Once again, the Quakers impressed by keeping up with one of the nation’s top teams for most of the 90 minutes. But it was another late goal that gave Penn men’s soccer one more close loss.
The Red and Blue (6-7-1) were beaten, 2-1, on an 84th-minute goal by Penn State sophomore defender Shane Campbell in a nonconference matchup Tuesday night at Rhodes Field.
It was a night when both coaches chose to rest some of their key players as they looked forward to this weekend’s conference games. No. 9 Penn State (11-3-1) was also coming off a big win on Sunday that clinched them the regular season Big Ten title.
Much like the Drexel game three weeks ago, Penn coach Rudy Fuller played a team made up of mostly reserves for much of the first half.
“A lot of these guys have worked hard in training but haven’t been able to get an opportunity these last couple weeks because we’ve been in some really tight games,” Fuller said.
“So we wanted to give them a look, give them some live action. And I think everyone took advantage of it.”
The backups held their own against the Nittany Lions, resulting in a halftime draw. Penn had the best chance of the half on a breakaway shot by freshman Sam Hayward that went just wide of the goal.
Both Fuller and Penn State coach Bob Warming substituted in their regular starters for the second half and the game began to pick up in intensity.
The Nittany Lions were first on the board with a powerful finish at close range by junior defender Eli Dennisok in the 62nd minute.
The Quakers responded through some nice build-up play, as they strung together over a dozen passes before senior midfielder Alex Reddy whipped in a cross that freshman forward Alec Neumann headed into the net.
“Reddy got the ball out wide and put in a really great ball, even though it was on his weaker foot,” Neumann said. “He put it perfectly right at a position where the goalie had to make a decision and I got on the end of it first.”
Once the teams were level at 1-1, Penn looked the more likely team to grab the winning goal in regulation. But the visitors grabbed a somewhat fortunate goal to take the win.
Senior goalkeeper Tyler Kinn made a great save for Penn off a long-range Nittany Lion effort, but the rebound fell directly into the path of Campbell who tucked it away for the game-winner.
“Tonight we equalized and it really felt like we were gonna get another goal to win it,” Fuller said. “So it’s just our guys having that edge to get over the hump in games like this. It’s clear we can play at this level, there’s no question about that.”
Despite the loss, Fuller and his team seem pleased with the effort shown against the Big Ten champions.
“Ultimately, I think we proved that we can be as good as the top teams in the country,” Kinn said. “We were just one finish or one defensive stop away from beating them.”
This weekend, the Quakers have their sights set on Brown in a game pivotal for Penn’s Ivy League title hopes.
“As I just told the guys, our focus is on Brown right now,” Fuller said. “It was good to get a good performance. Everybody got some minutes tonight, everybody did well with the minutes they got. So we’re looking forward to getting up to Providence this weekend.”
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