Thursday night marked a battle between two of the top teams in the nation as No. 10 Penn State squared off against No. 21 West Virginia in a non-conference battle.
The blue and white took down the Mountaineers 2-0 in a dominant defensive performance over a high-powered offensive attack for its second consecutive victory.
The win marked the team’s second straight shutout after the Nittany Lions blanked Duquesne 3-0 last Sunday.
Although they’re just three games into the campaign, coach Erica Dambach is extremely pleased with how her backline has performed.
“They are talented, but more importantly they’re playing as a unit and that’s hard to grow,” Dambach said. “They still need time, but they are playing with confidence because they’re playing for each other.”
West Virginia finished the game with four shots on goal and nine total compared to Penn State’s eight shots on goal and 17 total.
The Nittany Lions came out firing on all cylinders in the opening 10 minutes of play, registering four shots. One of those was by defender Kate Wiesner, who fired a shot over the crossbar which would have been her first goal of the season.
The chances didn’t stop coming for the blue and white, as later in the half Payton Linnehan came inches from the opening goal, but Mountaineer goalie Kayza Massey made an incredible one-handed save.
Despite outshooting the Mountaineers 11-4 through the first 45 minutes, the two opponents headed to the locker room deadlocked at zero.
Dambach noted she was tough on her team during halftime as they looked to break the scoreless affair.
“We felt good about our performance, but we had nothing on the scoreboard to show for it,” Dambach said. “You can say it’s a game of inches, but make the inches count, and we weren’t in the first half.”
The 16-year coach’s speech at halftime resonated with her players, and they came out firing to open the second half.
Penn State weathered an offensive attack from West Virginia in the opening minutes, and it created some offense of its own.
In the 57th minute, the Nittany Lions broke the scoreless tie after Linnehan made a great pass to Jordan Canniff, who made no mistake and gave her team the lead.
Canniff’s goal marked her first of the season, and after an extremely difficult 2021 season, Dambach was thrilled to see her score.
“Her journey is unlike anyone else’s, and she certainly deserves everything she’s got coming for her,” Dambach said. “That game-winning goal is a reflection of so much hard work, recovery from injury and mental strength to get back.”
The blue and white continued to attack the Mountaineer defense, and in the 71st minute, it added to its one-goal advantage.
After being held off the scoresheet in her freshman season and through the first two games of the year, defender Mieke Schiemann tallied her first career goal.
The goal provided a much-needed spark for Penn State, and although it struggled in the first half, Dambach was pleased with the mentality of the team.
“I think for game 3, the foundation and mentality feel like it’s there,” Dambach said. “The soccer — we can keep growing, but without that mentality, that’s the work you do in the offseason, and that’s what I’m most proud of.”
Penn State continued its offensive prowess for the remainder of the game and came away with a 2-0 victory — its second straight win.
After a three-game homestand, the blue and white will hit the road and play its next three contests away from the friendly confines of Jeffrey Field.
The Nittany Lions will be back in action on Sunday against Monmouth, and Dambach wants her team to continue to play their game.
“There’s still so much growth this group needs,” Dambach said. “We get excited about this performance, but we have to grow and learn from it and there were plenty of times where things we were trying to do didn’t work, so we’re really invested in the process.”
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No. 10 Penn State and No. 21 West Virginia met Thursday night at Jeffrey Field, and the East…