Penn State dropped out of the NCAA Tournament in the round of 16 for the second time in two years on Wednesday afternoon.
The Nittany Lions were dismantled over the course of the match in a 3-1 defeat to Florida State.
In the opening five minutes of the match, Florida State put up three off-target chances against the Penn State defense.
The Seminoles dictated the early minutes with methodical possession while the Nittany Lions were forced to do a lot of running to press and cover its defensive territory.
Kat Asman would not be called into action until 15 minutes into the game, as Florida State’s Leilanni Nesbeth’s goal-ward effort was caught by Asman in the top right corner of the Penn State keeper’s net.
In the 20th minute, the Nittany Lions would take the lead against the run of play via Frankie Tagliaferri’s clinical strike in the 18-yard box.
The goal came for Penn State on a signature fast break.
After Eva Alonso made a goal-saving slide tackle in front of the blue and white goal, the Nittany Lions broke into attack and the ball found its way to Sam Coffey who played in her midfield partner, Tagliaferri, with a world-class through ball.
With 15 minutes left in the half, Tagliaferri had Penn State’s second shot of the match as the All-Big Ten center midfielder attempted an audacious chip but Cristina Roque was able to parry away the effort for Florida state.
The Seminoles relentless attacking intensified after conceding. Florida State accumulated 12 shots before scoring on its 13th effort when Kristina Lynch scored Yujie Zhao’s corner kick.
Florida State were in complete control all half and Penn State looked fortunate to reach the halftime whistle without giving up a second goal.
In the second half, Florida State resumed its control while Penn State started the second period in an lethargic and reactionary state.
Nesbeth had a chance to put her side in the lead five minutes in but missed an absolute sitter in the face of a helpless blue and whtie defense.
Minutes later, Florida State had a second clear chance not to go in. Clara Robbins’ shot beat Asman in goal but bounced off both goalposts before bouncing into the feet of Abello who cleared the ball.
Robbins would eventually put her team ahead 2-1 in the 62nd minute of the match after whipping home Florida State’s 23rd shot of the game into the top-right side netting.
The deficit was increased to two after contact in the box was enough for the referee to signal for a penalty kick for the Seminoles. Gabby Carle dispatched a cool penalty into Asman’s bottom right corner making it 3-1.
The blue and white looked defeated after conceding the second goal and was unable to create a single shot in the second half.
As the clock winded down, Florida State had an opportunity to make it 4-1 but Gianna Mitchell’s point blank effort somehow hit the crossbar before the final whistle was blown ending the blowout loss for Penn State.
Florida State wins tactical battle
Coach Mark Krikorian made no changes to the Florida State game plan. The Seminoles stood from sideline to sideline in attack leaving massive spaces between each player.
Penn State was forced to sacrifice counter attacking positioning to preserve a compact defensive shape which failed to hold up against an elite offensive opponent.
To compensate for Florida State’s width, the blue and white had its wingers tracking back deep into their own half to cover Seminole attackers.
This forced blue and white striker Ally Schlegel to sit isolated at the point of attack without teammates to support her out wide.
Florida State took ownership of the game from the first minute to the last only giving the blue and white two shots in 90 minutes.
Alonso and Asman star in defense
Alonso, Co-All-Big Ten Freshman of the Year, solidified her status as an elite defender in the Sweet-16 matchup against Florida State and Penn State goalkeeper Asman played a phenomenal game between the sticks despite conceding three.
The freshman center back played an essential role in the blue and white defense. Alonso made a number of goal-saving interventions in the first half to keep her side from going down to the No. 1 team in the nation.
Tagliaferri’s go-ahead goal in the first half originated in one of the Spaniard’s crucial blocks which turned into a goalscoring counter attack.
In goal, Asman was forced to make five saves in the first half alone after only having to make 4 saves to keep clean sheets in two tournament matches prior to the Florida State game.
As a unit, Penn State allowed the opposition to take 32 total shots, but Asman and Alonso’s performances in defense kept Florida State at bay in open play until Robbin’s 62nd minute winner.
Penn State out played two tournaments in a row
Getting outplayed in the Sweet 16 by a No. 1 seed is looking to become a habit for the Nittany Lions.
Florida State, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, looked head and shoulders above against the Big Ten regular season champions.
In the last tournament in 2019, Penn State was sent home in similar fashion following a 90-minute, 2-0 beating at the hands of eventual champion Stanford.
Stanford managed to release a volley of 35 shots while the blue and white put up one lone effort.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Seminoles nearly matched that feat with 32 shots while Penn State only could produce two shots, one of which resulted in a goal.
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