Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
PARK, Pa. - International recruiting has become more and more imperative to
success in college soccer in recent years.
capable players littered all across the country, but legitimate cornerstone
players can be found outside of the United States of America.
Raquel "Rocky" Rodriguez for example. The Costa Rica native was recruited five
years ago to Penn State and led the Nittany Lions to their first ever national
championship win by scoring the only goal in the title match.
coach Erica Dambach gives most of the credit to recruiting coordinator and
assistant coach Tim Wassell, who actively seeks out potential international
stars every offseason who could make an impact.
done a nice job of getting us into the international market," said Dambach. "International
student-athletes have always been a big part of this program. We feel it is important to expose our players
to the highest level in the world and that includes providing them the
opportunity to compete against international competition on a daily basis."
Penn State brought in two freshmen from overseas, Grace Fisk from Bromley,
London, England, and Laura Freigang from Oppenheim, Germany, with hopes they
can do just what Rodriguez was able to accomplish.
Ortega Jurado, a sophomore from Waldgirmes, Germany, rounds out the group. The
three international players is the most on a Penn State squad since the 2012
Ortega Jurado are intriguing players this season because of the big shoes they
are currently filling.
Jean (right back) and Kaleigh Riehl (center back) are taking a year away from
the team to compete with the U-20 women's national team. Jean and Riehl were
both voted to the Big Ten All-Freshman team in their first seasons. Both were
part of a back line that posted 15 shutouts a year ago.
Fisk and Ortega Jurado. Fisk is taking Riehl's place in the center of the
defense, and Ortega Jurado completely switched positions to fill the void at
didn't arrive on the Penn State campus until August 1, just 10 days before the
Nittany Lions would suit up in their first scrimmage of the preseason.
after her first tune-up, Fisk was thrust into the starting lineup on opening
day in front of more than 5,000 fans against No. 6 West Virginia. Fisk played
all 110 minutes and has only missed one start all season since then.
given barely any time to adjust to the American lifestyle she knew nothing
about beforehand, but she has responded tremendously. The center back has
logged 1170 minutes in 13 games, which is the fourth highest total on the team.
been here for two months but I feel like I've been here so much longer," Fisk
said. "I feel like I fit in fine and the girls have been so welcoming. It's
just been great."
deciding to travel 3,260 miles to State College to play college soccer in
America, Fisk really had no idea what she wanted to do after high school. No
options in England seemed to interest her, and the thought of playing overseas
seemed daunting until Wassell contacted her.
watched Fisk play and immediately saw a star in the making. After talking to
Wassell and conducting some research on Penn State, it didn't take long for
Fisk to make her decision.
kind of fell into place," said Fisk. "I looked Penn State up and it just looked
coming to the states, Fisk played in more than 25 matches with the England
women's national team at four different age levels. She was also named Young
Player of the Year last year for her club team, the Millwall Lionesses FC.
the biggest adjustment she had to make was the uptick in strength and
conditioning drills and the sheer amount of soccer being played every day.
never played this much soccer in her life," said head coach Erica Dambach. "She
has blisters all over her feet, and I think that goes to show she's just not
used to playing this much soccer. With that being said, she has quietly
put together a tremendous freshman season."
father, Alan, watches every game from home and provides a detailed match report
after each contest outlining the good and bad of Fisk's performance. She hopes
her family can make a trip next year to see her play live.
Ortega Jurado, her journey to the starting lineup is much different.
played in 20 games in her freshman season last year and was chosen to the Big
Ten All-Freshman Team along with Jean and Riehl. She played both forward and
midfield in 2015, but this year Ortega Jurado has started every game at right
back and logged 1293 minutes.
described Ortega Jurado as a wizard on defense. Not a bad compliment for
someone who has only played the position for only a few months.
was learning to play in the back this past spring she had her frustrating
moments but through video, hard work and repetition she started to pick up some
of the nuances of the position," said Dambach. "Then she came into the
preseason and all of the sudden had a tipping point and, as far as I'm
concerned, is one of the best right backs in the country right now. She's been
Jurado played for the German national team at three different age levels. She
competed in the U-17 and U-19 European Championships while with the national
traveled the longest distance to play soccer at Penn State (3,997 miles). She
has started two matches and come off the bench in nine.
Fisk and Ortega Jurado, Freigang plays up top and looks to score goals as a
substitute. In her first career game Freigang scored in a 1-1 draw against West
Virginia to ensure a point for the Nittany Lions.
couldn't have wished for a better start, except for maybe winning the game,"
said Freigang. "It was great. It was a great feeling and the crowd was amazing.
It was one of the best nights ever."
logged 600 minutes on the pitch and serves as a strong-footed compliment to the
speedy forwards Penn State boasts up top.
started to build interest in Penn State after skyping with Dambach and Wassell
a few times. Once she visited the campus back in March, she knew it was where
she wanted to be.
played for five different age levels on the German women's national team. She
competed in the U-16 Nordic Cup Championships in which she scored a goal, the
U-17 World Cup, and the U-19 European Championships.
players have at least three years of national team experience, which has
prepared them to step in and contribute right away for the Nittany Lions.
riot. They're so much fun to have around and I think the team's really enjoying
them and vice-versa," Dambach said. "They provide a little bit of a
different flair. They see the game in a different way. They talk about the game
in a different way, and I think it brings so much to the experience of all of
our student athletes. They've been an absolute pleasure to have within this