* Courtesy of Penn State Sports Information
SAN DIEGO, Calif. - The Penn State women's soccer (21-3-2) team will be appearing in its first ever NCAA National Championship game after senior midfielder Christine Nairn (Arnold, Md.) tapped in the game-winner just 1:12 into overtime to give Penn State a 2-1 win over the Florida State Seminoles. Penn State is just the second Big Ten team to ever appear in the National Title game (Wisconsin, 1991).
Leading 1-0 in regulation, Penn State surrendered a goal to the Seminoles with just 41 seconds remaining. With Florida State riding the momentum, the Nittany Lions abruptly ended the game in the 91st minute, when senior captain Maddy Evans (Glenside, Pa.) hit a long pass room the right wing into the box and Nairn touched it in from six yards out.
"If you track this team over the course of the last 25 games you will see that we've faced all sorts of adversity over the course of this season and its led them with this belief that it doesn't matter what's been done to them," said head coach Erica Walsh. "You just see their shoulders go back, they pause, they take a breath, and then Christine there steps up and leads the charge. When we went into overtime the staff got together and looked over and Christine's there right in the middle of the group looking them in the eyes giving them the poise, the composure, and all the confidence in the world to go into the overtime period and win the game and when you can turn it over to your players and they can step up in those big moments that's probably your proudest moment as a coach and your work is done because soccer is a player's game and when you can turn it over to them and they can step up, that's when your work is done."
Florida State put a quick, early attack on the Nittany Lions just two minutes into the game. A cross by the Seminoles right in front off Penn State's goal was dangerous, but Florida State failed to get a foot on it. Penn State would knock that ball out of bounds, leading to Florida State's second corner in the first two minutes.
The Nittany Lions' first big opportunity came in the 17th minute. A deflected pass in the air landed at senior midfielder's Nairn's feet at the top of the 18. Nairn took it to her left side and ripped it off the keepers hand and went just past the far side post. The senior came close in the 25th minute as well and freshman Corey Perrson (Danvers, Mass.) played a nice ball into the middle of the box but nobody was there to capitalize.
The best opportunity yet for PSU came in the 53rd minute, when Hayes was one-on-one at the top of the box and made a nice step-over move. But a great tackle in the box by a Florida State defender prevented Hayes from getting a shot off.
Penn State's go-ahead goal would come in the 57th minute of play. Weber broke loose on the left side of the field attacking the goal. She dribbled into the box and took a decent angled shot on goal. Florida State's keeper, Kelsey Wys made a great first save, but the ball deflected off her hands. Hayes garnered the rebound and tapped it in to give the Lions a 1-0 advantage.
After the Penn State goal, the Seminoles began to pressure and senior keeper Erin McNulty (Winnipeg, Manitoba) was tested. The former FSU keeper made three big saves in the second half as she faced 14 total shots. Tiffany McCarty would score though with 41 second remaining to tie the game up at one on a cross from Kristin Grubka. Nevertheless, Penn State would score 1:53 later to end the game in dramatic fashion.
"To be honest I don't really remember the play, the whole night I guess is a little blacked out," said Nairn. "You know we had been trying to counter attack them I think Florida just played the ball forward and we just kicked it off higher up on the field to our goal and played the ball to Maya and she does what she does and Maddy Evans with the assist and thank god that she was running down the ball when she might not have gotten it and just trying to put the ball in frame to score obviously and I was in the right place at the right time. They did all the hard work I just tapped it in."
Penn State will take on the winner of Stanford and North Carolina this Sunday at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT live on ESPNU in the National Championship game.
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