UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Three games. Eight days. Four goals. Three wins. That's how the Penn State men's soccer team (5-2-1) will head into conference play on Sunday against Wisconsin (5-1-1) at 2:30 p.m. at Jeffrey Field.
Coming off their first road win of 2013 and first win against West Virginia since 1990, Bob Warming's squad is in feeling good before opening conference play against the Badgers. The Nittany Lions pulled off a 2-1 comeback win in Morgantown with two important goals from two important goal scorers.
"Shane (Campbell) getting his first college goal, Jordan (Tyler) getting his first goal since coming off of ACL surgery, plus Kyle (MacDonald) and Connor (Maloney) both getting fantastic assists and in the scoring column was huge," said Warming.
Not only was it huge because the goals helped Penn State get the win, but also because it shows the continued improvement of the Nittany Lion offensive attack.
Two weeks ago it was Eli Dennis and Kyle MacDonald, last week it was Mark Wadid and this week it was Campbell and Tyler who came through in the scoring column. Multiple Nittany Lions are getting involved with scoring, which was a worry for Penn State heading into the 2013 season.
Now, entering Big Ten play where goals come at a premium, Penn State couldn't be clicking on all cylinders at any better time.
The Nittany Lions have let up a measly two goals since a Sept. 13 tie with No. 5 Cal, notching a 3-0-1 record. For Warming, it starts with his leaders: centerback Martin Seiler and goaltender Andrew Wolverton.
"Leadership is holding people accountable and those guys are doing a better and better job of holding people accountable for everything to make sure we are taking care of things every single possession," said Warming.
Having leadership is important for any competitive collegiate soccer team, but especially for these Nittany Lions. Nearly half of the contributing players on the roster are underclassmen, players that weren't involved with the Big Ten regular season championship one year ago and haven't played the rigorous conference schedule yet.
With that, Seiler, Wolverton and the other experienced Penn State players, the younger Nittany Lions are prepared to begin Big Ten play starting with the one-loss Wisconsin.
"Some of our guys have never played in a Big Ten game," said Wolverton. "It's a different environment and different situation and hard work every game.
You can't take a single game off. Every single game is a battle to the very end. It doesn't matter if you win 1-0 or 4-0, it's just a battle to the end every single game."
The Big Ten won't be easy. Penn State knows that. Take 2012 for example: the fourth-seeded Big Ten team, Indiana, won the NCAA national championship.
Last year, Penn State won the Big Ten regular season title with every single win coming by just a one-goal difference. One play or one mistake could change the outcome of a game.
"Every game is a real incredible battle," said Warming. "You can't count on anything. All you can do is prepare yourself that it's going to be a tight game. It all comes down to one possession and concentration has to be at a very high-level come Big Ten play. I think our guys are confident and ready to go."
After meeting Wisconsin on the pitch of Jeffrey Field, Penn State will host Saint Francis (Pa.) on Oct. 2 and then travel to Bloomington to play Indiana on Oct. 6, where they haven't won since 1995.