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Nov. 11, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Penn State will do something no team has ever done in the 20-year history of the Big Ten Men's Soccer Tournament - play for the championship as the No. 7 seed. The Nittany Lions punched their ticket to the final by downing No. 3 seed Wisconsin (10-8-2), 1-0, on Friday night in Ann Arbor, Mich.
With the semifinal win, Penn State (9-8-4) advances to its third consecutive Big Ten Tournament title game and will face conference regular season champion No. 1 seed Northwestern (10-4-5) on Sunday at 12 p.m. The game will be aired live by the Big Ten Network.
Junior midfielder Minh Vu (Tucson, Ariz.) supplied all the offense Penn State would need, netting his third goal of the season. Freshman Owen Griffith (Lewisburg, Pa.) assisted on the game winner, earning his first career assist and point. Freshman goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton (Snellville, Ga.) and the stellar Nittany Lion back line teamed to record its 12th shutout of the season.
Vu's goal was the centerpiece of a thoroughly dominating first half performance by Penn State. The Lions controlled the run of play and possession, racking up 15 shots while nullifying the Wisconsin offense by limiting it to just one shot.
Penn State started the game in much the same the way it did in its 2-0 win over No. 2 seed Ohio State on Wednesday - fast. The Nittany Lions put Wisconsin on its heels early, pressuring the Badgers into turnovers deep in their own end.
After a couple of missed opportunities, Penn State used one of those misplays to its advantage and stake the lead in the 29th minute. Owen Griffith had an uncontrolled ball come to him near the top of the box. Chesting it down, he slid a pass to Vu, who was stationed 14 yards out on the near wing. In space, Vu let loose a one-time left footed volley, that sailed just high of the outstretched fingertips of Wisconsin goalkeeper Max Jentsch and into net.
Penn State didn't relax, though, and continued to apply pressure on the offensive end, leading to chances to extend its advantage. Off a restart, Vu nearly posted a second tally but his free kick blast from 35-yards away was saved only due to the efforts of Jentsch, who needed to make an acrobatic diving stop to keep it out of goal.
Just over two minutes later, in the 37th minute, sophomore forward Jordan Tyler (Rochester, Mich.) attempted to put the finishing touches on a run that he initiated in the midfield following a brilliant pickpocket of a Wisconsin player but, after working a give-and-go with junior Hasani Sinclair (Coral Gables, Fla.), his offering on goal was saved.
In the second half, Wisconsin amped up its pressure and earned greater possession of the ball but still couldn't crack the Penn State defense. While the Badgers did not record a shot on goal for the game, it did have a prime scoring opportunity in the 61st minute but AJ Cochran's header off a corner kick from Tomislav Zadro sailed just high of net.
Penn State outshot Wisconsin, 21-5, for the game and even owned a 6-4 advantage in the second half when the Badgers were pushing further forward seeking an equalizer. With the victory, Penn State moves to 5-0 versus Wisconsin and 28-14-4 all-time in Big Ten Tournament play, including a 9-6-2 mark in semifinal contests.