Penn State will be traveling to Rutgers on Friday, Nov. 8 for a Big Ten semifinal matchup against eighth seeded Purdue. The game will start at 11 a.m.
The Nittany Lions, seeded fourth, clinched a semifinal berth with a 2-0 quarterfinal win over Iowa on Sunday.
The win was Penn State’s second consecutive shutout victory, bringing the total number of shutout victories to six for the 2019 season. The team is also on a seven-game win streak.
The Nittany Lions will be facing the Boilermakers for the second time this season. In the previous meeting, Penn State came away with a 2-1 victory on the road with goals from Payton Linnehan and Ally Schlegel.
Keeping up the strong defensive play will be crucial to gain an eighth straight win, third straight shutout and a spot in the Big Ten tournament championship.
“We have tightened up on some details, footwork and tactical stuff, and I think that’s a big part of how we got those two shutouts and how we are succeeding defensively and offensively,” Riehl said. “We have had a good week of training and tightening up those little things going into this weekend is huge for us.”
Coach Erica Dambach also gave praise to goalkeeper Amanda Dennis.
“Amanda Dennis has been outstanding,” Dambach said. “She had a very strong performance against Iowa, but it is the team’s overall commitment to defending. We have been focused on it, and the attacking players have taken more pride in it. Defensively, they are starting to be a unit and believe that they can shut teams out.”
On the other side of the ball, Penn State will need its big playmakers to step up and convert scoring opportunities.
“We have been focusing on ways that we were able to break them [Purdue] down,” Dambach said. “They had all sorts of success against us as well, so we need to minimize their threats. The biggest thing is that we made mistakes in that first game that we need to make sure that we learn from and improve on. That has been a strength for our team in the last few weeks; growing from our mistakes and getting better with each game.”
The Nittany Lions have had plenty of offensive production coming from underclassmen in the starting lineup and off the bench. Sophomore Rachel Wasserman and freshman Payton Linnehan stepped up and scored goals in the quarterfinal matchup against the Hawkeyes.
Wasserman, Devon Olive, Maddie Myers and Jordan Caniff have provided relief and a spark for Penn State coming off the bench. Utilizing this depth will only benefit Penn State going forward in the matchup against Purdue.
Out of the 20 games, the Nittany Lions played so far this season, a sophomore or freshman has scored in 14 of those games.
“It’s a great dynamic this year,” Wasserman said. “We are a deep team and you trust that anyone coming on the field is going to do whatever they can to help the team and put the team first with everything. We have a young team this year. A lot of young people are getting time this year, unlike other years. During this part of the year, it is super important because now the younger players are getting more confident and want to play for our seniors.”
Purdue knocked off top-seeded Wisconsin in its quarterfinal matchup by a score of 1-0. The Boilermakers were able to hold the Big Ten conference forward of the year and leader in goals and points scoreless in Wisconsin’s Dani Rhodes en route to a shutout victory.
The defensive units for both teams have proven that they can advert any offensive threats, so goals will be hard to come by in Friday’s game. The last games played by both teams ended in shutout victories for each. Penn State’s last two wins are both shutouts.