UNIVERSITY PARK — Wearing patches on the back of its jerseys with a matching logo painted on the grass beside each goal, Penn State hosted No. 5 California on Friday night in more than just an ordinary soccer game.
The Nittany Lions played in the inaugural “Mack Brady Game,” held in memory of the late son of Christiann Brady, Dean of the Schreyer Honors College. Mack Brady, an aspiring goalkeeper and fan of Penn State soccer, passed away on Dec. 31 from an unexpected blood infection at the age of eight.
The special night was matched by a strong performance by the Nittany Lions (2-2-1), who took the Golden Bears (3-0-1) into two overtimes, tying 1-1.
“California is a great team, coming in No. 5 in the nation,” midfielder Kyle MacDonald said. “(It was) a true testament to our team working the whole 90 minutes plus overtime, keeping the ball, keeping composure.”
After a relatively quiet first overtime, the Nittany Lions — who finished with 11 shots, but only one on target — nearly had two separate game-winners in the final 10-minute overtime period.
About halfway through the period, forward Jordan Tyler led a counterattack down the right wing. Freshman forward Connor Maloney eventually got the ball in the center, but had his shot blocked wide right.
On the ensuing corner kick, Tyler took a shot that appeared headed to the net but was cleared just in time.
“I just didn’t see it on the video, (but) I thought Jordan’s little flick, it looked like it certainly beat the keeper,” said Penn State coach Bob Warming, noting the linesman had a much better angle on the play. “I’m just happy with the way the guys played and competed tonight on a very special night.”
With the game evenly contested throughout, it took a timely play to put the Golden Bears ahead in the first half. In the 20th minute, Steve Birnbaum took a cross from the left wing by Ryan Neil and buried it into the back of the net on a header.
The Lions found their equalizer as time began to wind down in regulation. Owen Griffith took a pass down the right side of the box in the 77th minute. He hit a low cross to MacDonald, who drilled a shot into the net for his first collegiate goal.
“Owen Griffith did a great job to get into a dangerous position down on the line,” MacDonald said.
Prior to kickoff, a brief ceremony was held in remembrance of Mack Brady. Both teams surrounded the middle circle for the starting linueups, as Mack’s youth soccer team, the State College Celtics, accompanied the Nittany Lions.
Christian Brady, standing alongside his wife, Elizabeth, and daughter, Izzy, was presented a jersey after he thanked fans for their support throughout the last nine months.
An announced crowd of 3,032 then watched Penn State stay close with a Caliornia team that had already defeated two Top 5 teams this season.
“It was awesome. We got a ton of fans out here,” goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton said. “Great night overall, I think our team was real amped.”
Wolverton, who had four saves, also said Mack was in his thoughts the whole time. “I wish we could’ve gotten a shutout for him, but that’s a good team,” he said. “Letting up one goal is not terrible.”