The Penn State women’s soccer team, with the top-ranked offensive attack added to an already impressive statistical season as it defeated Boston College, 5-2, in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Nittany Lions were able to take advantage of the absence of the Golden Eagles’ second leading scorer Stephanie McCaffrey, who was suspended due to controversial tweets regarding the Jerry Sandusky case the previous day.
Junior Maya Hayes got things started for the Lions early, hitting her 14th goal of the season in a school record 48 seconds into game off of an assist from junior Taylor Schram. Hayes broke the record previously set by redshirt junior Tani Costa this season.
The Lions offense was firing on all cylinders in the first half. Hayes followed her goal with another off of an assist from senior Christine Nairn to put the Lions up 2-0. Penn State was able to maintain their lead despite pressure from Golden Eagles, they attempted 18 shots in the half compared to 10 by the Lions. Boston College has the 15th ranked offense in the country.
“Statistically it makes all the difference in the world, every stat screams that you need to score first,” coach Erica Walsh said. “It got the crowd into the game, it got our team into the game mentally. I feel like we can do that anytime we set our mind to it and the warm up is right, we can do that against any opponent.
The Lions were able to continue their quick scoring as redshirt sophomore Emily Hurd found freshman Mallory Weber for Weber’s 12th goal of the season less than a minute into the half.
With the Lions up 3-0, controlling all the momentum, Boston College responded. Junior Bri Hovington was called for a foul in the box to set up senior Kristen Mewis with a penalty kick, cutting the Lions margin to 3-1.
Just minutes later, Mewis found the back of the net for the second time making it 3-2 a swinging some momentum Boston College’s way.
Nairn, who has been called to step up in a number of critical moments for the Lions all season did so once again, scoring her 15th goal of the season in the 74th minute to put the Lions up 4-2.
"I would be lying if I said I didn’t think back to my freshman year against UVA, we were up 2-0 at halftime and we lost 6-2,” Nairn said. “That was in the back of me and Maddy’s mind. We just had a second on the field and we just said not again. That’s our mentality we know where we’ve been and we know where we want to go.”
In the 78th minute, Weber was credited for a goal put the game out of reach, catching Boston College goalie Alexa Gaul, out of position as the ball bounced off of the defender near her and dribbled into the goal. The Lions were able to fend the Golden Eagles off as they cruised the rest of the way to victory.
“It’s just exciting knowing I can work hard and keep producing and help this team move forward each game,” Weber said.
Penn State will go on to face Michigan in the Sweet 16 on Sunday for a rematch at Jeffrey Field. The Lions previously tied Michigan 1-1 in the regular season to clinch the Big Ten Conference. Walsh spoke on the excitement of being able to see Michigan for a second time.
“I’ll speak for the team, I was just crossing my fingers and hoping that we’d see Michigan again,” Walsh said. “We missed out on an opportunity at home, that bitter taste in our mouth for the Big Ten Championship. I’ve been waiting for this moment since that day.”