UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State men’s soccer team will face Michigan State in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament at 1 p.m. ET Friday (Nov. 9) in Evanston, Ill. The fifth-seeded Spartans bounced third-seeded Indiana, 2-1, Wednesday afternoon to advance to take on the No. 1 seed Nittany Lions. Penn State aims to collect its fourth Big Ten tournament championship after finishing atop the regular-season standings alongside Northwestern.
Both semifinal clashes and the championship game will be aired live on the Big Ten Network.
Penn State (9-4-3, 3-1-2 B1G) has not lost since Oct. 10, collecting three wins and a tie in the four-game span to end the regular season. The unbeaten streak began with a 2-1 victory over Michigan State (9-9-1, 3-3-0 B1G) at home Oct. 14.
A LOOK AT THE SPARTANS
Michigan State entered the conference tournament as the No. 5 seed after finishing 8-9-1 (3-3-0 B1G) in the regular season. Sophomore Adam Montague leads the team offensively with 14 points off five goals and four assists this autumn while fifth-year senior Ryan Thelen paces the conference with seven assists. Seniors Domenic Barone and Luke Norman have been critical for the team this season as well, combining to tally five game-winning goals. Both players have scored three goals apiece, along with two assists. The Spartan lineup is a generous one, as the team leads the Big Ten in assists (28) while tallying 21 goals.
Junior Zach Bennett and freshman Bryce Dobbins have split time in goal this fall. Bennett leads the two with a 0.78 GAA and three shutouts in nine starts in 2012.
Head coach Damon Rensing is in his fourth year at the helm of the Spartan soccer program. Rensing led the squad to the Round of 16 in the NCAA tournament two years ago. A four-time letterwinner at Michigan State, Rensing was an assistant under long-time head coach Joe Baum for 10 years, helping the team to the 2004 and 2008 Big Ten Tournament championships and four NCAA tournament bids.
A HISTORY OF THE SERIES
Penn State leads the all-time series with Michigan State, 19-9-2, in 30 meetings. The Nittany Lions downed the Spartans, 2-1, at Jeffrey Field earlier this season. Before the Spartans claimed a 1-0 victory in 2011, the Nittany Lions won three-consecutive meetings from 2009-10, including a 3-0 win in the semifinals of the 2009 Big Ten Tournament. Head coach Bob Warming is 2-1-0 against Michigan State after winning his first contest against them in 2010, 2-1, in University Park.
LAST TIME OUT
Penn State has not played since Oct. 28, when the team battled to a 4-4 draw with Ohio State on Senior Day at Jeffrey Field. The four goals marked a season-high for the Nittany Lions and the most the squad has scored since a 4-1 win over Old Dominion in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament. The eight combined goals are the most for the program since a 7-1 loss against UCLA in the Round of 16 at the 2002 NCAA Tournament and the most in a regular-season tilt since a 6-2 win over Northwestern during the 2000 campaign.
While Penn State was idle on the first day of the 2012 Big Ten Tournament, the bracket began to shape up starting with Michigan State’s 2-1 win over Indiana. On the other side of the tourney tree, No. 2 seed Northwestern advanced with a 2-0 win against Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan picked up a 1-0 victory over Wisconsin. Northwestern and Michigan will face each other in the second game Friday, scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. ET. Both semifinal matches will air live on Big Ten Network.
Penn State (9-4-3, 3-1-2 B1G) shared the Big Ten regular-season title with Northwestern (10-4-4, 3-1-2 B1G), as both the Nittany Lions and Wildcats finished with 3-1-2 ledgers in conference play, while the Nittany Lions edged out a 1-0 victory in double overtime against the Wildcats Oct. 21.
The Big Ten regular-season crown is the first for head coach Bob Warming in just his third year at the helm of the Penn State program. Most recently, Barry Gorman’s 2005 Nittany Lion squad capped an undefeated, 6-0-0 Big Ten slate before downing Michigan State and Indiana to claim the conference tournament title. The 2005 Big Ten tournament also took place in Evanston.
The race for the championship came down to the final weekend of play as five of the seven teams finished with three victories in Big Ten matches.
NITTANY LIONS IN THE BIG TEN TOURNAMENT
Penn State has reached the Big Ten tournament championship game each of the last three years and has been a part of the title contest 12 of the 21 years the tournament has existed. The Nittany Lions captured tournament crowns in 1993, 2002 and 2005 and own a 3-8-1 record in the finals. The 2011 club made history last year, becoming the first No. 7 seed to advance to the championship game.
In all, Penn State is 28-15-4 in Big Ten tournament play, standing as just one of two conference teams to own a winning record in the postseason event.
The last time Penn State and Michigan State met in the tournament was 2009, as the Nittany Lions advanced to the final clash with a 3-0 win over the Spartans. The clubs have met eight times in the tournament with Penn State claiming a 6-1-1 advantage. The first meeting resulted in a 5-0 PSU win in 1992.
Penn State has allowed just 15 goals this season, tying Northwestern for fewest allowed in the conference. The Nittany Lions are also third behind the Wildcats and Hoosiers with seven shutouts. The Lions have posted strong offensive numbers as well, rising to the top of the charts in assists per game (1.50) and second in points per game (4.38). The team leads the conference with 15.50 shots per game.
