Twice as Nice: Penn State Captures Big Ten Tournament Championship
Nov. 9, 2008
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Throughout the weekend the No. 23 Penn State women's soccer team played in three games scoring a total of five goals. Competition grew tougher as stronger teams advanced, and in the championship game the Nittany Lions went head-to-head with the Golden Gophers of Minnesota.
There was a lot on the line in this game as each team held a share of the regular season championship. But it was the Nittany Lions who took their fifth Big Ten Tournament championship by a score of 2-1 Netting goals for Penn State was Emma Thomson (Retford, England) and Danielle Toney (Northville, Mich).
There was a lot of quality back-and-forth play to start the match. Each team was able to put up good scoring opportunities as it was ultimately a battle of the defenses.
Just after the first timeout Carly Ninness (Berwyn, Pa.) was streaking down the field and Thomson wasn't far behind. Once Niness got inside the 18 yard box Thomson made a move towards the six yard box and was sent the ball which she placed just beyond the goal line in the 22nd minute for her first career score.
As Minnesota recovered and put pressure on the Penn State net, Shari Eckstrom picked up a rebounded shot and sent the ball past the outstretched arms of Alyssa Naeher (Seymour, Conn.) in the 40th minute.
Play was more aggressive right out of the gate in the second stanza. Each team exchanged control throughout the first 15 minutes until Schoepfer came up the middle. Alli Rago took the pass and fired a shot that was saved by Gopher keeper Lindsey Dare who punched it over the net. Penn State continued to keep pressure on the Minnesota net as great shots were either blocked or saved. The pieces finally fell together as Schoepfer crossed to Toney who pulled Dare further out and sent the ball skipping past her to make the score 2-1 in the 65th minute.
Minnesota was determined to even out the game as they kept the ball in the Nittany Lion half for much of the remainder. But the stifling defense of the back line and Naeher in goal prevented a second Gopher goal and sealed the championship for Penn State.
As the celebration commenced Toney and Naeher were named the Big Ten Tournament Most Valuable Offensive and Defensive Players.
"It feels great to finish out on top," said head coach Erica Walsh. "We stepped up at the right time and players made big plays."
The Nittany Lions will now prepare for the NCAA Tournament that begins Friday, Nov. 14. The selection show will air Monday at 8 p.m. on EPSNews.