The energy of Jeffrey Field could be felt Friday night as nearly 4,000 fans showed up see the Penn State men's soccer team (3-0-0) defeat Duquesne, 1-0. Chants of "We are Penn State" and shaking bleachers echoed through the stadium.
The Nittany Lions needed all the help they could get from the crowd as it turned out to be a defensive battle in the first half. Neither team had any serious scoring chances in the half with the Lions’ best chance coming in the first few minutes off a cross that forward Minh Vu could not get to.
“The first half was really ugly and not fun to watch,” coach Bob Warming said.
The Lions’ main focus of the first half was going down the left side and attempting to cross the ball in for chances, leading to blocked shots or easy claims for the Duquesne goalie.
The team made adjustments for the second half according to defender John Gallagher.
“We talked about how we wanted to keep the ball on the floor more, one or two touches,” Gallagher said. “We did the second half and were able to pick them apart.”
In the 51st minute, Gallagher crossed a corner into the box and Vu took the ball of his chest and into the goal.
“I was on the back post,” Vu said. “There was a big guy in front of me so I curled my arm all the way around and beat my man to the ball.”
The Lions generated chances to extend the lead but couldn't put the ball in the back of the net. In the 67th minute, midfielder Julian Cardona took a shot from outside the box that hit the post. Just a minute later, forward Daniel Burnham attempted an acrobatic aerial kick that ended up in the arms of the Dukes' goalie.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions shut down Duquesne all night. The Dukes did not register a shot on target until the 77th minute. That shot was saved by goalie Andrew Wolverton, who came in for Emmanuel Martin in the middle of the second half.
Gallagher said the Lions used their physical endurance to stile a Dukes' offense that scored four goals in their previous game.
“I think it was our fitness,” Gallagher said. “At the start of the second half we were feeling fresh. We were able to keep the ball and make them run.”
The Lions will have their first road test Sunday afternoon as they travel to take on Georgetown at 1 p.m.