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The Quiet Leader: How Church's Production Speaks Louder Than Words

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9249253.jpegBy Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- One aspect to any winning soccer team is a powerful defense. The defense is the backbone of the team and for the Penn State women's soccer team this is no exception.

So far this season, the Nittany Lions have proved they have one of the Big Ten's sturdiest backlines by allowing just 10 goals in 15 games. Through it all, Whitney Church has been leading the way.

A senior center back, Church is taking every opportunity to make sure her last year with Penn State is one to remember.

"As my last season with this team I try and take it game by game. I still am giving it my all but am making sure I enjoy my last year," said Church.

One of the team's most experienced players, Church has established herself as one of the leaders of the Nittany Lions' defense.

In her decorated college career, Church was named to the All-Big Ten freshman team in 2011, as well as being Big Ten Defender of the Year and All-Big Ten first team in 2012 and All-Big Ten second team in 2013.

As a mentor, Church is known as the "quiet leader" on the team because she leads by example and represents everything a defensive player should be.

"She's the leader, the voice, and the organizer of the team. She is your reliable center back that every team needs," said head coach Erica Walsh.

"To me she's the best center back in the country," Walsh added.

One of the squad's veterans, Church has racked up the most playing time on the team this season by playing a total of 1,307 minutes out of a possible 1,350.

"When I go out on the field I want to know I gave it my all. I want to walk away from the game knowing I did everything I could to help my team," said Church.

With her career winding down, Church wants to be someone the younger players on the team can look up to.

"I try to always be an example for my team," Church said. "I go about my business and hope I inspire others to play their best."

As a defensive player, her role on the team is less about scoring and more about being able to read plays and command and retain possession of the ball.

"Her biggest strength is the way she reads the game so well," said Walsh. "She can read the game better than any opponent. She's the steady force on the team's defense the other girls can always rely on."

One of the most dependable players on the field, Church allows her teammates to play aggressive as they know their defense is ready for any situation.

"She never ceases to amaze me," said senior midfielder Kori Chapic. "Her dedication to the game and skill level are what make her such an asset to the team. Having a player as dependable as Whitney allows us to play with more confidence.

"In soccer, being in the right position is critical. It's the difference of being two steps to the right or to the left that can change the entire game and Whit always seems to be in the perfect place at the right time."

Church may be in the middle of her final season, but that doesn't mean she still isn't trying to improve her game and leave a lasting mark on the program.

Part of her role as the "quiet leader" means Church's dedication to the game speaks louder than any words could.

"I try and lead by example and want to be a symbol of someone who is always trying their best. I work hard not only for myself but for their team as well," said Church.

Lions Come Up Short Against Rutgers Despite Late Surge

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10428378.jpegBy Matt Allibone, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was a tale of two halves for the Penn State women's soccer team on Saturday against Rutgers.

Taking on No. 20 team in the nation at home, the Nittany Lions got off to a slow start against a hungry Scarlet Nights squad and went into halftime down 1-0. From that point on, however, they looked like a different team.

"I didn't necessarily need to [say anything at halftime]," head coach Erica Walsh said. "They knew that they didn't perform. The details were better in the second half. I'm pretty proud of this team in the last 30 minutes, and that's the kind of team I want to coach."

After being out-shot seven to two in the first half and giving up a goal to Madison Tiernan at the 28:36 mark, the Nittany Lions turned the tide of the game in the final 45 minutes, out-shooting Rutgers eight to three, yet ultimately being unable to score and falling for just the second time this season, by a score of 1-0.

In the final 10 minutes, with the Scarlet Knights keeping all 11 players back on the defense, the Lions generated numerous opportunites but were unable to get a ball past goalie Casey Murphy.

"At the end I felt like we, I don't know if the word is deserved, but I felt like we were going to get one," Walsh said. "I liked the morale at that point. I thought we were pushing hard enough to get a win."

First, reserve freshman midfielder Haleigh Echard crossed a nice ball into the box that junior Mallory Peterson just missed getting into the net.

Minutes later, Katy Keen ripped a shot that forced Murphy to make a terrific diving save. Then, with just 2:43 remaining, Frannie Crouse headed a ball off the foot of Megan Schafer that went just wide of the net.

Although the setback marks the Lions' first Big Ten loss this season, it came against a talented opponent.

