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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Head coach Bob Warming had two words to describe goalie Andrew Wolverton's performance against Akron Wednesday night.

"Cheese and crackers," Warming said. "It was a really good night for him to do what he did."

Against the Zips, Wolverton registered five saves as the Nittany Lions won their regular season finale 1-0.

Although that may not seem like a huge number, the situations he made them in and the level of difficulty proved why the 6-foot-6 senior is considered the best goalie in the Big Ten.

With 2:30 remaining and the Lions trying to hold off a last-ditch Akron rally, Wolverton made an incredible lunging save off of a shot from Sean Sepe before recovering in time to block another attempt from Stuart Holthusen.

It was the second time Wolverton came up huge at the end of a half, as he also stopped a prime attempt from Adam Najem with 2:09 left in the first.

"It was awesome, he did a great job today," senior forward Mikey Minutillo, who scored the team's lone goal, said. "I told him after the game he's the reason we got the shutout. He made three or four big saves that I haven't seen any other goalie in the nation make."

Minutillo was perfectly calm as he praised his goaltender, and it's understandable why. After all, Wolverton is the reigning Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year, and his teammates have become accustomed to such performances.

Still, the shutout was important for both Wolverton and the Nittany Lions in general.

After registering nine shutouts (Wolverton had eight) during their 10-0-1 start, the Lions gave up 11 goals in their next five games, which included four losses.


While the amount of goals a team allows doesn't fall completely on the shoulders of a goaltender, it felt good for Wolverton to get another shutout under his belt with the conference tournament beginning Sunday.

"Having a game like this always helps [your confidence] but it's better for the whole team," Wolverton said. "We got a goal and did well defensively and got a big win."

After four years of filled with highlight reel saves, it's no wonder that Wolverton takes a humble approach to his success.

The Nittany Lions all-time shutouts leader, Wolverton knows no goalie can perform well without a great team in front of him. However, it was his teammates that really needed him on Wednesday.

"That's just part of my job," Wolverton said. "Just like Mikey scoring goals, that's what I have to do to help the team win and I was fortunate to get a hold of a few tonight."

Grant and Gravatt Thrive Against Former Team

Riley Grant and Brett Gravatt both saw plenty of familiar faces Wednesday night.

That's because the two Nittany Lions were on the same field as their prior teammates in addition to their current ones, having both played for Akron as freshmen last season.

Though neither transfer has been a regular starter for Penn State, both came up big on Wednesday against their former team.

Gravatt started at midfield and got off three shots, while Grant came off the bench and assisted on Minutillo's goal with 9:16 remaining in the game.

"It was a weird feeling," Grant said. "I'm glad I was able to help the team, there's no hard feelings or anything."

Afterwards, both players spent a few minutes speaking with their former teammates and coaches.

"We're just wishing each other the best of luck," Gravatt said. "I think we left on good terms and we just want the best for each other."

For the two of them, the night was more about getting on the field in general and winning than getting on the field against their old team.

Gravatt earned his first start of the season after logging just 84 minutes of playing time in seven prior appearances while Grant spent the game against Northwestern on the bench.

"[Brett's] been playing better and better and been training and worked hard and he's been a good teammate," Warming said. "It was great that he got to play against his former school and he played very well.

"I'm just happy for Riley that he's playing better. He's got some talent and maybe the role we've had him in [at forward] is a little better than what we've tried with him in the midfield."

The performances come at a good time for the duo. With the postseason about to kick off, Grant and Gravatt are just happy to be contributing in any way possible.

"It felt great," Gravatt said. "I've been struggling with my knee all season and just trying to get fit and it just feels great to be on the field." 

By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- For the second straight game, it took over 100 minutes for a winner to be decided in a Penn State men's soccer game.

A week after Michael Gonzalez gave the Nittany Lions a thrilling 2-1 victory in double overtime against Wisconsin, the Blue and White were not as fortunate this time around, falling to Northwestern 2-1.

Entering the game needing only a tie to clinch their third straight Big Ten title, the Nittany Lions were just 100 seconds away from a draw when Wildcats forward Mike Roberge took a long pass and got the winning shot by Andrew Wolverton.

Although the loss was heartbreaking, it certainly wasn't because of a lack of effort. The Lions got off 14 shots and rallied to tie the game after falling behind 1-0 15 minutes in on a goal by Eric Weberman.

"I couldn't be prouder of my guys," head coach Bob Warming said afterwards. "Northwestern can be such a tough place to play. Our guys played with great cohesion and great organization."

A few weeks ago, the Nittany Lions may not have even gotten into overtime in a game like that.

