After dominating Stony Brook in the second half, Penn State will look to ride the momentum into its matchups in Florida this week.
The Nittany Lions will be facing their second ranked opponent of the season in No. 15 UCF, after coming off of their first win of the season against the Seawolves on Monday.
Aaron Molloy scored two goals, along with Alex Stevenson and Christian Sload with a goal of their own in the contest with Stony Brook.
Penn State headed into the half up 1-0 but a defensive miscue led to an early equalizer from the Seawolves.
With Penn State rattling off three unanswered goals in the second half to put the game away, it showed a high amount of confidence and drive out of a team who could’ve just packed it in for the night and head out with a point.
The Nittany Lions recorded 23 shots in the win at Stony Brook and controlled a large portion of the game in all aspects — possession, creating chances, strong defensive play and key saves from Kris Shakes in his collegiate debut in net.
“We’re really fortunate here that we’ve got Kris and Josh (Levine) and Owen Elliot, who are really capable,” coach Jeff Cook said. “I thought he had a great debut and you never know how a player is going to react the first time you play for real and put on the Penn State jersey. Kris showed his athleticism, he’s really dynamic in the goal and myself, the coaches and his teammates have a lot of confidence in him.”
Penn State and UFC faced off in the Nittany Lions’ home opener 2-1, double overtime loss last season. The all-time record between the two universities sits at 1-1.
The Knights are 1-1 on the season but have faced some stiff competition to open their season. UCF dropped its season opener at No. 4 Wake Forest 2-1 but picked up a 2-1 victory at No. 6 North Carolina on Sunday.
The quality of play Penn State will face on Friday is similar to that of Stanford in its opener. The Penn State backline heavily struggled with balls into the box and gave up multiple free kicks that resulted in goals.
It will be something to look out for in the UCF game to see how the Nittany Lions build off of a strong defensive performance against Stony Brook.
UCF finished with a 13-3-3 record last season, and all eyes will be on senior forward Cal Jennings.
In 18 appearances, Jennings scored 20 goals to go along with 5 assists in his 2018 season. Jennings accounted for nearly half of UCF’s goals last year, as the team scored 44 as a whole.
Jennings was named to the United Soccer Coaches First-Team All-America last season, amongst other awards.
UCF’s second leading scorer Yoni Sorokin returns for the Knights and provided four goals and five assists last year.
While the Knights can score their fair share, they’re sound at the back too.
Last season UCF allowed only 20 goals and starting goalie Yannik Oetll returns in net for the Knights. Oettl recorded 70 saves last season and was named the American Goalkeeper of the Year.
In reality, Penn State will need to keep Jennings in check in order to come out with a point or possibly three against a top team in the country. If it manages to do so, it may be a huge confidence boost moving to pull off the upset.
Penn State’s matchup with UCF is on Friday, Sept. 6 at 7 p.m.