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Oct. 21, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The fourth-ranked Penn State Women's Soccer team (15-2-1, 9-0-1) captured its 15th-straight Big Ten regular season title in a 1-1 draw against 17th-ranked Michigan on Sunday. Despite being down late in the contest, senior Christine Nairn (Arnold, Md.) tied it up with five minutes to go in regulation on a penalty kick.
"I am so proud of this group," said head coach Erica Walsh. "I am so proud of where they are today and where they came from. There is a lot of emotion surrounding Senior Day. This is just a fantastic group of young women that are prepared to go out and succeed in their chosen field, but not yet because we still have a little more work to do."
After playing a scoreless first half, Michigan got on the board in the 59th minute. Nkem Ezurike scored off a free kick to give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead. Nevertheless, the Nittany Lion pressure would finally pay off with a takedown in the box. Nairn nailed the penalty kick for her 13th goal of the season with five minutes to go in regulation to tie it up at one.
"It was always a team goal of ours during my four years here," said Nairn. "Now we can check that off the list and go towards that tournament title and play well as a team going into the NCAA Tournament. We are getting there and looking forward to keep playing."
The Nittany Lions were in Michigan's defensive third of the field all day, recording a total of 31 shots with 13 of them coming on goal. Michigan was held to just nine shots as senior keeper Erin McNulty (Winnipeg, Manitoba) make five saves in goal. Nairn was a force all game, as she put six shots on net.
Penn State had plenty of opportunities throughout the contest, but was unable to capitalize. Haley Kopmeyer had a great game between the pipes for Michigan, making 12 stops. Notably, in the 50th minute, Nairn ripped a shot from 25 yards out with her right foot. The shot was heading near post netting, where Kopmeyer dove to her left in the air and made an incredible save to keep the game tied at zero.
In the overtime periods, Penn State strung together seven shots, while holding Michigan to just one. Penn State had a tremendous opportunity with just 30 seconds remaining in the second period of overtime. Junior Maya Hayes (West Orange, N.J.) had her back facing the goal with the ball at her feet. The junior pulled a nice spin move and had a clean one-on-one look and hit it just wide of the far post.
A total of 2,716 fans attended Sunday's contest, which helped eclipse the record for attendance at Jeffrey Field in a season. The previous high mark came in 2005.
"It's always nice when your hard work pays off, but we still have a long ways to go," said senior captain Maddy Evans. "But we definitely cherish this moment right now and we are proud of our hard work and where we've come."
Penn State will close out the regular season on Friday as it travels to Purdue for a 7 p.m. clash with the Boilermakers.
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