SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Penn State is headed to the Sweet 16.
The Nittany Lion men’s soccer team endured a long flight to the west coast and a tough, physical game to walk away with a 1-0 win over California-Santa Barbara in the NCAA Tournament second round Sunday night at Harder Stadium.
Connor Maloney scored the only goal with a little more than 12 minutes left while Andrew Wolverton made one save for the shutout to beat the Gauchos. Wolverton posted his 23rd career shutout in his 49th start.
Penn State (13-5-2) is in the round of 16 for the first time since 2010 and will face another long trip nearly across the country to visit No. 7 New Mexico. The Lobos beat George Mason 1-0 in another second-round contest Sunday. The teams will meet Dec. 1 in Albuquerque for a spot in the quarterfinals.
The Nittany Lions ousted the 10th-seeded Gauchos in a game that featured 37 combined fouls, five yellow cards and one red card given to Fifi Baiden 5:31 into the game to leave Santa Barbara a man down for nearly the entire game. The Gauchos were already missing two usual starters who had received red cards in their previous game.
Maloney netted the winner with 12:15 left in regulation with his second score of the season. The freshman midfielder took a feed from Jordan Tyler and converted from the edge of the penalty box with a rocket to beat Santa Barbara keeper Josh McNeely, who made two saves.
Each team had just three shots by halftime, but Penn State carried play with a 7-1 advantage in shots after intermission.
Penn State, making its 31st tournament appearance, is in the NCAA bracket for the first time since 2010. Sunday’s win was the first away from Jeffrey Field since beating Connecticut in 1998, and just the fifth in the Nittany Lions’ 26 tries away from home.