and the goalkeeper known as "Wolvie" made a terrific diving save to preserve
"I told the
whole team after the game, I'm going to make sure in the record books and in
the media guide, that all of their names are next to Andrew's for playing in
front of him for this shutout," head coach Bob Warming said. "Our team is a
team and it takes a whole team to get a shutout and Andrew understands that."
Against the Wolverines, Penn State's defense certainly earned that right, but it wasn't as if Wolverton didn't also earn the mark for himself.
With 8:50 remaining and the Lions holding on to a one-goal lead, Michigan forward Tyler Arnone took a pass from James Murphy and fired a shot from 18-yards out to the right corner of the net.
moment, it seemed as if the ball was headed in. Then came the hand of the
sprawling 6-foot-6 goaltender, knocking the ball away and keeping the shutout
"We don't give him a whole lot to do so it was great to see him make a play when he had to," Warming said jokingly. "It was a great save, and that's what he trains for. Eventually, when you're playing against great talent they're going to break through and you're going to need to make a save."
The defense would take over in the final minutes, as the Wolverines would bring their entire team up in a final last-ditch attempt to tie the game.
Randy Falk and Kyle MacDonald would both make big stops to prevent Michigan from getting a shot on goal before the clock finally hit zero.
Having given up two goals and ten shots on goal during Wednesday's 6-2 win over Penn, the Nittany Lions and their backline of Eli Dennis, Mike Robinson and Mason Klerks were extra motivated to get back to the play that had led to just one allowed goal in the team's first seven games.
"I'm so proud of the team for playing great team defense," Warming said. "We always have a game plan but I didn't need to say anything special to them. There were plenty of things we wanted to get done today because playing in the Big Ten is always tough."
In true Penn State fashion, the game would go into halftime tied 0-0, until the Nittany Lions finally got on the board in the second half thanks to none other than Maloney.
The sophomore entered the game with six goals in the first eight games of the season, and he produced once again, taking a beautiful cross from senior Mikey Minutillo and putting it past Adam Grinwis from six yards out to get the Lions on the board 11 minutes into the second half.
While Maloney has clearly been Penn State's most effective goal-scorer this season, Warming again maintained that his team doesn't have to become dependent on any one player.
Once again, the Nittany Lions win as a team, and Maloney's ability to score depends on his teammates putting him in the right position to get the ball in the net.
"Something we like about our team is that everyone can score goals and we can score in a variety of ways," Warming said. "Mikey [Minutillo] can score, Mark [Wadid] can score, Kyle [MacDonald] can score, Owen [Griffith] can score. We just kept fighting and fighting and eventually we were going to get one in."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Life on the road is nothing new to the Penn State men's soccer team. Playing in the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions frequently travel long distances and this weekend will be no different. Head Coach Bob Warming and crew will trek about 390 miles (approximately a six hour drive) from State College to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan on Sunday at 1 p.m.
"We bus, we don't fly," Warming said. "The big thing for us is mental regeneration and doing some things the next couple of days and doing some yoga on the trip to stretch out and prepare ourselves."
The Wolverines are just 1-3-2 on the season, but that doesn't mean that Warming believes his team can just roll off the bus and beat their conference rivals without being properly prepared.
"It ain't easy," Warming said of the upcoming trip.
Still, the Nittany Lions are feeling good going into the contest with a 7-0-1 record. They are also coming off their highest scoring performance in 15 years, a 6-2 win over Penn on Wednesday.
Records aside, the game will still be a battle the way every game in the Big Ten is. Having graduated just three starters from last year's 8-7-3 team, the Wolverines have plenty of experience and will have their eyes set on the Nittany Lions after losing to them 3-1 last season.
Last season's leading scorer junior James Murphy (four goals, 11 points in 2013) and starting goalkeeper senior Adam Grinwis have both returned this season, giving Michigan a solid foundation.
With a 2-0 record in conference play, the Nittany Lions biggest focus will be making sure their legs are fresh on Sunday after their long trip.
"At this point it's all about regeneration," midfielder Drew Klingenberg said. "We're [unbeaten] which is awesome but it's taking a toll on us. [Against Penn] we did really well and the scoreboard says it but there are some things we can definitely work on.
"Going into Michigan, [the focus] is a bunch of regeneration and getting our minds right and back in a Big Ten mentality."
The Maloney Magic
At the Nittany Lions' preseason press conference, Warming said that sophomore Connor Maloney was "developing into a great forward."
He certainly wasn't kidding.
Eight games into Penn State's season, Maloney has already scored six goals. Twice, he has scored a pair of goals in a game and has added two assists, giving him 14 points on the year already.
By comparison, Jordan Tyler led last year's Nittany Lions, a team that made it to the Sweet 16, with five goals and 11 points. It has taken Maloney 13 fewer games to surpass those numbers.
