Maya Hayes lost the battle.
With No. 4 Penn State up 1-0, Hayes had a chance to create some space and take the momentum in the match after out-sprinting two defenders and finding herself one-on-one with Bucknell goalkeeper Sandita McDermott.
What appeared to be a sure score for Hayes was erased when McDermott read the forward’s motion, diving to the left just in time to save the goal.
“I give her all the credit in the world because I wasn’t expecting anything like that,” Hayes said. “We play Bucknell every year, she came out firing and had a great game.”
Fortunately for the Nittany Lions (11-2-0), Hayes won the overall war, pacing the offense with two goals to push Penn State past Bucknell, 3-1.
The Lions had to adjust their game plan to deal with the rain Tuesday night at Jeffrey Field. Slick conditions led to some missed balls and trips by both teams, but the Lions’ ball control which has set their offense apart all season, helped to create some opportunities. Redshirt junior Tani Costa, redshirt sophomore Emily Hurd and junior Erin Kehoe were able to set up scoring chances for the offense.
“We actually had the players do the game plan tonight because we wanted them thinking and scouting on how Bucknell would play against us,” head coach Erica Walsh said. “They did a fantastic job, better than what we [the coaches] could have done. Their game plan was that mentally and physically we were up to the challenge.”
In the 38th minute, with the score 0-0, Costa was able to draw a foul in the box which led to a penalty kick by freshman Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez. She was able to slip the ball into the left corner of the net to put the Lions on the board.
Rodriguez found herself in an unfamiliar position, starting the game on the bench for the first time this season. She made an immediate impact, scoring the penalty kick only eight minutes after entering the game. Rodriguez said that being able to observe from the bench benefited her game.
After having her attempt blocked in the 42nd minute, Hayes was able to return with a goal off of a Costa assist in the 57th minute. Hayes displayed her signature quickness, creating space on the left side and weaving in a cross-kick with her left foot, just out of McDermott’s reach.
“I came away a little happy after that because I was frustrated,” Hayes said. “I had to take a deep breath and regroup. Christine [Nairn] and I always say the more that we’re laughing, the better the game is.”
Bucknell responded quickly with a chip-in goal from senior Jenna Tryon in the 60th minute to make it 2-1 Penn State. The Lions put any ideas of a comeback to rest in the 73rd minute when Hayes scored her second goal from the middle off of an assist from redshirt sophomore Emily Hurd from the left side.
Hayes has been on a tear since returning to the Lions’ roster on Sept. 16 against Wisconsin. She has nine goals in six matches and has been named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for the past two weeks.
“We get a little bit of a break after two games in a row to rest ourselves and get away from soccer a little bit,” redshirt freshman goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom said. “But once we get back to the Big Ten this weekend we’ll be at it again and coming at strong. Every game we’re trying to get better.”
The Lions are currently on a six-game winning streak. They resume Big Ten play this weekend against Indiana at Jeffrey Field on Sunday.