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No. 13 Lions Set for Sunday Sweet Sixteen Match at WFU

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Emma Thomson scored her first goal in over two years in a 4-1 win over Marquette on Friday.

Nov. 19, 2011

NCAA Third Round at No. 6 Wake Forest: GameTracker | Video | Tournament Central
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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- The 13th-ranked Nittany Lion women's soccer team takes on top-seeded host Wake Forest for a spot in the NCAA Quarterfinals on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. The game will have a live video stream through and live stats on GameTracker.

Game #26: Nov. 20, 2011 | 1:00 p.m. | Spry Stadium | Winston-Salem, N.C.

VENUE: W. Dennie Spry Stadium (Grass; 3,000)
COVERAGE: All-Access
LAST MEETING: 9/11/09, WFU 1-0 (at Storrs, Conn.)
NEXT GAME: Nov. 25-27, Possible NCAA Quarterfinal Match

• Penn State takes on Wake Forest in PSU's ninth trip to the NCAA Third Round
• The Nittany Lions and the Demon Deacons have faced off just once before
• Penn State is 7-1-0 all-time in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen
• Penn State ousted Marquette, 4-1, on Friday night in the NCAA Second Round
• Wake Forest downed Boston University, 2-0, on Friday
• Winner of Sunday's match plays either North Carolina or Central Florida
Emily Hurd and Emma Thomson struck back of the net in the first half vs. MU
Maya Hayes scored her 28th and 29th goals of the year against the Golden Eagles
• Junior midfielder Christine Nairn tallied two assists in the win over MU
• Nittany Lions have won 21 game, tied for third most in school history
• Goalkeeper Erin McNulty is one win away from tying PSU single-season mark
• Penn State has won 15 of its last 16 matches overall dating back to Sept. 20
• Head Coach Erica Walsh is 9-7-0 all-time in NCAA Tournament (6-4-0 at PSU)
Maya Hayes leads NCAA in total goals (29) and total points (66)
• Hayes alone in second in PSU single-season goal, three behind Tiffany Weimer
• Penn State leads the Big Ten in shutouts with 14
• Penn State has tallied 84 assists, besting the school record by 16, on 68 goals

No. 6 Wake Forest (16-3-4) looks to defend its home turf for the third straight NCAA match on Sunday after matching 2-0 wins over Oakland and Boston University. WFU is led by a scoring tandem of Katie Stengel (16 G, 7 A, 39 points) and Rachel Nuzzolese (11 G, 5 A, 27 points). Stengel recently became WFU's single-season record point winner by scoring against BU. In the back, Wake Forest boasts a superb defense that posted 13 shutouts anchored by goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe. Bledsoe has a 0.58 GAA with an .818 save percentage on the year.

Wake Forest is making its 16th straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Demon Deacons' best finish was a quarterfinal appearance in the 2009 tournament. Last season, the seeded Deacons were shipped west and fell to host UC Irvine in the NCAA Second Round.

The Demon Deacons and Nittany Lions have played just once previously. WFU captured a tense 1-0 win at the 2009 UConn Classic in a driving rainstorm to sneak by Penn State.

Penn State has compiled a 32-15-1 overall record in the NCAA Tournament and will play in its ninth NCAA Second Round match on Sunday at Wake Forest. The Nittany Lions are 7-1-0 all-time in the third round with a 6-4 overall mark under Erica Walsh, who is 9-7 all-time in the NCAA Tournament with three Sweet Sixteen appearances. On the road, Penn State is 4-7-0 including last year's 2-1 loss at West Virginia. The Lions have a 6-5-0 record against ACC squads in the NCAA Tournament, but dropped the last meeting, (Virginia in 2009). Penn State is looking for its first trip to the NCAA Quarterfinals since 2005 when the Nittany Lions were on the doorstep of the NCAA Championship game.

Fourth-seeded and No. 13 ranked Penn State fended off a furious rally by No. 12 Marquette, winning 4-1on Friday night (Nov. 18) at Spry Stadium. Emily Hurd and Emma Thomson tallied first-half goals to pace Penn State. Maya Hayes added two important insurance goals in the final minutes to quell any overtime thoughts of the Golden Eagles, moving into second on the Penn State and Big Ten single-season scoring list at 29. Penn State moved on to the NCAA Third Round for the first time since 2007 and snapped a four-game skid against Big East teams in the NCAA Tournament. Christine Nairn tallied two helpers on the night while Lexi Marton, Kori Chapic and Maddy Evans added assists. Goalkeeper Erin McNulty won her 21st game between the pipes.

