Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Having just one goalkeeper on the roster who can be trusted to make all the saves and police the defense to where it needs to be is rare, but having two is an absolute luxury very few teams enjoy.
Penn State happens to be one of those teams.
Starting goalie Rose Chandler and backup Amanda Dennis combine for what could be considered the best one-two punch in all of college soccer.
"I would argue we've got the two best goalkeepers in the country," said head coach Erica Dambach. "They are the classic definition of iron sharpens iron. They make each other better every day. They can both go as far as they dream about in this game because I cannot imagine a better collegiate training environment than the one they're in."
Chandler, a redshirt junior, jumped into the starting role this season after taking last year off to play with the United States U-20 Women's National Team at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup. It's her first year carrying the duties of an every day starter, and she's performed at a high level so far.
She owns a 6-2 record this year and a 1.02 goals against average. She has also notched two shutouts so far.
Originally from Atlanta, Ga., Chandler said she never seriously thought about Penn State until she was recruited and made her first visit to State College, but she was instantly hooked afterward.
"I thought that I wanted to play ACC soccer, but it took one visit and I fell in love and I knew that I definitely wanted to be a Nittany Lion," Chandler said.
Chandler has improved steadily each year since stepping foot on campus due to U.S. National Team experience, the mentorship of Britt Eckerstrom in 2015, and the help of goalkeeper coach Tim Wassell.
"It's been incredible to watch Rose's growth, and I think it's such a testament to the environment that [the goalies] intentionally shape on a daily basis," Wassell said. "I'm the luckiest guy in the world to get to share my days with those guys and to see them go chase excellence is fantastic."
Wassell also said the tandem is the best one-two punch he's coached in his eight seasons as a Penn State assistant coach.
Chandler may be the starter, but Dennis is not your normal backup.
She came to Penn State last year as the No. 2 ranked goalkeeper in the country and started all 21 matches as a freshman. Dennis also boasts U.S. National Team experience. She has been a member of the U-14, U-15, U-17, U-18 and U-20 teams in the past.
Dennis recorded seven solo shutouts and ended the 2016 season with a 0.92 goals against average. She was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team last year, but she had to take a backseat to Chandler in 2017. Instead of getting down about the demotion, Dennis has embraced the opportunity to improve her skills and push Chandler to get better as well.
"We both want to just make each other better, so at the end of the day if she's in the goal and she's making great saves and we're winning--whenever she makes a save it almost feels like I'm making a save," Dennis said. "It's a fantastic thing to see Rose doing so great."
Dennis has subbed in for only one match so far this season, but coach Dambach said there's no drop in talent when she goes to the bench for her backup keeper.
"I've got 100 percent confidence in Amanda," Dambach said. "She proved herself last year. She proves herself in training every day, and most importantly she continues to invest in her teammates."
What makes the dynamic duo of Chandler and Dennis so special is their competitiveness on the training field in practice. Since they're so close in skill level, they're always pushing each other and trying to one-up each other in drills.
"The growth that they're bringing out of each other in the last six weeks has been unreal, some of the stuff they pull off in training," said Wassell. "This iron sharpens iron is so cool to watch, and I think it's translated into games. It's been awesome to see."