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Penn State College Cup Final Preview Central

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WSOC_Cup_TeamPhoto.jpgCARY, N.C. - The top-seeded Nittany Lion women's soccer team (21-3-2) will play in the College Cup final for the second time in program history on Sunday at 12 p.m. (ESPNU) against third-seeded Duke (14-5-5).

Penn State marched into the national title match with a 2-0 victory over second-seeded Rutgers on Friday evening in WakeMed Soccer Park.  After a forward Frannie Crouse raced down a loose ball for a sliding shot that looped over the outstretched arms of the Rutgers goalkeeper in the 24th minute, the Nittany Lions turned to freshman defender Kaleigh Riehl with a goal in the 79th minute to cement the team's place in the national title match.

The Nittany Lions (2012 and 2015) and Wisconsin (1991) are the only two Big Ten universities that have played in the women's soccer national championship match.

The third-seeded Duke Blue Devils advanced to the College Cup final with a 2-0 victory over top-seeded Florida State in the second match on Friday night.

The Nittany Lions and Blue Devils have played five times before Sunday's national title match, including earlier this season Penn State is 3-1-1 all-time against Duke. The Lions and Blue Devils played to a 0-0 tie at Jeffrey Field on Aug. 28.

Penn State's journey to the national championship match has been a remarkable one. The Nittany Lions have outscored their opponents, 19-0, during the NCAA Tournament. Additionally, Penn State has logged seven-straight shutouts, dating back to Nov. 1.

Of the Lions' 19 goals scored in the tournament, either freshmen or sophomores have scored 17 of them. In total, 10 different Nittany Lions have scored the team's goals in the NCAA Tournament. Penn State's NCAA Tournament opponents have managed just 10 shots on goal during the five matches.

The final chapter of the 2015 season will be written on Sunday afternoon in Cary. Head coach Erica Walsh and the Nittany Lions are thrilled to have the opportunity to compete for the program's first national championship.


VIDEO: College Cup Final Preview Press Conference



By the Numbers:

No. 1 Penn State

 

No. 3 Duke

21-3-2

Record

14-5-5

2.42

Scoring Offense

1.92

0.54

Goals-Against

0.62

0.831

Save Percentage

0.842

63/14

Goals Scored/Goals Allowed

46/15

32/31

Goals Scored by Half - 1st/2nd/OT

24/21/1

4/10

Goals Allowed by Half - 1st/2nd

8/7

Megan Schafer - 1.15

Points Per Game Leader

Taylor Racioppi - 0.83

Megan Schafer - 0.50

Goals Per Game Leader

Kayla McCoy - 0.33

Mallory Weber - 0.38

Assists Per Game Leader

Taylor Racioppi - 0.25

Britt Eckerstrom - 0.844

Save Percentage Leader

EJ Proctor - 0.835

Mallory Weber - 10

Total Assists

Taylor Racioppi - 6

Megan Schafer - 13

Total Goals

Kayla McCoy - 8

Megan Schafer - 30

Total Points

Taylor Racioppi - 20

Britt Eckerstrom - 65

Total Saves

EJ Proctor - 76




College Cup Schedule:
Friday, Dec. 4 - WakeMed Soccer Park - Cary, N.C.
- Semifinal I - No. 1 Penn State 2, No. 2 Rutgers 0
- Semifinal II - No. 3 Duke 2, No. 1 Florida State 0

Sunday, Dec. 6 - WakeMed Soccer Park - Cary, N.C.
- 12 p.m. ET on ESPNU - National Championship - No. 1 Penn State vs. No. 3 Duke



Penn State in the College Cup:
1999 - San Jose, Calif.
- NCAA Semifinals - Dec. 3, 1999 - L, 2-0 to No. 2 North Carolina

2002 - Austin, Texas
- NCAA Semifinals - Dec. 6, 2002 - L, 2-0 to No. 9 Portland

2005 - College Station, Texas
- NCAA Semifinals - T, 0-0 (2 OT) to No. 1 Portland (Portland won 4-3 on penalty kicks)

2012 - San Diego, Calif.
- NCAA Semifinals - W, 2-1 (OT) to No. 1 Florida State
- NCAA Final - L, 4-1 to No. 1 North Carolina


2015 - Cary, N.C.
- NCAA Semifinals - W, 2-0 to No. 2 Rutgers




Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Unlikely Hero Cements Lions' Spot in College Cup Final

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11539814.jpegBy Tony MancusoJack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
CARY, N.C. - Freshman defender Kaleigh Riehl could not have picked a better time to add a tally on the season score sheet.

