WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Led by the program's four seniors, Purdue women's soccer outplayed No. 4 Penn State for much of the night and dominated possession in the second half, but the Nittany Lions' two first-half goals held up for a 2-0 final Friday evening at the Boilermaker Soccer Complex.
Shortly after being honored for their contributions to the program during the pregame senior night ceremony, Tayler Francel, Yana Lyon, Marta Lynch and Jessica Warren all started the game for the Boilers (7-10-2, 2-8-1 Big Ten). Lyon made her first career start in goal and kept her team in the game throughout the first half, finishing the game with nine saves to match a season high by a Purdue goalkeeper. Francel played all but the final minute at center back, only leaving the pitch to receive a curtain call along with her fellow seniors. Lynch and Warren both gave gutsy performances as attacking players, finishing out their careers on a high note despite being hindered by knee braces.
Penn State (16-2-1, 10-0-1 Big Ten) scored in the third and 31st minutes to build a halftime lead that it spent much of the second half protecting. The Boilermakers enjoyed an 8-2 edge in the shot count and 8-0 advantage in corner kicks in the final 45 minutes of the game. The Nittany Lions, who scored their NCAA-leading 59th and 60th goals of the season, did not generate a shot on goal in the second half.
However, Purdue's second-half advantages did not impact the final result. Penn State goalkeeper Erin McNulty did her part, finishing the night with seven saves. Ultimately, the Boilers were able to possess the ball and create shots and corners in the second half, but were unable to turn those chances into dangerous scoring opportunities.
Penn State's Mallory Weber scored with a sliding shot in the heart of the 18-yard box after a left-to-right centering pass from Emily Hurd. The goal was scored only two minutes and 16 seconds after the opening kickoff. Maddy Evans later headed in the fourth of PSU's five corner kicks, directing the shot inside the right post in the 31st minute.
The Nittany Lions played with their customary three-defender formation in the first half, looking to turn the game into an up-and-down affair that would create counterattack opportunities on both ends of the field. Penn State did eventually go to a traditional four-back formation in the second half when the time came to emphasize protecting its 2-0 lead.
Chinyelu Asher forced McNulty to make her toughest save of the night, a diving stop to her left after a one-touch shot in the heart of the 18-yard box in the 22nd minute.
Lyon's best saves came early in the game as she prevented PSU from blowing it open. She made a punch save on a rising blast off the foot of Hurd in the seventh minute, deflecting the shot from the left flank over the crossbar. In the 15th minute, Lyon dove to her right to snare a ground shot unleashed from outside the 18-yard box by Tani Costa.
Penn State completed an undefeated Big Ten season for the fifth time in program history, its first since going 10-0 in 2005. The Nittany Lions had clinched their 15th consecutive Big Ten regular-season title Sunday.
Melissa Casella, Jordan Frick, Kim Love and Makaela Nellams went the distance for Purdue. Frick returned to her customary outside back position after missing the last three games due to injury. However, the Boilers were without forward Hadley Stuart again on this night. After being an iron woman for the first 14 games, she was only able to 85 minutes in the final five due to a quad injury.
Love never left the pitch during her freshman season, playing every minute of the year at center back. She became the first Boiler to be season-long iron woman since Brookley Rogers in 2010. Casella finished the season having played 1410 consecutive minutes. She did not leave the pitch at her defensive midfield position after joining the starting lineup in time for the Aug. 31 win against Tennessee-Martin.
Purdue will have to bid adieu to its four seniors, but is scheduled to return 12 players that started games this season. Additionally, all seven players that scored goals this year, as well as starting goalkeeper Clara Kridler, have eligibility remaining to return for the 2013 campaign.