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Nov. 8, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 1-seeded Penn State women's soccer team (17-3-1) will open the NCAA Tournament this Saturday at 6 p.m. with the Long Island Brooklyn Blackbirds at Jeffrey Field. Head coach Erica Walsh and her squad earned a No. 1 seed for the first time since 2007 after the program captured its 15th consecutive Big Ten title this year.
The first 300 students that arrive to the game and join the Park Avenue Army will get free admission. Tickets prices are $8 for adults, $5 for students/youth and $3 for groups with 15 or more in their party. Tickets can be purchased at the Bryce Jordan Center ticket office or by calling 1-800-NITTANY. Additionally, fans can purchase tickets at the gate.
Saturday's match can be viewed via a live stream on GoPSUsports.com All-Access for free. Additionally, fans wanting to listen in can tune into ComRadio (comradio.psu.edu), a student broadcast station on the Penn State University campus. A GameTracker link will also be available on GoPSUsports.com.
Walsh guided the Nittany Lions to their 15th-straight Big Ten regular season title and fifth ever undefeated Big Ten season. Walsh earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors for the second time in her career, last winning it in 2009. Senior Christine Nairn (Arnold, Md.) earned her first ever Midfielder of the Year honor and was named to the All-Big Ten First Team, as she leads the Nittany Lions with 36 points this season. Nairn currently sits third in the conference in points, fourth in goals and tied for third in assists and is on the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy watch list.
Junior Maya Hayes (West Orange, N.J.) is coming off her second-straight Big Ten Forward of the Year honor, as she has added offense to the Nittany Lion lineup since her return from the U-20 World Cup where she scored four goals in helping USA to a gold medal. Hayes is tied for sixth in the conference in goals, but has played seven less games than the leader.
Sophomore defender Whitney Church (Ashburn, Va.) has anchored the Nittany Lion defensive backfield as she earned All-Big Ten recognition as she picked up Defender of the Year honors. The sophomore had big shoes to fill when senior defenders Lexi Matron (Aurora, Ontario) and Jackie Molinda (Pittsburgh, Pa.) went down early in the season to ACL injuries. Acting as the center back, Church has done a stellar job anchoring a Nittany Lion defense that has posted eight shutouts this season.
The Blackbirds of LIU Brooklyn enter the 64-team NCAA Tournament with a 10-7-3 record after capturing their second-straight Northeast Conference Tournament title. LIU Brooklyn has won its last six matches and is unbeaten in its last 10. With their win on Sunday over Saint Francis (Pa.), the Blackbirds became the first NEC team to win back-to-back tournament titles away from their home venue. Leading the way for LIU Brooklyn in the attack is Toni Smith, who has scored seven goals to go along with an assist for 15 points. Katie Egan leads the Blackbirds with five assists on the season. Jessica Sexton and Jennifer Bannon have split time in goal this year. The tandem has given up 0.86 goals per contest in 2012.
This will be the first ever matchup between the Blackbirds and Nittany Lions. Penn State is 2-0-0 all-time in games against NEC schools, earning victories over Monmouth in 2007 and St. Francis (Pa.) in 2001. The Blackbirds have faced a Big Ten opponent just once, which was a 4-0 loss to Iowa earlier this season.
The winner of Saturday's contest will take on the winner of Boston College and Hofstra next Friday. With victories, Penn State is guaranteed home games throughout the entire NCAA Tournament up until the College Cup (national semifinals).
The 31st annual Women's College Cup will be played Nov. 30 and Dec. 2 at Torero Stadium in San Diego, Calif., with University of San Diego serving as host. The first national semifinal will be played at 8:30 p.m. ET and be shown live on ESPN3.com and in tape delay on ESPNU Sunday, Dec. 2 at 2:30 p.m. ET. The second semifinal will begin at approximately 11 p.m. ET live on ESPNU. The national championship match will take place Sunday, Dec. 2 at 4 p.m. ET and will also be broadcast live on ESPNU.
For complete coverage of Penn State women's soccer, please visit http://www.GoPSUsports.com/sports/w-soccer.
Follow Penn State women's soccer on Twitter: @PennStateWSOC.
Follow Penn State women's soccer on Facebook: www.facebook.com/PSUWomensSoccer.