UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State women's soccer coach Erica Walsh and
associate head coach Ann Cook have made the most of their outstanding
credentials and 20-year friendship, orchestrating one of the most successful
soccer programs in the nation since they took the reins in 2007.
Their partnership started on the Williamsburg, Va., campus of William &
Mary, where the duo broke into the Tribe as bright-eyed freshmen in 1993. Walsh and Cook helped lead William & Mary
to four NCAA Tournament appearances and Colonial Athletic Association (CAA)
championships. Walsh was an All-American, two-time first team All-CAA pick and
team captain. Cook earned three All-American nods and twice finished as a Hermann
So when Walsh was offered the helm of the Nittany Lion program, her first
thought was the six-year professional soccer veteran who boasted U.S. Women's
National Team experience. After retiring from professional soccer in 2003, Cook,
a Springfield, Mo., native, made stops on the coaching staffs at Drury
University, Missouri State and Nebraska.
"I had been trying to get her on my staff for years," said Walsh. "It can be
nerve-wracking, coaching with a friend. But I thought our philosophy was
aligned so closely. We were going to go through the good and bad together."
"The number one word I use for hiring is trust and there's no one I trust more
That trust has propagated a Penn State program that, in 2014, won its 16th
conference title in 17 seasons, a record unmatched by any Division I program,
and is the fourth-winningest program in the 21st century. The
program's success under Walsh and Cook's tutelage, coupled with her outstanding
career on the pitch, resulted in a Missouri Sports Hall of Fame induction on
"Anyone around Ann and I recognizes quickly how
special our relationship is because it's built off of trust and enjoyment,"
said Walsh. "She enriches my life for sure on and off the field but we
genuinely enjoy being around one another."
"Ann and I have an incredible mutual respect for one another," she said. "We
provide accountability for one another, are willing to challenge each other and
support one another when a decision is made. A big part of [our success] is her
knowledge, ability, and relationship with the players. They are so inspired by
her. Because she's such an educator, everyone that meets walks away with a
The tangible enjoyment one can feel by watching the pair interact results in
the family atmosphere, which permeates every aspect of the program. Before
every home game, the team rides the recognizable Penn State blue bus to Jeffrey
Field, loudly singing songs passed down from those who wore the Blue and White
before them. Dogs aren't adopted without the full support of everyone on the
team. Starters are welcomed onto the field with shouting and high fives in a
semi-circle. That sense of being welcomed with open arms is a result of the
bond between Cook and Walsh.
"The team sees how much we enjoy our job and recognizes how important they are
to us," said Walsh. "More of our players are interested in going into coaching
and I think a big reason is the relationship we share and the enjoyment we get
out of it beyond the wins."
A true coaching partnership in the making since 1993, Walsh and Cook team up to
head one of the most talented women's soccer intercollegiate programs.
"Beyond our friendship, she is the most talented coach in the country and has
ability to run any program she chooses," said Walsh. "We are extremely
fortunate to have her here and I am the luckiest coach to work side-by-side
with her on a daily basis."
By Miranda Kulp,GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion women's soccer team will take
great pride in its efforts during a tremendous 2014 season.
Between several players earning national and international acknowledgment and
the team's superb record, 2014 is a year head coach Erica Walsh and the Nittany
Lions will build on as the group shifts towards next fall.
Ending the season overall with a 20-4 record and earning its 16th Big
Ten title within the last 17 seasons, the Lions have a lot to be proud of this
Although the team's season came up just short in the NCAA
Quarterfinals, the players and coaching staff have no regrets when it comes to
how the team performed.
"I thought they were prepared, I thought they performed and
unfortunately we ended up on the wrong side of the score line, but we left it
all out on the field and I can't complain at all about this season," Walsh
said."Regardless the outcome,
I think our team was peaking at the right time. The team's hard work and
dedication showed the whole way through."
The 2014 team had one of the best records the program has seen in the
past decade, reaching 20 wins for only the eighth time in program history.
With 11 freshmen and four seniors on the roster, the Lions excelled
with consistent contributions from both youth and experience.
Freshman Frannie Crouse led the team with 10 goals in her first year
at the college level.
