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Kris Shakes instrumental in steering Penn State men’s soccer past Michigan in Big Ten semifinals

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Penn State men's soccer, Kris Shakes

Goalkeeper Kris Shakes (1) motions to his teammates to go deep during the Penn State men's soccer B1G quarterfinal game against Michigan State at Jeffrey Field on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021 in University Park, Pa. The Nittany Lions beat the Spartans 2-0.

Junior goalkeeper Kris Shakes came up big for Penn State time and time again Wednesday in a 2-0 win against rival Michigan en route to the Big Ten Finals.

Racking up four saves on the day, Shakes put in a dominant performance and solidified his spot as one of the Big Ten’s best goalkeepers, despite not being named in the first or second Big Ten teams of the season.

“The Big Ten mentions, not to be in it this year, it didn't really faze me too much,” Shakes said. “I know who I am, I know my word. I know my team.”

The shot-stopper commanded his penalty area well today, with the majority of the shots he stopped coming from outside the box.

Shakes was quick to praise his defense, as well.

“It’s been an honor to play behind a back line like this,” he said.“Our back four doesn’t deserve anything more than a clean sheet in every game, but we’ve really been pushing these last few weeks and we've been getting our results.”

After two back-to-back 2-0 victories against Wisconsin and Michigan State, Shakes added yet another 2-0 clean sheet to his repertoire again today against the Wolverines.

Coach Jeff Cook also had some thoughts to share on Shakes and the rest of the team’s advancement in the tournament.

“I could not be any prouder of our team,”Cook said, “Their determination to advance today in what was a really difficult game.”

Enough can’t be said though for how Shakes has organized his back four as well.

The defence stepped up in a much larger fashion Wednesday than it had in previous matches.

Although the blue and white conceded 17 shots, five more than the 12 it faced against Michigan State, the center-back combination of senior Brandon Hackenburg and sophomore Femi Awodesu both blocked a considerable amount of shots Wednesday.

MORE SOCCER COVERAGE

One game-defining moment for Shakes came in the 73rd minute, as the Wolverines were attempting to half the deficit, they won a free kick at the edge of Penn State’s penalty box.

Bryce Blevins, the maize and blue’s sophomore forward, stepped up to the free kick and struck a seemingly gorgeous attempt, only to be stifled by the left hand of Shakes.

Penn State rode the momentum of this free-kick save to the final whistle, preserving the clean sheet and the 2-0 Nittany Lion victory.

Shakes looks to continue his fine form into the Big Ten final, when he and Penn State will face Indiana.

A matchup with Indiana means a rematch of the previous year’s Big Ten Finals, and a chance to best rival keeper Roman Celentano.

“[Roman is] a good goalkeeper,” Shakes said. “It's always a pleasure playing against him.”

As the clock struck zero, Penn State was still uncertain as to who it would face in the final round, but that did not faze Cook.

“For me, it's about winning the next game,” Cook said. “Honestly, it doesn't matter [who we play].”

MORE SOCCER COVERAGE

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