Riehl notched the first goal of her collegiate career in the 79th minute of the College Cup semifinals to seal Penn State's 2-0 win over Rutgers (19-4-3) on Friday and send the Nittany Lions (21-3-2) to their second national championship match in program history.


"Another shutout and another goal off of set pieces, which are too things we have been focusing on so much over the last few weeks," said head coach Erica Walsh. "Obviously, it took a group of 26 players to get here and we had some good players coming off the bench. Just a really strong performance from our group."

Riehl has played exceptionally well at center back all year, but she has rarely looked to score. With elite attacking players littering the Penn State lineup, she hasn't had to. Coming into the semifinal match against Rutgers, Riehl only tallied one shot.

On the largest of stages, Riehl stepped up as she's done all season. This time, it was on the other end of the field.

After the ball bounced off multiple players at the top of the box, Riehl corralled the loose ball and curled a left-footed shot to the bottom left corner past Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year Casey Murphy.

Murphy had only surrendered eight goals in 2015 coming into Friday, but Penn State mustered two for the second straight game against the Scarlet Knights.

Sophomore Frannie Crouse propelled the Blue and White ahead in the 24th minute thanks to a rare defensive mishap by the Scarlet Knights. A lazy pass from the midfield to the back line became prey for the streaking forward, as the speedy Crouse beat Big Ten Defender of the Year Brianne Reed to the loose ball and finished over the keeper in sliding fashion.

"I was kind of high and saw that they were going to play the ball back and I felt like I was cherry picking (laughter)," said Crouse. "They played the ball back and unfortunately for them I misjudged how hard they hit it and took it as the ball was played."

Riehl's goal all but cemented Penn State's victory with 11 minutes left. She'll be remembered for her clutch, unexpected goal in the College Cup, but Riehl deserves more credit for her defensive prowess in 2015, which has only elevated in the postseason.

She has led the way in the middle for a defense that has allowed a mere 14 goals in 2015.

Riehl and the back line has been utterly dominant since the regular season ended. Penn State hasn't surrendered a goal in the tournament, and it has outscored opponents, 19-0.

Riehl has been a workhorse on the team all season long. Besides goalie Britt Eckerstrom, Riehl has logged the most minutes of anyone on the team (2,270).

"Kaleigh has a lot of skills," said Walsh. "She plays as a 25-year old veteran instead of a 18-year old freshman. Each and every game, she amazes me with her abilities and her awareness. She's just been a huge key to our success."

The defensive group turned in another outstanding effort. Rutgers was held to five shots and only one on goal in the match. Eckerstrom was needed for just one easy save on a hopeless long shot. Every other Rutgers attack ended in a Penn State steal or blocked shot.

Riehl isn't the only underclassmen who has stepped up when it has mattered most, however. In fact, underclassmen have been the main cogs in this College Cup run. Of the 19 Penn State goals in the tournament, 17 have come from freshmen and sophomores.

The back line rotation features no upperclassmen. Redshirt sophomore Brittany Basinger possesses the most experience in the group. The youngest players on the roster have risen to the occasion all tournament long, and that's why Penn State will be playing for a championship on Sunday.

"This is probably the deepest team that I've had in my nine years at Penn State," Walsh said. "It's reflective of the substitution patterns throughout the course of the season. Kaleigh Riehl scored her first goal ever in her career. You got different players stepping up at different times. You never know which player it is going to come from, so that's probably why this team has been so successful."

Penn State will face Duke in the College Cup Final on Sunday at 12 p.m. in a rematch from earlier this season. The Blue Devils topped Florida State by a score of 2-0 in Friday's second semifinal match. The Nittany Lions and Blue Devils played to a scoreless draw back on Aug 28, but one team will emerge victorious in the national championship bout.

VIDEO: College Cup Semifinal Post-Match Press Conference (12/4/15)

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CARY, N.C. - Head coach Erica Walsh, senior Raquel Rodriguez and sophomore Frannie Crouse talk with the media following Penn State's 2-0 victory over Rutgers in the College Cup semifinals on Friday night.



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: College Cup Semifinal Post-Match Interviews (12/4/15)

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CARY, N.C. - GoPSUsports.com talks with head coach Erica Walsh, senior Raquel Rodriguez and sophomore Frannie Crouse following Penn State's 2-0 victory over Rutgers in the College Cup semifinals on Friday at WakeMed Soccer Park. The Nittany Lions move into the national title match for the second time in program history.