The likes Haleigh Echard, Elizabeth Ball, Maddie Elliston, Katy Keen, Megan
Schafer and Emily Ogle were among the freshmen who played significant roles in
their rookie campaign.
Ogle was one of the four players on the roster to capture a NSCAA
All-Great Lakes Region honors. She earned the Big Ten Freshman of the Year
accolade and helped showcase the talent of the freshman class.
Although the freshman class was outstanding, the group credits the
leadership of the upperclassmen for making this year so successful.
"Despite being a young team and having an abundance of freshmen, we
had four tremendous seniors this year that were leaders on the team," Walsh
said. "Each one of them carried a special role on the team, we're not only
losing four players-we're losing four additional coaches."
What made this senior class special was how they use their drive and
passion to always motivate the team to take it one game at a time.
Although Emily Hurd, Whitney Church, Kori Chapic, and Kindrah Kohne
will be saying goodbye to Jeffrey Field, their impact on the team will not be
forgotten. Church was named a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy Award earlier this week.
"Probably more than anything this group of seniors left on the program
was their attitudes and how unselfish they were. These seniors continuously
showed how often they put this team first," Walsh said.
In addition to the seniors, veterans Mallory Weber, Raquel "Rocky" Rodriguez,
and Britt Eckerstrom stepped up as additional role models for the team. All
three will play a paramount role in Penn State's success in 2015.
The 2014 season was especially memorable for Rodriguez, who also was
able to help Costa Rica's national team make history.
Mid-way through the Penn State season, Rodriguez departed Happy Valley
to play for her native country of Costa Rica. Rodriguez helped Costa Rica
qualify for the FIFA Women's World Cup for the first time ever.
Both individually and as a team, the team has a lot to be proud of
Through the highs and low of the season, the Lions prevailed as a
family and never gave up.
"I look at it as a very successful season. I think regardless we are
one of the top five teams in the country. This team made me extremely proud and
gets me excited to see what the future brings," Walsh said.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 'Tis the season for giving thanks, and the Penn
State Athletics would like to take an opportunity to say thank you to the loyal
fans on Thanksgiving.
As you sit down with family and friends to eat your traditional meal while the
Lions and Cowboys host their annual Thanksgiving day home games, Penn State
Athletics would like to thank you, the fans, for the unrivaled support you give
every team on campus. Penn State's teams
would not be the same without the greatest fans in college sports.
As a token of their appreciation, several student-athletes from teams on campus
would like to say thank you and Happy Thanksgiving for the support you give
them throughout the athletic season.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.
- A header from junior Mallory Weber in the 71st minute and a standout
defensive performance lifted the Nittany Lion women's soccer team (20-3-0) to a
2-1 victory against Virginia Tech (16-6-0) in the NCAA Third Round on a warm
Sunday afternoon at Jeffrey Field.
With the triumph, the Nittany Lions are headed to the NCAA Quarterfinals for
the 10th time in program history and the second time in the past three seasons.
"Obviously it is a fantastic feeling (to get back to the quarters)," head coach
Erica Walsh said. "That was a very good Virginia Tech team,
well-coached...Obviously they gave us everything we could handle today. It
certainly felt like we had to bend at times, but we never broke."
Weber will be credited with the game-winner. And senior Raquel Rodriguez's goal
in the 40th minute was a crucial momentum boost for the Nittany Lions late in
the first half, but the day belonged to the defense. Penn State's effort
against Virginia Tech's relentless attack was exceptional.
"That unit has been very good all season," Walsh said. "But the great thing
about them is that they have been getting stronger as the season has gone on
and becoming more of a unit, and led by Britt Eckerstrom, who was great today.
You look at Kori Chapic and you look at Whit Church. They have freshmen on
either side, who are no longer playing like freshmen. They believe they are as
good as they are because of the leadership."
Chapic and Church spearheaded a tremendous 90-minute performance against a
Virginia Tech squad that came into the game averaging 2.90 goals per game.
"It was definitely a tough task that we had today," Church said. "They were
bringing it to us. Like Coach said, we would bend at times and kind of give
them things away at times, but we never broke and we stayed strong. It was really
The Nittany Lion back line was outstanding with the ball in the air during
Sunday's victory. Virginia Tech delivered a number of balls into the box during
both halves, but the Lions yielded just one scoring play from the Hokies. Defending
in the box, along with the midfield's work rate and ability to track down balls
were Walsh's keys to Penn State advancing into the round of eight.
