Women’s soccer defeats Penn State, 3-2

McClernon’s second-half goal gives the Cavaliers a win against top-five opponent


In the 62nd minute, sophomore defender Phoebe McClernon scored the game winner off a free kick from 45 yards out. The goal was McClernon’s first of her career. 

Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

After a loss to No. 1 UCLA Thursday, No. 8 Virginia bounced back to get a win against No. 5 Penn State, 3-2. 

“Thursday’s loss was definitely a disappointment for us,” sophomore midfielder and defender Courtney Petersen said. “We needed to bring more energy to this game and really just dig deep today, and I think that’s exactly what we did.”

The Cavaliers (5-2-0) quickly got on the scoreboard when Petersen blasted in a goal from the left wing in the third minute of play. Sophomore midfielder Zoe Morse had the assist on Petersen’s first goal of the season.

Just before the half ended, the Nittany Lions (4-2-0) evened things out as senior midfielder Haleigh Echard scored off an assist from junior midfielder Charlotte Williams.  

A few minutes into the second half, Virginia took back the lead as junior midfielder Betsy Brandon put one into the back of the net off a cross from junior midfielder Hana Kerner. 

However, this lead did not last long, as Penn State converted on a penalty kick opportunity just minutes later. 

In the 62nd minute, sophomore defender Phoebe McClernon scored the game winner off a free kick from 45 yards out. The goal was McClernon’s first of her career. 

Virginia’s three goals in the match were the most goals the Cavaliers have scored in a single game this season. 

“It was a whole team effort,” McClernon said. “We talked a lot about staying positive with each other because that just gives you the energy to keep going for 90 minutes, and we put away chances today, and that’s something we’ve struggled with a lot.” 

The Cavaliers finished the game with a total of 16 shots, while Penn State finished with 10 shots and Virginia goalkeeper Laurel Ivory picked up four saves. 

“I was more proud of the way we played soccer than anything else,” Coach Steve Swanson said. “I thought we made good decisions on the field — we did what we had to do. I thought as the second half went along, we controlled more and more of the game.”

The win against the Nittany Lions was the first time this season the Cavaliers gave up two goals and still managed to get the win.

“We need to keep scoring goals, but we also need to stop conceding,” McClernon said. “Keeping clean sheets is a big goal we should be having over the whole year.”

After having already played three of the top five teams in the country, the Cavaliers will begin ACC play on Friday with a match against NC State.   

“We needed these tough games because if we play easy teams in the beginning, we’re not going to learn anything,” Petersen said. “These teams really tested us, and now we’re ready to start the ACC on Friday.”

Swanson similarly feels these early tests will be beneficial.

“You find out where you are a little bit, and you find out what the standard is,” Swanson said. “You make a couple mistakes and these teams will make you pay … For us, those lessons are really important heading into the ACC. I feel this was a big win for us, and it gives our players some confidence to know we can play at this level, and we can play consistently at this level.” 

After taking on NC State on the road Friday, the Cavaliers will stay on the road for a Sunday match against East Carolina. The next home game for Virginia is Sept. 21, in which it will host Miami.

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