By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the leaves change and the weather grows crisper, the loyal fans of the Penn State men's soccer team never miss a night at Jeffrey Field; no matter if they recognize who dawns the Blue and White jersey or not.
Last Friday night's home opener gave way to new jersey numbers, new faces and new experiences for both players and observers.
"I played a lot of futbol in my life, but putting on that blue and white jersey was really special to me," said forward Ethan Beckford, who made his way to Happy Valley from Manchester, England. "My first college game, very exciting."
"As soon as I stepped out to the pitch I think there was 2-3000 people there," added midfielder Aaron Molloy. "It was fantastic. All of the boys were ready. It was tough we didn't get the result, but it was fantastic to play your first game and to get more to come."
Beckford and Molloy were joined alongside Callum Pritchatt and Kyle Perno as the newest starters to take the pitch for Penn State in the team's opening slate against Hofstra.
"Well we've been together two weeks and two days and we had a lot of new starters, so some of the things they did very well was they got better as the game went along," said head coach Bob Warming on the group. "We were a little out of sorts in the first part...but I think they grew as the game went and I think they really created four great chances to score a goal against a team that is tough to get behind."
Although the Blue and White fell in a grueling 1-0 battle against the Pride, the team is ready to look forward to the rest of the season, especially this week's road trip to California. While returners will travel for the second consecutive season to the Golden Coast, newcomers will be getting the taste of Division I travel for the first time; some players coming from across the pond are experiencing the state for the first time all together.
"I can't wait to go," said Molloy. "Since I've committed, coach told me we were going...and it just put a big smile on my face...All the boys are great company to be around so we will have a lot of fun in California."
The Nittany Lions' California campaign will begin on Sept. 1 against UC Irvine and will bookend with Loyola Marymount on Sept. 3.
Although the Blue and White hope to redeem themselves and put two wins under their belt before returning to the East Coast and the confines of Jeffrey Field, Warming sees this trip as an opportunity to continue developing the team's chemistry and comfortability, especially for the newest additions.
"That's exactly it, you know, it's just having everybody away from campus in a new environment where it is just us again," said Warming. "It is very important and I love these early season trips."
Three of the four new starters, Beckford and Pritchatt (England), and Molloy (Ireland), call outside of the United States home, which makes the travel to California another entirely new experience. Besides their excitement for the more temperate weather as opposed to the cold, rainy conditions in England and Ireland, the entire team finds great opportunity in experiencing new cultures and another style of play in California.
"You see different cultures and what players bring to the field because of the culture they come from," said Warming. "I am really looking forward to that because when you get to the NCAA Tournament you see all different kinds of teams."
While a number of the international transfers and recruits will feel the warmth of the California sun and see the Pacific Ocean for the first time, Perno is well accustomed to the Golden State. After his freshman year on UC Santa Barbara's turf, he transferred coasts to Penn State and earned a starting defensive position for the 2017 slate.
"California is an awesome place," said Perno. "Penn State is great, but there is nothing like California."
While Perno is well seasoned in what it is like to visit and live in California, he also provides a crucial source of scouting for the Penn State's men's soccer team because he played UC Irvine and Loyola Marymount just last season for UC Santa Barbara.
"The West Coast style plays a lot different from here," said Perno. "They like to dribble...They don't like the physicality of the East Coast game so I think we have that to our advantage."
Although the California campaign goes beyond soccer and hopes to extend a hand in achieving new experiences and build more team chemistry, the Penn State Nittany Lions' biggest goal is to secure two productive wins before they return back to Jeffrey Field.
"We are going to go there to win and outperform, outperform our opponents," said Beckford.
For more information on Nittany Lion men's soccer, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on the various social media platforms.