The visiting Hokies nearly struck first in an entertaining opening half.
Virginia Tech's scoring leader, Murielle Tiernan (14 on the season), delivered
a shot towards Penn State keeper Britt Eckerstrom in a one-on-one opportunity
in the 27th minute. Eckerstrom managed to get a hand on the drive, but it was sophomore
midfielder Salina Williford's foot that directed the ball away from the net as
it rolled freely into the 6-yard box towards the goal line.
Penn State broke the scoreless tie on a blast from Rodriguez at the 39:59 mark.
A great feed from Katy Keen set Rodriguez up with a breakaway opportunity. The
Nittany Lion midfielder dribbled to the edge of the 18-yard box before ripping
a shot that careened off of the post into the back of the net.
But the Hokies were far from done. Virginia Tech threatened on two occasions in
the opening eight minutes of the second half before midfielder Ashley Meier
tapped a ball home to set the score at 1-1 as the clock read 52:42.
Nevertheless, Penn State went right back to work on both ends of the field. The
Lions earned a free kick in the 71st minute of action from 30 yards out.
Midfielder Emily Ogle delivered a flawless set piece into the box where Weber
elevated for the eventual game-winning header.
"We work on them in practice day in and day out," Weber said. "(Ogle) played a
great ball in and the goal came out. I just need to get a touch on it."
The Jeffrey Field crowd willed the Lions on from there as the Hokies looked for
the equalizer. Limiting Virginia Tech to just two shot attempts in the final 10
minutes of play, the Lions held strong en route to raising their all-time
postseason record at Jeffrey Field to 33-6-1.
"The crowd was super pumped and energetic out there today," Church said. "It
makes that much of a difference. Hearing the crowd behind us, that gets us
going and helps us a tremendous amount. That was a very special day out there
to hear all of them behind us."
Focus now shifts towards a quarterfinal matchup against No. 1-seeded Texas
A&M (21-2-2). The Nittany Lions will play the Aggies in College Station on Saturday with a spot in the College Cup semifinals on the
"I think this is a very good soccer playing team this year, but even more
importantly, they've got a ton of courage," Walsh said. "We've talked a lot
about that it is our family, and we live to fight another day and play another
By Miranda Kulp,
GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Nittany
soccer team (19-3-0) used an early goal and a determined defensive effort to
defeat UConn, 1-0, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Jeffrey Field
on Friday night. The NCAA Tournament is full of surprises, but the
Lions wasted little time getting on the board in the second-round matchup. Penn
State scored in the seventh minute and never looked back. The goal was scored by freshman Frannie Crouse and
assisted by veteran Kori Chapic. Crouse got the ball and headed in the back
post. "I wasn't really sure
if it went in or not at first, but as soon as I heard my teammates and the
crowd cheer I knew,"Frannie Crouse said. The Greensburg, Pennsylvania, native is currently
the team leader with 10 goals for the Lions, despite this being her first year
at the collegiate level. "I just always
remember what coach preaches, believe. We need t o believe in ourselves and
believe in our team and that's how we'll score,"Crouse said. Both teams were aggressive and had opportunities
to score throughout Friday's game. Penn State had 19 shots in total
while UConn trailed with 10 shots. "We knew they
would come out strong and so did we, I couldn't be prouder of the way the girls played,"said head coach Erica Walsh. With an aggressive offense from both teams, the Lions'defensive line made sure to not to let
UConn get on the board. "As a defense
all playing really well together right now,"goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom said. "We're all
communicating constantly and we're so connected right now, we really are playing
as one backline,"Eckerstrom added. As the starting goalkeeper, Eckerstrom helped
lead the team to victory on Friday night with five saves for her eighth shutout
this season. Eckerstrom was also in goal for the regular
season match against UConn back in August, but she acknowledged that since the
last meeting both teams have improved. "Although we
play some of the same teams in this tournament it's always different every game,"Eckerstrom said. "When we
played UConn earlier we both were just different teams, we both have grown so
much with our regular seasons. It's cause in the beginning of the season everyone
is still trying to find their place on the field. We both have grown so much so
re-playing them today was like two brand new teams playing." With the NCAA Tournament in full swing, Penn
State will take on its next challenge by facing Virginia Tech on Sunday. "The best
thing about this tournament is its unpredictability,"Walsh said. "We are
exposed to both familiar and new teams and we get to see what each team can
excited to see what Virginia Tech can do."
