Top-Ranked Penn State Heads to Championship Game After Michigan Shutout
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Top-seeded Penn State and fifth-seeded Michigan started off their clash in the 2006 Big Ten Women's Soccer Tournament semifinals much like their last meeting in the conference postseason event ended: at a deadlock. But the Nittany Lions didn't waste time in the second half, scoring two quick goals after the break to return to the tournament title match after a one-year hiatus with a 2-0 victory.
In the 55th minute, Penn State defender Jessie Davis turned on her offensive prowess, chipping in her first goal of the season off a pass from Carly Bedsem on the Nittany Lions' third corner kick of the day for a 1-0 lead. It marked the first goal for Davis, who only accounted for one shot last year.
At 57:31, Davis launched the free kick over the Michigan defense to a wide-open Ashley Myers who crossed the ball from an awkward angle right past Michigan goalkeeper Megan Tuura to extend the Penn State lead to two.
The initial score followed a dangerous scoring opportunity for Penn State after a yellow card on Michigan's Emilyl Kalmbach set up a free kick for Bedesem less than a minute into the second half. Bedesem passed off to Ali Kreiger, but the senior midfielder's shot went straight to Tuura who batted it down. Myers found the rebound but her attempt was also blocked by Tuura, and Denay Riley got off a third shot in the possession but it ricocheted off the cross bar before Michigan cleared the ball.
With 17:30 left in the game, Michigan's Melissa Dobbyn went down hard in Penn State's offensive third. The game clocked stopped while Michigan's goals-leader stayed face-down on the field. After a few minutes Dobbyn stood up and left the field on her own power, but the Wolverines' were faced with a huge hole to fill in her absence.
Tuura, meanwhile, tallied a season-high 11 saves in the setback.
The two teams met in the 2005 edition of the tournament with eighth-seeded Michigan holding on through two overtimes before upseting Penn State, then the nation's top-ranked team, in penalty kicks. The Wolverines went on to advance to their first title game appearance since 2003 before finishing as runners-up to a senior-laded Wisconsin squad.
In this year's tournament rematch, Penn State controlled the offensive momentum for most of the opening period. But Tuura was able to make six first-half stops between the posts to keep the score even.
Sheree Gray's flashy footwork kept the Michigan midfield busy, but Penn State's All-Big Ten first-teamer couldn't get anything close enough to scoring range. Meyers and Aubrey Aden-Buie, the star of the Nittany Lions' opening round win, shared in several fast-break oppportunities but their execution wasn't sharp enough to out-run the Wolverine defense.
In the 13th minute, Aden-Buie started streaking the length of the field before passing off to Myers. The sophomore forward looked back to Aden-Buie but Tuura stepped out from between the posts to make a diving grab to stave off any Nittany Lion shot opportunities.
Penn State made it dangerously close to the Michigan goal in the 26th minute when a cross found Katie Schoepfer in the six-yard box. The freshman forward took aim but missed sliding, and a nearby Aden-Buie couldn't fight off Michigan defender Lindsey Cottrell to get to it.
The Big Ten's Co-Defensive Player of the Year, Kreiger was all over the field, leading a Penn State defense that held the Wolverines to only two shots in the first stanza.
A foul on Michigan's Judy Coffmann ,who got tangled with Penn State's Allie Long, set up a Nittany Lion free kick with less than two minutes left before the break. Long tried to dish off to Zoe Bouchelle, but Michigan's Skylar Andrews intercepted it in the box to squash the scoring threat.
With the clock winding down to halftime, Penn State garnered its second cornen kick opportunity. The ball was headed around by four Nittany Lions before Gray got the last hit standing feet from the goal line but her shot dropped just wide of the left post.
Despite out-shooting the Wolverines 10-2, the hosting Nittany Lions couldn't convert any of their scoring opportunities and the game entered halftime scoreless.
The Nittany Lions will face second-seeded Illinois in Sunday's championship game at 1:30 p.m. on Jeffrey Field. Illinois dealt Penn State its first conference loss (3-2) since 2004 in the teams' previous meeting this season. Despite consistent conference play and nine straight Big Ten championships, the Nittany Lions will look for their first tournament title in five years.