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Women's Soccer College Cup Semifinals Photo Blog

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CARY, N.C. - The top-seeded Nittany Lion women's soccer team (20-3-2) will meet No. 2-seeded Rutgers (19-3-3) in the semifinals of the College Cup at WakeMed Soccer Park on Friday at 5 p.m. (ESPNU).

Take a look through some images from the program's fifth visit to the College Cup.


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Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2015 College Cup Preview Content Central

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w_soccer_hp.jpgUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the fifth time in program history, the Nittany Lion women's soccer team will appear at the College Cup.  Top-seeded Penn State (20-3-2) will clash with second-seeded Rutgers (19-3-3) on Friday at 5 p.m. ET (ESPNU) in Cary, N.C., in the NCAA semifinals.

The Nittany Lions have marched to the College Cup in dominant fashion. In the first four games of the tournament, Penn State has outscored its opponents by a margin of 17-0.

"The 2015 team has been really special on the field, but they have been even more special off the field," said head coach Erica Walsh. "The focus in this group has been apparent since day one."

Rutgers has been equally as impressive on defense. The Scarlet Knights have outscored their first four opponents by a margin of 7-0.

Take a look through some preview material leading up to the 2015 College Cup.

VIDEO Previews:
Head Coach Erica Walsh



Player Interviews


Travel Day to Cary


Training Day in Cary


Preview Press Conference



By the Numbers:

No. 1 Penn State

 

No. 2 Rutgers

20-3-2

Record

19-3-3

2.44 (No. 9)

Scoring Offense (NCAA Rank)

1.60 (No. 107)

0.550 (No. 12)

Goals-Against (NCAA Rank)

0.311 (No. 1)

0.520 (No. 29)

Shutout Percentage (NCAA Rank)

0.760 (No. 1)

0.833 (No. 43)

Save Percentage (NCAA Rank)

0.910 (No. 1)

61/14

Goals Scored/Goals Allowed

40/8

31/30

Goals Scored by Half - 1st/2nd

19/21

4/10/0

Goals Allowed by Half - 1st/2nd/OT

4/3/1

Megan Schafer - 1.200

Points Per Game Leader

Colby Ciarrocca - 0.880

Megan Schafer - 0.520

Goals Per Game Leader

Colby Ciarrocca - 0.360

Mallory Weber - 0.400

Assists Per Game Leader

Three Tied at 0.160

Britt Eckerstrom - 0.846

Save Percentage Leader

Casey Murphy - 0.906

Mallory Weber - 10

Total Assists

Three Tied at 4

Megan Schager - 13

Total Goals

Colby Ciarrocca - 9

Megan Schafer - 30

Total Points

Colby Ciarrocca - 22

Britt Eckerstrom - 64

Total Saves

Casey Murphy - 77




College Cup Schedule:
Friday, Dec. 4 - WakeMed Soccer Park - Cary, N.C.
- 5 p.m. ET on ESPNU - No. 1 Penn State (20-3-2) vs. No. 2 Rutgers (19-3-3)
- 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU - No. 1 Florida State (18-2-4) vs. No. 3 Duke (13-5-5)

Sunday, Dec. 6 - WakeMed Soccer Park - Cary, N.C.
- 12 p.m. ET on ESPNU - National Championship



Penn State in the College Cup:
1999 - San Jose, Calif.
- NCAA Semifinals - Dec. 3, 1999 - L, 2-0 to No. 2 North Carolina

2002 - Austin, Texas
- NCAA Semifinals - Dec. 6, 2002 - L, 2-0 to No. 9 Portland

2005 - College Station, Texas
- NCAA Semifinals - T, 0-0 (2 OT) to No. 1 Portland (Portland won 4-3 on penalty kicks)

2012 - San Diego, Calif.
- NCAA Semifinals - W, 2-1 (OT) to No. 1 Florida State
- NCAA Final - L, 4-1 to No. 1 North Carolina



Feature Story

Eckerstrom, 2015 Seniors Seek to Make Last Season a Historic One
By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the astounding history of the Penn State women's soccer program, there's almost nothing PSU hasn't accomplished.

11537156.jpegIn the 22-season lifespan of the program, the Blue and White has captured an unprecedented 17 Big Ten titles, all of which coming in the last 18 seasons.

The Nittany Lions have been a dangerous national contender for years. It has reached the NCAA Tournament 21 consecutive times, including 11 quarterfinal appearances and five College Cups.

Penn State possesses one of the most storied and most successful women's soccer programs in collegiate history, but there's just one thing missing from its stellar resume: a national championship.

