No. 7 Penn State won a clash of Top 15 women’s soccer teams and remained atop the Big Ten standings with a 2-0 triumph over No. 13 Wisconsin on Sunday.
The Nittany Lions (12-1 overall, 7-0 Big Ten) extended their scoreless streak to more than 200 minutes in blanking the Badgers (11-2, 5-2), who are led by former Penn State coach Paula Wilkins.
Wisconsin outshot Penn State 6-5 in a scoreless first half, but the Nittany Lions finally broke through late in the second half.
Streaking through the middle, Maddie Elliston passed the ball to Mallory Weber, who ran around a Wisconsin defender and from just outside the 18-yard box. Weber sent a crossing pass from the nearside corner to Emily Ogle who fired a low shot past Badger keeper Genevieve Richard for the 1-0 lead.
The contest stayed that way until the final minute. With 25 seconds remaining, Megan Schafer fed the ball from the far post to Salina Williford, who knocked in her fourth of the season.
Nittany Lion keeper Britt Eckerstrom recorded her fifth shutout of the season with four saves. She made a fantastic stop against the Badgers’ Rose Lavelle in the minute prior to Ogle’s game-winner.
Eckerstrom has given up just one goal over the team’s last five games, dating back to Sept. 19. Penn State has held 12 of its opponents to one goal or less this season.
Sunday’s clash was tight throughout. The Nittany Lions held a 10-9 edge in shots. Both teams had four shots on goal and six corner kicks.
Penn State rebounded after playing poorly in a 1-0 victory over Minnesota on Friday in which an own-goal was the only score in the contest.
“Incredibly impressed with (team’s) response and effort today after a sub-par performance on Friday night,” Nittany Lion coach Erica Walsh said via Twitter after the Sunday’s triumph. “Defense wins championships!”
Penn State improved to 19-3-4 all-time against the Badgers. Wisconsin suffered its first loss since Sept. 14 at Michigan.
“I thought we created enough chances to get a result today,” said Wilkins, who was the Nittany Lions’ head coach from 2001 to 2006 after serving as an assistant to Pat Farmer at Penn State from 1994 to 2000. “It’s challenging, especially for games that are part of the Big Ten championship race. ... The one thing I take away as a coach is that it showed us what we need to do better. By playing a good team, it showed our weaknesses.”
Penn State holds a one-game lead in the conference race over unranked Michigan (10-3, 6-1), which defeated Iowa 4-2 on Sunday. The Nittany Lions travel to Michigan on Oct. 16.
The Nittany Lions next return to Jeffrey Field on Saturday to face No. 25 Rutgers (9-1-1, 5-1-1) at 4:30 p.m. The game will be shown live on the Big Ten Network.