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PHILADELPHIA – The final nonconference match of 2013 awaits Penn on Tuesday, with Penn State visiting Rhodes Field (7 p.m.)
The Quakers sit in first place in the Ivy League with 10 points (3-0-1) and are 6-6-1 overall in 2013. Penn has been on fire of late, with a 4-0-1 mark in its last five matches after a six-match losing streak to close out September. In terms of nonconference play, Penn is 3-6-0, including a 3-3-0 mark at home.
Penn State is one of the hottest teams in the country, heading to Philly as the 2013 Big Ten regular season champions. The Nittany Lions clinched their fifth Big Ten championship this past weekend in dramatic fashion, defeating No. 19 Northwestern, 2-1, in double overtime. That win improved Penn State to 5-0-0 in Big Ten play and 10-3-1 overall. Penn State has won four matches in a row and eight of its last nine to climb to No. 9 this week in the TopDrawerSoccer.com poll and No. 12 in the CollegeSoccerNews.com poll. In terms of the RPI, Penn State is ranked No. 5, marking the third top-team in the RPI the Quakers will play in 2013 (No. 2 Georgetown, No. 7 UC-Santa Barbara.)
Tuesday marks the 30th meeting all-time between Penn and Penn State in men’s soccer, with the Nittany Lions holding a 21-6-2 lead in the series. The two programs lest met in 2011, a 2-0 win for Penn State in Happy Valley. Last year’s scheduled meeting was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy. The Quakers’ last win over Penn State came in 2008, a 3-0 victory at Rhodes Field. Penn outshot the Nittany Lions, 10-4, in the game and 7-2 in terms of shots on goal. Alex Grendi, Andrew Ferry and Kevin Unger each had a goal for the Quakers in the win.
Penn enters the match with the 29th-ranked offense in Division I, averaging 1.77 goals-per-game. The Ivy League’s leading scorer, Duke Lacroix, paces Penn with 15 points on six goals and three assists. Alec Neumann (10 points) and Stephen Baker (nine points) combined to give the Quakers three of the Ivy League’s top eight scorers to this point in the season.
That trio also combined to give Penn one of its most exciting wins of the 2013 season on Saturday night, Baker getting last touch on Penn’s game-winning goal in overtime to knock off Yale, 3-2. Neumann blocked a clearing attempt from the Yale keeper, and Lacroix and Baker both raced to the loose ball. Lacroix got first touch and Baker insured the goal was good to give Penn sole possession of first place in the Ivy League for the first time since the 2006 season.
Depending on how the NSCAA Coaches Poll shakes out on Tuesday, Penn State will likely be the highest-ranked team Penn has played since No. 11 Brown on Oct. 27, 2012. If the Nittany Lions enter the top ten, Tuesday’s match will be Penn’s first against a Top-Ten team since a 1-0 loss at No. 7 California in 2007.
The Nittany Lions has to rally on Saturday at home to defeat the Wildcats, scoring in the 89’ to tie the match, 1-1, before a goal with 1:30 left in the second overtime clinched Penn State’s second consecutive Big Ten regular season championship. Jordan Tyler had both goals for the Nittany Lions, netting his fourth game-winner of the season.
Away from State College, the Nittany Lions are 3-2-0 this season, and 1-2-0 in road nonconference matches. Tyler is the team leader in goals scorer with five, followed by a pair of players with three goals – Mark Wadid and Martin Seiler. For Wadid, each of his three goals have been game-winners. Connor Maloney has been a prime playmaker for the Nittany Lions, leading his club with six assists.
Andrew Wolverton has started all 14 Penn State matches in goal and played every minute. He has allowed just 12 goals over 1320:35 of game play for a goals-against average of 0.82 and his 47 saves give him a save percentage of .797.