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Lions Grateful for Dominican Republic Experience

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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It may be the offseason for the Penn State women's soccer team, but that doesn't mean that head coach Erica Walsh and her players haven't had plenty on their plates.


Apart from the usual training and recruiting that come every spring, the Nittany Lions participated in a different type of exercise recently when they traveled to the Dominican Republic over spring break.

Spending their time off from class far from State College, the Penn State players were able to scrimmage with the Dominican Republic U20 team while holding classes and soccer clinics for the nation's children.

"It was an incredible experience to spend six days with these people in that environment," Walsh said. "To watch the Dominican players respond to (the Nittany Lions) and see how excited they got to have our team there was a win-win for everyone."

Although the trip included plenty of soccer, Walsh took the trip as an opportunity to spend less time analyzing her player's performances, and more time observing the relationships between them.

Not only was it the first time the Nittany Lions had traveled together where the focus wasn't to win at all cost, the cultural differences and the lack of technology forged a bond between the players that Walsh hadn't previously seen.


"It was arguably the best bonding experience that I've been a part of," Walsh said. "Without the use of technology it's amazing how that changes how people interact. I saw relationships being built between people that I've rarely seen together."

Having spent most of their time since their season ended in November participating in a rigorous weight training and condition regime, the trip gave the Nittany Lions the chance to get back on the field and see game action against the Dominican's best young players, even if the contests were just for fun.

When they weren't spending time with each other or practicing with the U20 team, the Nittany Lions were keeping busy with perhaps the most rewarding part of the trip, giving back to the Dominican community.

For the Blue and White, this meant not only holding soccer clinics for Dominican children in the seventh and eighth grade, but also taking the time to visit their schools and teach them English.

"I think (the classroom) was where the win-win was felt the most," Walsh said. "Watching the way our players responded to the smiles in the room and the opportunity to share."

One player who had a unique perspective of the trip and teaching the children was sophomore forward and Costa Rica native Raquel Rodriguez, who had the chance to be back in an environment similar to the one she grew up with.

Not only did Rodriguez's fluency with Spanish help her communicate with the Dominican children, she also enjoyed being able to let her teammates see a different side of her.

Generally one of the more soft-spoken players on the team, Rodriguez took the trip as an opportunity to grow as a leader on and off the field, as she felt more accustomed with the Dominican lifestyle than the rest of the Nittany Lions.

"I think (my teammates) saw a part of me that they didn't know because the environment stimulated things that I can't show (at Penn State)," Rodriguez said. "It was cool to see how they reacted to a different culture."

Over the course of the week, the Nittany Lions enjoyed being able to explore the country's sights such as the Los Tres Ojos (The Three Eyes) cave and get back into the flow of playing soccer, but their favorite memories of the trip will be the moments they spent with the Dominican junior high school students. 

To be able to take time to benefit kids who are less fortunate then they are both in the classroom and on the soccer field is something that the Nittany Lions won't soon forget.

"We held a couple of soccer clinics and we could see the looks on the kids faces and tell they were having fun," Rodriguez said. "In other countries the resources aren't available the way they are in the United States and impacting those kids was really cool."

If anything, the trip caused Rodriguez and her teammates to take a moment to think about how lucky they are to have the opportunities that they have at Penn State.

Not every school has student athletes that are able to go on a trip like the one the Nittany Lions just went on, and players could not be more thankful to their families and friends who made it possible.

"It made me have so much more pride for my team and my school," junior midfielder Kindrah Kohne said. "It shows what a great opportunity Penn State can give us."

From Walsh's standpoint, seeing her players take full advantage of the trip made her even more proud of them, and reaffirmed her belief in the attitude of her team moving forward.

"The players are very fortunate but they recognized how special this was and that's what was so neat about it," Walsh said. "Watching them soak up every moment of it was amazing." 

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Penn State Athletics THON 2014 Coverage

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Athletics was heavily involved with the 42nd IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) held at the Bryce Jordan Center this weekend.

