By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- After an entire season of soccer, playing three games in eight days is not an easy task.
That's the situation the Penn State men's soccer team faced this week. After falling to Northwestern 2-1 in overtime on the road last Sunday, the Nittany Lions gutted out a 1-0 overtime victory against Akron on Wednesday before hosting Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament on Sunday.
"We played a double overtime game on turf in Chicago, in the cold" head coach Bob Warming said. "We sprinted as hard as we could against Akron Wednesday and we got to [Michigan State]."
Against the Spartans, the Lions got off 12 shots but weren't able to get a ball in the net, falling in the first round with a 1-0 loss.
Afterwards, Warming said that both he and Michigan State head coach Damon Rensing agreed that fatigue had a factor in the way the game was played.
With both teams having trained every day in addition to playing games since August, November truly is the dog days of the soccer season.
"The big factor to me, and Damon and I were just talking about it, both teams are just tired," Warming said. "I just talked to all the guys, and I'm really proud of all of their efforts this week, they worked hard this week and [gave] as much as they had in them."
For nearly the entire game, both teams played with a defensive-minded approach that prevented either team from dominating possession of the ball. After a scoreless first half, Spartans forward Tim Kreutz ripped a shot off a volley from 18-yards out to put Michigan State ahead.
The Lions came close to tying it with six minutes remaining, when a header from Connor Maloney off of a Brandon Savino pass went just over the top frame of the net.
"It happens and that's soccer right there for you," Maloney said. "Yeah it was frustrating a little bit but you've got to keep playing the entire game."
While losing in the conference tournament is never fun, it doesn't end the Nittany Lions season. They still have the upcoming NCAA Tournament to end their season on a high note.
"We're in the tournament, we're top 20 RPI (ranking), we're going to get a home game," Warming said. "We need some time to get freshened up. I hated to lose, but if you're looking at the long run, maybe this gives us a better chance ... you gotta look at the positives of it."
Although Penn State will have to wait until next Monday to find out the details of its first-round NCAA Tournament game, it is guaranteed to have this week off.
Having lived and breathed soccer the entire fall, some time away from the game could be good for the Nittany Lions. According to Warming, the entire team would get at least three days off to rest up, refocus and spend some time on schoolwork.
"One of the most important parts of fitness is recovery," Warming said. "While everybody else is beating each other up, we're going to get in the pool, get on the bike, relax, play a lot of FIFA, and maybe a study a little bit would a really good idea and then make a good run."
At the same time, the Lions haven't given up on their goals for the season. A year after making it to the Sweet 16, they are determined to have another successful postseason this year.
Even as they take the next few days to work on refreshing bodies, they will remain hungry and itch for their next chance to get back on the field.
"If you want it enough you'll get far in the NCAA Tournament," Maloney said. "I know Michigan State will and I think we will too to be honest with you. Our guys got the heart and we'll bounce back and make a deep run."