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Gophers soccer dominates Penn State 4-1, get back in the win column

Senior Patricia Ward scored her first goal this season and had one assist along the way.
Image by Kelly Hagenson – Gopher Athletics
Senior Patricia Ward jumps for joy after scoring her first goal this season, which would eventually be the match-winning goal against Penn State on Sunday, Oct. 3, at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in Falcon Heights, Minn.

Gophers soccer gets back on track after dominating Penn State 4-1 Sunday afternoon to end their only losing streak this season at two matches and improve their record to 6-3-3.

“I thought we were the aggressor and that really helped us in this game,” Gophers head coach Erin Chastain said. “I thought our group was really disciplined and checked in…some great performances from our group and some great goals.

Seniors McKenna Buisman and Megan Gray had early opportunities in the match as they fired shots, but Penn State’s goalkeeper Katherine Asman wrapped up Buisman’s attempt and Gray’s went just wide left of the net.

At the 13-minute mark, graduate student Makenzie Langdok received a pass just outside the top right of the box from freshman Lauren Donovan and sent a lofted service toward the six-yard box. Senior Patricia Ward found herself in the right place at the right time, cleaning up the loose ball in front of the net to give the Gophers an early 1-0 lead over Penn State.

“We talked about being optimistic in the box,” Ward said. “When the ball goes in, you expect it to come to you. I made a run and the ball fell to my feet. I was able to put it in and that was the start to our domination of a game.”

Ward’s goal marks the sixth goal the Gophers have scored within the first 15 minutes of a match this season and her first goal in her senior campaign. Langdok also collected her first assist this season.

After fighting off Penn State’s attempts, the Gophers went back on the attack. Ward intercepted a Nittany Lions outlet pass, dribbling her way into the left side of the box and lofting a service toward the six-yard box.

On the receiving end of Ward’s pass, junior Izzy Brown connected on a blazing header to give the Gophers a 2-0 lead at the 24-minute mark. Her goal is her sixth this season and would be the eventual match-winning goal. Ward also collected her second assist this season.
“That’s my bread and butter,” Ward said. “Working hard on defense, getting wide, and getting service in the box…it’s very rewarding when you keep doing the work and then it executes for a goal.”

The Gophers went into halftime with a 2-0 lead, which is only the second time this season they have had a two-goal edge or more at halftime, but Chastain had a clear message for the team heading into the second half.

“The message was 0-0,” Chastain said. “We have to continue to set the tone, be the aggressor, not let them run at us, and I thought we did that right away.”

Like their quick start in the first half, the Gophers got back to it in the second half. At the 57-minute mark, sophomore Sophia Boman sent a lofted, through pass from the right side of the pitch toward the middle.

Buisman sprinted to catch up with the through pass that landed far outside of the box. She gained possession and flicked the ball past Penn State’s Asman as she came out of her net to challenge her, scoring on the empty net to extend the Gophers’ lead to 3-0.

Buisman’s nifty play marks her second goal this season, which have come in back-to-back matches in her two starts as a forward. Boman also collected her second assist this season.

In the match’s 73rd-minute, the Gophers would go on to add one more goal after a Penn State defender deflected Ward’s cross into her net for an own goal.

The Gophers backline showed up in the second half and continued to shut down a strong Penn State team that has won three games against ranked opponents this season.

The Nittany Lions attempted 12 of their 15 shots in the second half. Their last shot on goal in the second half by Riley Gleason ended up finding the back of the net with less than one minute left in the match to spoil the Gophers’ shutout.

“I’m disappointed we took a goal when there were 30 seconds left,” Chastain said. “You just can’t shut off. It’s not good to get into that habit. I know we had the game well in hand, but I have higher expectations for our team closing out a game.”

The Gophers are 6-2 this season when scoring in the first half of a match and are also the only Big Ten team to reach four goals in a conference match, which they have accomplished twice.
Next week, the Gophers will travel to West Lafayette, Ind., to take on Purdue (9-2-2) at noon on Sunday, Oct. 10.

“We have a little bit longer until our next game, which is nice because it’ll give some of our players playing so many minutes a little bit more rest and some time to train,” Chastain said.

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