For the second time in four seasons, Penn State returns to the College Cup on Friday in search of its first ever NCAA title. Head coach Erica Walsh and the program has endured the heartbreak the College Cup can bring in 2012 when PSU lost to North Carolina 4-1 in the championship match, but the team is confident heading into the return this weekend.

"Having players that have been to the College Cup is so important," said Walsh. "I can already tell a difference in our approach going into the weekend, whereas I think that was a team that was just really excited to get to the College Cup. There was an expectation that that was the level we were going to achieve this year, and the goal we set was to go all the way through and make a championship run."

Three of the five current seniors who were on the roster in San Diego in 2012 are the 2015 captains: Raquel Rodriguez, Mallory Weber, and Britt Eckerstrom. Eckerstrom, a redshirt senior goalkeeper, is the leader of the pack in net. She will be the key for PSU in composing this young group comprised of 70.4 percent underclassmen.

"A huge difference for me was being so young and now I've got five years under me," Eckerstrom said. "From the beginning, you could tell this team was pretty special and instantly we had high expectations. We're here for a purpose and to take care of business."

So far, Eckerstrom has made it her singular mission to lead her team to the College Cup in her final season in Penn State threads.

Through four rounds, Eckerstrom has not allowed one ball past her in the NCAA Tournament. Since conceding a late goal to Illinois in the first round Big Ten Tournament, Eckerstrom has produced 553 straight minutes of shutout goalkeeping. She has also held the opposition to one goal or less in 21 consecutive matches.

Most of the praise should rightfully fall on Eckerstrom's shoulders, but the young back line in front of her has far exceeded expectations in 2015.

"The most important thing for the back four has been their growth together," said Walsh. "Because they're all around the similar age they've been able to grow and make mistakes together and pick each other up. They feel like they can look to their left and look to their right and really rely on the person next to them."

The chemistry between Eckerstrom and her back line has steadily improved week after week, and it's evident that it has never been stronger than right now.

"It starts off the field," Eckerstrom said. "We work as a unit all the time in training so that we're one. We say that before each game in our defense huddle that we're one tonight, and everyone is totally on board with that.

To go along with its stifling defense, Penn State has exploded offensively in the postseason. In the NCAA Tournament, PSU is averaging 4.25 goals per game and 21.25 shots per game.

The combination of a dominating offensive attack and a stout defense in the postseason has placed the 2015 Penn State squad in historic company. Not since the undefeated North Carolina team in 2003 has a club that reached the semifinals in the tournament done so by a wider margin than Penn State's 17-0.

"Going into Friday's match against Rutgers it feels like we're playing our best soccer of the season," Walsh said. "We're peaking at the right time. I'm really proud of the way that our team has approached these last few weeks."

"It started all the way back in the spring of last year," said sophomore midfielder Emily Ogle. "We started working towards this goal and set it as a team goal, and we knew that we were going to have some talent. I think our leaders have been phenomenal with bringing everyone together and fixing the little things so that we're all on board and we're all ready to perform in Cary."

The trio of captains in Rodriguez, Weber, and Eckerstrom have steadied their thirds of the field and brought Penn State to new heights in 2015. One of the winningest classes in Penn State history has accomplished so much, but none of that matters right now, as they have their sights set on the national championship trophy.

No previous Penn State player can say they won the final game of their career, but this team and this class has a fantastic chance to do so. The group can cement their legacy as the paramount class in Penn State women's soccer history with two more victories.



Much more to follow from Cary.




Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Sixth Straight Shutout Propels Lions to Fifth College Cup

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11527054.jpegBy Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It wasn't easy, but the No. 1-seeded Penn State women's soccer team

(20-3-2) defeated No. 2 seed West Virginia Saturday to advance to its fifth College Cup and second in the last four years.

In reality, Penn State and West Virginia entered as two of the most accomplished programs in the country and extremely evenly matched. With the help of an early goal and a rousing home crowd, Penn State bested a physical West Virginia squad.

"That is a really good team that we battled with tonight," said head coach Erica Walsh. "I thought the quality of play overall was fantastic on both sides of the ball. There's so many quality players and that's two good, discipline teams."

Sophomore Emily Ogle got the Nittany Lions on the board early with a goal in the 12th minute. From 27 yards out, Ogle swung a free kick into the middle of the box and WVU goalkeeper Hannah Steadman mistimed her jump as the ball hit off her gloves and bounced through the posts.

After scoring only twice in the first 20 matches, Ogle has now scored five goals in Penn State's previous five games to bring her 2015 goal total to seven.

