Women's soccer caps Michigan road trip Saturday vs. Spartans

October 17, 2014

The No. 11 Penn State women's soccer team traveled to Michigan this week for a pair of matches against the Wolverines and Michigan State. The Nittany Lions upended the Wolverines, 1-0, on Thursday (Oct. 16) behind a goal from Megan Schafer and goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom's sixth shutout of the season.

The win gives Penn State (13-2, 8-1 Big Ten) sole possession of first place in the Big Ten standings.  The Lions travel to Michigan State for a 1 p.m. match Saturday. 

After opening the season 6-1, Michigan State (8-5-1, 2-5-1 Big Ten) began Big Ten play 0-5-1. The tide has turned recently, however, with back-to-back conference wins against Nebraska and Purdue. The Spartans have allowed 12 goals in 13 games, thanks to Courtney Clem's conference-leading 77 saves.

Penn State holds a 18-4-0 all-time series advantage over Michigan State. Last season, the Nittany Lions shut out the Spartans, 3-0, in Penn State's regular season finale.

The statistics certainly support a No. 11 national ranking for the Blue and White. Offensively, Penn State has been held to one-or-fewer goal just four times this season, netting 37 to lead the Big Ten (seven more than second-place Wisconsin). On the other side of the field, the Nittany Lions have only allowed more than one goal once this season for the team's best defensive start since 2007.
Nationally, the Nittany Lions are tied for eighth in scoring offense, tied for second in won-lost-tied percentage and rank 14th in points. Britt Eckerstrom has the nation's 23rd-best goals against average, as well.

The 2014 Nittany Lions have proven to be one of the best defensive teams in recent history with its six shutouts. They became the first team in program history to shut out opponents in a two-game Big Ten opening weekend. The 2014 team is also the first squad since 2008 to open Big Ten play with consecutive shutouts after its 1-0 and 3-0 wins over Purdue and Indiana. Additionally, the Blue and White have only allowed more than one goal in a match once, and in both of its losses, Penn State fell by just a 1-0 margin.

Britt Eckerstrom (Germantown, Md.) was named the Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 6 after shutouts against Minnesota and No. 13 Wisconsin. This is the first weekly honor of Eckerstrom's career.

Sophomore Salina Williford (Wayne, Pa.) has emerged as an integral part of Penn State's attack. After playing in the back last season, Williford has started every 2014 match in the midfield and has almost tripled her shot total from her freshman year (26 in 2014, 9 in 2013). She scored the first four goals of her career in a four-game span (against Ohio State, Northwestern, No. 19 Illinois and No. 13 Wisconsin), including the 2-1 game-winner against Illinois.

Freshman Frannie Crouse (Greensburg, Pa.) has made her mark in the Penn State record books with a fantastic start to her collegiate career. Crouse is the first freshman in program history to win back-to-back Big Ten Freshman of the Week titles after scoring five goals in one week against Bucknell, Northwestern and No. 19 Illinois for her Sept. 29 honor and netted a pair against Ohio State to garner her first Freshman of the Week title on Sept. 22. Crouse's offensive prowess has proven to be historic. She is the first freshman since 2003 to score seven-or-more goals in the opening 11 games of her collegiate career.

Penn State's 12-2 start is even more impressive when flipping through the program record book. This year's team has begun the season with the best record since 2005, when the Blue and White achieved the program's only undefeated season to date (23-0-2), eventually falling in the Women's College Cup to Portland on penalty kicks (4-3).

Junior Raquel Rodriguez (San Jose, Costa Rica) is a member of the Costa Rican Women's National Team and is currently competing for Costa Rica in preparation for the 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship in an attempt to qualify for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup. Rodriguez won't be the only Nittany Lion to don their country's colors in 2014.

Over the summer, sophomore Brittany Basinger (Purcellville, Va.) and freshman Rose Chandler (Atlanta, Ga.) represented the United States at the 2014 FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup, hosted by Canada. Penn State Head Coach Erica Walsh was also a member of the U.S. U-20 Women's National Team, serving as an assistant coach. The U.S. U-20 team went 2-2 at the tournament, besting China PR and Brazil, and was eliminated after the Group stage after falling 3-1 to Korea DPR. This was Chandler's first appearance as a member of the U-20 team while Basinger was a member of the 2014 CONCACAF Women's U-20 Championship team.

For complete coverage of Penn State women's soccer, please visit http://www.GoPSUsports.com/sports/w-soccer. Follow PSU women's soccer on Twitter and Instagram: @PennStateWSOC. Penn State women's soccer is also on Facebook: www.facebook.com/PSUWomensSoccer.

Last Updated October 17, 2014