WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Katie Stengel scored twice to set a new Wake Forest single-season goals record and Aubrey Bledsoe made a career-high 10 saves in net as the top-seeded Demon Deacons prevailed against fourth-seeded Penn State in a 4-2 goalfest on Sunday in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
Wake Forest (17-3-4) advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals for the second time in its history and the first time since 2009. The Demon Deacons are looking to make their first College Cup. The Deacons have already defeated the Golden Knights this season, a 1-0 decision on the road back in August.
“I’m super proud of the way the team performed today, coming back from a Friday game and beating a very dangerous Penn State team,” head coach Tony da Luz said. “I was really impressed with our commitment to winning and advancing. Our intensity was tremendous, you could see it in the first half that we were ready to go.”
Wake Forest’s offense exploded for four goals, tied for the most that Penn State had given up all season. Two of them came off of the foot of Katie Stengel, which were her 17th and 18th goals of the season, breaking the school record of 16 that she set as a freshman in 2010.
“I’m lucky to play with so many great teammates that do a good job of setting me up,” Stengel said. “Getting the record is nice, but am more proud of the way that our team played today to take us through to the quarterfinals.”
Stengel has scored in four consecutive games for the Deacons, and with an assist tonight, has totaled four goals and 11 points in Wake Forest’s three NCAA Tournament games. Rachel Nuzzolese assisted on Stengel’s second goal to give her 15 points in Wake Forest’s last eight games.
The Deacs had one of their best efforts of the season to outlast a Penn State (21-5-0) side that attacked relentlessly all night. Bledsoe came up huge in net with a career-best 11 stops, including several on shots that looked like they would surely find twine. Maya Hayes, Penn State’s prolific goal-scorer, notched both of the Nittany Lions’ goals in the game, giving her 31 for the season – tops in all of Division I.
“They came at us from every angle trying to get back in the game, and I just knew that we had to hold them off as long as we could,” Bledsoe said . “We stuck together and had a great team effort today. Our offense did a good job finishing the chances.”
Jackie Logue had her second-consecutive three-point game, netting Wake Forest’s opening score before assisting on Stengel’s first score.
Ally Berry provided the game-winning strike in the 26th minute, taking a layoff from Stengel and blasting a shot from 30 yards that beat outstretched Penn State keeper Erin McNulty and found the upper-90.
The teams played at a frenetic pace in the opening period. Penn State’s Maya Hayes capitalized on a Wake Forest turnover in the 10th minute to score the game’s first goal. Hayes collected the errant Deacon pass and dribbled in on goal, sliding a low shot inside the far post to put the Nittany Lions ahead 1-0.
The Deacons answered back almost immediately. Ally Berry played a ball from the top of the box over to Jackie Logue on the left. Logue hit what looked to be a cross into the box that fooled Penn State goalkeeper Erin McNulty who let it go as it snuck inside the back post.
Wake Forest took its first lead in the 26th minute. Katie Stengel held the ball at the top of the box and then dropped a pass back to Ally Berry who unleashed an absolute firecracker from 30 yards that rocketed into the top-left corner of the net.
Stengel scored herself shortly after the halftime break, taking a pass from Jackie Logue, cutting into the box from the left and running rampant through the Penn State defense before gaining a shooting angle and clinically finishing a shot.
Stengel found her second goal in the 80th minute after she ran onto a long through ball from Nuzzolese out of the midfield that sent her on a 40-yard breakaway. The sophomore from Melbourne, Fla., calmly dribbled around the goalkeeper before putting the ball into the vacated net.
Hayes pulled one goal back for the Nittany Lions in the 83rd minute, but it was a case of too little, too late.