Fresh off a surprising draw at home to No. 19 Rutgers, Nebraska women’s soccer faced another monumental challenge in No. 9 Penn State. Despite relatively even shot totals overall, the Nittany Lions sealed the conference crown over the Huskers in a 3-0 shutout.
Things could’ve gone differently were it not for the opening 10 minutes. Only four minutes into the game, Nittany Lion senior forward Frankie Tagliaferri dispatched a shot into the back of the net, easing it past sophomore goalkeeper Makinzie Short.
Short, who managed a dominating performance in goal against Rutgers, was almost invisible against Penn State. On facing nine shots in total, had two saves, less than the number of goals he allowed.
Short’s poor day was compiled double three minutes after the first goal, when Penn State junior forward Rachel Wasserman scored off an assist by redshirt sophomore Ally Schlegel.
Just as it appeared Nebraska was going to utterly collapse, the Nittany Lions let off the gas. The match moved into a fallow period characterized by a pitched midfield battle.
Despite taking two shots in the opening seven minutes, Penn State only tried two more for the rest of the first half, mostly as a result of protecting possession against a Nebraska press.
The Huskers managed their lone shot in the half off of junior midfielder Dakota Chan. Chan was an engine in the midfield for a team that desperately needed one, and in the second half, when it appeared Nebraska could perhaps start a comeback, her efforts helped to push the team forward.
Despite the best phases of play for Nebraska coming in the second half, Penn State looked far better coming out the locker room.
In the first seven minutes of the second half, Penn State managed two more shots and had a scoring opportunity called back for offsides. After that, Nebraska managed a few shorts of its own, including one from junior defender Olivia Brown that went wide off a corner.
Penn State managed the last breakthrough of the game off of a moment of individual brilliance from sophomore midfielder Payton Linnehan.
After receiving the ball on the right wing, Linnehan attempted to curl the ball into the middle, but her cross was blocked by her opposite in junior defender Ashley Zugay. Senior midfielder Theresa Pujado attempted to provide a press on Linnehan, allowing Zugay to cover the outside wing against the winger.
Zugay went too early, and in between the moment of Pujado’s press and Zugay’s cover, Linnehan deftly eased the ball from one foot to another.
Completely free in the box, Linnehan whipped the ball low on the ground to the back post, missing four Nebraska defenders to find freshman forward Elle Kershner. Short, completely isolated on the other side of the goal, couldn’t save the shot in time and Penn State had managed its third goal, sealing both the game and Big Ten title.
After the third goal, Nebraska put on a litany of substitutions, but the match was already lost. Regardless of the final outcome, the Huskers managed some energy in the closing phases of the game.
Freshman forward Gwen Lane grabbed a pair of shots for herself after spearheading Nebraska’s attacking efforts against Rutgers with three.
Nebraska’s last regular season match is Saturday, April 3 against Iowa at Hibner Stadium at 1:05 p.m. and will be shown on BTN+.