A record 711 dancers began standing at 6 p.m. on Friday and did not sit down or sleep until Sunday at 4 p.m. to raise awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer in the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Since 1977, THON has partnered with The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital with one goal in mind: conquering childhood cancer.  THON raised a record of more than $13.3 million in 2014.  To date, more than $110 million has been raised by THON.

Several Penn State student-athletes danced in the annual dance marathon.  Representing the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) will be Maggie Harding from women's volleyball, Natalie Buttinger from field hockey, Erin Kehoe from women's soccer and Christian Kaschak from men's soccer.


Additionally, Nicole Williams and Elise Potter from the Lionettes squad and Eugene Bodden, Kali Fleckenstein, Carrie Tedesco and Ally Zimmerman from Penn State cheerleading danced in THON.

Several teams and coaches played an active role in THON events throughout the weekend, in addition to squads participating in Saturday's annual pep rally and team dance competition.

We would also like to congratulate Penn State Athletic Communications student assistant Rachel Steinberg, as she danced over the weekend, in addition to the several student assistants actively involved with THON.

Take a look through our THON weekend updates on the involvement Penn State Athletics. To donate to THON, please visit THON.org.


Friday Coverage:

3:30 p.m. - Feature: Student-Athletes Set to Dance for Pediatric Cancer

Click here to read a feature on the student-athletes participating in THON 2014 - Feature Story


6 p.m. - THON 2014 Begins
The 711 dancers took their feet at 6 p.m. before an energetic crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center to begin 46-straight hours on their feet.

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11 p.m. - Interview on the Floor
GoPSUsports.com talked with women's volleyball senior Maggie Harding on the floor about her experience during THON.


Saturday Coverage:

3 p.m. - Student-Athletes Host Make-A-Wish Families
Several teams hosted THON Make-A-Wish families on Saturday afternoon as part of the THON 2014 festivities.

More than 50 members of the Nittany Lion football team welcomed nearly 40 THON Make-A-Wish children and their families to a special tour of the Lasch Football Building on Saturday afternoon.

The Make-A-Wish event is circled on the calendar for the Nittany Lions every year.  The THON families gathered inside the home of Penn State football to take photos, get autographs, tour the facility with the Nittany Lions, eat ice cream from the Penn State Creamery and take a group photo.

Head coach James Franklin greeted the group when it arrived at the facility tour before senior Miles Dieffenbach and sophomore Akeel Lynch led families on tours.  Take a look at the Make-A-Wish event at the Lasch Football Complex on Saturday.

Photo Gallery - THON Make-A-Wish Football Event



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5 p.m. - Student-Athletes Participate in Athlete Hour
Athletes from several teams on campus spent times with the THON Four Diamonds children inside the Bryce Jordan Center during athlete hour on Saturday.  Take a look.




9:45 p.m. - VIDEO: Pep Rally Dance Competition Highlights
One of the THON highlights every year comes on Saturday night when the teams of Penn State Athletics hop on stage and compete in a dancing competition during the annual pep rally.  In all, 12 different teams competed in the 2014 version of the dance-off.

With resounding approval from a packed house in the Bryce Jordan Center, the Nittany Lion men's swimming team was named champion of the team dancing competition for the second-straight year.  We have highlights of every team dancing on Saturday night at THON. 

Photo Gallery - THON 2014 Pep Rally



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Team Dances
Men's Swimming (Champions) - Full Dance
Football - Full Dance
Men's Basketball - Full Dance
Women's Volleyball - Full Dance
Men's Gymnastics - Full Dance
Women's Tennis - Full Dance
Field Hockey - Full Dance
Fencing - Full Dance
Men's Soccer - Full Dance
Women's Lacrosse - Full Dance
Women's Soccer - Full Dance
Women's Golf - Full Dance


11:05 p.m. - Student-Athlete Dancer Interviews: Hour 30
GoPSUsports.com talks with THON 2014 dancers Natalie Buttinger (field hockey) and Erin Kehoe (women's soccer) during the 30th hour of their 46-hour quest at THON.



Sunday Coverage:

12:55 p.m. - VIDEO: Coach Franklin Addresses THON 2014

Head coach James Franklin took the stage at THON on Sunday afternoon, urging the dancers to continuing working hard in their final push at the 46-hour marathon.  Franklin spoke before a capacity crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center.  Take a look.



