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Nov. 5, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's soccer team's snake bit 2011 regular season took a final cruel turn on Saturday afternoon, as the Nittany Lions fell to Wisconsin (9-7-2, 4-2-0), 1-0, on a penalty kick in double overtime on Senior Day.
It was an unfortunate end to the Jeffrey Field careers of a collection of seniors that have been significant contributors to the Penn State program over the last four years. Mackenzie Arment (Manheim, Pa.), Marco Ciarla (Potomac, Md.), Mark Fetrow (West Chester, Pa.), Justin Lee (Derwood, Md.), and Matt Smallwood (Cochranville, Pa.) were honored in a special Senior Day ceremony following the conference contest. The group combined for 262 career starts.
After an evenly played and hard-fought game, the result came down to an official's call with just 21 seconds remaining in double overtime. With possession near the top of the box, Wisconsin sophomore midfielder Ryan Buda kicked the ball into the hand of a Nittany Lion player, drawing a whistle from the official, who awarded the Badgers a penalty kick. Junior midfielder Tomislav Zadro took it, beating freshman goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton (Snellville, Ga.) to his right.
Early on the game, Wolverton showed why he is one the nation's top up-and-coming goalkeepers. In the ninth minute, Wisconsin's Nick Janus got his head on a service that took a tricky path in the air towards net, but Wolverton alertly dove to his left to snare the offering.
Penn State (7-8-4, 0-6-0) had its chances as well in the first half. In the 18th minute, Mackenzie Arment sent in a rising left-footed blast from 22 yards out that Wisconsin goalkeeper Max Jentsch had to jump high with outstretched hands to save. Just under six minutes later, junior defender John Gallagher (Pine Bush, N.Y.) crossed a beautiful pass into the box, connecting with the head of junior midfielder Marvin Ledgister (London, England). However, Jentsch was in position and pulled in the shot.
The second half featured back-forth-play as well, with both teams producing scoring chances. After Janus nearly put Wisconsin up with a shot that hit the post in the 61st minute, Penn State responded with its best opportunity of the second half.
Matt Smallwood sent in a long, arcing service into the box to the far post. Junior midfielder Minh Vu (Tucson, Ariz.) got on the end of the deep pass with a diving header attempt but Jentsch was able to corral the shot.
In the first overtime, both teams had their chances at posting a golden goal. Penn State's came first, off a throw in from Mark Fetrow deep in the Wisconsin zone. Positioned to the near post in the box, Ledgister flicked it on with his head. Junior forward Hasani Sinclair (Coral Gables, Fla.) had the ball come to him and fought with several Wisconsin defenders to try to get a shot off. After being knocked down on a challenge by the UW keeper, Sinclair still managed to get his foot on the ball but his offering on an open net trickled just wide.
Wolverton saved the day again for Penn State, keeping the Nittany Lions alive with a brilliant save in the 96th minute. Off a Zadro corner kick, Josh Thiermann rocketed a twisting shot from 14 yards out that Wolverton snagged with a diving stab to his left.
Wisconsin had a 20-19 advantage in shots overall, but Penn State outshot the Badgers, 7-4, in the overtime periods. The Nittany Lions, which entered the game leading the Big Ten in corner kicks, had just four as compared to nine for UW.
Next week, Penn State will begin pursuit of a fourth conference crown when it competes at the Big Ten Tournament. The battle for the 2011 title is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, Nov. 9 with three first round matches. Semifinal games will take place on Friday, Nov. 11 with the championship contest set for Sunday, Nov. 13. Hosted by the University of Michigan, all games will be played at the U-M Soccer Stadium in Ann Arbor. The semifinals and finals will air live on the BTN. Penn State, which possesses a 26-14-4 record in Big Ten Tournament play, is one of just two conference teams to have a winning mark in the postseason event.