Graduate student Esther de Leijer scored with just 5:31 remaining in the second half to end a scoreless tie and propel No. 3 Michigan to a 1-0 win against No. 6 Penn State and the Big Ten Conference Tournament title on Sunday afternoon at Michigan State’s Ralph Young Field.
It was the Wolverines’ sixth Big Ten tournament title in program history and marked just the fourth time U-M swept both the regular-season and tournament crowns. Michigan previously achieved the feat in 2000, 2004 and 2011.
After getting outshot, 7-1, in the first half, the Wolverines poured on the pressure in the second half, peppering PSU goalkeeper Jenny Rizzo with five shots before breaking through late in the contest.
De Leijer’s goal followed a free hit from the right side. Sophomore Meg Dowthwaite knocked the ball to the middle of the circle, where Carly Bennett maneuvered around a Nittany Lion defender to work it into open space on the right side of the circle. De Leijer used a sweep reverse shot to beat Rizzo to the nearside for her fourth goal of the season.
Penn State picked up the pace after the goal, drawing three corners — two with time expired — and firing off five shots in the final three minutes. Senior goalkeeper Sam Swenson saved the shot off the first corner with time expired, and it appeared that the ball cleared the circle, but PSU was awarded another corner. The Nittany Lions’ second chance went wide before Swenson and sophomore Fay Keijer stopped it on the post and a PSU foul was called to end the game.
In all, Penn State outshot the Wolverines, 15-11, and outcornered them, 5-4. Swenson was spectacular in the Michigan cage, earning nine saves to claim her 11th complete-game — and Michigan’s 14th — shutout win of the season. Rizzo stopped five of U-M’s six shots on goal.
With today’s win, Michigan earned the Big Ten’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Selection Show is slated for 10 p.m. tonight on NCAA.com.