 
4:11 p.m. - THON 2014 Raises Record $13.3 Million
THON 2014 reached new heights on Sunday afternoon when it was revealed that this year's efforts raised $13,343,517.33 for fight against pediatric cancer.  Congratulations to everyone involved in THON 2014.  Here is a look at the reveal on the Rec Hall video board following Sunday's Penn State wrestling victory over Clarion.

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Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Women's Soccer THON 2014 Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Watch members of the Nittany Lion women's soccer team show off their dance moves at the THON 2014 Pep Rally.




Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Feature: Student-Athletes Set to Dance for Pediatric Cancer

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By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This weekend the Penn State community will once again come together at the Bryce Jordan Center and stand in support of the fight against pediatric cancer at the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON).

The dance marathon, better known as THON, is a 46 hours no-sitting, no-sleeping event held every February where over 1,500 Penn State students will come together to try and give children and families fighting a battle with pediatric cancer the best weekend of their lives.

9729889.jpegSince 1977, when THON partnered with the Four Diamonds Fund at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center, it has raised over of $101 million to benefit the fight against childhood cancer.

In 2013, the dance marathon raised $12.3 million, the highest total to date.

THON is one of the most prime examples of Penn State tradition and excellence and it requires hard-working, dedicated individuals to carry on the legacy.

Few things represent tradition quite like Penn State student-athletes who day in and out put in hours of work and service to represent the resiliency and honor of Penn State Athletics.

They dedicate just as much time to the community as they do to their sport through charities, camps, and organizations like The Student Athletic Advisory Board (SAAB).

This year, four student-athletes will represent SAAB on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center as dancers: senior Erin Kehoe of women's soccer, senior Maggie Harding of women's volleyball, sophomore Christian Kaschak of men's soccer, and redshirt junior Natalie Buttinger of field hockey.

Due to their heavy time commitments to academics and the athletic department, being a student-athlete and a dancer is a very difficult task to achieve. SAAB dancers must raise a minimum of $2,000 to be considered for a dancer position.

"I had to call friends and families from everywhere to help me raise money," said Kehoe. "Because of our season, it is difficult for us to be involved in committees and organizations so the fact that Penn State has allowed us to be a part of this is incredible," said Kehoe.

"I'm a senior so I am done with work outs and that's why I am able to be a part of this now," said Harding. "This is my one opportunity."

Luckily, coaches and teammate are supportive and understanding of the athletes' participation.

"Coaches have been very supportive. They allow you a week off and as many days as needed to rest and recover," said Kehoe. "They understand THON and even if you're not a dancer, [they know that] the team as a whole has a huge role in THON with athlete hour and the pep rally."

Their teammates, who, for Kehoe and Harding, have become like family, also play a huge role in the morale of the dancers. Both athletes agree that their teammates are one of their best support systems.

"They are always there for me," said Kehoe. "They know how to bring me up and keep me going."

Throughout the weekend, student-athletes play a significant role in the celebration and in the lives of the Four Diamonds families. They participate in a pep rally and an "athlete hour" on Saturday where they spend quality time with the children and their families.

"We are lucky enough to have interactions with the kids during athlete hour," said Kehoe. "We get to do arts and crafts and play soccer and football with whatever families show up."

"[Athlete hour] is an absolute blast. It's also great because it's one of the few teams that the team comes together to do something other than volleyball," said Harding. "We want to give them a weekend that they can just forget about everything and live it up."

Student-athletes are tremendous role models and inspirations for the children but what many people don't realize is THON and Athlete Hour are just as inspiring for the hosts as it is for the participants.

"Being a part of this is indescribable. It makes me feel very honored that they look up to us and want to hang out with us," said Harding. "Just because we are athletes they want to spend time with us and they love us. It's incredible."

"It was so amazing to interact with babies and young kids...and relating my childhood to theirs. I can't imagine going through what they are going through and how strong they are," said Kehoe. "It puts me to shame. All my little things that I think are so hard...they do so much more and have to go through so much more."

