Coming off an overtime nail-biter at home against Northwestern, Penn State will take a slight break from its Big Ten schedule to host intrastate rival Pitt.
The Nittany Lions bounced back after their first loss in seven games against Indiana with another impressive performance from freshman Liam Butts against Northwestern.
Butts scored twice, including the game winning goal, along with a crucial breakaway to draw a red card.
Additionally, after its come-from-behind win, Penn State climbed to No. 10 on the RPI rankings for the first time this year.
Even though it was a solid defensive performance without Brandon Hackenberg against Northwestern, his return will be helpful and welcome for a young Penn State back line.
The 6-4-2 Panthers are coming into Tuesday’s game hot, winning two of their last three games, including a 3-1 win against No. 22 Virginia Tech on Friday. Pitt finds itself at third in the ACC Coastal division, ahead of No. 17 Notre Dame, Duke, and Virginia Tech.
Scoring eight goals in 12 games played, the Panthers are led by junior forward, Edward Kizza. The speedster also had a goal and an assist in Pitt’s historic win against No. 22 Virginia Tech.
This was the first time in school history that Pittsburgh won against the Hokies.
The Panthers’ midfield is anchored by freshman Veljko Petkovic who has also recorded four goals and a team leading four assists.
After Saturday’s performance, the Nittany Lions will focus on starting faster and trying to convert their scoring chances to goals. The team had 26 total shots and 10 on goal while only scoring twice.
Coach Jeff Cook believes his team needs to “move the ball quickly” and “press defensively to bring energy to the game,” after his team was slow to start against Northwestern.
Cook also said his offense was spoiled by the amount of chances they received throughout the match.
“We paid the price for not being a little bit more clinical in front of goal,” Cook said. “But we know it’s a long season and sometimes that just happens in soccer and sometimes you just have to will the ball over the line.”
Nonetheless, Cook was happy to earn the win and noted that it takes grit to win the way his team did.
The Nittany Lions will look to find the cracks in the armor of a Panthers defense that has only allowed 15 goals this season against many tough ACC opponents.
The game takes place on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Jeffrey Field.