After being out-shot 12-0 in the first half and 20-8 in the game against No. 21 Georgetown on Sunday, the Penn State men’s soccer defense will look to improve as the Nittany Lions face their second-ranked opponent of the season.
The Lions (3-1-0) will kick off their second three-game homestand of the season as they face No. 22 West Virginia (2-2-0), at 7 p.m. at Jeffrey Field on Thursday.
Coach Bob Warming said the Mountaineers will be a tough team to beat due to their quality schedule, although they have been shut out two games in a row, including dropping a 1-0 loss to defending national champion North Carolina.
"They just played the national champions and held them to one shot, and it wasn’t even on goal," Warming said. "They also played Wake Forest, who was national champions in 2007 and have been top 20 every season since."
The Lions will need their defense to be strong if they’re to succeed against the Mountaineers. It’s been a defense that has been in transition all season, allowing four goals in four games. They gave up two goals to both Hartford and Georgetown while shutting out Duquesne and Stetson.
"We lost three very good players across the back from last season," coach Warming said. "Andrew [Wolverton] is not in goal right now so we have a new goal keeper as well."
Senior Brian Forgue has been one of the leaders on defense, keeping the back-line organized and communicating with the new players as well as goalie Emmanuel Martin.
The team will need to be alert at the back, as the Mountaineers like to pressure the ball handler, leading to mistakes. This is where communication among the team will need to come in.
"You can’t be an individual in the back four. You need to work as a unit," Forgue said. "Sticking together is what will make this season successful."
The team’s strength on set pieces will be the focus in shutting down the Mountaineers’ attack. Forgue said it’s been the focus in practice so far this season. The set pieces have the possibility to lead to transitions on offense against a team that is tough to score against.
Penn State feels it can wear down the Mountaineers for the second half and prevent them from getting scoring chances. The Lions believe they’re a team that has used the second half to take over games.
"A lot of our guys set fitness records in the offseason," midfielder Julian Cardona said. "The middle of the second half, they’re dead, and we’re still running at a good clip."