Last year, Maloney was more of a creator than a scorer, finishing the season with two goals and seven assists. That has changed this year as Penn State has needed someone to step up as a scorer and the 5-foot-6 dynamo has more than filled that role.
"He's just an impressive player," Warming said. "What you see when you watch a game, we see it every day in training. He has not taken one practice off since he's gotten here and what I mean by that is he's fully engaged every practice. He works as hard at practice as he does out here on the field."
The last Nittany Lion to score ten or more goals in a season was Corey Hertzog, who scored an astounding 20 times in 2010 after scoring 11 in 2009. With nine games left on the Nittany Lions' regular season schedule alone, Maloney has a great chance to reach double digits.
Not that he cares about such things. Many individuals are classified as team players, but Maloney is someone who truly fits the bill.
Following his two-goal game against the Quakers on Wednesday, Maloney answered questions about his own performance by complimenting his teammates, just minutes after Warming had finished praising him on his work ethic.
"It definitely gives the whole team confidence, it's not just about myself," Maloney said. "All of us got [the ball] in, all of us got minutes and we're pretty confident going into Michigan."
That's the kind of attitude that Warming likes to see, and it's the reason the head coach wants the rest of his players to take after the 19-year-old from Harrisburg, even if he's just a sophomore.
"He needs to be a role model for some of our other guys," Warming said. "They need to work that hard in practice every day."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- After the first four games of the 2014 season, the Penn State men's soccer team had scored six goals.
After 89 minutes on Wednesday night against Penn, they had scored the same amount.
Generally a defensive minded, low-scoring squad, the Nittany Lions looked like a new team on Wednesday, scoring six times in a 6-2 win over the Quakers.
"The movement between [the players] was unbelievable," head coach Bob Warming said. "We had to lift a really heavy weight in playing Ohio State (a 1-0 win last Sunday). Their defenders were tremendous and they were tough to beat. Now this was a little easier backline to break down and it showed up on the scoreboard."
The last time the Nittany Lions scored six goals in a game? Warming was coaching at St. Louis and leading goal scorer Connor Maloney was just four years old. It was 1999 and the Lions beat Villanova 6-3.
As for the last time they scored just five, Warming had 52 fewer wins with Penn State than he does now. That's because it came in his first game at the helm of the Lions, back in 2010 during a 5-0 win against Buffalo.
"Wow," said Maloney after hearing those stats.
"That's pretty cool," midfielder Drew Klingenberg added.
With 17 goals as a team in 2014, the Nittany Lions' outburst on Wednesday accounted for more than a third of their scoring this season. Equally impressive though was the number of players who got the ball in the net.
Five Nittany Lions got on the stat sheet, with Maloney scoring twice and Mikey Minutillo, Brandon Savino, Klingenberg and Riley Grant all netting the ball once.
"It just gives those guys confidence going into the next game," Maloney said. "They're great players and they could definitely have more goals and you'll see it in the next game."
Typically a second half team, Penn State came out of the gates looking to score right from the start against the Quakers.
The Nittany Lions scored twice in the first 16 minutes, and three times in the first half, giving themselves their first two-goal halftime lead of the season with a 3-1 score at the break.
"[Halftime] was definitely a little calmer in the locker room," Maloney said. "We didn't have to make many changes. We just told ourselves keep working harder and getting our goals so we didn't have to keep them around we could get other guys off the bench and in."
After Minutillo got the barrage started less than 10 minutes in, the Quakers fought back, tying the game less than five minutes later when senior Duke Lacroix sent a dagger to the left corner past the reach of Andrew Wolverton, the first goal the star goalie had allowed all season.
Not content to stay tied, the Nittany Lions needed all of a minute and a half to retake the lead, as Savino tallied an unassisted goal to give them a 2-1 advantage.
"It's a hard group, it's a tough group, it's a determined group," Warming said of his team. "Everybody knew at some point, the dam was going to break and we were going to give up a goal. Instead of hanging their heads, it was the completely opposite reaction. They said 'Andrew and the defense have held us for such a long time and it's our turn to turn it on.'"
Maloney would score on an unassisted play 17 minutes later before adding his second goal of the game five minutes into the second half.
The scoring plays gave Maloney a team-leading six goals on the season. When Klingenberg and Grant added goals later in the period however, it was the first time either player had scored all year.
Even in a blowout, it was a sweet moment for Klingenberg. The junior midfielder is known for his gritty and competitive play but had scored just once in his career entering Wednesday.
"I was telling everybody that [scoring] was alluding me for the first couple of games," Klingenberg said. "It was good to get a goal. I'm feeling good right now."
Although he wasn't able to notch his team record 29th career shutout, Wolverton made a number of highlight saves, finishing with eight on the night.
With a game against Michigan coming up on Sunday, the Blue and White will try again to get Wolverton the record, while also trying to remain undefeated in the Big Ten.
"I wouldn't call the goals Andrew's fault," Warming said. "He can make big time saves for us and he's going to need to this weekend at Michigan. They're really good."