With the win, Rutgers improved to 10-1-1 on the season and registered its ninth shutout. In total, the Scarlet Knights have given up just four goals in 12 games this season.

"That's a very good Rutgers team, I mean a really good Rutgers team, and there were times when they were playing around us," Walsh said. "We played as if we had a bulls eye on our back today and our details weren't good enough."

Walsh has been at the helm of Penn State for eight years now. She knows that the grind of a season can take its toll on players and that it is next to impossible to win every game.

Still, Walsh believes that there is much the Lions can learn from Saturday's loss. Their success over the past few seasons has established them as one of the premiere programs in the country, and as a result, opponents will always be motivated to beat them.

"These games against Penn State are massive games for these teams and we're going to get everybody's best game," Walsh said. "We need to learn it this way and we are a young team."

With a unique blend of young talent and veteran experience, evidenced by Saturday's starting lineup that featured six returning starters and five freshmen, the Nittany Lions are built for success in both the present and the future.

The focus for Penn State now will be bringing a consistent effort for 90 minutes over its remaining five regular season games, all against Big Ten rivals. Walsh knows her team can do that, having seen them play that way for nearly the entire season.

"As long as we grow from this experience we're going to be better in the end," Walsh said. "The biggest thing is just the leadership and the belief going forward." 

By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Raquel "Rocky" Rodriguez epitomizes the idea that it's more important to play for what's on the front of one's jersey.

Not only is Rodriguez a leader on the Penn State women
's soccer team, she also has been a part of Costa Rican Women's National Team since 2012 and will be traveling with them this week to prepare for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.

"It's a deep feeling when playing for my country," Rodriguez said. "I played for them before coming to Penn State so it's always nice returning to them."

The Costa Rican Women
's National Team will be competing in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Women's Championship, which takes place Oct. 15-26. The tournament gives them a chance to qualify for the 2015 FIFA World Cup.

For a rising soccer nation like Costa Rica, this is an opportunity of a lifetime.

With the Nittany Lions midway in the season and the Costa Rican team making moves towards the World Cup, Rodriguez credits her teammates, coaches, professors and family for keeping her organized and able to balance her demanding schedule.

"It's all about discipline and staying organized," she said.

As a junior majoring in exercise physiology, Rodriguez also takes time to make sure she is maintaining her grades.

"The way I look at it, wherever I am, that's what I'll focus on. If I'm on the field, I'll play my hardest. If I'm in class, I'm focused on studying," said Rodriguez

As one of the upperclassmen on the team this season, Rodriguez stands as a role model for the younger players and is able to keeps everyone focused during the game.

"She's made my transition to Penn State so easy," freshman midfielder Emily Ogle said. "She's the type of person that is always offering to help with anything.

"She is such a role model on and off the field," Ogle said. "Her passion for the sport and her skill level makes her a player we can all look up to."

In her third year with the Nittany Lions, Rodriguez is dominating the midfield. She has scored five times this season, and is continuing to improve each time she steps on the field.

"Just watching her grow the past years has been awesome," junior forward Mallory Weber said. "Whether she is playing for Penn State or Costa Rica, she always gives it her all.

"She is a determined person all around, and knows how to motivate everyone on the team."

Whether she
's wearing the Blue and White or her Costa Rican jersey, Rodriguez represents something much larger than herself when she plays.

She is a passionate player and role model for female athletes. Her determination and drive is something everyone can look up to.

"When I play, I know I represent many different things. I represent my country, my school and my family," Rodriguez said. "It motivates me to play my best. I not only want to do great for them but for myself, as well.

"My biggest goal is to after school return to Costa Rica and be a role model. I want to help shape women's soccer for the next generation. When I return, I want to prove that women can be both great athletes and students."

By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With two big wins over Northwestern and Illinois, the Penn State women's soccer team swept its first Big Ten home weekend.

"Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday is the longest and toughest stretch of our season and to end it with three wins is massive," said head coach Erica Walsh.

The team is known for playing its best at Jeffery Field. In the last three years, the Lions have only lost two home games.

"It's the atmosphere here; it's perfect, said midfielder Salina Williford. "We get so excited playing here because of how much support that is in the community. We owe it to the people who come watch us to put on a show."

The first game of the weekend was against Northwester, and the Lions played strong and defeated the Wildcats, 4-1.

 "I think we came out with a fire under our tail tonight," said senior Kori Chapic.

