Nov. 8, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Junior Melanie Pickert's goal in the 20th minute propelled the University of Iowa soccer team to a 1-0 victory over No. 20 Penn State in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday at Illinois Soccer Stadium. The Hawkeyes will play for their first tournament title in school history on Sunday.
"We're excited. From the first time we played Penn State, we did a couple things better," said head coach Ron Rainey. "This team has really battled the past couple weeks, going back to the Purdue game where we needed to get a result to keep advancing."
Pickert's goal was assisted by freshman Bri Toelle off of a corner kick. Senior Alex Melin went up with multiple defenders to head the ball, and it deflected into the chest of Pickert, who was able to finish for her sixth goal of the season. The assist was Toelle's fourth of the season and her third point of the Big Ten Tournament.
"The referees allowed us to be physical on the repetition, and (Pickert) was very simple on the finish," said Rainey. "Little things like that are what is separating these one goal games this time of the year."
Iowa withstood a barrage of shots from the Nittany Lions in the second half, as Penn State launched 17 shots at the Hawkeye defense. Iowa did not allow a goal in last 45 minutes, tying a school record with its 10th shutout of the season.
"We knew they were going to throw a lot of numbers forward and we needed an effort from all 11 of us," said junior Caitlin Brown. "We wanted to get a second and third goal, but it didn't happen, and we knew we needed to be disciplined and defend."
Sophomore Hannah Clark tied a career high with eight saves in the contest, collecting her 10th shutout of the season, an individual school record.
"Everybody was flying around, putting bodies in front of the ball. They didn't get any clear shots in the second half," said Clark.
Rainey said Clark had her best game of the year on Friday afternoon.
"We want to keep seeing those reps as we head into Sunday," Rainey said.
With the win, Iowa earned its 15th win of the season, extending the school record. The Hawkeyes will face either Nebraska or Indiana in the final on Sunday in Champaign, Ill., at 1 p.m. (CT). The game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
"We're excited, we're ready to be here," said Pickert. "If we can recover, we'll be good to go."