Penn State tops WVU, 3-1, to advance to NCAA Women’s Elite 8

From West Virginia/Penn State athletic department reports

Penn State denied West Virginia a third straight trip to the Women’s NCAA Tournament elite eight,  as the No. 10-ranked and third-seeded Nittany Lions ended the No. 7-ranked and second seeded Mountaineers’ season, scoring three unanswered goals in a 3-1 victory this evening at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.

West Virginia junior forward Sh’Nia Gordon broke scoreless play in the 34th minute, but PSU strung together three straight scores — including the final tally by former Greensburg Central Catholic standout Frannie Crouse in the second half that sealed the contest with her 37th career goal with Penn State — 10th all time in school history. 

“I thought we had some good moments,” Mountaineer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. “First, I would like to congratulate Penn State on their way to the ‘Elite Eight.’ They were able to finish their chances and unfortunately, we were not. That’s what it boils down to. It was tough. Obviously, Nia (Gordon) had a great finish for us tonight, and some of those other opportunities I wish we could have gotten back, but best wishes to Penn State.”

The regional rivals played much of the first half between the 18s before a set-piece chance gave the Mountaineers the early lead.

Senior midfielder Carla Portillo sent WVU’s second corner kick high to Gordon at the top of the 18-yard box. She immediately sent a low shot that cut through traffic before ending up in the back of the net near the far right post.

PSU evened the score five minutes later. Midfielder Emily Ogle played the ball wide to Alina Ortega-Jurado, who took the angle on the net before sending a shot toward the near left post that snuck behind sophomore Rylee Foster.

“I thought we showed a lot — it said a lot about this group — to come back the way we did after that goal,” Erica Dambach, Penn State head coach said.

The Nittany Lions (15-4-4, 6-2-3 Big Ten) took the lead for good in the 43rd minute.

Ogle sent a cross to defender Elizabeth Ball high above the box. She immediately sent a low, long shot that also went near left post.

The Mountaineers looked to even the match early in the second half, earning early possession and a fourth corner kick. PSU defended away and found its third goal on a breakaway in the 55th minute. Ball pushed ahead to PSU’s forward — Crouse, who sent a chip shot over Foster’s left shoulder to put the score at 3-1 for good.

The Nittany Lions finished with a 10-9 shot advantage. Foster made three saves for WVU, while Rose Chandler stopped two looks from the Mountaineers, who also finished with a 6-3 edge in corner kicks.

WVU Senior forward Heather Kaleiohi and PSU’s Laura Freigang each finished with three shots.

WVU’s best chance to cut into the Nittany Lions’ lead came late in the match. As the Mountaineers worked the ball around the box in the 83rd minute, Portillo played it wide to senior forward Michaela Abam. She one-timed a shot that just nearly missed the inside of the near left post before falling into the side of the netting.

WVU earned its sixth corner in the 85th minute, but PSU defended away. Kaleiohi earned the last look of the match, a long, curving shot in the 86th minute, but it went wide of the far right post.

The Nittany Lions earned the first on-frame opportunity of the match in the 28th minute. Junior center back Easther Mayi Kith denied the first look to Crouse at the top of the box. The ball bounced out wide to Freigang, and she sent a lofting shot toward the goal line. Foster stood her ground for her first save of the night.

Foster came up big seconds after Gordon’s goal. With the ball high of the penalty line, Ogle sent an on-frame shot that Foster met at the post before pushing up and out of play.

With the loss, WVU drops to 7-8-2 all-time against PSU and 2-3 against the Nittany Lions in the NCAA Tournament.

Penn State, who won the NCAA National Championship in 2015, will now move on to take on top-ranked Stanford next Friday (5 p.m. EST kickoff) in Palo Alto, CA.

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