Penn State wins women's soccer title


CARY, N.C. — Raquel Rodriguez finished what she started.

Rodriguez scored in the 72nd minute to lead Penn State to a 1-0 victory over Duke on Sunday in the NCAA women's soccer final.

The Nittany Lions (22-3-2) won the first national title in program history three years after falling to North Carolina in the championship game.

Rodriguez and fellow senior Mallory Weber, who assisted on her goal, were freshman starters in that match.

"During the game, I was thinking about that first game, actually," Rodriguez said. "All I could think of was that I don't want that to happen again. Not today. It fueled us."

Penn State outscored its opponents by a combined margin of 20-0 in six NCAA Tournament games and recorded shutouts in its final eight matches.

The Nittany Lions allowed one goal or fewer in each of their last 23 games.

"It means the world to you," Penn State coach Erica Walsh said. "To see these guys celebrate at the end of the game, to see these tears in their eyes and see how much it meant for them, that's the reason you don't sleep at night. It makes it all worth it because they're incredibly deserving."

Duke (14-6-5) fell to 0-3 in College Cup finals, with losses to North Carolina in 1992 and Stanford in 2011.

The Blue Devils were playing in the College Cup after missing the NCAA Tournament last season. Their match against Penn State was their third in a row against a No. 1 seed.

"I'm just very proud of our effort, very proud of the commitment that our players had," Duke coach Robbie Church said. "The team has been hungry to be great all year, and they are great."

Rodriguez scored when she took a feed from Weber across the box and blasted a left-footed shot into the lower right corner of the net.

Weber had dribbled into the box, attracting three defenders before sending the ball to her left. Rodriguez gathered it and eluded Duke defender Morgan Reid before shooting the ball past goalkeeper EJ Proctor.

It was another unforgettable moment for Rodriguez, who scored Costa Rica's first goal in the country's Women's World Cup debut earlier this year.

"I couldn't be more grateful and happier," Rodriguez said. "It's another dream come true."

Duke's most dangerous chance came in the eighth minute on a right-footed volley from Ashton Miller just outside the box that missed wide right.

"I like what we did," Church said. "I just felt like we didn't have quite enough today."

The Nittany Lions were able to generate a bit more pressure than their opponent, producing five corner kicks compared to zero for the Blue Devils.

Goalie Britt Eckerstrom had three saves for the Nittany Lions, who ended the season with an 11-match winning streak.

''We've worked for four years for this," Weber said. "To go out on this note and be the first team to win a national championship and be that senior class that's led them, it's indescribable. It's such a great feeling. It's such a high right now."

Penn State celebrates after defeating Duke 1-0 to win the NCAA Women's College Cup soccer final in Cary, North Carolina, on Sunday