Men's Soccer Knocks Off No. 3 Northwestern, 2-1, for Key Big Ten Win
Sept. 29, 2007
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In front of 2,637 partisan fans and a live Big Ten Network television audience, the Penn State men's soccer team (4-4-1, 1-0-1) firmly placed itself in the thick of the race for the conference title and suddenly inserted itself into the conversation nationally by defeating previously unbeaten and No. 3-ranked Northwestern (7-1-1, 1-1-0), 2-1, on Saturday evening at Jeffrey Field.
The victory marks the third consecutive year that the Nittany Lions have defeated a highly ranked opponent on live national television. A year ago, Penn State toppled No. 9 Indiana, 1-0, at Jeffrey Field. In 2005, PSU upset the No. 5 Hoosiers in Bloomington, 2-1. The win also continues Penn State's domination of its series with the conference rival, upping its all-time record versus the Wildcats to 21-1-1.
With its top gun and the Big Ten's leading scorer, junior forward Jason Yeisley (Allentown, Pa.), clearly the main target of the Northwestern defense, the Nittany Lions needed other players to step up and provide offense. And veteran Penn State head coach Barry Gorman got just that from the unlikeliest of sources.
In the game's 40th minute, senior defender Grady Renfrow (Washington, D.C.) gave Penn State a 1-0 lead with his first career goal. In almost an identical lead-up to a play in which he clanged a shot off the crossbar earlier in the season versus Old Dominion, Renfrow changed his fortunes and the complexion of the game. Freshman defender Jon Davidsson (Reykjavik, Iceland) started the play by serving a well-placed entry pass into the NU zone that could not be controlled by Northwestern goalkeeper Misha Rosenthal. Sophomore forward Jacobo Vera (Pamplona, Spain) got the rebound and passed it back to the awaiting Renfrow, who then rocketed a right-footed shot from 20 yards out that whistled past the outstretched hands of Rosenthal, the nation's leader in goals against average.
The goal abruptly ended Northwestern's stretch of over 530 minutes of scoreless defensive work and its five-game shutout streak.
After Northwestern junior midfielder Tyler Voigt knotted the game at 1-1 with his second goal of the season at the 57:43 mark, sophomore midfielder Vincent Salvatico (Chester Springs, Pa.) came off the bench to play the role of hero by netting his second goal of the season.
Inserted into the line-up in relief of junior midfielder Barkley Miller (New Freedom, Pa.) in the 60th minute, it would take Salvatico just minutes to make his presence felt. Senior defender Stephen Reihner (Washington, Pa.) crossed a pass to Salvatico, who was positioned with his back to the goal in the middle of the field 16 yards out. He quickly spun and booted an off-balance shot that caught the Northwestern netminder off guard and rolled into the lower corner of the net. The goal was his team-high second game winner of the year.
"This was a huge win for us," said Salvatico. "We knew we had it in us. It was just a matter of coming out playing. I think tonight we definitely showed what we are capable of doing if we all play our games and mesh together. It doesn't matter who is on the field at what time, we can play together because we have such a strong and deep team. It was a good showing for all of us."
Senior Conrad Taylor (Colorado Springs, Colo.) was brilliant in goal for Penn State, recording six saves en route to his 34th career victory. Defenders Andy Machi (Upper St. Clair, Pa.) and Andres Casais (Caracas, Venezuela) gave standout performances in support of Taylor, together and individually foiling Northwestern offensive pushes and scoring opportunities.
The Nittany Lions will return to the road next weekend, traveling to Columbus, Ohio for a conference clash with Ohio State (5-2-2) on Sat., Oct. 6. Game time is set for 2 p.m. at the home of the Buckeyes, Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Penn State is 13-7-2 all-time versus Ohio State and will be looking to avenge a 2006 2-1 loss at Jeffrey Field.