men's soccer travels for 2008 BMW-Nike soccer challenge

The Penn State men's soccer team (2-3-1, 0-0-0 Big Ten) will make its first true road trip of the 2008 season this weekend when the Nittany Lions travel to the Bay Area of California to participate in the BMW/Nike Soccer Challenge as hosted by the University of San Francisco. It will mark the Nittany Lions' first journey to the west coast during the regular season since visiting Portland, Oregon in 1996 to play Portland University and Washington as part of the Adidas Invitational.

Penn State opens on Fri., Sept. 19 by taking on Saint Mary's (1-4-0, 0-0-0 WCC) for the first time in program history in an 8 p.m. ET contest. The Lions will then finish out tournament play against San Francisco (0-4-0, 0-0-0 WCC) on Sun., Sept. 21 at 3 p.m. ET. UNLV (4-2, 0-0-0 Mountain West) will also face Saint Mary's and San Francisco as part of the challenge. All games will be played at Negoesco Stadium on the San Francisco campus.

The Nittany Lions posted a 1-0-1 record last week in two home games, defeating Saint Francis (Pa.), 1-0, on Sept. 10 before drawing 1-1 with James Madison on Sept. 13. Freshman defender Justin Lee (Derwood, Md.) netted the game winner with the first goal of his collegiate career in the win over the Red Flash. Sophomore goalkeeper Liam Fitzwater (Schuylkill Haven, Pa.) tallied three saves to earn his second shutout of the year. Senior forward Barkley Miller (New Freedom, Pa.) scored the equalizer versus the Dukes, netting his first goal of the season and fourth of his career. Miller currently leads the team in points with three.

Through the season's first six games, the Penn State attack has been consistently aggressive, dominating possession and monopolizing scoring opportunities. Though netting only five goals, the Nittany Lions have outshot their opponents by a combined 133-48 margin, including a 38-22 advantage in shots on goal. In concert with Penn State's more assertive offensive approach, have come increased set piece opportunities. Thus far this season, the Nittany Lions have amassed 43 corner kicks. In 2007, PSU totaled 63 corner kicks for the entire season. Should Penn State continue on its current pace, it will tally 129 in total for the season, more than twice as many as last year.

Led by third year head coach Adam Cooper, the men's soccer team from Saint Mary's College of California, which is located in Moraga in the San Francisco Bay Area, is off to a slow 1-4-0 start to the 2008 campaign. The Gaels are currently mired in a three-game losing streak after falling consecutively to Houston Baptist (1-0), UC Irvine (3-2), and Sacramento State (1-0) this month. The Saint's Mary's attack is diverse with six different players scoring eight of its total goals, led by two from junior midfielder Yousef Samy, and with nine players tallying points. Defense has been the Achilles heel of the Gaels thus far, as opponents are averaging 2.20 goals per game. Junior Jason Badger has served as SMC's primary goalkeeper, starting three of four games, compiling a 2.00 goals against average.

For eight-year head coach Erik Visser's winless San Francisco team, offense has been at a premium in 2008, as its attack has yet to produce a goal through four games. While the offense has struggled, the Dons' stout defense has kept them in games. Each USF loss has come by a tight 1-0 margin, including a season-opening setback to No. 9 Northwestern in Evanston. Junior forward Conor Chinn, who put together a six-goal, five-assist season in 2007, leads the team with seven shots. San Francisco's senior goalkeeping tandem of Eric Conner and Jeremy Coupe lead the West Coast Conference with a 0.96 goals against average.

In a series dating back to 1949 and the era of coaching legend Bill Jeffrey, Penn State has never defeated San Francisco in four all-time meetings, compiling an 0-3-1 record. The Nittany Lions last faced the Dons two years ago at the 2006 Penn State Classic, a 2-0 setback.

Fans can follow all of the Penn State men's soccer action this weekend on the Internet with live stats and instant scoring updates from Gametracker. Sunday's match-up with San Francisco will feature a FREE live audio and video webcast through Yahoo! sports. Find links on the official website of Nittany Lion athletics, www.GoPSUsports.com.

The Nittany Lions will remain on the road next week, venturing east to Philadelphia to face Penn (3-0-1, 0-0-0 Ivy League) on Wed., Sept. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Rhodes Field. Penn State will return home the following Sunday (Sept. 28) to open Big Ten play versus Michigan State (2-3-0, 0-0-0 Big Ten) in a game scheduled for 2 p.m. at Jeffrey Field.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009