Oct. 17, 2009

ST. PAUL, Minn. -The Penn State women's soccer pulled out a thrilling 1-0 victory at Minnesota on Friday night at drizzly Robbie Stadium. Behind the strength of a career night by Alyssa Naeher (Seymour, Conn.), who made 12 saves, Katie Schoepfer (Waterford, Conn.) made a free kick with six seconds count to lift the Nittany Lions into sole possession of first place, while snapping Minnesota's 19-game home unbeaten streak dating back to 2007.

"This is as big as it gets in league play," Head coach Erica Walsh said. "Coming into Minnesota, where they pack the stands and go crazy, it's a great win."

Penn State (8-5-1, 4-1-0 Big Ten) launched 21 shots in the game's first 89-plus minutes, but the 22nd would prove to be most crucial, and for Minnesota (10-3-2, 3-1-1 Big Ten), most crushing.

"Katie just stepped up and drilled it through the wall," Walsh added.

Danielle Toney (Northville, Mich.) was fouled about 20 yards from net with 30 seconds remaining on the clock. With Minnesota stalling to set up its defensive wall and the clock running out, the Nittany Lions were screaming to get the clock stopped and reset to take the important free kick.

"We were all yelling at [referee Sam Trigui] to stop the clock," Schoepfer said. "Finally he went to the table and they reset the clock [to 10 seconds]. We finally calmed down and focused on the kick. It wasn't a play we set up, it was just a shot on goal. Christine [Nairn] stepped up and told me to hit it low and hard and it would go in."

There Schoepfer blasted beautiful right-footed shot into the net past Gopher goalkeeper Cat Parkhill (nine saves) for a stunning win for the road crew. Schoepfer ran her scoring streak to five consecutive games as she tallied her sixth of the season to give Penn State its first true road victory of the season that came in thrilling last-second fashion.

"Even in basketball I didn't make a shot in the last second," Schoepfer added. "This is as close to a buzzer beater as I've ever had."

In an up-and-down game that saw 40 shots taken, it was Naeher who was under the most pressure. In front of a raucous gold-clad Minnesota crowd of 924, the Lions withstood constant pressure from the Gophers, who struck 18 shots, forcing Naeher into making solid stops time and again to keep the home side off the board.

"Both keepers did a really good job," Walsh noted. "I thought Parkhill was outstanding, as was Alyssa, both teams had a ton of chances. There was a lot of steady-handed stuff in wet, slick conditions."

As the Nittany Lion defense was able to keep Minnesota's high-flying offense, which was averaging nearly 2.3 goals per game, off the board for 90 minutes, Penn State continued to press until Schoepfer's game-winner.

The first away win of the season for Penn State couldn't have come at a better time as it was the first shutout the Gophers suffered since a 1-0 loss on Sept. 13 at Marquette. Additionally, it was the first time Minnesota was held scoreless since a 0-0 draw on Sept. 4 against Tennessee.

Penn State had plenty of opportunities of its own, putting 10 shots on target, including three from Schoepfer and Toney (Northville, Mich.), respectively. Christine Nairn (Bowie, Md.), Maddy Evans (Glenside, Pa.), Megan Monroig (Northumberland, Pa.), and Alli Rago (Greenwich, Conn.) also registered a shot apiece on goal.

In a fairly clean game that saw just six fouls whistled and no cards booked, both teams were even on corner kicks (3-3) and offsides (1-1) for the evening. Penn State's win puts their win streak over Minnesota to three and upping its overall record to 16-3 against the Golden Gophers. Additionally, the Nittany Lions pushed their shutout streak to 276 minutes since an 84th minute goal against Ohio State on October 4.

The win coupled with a 1-1 draw between Ohio State and Wisconsin, Penn State (12 points) is in sole possession of first, one point ahead of Wisconsin and Purdue in the Big Ten Conference standings. The Nittany Lions are riding an 11-year streak of Big Ten Championships, a 12th will break the all-time record of consecutive Big Ten titles in a women's sport set by the Michigan swimming & diving team.