Penn State Men's Soccer vs. Ohio State, Hackenburg (3)

Defender Brandon Hackenberg (3) jumps up to defend a corner kick from Ohio State players during the Penn State men's soccer game against Ohio State on Jeffrey Field on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. Penn State 1-0.

Penn State was able to keep things positive after fighting hard in its game and playing rough despite coming out with a loss.

The Nittany Lions faced a tough match against its in-state rival, Pittsburgh, which ended in a close contest as the Panthers walked away with a 1-0 victory.

Head coach Jeff Cook said that this game was a huge test for his squad.

“Pitt’s ball movement is among the best I’ve seen in the last four or five years at the college level,” Cook said. “[It is a] very high level of sophistication in the passing that they do.”

Pitt was able to get the first and only goal of the game early on, and the rest of the match continued very back and forth until the buzzer.

Penn State did not give up and kept its heads up and its feet fast the entire 90 minutes at Jeffrey Field.

Despite it being difficult to give away a goal so early, Cook is proud of his team and this game really encouraged him; particularly in the second half.

“I think our team gave everything tonight and that’s all you can ask as a coach,” Cook said.

One of the challenges the blue and white faced during this game was the aggressiveness and force that Pitt brought.

Pitt totaled 11 fouls against Penn State and four yellow cards. The Nittany Lions decided to fight back and totaled seven fouls and two yellow cards, but the blue and white stepped up its assertiveness in the second half.

There were a few offside calls throughout the match, and there was one instance when Daniel Bloyou carried the ball towards the goal for an open shot, however the referees called him offsides causing his momentum to come to a halt.

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Cook explained how, even at the professional level, it can be difficult to officiate the offside rule during a fast-paced game.

“I thought there were a few moments that went against us tonight,” Cook said. “I do anticipate that I’m going to be pretty frustrated when I see it on the video.”

Having so many fouls and offsides racked up for both teams can be frustrating, and Cook explained that he was impressed with his squad because it dug in and fought through its mental fatigue.

“It’s very easy to give up, but I thought that was the furthest thing from happening,” Cook said.

Despite losing this game, the blue and white stayed positive and gave Pitt more pressure in the second half.

“I think we bent a few times, but didn't break,” Cook said.

At halftime, Cook explained that his team needed to be braver and get on the ball more which is exactly what it did, however, it was not able to come out with a goal.

The Nittany Lions now have to turn around and face Northwestern on Friday, and Cook explained that his players have the athletic capacity to be able to recover and face a Big Ten team in a few days.

However, this quick turn around can be mentally and physically straining on the players.

“I think that’s a real issue in college soccer at the moment — the frequency of games and the limited amount of recovery time for a sport that requires huge distances to cover and running at a high speed,” Cook said.

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