It was a battle of two powerful offensive teams, but the No. 11 Penn State women’s soccer team (8-2-0, 3-0-0 Big Ten) would prove to be victorious over Illinois.
The Nittany Lions shut out the Fighting Illini 4-0, capitalizing on scoring opportunities early and getting four different players into the scoring mix.
Less than one minute into the first half Maya Hayes was able to find a wide-open Tani Costa breaking down the right side to give her the perfect opportunity to launch a ball past the goalie into the lower right corner to put the Lions up 1-0.
“I was pretty excited that [we scored] in under a minute, but it was definitely a full team effort,” Costa said.
Freshman Mallory Weber added her sixth goal of the season by winning a one on one match up to out up a shot on the right side of the goal, putting the Lions up 2-0.
Hayes backed up Weber’s goal less that one-minute after and putting her speed to the test scoring on a breakaway past the Illini goalie.
The Lions came out of the gates hot scoring three goals in less than 18 minutes and would carry their 3-0 lead into halftime.
“We imposed ourselves early, but took our foot of the gas heading into the second half,” coach Erica Walsh said. “The variety has been good in terms of players that appear in the box score.”
Although Walsh is pleased with her offense this weekend she still believes they should be more threatening from range to give more variety in their shooting. Walsh would also like to see her team improving on imposing their air presence in the box.
Penn State knew they were going to have a tough test trying to shut down arguably the best midfielder in the country in the Illini’s Vanessa DiBernardo. DiBarnardo played on the Under 20 FIFA World Cup team with Hayes and Taylor Schram, but the Lions were about to keep her quiet yesterday.
Walsh added that she thought they did an average job defending DiBernardo, but felt she still was able to find the ball too much. Overall Walsh is pleased with the team’s effort.
Bri Hovington returned to the line up yesterday for the first time since Aug. 31 against West Virginia after injuring her back and neck and saw 32 minutes, recording two shots on the day.
“Right now we are just trying to get her touches on the ball and get her comfortable out there after returning from injury,” Walsh said. “We felt she had a great response today and she looked great. Our belief is that she is going to be available for Thursday.”
The Lions are currently undefeated in the Big Ten so far this season with wins over Illinois, Northwestern and No. 14 Wisconsin, respectively.
The team boasts the highest ranking in the Big Ten and aside from Wisconsin is the only other ranked team in the conference.
Penn State will travel to Colombus, Ohio, on Thursday to take on Ohio State and attempt to improve on their undefeated conference record.