With goals scored by Raquel Rodriguez, Chapic, Megan Schafer, and Williford, the entire team was on fire.

"The first 25 minutes was some of the best soccer I've seen in a long time," Walsh said. "We talk about this being the best place to play college soccer and in that first half, I absolutely felt it."

Rolling off of the momentum of Friday's game, the Lions faced their second Big Ten team of the weekend, llinois, on Sunday afternoon.

Both teams came out extremely strong displaying solid defense and the first half of the game remained scoreless.

The first goal of the game was made by freshman Frannie Crouse in the second half. Emily Hurd passed it over from the left side of the box to the middle, allowing the Lions to make the scoreboard.

Only 47 seconds after the team scored, Illinois tied the game.

Motivated for a win, the team used the Fighting Illini's goal to keep their aggression up.

"It's very hard when they come back that quickly," Crouse said. "You just have to keep your composure and never stop trying. We fought tonight and came out with a great win."

The team continued to take shots to try to regain its lead.

Then with 83:11 on the clock, Selina Williford saved the day with her goal to ensure the Lion's win.

"It's very humbling to score another goal," Williford said. "I credit my entire team because they are always keeping me going.

"I always want to keep improving. As a team, we never want to feel like we're content. We always want to feel like we're still moving and not taking our foot off the gas."

Last year, Williford primarily played defense but has been making her way up the field this season.

Williford just recently had her first career goal but proved this weekend she is a force to be reckon with on offense.

"Salina Williford has been the best surprise so far this season," Walsh said. "She played back for us last season, but this is the best I've seen her play."

Alongside Williford, the 2014 women's soccer team is packed with talented players who have been helping the team continue its winning streak.

"I think one of the biggest strengths about this team is that we're taking players off the bench and they're delivering," said Walsh. "Every player on this team is playing their best and it's such a great feeling as a coach knowing those players on the bench can always help lift the team."

After three home games this week, the Lions hit the road to face Minnesota.

The team is keeping its intensity up for every game and is looking strong as the Big Ten season continues.

Said Walsh, "This team believes right now."

By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Penn State women's soccer team continues on their winning streak the team continues to stay focused on its "one game at a time attitude." After Tuesday's victory over Bucknell, the Lions are overall 8-1 record.

As the team's season continues, head coach Erica Walsh continues to guide the team to success.

"I think we kept our cool and fought through any frustration pretty well tonight," said Walsh.

"Right off the bat the attitude was good and the mentality was right. I was extremely proud of this team tonight."

Beating Bucknell 7-0, the team gave everything they had in the game and made sure to seize any scoring opportunity possible with a total of 21 shots during the game.

Later in the week, the Lions welcome fellow Big Ten schools Northwestern and Illinois to Happy Valley.

With two big matches coming up, Walsh tells her team to embrace every game as a new challenge, encouraging the Lions stay focus and treat every game as their last.

"We have to always remind ourselves, especially when things are going well, we still have so much more we need to accomplish if we are going to reach our goals this year," said Walsh.

The combination of an aggressive offense and a solid defense proves the team embraces any obstacle that comes its way.

One notable goal against Bucknell was by Anna Witte during the second half. This was Witte's first career goal.

"After such an accomplishment I definitely am proud of all my hard work and am thankful for everything the coaches have helped me with," said Witte.

Alongside Witte, freshman Frannie Crouse scored a pair and had an assist in the night's game.

Coming off of earning the Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors, Crouse expressed how much the coaches impact her game.

"They definitely give you confidence while still teaching you how to improve. They are able to show you how to be your best and to break things down to teach you if need be," she said.

A big role in the team's outstanding performances so far is the handwork and dedication that comes from its coaching staff.

"Coach Walsh is always encouraging us to keep the intensity up," said Crouse.

Being extremely proud of the team, Walsh understands there is always room for improvement.

"I think the feelings so far this season are good, but we still have a lot of work to do, "Walsh said.

This marks Walsh's eighth season with Penn State. Before her highly successful career at Penn State, Walsh was an assistant coach for U.S. Women's National team and head coach at Harvard University.

Making Tuesday night's game more interesting is the fact that Walsh and Bucknell's head coach Ben Landis not only have coached together at Harvard but are also good friends.

"He's one of my closest friends and he does a great job with his program," said Walsh. "I'm so proud of what he's done at Bucknell and wish him all the luck in the Patriot League."

