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Rodriguez lifts Penn State to first NCAA title

Raquel Rodriguez's goal on Sunday clinched a first-ever women's soccer NCAA title for Penn State. (Photo: Penn State Athletics_

Raquel Rodriguez’s goal on Sunday clinched a first-ever women’s soccer NCAA title for Penn State. (Photo: Penn State Athletics_

CARY, N.C. — Raquel Rodriguez’s goal in the 72nd minute lifted Penn State to its first-ever NCAA Division I women’s soccer championship on Sunday. Her goal was the only one scored in a back-and-forth match at WakeMed Soccer Park which saw the Nittany Lions beat Duke, 1-0.

Rodriguez collected a low cross with her back to goal from 12 yards out, turned and created space to fire a left-footed shot back across goal and past Duke goalkeeper E.J. Proctor.

Rodriguez, a senior, plays internationally for Costa Rica and scored a goal at the 2015 Women’s World Cup. She is considered by many to be the favorite to win the MAC Hermann Trophy as college soccer’s best player.

Penn State wins its first national title, marking the third straight year in which a team won the Division I women’s crown for the first time. Duke was also seeking its first national championship after upsetting defending national champions Florida State in Friday’s semifinals. The Blue Devils are no 0-3 all-time in the championship. Penn State previously lost in its only other College Cup final appearance in 2012.

With the victory, Penn State coach Erica Walsh becomes just the third woman in history to guide a team to a Women’s College Cup title.

Duke’s best chance of the match came eight minutes in, when Ashton Miller flashed a strong volley just wide of the post from 18 yards out.

Penn State, the Big Ten champions, did not concede a goal in six matches in this NCAA tournament.

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