The defending Big Ten Champion, Penn State, has started the season on fire and is currently ranked 9th in the HeroSports Top 25. The Nittany Lions continued their spectacular run with a 1-0 away win against Michigan on Sunday. In that shutout victory, senior goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton became the school’s all-time leader in shutouts with 29. Wolverton has been a key feature of Penn State’s success, but the team’s continued commitment to defensive stability has allowed them to rack up seven shutouts on the season.
Wolverton’s work has been light thanks to spectacular defending in front of him. Head coach Bob Warming assured his defenders that all of their names would appear in the record book next to the shutout record because “our team is a team and it takes a whole team to get a shutout, and Andrew understands that.” That defensive mentality allowed Wolverton to face only four shots against Michigan. The Nittany Lions have only conceded three times so far this season, with two of those goals coming against Penn earlier in the week.
The defense has been anchored by senior defenders Eli Dennis and Mike Robinson, who are also among the team’s leaders in minutes played. Robinson has been a constant presence in the Penn State defense and has started every game for them over the last two seasons. They have also been boosted by sophomore defender Mason Klerks, who has also started every match and even scored the game winner against #15 Indiana earlier this season. Klerks was rewarded for his performance by being named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.
While Wolverton and the defense have shined, so has the offense, which has been led by sophomore forward Connor Maloney. Maloney currently leads all Big Ten players in scoring, with eight goals on the season. Last week, Maloney notched three goals and an assist, including the winning goal against Michigan to lift his team to two victories. Maloney has now scored four game winning goals this season and has an incredible shooting percentage of .368. He has already surpassed his points total from last season, when he tallied two goals and seven assists.
Also playing a major role in the team’s goal scoring has been senior, Mikey Minutello. Minutello has been equally creative notching four assists to match his four goals on the season. He earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors in the week preceding Maloney. Junior midfielder Brian James currently leads the team in assists with five on the season, making his playmaking influence felt throughout the squad. The combination of experience and youthful vigor has served Penn State well this season, with their only stumble coming in an early season draw with James Madison.
As Penn State prepares to continue their difficult Big Ten Schedule, which will see them meet five teams currently featured in the HeroSports Top 50. Another Big Ten Title is certainly a possibility for the Nittany Lions in this campaign.