Penn State Wins in Come From Behind Fashion
After a series of weather delays and a venue change, Penn State struck twice late in the second half to win the Big Ten title.The Nittany Lions claim the title as the five seed, the lowest position they had ever earned in the conference tournament. Laura Freigang, who scored the only game in Friday’s match, scored the equalizer and Haley Echard added another soon thereafter.
Northwestern took the lead in the 38th minute when Nia Harris finished far post after beating Ellie Jean to a ball played into the middle of the box by Kylie Fisher. The goal came a bit against the run of play. While the Wildcats had the better of the play in the opening 7 or 8 minutes of the match, Penn State controlled much of the possession in the half an hour preceding the tally by Harris.
Immediately after Northwestern broke the deadlock, the game was delayed again due to weather. After a two hour delay, the contest relocated indoors to the Grand Park Events Center and play resumed. The surface was a marked departure from the wet, slippery, and windy conditions of the outdoor pitch.
In the 70th minute, the Nittany Lions pulled even when Laura Freigang headed in a feed from Maddie Elliston. Less than 10 minutes later Penn State took the lead when Haleigh Echard scored the game-winner. Alina Ortega-Jurado provided the service. Northwestern was unable to respond and the final whistle, at last, blew six and half hours after the scheduled 11:00 am kickoff that was intended to stave off the inclement weather.
Baylor Defeats TCU in Overtime
The Bears claim the Big 12 conference title thanks to a goal scored by Lauren Piercy in the 94th minute. Aline De Lima, who was also Baylor’s most outstanding offensive player in the semi-final, played the role of provider on both of Baylor’s goals.
Much like in the semi-final match against Oklahoma State, Baylor dominated much of the run of play in the field half. Unlike that previous match, the Bears didn’t convert enough of those opportunities to win in regulation.
Senior Lauren Piercy had one of the best chances of the first stanza when she was able to pounce on a loose ball and TCU keeper Katie Lund was forced make a full extension save. The Horned Frogs, meanwhile, managed no shots in the half. TCU struggled to maintain any possession or string more than a few passes together at a time. As a result, the team spent the majority of the first half in their defensive end of the field.
About ten minutes into the box, TCU looked to have gotten a break when Senior Emma Heckendorn was brought down in the box by a hip check. The referee, however, ignored the protests of Heckendorn and her teammates and signaled to play on. Just before this potentially game-changing play, the Horned Frogs were starting to mount a more dangerous attack as they earned back-to-back corners.
With about 20 minutes remaining in the match, the Bears were finally able to take advantage of one of their opportunities. Aline De Lima sent a well-textured ball into the box that Kennedy Brown needed only to redirect into the net.
Brown’s goal wouldn’t stand up though. With less than four minutes left in regulation, Precious Akanyirige committed the cardinal sin of defending in the box as she failed to keep her hands down when TCU played a ball into the box. Ryan Williams converted the penalty, her third such make in the tournament.
Piercy nearly got the lead right back for the Bears as she took a rocket of a shot just after play resumed following Williams’ tally. Piercy would get another chance in the 94th minute of overtime off of a feed by De Lima. This time, her shot just squeaked by Lund and rolled into the net near the far post for the game-winner.