By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.
- The Penn State women's soccer team has called Jeffrey Field home since the program's inception in 1994.
Located in the heart
of the Penn State athletic facilities at the corner of Park Avenue and University Drive, the stadium was named in honor
of the late Bill Jeffrey, legendary head coach of the soccer program from 1926-'52, and has carried a winning legacy since it opened.
To the student-athletes who
have spent countless hours playing on Jeffrey, it will always hold a special
spot in their lives.
"It's crazy this
being my last year, I've always said that Jeffrey field is the greatest place
to play soccer," senior Kori Chapic said. "Everything about this place is
magical, with the location, Park Avenue Army, and roar of the stands, just
everything ties in so perfectly that there truly is no other place I rather of
spent the last four years."
The current team
holds an 11-1 record at home for this season. Historically speaking, the
Nittany Lions have been dominant on their home pitch. The Lions own a 202-23-9
all-time mark at Jeffrey Field, including a 103-5-4 mark in Big Ten matches. The
Jeffrey Field history includes a 39-match unbeaten streak stretching from 2001-''04.
Earning the No. 2
seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Nittany Lions have the opportunity to again
host their second and third round matches in the 2014 postseason. With so much
history, tradition and support on Jeffrey Field, it's easy to see why the
Nittany Lions are eager to host UConn on Friday night (7:30 p.m.).
"I absolutely see a
difference in the team when we're playing here compared to on the road," head
coach Erica Walsh said. "It's a comfort zone when it comes to playing at
Jeffrey Field. We get to sleep in our own beds, go out to eat at our own
restaurants and most importantly play in front of our home crowd. It's really a
secret advantage we have right now," she said.
From the Park Avenue
Army student section to the friends and family that travel countless miles to
watch the girls play, there is never a silent moment in the stands during the
"I look at the Army
and crowd and I'm so thankful for their dedication. It can be
absolutely freezing and you''ll still see
everyone come out and support the team," Walsh said. "As a coach that is an
amazing feeling seeing the support from the fans and seeing how it causes the
team to always put on a show for them by playing their best."
Not only do the fans
create a powerful atmosphere for Jeffrey, the grass surface is something that
separates Penn State's soccer home from other places in America.
"The field is a true role, down to the length of the grass and the bounce this
is the type of field we play our best on," Walsh said.
Widely regarded as
one of the best grass
fields in college
soccer, Jeffrey Field was honored as the 2006 Collegiate Soccer Field of the
Year by the SportsTurf Managers Association.
For the seniors on
the team, this is the time in their collegiate career when they can reflect on
all the time they've spent on Jeffrey Field. And it is their mission to finish
on a high.
"Some of the greatest
memories I have were made on this field, it's been a great experience that
wouldn't be the same without Jeffrey," Chapic said.
Needless to say, the
Lions' season and storied history of success wouldn't be the same without
Jeffrey Field and the crowd's impact during the matches. To all the players who
have played on this field, it has become more of a second home to them.
"Every time you step
onto this field it strikes you and gives you an indescribable feeling of both
joy and determination," Chapic said.
By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion women's soccer team (18-3-0)
used a big second half to power past Buffalo, 4-1, in the first round of the
NCAA Tournament at Jeffrey Field on Friday.
With midfielder Raquel Rodriguez leading the charge, Penn State showed
its determination to make the most of out of the opportunity presented by the
Using the "one game at a time" mentality, head coach Erica Walsh
prepared the team not only physically for the postseason tournament but
mentally, as well.
"We always try and keep the end goal in mind when training. When it
comes to the NCAA we can only prepare for the game in front of us and give it
everything we have," Walsh said.
Starting the game off with a goal by Mallory Weber on an assist from Rodriguez
in the 15th minute, the Lions ended the first half with a 1-0 lead over Buffalo.
Despite the one-goal advantage, the Lions were motivated to extend the lead in
the second half.
