UNIVERSITY PARK — The Penn State women’s soccer team could not ask for any more of a home field advantage, and the team seemed destined to deliver a spectacular comeback victory for their record-setting crowd.
Instead, the Nittany Lions and their fans left disappointed, with the defending national champions spoiling the night.
In front of a standing room-only gathering of 5,117 fans, Stanford’s Mariah Nogueira headed in the game-winner with 2:36 left to give the No. 1 Cardinal a 3-2 victory Friday night.
“She stepped up and put away a good goal,” said Penn State midfielder Christine Nairn, whose penalty kick tied the game 2-2 minutes earlier. “She’s one of the best and big players make big shots. Credit to her, but we know where we stand with Stanford now.”
Mallory Weber netted a first-half goal for the No. 6 Lions (2-1), while Alex Doll and Sydney Payne had the other goals for the No. 1 Cardinal (2-0).
The crowd shattered the Jeffrey Field attendance record for both men’s and women’s games since the stadium was rebuilt.
“I was just shocked that this many people came to support us,” Weber said. “Especially this early in the season and everything, it was so cool.”
Nairn’s penalty kick was set up by Tani Costa, who was taken down by a pair of Stanford defenders in the penalty box with seven minutes left.
Nairn confidently lined up the shot and ripped it hard past Cardinal keeper Aly Gleason as the packed house erupted in celebration.
“Tani Costa did all the work,” Nairn said. “I just stepped up and kicked it in from the PK spot. Tani’s been working on being a target for us. All the credit goes to her. I did the easy part. She worked her butt off and gave me that goal.”
The celebration was short-lived, as Taylor McCann’s corner kick went right to the head of Nogueira, redirecting the ball to the top corner past keeper Erin McNulty.
“You pick and choose what you want to defend on set pieces,” Penn State coach Erica Walsh said. “They exploited what we chose not to. Hats off to Stanford — fantastic goals.”
Nairn started the game’s first scoring play by slipping through the Stanford defense just outside the penalty box, took a few steps and unleashed a blast that Gleason deflected into the air but behind her, where Weber was alone to head the ball into the open net.
“Our coach Ann (Cook) always is like, ‘Every ball, follow every shot,’” Weber said. “So I just heard that so after she shot it, it was like a routine running towards the goalie and it just happened to deflect and it came to me. I got lucky.”
It didn’t take Stanford long to respond, when Courtney Verloo fed the ball up the middle to Doll, who was one-on-one with McNulty. The keeper didn’t have much of a chance as Doll slid the ball far post to tie the game less than four minutes later.
The Nittany Lions looked destined to retake the lead about 12 minutes into the second half when Nairn sent a long service to Weber, who split through two defenders and put a move on Gleason for an open net, but just as she shot the Cardinal’s Laura Liedle raced across to block the attempt. The rebound still went right back to Weber’s feet, but Gleason was back just in time to deflect the second try.
“I kind of got caught up in it,” Weber said. “I thought too much about it, I had too much time and played it to the goalie — frustrating.”
Stanford retook the lead in the 63rd minute when Payne took a feed from Doll at the corner of the box and sent a laser that McNulty had no chance of grabbing.
Penn State was denied again with about eight minutes left when Bri Garcia’s corner kick found the head of Kori Chapic, but Gleason made a spectacular two-handed deflection.
“So happy for Aly Gleason,” Stanford coach Paul Ratcliffe said. “She hasn’t played that many games for us and to come in and have that kind of game was pretty incredible.”
Nairn did deliver her score a minute later, but the Lions could not enjoy the night’s ending.
“The effort was there, the tactics were there, the leadership was there and Stanford showed why they’re defending national champs,” Walsh said. “That’s a team, if we’re going to achieve our goals this year, we’re going to see that team again, I believe. Tonight after 90 minutes we have a better idea where we are.”
Notes: The record attendance broke the previous women’s high of 3,912 set in 2010 against Virginia. ... The crowd included dozens of high school and youth programs from around Central Pennsylvania, as well as numerous other Penn State athletes and coaches. ... McNulty made only one save, as the Lions outshot the Cardinal 13-10, and the keeper was pulled in favor of Britt Eckerstrom for seven minutes of the second half. ... Before the game, Chapic and freshman midfielder Mallory Peterson sang the National Anthem. ... In the first game of the day, Central Michigan blanked West Virginia 2-0. ... The Nittany Lions will face the Chippewas on Sunday.