By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As classes begin and preseason winds down, the Penn State men's soccer team prepares for its opening night kickoff at Jeffrey Field. The team hopes to start off the 2017 campaign with a win against the Hofstra Pride under the lights and among the loyal Blue and White.
As last season's campaign saw 13 games with one-goal decisions, which also forced eight overtime appearances, the 2017 squad is prepared to face adversity and motivate more success and improvements.
Head coach Bob Warming has six returning starters and eight newcomers to help contribute on the pitch, as they look to improve from its 8-8-2 overall 2016-season-record. They will start their California road trip on Sept. 1., while Big Ten play will kickoff on Sept. 8 against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Before Friday's 7 p.m. matchup, Penn State Athletics spent Fall Sports Media Day catching up with Coach Warming, captain Dani Marks and goalkeeper Evan Finney. Here are five things you need to know to be prepared for everything men's soccer and Blue and White.
The Blue and White is looking to improve on the offensive side of the ball in 2016, as they scored 22 goals in 18 games last season. Warming attributed the number to free kicks, which has been a point of emphasis this preseason.
"We got to be better on free kicks," said Warming. "We were minus-one last year...Teams who went to the Final Four were anywhere between plus-8 and plus-14. Huge difference. So we gotta be better for those."
The Penn State men's soccer team has nine players traveling from beyond the confines of the United States. One Nittany Lion, Finney, believes their training in places like England and Ireland will add another level of success to their squad.
"I think they really added a depth to our team that we might not have had in the past with range of passes, accuracy of passes, intelligence on the ball, off the ball, movement, stuff like that." said Finney. "I think we will be very good defensively and I think the players we brought in will help us out a lot."
As American soccer gains popularity, so does the international presence in the collegiate sphere. Last year the Nittany Lions only housed four international players as opposed to this year's nine players.
As captain and defensive stronghold, Marks believes a focused and united squad will help the Blue and White have a successful season on the field and in the locker room.
"Having everyone on the same page, which we do now, and getting towards the same goal, which is taking one game at a time and being 100% committed to every single game," said Marks on the team's keys.
Warming continues to emphasize the use of technology to motivate the Nittany Lions into peak physical and mental shape as the season quickly approaches. The Penn State men's soccer team is the first field sport at the University to involve GPS tracking and heart-rate monitors into their practices.
"Every number is up in terms of our testing," said Warming. "We've got an unbelievable amount of physical data that is being taken place."
Players are able to monitor their hydration, calories, and speed through these practices. It is also essential to the team's injury prevention program.
Last year the team motivated and played for the "all in" mantra, this year the Nittany Lions are subscribing to #11asONE.
"We have it in our locker room," said Warming. "It is on a lot of our social media things...When you get in that rarified air of the great teams, when you watch them play in our sport they move together they move as a unit. All 11 players are on the same page and they move fluidly across the field and dynamically and it is amazing to watch when you get to that point. That is our mantra, that is our goal."
For more information on Nittany Lion men's soccer, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on the various social media platforms.