Walsh is a competitive coach that pushes her team to success. Since being with Penn State, she has had seven straight NCAA Tournament appearances, six consecutive Big Ten regular season titles and several other major team honors.

In 2012, she was named the NSCAA and Soccer America National Coach of the Year. Additionally, she was the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2009 and 2012.

Coaches are able to make players into true athletes and Walsh knows the team is doing great so far. However, she is keeping her goals clear for where she wants to take the team this year.

"We always are talking about and teaching them what it really means to be a competitor," she said. "We have a plan and a schedule that will hopefully get us to that Big Ten Tournament when the time comes."

 
























By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Under the Friday night lights at Jeffery field, the Penn State women's soccer team hosted its first Big Ten match of the season against rivals Ohio State.

The Lions started the match off with aggressive plays right away. Within the first two minutes of the game, Mallory Weber crossed over to Frannie Crouse for the first goal of the night.

Crouse's opening goal was one of five for the Lions, the final 5-1 scoring adding to their perfect home record.

"These guys are on a mission and they're playing like they have something to prove," said head coach Erica Walsh.

Returning from two weekends on the road, the team made sure to keep the pressure on Ohio State with consistent attacks on goal and sharp defense.

"Anytime we get the chance to play Ohio State at Jeffery Field, it's going to be a good night for us," said Walsh. "We came out hard and we came out strong."

The team took a total of 15 shots, making it one of their most offensive games yet of the season.

Freshman forward Frannie Crouse was one of the players who kept the pressure on the Buckeyes. Not only did she start the game off with a goal, she scored her second goal of the night early in the second half on a breakaway.

One of eleven freshman on the team this year, she is already a key player on the team's offense.

"I take it as the entire team doing their job," Crouse said. "I give all my credit to them since they've made my transition so easy."

She already scored four goals this season. Although this is her first year playing on Jeffery Field, she is a standout player.

"I think Frannie Crouse is the real deal. She's going to be a great leader for us," said Walsh.

Crouse is the kind of player who gives her all whenever she plays. With her speed and drive, she sets the standards for the team's aggression during any match.

"Scoring right away is such a great feeling. It gets the entire team excited and keeps you motivated," said Crouse.

Another player who led the way for the Lions' win was Salina Williford.

As a returning sophomore, Williford is continuing to help the Lions win. She is a midfielder and forward for the team that keeps the team motivated regardless of where she is playing.

During the first half, Williford scored her first career goal. She got the ball off of a turnover and kicked it perfectly in the net, giving the Lions a 2-0 lead in the first half.

After taking 17 shots so far this season, Williford proved her determination to score.

"It was such a great feeling seeing the ball go into the net," Williford said. "I've come so close to making a goal so it was great being able to score."

In the beginning of the second half, Ohio State scored from a scramble in front of the net. Frustrated and determined for a win, the Lions responded with a goal from senior defender Whitney Church.

Her first goal of the season, Church gave the Lions their two goal lead back and the team's momentum for the second half.

Nearing the end of regulation, Echard crossed the ball to Rodriguez for a goal to secure the Lions' 5-1 victory.

With its third Big Ten win of the season, the team is keeping focused as they move through the schedule. Said Walsh, "We have big hopes and high aspirations for this season."

By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2014 Penn State women's soccer team has started the season with the best record since the undefeated team of 2005. The impressive 6-1 start wouldn't be possible without the Nittany Lions' determination for success this season.

One player on the team who embodies that mindset both on and off the field is midfielder Emily Hurd. Returning for her second year as a team captain, she is one of the many upperclassman who are leading by example.

"The biggest difference this season is that the senior leadership is fantastic," Hurd said. "The upperclassmen have the drive and push to motivate the team and it creates this whole new environment."

Coming from redshirting her first season with the Lions to now being a leader on the team, Hurd is a player who demonstrates determination in all aspects of her life.

Dealing with a foot injury her first season, Hurd made it her goal to get better and play on Jeffery Field again.

"I went through a big struggle both on and off the field my first year due to an injury," said Hurd.

Through her dedication and passion for the sport, Hurd not only recovered but became a key player on the team.


"Having soccer being taken away also took part of my identity away," she said. "Recovering from that made me both stronger physically and mentally. That taught me to never take things for granted and that nothing is given to me."

