Women's Soccer vs. Illinois, Team Celebrates

The team celebrates a goal during the game against Illinois on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 at Jeffrey Field. Penn State defeated Illinois 2-1.

In Penn State’s win against Illinois, it was about the sparks of brilliance.

Sam Coffey launched a rocket off the post quickly after her team went down to equalize for Penn State after Payton Linnehan hit the bar.

Kerry Abello continued her hot form with a beauty, downing her defender in the box before finding a sliver of space to her left in the box and absolutely obliterated the ball for a top-corner finish. She continued her hot form with four goals and one assist in the past five games.

Linnehan had a few cracks on goal herself too, but her early goal was deemed offside and she hit the bar right before Coffey scored the equalizer to continue her somewhat unlucky run with getting on the scoresheet.

In this crucial time for Penn State’s search of form heading in the postseason, it is an encouraging sign that the team is still evolving and showed tenacity in a comeback win.

Coach Erica Dambach is still looking for more from the team, though.

“Response was fantastic but apparently, we were waiting to have to respond in order to move forward,” Dambach said. “We’ve got to be proactive and it’s been the story of the season. It’s time for this team to take upon themselves to be a proactive one.”

Abello echoed Dambach’s thoughts in that particular situation.

“The moment they scored a goal, that flipped a switch in us,” Abello said. “I wish we have that mentality earlier on in the game but when they score that goal, we’re like, ‘Now it’s our time to go.’”

Penn State had the upper hand throughout the first half and its chances looked superior in comparison to Illinois. Throughout the match, both teams struggled to convert the shots they created.

Dambach decided to ride with the formula she has had success with lately by allowing Abello up front. She also emphasized on the balance of the back line and put co-captain Kaleigh Riehl essentially in charge of the left side of the pitch.

The Nittany Lions were able to create more opportunities deep into the opponent’s area with their variety of players. It was not uncommon for Penn State to mix up its attack, confusing Illinois’ defensive assignments on the flanks.

The confusion was achieved by constant shifting of the front line and midfield players and capitalize off the Fighting Illini’s miscommunication in marking.

Both teams were a bit skittish with the build-up play, though, as a lot of solo runs ended in longer shots that did not pose as serious threats. The windy conditions did not help either.

The flurry early on in the second half gradually proved itself to be an anomaly, as the match settled down to be much akin to the first half, with Penn State being in charge of most of the action.

Penn State will look to continue building on the four-game win streak to a possible postseason run.

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