Michigan State Can’t Complete Comeback Against Penn State

Sophomore Kristin Matula notched her first goal of the season and Sierra Patton made seven saves, but it was not enough as No. 18 Michigan State (5-3) could not complete the comeback against No. 7 Penn State (7-2), as they lost by a score of 2-1 Friday afternoon at Ralph Young Field.

Friday’s game marked the 37th all-time meeting between these two Big Ten schools, with Penn State winning the last five in a row to give them a 27-10 head-to-head record against the Spartans.

Michigan State found itself in an all too familiar situation as they gave up the first goal for the fifth-straight contest.

Redshirt senior Natalie Buttinger opened the scoring for Penn State with her third of the season on a shot that trickled behind Patton. Penn State forward Casey Haegele then put Michigan State in a 2-0 hole 1:50 later with her first of the season.

“It’s just those tiny letdowns that we have that we really need to work on,” said Matula, a Louisville, KY native.

The Spartans would answer with Matula’s chip shot 4:10 later to cut the deficit to 2-1.

“I received the ball outside the circle on the sideline and dribbled it down the end line looking for someone at post or stroke,” Matula said. “I saw the goalie was off balance and lifted it right over.”

The goal ignited the Spartans, as they took an edge in shots 10-9 at the break. Despite the lead in shots, the Spartans did not earn a corner in the half for the first time in six halves.

Penn State opened the second half with five-straight shots and three corners in a span of six minutes but could not capitalize. The stops turned the tide in Michigan State’s favor, as the Spartans peppered Penn State goalie Kylie Licata with nine-straight shots of their own, including four straight corners, but could not find the back of the cage.

Knowing the field was tilted in the Spartans’ favor, Penn State coach Lisa Bervinchak-Love called a timeout with just under 9:30 left to play.

The timeout settled the Nittany Lions and Penn State was able to play keep away for most of the final two minutes, which thwarted any hopes the Spartans had of coming back.

The Spartans do not have much time to dwell on the loss, as they welcome No. 4 Maryland to town Sunday afternoon.

“A lot of teams are 1-1 in the Big Ten so it’s wide open and I believe in our team and we believe in ourselves,” Matula said. “We just need to keep the energy, keep the press, believe in ourselves and we could do it.”

Brian Bobal is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports

Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports