On a chilly Tuesday evening at Jeffrey Field, Penn State men’s soccer clawed back from two goals behind for the first time since 2008 to defeat Maryland 3-2 in overtime on senior night.
Forward Christian Sload fired the ball home in the 100th minute following midfielder Aaron Molloy’s second assist of the game to gift the No. 16 Nittany Lions a crucial victory over No. 17 Maryland.
In their first victory against Maryland since 2005, the Nittany Lions also kept their postseason hopes alive as they sit in second place in the Big 10 standings behind an undefeated Indiana.
With senior midfielder Pierre Reedy coming off just before the half with a right leg injury, Molloy proved to be instrumental yet again taking his assist total to 5 for the season and finishing with the most points by a Penn State player since 2003 (19 before kickoff).
Reflecting on the game, head coach Jeff Cook admitted he couldn’t be more pleased with the result and proud of his team.
“What an incredibly special night for our program,” he said. “I think the team showed the character they have to dig in deep. In a position where you’re two goals down against the defending national champions, to come back in the manner we did is just so impressive.”
Cook was also tasked with the incredibly difficult decision of choosing a starting goalkeeper for the night given that his two options, Josh Levine (senior) and Kris Shakes (freshman) have almost equally split playing time this season.
Surprisingly, Cook elected to go with Shakes on senior night, but the Sunrise, Florida, native stepped up with six saves and received praise for his game-saving stops.
“It was a brutally hard decision, Josh is a tremendous goalkeeper,” Cook said. “We thought that tonight’s game would have some in-close shots and Kris is really good in the reaction situation. That’s the tough part of my job, but I’m happy to have two great guys to choose from.”
As Maryland scored their two goals in the first 12 minutes of play, the Nittany Lions were immediately under heavy pressure, but Sload assured a positive second-half mentality was all the team needed to rally back.
“At the half it was 2-1, and we knew we had to come out and fight,” he said. “There was no moral victory in getting one goal back, we were here to win and that’s what we came out to do in the second half.”
Penn State moves to 10-2-3 overall and 5-1-1 in conference play heading into the final game of its season against Rutgers on Sunday in Piscataway, New Jersey.