"Ogle has really come into her own in the attack," Walsh said. "We have so many weapons in that attack, and she's always been the key to our assists but now she's finding her stride in that area. It all speaks to the quality of the team overall."

Following a flurry of chances from both sides the remainder of the half, Penn State struck again in the 39th minute off the right foot of Frannie Crouse. The sophomore received a perfectly placed ball from substitute Ellie Jean in the box and finished in the top left corner to double the Blue and White's lead.

Crouse finished the contest with five of Penn State's 14 shots, each on goal. She has now matched her goal total from the previous season with 10 in 2015.

"The ball was played across and Mal (Weber) was right beside me and it looked like it was going to her," said Crouse. "I knew that I was more open than she was so I screamed to let it go and luckily she let it go and I saw the goalie was a little pressed to the right so I hit it to the upper left corner."

The second half was a chippy one to say the least. West Virginia became tremendously physical, as it's been all year, but Penn State matched the physicality.

Despite encountering six shots in the second half and 10 in the game, goalie Britt Eckerstrom and the back line held their ground for their sixth straight shutout.

"This is a really special senior class for us," said Walsh. "Britt Eckerstrom was fabulous tonight in goal, and all of our seniors have been so special throughout this final run of the season. There's so much to be proud of with this group."

"It takes the whole team," said Eckerstrom. "What a way to finish out a soccer career if we win a National Championship. We finished our time here on Jeffrey Field in pretty good fashion, but we have two more games to go to finish this up."

The Nittany Lions improved their home record in the NCAA Tournament to 36-6-1 with the victory. The Lions notched 14 wins on Jeffrey Field in 2015, which ties the program record set in '05 and '06.

Unfortunately, Penn State will not return to Jeffrey Field this season, as the team will now travel to Cary, N.C., to battle Big Ten foe and No. 2-seed Rutgers in the College Cup semifinals on Friday.

Scouting the Scarlet Knights

Penn State and Rutgers faced off merely 20 days ago on Nov. 8 in the Big Ten Championship. Penn State got the best of the Scarlet Knights in a solid 2-0 win, but Rutgers defeated the Nittany Lions back on Oct. 18 in Piscataway, N.J.

Rutgers won an improbable quarterfinal game against the No.1 ranked team in the country, the Virginia Cavaliers, in PK's to advance to the College Cup. Down 2-0 in the penalty stage, RU fought back and won 7-6 on PK's in the end.

Like Penn State, Rutgers prides itself on its tough, gritty defense. Both teams have yet to surrender a goal in regular time so far in the NCAA Tournament.

Goalkeeper Casey Murphy has been an absolute stud between the posts for the Scarlet Knights in 2015. She hasn't missed one minute on the field, and she's only allowed eight shots by her this season. Her .327 Goals Allowed Average is the best mark in the nation.

However, 25 percent of her goals allowed this year have been surrendered to the Nittany Lions.

Offensively, Colby Ciarrocca leads the way for RU with nine goals and four assists, both highest totals on the team. Aside from Ciarrocca, Rutgers' offensive attack isn't very potent. The Scarlet Knights have scored 40 goals in 2015, as opposed to Penn State's 61.

The beasts of the B1G should unquestionably provide an entertaining, defensive rubber match on Friday in Cary. The winner will face the winner of Florida State-Duke from the opposite end of the bracket on Dec. 6.

VIDEO: NCAA Women's Soccer Quarterfinal Preview

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The top-seeded Nittany Lion women's soccer team is set to host second-seeded West Virginia on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the NCAA quarterfinals.

The Lions and Mountaineers will clash with a spot in the 2015 College Cup on the line. Making its third appearance in the quarterfinals since 2012, the Nittany Lions are no stranger to this stage. The team is headed into the round of eight with a great deal of confidence following a dominant start to the NCAA Tournament.

Penn State has outscored its opponents 15-0 during the first three games of the tournament. In total, the Lions have not allowed a goal in five-straight games, stretching back to the Big Ten Tournament. Penn State and West Virginia are familiar foes, with WVU scoring a narrow 1-0 victory back on Sept. 4.

GoPSUsports.com spent time with head coach Erica Walsh and senior midfielder Raquel Rodriguez to preview the NCAA quarterfinal matchup against West Virginia. Take a look here.



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Happy Thanksgiving from Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 'Tis the season for giving thanks, and the Penn State Athletics would like to take an opportunity to say thank you to the loyal fans on Thanksgiving.

