The 18th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers lost to the Penn State Nittany Lions on Thursday night, 1-2.
Wisconsin entered the game with obvious momentum. The Badgers were riding an unbeaten streak of eight, having not lost in over a month. Penn State, on the other hand, came into the match on a three-game losing streak, all games decided by one score. Despite their recent skid and underwhelming conference record so far (0-3), the Nittany Lions have shown flashes of excellence throughout the season, notching multiple wins over top-fifteen teams.
The recent performances carried over into the first fifteen minutes, as the Badgers came out of the gate showing clear aggression and control. Wisconsin forward Emma Jaskeniec intercepted a poor pass in the thirteenth minute and didn't hesitate to push the ball downfield. After a few taps, the junior unleashed a shot from beyond the box straight to the bottom left corner of the net, slotting the ball into the goal. Not a single Nittany Lion closed in on her. The Badgers took the early lead, 1-0.
Following Jaskeniec's goal, the intensity balanced out. Penn State quickly responded to the aggression, making multiple pushes into the Wisconsin penalty box. The Wisconsin defenders succumbed to the pressure in the thirtieth minute, as Macy Monticello pushed a Nittany Lion in the lower back, drawing a yellow card and giving the Lions a free kick opportunity.
The penalty proved to be costly, as midfielder Sam Coffey curled the freebie into the top of the net through Jordyn Bloomer's fingertips. The Nittany Lions answered, evening the score at 1-1 off of a beautiful kick. Bloomer was visibly irate, but any keeper would've had trouble stopping that particular attempt.
In terms of control, the first 15 minutes of each half were polar opposites. The Nittany Lions opened up the second half with significantly more intensity. The Penn State attack was relentless on the Badgers defenders and even got a few shots off, but Bloomer managed some key saves. Like the first half, the Badgers eventually matched the tone, but neither team could pull ahead.
In the eightieth minute, Penn State midfielder Olivia Damico soared a pass into the box for teammate Ally Schliegel. Schleigel didn't get a shot off, but the ball bounced to the Nittany Lions' Jordan Caniff, who tapped it in for a 2-1 Penn State lead.
The Badgers couldn't respond in the final ten minutes, resulting in Wisconsin's first defeat in nine games.
Both teams finished the game with an equal number of shots and saves, but the costly statistic turned out to be fouls. Wisconsin finishes with eight to Penn State's three.
The key player in this game was Penn State's Sam Coffey. Coffey led the opposing charge following Wisconsin's early goal with multiple strong drives as well as the equalizer in the thirtieth minute. The senior led the team in shots (four) and shots on goal (two).
The Badgers now look to rebound on Sunday, where they will face Purdue at home. The matchup with the Boilermakers will be the first of six remaining regular-season games, all against Big Ten opponents.
Donnie Slusher is the sports editor for the Daily Cardinal. He has written multiple breaking news stories, sports columns and an in-depth examination of race in Wisconsin football. Follow Donnie on Twitter at @DonnieSlusher_