By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With three minutes remaining in the first half Sunday afternoon at Jeffrey Field, Penn State and Nebraska were dead even at 1-1.
Both teams had created the same amount of chances and had shared possession evenly all afternoon. The only difference between the conference rivals at this moment was Nebraska's eighth-leading goal scorer all time, Jaycie Johnson, was standing behind the ball on the penalty circle with no one but freshman goalkeeper Amanda Dennis in front of her.
The only other penalty kick Dennis faced in her young collegiate career was against Long Beach State three weeks prior. She was unable to save that opportunity, but this time she stepped up and made the biggest play of the match.
In the battle between the seasoned veteran and the new kid on the block, Dennis read Johnson's run, dove to her left and stopped her attempt to keep the game tied at one.
"We scouted her. I knew that she was going to go to the left side, so I was hoping she would stick to the game plan, which she did," said Dennis. "I made the save and kept it at a 1-1 tie."
What would've been a one-goal lead for the visitors with momentum on their side heading into halftime turned out to ignite the home crowd and send Penn State to the locker room on a high note.
"Certainly that ball goes in and it's a completely different game," said head coach Erica Dambach. "She continues to come up big for us, certainly not playing like a freshman."
Dennis also made a one-handed punch save in the 83rd minute to hold the Cornhuskers to one goal.
"You have to make those kinds of saves. It boosts everyone up," said Dennis. "It's a Sunday game, everybody's exhausted on a Sunday, especially when you're getting close to the 90-minute mark, so just making saves like that I got to keep my team in the game."
Dennis has held opponents to one goal or less in eight straight games. With Penn State only losing once in that span.
Offensively, Megan Schafer stole the show for the Nittany Lions with two goals on four shots. She scored two goals all season leading up to this game.
Schafer got the Lions on the board in the 16th minute with a 12-yard shot that found the bottom left corner of the net off the assist from Salina Williford.
In the 69th minute Schafer broke the 1-1 tie with a long run to catch up to a through ball from Nickolette Driesse and finished over goalkeeper Audrei Corder for what ended up being the game-winner.
In a game comprised of 23 total fouls and two yellow cards, Schafer flourished like she usually does in physical contests.
"Megan Schafer is a Big Ten soccer player at its finest," said Dambach. "This is where she thrives."
"I just love when it comes around for conference play," said Schafer. "It's just such a physical game, and sometimes it's not the prettiest of games but I love that. It just gets me fired up even more. It's kind of weird but I like contact more. I think that's why today was so successful."
Penn State boasts a bevy of forwards who can outrun the quickest of defenders, but in games that rely on a physical presence, the team turns towards Schafer in the middle to get the job done. She did just that on Sunday.
The Lions will be back in action at Jeffrey Field on Friday, Sept. 30 at 6 p.m. For another conference battle against Illinois.