Hurd takes every opportunity to succeed that she can, including fulfilling an internship at Beaver Stadium and making Academic All-Big Ten in 2012 and 2013.

"I've had a great academic career thanks to Penn State," said Hurd.

She finished her undergraduate program in only three years, graduating in May 2013 with her B.A. in Communication Arts and Sciences. Currently, Hurd is in Penn State's graduate program for Higher Education and pursue a career in university athletic administration.

Excelling in both soccer and school, Hurd is a role model for the entire team.

"Both on and off the field she has grown as a leader, and that's become her biggest asset to the team," said redshirt junior Britt Ecke
rstrom.

Part of what makes Hurd a great leader on the team is her consistent desire to improve. She is the type of player that is always working on getting better and motivating her team.

"She understands the importance of coming out to train and play every game. She understands that when there's a lull, it's her responsibility to pick things up, and she shoulders that responsibility really well," head coach Erica Walsh said. "As far as I'm concerned, she's the best left-sided player in the country."

Hurd plays a vital role in motivating the team's performance and also makes sure the team's energy is up. She is known as one of the most outgoing players on the team.

  

By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While starting every game for the Nittany Lions' women's soccer team and excelling in Penn State's architectural engineering program, Kori Chapic shines both on and off the field. 

Last season, Chapic punched in the third most minutes on the field and continues to put in hard work and dedication as the 2014 season rolls. Her excellence comes as no surprise. Chapic earned Academic All-Big Ten honors in both 2012 and 2013.

Kori Chapic is the all-around definition of leadership.

"Architectural engineering is a passion of mine," she said. "When you have something that is a passion of yours, like soccer, it seems less of a job and more of something you do for fun. It's a lot easier dedicating the time and managing it because you enjoy it and want to be involved."

Not only is Chapic a serious student and tremendous athlete, but she is also a member of a few leadership programs on campus. Chapic is one of 30 students in her class who were selected to the Presidential Leadership Academy and
 is also involved in the Athletic Director's Leadership Institute, or commonly known as ADLI.

"I just love staying active," said Chapic. "I want to make use of everything this school has to offer since Penn State is full of opportunity."

Staying committed and continuing to better herself on and off the field, Chapic stepped up and became a role model on the team for her senior season.

"Kori is the ideal student athlete," said head coach Erica Walsh. "She
's grown both technically and tactically the last few seasons. But most importantly, she has grown as a leader on this team."

Chapic moved from Russell, Ohio to become a Lion. However, her passion for Penn State is rooted back to when she was a little girl.

She explained how she fell in love with Happy Valley when she was younger and on a college visit for one of her two older sisters. When it was Kori
's turn to find her school, she noted that both Penn State's amazing engineering program and highly competitive soccer program won her over.

"I was told when it
's the right field and the right team you'll know. I fell in love with the school as soon as I stepped foot on it," said Chapic.

Playing alongside Chapic is one of her best friends, and roommate, classmate
 Kindrah Kohne. 

"Since freshman year, she has always been my sounding board for anything going good or bad in my life," Kohne said. "It's fun always having her around."

Competing the last four years together has led the pair to become extremely close. The two have been a part of the women
's soccer team since their freshman year and continue to put as much effort into their schooling as they do soccer.

"We both are each other's motivation factors," Chapic said. "When I see her working so hard in the classroom, it makes me want to be better. I look up to her as a person and as a friend."

Known as one of the hardest workers on the team, Chapic works through any challenge that comes her way. Chapic handles everything that is thrown her way with ease and determination. 

Walsh stated that
 Chapic is essential to the team because of her mental strength to not only accept any challenge, but to conquer it, as well.

Chapic and the other Nittany Lions are prepared and excited to go back on the road for this weekend's
 matches at Purdue and Indiana.

It
's Chapic's motivation for success that keeps the Lions doing their best, reminding them to embrace every challenge thrown their way.

"Part of what keeps me motivated is this team," she said. "It
's about having a great team and great chemistry. We're a family that sets expectations for each other and we want the best for one another."

By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -The 2014 Penn State women's soccer team is full of breakout stars and unique players this season.  Many of the team's upperclassman have taken on leadership roles to help the team progress. One player who has filled that role both on and off the field is junior goalkeeper Meghan Kaminski.

