Penn State’s seniors were not going to let their collegiate careers come to an end on Friday night.
In the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, the Nittany Lions relied on their veterans to survive and advance to the next round. Four different, senior goal-scorers propelled the blue and white to a lopsided 4-1 win over Bowling Green in a rain-soaked matchup at Jeffrey Field.
“It’s appropriate for this [senior] class,” coach Erica Dambach said. “These guys wear their hearts on their sleeves, and I want the world for them.”
Midfielders Charlotte Williams, Marissa Sheva and Emily Ogle, as well as defender Alina Ortega Jurado, all found the back of the net in their final match at Jeffrey Field. The seniors, along with the rest of the squad, dominated the Falcons from start to finish.
“I’m so happy to continue on and get another week with these guys,” Dambach said. “[I’m] just really proud of this senior class.”
The victory is Dambach’s 200th at Penn State, with the accomplishment spanning her 12 years at the helm. As usual, Dambach recognized it takes an elite coaching staff to experience this type of sustained success.
“It’s special, each one of these wins are special,” Dambach said. “[I’m] just really thankful for the people that I’ve been around during my time here.”
Like they had done five times earlier this season, the Nittany Lions bounced back with a victory immediately following a loss. Coming off a defeat at the hands of Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament Championship, Penn State’s win over Bowling Green ensures it will go the entire 2018 campaign without losing back-to-back games.
The contest also marked the return of midfielder Kerry Abello, who did not play the last two matches due to injury. The sophomore’s absence was certainly felt on the Nittany Lions’ attack, with Penn State unable to muster an offensive goal in either of its past two games.
“We missed her last weekend,” Dambach said on Abello. “Having that threat on both sides between her and Sheva is too much for opponents to handle.”
This was the case on Friday, with the Nittany Lions getting on the scoreboard early. No. 14 Penn State found the back of the net twice in the first 15 minutes, and never looked back.
“I think we had to loosen them up a little bit,” Dambach said. “They were stingy defensively, we had to keep going.”
The Nittany Lions took control right from the opening whistle, weaving their way through the Falcons’ defense. Penn State outshot Bowling Green 25-8.
Williams gave the Nittany Lions the early lead in the 10th minute with a low dribbler into the bottom left corner of the net. The senior found a seam in the middle of the Bowling Green defense and fired a shot from about 18 yards out.
Just four minutes later, Ortega Jurado poked the ball on a redirect to put it past goalkeeper Kathleen Duwve and into the net. Williams was credited with the assist.
“I’m just happy it went in,” Ortega Jurado said on the goal.
The Falcons were able to make some long runs down the sideline, utilizing long passes on the edges of the field. They found the back of the net in the 11th minute, but the goal was nullified with an offsides penalty.
In the 21st minute, Bowling Green scored a goal while onsides, cutting the deficit in half. Forward Erica Hubert released a high shot that deflected off the hands of leaping goalkeeper Amanda Dennis and into the net.
It was all Nittany Lions in the second half, dominating possession. The Falcons tried to move the ball, but were off target on the majority of their attacking passes.
Sheva extended Penn State’s lead to 3-1 on a set piece goal in the 65th minute. The senior beat Duwve, who misplayed the ball.
Ogle added her name to the score sheet in the 71st minute on a penalty kick. The senior’s specialty, she buried the shot into the bottom left corner, her fifth penalty kick goal in five attempts this season.
With the victory, the Nittany Lions remain undefeated when scoring the first goal. Penn State is also now 11-0-0 when scoring at least two goals.
In addition, it is the Nittany Lions’ eighth consecutive win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Two of those victories came against Mid-American Conference opponents, including Friday night.
“[I’m] really proud of the team tonight,” Dambach said. “Every time you get a NCAA Tournament win, it’s important and meaningful.”