Chemistry between junior Taylor Schram and redshirt sophomore Emily Hurd proved to be the winning formula once again for the Penn State women’s soccer team.
The No. 4 Nittany Lions (14-2-0, 8-0-0 Big Ten) were able to edge out Iowa (11-3-3, 2-3-3 Big Ten) 2-1.
Schram, who scored her first goal of the season last week against Indiana, stepped up once again, scoring two goals for the Lions.
“Just working hard for my team is what I try to do ever game,” Schram said. “I try to be dangerous and try to create opportunities. Today Emily was amazing on the left side, she did all the work I just tapped it in right place right time.”
Hurd provided Schram with the first assist on a cross for a chip-in. The midfielder has recently become a creator for the Lions’ offense with four assists over the past four games. Hurd had two assists last week for the Lions including one to set up Schram’s first goal. She is second on the team in assists (6) behind senior Christine Nairn (8).
Hurd cites the timing as the reason for the team’s offensive production as of late. After numerous injuries and absences the core starters have been on the field consistently as the Lions have cruised through the Big Ten.
“That comes from the camaraderie that everyone on the front set has with each other,” Hurd said. “Everyone is on the same page, we know each other’s tendencies and habits and I think it’s coming together really nicely and coming at a good point in the season.”
Penn State’s agile offense came out firing early against Iowa, with Schram’s first goal coming in the third minute. The Lions faced a challenge when sophomore Cloe Lacasse notched a goal on a breakaway for the Hawkeyes in the 18th minute. Lacasse is second in the Big Ten in goals scored.
In the 56th minute, junior Maya Hayes found Schram close to the goal again and she followed through scoring from four yards out. The Lions defense was able to hold Iowa off for the rest of the match.
Though the Lions only allowed one goal, Iowa had more shots (23-15) as well as more shots on goal (6-5). Graduate student Erin McNulty was solid for Penn State in goal with five saves.
“I don’t think we were smart enough in the first half and Iowa took advantage of it so good for them,” coach Erica Walsh said. “Erin made some big saves for us. McNulty got the job done today and I’m really proud of her.”
McNulty has been splitting time in goal with redshirt freshman Britt Eckerstrom recently, but started in both matches over the weekend. Walsh said that the decision on who to start in goal would remain week-to-week.
As many of the Lions’ conference opponents have been, the Hawkeyes played physical on both sides of the ball. There were 21 fouls called in the game, 12 of them called on Iowa. A yellow card was assessed to both teams. Senior Maddy Evans received a card in the 65th minute after getting mixed up with one of the Iowa players.
“Many of the opponents we’ve been playing against are physical with our team, and we’ve got to be able to handle it and handle our emotions. At the same time we want to make sure that they’re well protected,” Walsh said. “It’s Maddy Evans responsibility to make sure that’s the case I have 100 percent faith in her ability to lead us.”
Penn State will close out its home schedule next week with a game against two conference foes in Michigan State on Friday and Michigan on Sunday. They are 6-1-0 at home and remain undefeated in the Big Ten. With the regular season unwinding, the Lions are beginning to shift their focus to the playoffs.
“The tradition here is to win the Big Ten,” Schram said. “We have bigger goals this year, and winning the Big Ten is important but that’s just one step. We plan to be playing well into November and hopefully December.”