A Game of Firsts

A Game of Firsts

As Dean Christian Brady took center field with wife Elizabeth and daughter Izzy, Penn State soccer fans knew they were in for a great evening at Jeffrey Field. Friday night’s 7 p.m. men’s soccer game was held in honor of the late Mack Brady, a devoted Penn State soccer fan and “fun, boisterous kid” with aspirations to become a talented goalkeeper. Proceeds from this white out event benefitted the “Mack Brady Memorial Men’s Soccer Fund at Penn State” established by Mack’s parents, Elizabeth and Christian. This honorary Mack Brady event was the first of it’s kind and undoubtedly occurred during a “must-see” game. The Penn State Nittany Lions took on No. 5 ranked Cal in a highly anticipated match, an inaugural meeting of the two teams. Minutes before start, Dean Brady asserted, “This is an amazing team of young men – top ranked Cal. We’re honored to have them here but WE ARE PENN STATE and WE WILL BEAT CAL.”

mack the jeffThe Penn State starting lineup (Wolverton, Maloney, Warming, Wadid, Campbell, Griffith, Robinson, Howard, Klerks, Seiler, and Falk) proved that the Nittany Lions were ready to rebound from their two road losses earlier in the week. The energy, excitement, and sense of urgency were clearly displayed from the very first minute. Within the first 5 minutes, freshman Mason Klerks (#18) carried the ball up the field, building anticipation for a goal. Although he couldn't connect with the PSU front line, Klerks set the stage for countless opportunities to come. Indeed, fellow freshman Connor Maloney (#5) demonstrated superior footwork and hustle on the offensive line, increasing one’s anticipation of a goal. The talent and effort did not stop with the freshmen class, however. Sophomore Shane Campbell (#11) executed a perfectly-placed cross from the left side of the field, to junior Owen Griffith (#12) who headed the ball just wide of the net. Defender Randy Falk (#24) also contributed to the excitement with dangerous crosses. These attempts, numerous as they were, couldn’t prevent one of Cal’s shots from slipping by. In the 20th minute, Cal senior Ryan Neil crossed the ball to Steve Birnbaum who put the Golden Bears ahead 1-0 with a header goal. The persistent Cal defense continued to avert Penn State’s progressions in the box, many times arousing anger in Penn State fans toward the referees’ calls. With 2 minutes left in the half, Connor Maloney (#5) advanced toward the goal but fell victim to what appeared to be a major foul (no call, of course, was made).

Entering the second half down 1-0, the Nittany Lions were thirsting for an equalizer. Penn State defense remained resilient in the second half, especially as Akil Howard (#16) made an impressive breakaway stop early on, carrying the ball forward from the defensive line. Finally, in the 77th minute, Kyle MacDonald (#6) earned his first career goal off an assist from junior Owen Griffith (#12). Neither team was able to pull ahead in the second-half, causing the nail biter to enter into overtime (or should I say DOUBLE overtime). The score was kept even at 1-1 for the first OT. With just over 5 minutes left in the second OT, Connor Maloney (#5) ripped a promising shot, but it unfortunately traveled just wide of the net. Maloney was injured on the play and struggled off the field. Despite such opportunities and increased hope, the game ended in a 1-1 tie.

The heart Penn State played with on Friday night is tribute to not only the team’s hard work and preparation, but the cause they so graciously support. We may not have “BEAT CAL” as Dean Brady and the Nittany Lions had hoped, but we certainly proved that “WE ARE PENN STATE” and WE DON’T give up. We don’t give up for our sake, and we certainly don’t give up for Mack’s sake.