As you sit down with family and friends to eat your traditional meal while the Lions and Cowboys host their annual Thanksgiving day home games, Penn State Athletics would like to thank you, the fans, for the unwavering support you give every team on campus.  Penn State's teams would not be the same without the greatest fans in college sports.

As a token of their appreciation, several student-athletes from teams on campus would like to say thank you and Happy Thanksgiving for the support you give them throughout the athletic season.

Yet Another Total Team Effort Propels Penn State to Quarterfinals

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11512339.jpegBy Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 1-seeded Penn State women's soccer team kept things rolling Sunday afternoon with a decisive 4-0 victory over Big Ten rival Ohio State.


The win sends the Nittany Lions to the quarterfinal round of the 2015 NCAA Women's Soccer Tournament. The Blue and White has reached the quarterfinals in three of the past four years.

The Lions have been absolutely dominant in their first three tournament matches, outscoring opponents 15-0. Senior goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom hasn't surrendered a goal in the last five contests. It's the first time in Penn State history that a team has recorded shutouts in each of the first three rounds of the tournament.

"We're trying to keep opponents off the score sheet, and that's a total team effort," said head coach Erica Walsh. "Starting with Megan Schafer up top, and (Emily) Ogle is the organizer in the middle, and obviously Britt Eckerstrom and that back line have been huge. I think the cohesion from front to back has been a big part of our success."

The aforementioned Schafer continued her solid goal scoring season on Sunday, scoring from 12 yards out in the 43rd minute for her team-leading 13th goal of the year. The sophomore has scored in every tournament game so far.

Schafer's strike was Penn State's only first half goal. Although Penn State outshot the Buckeyes 11-2 in the first frame and dominated possession, the game felt very tight. OSU hit the post on a header in the 19th minute that would've changed the dynamic of the match, but luckily the ball bounced away and the Nittany Lions were able to take a narrow lead to the locker room.

In the second half, Penn State refused to take a defensive approach to protect its lead. As they've done all year, the Lions attacked from the whistle to build a more comfortable margin. Senior Rocky Rodriguez did just that 51 seconds into the half with a header off a corner kick.

"I thought they came out in the first half and gave us trouble with our build up," Walsh said. "I thought their game plan was outstanding. I thought the second half we found different ways to break them down and we started to loosen up a little bit and our rhythm got a whole lot better."

Merely five minutes later, sophomore Emily Ogle tallied her third goal of the tournament and sixth of the year with a laser to the top right corner from 23 yards away. Penn State's first three goals of the match all came within a period of 8:36 of game time.

Haleigh Echard came off the bench to finish off the Buckeyes in the 75th minute with her second goal in as many games.

"I think it all starts with our captains," said Ogle. "We have three of the best in Mal Weber, Rocky Rodriguez, and Britt Eckerstrom. They're really bringing the team together at the right time and helping us to continue to build. With them leading us, we're taking incremental steps and trying to achieve a bigger goal."

"I think we're playing our best soccer of the season, and our depth has been outstanding," Walsh said. "I thought our reserves coming off the bench today gave us a huge boost. We're exactly where we want to be going into an Elite Eight game."

Next Up: No. 2 West Virginia

There's no doubt both Penn State and West Virginia have had this possible quarterfinal matchup circled on their calendars since the tournament bracket was announced, and here we are. This one should be fun.

The Nittany Lions and Mountaineers met back on September 4 and produced a hard fought, physical game in which WVU pulled out a close 1-0 win.

West Virginia has been almost as impressive as Penn State so far in the tournament, outscoring its opponents 13-2. The Mountaineers most recently defeated Loyola Marymount 5-2 in the third round.

WVU presents an incredibly tough test to Penn State's recent five-game shutout streak. Its potent offense is led by a two-headed monster up top in Kailey Utley and Michaela Abam. Utley and Abam lead the Mountaineers with 12 goals apiece this season.

Utley has been on a notable roll lately, headlined by a hat trick in WVU's third round victory over LMU.

Even though West Virginia's offense has carried its team thus far in the postseason, WVU's resounding strength is its defense. The Mountaineers own the second best defense in the country in terms of giving up goals. Goalkeeper Hannah Steadman has only let nine shots past her this season, good for a 0.43 GAA.


Steadman has been a rock in the back, but much of WVU's defensive success this season has been due to stellar play across the back line. The West Virginia defense has only allowed 129 shots in 2015, while its offense has taken 530.

The Nittany Lions and Mountaineers will kick off their quarterfinal match at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Jeffrey Field.

@GOPSUSPORTS

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