Junior midfielder Toni Starova struggles for possession against Boston College on Saturday, April 17, 2021 at Dail Soccer Field. Starova scored twice as the Wolfpack won 3-1.

NC State women’s soccer fell to No. 14 Penn State in the second match of a pair of neutral site games held in Charlottesville, Virginia on Sept. 9 and Sept. 12.

The Wolfpack (4-2-2) gave up an unbelievable last-minute goal to the top-ranked Big Ten side en route to a 1-0 loss, despite outshooting the Nittany Lions (6-1) and having a greater share of possession. Both squads were coming off a victory, with the Wolfpack beating Oklahoma earlier in the week and the Nittany Lions defeating No. 3 UVA away from home on Sept. 9. 

The Wolfpack was able to open the match on the front foot, and managed to get 3 shots on goal in only the first fifteen minutes. 

The first of those three came in only the sixth-minute when junior midfielder Toni Starova was played through and sent in an optimistic shot from well outside the 18-yard box. Penn State goalkeeper Katherine Asman was able to collect it with ease, but the effort showed positive signs for the Wolfpack attack. 

The first real chance of the game came in the 16th minute. The Wolfpack was able to work the ball into the Nittany Lion’s box and sophomore forward Jameese Joseph was able to send a well-weighted cross to the far side of the post. Starova sent the ball towards goal with a strong header, but Asman made a brilliant save to deny the Wolfpack at point-blank range.

Penn State, who had zero shots on goal the entire first half, had its biggest chance of the half with four minutes remaining in the first 45. The Lions were able to send the ball across the face of the Wolfpack goal but the attempt was sent well right of the net and was not registered as a shot. 

At the end of the first half, the Wolfpack dominated statistically. The Pack managed three shots on target and six total, while the Nittany Lions had zero on target and two total. The Pack managed to create more chances but were unable to take the lead thanks to Penn State keeper Katherine Asman, who had three saves to keep the contest level. 

The second half started similarly to the first. Penn State was able to get into dangerous positions but was not able to capitalize on its chances. Much like the first half, the Wolfpack was able to get the first shots away and managed two on target within the first nine minutes of the second half. Starova and freshman midfielder Emika Kawagishi were responsible for the two shots, but both were saved by Asman, who was the only obstacle in the way of the Wolfpack taking a lead. 

Penn State did manage a great chance when forward Ally Schlegel was through on goal and only had the keeper to beat, but Wolfpack junior defender Jenna Butler was able to recover and make a brilliant tackle, stopping a certain scoring opportunity. 

After that chance, Penn State began to show why they are the 14th-best team in the nation and continued to pile on the pressure. The Nittany Lions managed three corners in the second half and finally got its first shot on goal in the 81st minute. 

With the Nittany Lions on the front foot late, the Wolfpack seemed to just be hoping for extra time, and played out from the back, allowing Penn State to keep a high press. This plan seemed to be working out as the two sides still remained goalless in the final few minutes, but with only 47 seconds remaining, Penn State snatched victory from the jaws of the Wolfpack, with only its second shot on goal of the entire match. 

The Nittany Lions threw everyone forward as they looked to get a late goal, senior Kerry Abello sent in a ball from the left side of the Wolfpack area. Defender Kate Wiesner ran onto it, simply poking it past the Pack defense into the back of the net in buzzer-beater fashion. 

The Nittany Lions were able to dominate late and took advantage of the few chances they created. The Wolfpack outshot Penn State 11 to 8 and 5 to 2 on goal in the end, but had every shot on goal saved by Asman, who was really the unsung hero for the Nittany Lions. 

In a difficult contest, the Nittany Lions came out on top and showed their resilience in the face of an attacking onslaught by the Wolfpack. The Pack should look at this game for its positives, and hope that having more shots and possession will work out in its favor next time. 

The Wolfpack opens ACC play next week as it travels to Thompson Field in Blacksburg, Virginia to take on Virginia Tech on Sept. 18 at 7 p.m.