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Women's Soccer Stymies No. 22 Illinois, 1-0

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Ali Schaefer posted a seven-point weekend in wins over Northwestern and Illinois.

Sept. 25, 2011

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State women's soccer team used Ali Schaefer's third goal of the weekend to propel the Nittany Lions to a 1-0 win over No. 22 Illinois on Sunday at Jeffrey Field.

"We did enough to get the win today and that's what is most important," Head coach Erica Walsh said. "Ali Schaefer was there again for us today on an afternoon where both teams were really tired. I'm proud we held serve at home and were able to beat a good Illinois team."

In a tight, sluggish matchup of two stingy defenses, Penn State (9-3-0, 2-1-0 Big Ten) used a set piece to settle the score. Christine Nairn (Arnold, Md.) played a corner kick to Schaefer, who headed the ball to Whitney Church (Ashburn, Va.) on the far post. Church moved around two Illini defenders and slotted a short ball to Schaefer who put it away from 15 yards out on the far left post in the 39th minute.

The goal was Schaefer's third of the weekend after she tallied two against Northwestern on Friday, while Church gained her first assist of the season. It was the first time in her career that Schaefer scored in back-to-back games. Schaefer is a strong candidate to win the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Week award with seven points this past weekend.

From there on out, the midfield play of each team was too much for either side's offense to tally another goal. Illinois (6-4-1, 0-2-1 Big Ten) employed a 3-6-1 formation, while Penn state had to counter with extra midfielders from other parts of the field. The clogging of the midfield left the two teams to only register five shots on net collectively.

Illinois came out better poised to open the game, ripping off the first two shots of the match in the opening two minutes from Shayla Mutz and Julie Ewing. Mutz would force a save by Erin McNulty (Winnipeg, Manitoba) in the 13th minute from 20 yards out on the left wing, but it was easily corralled by the Canadian `keeper.

McNulty finished the game with three saves for her second solo shutout of the season, as Illinois was blanked for the first time in 2011. McNulty has played an integral part in all of Penn State's Big Ten-leading seven shutouts in 2011.

Penn State had a flurry of activity in the 21st minute as Nairn's heading effort off a looping cross from Maddy Evans (Glenside, Pa.) on the right wing was saved by Illinois' Steph Panozzo (one save). Thirty seconds later, a nice ball from the left wing off Panozzo's punt found its way to Nairn, but her shot from 17 yards out was deflected out for a corner kick.

In the second half, Schaefer nearly made it 2-0 when a Jess Rosenbluth's (Gladwyne, Pa.) corner kick found her on the far post, but Schaefer's shot skipped across the goal mouth. Illinois regained possession and fired off three straight shots in the 48th and 49th minute as McNulty made a save on Niki Read as Vanessa DiBernardo and Nicole Denenberg each had shots blocked at the top of the penalty area.

The best scoring opportunity for PSU came in the 55th minute when Panozzo carelessly gave away a ball 50 yards from net to Maya Hayes (West Orange, N.J.). Hayes played eh ball to Rosenbluth, but her 40-yard shot curled to the left and would have gone in if on target as Panozzo was well out of her net.

Neither team could generate any extra offense in the final 30 minutes of the match as Penn State held off Illinois for the 20th win in 22 meetings. PSU is 11-0-0 all-time against Illinois at Jeffrey Field and have won the past six meetings against the Illini dating back to 2006. The Nittany Lions have out-scored Illinois 56-19 all-time in 22 matches including 11-0 over the past four matches.

Final stats read Illinois 13, Penn State 12 in overall shots with a 3-2 margin in favor of Illinois in shots on goal. Penn State made three saves to Illinois' one with corner kicks siding with PSU, 5-3. Fouls were nearly even as Illinois racked up six to Penn State's five.

Penn State continues its three-game home stand at Jeffrey Field when it welcomes fellow Big Ten Co-Champion Ohio State at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday. The match is Penn State's Code Blue Blast event where students will receive triple points for attending the night match.

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