In a game laden with fouls and frustration, the Penn State men’s soccer team failed to produce on late game opportunities in a scoreless overtime draw with West Virginia at Jeffrey Field on Thursday night.
With less than ten minutes in regulation time remaining, the Nittany Lions (3-1-1, 0-0 Big Ten) had the Mountaineers on the ropes (2-2-1, 0-0 Big East) on four separate scoring chances.
The last chance, which occurred with 33 seconds left in regulation, was a close shot that bounced off freshman Kelton Cheney’s foot and rolled past an open net.
Despite the late surge of offense, the Lions’ attack was almost non-existent in the first half and the team leaned on goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton to keep them in the game.
While the goalkeeper started all 22 games in his freshman campaign last year, Wolverton began the game in net for the first time in the 2012 regular season.
The sophomore, who succumbed to a hip injury last April, had recovered from the injury, but hadn’t been fit enough for a full game’s work until Thursday.
Wolverton looked mobile and excited in net on multiple occasions for Lions, including four key saves.
Coach Bob Warming said that his goalkeeper looked like he was getting back to full form and the way he organized the defense was key.
With the offense looking out of sync for most of the game, the sophomore and the defenders in front of him kept the Mountaineers at bay for the most part throughout the night.
After almost 20 minutes of offensive ineptitude and lack of opportunities, Wolverton showed why he was arguably the Big Ten’s best goalkeeper in 2011.
In the 19th minute, the Mountaineers midfield set up a soft through ball between the Penn State’s centerbacks to find their striker on a break towards goal.
However, the Georgia native came storming out of the 18-yard box, sliding into the ball, and ending the chance.
“You’ve got to start strong in the game and get your confidence up, especially coming off an injury, and I think that helped me out tonight,” Wolverton said.
Even though Wolverton performed on point, the Lions’ defense came through in crucial spots to help him keep West Virginia off the scoreboard.
In the 24th minute, Wolverton had to come out of the box once again to challenge a Mountaineer attacker, when he deflected the ball to another West Virginia forward.
With Wolverton out of the box and no one guarding the net, 2011 Big East Rookie of the Year and Mountaineer forward Andy Bevin had a dangerous look at goal.
However, the Penn State defenders were in position and blocked the shot from reaching the empty goal.