Penn State’s journey in the NCAA Tournament is heading to the Sweet 16.
The Nittany Lions overcame a tenacious Vanderbilt team by a score of 2-0 in their second-round matchup, sending them to the third round where they will face No. 1 Florida State May 5.
The two sides matched each other step for step in the early going, recording three shots apiece in the opening 20 minutes of the match.
In the 22nd minute, Penn State put together an attacking threat through Frankie Tagliaferri in midfield, who found Rachel Wasserman on the left-hand side, who passed to Schlegel in front of goal, but the forward was ruled offside.
Three minutes later Sam Coffey tested Vanderbilt goalkeeper Kate Devine with a powerful shot on target from the upper left corner of the 18-yard box, though the freshman made the save.
The Commodores nearly took the lead in the 28th minute, when midfielder Peyton Cutshall hit the crossbar with her shot.
Coffey blasted another one toward goal from outside the box just before the halftime whistle, but it sailed wide right of goal.
Penn State ended the first half with seven total shots to Vanderbilt’s five, but the Commodores’ defensive back three held the Nittany Lions in check through 45 minutes.
The back-and-forth contest persisted into the second half, as the blank scoresheet was not changed until the 63rd minute when Kristin Schnurr found the back of the net in the penalty area off a Rachel Wasserman assist.
Defender Eva Alonso made it 2-0 in the 74th minute with the first goal of her collegiate career off a corner kick delivered by Sam Coffey.
The scoreline held until the final whistle to send the Nittany Lions through to the third round.
Attack gone quiet early
After racking up 35 shots and scoring five goals in their opening match against Alabama State, the Nittany Lions had a much harder time finding the back of the net against Vanderbilt.
The Commodores’ back line proved a difficult obstacle early on, as Penn State mostly relied on long-range shots from outside the 18-yard box to test Devine.
While the Nittany Lions failed to best the Commodores early, the stalemate did not endure for much longer.
A tale of two halves
After an even first half in which neither team could gain the advantage, Penn State came out the better side in the latter 45 minutes of the match.
The Nittany Lions compiled four shots to Vanderbilt’s two in the second half alone, while stabilizing defensively to close the door on the Commodores.
The shift in momentum later in the match proved a stark contrast to the last time Penn State failed to score in the first half in its 1-0 defeat to Iowa April 15, in which it still could not score through 90 minutes.
Schnurr the difference maker
Schnurr’s third goal of the season could not have come at a better time, as her go-ahead goal proved a major turning point in the match and paved the way for the Nittany Lions’ victory.
The forward in her fifth year has mostly featured as a substitute in 2021 and additionally picked up a pair of assists in the previous 11 games after scoring a goal in Penn State’s opening two matches against Rutgers and Northwestern.
MORE SPORTS COVERAGE