By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Amanda Dennis recorded a career-high seven saves in No. 16 Penn State's 1-0 victory against Purdue on Sunday afternoon at Jeffrey Field.
Dennis totaled only six saves in the previous four matches combined. Her lack of saves this season has been a testament to a strong back line, but the freshman was leaned on heavily with starting center back Grace Fisk out of the lineup.
Purdue sent 15 shots at Dennis, but none got behind her.
"She makes it look easy," said head coach Erica Dambach. "I think some of the saves looked easy, but I think that's because Amanda made them look easy. Our positioning was good, and she continues to be a real force for us."
"It's just important to keep the ball out of the net," Dennis said. "When you find teams that are getting a lot of shots off you just got to really keep tight, keep your mind tight, keep the details right and make sure that the defense is cleaning stuff up."
In the last five minutes of the game Dennis made two crucial plays to keep Purdue off the scoreboard and ensure the win.
In the 86th minute, Purdue's Erika Arkans received the ball five yards away from the net but Dennis was there to make the save on Arkans' point blank left-footed attempt.
Then, with just 20 seconds remaining, Andrea Petrina made a run up the left flank and found herself one-on-one with Dennis. Dennis made a split-second decision to charge at Petrina and forced her shot wide of the net, solidifying the shutout win.
It was Dennis' sixth solo shutout on the year and fifth in Big Ten play.
Frannie Crouse netted the Nittany Lions' only goal with a 25-yard missile to the top left corner of the net in the 38th minute. Crouse beat a few defenders up the left side of the pitch, switched directions to the middle and scored her team-leading 11th goal of the season.
Crouse has now scored 11 goals in two consecutive seasons. Her next goal this year would be a career-high.
Penn State honored three members of the Nittany Lion program before the game on Senior Day in front of 1,122 fans.
Nickolette Driesse headlines the group as the only true senior on the team. Driesse transferred to Penn State from Florida State before last season and tallied 14 points on four goals and six assists last year. She has six assists this season but hasn't found the back of the net.
This year she serves as one of the three team captains. Dambach describes her as the heart and soul of the team in the midfield.
"Nikki Driesse is a winner in so many ways, whether it's her contribution on the field, so much off the field, in the classroom," said Dambach. "She's exactly what we want in this program as a Penn State women's soccer player."
"Always being on Jeffrey Field is a great opportunity, and then adding my family to that, I don't think it could get any better than that," said Driesse.
Redshirt junior Angela Widlacki, who was also honored before the game because this will be her last year, finally got to step onto Jeffrey Field in a regular season game. Three ACL tears have kept her off the pitch, but she was substituted in the game in the last minute in an emotional moment for her and the team. (You can read her story here.)
"She's been through a lot and it's college soccer and it's important to make sure we recognize the contribution that these players make for us," Dambach said.
Team Manager Erika Wollman was also honored before the game.
With the win and both Northwestern and Minnesota drawing Sunday, Penn State retakes the lead atop the Big Ten standings. The Nittany Lions lead Northwestern and Minnesota by one point with two matches to play.