"Coach gave us a good halftime speech, which got us fired up. We
wanted to play for our seniors and we knew one goal wasn't going to be enough,"
The Lions answered the bell in a big way in the second half.
Within a span two minutes early in the second half, Penn State scored
twice against the Bulls with tallies by Rodriguez in the 51st minute and then
freshman Megan Schafer with assistance by Salina Williford during the 52nd.
Recently retuning from her international play with the Costa Rican
women's national team, Rodriguez returned better than ever.
really happy to be back with playing with Penn State. I view this program as
more of a family than a team and that makes a huge difference while playing the
game," said Rodriguez.
Buffalo scored off a penalty kick by Katie Roberts in the 81st minute,
but the Lions finished strong.
Mallory Peterson scored in 86th minute with assist by Anna Witte and
Haleigh Echard for Lions' fourth goal of the night.
"The team's energy and excitement was fantastic today, as a coach I
couldn't be prouder," said coach Walsh. "I thought the team's tempo was
incredible tonight, it was clear that they wanted this win."
In its first visit to the NCAA Tournament, Buffalo walked off the field impressed
by Penn State's tactical and technical game.
"Tons of credit to Penn State, they were just too much for us to
handle and showed they are a team that can go far in this tournament. No. 11,
is a handful and she was on fire tonight," said Buffalo head coach Shawn Burke.
After showing their ability to bounce back from a tough loss, the
Nittany Lions are eager for their next match.
The Nittany Lions move on to face Connecticut at Jeffrey Field on
Friday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Penn
State is eager to move into prep mode for the second match in the postseason.
"I think the best thing is that although we looked a lot better than
last week there is still room for improvement. This group of players always
amaze me with their consistent improvement. As a team I think we have avoided
plateauing which says a lot about this program," said Walsh.
By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After ending a successful season with a 17-3 overall
record and earning its 16th Big Ten Championship, the Penn State women's soccer
team is set to embark on its last journey together in 2014.
When the Lions step onto Jeffrey field against Buffalo, Friday night
it will officially kick off their NCAA Tournament competition, the tournament
that gives no second chances.
Thanks to a superb regular season, the Nittany Lions earned a No. 2
seed in the 64-team draw.
Now, they're looking forward to the upcoming action and are using a
the Big Ten Tournament result as motivation and encouragement to progress
further in the NCAA Tournament.
"Give us the rest of the day and the bus ride home to reflect, but
once we get back to the field we know we have another task we need to focus on,"
Whitney Church said. "After any loss we make sure we improve for the next game
and concentrate on what is in front of us."
This is the Lions' chance to mount a run into the postseason, and head
coach Erica Walsh is excited about the opportunity.
"The loss against Northwestern got them fired up and the players want
to not only play in this tournament but advance," Walsh said. "The team knows
what they need to do to win, as a coach I can see the intensity in them
increase every practice."
The Lions will begin their tournament play with a match against
Buffalo, and although Penn State is no stranger to this tournament, this will
be the first time Buffalo has received an NCAA bid.
"Since it's their first NCAA tournament appearance I think we will see
a great crowd for both teams during the game. I think it's going to be a really
exciting game and great start to the tournament," Walsh said.
In a win or go home setting, the team is well aware of the
consequences of playing in the NCAA tournament. However, they are keeping the
same "one game at a time" mentality that has helped them succeed this season.
"We want to always move forward. We try and learn from every game and
grow as a team," said Church."For some of us upperclassman, we know the risk
that comes with this tournament so we want to show the freshman what is
expected from these games."
The seniors have played a vital role the entire season. With 11
freshmen experiencing the NCAA Tournament for the first time, the upperclassmen
will be a leading the charge.
For the four seniors on the team, this is their last chance to make
the most of their collegiate career.
"This is the seniors' team, they have taken all the younger players on
their back and it's amazing as a coach to watch," coach Walsch said.
The upperclassmen have been able to prep the younger players and show
them what to expect from the next two weeks.
Starting on Friday, the intensity on the field is sure to increase.
With the start of the NCAA and the end of the 2014 season, the team is going
into this tournament with determination and positivity.
"We're all really happy and super excited to get started in this
tournament. We have a belief in this team and that's what can take us far in
this tournament," Church said.