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Lions Edged by Syracuse 2-1 in NCAA Second Round Thriller

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Despite a season high eight saves from keeper Andrew Wolverton (Atlanta, Ga.) and goal from forward Connor Maloney (Harrisburg, Pa.), the Penn State men's soccer team fell to No. 9 seeded Syracuse 2-1 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Sunday at the SU Soccer Stadium. PSU's second trip to the 48-team tournament in as many years came to an end following a Syracuse goal in the 83rd minute, which broke a 1-1 tie and sent the Orange onto the round of 16. Penn State finishes the 2014 campaign with a 13-6-1 record, while SU improved to 16-3-1.

The deciding goal came off the foot of SU midfielder Oyvind Alseth in the 83rd minute and was initially stopped by Wolverton, but the ball trickled away from his grip, enough that the referees deemed it had crossed over the line for what proved to be the game winner. In what would be his last career match, the senior keeper equaled his season best save total and pushed his 2014 tally to 64.

Wolverton kept his team in the contest for most of the afternoon as he racked up four stops in the first half and another four in the second. His final save may have been his best and most acrobatic as he swatted away a shot by Syracuse's Liam Callahan with one hand and then spun around to mind the net for yet another Orange attack. Two other diving attempts earlier in the contest preserved a scoreless tie and an eventual Lion lead before the deciding goal was put through.

All three of the afternoon's goals were scored in the final 45 minutes as both teams played to a 0-0 draw until the halftime horn sounded. Syracuse's best scoring chance in the first half came in the ninth minute as an Emil Ekblom shot struck the far post and careemed out of bounds.

The match's first score came courtesy of Maloney, who was tasked with taking a penalty kick following a foul in the box and a yellow card on SU's Tyler Hillard in the 59th minute. The sophomore forward took his time focusing on Orange keeper Alex Bono, who had given up just seven goals all season. He then reared back and fired a shot straight back in the center of goal just to the left of Bono, sending Maloney into the arms of his celebrating teammates on the far sideline.

Syracuse, down in the second half for only the second time in the last six matches, tied things up in the 73rd minute on a goal by Ekblom. The Orange fired off three more shots in the next 10 minutes before Alseth's boot slid inches past the line for SU's second and final score.

Syracuse managed a total of 19 shots against the Penn State defense while Nittany Lion strikers sent five toward the Orange goal. Wolverton's eight saves bested Bono's one, while the `Cuse had six corner kicks to PSU's none.

Head Coach Bob Warming's squad finished the season with 13 wins for the second year, the 26 victories in a two-season span are the club's most since 2009-10 when the Lions also reached the 26-win plateau.

MATCH NOTES
--Connor Maloney has now scored in the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season, his goal vs. UCSB in 2013 sent PSU onto the Sweet 16.
--PSU is now 30-3-4 all-time vs. Syracuse, 28-31-1 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and 5-23 on the road in the post-season.
--Andrew Wolverton's 64 saves are tied for the second most he's had in a season, he equaled that total during his freshman season of 2011.

POST MATCH QUOTES
Head Coach Bob Warming
On senior goalie Andrew Wolverton's performance...
"The thing you want for every senior that comes through your program is that they have an outstanding day on their last day they ever play for you and Andrew certainly had that. He was amazing, to have the performance he did, I couldn't be more proud of him and what he did for our team."

On the game winning goal...
"(Jordan) Murrell, the left center back hit a 75-yard ball that was as good a pass as I've ever seen hit. A full 75 yards, right on the money behind our defense. Wolvie (Wolverton) had some great saves, I just think that one was a tough angle and it was a little muddy in the goal by that time of the game. I think he might have slipped a little bit and I haven't seen the replay yet but I give a lot of credit to Murrell for the pass he hit to open the game up like that."

On Connor Maloney's penalty kick...
"Connor had a breakout year. He led the Big Ten in assists the year before and got zero recognition for it. This year he led the Big Ten in goals and fortunately was recognized for that. The fact that he is a sophomore, wanted the ball, wanted to take the PK (penalty kick) and then scored it speaks a lot about the future that this kid can have at Penn State over the next two years."


 

 

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