This weekend will be an unforgettable one for every individual participating in THON. There will be laughter and sadness and, undoubtedly, colossal amount of joy.

SAAB and the entire athletic department will be well represented on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center with a total of 10 student-athlete, dance team and cheerleader dancers standing For the Glory, For the Honor, and, most importantly, For the Kids.

"I would like to thank every single person that puts time and effort into THON and everyone that makes this possible," said Harding. "The support from everyone for the dancers is great, but it's not about me or us. It's about making [the kids'] lives better, at least for the weekend,"

"We talk about One Team but this is what it's really all about. This is what being One Team really means."

Nittany Lions Reflect on 2013 Season

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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa- The game had long since ended, and the fans had all cleared out of Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Va, yet Penn State star forward Maya Hayes couldn't bring herself to leave the field.

Hayes-Maya.jpegWith the Nittany Lions having just been eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament after falling to Wake Forest, 1-0, in a heartbreaker, the senior decided to take a moment to reflect on the season that she and her teammates had just gone through.

"After that game I didn't want to leave the field until somebody forced me to," said Hayes. "Thinking about how our season was really over was so surreal."

Even with the premature ending, the 2013 Penn State women's soccer team went on a ride that saw many highs, a few lows, and ultimately the growth and maturation of every individual on the roster.  Looking back, it was a season that no member of the Nittany Lions will ever forget.

New Season, New Challenges

Following a 2012 campaign that saw the team come one win away from a national championship, Hayes and her teammates approached last summer with one thought in their mind, improving their fitness level.

"Going into the offseason we were mainly focused on fitness," said Hayes. "We knew we had high expectations so we really worked on ourselves all summer."

As the Nittany Lions tirelessly trained throughout the summer, they did so knowing that they would take the field for the upcoming season needing to fill the huge void left by recently graduated All-American midfielder Christine Nairn.

Without the player that had been the catalyst for them throughout their NCAA Tournament run, the Lions knew it would take a collective effort rather than just one player stepping up in order to move on.

"Christine was a special player but we knew we didn't need just one player to step up," said senior midfielder Taylor Schram. "We needed to step up as a unit to compensate."

Bouncing Back

It may have only been Aug. 30, but the Nittany Lions knew that they had to look at themselves in the mirror.

Following a season opening tie against West Virginia and a narrow 2-1 victory over Hofstra, the Lions had fallen to Virginia on the road by a score of 5-1, and they knew they needed to step it up.

Schram-Taylor.jpeg"The Virginia game was a shocker," said Hayes. "We took the lessons from that game and saw what we could work on."

From the disappointment against Virginia came the team's strongest stretch of the season, as the Nittany Lions won their next nine contests, many of them in thrilling fashion.

Along the way the Blue and White proved that no lead against them was ever safe, something that they established in wins against Oklahoma State on Sept. 13 and Northwestern on Sept 20.

After overcoming an early 2-0 deficit to rally for a 4-2 victory against the Cowgirls, the Lions pulled off an even more challenging feat a week later against the Wildcats, scoring two goals in the final ten minutes to even the score, before junior defender Whitney Church ended the game with her second goal of the evening in overtime.

"Coming back from being down two goals in both of those games we really established a belief in ourselves," said Hayes. "We knew what our roles were and what we had to do."

As the Nittany Lions continued on their winning streak that featured signature wins over conference opponents Purdue, Indiana and Wisconsin, they received contributions from not only veterans like Hayes and Schram but also a group of young players eager to make their mark.

Along with new starting sophomore goalie Britt Eckerstrom and freshman defenders Salina Williford and Brittany Basinger, the player that impressed head coach Erica Walsh the most was sophomore forward Mallory Weber, who tallied seven goals and 22 points in just her second season.

"Mallory is so dangerous and she really stepped up as a leader this year," said Walsh. "She had no problem letting her teammates know that things were going to be done a certain way."

Weathering the Storm

All seasons in all sports have their ups and downs and the 2013 season for Walsh and her team was no different.

After their 10-1-1 start, the Nittany Lions faced the toughest part of their schedule down the stretch of the regular season, dropping four games to conference opponents Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, and Nebraska, all just by one goal.