In back-to-back losses against Maryland and Michigan State, the Lions fell behind early and were never able to recover. Against the No. 20 Wildcats however, they managed to fight back, tying the game on a Mikey Minutillo goal off of a penalty with eight minutes remaining in the first half.

In the second half, the Lions took control early on and looked poised to break the tie. Brandon Savino, Mason Klerks and Connor Maloney all had prime chances stopped by Northwestern goalie Tyler Miller, who played terrifically and made eight saves.

"They really kept playing hard and battling," Warming said. "They showed a lot of fight in them today.

"Northwestern is really organized and well coached and they just don't give up a lot of chances. We had a couple of good ones that were just a little off today."

One player who epitomized the attitude that Warming wants to see is Minutillo, who scored his sixth goal of the year despite coming off the bench for the first time all season.

Entering the season with the expectation of being one of the keys to Penn State's offense, Minutillo was a consistent producer early in the season yet entered Sunday having not scored since October 1 against Bucknell.

With Owen Griffith returning from an injury that kept him out of the Wisconsin game and Gonzalez having proven himself as a capable starter on defense, Warming moved Griffith up to forward and decided to see if Minutillo would be a better fit as a spark off the bench.

That certainly proved to be correct, as the California native didn't complain about the change and gave the Lions the offensive boost they needed. On the goal, the senior had his initial attempt and first rebound blocked before finally knocking it home on the third try.

"I thought [Mikey] could be the type of guy that could come in and really give us a spark off the bench," Warming said. "He certainly did that."

As heartbreaking as the loss was, it doesn't end the Nittany Lions season or their chances of winning the Big Ten title. They can still win the conference if Rutgers can win or tie against Maryland on Wednesday.

The Lions could still wind up playing Northwestern again in the conference tournament, and at the very least their effort today gives them the confidence that they can play with the Wildcats.

"We are all really disappointed in the loss," Warming said. "I still think the guys are really focused. They came here a good team and left an even better one." 

By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Growing up, Drew Klingenberg didn't have to go far to find someone to play soccer with. 

While his parents Dan and Kristen were former baseball and softball players, Klingenberg's older sister Meghan had taken up soccer at a young age, and she made sure her younger brother of five years followed suit.

"I completely attribute me playing soccer to her," Klingenberg said. "I remember going to her games all the time when I was young. It just came naturally and I was always surrounded by a soccer ball when I was young."

So far, the soccer path has worked out pretty well for both of the Klingenberg children. While Drew is a starting midfielder for the Penn State men's soccer team for the second straight season, Meghan is a former North Carolina star and a current defender for the U.S women's national team.

As Klingenberg's own career has progressed from the being a two-time all-state player to a starter at the Division I level, the Penn State junior has watcher his sister develop into one of the best in the country at her position.

"We use to joke because I used to be better than her when I was younger," Klingenberg said. "When she was around 14 or 15 she just took off and she's great now and a role model to me. I've personally seen her develop into a fantastic player."

On October 20, Meghan scored the first goal of her international career in the U.S team's 6-0 victory over Haiti in Washington D.C. in the final game of the group stage of the World Cup qualifiers. 

Though it's tough for the two to talk regularly with their busy schedules, Klingenberg managed to call his sister to congratulate her on the moment, and added some teasing for good measure.

"I texted her and I was like, 'did you learn that from me?'" Klingenberg said with a laugh. "No, I just said 'great job and you're playing great.' I try to talk to her as often as possible, unfortunately she's usually somewhere in the world so it's a little tough but I'll always pick up the phone for her."

Being competitive with each other is nothing new for either of them. Growing up in Gibsonia, Pa., their battles began as one-on-one games in the backyard and progressed to pick-up games with the players on Meghan's club team when they got older.

During those games, the two were never a package deal, as both preferred to play against each other rather than pair up on the same team.

Looking back, Klingenberg is glad the two always squared off, as it helped him improve as a player and actually made him closer to Meghan off the field.

"There's always been a competitive edge with her so it's been great," Klingenberg said. "She would make sure that she would beat me and I didn't realize that when I was young. I was like 'why is she always on the other team?' and as I got older I realized.

"We want to beat each other, and I tell this to everyone, it's a great dynamic. I love her and she's my sister but when we're training it's always who's going to out best the other."

Even though Meghan can be tough on him, Klingenberg said that she has always given him words of encouragement when necessary. 

When Drew was about to enroll at Penn State in the fall of 2012, Meghan was busy with the national team and unable to see him off to school. Remembering how scared she was in 2007 before starting her All-American career at North Carolina, she called her brother to give him a pep talk.

"I remember taking her to UNC and I remember her being so nervous and her shaking," Klingenberg said. "I was the same exact way. Right before I left for college, unfortunately she had her national team duties, she was like, 'Drew you're a great player and you need to have confidence and if there's one thing you need to do it's believe in yourself.' I've always kept that in the back of my head."

