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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Frannie Crouse loves to score. She's pretty darn good at it, too.
Crouse has netted 35 career goals in her illustrious career as a Nittany Lion. She ranks 11th all-time in goals at Penn State and tied for 12th all-time in points with 82, and she isn't done climbing the record books quite yet.
She scored a career-high 12 goals last season as a junior, which led the Big Ten, and she just keeps getting better. Every season she has increased her goal total from the year before.
She has scored double-digit goals every year since coming to Penn State in 2014 and is poised to do the same in her senior year as one of the leaders up top.
Crouse is also one of the most clutch players on the team.
She has scored 13 game-winning goals in her career, including a goal in an upset over No. 2 Stanford and the first goal in a 2-0 College Cup semifinal win over Rutgers in 2015. She scored three times in the NCAA tournament during Penn State's national title run that same year.
Crouse always seems to come up with the magical goal in the biggest moments, and that trend continued Thursday night in Penn State's 1-0 win against No.6 North Carolina.
"Your big players got to show up on big nights," head coach Erica Dambach said. "Everybody's got to show up, but you knew that Frannie Crouse was going to be there tonight. You knew she was going to put one in the back of the net."
To put the moment in perspective, North Carolina is far and away the most accomplished team in the history of women's college soccer. The Tar Heels have won 22 national championships, the most ever by a whopping margin of 19.
North Carolina has had its way with most of its opponents over the years, and that list includes Penn State. The Tar Heels owned a 6-1 all-time record against the Nittany Lions before Thursday night, but this was their first trip to Happy Valley, and Crouse made sure their ride back to Chapel Hill, NC wouldn't be a happy one.
In the seventh minute she made a darting run to the middle of the box and Charlotte Williams threaded a through ball right to her feet that Crouse finished easily with her right foot for what ended up being the only goal in the contest.
"I love playing games like this because usually you're the underdog," Crouse said. "Our team may be ranked higher but they have the tradition that's well known. We just wanted to come out and beat them."
This win could end up being the most impressive for Penn State in the entire regular season. Coming off a tough loss to West Virginia, the Nittany Lions were able to rebound and defeat one of the best teams in the country to improve their record to 4-1.
The Nittany Lions held North Carolina off the scoreboard for the rest of the game in the stingiest defensive showing the Tar Heels have faced all season.
North Carolina came into the game averaging 19.2 shots per game and 2.8 goals per game. Penn State held them to just six shots and two on target.
"Defensive performance straight through the roster," said Dambach. "Not just the back line, not just the goalkeeper. [I'm} really proud of this back line, though. They've been under so much pressure against some of the top teams in the country and to hold strong against a great Carolina team is a testament to them."
Junior defender Kaleigh Riehl said the defensive performance is going to boost the back line's confidence moving forward.
"I think just the details were super important in this game," she said. "Always checking our shoulder, always bringing people together, organizing, and we knew that we had to bring a blue collar mentality."
The Nittany Lions will look to continue to use clutch goals and big-time defensive efforts to keep this momentum going all season long.