"The Big Ten was tough this year and those teams played with a lot of heart," said Schram. "I looked myself in the mirror after those games and told myself that I didn't want to have any regrets."

Knowing that the Big Ten title was out of their reach, the Nittany Lions soldiered on, winning their regular season finale against Michigan State, 3-0.  After a second round exit in the Big Ten Tournament, the Nittany Lions gave their seniors one last great moment at home, dominating Monmouth, 3-0, behind a two-goal performance from senior forward Tani Costa.

"There was no better way to end my home career," said Schram. "It was a great way to say goodbye to our fans."

Moving Forward and Looking Back

Basinger-Brittany.jpegWhile the loss to Wake Forest brought the Lions season to an end sooner than they would have desired, there isn't a single memory from this season that the players won't cherish.

The camaraderie, the cohesion, and the personalities involved make this group a team that each player couldn't be prouder to be a part of.

"Success is defined in different ways but I wouldn't change this team for anything," said Schram. "When I think back on this season I'll think of my teammates."

Though Walsh will miss the group of seniors that includes Emily Carrollo, Costa, Hayes, Bri Hovington, Erin Kehoe, Lexi Marton and Schram, she is optimistic about what the future of program holds, with key players like Church, Eckerstrom, Emily Hurd, and Weber set to return.

"Next year we'll have a different team personality but we've got some great players coming back," said Walsh. "I'll always remember this year's team as a cohesive group that never went in separate directions."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

VIDEO: Happy Thanksgiving from Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 'Tis the season for giving thanks, and 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.


VIDEO: Nittany Lions Looking Ahead to 2014

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By Christine Nairn, GoPSUsports.com Soccer Analyst
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
As the final whistle blew at Klöckner Stadium, the Penn State women's soccer seniors knew that their time in the blue and white jersey had officially come to an end. Despite one of their best showings of the year, the women's soccer team's season is over. The Nittany Lions were defeated 1-0 by the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest due to a late second-half goal. 

Penn State fans looked across the field at the scattered players, they could not help but give a standing ovation their hard work, dedication, and tenacity displayed throughout the season and in their final game as a team.

Senior midfielder Taylor Schram looked at her teammates and coaches in astonishment and disappointment.

"We played our hearts out. We put our bodies on the line; we sprinted until we couldn't run anymore. We are frustrated because we know that we had our chances, but couldn't capitalize," said Schram.

"It's sad to think that my time at Penn State is over, but I wouldn't trade any second with this team for anything. I will forever be grateful for Penn State and it's Women's soccer program," said Schram.

Redshirt junior, Emily Hurd, reflected on her time with the senior class and their influence on the younger players.

"The seniors are a huge class with many different personalities. It's going to be impossible to replace them, but I think we can benefit from their hard learned experiences and implement them into our mentality and playing style in upcoming seasons," Hurd said.

"They are some of my best friends in their class, so I will miss them everyday at practice. I hope to make them proud next year and play for them each and every game," said Hurd.

The Nittany Lions traveled home for Thanksgiving, but will return to State College next week with one goal in mind...next season.

"The preparations for next year start in the offseason. We are excited for some down time but it's back to work with strength and conditioning coach Greg Miskinis. He will prepare us for next season mentally and physically," said Hurd.

"With every sprint and weight lifted, we will have our seniors in mind and give that extra effort to make them proud next season." 

Lions Come Up Short Against Wake Forest

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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.- After seven years as the head coach of the Penn State women's soccer team, Erica Walsh knows far too well how intense games in the NCAA Tournament can get, and how a few bounces here or there can determine the outcome of a game.

Hovington-Bri.jpegWith her Nittany Lions deadlocked in a scoreless battle in the second round of the national tournament against Wake Forest, Walsh's team would battle their hearts out yet ultimately not get the bounces they needed, as a goal by Demon Deacons forwards Sarah Teegarden with less than ten minutes remaining handed Penn State a 1-0 loss.

"The effort that they gave was fantastic," said Walsh. "They put in the work and they were tackling, communicating, and certainly put in a winning effort."