No. 13 Penn State fought a pesky Army side for over 85 minutes until Christine Nairn broke the scoreless deadlock and give the Nittany Lions a 1-0 win on Friday, Nov. 11 at Jeffrey Field. Nairn tallied her first game-winner of the year to move fourth-seeded Penn State into the NCAA Second Round. The goal came after 27 shots, 12 of which were on net. It came down to Nairn's 10th shot of the match, a new career high, to break the score. Nairn's marker was set up by Bri Hovington on the right wing, who swung a ball to Carly Niness as the senior reserve midfielder found Nairn through the middle of the pitch and into the penalty area. Erin McNulty made one save in Penn State's 14th shutout of 2011. PSU out-shot Army, 29-3.

The Winston-Salem Regional featured the toughest regional by winning percentage and ranked teams of all eight pods in the NCAA Tournament. Prior to Friday's action, the four teams at Wake Forest combine for 72 wins (.837 winning percentage) and just 12 losses, all four being ranked 14th or higher. Stillwater is closest with 63 wins (.764) featuring teams ranking 24th or higher, while Stanford boasts 20 wins (.763) along with three teams ranked.

The Nittany Lions secured their sixth 20-win season in school history by defeating Army, 1-0. The last time Penn State won 20 or more games was in 2005 when the Nittany Lions were on the doorstep of the NCAA Championship during a 23-0-2 season. The 21st win came against Marquette on Friday, the third-most victories by a Penn State team in school history. Moreover, goalkeeper Erin McNulty became just the third Nittany Lion to win 20 games between the pipes, joining Erin McLeod (22, 2005) and Emily Oleksiuk (21 in 1999; 20 in '98, 2000-01). McNulty has been apart of all 14 shutouts in 2011, while Oleksiuk was a member of the 2000 squad that set the school record with 17 clean sheets. McNulty can tie the single-season PSU record for wins in a season on Sunday.

Penn State and Wake Forest have four common opponents during the 2011 season from the Big Ten (Nebraska), ACC (Virginia, N.C. State) and Conference USA (Central Florida). The Nittany Lions are 3-1-0 against those teams, while Wake Forest is 4-0-0. Moreover, PSU out-scored those teams, 12-9, and WFU, 7-1.

Penn State has squared off against six first-time opponents and Marquette represented the seventh squad. The Nittany Lions are 6-1-0 this year against first-time foes with the lone loss coming at then-No. 2 Stanford on opening night. For the third straight game, PSU will face a team it has never defeated in the NCAA Tournament.

PSU has kicked its game into a new gear during the second half of matches this season. Penn State has out-scored opponents 28-11 in the first half, but that number jumps to 40-7 in the second half. Moreover, Penn State has out-scored its opponents 40-4 since Aug. 21 with the only teams to register goals being Nebraska (2, Oct. 14), Minnesota (1, Nov. 4) and Marquette (1, Nov. 18).

Penn State's defense has pitched 14 shutouts in part of good goalkeeping from Erin McNulty (0.84 GAA), but also because of a staunch defensive unit committed to eliminating scoring opportunities. On 13 occasions in 2011, Penn State hasn't allowed an opponent to take more than nine shots on goal and in 10 instances opponents had two or less shots on target. Moreover, Penn State has had eight games where opponents took one or less corner kick.

The Big Ten Forward of the Year, Hayes now owns the Penn State sophomore record for most goals and points in a season at 28 and 64. Hayes also moved into a tie for second in single-season game-winning goals at Penn State with her ninth this season. She matched Christie Welsh's total from 1999, while sitting four game-winners behind Tiffany Weimer's mark of 13. Hayes needs three more goals to tie for first in a single-season at PSU, sitting behind Weimer's 2005 mark of 32. Hayes was riding a nine-game point streak dating back to the Ohio State (Sept. 29) match, but had it snapped vs. Minnesota on Nov. 4. Along with Hayes, Taylor Schram is in second in sophomore assists (12), while Jess Rosenbluth is second in assists by a senior (10). Schram's 12 helpers puts her tied for fourth in a single-season in the category. Meanwhile, Christine Nairn's two helpers on Friday vs. Marquette moved her into second for PSU juniors in assists and third overall for a single-season. (Career leaders can be found on Page 10 of the match notes)

More notes and stats, including updated bios, are in the PDF game notes

Should Penn State advance to the NCAA Quarterfinals, the Nittany Lions will face the advancing team from the North Carolina-Central Florida match being contested on Sunday in Gainesville, Fla. The time and site of that match is yet to be determined. If PSU advances to play UNC, the game will be in Chapel Hill, while a potential matchup with UCF would be played in Happy Valley.

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