Starting her third season for the team, Kaminski showed her skills and passion for soccer appearing in her first game of the season last week. However, her dedication doesn't just pertain to soccer. Kaminski, who was awarded an Academic All-Big Ten title last season, is studying aerospace engineering and mathematics at Penn State.

Kaminski's dream is to be added to the short list of females to travel to outer space.

 "I didn't really know what I wanted to be coming into college, so I asked my roommate what I should be and she said I should be an astronaut so I went for it," said Kaminski. "I've always loved math and science."

Not only is she one of the few females in her program, but she is also one of the few student-athletes who is majoring in such a vigorous program. With less than 60 female astronauts to make it into space, Kaminski doesn't let anything intimidate her from her future goals.

Explaining how her mother is an engineer and her two older sisters are both dedicated to their studies, Kaminski says her family has always been an influence for her to do well in academically. Kaminski also credits her professors for always being understanding of her obligations to the team.

"I make sure to always go to office hours and my professors are very helpful and supportive of me being on the team," said Kaminski.

Not only is she heavily dedicated to her studies and the team, but Kaminski is involved in Penn State's Lunar Lion. This club plans to become the first university to lead a mission to land a spacecraft on the surface of the moon.

Keeping up with such a busy schedule is no easy task. Kaminski has been able to stay on top of her busy schedule thanks to her teammates.

"It's with the team that I get more things done. It keeps me motivated having them all around me," said Kaminski.

Just as Kaminski credits her team for keeping her motivated, her teammates recognize what an asset she is to the Nittany Lions. 

"She is honestly one of the most athletic people I have ever met," said captain Emily Hurd. "She has such a great work ethic day-in and day-out. For her to be so competitive with our other goalkeepers pressures all three of them to keep doing their best."

When she isn't at practice or planning her future space mission, Kaminski has also earned the title as the funniest player on the team, according to her teammates.

"She brings a different kind of joy to the team because she's so funny," said Kaminski's roommate and teammate Raquel Rodriguez. "She always makes everyone smile. Whenever I'm feeling down, she's one of the people I look up to relax and bring me up."

Being a key asset to the Nittany Lion's defense and a standout student, Kaminski is a role model for the team and student athletes everywhere.

"I think she's very smart," added Rodriguez. "She is very good at balancing her life, enjoying both life and school."

Kaminski is staying focused and ready to hit the road with the team for the first time this season by traveling south this weekend for two away games. Penn State will be taking its perfect record of 3-0 to the test when facing North Carolina and Duke.

By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off of its opening weekend with two big wins, the Penn State women's soccer team entered Friday's game against the University of Connecticut determined to keep the streak alive.


The two teams last meeting was on August 23, 2013 when the game ended in a 2-2 tie after double overtime. Both Penn State and UConn were set on not letting history repeat itself.


Penn State was able to reverse history on Friday by winning, 3-1.  A strong performance from the defense allowed just its second goal of the season.


"They [the defense] have done an unbelievable job. So far, they are the glue during the game," said head coach Erica Walsh.


One defender who stood out was senior Whitney Church. Church has been a key defender for the Nittany Lions for the since 2011, and played a full 90 minutes protecting Penn State's lead over the Huskies.


"It's always great when we can deny them any shots," Church said.


"We've had a great start to the season," she said. "It's key to make sure the chemistry on and off the field works as well. Our defense is made up of two seniors and two freshman. The seniors have to make sure we can bring the freshmen along with us and help them."


The Ashland, Va., native is a four-year starter and made her presence known at the beginning of her Nittany Lion career. She was honored on the All-Big Ten Freshman Team in 2011 and continued garnering accolades her sophomore year, being named the Big Ten Defender of the Year in 2012.


Alongside Church against UConn was freshman defender Elizabeth Ball. Ball played 76 minutes in Friday's game and was helped keep the Huskies away from the net.


Midfielder Salina Williford played solidly on Friday. The sophomore spent much of her time in UConn's end, putting three shots on goal and assisting the defensive backfield during the second half of the game.


"I feel confident with everyone behind and in front of me," Williford said. "Honestly, we just have such a great team. I feel confident with whomever I'm on the field."


A strong defense would be nothing without a focused goalkeeper. Junior Britt Eckerstrom had three saves during the match and shut out the Huskies for nearly 66 minutes.


Penn State will be taking its perfect record on the road next week at the Duke Nike Classic, facing North Carolina and Duke on ESPN 3.