By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - He may have played soccer across the nation in California and Florida, but he found a home in Penn State's neon goalie jersey. From an eager recruit to a seasoned redshirt senior, Evan Finney reflects on his five years between the posts of Jeffrey Field with gratitude and motivation to move forward.
"I think that playing for Penn State is a huge, huge honor," Finney said. "Obviously one of the best athletic and academic schools in the nation."
When one imagines a soccer game, they picture freshly mowed grass, sunny skies, and a picturesque breeze, but Finney's initial recruiting trip during the height of a State College winter saw beyond the frigid weather that dawns mid-soccer season and recognized Penn State's historic legacy of excellence.
"I will never forget it, it was like zero degrees outside it was freezing and I remember standing on Jeffrey Field for the first time as a recruit with a foot of snow and then just touring the school and seeing all of the facilities, campus life, everything," Finney said. "I just pictured myself for four years and I just made the decision."
Finney found a natural desire to join the large sea of Blue and White walking to class bundled up against the winter elements, but most importantly he embraced a culture and team that gave him soccer, lifetime achievements, home, and family.
"I thought first coming here would make me feel like a little fish in a really, really, really big pond like an ocean but you know being on a team with a bunch of guys I feel like a big fish in a little pond just because I have those guys," Finney said. "We are all family...that's what helped me be away from home for so long."
Finney began manifesting the relationships and familial bond with the rest of the men clad in Penn State Blue and White from the onset, especially as he lifted a Big Ten trophy his first season on the squad.
"The most memorable being definitely winning the Big Ten Championship back in 2013," Finney said of his favorite times in the Blue and White. "We beat Northwestern in overtime and that was a huge, huge moment...I will never forget that with all the guys."
Although he redshirted his true freshman year, Finney's presence was felt between the posts and amongst his teammates for the remainder of his career.
His best season, as a redshirt junior, also gave way to another career defining and memorable experiences for the goalkeeper.
"Last year beating Michigan State in double overtime when Robby Sagel scored on a header with literally minutes to go," Finney said on some of his most memorable moments. "I thought that was a pretty special one as well because it had been a tough year for me with injuries and stuff."
That season Finney started all 13 of the matches he spent in net. Throughout the 2016 campaign he recorded four shutouts, while also ranking second in the Big Ten for save percentage (.810) with 47 total saves. He also earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors on two separate occasions.
Throughout the 2017 slate, Finney continued to shine through nine games with 31 saves before having to put away the starting jersey due to injury.
Finney wants to continue and motivate his success beyond Penn State's last line of defense as he looks towards the Major League Soccer (MLS) Draft in January.
"I am definitely going to go into the draft," Finney said, who added it's always been a goal of his to be drafted and play in the professional ranks.
As a productive and noteworthy staple on the Penn State men's soccer team for the past five years, Finney has become a part of the honorable, historic, and excellent standard of Penn State that originally motivated the young recruit to immerse himself in a community rife with Blue and White.
"When you hear about Penn State you hear about the history, the commitment, the drive you need to play here so being able to play here for not only four years but five years has been probably one of my proudest accomplishments in my life I couldn't be more thankful," Finney said.
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