The Nittany Lions had numerous chances, getting off 10 shots including a bullet from senior forward Tani Costa with two minutes remaining that came within a few inches of tying the game, yet they were unable to get a ball in the back of the net.

Afterwards, Walsh credited the performance of Wake Forest's defense, which was able to limit a Penn State attack that was coming off a three-goal game against Monmouth.

"On defense they were organized and compact and really took away our wide players," said Walsh. "We got some good looks and had some good chances we just couldn't convert any of them."

At the same time, the reigning National Coach of the Year could not have been more impressed with the job of her own defense, which kept the Demon Deacons off the scoreboard for 80 minutes in a game that, ultimately, had to be won by someone.

In particular, Walsh praised the effort of senior defender Bri Hovington, who stepped in front of a number of Wake Forest's 14 shots in an attempt to give the Nittany Lions and goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom their second straight NCAA Tournament shutout.

"Bri was on point today, communicating with everyone and blocking shots," said Walsh. "She was tough to penetrate and did exactly what a senior should do."

A year after coming just one game short of winning a National Championship, going home in the second round in heartbreaking fashion is a tough pill for the Nittany Lions to swallow.

Despite the disappointment, Walsh was adamant that she wouldn't trade the experiences that she went through with this group of players for anything.

"I would rather lose with this team than win with any other team," said Walsh. "Soccer can be a frustrating game but they fought through adversity all season and became closer as a team."

In a season that ends with their record at 15-7-1, the Nittany Lions certainly went through a roller coaster of emotions throughout the past few months.

Although their campaign ends on a bitter note, the growth and development that the team went through will benefit every member of the squad going forward.

"This team was a pleasure to coach every day," said Walsh. "They certainly had their ups and downs but they took care of every little detail and improved as the season went along."

The biggest disappointment for Walsh is that her seniors have to end their season with a bad taste in their mouths after working so hard to get back to where the team was last year.

Even with their careers coming to an abrupt end, the Nittany Lions senior class - which includes Emily Carrollo, Tani Costa, Maya Hayes, Bri Hovington, Erin Kehoe, Lexi Marton, and Taylor Schram - can exit the program knowing that their impact will not be forgotten any time soon.

"I look around and I see all the seniors hanging around with the freshmen and influencing them," said Walsh. "They will look back and be proud of how they transformed themselves as leaders."

Moving forward, Walsh feels as though her team still has as bright a future as any program in the country.

While they are losing a top-notch group of seniors, the Nittany Lions will return a number of key veterans next year, including midfielder Emily Hurd, defender Whitney Church, and forward Mallory Weber, and come next season, the Blue and White will be as fired up as ever to reach new heights.

"This rising group of seniors has tremendous leadership ability," said Walsh. "They don't take anything for granted and they have special qualities that will help our program continue to grow."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Hayes's Impact Goes Beyond Goal Scoring

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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVESITY PARK, Pa. - As a star senior at Newark Academy in West Orange, N.J. in 2009, Maya Hayes had her selection of college soccer programs to choose from, including Duke, North Carolina, and UCLA.

Hayes-Maya.jpegDespite the wide range of options, there was something about the promise of the program that head coach Erica Walsh had started at Penn State that Hayes couldn't walk away from.

"I didn't want to go to another school where I was just going to be another name going through their program," said Hayes. "I wanted to go to a place where I could help build a program and make a good team great."

Four years, two All-American selections and 71 goals later, the senior forward has no regrets about the ride that her decision to come to Penn State has taken her on.

From her freshman campaign, when the Nittany Lions finished just one game over .500, to last season when they made the school's first appearance in a national title game, Hayes has watched the Lions grow as a program.

"It's been a journey and one that I've enjoyed since I got here," said Hayes. "My expectations have been exceeded and it's been a joy to watch this program grow."

As the Nittany Lions have risen as a national power during Hayes's time with the team, she herself has developed immensely, having gone from a raw, talented freshman to the third leading goal scorer in Penn State history.

When Walsh watches Hayes play now compared to when she first watched her suit up for the Blue and White, the differences begin with the refinement that the two-time Big Ten Forward of the Year has put into her game.

