State College, Pa. – Sophomore forward Leah Galton scored a second-half goal to lead Hofstra’s late charge, but the Pride couldn’t overcome two Penn State first-half goals in a 2-1 loss to the fourth-ranked Nittany Lions in the conclusion of the PSU Invitational on Sunday afternoon at Jeffrey Field.
Senior goalkeeper Emily Morphitis made four saves in the first half for Hofstra and the Pride generated seven corner kicks in a spirited second-half effort. Yet Penn State’s Maya Hayes and Mallory Weber each scored to help PSU improve to 1-0-1. Hofstra fell to 0-2 after also losing to Syracuse by a single goal, 3-2, in the season opener on Friday.
Hayes entered the season as a MAC Hermann Watch List recipient, which is given to the best player in the country. The senior forward showed the talent that helped her lead the Nittany Lions to the national championship game in 2012 when she added her second goal of the new campaign 10:29 into the contest. Hayes took Emily Carrollo’s pass and found the net from six yards out for the first strike.
The Nittany Lions built a two-goal edge in the 20th minute when Weber intercepted a pass and beat Morphitis one-on-one for her first goal of the season. Hofstra was facing Penn State for the third time in program history and fell to 0-3.
Hofstra also saw an award-winning player make an impact. Galton, who was named the Colonial Athletic Association’s Rookie of the Year and earned a first-team all-region selection from the NSCAA, picked up a point in a second straight game. The Harrogate, England native assisted on Sam Scolarici’s goal against the Orange and gave the Pride a jolt when she turned and fired a shot from 12 yards out in the 51st minute to cut the deficit in half.
Galton’s 12th career goal initiated a run. Hofstra held the Nittany Lions to just one on-target shot in the second half. Freshman Friederike Mehring, who started the second half in net, handled Hayes’ shot in the 57th minute to keep the Pride within a goal. Penn State counterpart Britt Eckerstrom was sharp as well, making a save on sophomore Jill Mulholland’s shot in the 70th minute.
Less than two minutes later, Eckerstrom made another save on senior Ruby Staplehurst. Sophomore Jeannine Molleda came off the bench for Hofstra and provided a spark. She had one of Hofstra’s late chances to find the equalizer before Eckerstrom stopped her at 78:23.
Hofstra faced the highest-ranked opponent in its history as the Nittany Lions were ranked fourth in the NSCAA’s opening poll. The highest-ranked opponent Hofstra faced before Penn State was then-No. 7 Boston College in the 2010 season opener.
The Pride will next be in action on Aug. 30 against North Dakota State at Hofstra Soccer Stadium. Match time is set for 5 p.m. Hofstra is 61-16-6 all-time at home.