The opening round of the NCAA tournament was a scoring party for the Penn State women’s soccer team, and everyone wanted a piece of the cake.
The No. 1-seeded Nittany Lions (18-3-1, 10-1-1 Big Ten) got goals from four different players in route to a 4-0 blowout over LIU-Brooklyn (10-8-3).
After having a 13-game winning streak snapped by Illinois 1-0 in the Big Ten tournament, the Lions were back to their scoring ways, attempting 21 shots .
"I think we did well, four goals, we wanted to score early and often,” senior Christine Nairn said. “We didn’t come out exactly how we wanted. Four goals from four different people — I mean that just shows how many weapons we have and we can only improve.”
Nairn got things started for the Lions with a goal in the 24th minute off of a Mallory Weber assist to the middle of the box.
The freshman set a trend for the Lions as first year players Mallory Peterson and Raquel Rodriguez connected for a Rodriguez goal in the 40th minute. The Lions’ freshmen have been some of their biggest contributors all season long.
“Once we get in the tournament, these freshmen are not playing like freshmen anymore,” Nairn said. “Rocky hasn’t played like a freshman, I think since she stepped on campus here. I think they are all playing like sophomores and their freshman years are all under their belts, they have gone through big games and stepped up.”
The second half was more of the same for the Lions as their speed allowed them to attack from many angles. In the 76th minute, redshirt junior Tani Costa received a pass in space from junior Maya Hayes and was able to maneuver around a defender and land her sixth goal of the season.
Hayes followed with a goal of her own in the 80th minute. After the goalkeeper deflected her first shot, Hayes used her signature agility to rebound the ball and blast a shot into goal. Named this season’s Big Ten Forward of the Year, Hayes is second on the roster with 13 goals this year.
"Right now they are rated the No. 1 offense and they are scoring three goals a game,” LIU-Brooklyn coach Tracey Bartholomew said. “I was hopeful that if one extra one did not go in early that we would come back in the second half maybe down 1-0…On one-on-one, the pace of Penn State players is phenomenal, I don’t even think our track kids can keep up with some of them.”
Though it struggled at times throughout the Big Ten tournament, sophomore Whit Church and the Lions’ defense put on a strong showing against LIU-Brooklyn. The Blackbirds only attempted three shots . The Lions were able to cancel out LIU-Brooklyn’s counter-attack, standing strong in one-on-one situations.
The Lions were helped by the full return of sophomore Kori Chapic. After injuring her eye at the end of the regular season, Chapic saw limited action in the Big Ten Tournament, sitting out against Iowa and playing only 50 minutes against Illinois. The sophomore played all 90 minutes against LIU-Brooklyn.
“It just takes a lot of communication to make sure we are all on the same page,” Church said. “For the most part I feel like we did a really good job with that. We had our front screen with our center and I think it just takes a lot of communication to make sure we keep it all tight.”
The Lions now move to the second round where they will face Boston College at Jeffrey Field on Friday 7:30 p.m.