Senior Julian Cardona (Lincoln, Neb.) has been a force on the attack this season, tallying 14 points on six goals and two assists. Those numbers have the Nebraska native sitting in fourth in points and third in goals in the Big Ten. Hasani Sinclair (Coral Gables, Fla.) leads the team and is tied for seventh in assists with four this season after picking up two against Ohio State. Minh Vu (Tuscon, Ariz.) and John Gallagher (Pine Bush, N.Y.) have each posted three assists, while Daniel Burnham (Boise, Idaho), Cardona, Owen Griffith (Lewisburg, Pa.) and Drew Klingenberg (Gibsonia, Pa.) have added a pair of helpers. Burnham’s four goals this season has him tied for sixth in the conference. Multiple Nittany Lions have contributed to the offensive success as 15 players have recorded a point, including 11 with goals.
Defensively, the Nittany Lions have allowed just 53 shots on goal, fewest in the Big Ten. Sophomore Andrew Wolverton (Snellville, Ga.) has allowed just four goals in more than 700 minutes of play and leads the Big Ten with a 0.49 GAA after recording 20 saves in nine games. Wolverton also tops the Big Ten in save percentage (.833). Senior Emmanuel Martin (Cormontreuil, France) has taken 788 minutes in goal on the way to a 1.26 GAA in nine starts.
THE RISE OF AN ARMY
Penn State finished second in the Big Ten in attendance this season, averaging over 1,400 fans per game at Jeffrey Field. The support helped the Nittany Lions achieve a 7-2-2 record at home.
The seven Big Ten teams combined for over 74,000 fans at 70 home contests this season.
Midfielders Jacob Barron (La Mirada, Calif.) and Owen Griffith (Lewisburg, Pa.) have been mainstays, as well, combining to play 2,679 of a possible 3,057 minutes this season. Those two trail only Brian Forgue, who has been active for 95% of game time with 1,456 minutes. Seven Nittany Lions have logged more than 1,000 minutes. John Gallagher and Shane Campbell have 1,218 and 1,108 minutes, respectively, to their credit alongside Forgue on the back line, while Daniel Burnham has seen time across the pitch this season on the way to racking up 1,009 minutes.
ODDS AND ENDS
The Lions are:
3-1-2 in Big Ten play
2-2-1 on the road
8-2-2 when leading in shots
4-0-0 when the team posts 20 or more shots
7-2-1 when allowing 10 or fewer shots
6-0-0 when allowing two or fewer shots on goal
5-0-1 when scoring two or more goals
3-1-1 when scoring one goal
4-1-0 when attendance numbers top 1,000
1-1-3 when the game reaches overtime
7-1-2 when leading in corner kicks
3-0-1 this season when Julian Cardona finds the back of the net and 5-1-0 when he registers two or more shots
7-1-2 when Daniel Burnham records two or more shots
Head coach Bob Warming has not hesitated to infuse his team with youth this season as seven freshmen have logged minutes on the field. Rookie Shane Campbell has started nine games on the back line this season, while classmates Drew Klingenberg (Gibsonia, Pa.) and Kelton Cheney (State College, Pa.) received their first starts against Adelphi Sept. 16 and Lehigh Sept. 25, respectively.
Cheney and redshirt-freshman Kyle MacDonald (Yardley, Pa.) recorded their first collegiate points on the same play in the 3-0 win over Adelphi. MacDonald notched an assist on Cheney’s scoring strike in the second half. First-year goalkeeper Danny Sheerin (College Park, Md.) made his first appearance against the Panthers, guarding the net for the final nine minutes of the shutout. Klingenberg opened his collegiate account with an assist on Cheney’s gamewinner against Wisconsin Sept. 21.
ALL YOU NEED IS ONE
Four of the Nittany Lions’ nine victories have come in 1-0 fashion this season, including the team’s Big Ten victories against Wisconsin Sept. 21 and Northwestern Oct. 21. Penn State also knocked off Albany and Duquesne by a 1-0 margin.
Seven of the nine Penn State wins have been decided by one-goal differentials.
The phenomenal scoreless streak by the Penn State defense came to an end in the final minute of the contest against Lehigh Sept. 25 after climbing to 505:56 minutes of on-field time, the longest streak of such in the Big Ten this season. Starting with a goal in the 54th minute of the contest against Georgetown Sept. 2, the Nittany Lions allowed just 12 shots on goal while pitching shutouts in four-consecutive matches, including a 110-minute marathon against West Virginia Sept. 6. The team finished 3-0-1 in that span, outscoring opponents, 5-0, before facing the Mountain Hawks.
Senior Brian Forgue anchored the defense every minute of the run, while classmate John Gallagher was off the field just over a minute. Freshman Shane Campbell and junior Martin Seiler helped suffocate opponents’ attacks the majority of the duration on the back line alongside Forgue and Gallagher. Three keepers, Emmanuel Martin, Andrew Wolverton and Danny Sheerin, spent time in goal for Penn State, combining to stop the 12 shots.
Penn State players have collected multiple individual accolades this season, including a pair of Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week awards.
For his game-winning goal in the second overtime period against Northwestern Oct. 21, Hasani Sinclair was named Player of the Week by Philly Soccer News.
Owen Griffith, a sophomore defender, was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week Sept. 10 after helping the Nittany Lions shut out West Virginia in a scoreless draw Sept. 6. Senior defender Brian Forgue picked up the first Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors of the season Aug. 27 following a 3-0 victory over Stetson in the campaign-opener. Classmate Julian Cardona garnered a spot on the TopDrawerSoccer.com National Team of the Week the same day after his two-goal performance against the Hatters.
Numerous players have also landed on all-tournament teams after the WVU Nike Classic, co-hosted by West Virginia and Penn State, and the Class of ’98 Invitational, co-hosted with Bucknell, in which the Nittany Lions finished a combined 4-0-0.