Since then, Klingenberg has established himself as one of the unsung heroes of the Nittany Lions. While he has scored just three times in his three-year career, including this past Sunday against Wisconsin, his all-around game has been integral to Penn State's consecutive Big Ten titles the past two seasons. 

The 5-foot-9 midfielder has also given his parents another reason to continue watching soccer. While neither of them had ever played the sport, Klingenberg cites them as another support system. 

"They were baseball players and it's taken them a while to get into the soccer thing," Klingenberg says. "My parents have always been a huge backbone for me. They're not the kind of parents to just pat me on the back. They're going to tell me if it wasn't my best game and they've made me better by being realistic and honest."

As for which child his parents would rather watch play, Klingenberg says they would never pick a favorite. At the same time, he couldn't be prouder of his sister's accomplishments. 

"We're best friends," Klingenberg says. "I've only done soccer my whole life and that completely goes back to Meghan."

 

 

By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Before Sunday, Michael Gonzalez was a little used defender who had received only 32 minutes of playing time for the Penn State men's soccer team all season.

Now, he's the player who got the Nittany Lions' season back on track.

Thrust into the starting lineup against Wisconsin, the redshirt junior scored his first career goal on a 30-yard blast in double overtime to give Penn State a much needed 2-1 victory after three straight losses.

"It was a good feeling," Gonzalez said afterwards. "All game we were trying to switch the ball quickly across the field and it was the first time we really did that successfully. I took a big step and they were pretty compact in the back. I figured why not."

Gonzalez found out he was starting a few days earlier when center midfielder Owen Griffith was ruled out with an injury, forcing Mason Klerks to move to midfield and opening up a slot on the backline for the Berwyn, Pa. native.

When head coach Bob Warming made the decision, the first thing he told the defender was to not be afraid to shoot if given the chance.

The reasoning was simple. While Warming and all the Nittany Lions know the strongest part of Gonzalez's game is his shot, the Badgers obviously had no clue, having never faced him before.

"[In practice] we worked on him and I told him, 'Mikey I don't think you're in the scouting report so don't worry about that,'" Warming said with a chuckle. "He can kill a ball. He said to me, 'I get a chance like that to score and I don't, I'm going to be so angry.'"

Gonzalez didn't just score arguably the biggest goal of the Nittany Lions season so far. He also played the game's entire 105 minutes, quite a feat considering he played all of 131 minutes last season.

For someone who ended up as the star of the game in his first career start, the 5-foot-8, 165-pound defender was surprisingly calm and laidback afterwards.

"I don't care who scored. I mean, I'm happy it was me sure, but as long as we won the match that's all that really matters," Gonzalez said. "I've been working hard all year so I was ready. Whether it's your first career start or your 100th career start you get more comfortable as the game goes on."

As modest as he was, the redshirt junior didn't really need to talk about himself. Senior center back Eli Dennis was more than willingly to give him praise.

"He hits balls like that all the time," Dennis said. "As soon as he hit that big touch up, I was saying to myself, 'do it' and I'm so happy he did it."

The moment was certainly great for Gonzalez, but it really can't be overstated how important the win was for the team in general, especially since it came on senior day.

With three straight losses dampening their spirits after a terrific 10-0-1 start, the Lions were less than six minutes away from tying the Badgers before Gonzalez delivered to give his seven graduating teammates a day to remember.

"It's a close-knit group of guys and everyone's really supportive and positive," Gonzalez said. "I was happy to deliver for the team so it was a great feeling."

The stunning finish came after just over 64 minutes of scoreless soccer. While Drew Klingenberg got the Lions on the board early in the 17th minute, the Badgers answered five minutes before halftime with a Joe Naughton shot that deflected off a Penn State defender and trickled by Andrew Wolverton.

For Warming, the game and especially the ending felt particularly familiar.

Last year on senior day against Northwestern, the Lions also went into double overtime tied 1-1 before a Jordan Tyler goal in the 108th minute gave them a 2-1 victory.

"Kind of like Déjà vu," Warming said. "We've got a lot of soccer left, and actually another home game [against Akron on Nov. 5] which will be a big game NCAA seeding wise."

While Warming was happy for his seniors and the entire team in general for getting back in the win column, he was especially pleased for Gonzalez.

After all, it's not everyday that a player getting his first career start wins you a game with a rocket shot in double overtime.

"Those are the kinds of things, you know if Connor [Maloney] scored another goal, everyone would be like, "Oh good goal man, Connor scored again," Warming said. "When a guy who comes off the bench does it, it's whole different emotion for the entire team. Like man, this is great and there's hope for everybody."



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." 



By M
att 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."