"She's a student of the game and she's become a lot more sophisticated," said Walsh. "She reads the play a lot better and her movement has improved as she's added more variety to her game."

That variety of skills and explosive speed has been terrorizing Big Ten defenses since 2010, but when Walsh thinks about Hayes's development, she spends little time dwelling on the goals.

Never the team's most vocal player, Hayes's ascension in the locker room as a player who others can learn from has impressed the entire Nittany Lions coaching staff, and it all begins with her work ethic.

"Maya is definitely a lead by example player," said Walsh. "She puts the work in and people respect her and understand who she is and what she is about."

For Hayes, being a leader has meant understanding the regard that her teammates hold her in and living up to the expectations that come with being one of the nation's top goal scorers.

"The older that I've gotten I've learned about the affect that I can have on people around me," said Hayes. "I've tried to be a bigger influence, not just with my play but also with my words and doing the little things."

Perhaps the best quality that Hayes has exhibited during her time at Penn State has been her never-ending desire to continue improving.

After consecutive All-American seasons her sophomore and junior years, Hayes spent the summer before her senior year working harder than ever, in order to make sure she was prepared for her final campaign.

For a squad that had just lost All-American midfielder and Herman Trophy Finalist Christine Nairn, the added dedication and devotion was invaluable.

"When you lose a player like Christine your attack changes," said Walsh. "Maya has had to do a whole lot more which has made her a better and more well-rounded player."

After another sterling campaign in which she has added 19 more goals to her career total, Hayes has led the Nittany Lions into the second round of the NCAA Tournament looking for one more shot at a national title.

However this season ends up for her and her teammates, the West Orange, N.J. native hopes that she will be remembered in Happy Valley for more than just the offensive ability that she has displayed on a regular basis.

"I just want to be remembered as someone who cared and looked out for everyone," said Hayes. "It's easy to say scoring goals but at the end of the day it's [your influence] more about the people around you than it is about soccer."

When asked what she will remember about her star forward the most, Walsh doesn't hesitate to say that she will remember Hayes's smile before she thinks of anything else.

At the end of the day, the spirit that Hayes has brought to the Penn State women's soccer program only makes the task of replacing her that much harder.

"She's always happy and she makes everyone want to train which makes training so enjoyable," said Walsh. "A player like her comes around every five years if you're lucky so you can't just replace someone like her."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Nittany Lions Set to Meet Wake Forest

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By Christine Nairn, GoPSUsports.com Soccer Analyst
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a decisive 3-0 win against Monmouth, the Penn State Nittany Lions look forward to their next opponent in the NCAA Tournament. The Lions will take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, who finished ninth in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Despite having a 11-6-2 record, The Demon Deacons have put together a number of solid performances against the Seminoles of Florida State and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Coach Erica Walsh knows that her team will have to come ready to play from the opening whistle against their ACC opponent.

"The team has had a great week of practice and we will look to build off of last week's game, said Coach Walsh. "The seniors know what is at stake and they have been in this situation before and will guide our underclassmen," said Coach Walsh.

Senior Taylor Schram couldn't agree more with her coach.

"We are excited to test ourselves against an ACC opponent," said Schram. "Wake Forest will be very good but we like where our team is right now. We will be firing on all cylinders come Friday and this senior class will do anything it takes to keep our season going."

Senior forward Maya Hayes is eager to take part in the Big Ten vs. ACC matchup.

"It's always a pleasure to play ACC teams because we know we'll get to play soccer and play our style of the game. We are looking forward to a great match against a good Wake Forest team," said Hayes.

Senior forward, Tani Costa, believes that the different leadership types of the senior class will benefit the Nittany Lions in pressured situations, such as this weekend.

"Each senior brings something different to the table. Some lead by communication, while others lead by example. No matter what type of leadership, we all have the same goal...we don't want our season to end. We will do whatever it takes," said Costa.

The Nittany Lions travel to the University of Virginia on Thursday afternoon and open up the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at 4 p.m. against Wake Forest.

VIDEO Feature: Kori Chapic