Nairn's golden goal sends Penn State through
Nairn’s goal came after Florida State equalized with only 45 seconds left in regulation via a beautiful header from Tiffany McCarty off an assist from Kristin Grubka.
“When we went into overtime, the staff got together and looked over [at the players] and Christine [Nairn] is there giving them that look in the eyes – the poise, the composure, and all the confidence in the world,” Penn State head coach Erica Walsh said. “When you can turn it over to your players and they can step up in those moments, that is probably your proudest moment as a coach.”
In her 100th win as the head coach of Penn State, Walsh provided her biggest accomplishment with the first-ever berth for the program to the NCAA Championship match.
“I think the determination of our Penn State squad tonight was unparalleled. And they represented out university in a fine fashion and I am incredibly proud,” Walsh said.
Penn State’s Maya Hayes opened the scoring in the 58th minute when she pushed in a rebound that was left on the doorstep by Florida State keeper Kelsey Wys. Nittany Lions forward Mallory Weber set up the goal with a powerful shot that Wys could not handle in the slick conditions, which Hayes tapped in.
“Maya [Hayes]’s discipline and determination was outstanding tonight,” Walsh said. “She kept on that backline and she knew she was going to get an opportunity and she finished it.”
The opener from the Big Ten Champions shifted the tides of the game though, as the Seminoles took over control for the final 30 minutes of the clash in search of the game-tying goal.
“I thought there were stretches where we played very well,” Florida State head coach Mark Krikorian said. “Overall, I thought was a good performance, it wasn’t great.”
Their efforts were rewarded when Grubka fought through two defenders and whipped in a cross that McCarty rose to meet and headed into the far post of the net.
The overtime period only lasted 62 seconds, as Penn State converted its first and only chance with a golden goal via Nairn’s boot off a pass from midfielder Maddy Evans. The Florida State Seminoles defenders yelled for offside, but replays revealed that Nairn had stayed on the right side of the second-to-last defender.
“To be honest, I don’t really remember the play,” Nairn said with a smile. “These guys did all the work. I was kind of in the right place at the right time.
“I did check with the assistant referee before I ran off and celebrated,” Narin added about possibly being offside.
Nittany Lions goalkeeper Erin McNulty finished the match with three saves on four shots faced. The former Florida State Seminole did not want to take away from her team’s accoplishments when asked about any additional meaning to topping her former team.
“I am just as happy to beat Florida State as I would have been to beat any other team,” McNulty said. “Bringing my personal experiences into it would be kind of selfish. I’m so proud of our team.”
The collective effort was the main theme that the players attributed to the victory.
“We played as a team that is why we were successful,” Nairn said. “We had the grittiness. We were diving all over.”
The victory sends Penn State to its first ever NCAA Championship, which will be held at 1:00 p.m. (PT) on Sunday. The loss for the Seminoles marks the fifth time in six trips to the College Cup that Florida State has lost in the semifinal stage.
- SIMA Recruiting Roundup: Feb. 26-March 3
- How Do I Get Scouted by TopDrawerSoccer?
- Tracking Division I Coaching Changes
- National League P.R.O. Tampa Recap
- ECNL Girls Florida: U17 Players to Watch
- 2024 Women's DI Recruiting Rankings: Feb
- ECNL Girls Florida: U16 Players to Watch
- National Academy Championships Recap
- ECNL Girls Florida: U15 Players to Watch
- Club Soccer Standouts: February 24-25