UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As is seemingly tradition, Penn State women's soccer will officially open the 2017-18 Intercollegiate Athletics slate Friday, August 18th with a 7 p.m. matchup under the lights against BYU.
With a pair of early preseason exhibitions complete, Penn State is poised to continue Chasing Greatness, with a challenging schedule awaiting and a roster stacked with both experience and depth heading into 2017.
For head coach Erica Dambach, Chasing Greatness for 2017 means honing in on the details, showing up each day motivated to get better with an eye on all the little things. For senior caption Elizabeth Ball, details have been a daily focus, with the season opener now just days from arrival.
"If you're not getting the little things done then how are you supposed to make it big picture," Ball said. "Every day we come out here and make sure our feet are behind the line before we start our warm up, we make sure everybody is talking, getting in tackles. Every little detail is so important to us and I think that's what really boosts us in the season."
With nearly everyone returning in 2017, the Nittany Lions also have an added boost with the return of five members of the team who have returned to the squad after representing the United States at the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
"The most exciting thing, especially in our sport, are the different combinations that we can see throughout the course of the game," Dambach said. "Depending on the opponent, depending on the conditions, there are so many possibilities with this group and it's exciting to see that kind of come to life."
For Ball, a mix of both new faces and returners only elevates the training, meaning that everyone will be challenged to work to secure their spot.
As Dambach also noted, entering such a veteran squad could present a bit of an intimidating atmosphere for a freshman, but the five newcomers are adjusting just fine. Tabbed by TopDrawerSoccer.com as the fourth-best recruiting class in the nation, Penn State's freshmen class might be small in numbers, but certainly not short on talent.
"We've been throwing a lot at them and we've been asking the upperclassmen to help coach them as well and trying to bring them along as quickly as we can and they've been really receptive and trying to take in as much as they can and apply it," Dambach said.
Add in the experience and leadership of deeply experienced upperclassmen and it's a perfect combination for a smooth transition.
"We've been able to advance in some of the concepts pretty quickly and we've been able to climb on to some of the things that we're usually doing in week two and three," Dambach said. "We've been able to work through those quickly."
Home Sweet Jeffrey
Penn State's home-opener is often a record-setting event for the Nittany Lions with last year's attendance numbers hardly reflecting the energy generated from a record 5,791 fans who packed the stands at Jeffrey Field. With the help of an always enthusiastic student section affectionately known as the Park Avenue Army, Friday's opener offers free posters as well as a pregame student tailgate with free food and a DJ. Check out the full promotional schedule here.