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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With three minutes remaining in the first half Sunday afternoon at Jeffrey Field, Penn State and Nebraska were dead even at 1-1.

Both teams had created the same amount of chances and had shared possession evenly all afternoon. The only difference between the conference rivals at this moment was Nebraska's eighth-leading goal scorer all time, Jaycie Johnson, was standing behind the ball on the penalty circle with no one but freshman goalkeeper Amanda Dennis in front of her. 

The only other penalty kick Dennis faced in her young collegiate career was against Long Beach State three weeks prior. She was unable to save that opportunity, but this time she stepped up and made the biggest play of the match.

In the battle between the seasoned veteran and the new kid on the block, Dennis read Johnson's run, dove to her left and stopped her attempt to keep the game tied at one.

"We scouted her. I knew that she was going to go to the left side, so I was hoping she would stick to the game plan, which she did," said Dennis. "I made the save and kept it at a 1-1 tie."

What would've been a one-goal lead for the visitors with momentum on their side heading into halftime turned out to ignite the home crowd and send Penn State to the locker room on a high note. 

"Certainly that ball goes in and it's a completely different game," said head coach Erica Dambach. "She continues to come up big for us, certainly not playing like a freshman."

Dennis also made a one-handed punch save in the 83rd minute to hold the Cornhuskers to one goal.

"You have to make those kinds of saves. It boosts everyone up," said Dennis. "It's a Sunday game, everybody's exhausted on a Sunday, especially when you're getting close to the 90-minute mark, so just making saves like that I got to keep my team in the game."

Dennis has held opponents to one goal or less in eight straight games. With Penn State only losing once in that span. 

Offensively, Megan Schafer stole the show for the Nittany Lions with two goals on four shots. She scored two goals all season leading up to this game.

Schafer got the Lions on the board in the 16th minute with a 12-yard shot that found the bottom left corner of the net off the assist from Salina Williford. 

In the 69th minute Schafer broke the 1-1 tie with a long run to catch up to a through ball from Nickolette Driesse and finished over goalkeeper Audrei Corder for what ended up being the game-winner.

In a game comprised of 23 total fouls and two yellow cards, Schafer flourished like she usually does in physical contests.

"Megan Schafer is a Big Ten soccer player at its finest," said Dambach. "This is where she thrives."

"I just love when it comes around for conference play," said Schafer. "It's just such a physical game, and sometimes it's not the prettiest of games but I love that. It just gets me fired up even more. It's kind of weird but I like contact more. I think that's why today was so successful."

Penn State boasts a bevy of forwards who can outrun the quickest of defenders, but in games that rely on a physical presence, the team turns towards Schafer in the middle to get the job done. She did just that on Sunday.

The Lions will be back in action at Jeffrey Field on Friday, Sept. 30 at 6 p.m. For another conference battle against Illinois.

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It took some time for Penn State (6-2-2) to crack Iowa's (6-5) tight defensive game plan, but the Nittany Lions used a second half surge to power past the Hawkeyes, 2-0, Friday night.

 

After a scoreless first half that featured only four combined shots on target, Penn State ramped up the aggressiveness to start the second frame.

 

Penn State earned a long free kick in the 55th minute and Elizabeth Ball got above the defense to head the ball home to give the Lions a 1-0 lead. It was her first goal of the season and fifth of her career.

 

"It's so much fun to go forward," said Ball. "Every time we have a free kick or a corner I'm just super excited to get in there and see what I can do."

 

Ball also led the defensive unit to its fourth shutout in the last five games. The back line held the Hawkeyes to 10 shots and four on target.

 

"You saw tonight what she's capable of doing," said head coach Erica Dambach. "She's leading the back line and then we need a goal and she goes forward and puts on in the back of the net. She's just getting better and better and I think as the season goes on we've seen that every year that she comes into her own."

 

This is about the time last season that last year's back line hit its stride, and the same could very well be happing with this group of new faces led by Ball in the middle.

 

"They're becoming more of a unit" said Dambach. "I think they're getting much more comfortable. We've got two new players in that back line in [Alina Ortega Jurado] and [Grace Fisk] and obviously [goalie Amanda Dennis] is really starting to lead that back line."

 

Dennis hasn't stopped improving since game one. The freshman has surrendered eight goals this season, but only one in the past five games.

 

"We really respect Amanda. It's not even like she's a freshman," Ball said. "It's really nice to have somebody so solid back there that we don't have to worry about, and she just gives the whole back line and the whole team confidence."

 

In the 81st minute Dennis made a full-stretched diving save of Iowa forward Bri Toelle's left foot that seemed destined to the upper left corner of the net. What could've been a momentum shifter for the Hawkeyes turned out to amp up the crowd and preserve the shutout.

 

"We scouted [Toelle] so we knew that she was going to take a lot of shots from distance, so I just dropped back on my line and made a nice, easy save and kept us in the game," Dennis said.

 

The Nittany Lions were able to pad the lead in the 63rd minute courtesy of Frannie Crouse. Crouse made a run up the right edge of the box and finished a loose ball over goalie Claire Graves for her team-leading seventh goal of the year.

 

Crouse is now tied for third in the Big Ten in goals scored. She also vaulted herself into a tie for 15th on the Penn State all-time goals list with the score.

 

The Lions have outscored their opponents 11-2 in the last six contests. They begin the Big Ten season 2-0-1 with a matchup against Nebraska looming this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

 

"This group's in a good place," Dambach said. "A couple shutouts and again back line is starting to come together and we got different people scoring goals for us. I think we got a good balanced attack right now, but we've got a very tough Nebraska team coming in on Sunday."

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As Penn State prepares to commence Big Ten play this Friday night, the feeling around the team is that a new season is just beginning.

 

The Nittany Lions wrapped up their non-conference slate with three straight wins to vault their record to 4-2-1 and bring some much-needed momentum into conference play.

 

Calling the conference schedule a season in itself, however, doesn't downplay the importance of the first few contests out of conference. In fact, head coach Erica Dambach made it imperative to test her troops early and often this year.

 

Of the seven nonconference matches Penn State played this season, three of its opponents are currently ranked in the top 11 of NSCAA's national rankings.

 

"Scheduling-wise we tried to see a lot of different challenges," said Dambach. "We saw teams that like to run, we saw teams that like to pack it in, we saw possession teams, we saw direct teams so my biggest message to the team after last match was we learned a lot of lessons, let's make sure we don't learn them twice."

 

A challenging nonconference schedule provides a variety of benefits to a new team still trying to feel itself out.

 

Firstly, it gives the coaching staff a solid feel of what lineups work well together and what style of play best suits each group on the pitch. It also provides a good idea of what the team needs to improve upon before conference play starts up.

 

Maybe the most important factor of strong non-conference matchups is acclimating the freshman and younger players quickly who haven't contributed in years past. It's more effective to show them what games will be like in the Big Ten right away, so they won't shy away from the competition when it matters most.

 

The captains, Megan Schafer, Brittany Basinger and Nickolette Driesse, spoke to the young players this week at practice about the additional challenges Big Ten games present and how important each is to the end goal of this team.

 

From top to bottom this team is focused and ready to get the real season started. Here are some of the biggest Big Ten storylines as PSU begins its road to repeat.

 

Target on the Back

 

There's no secret who everyone's coming for this year. Ask any coach in the conference.

 

Every Big Ten team had the game against Penn State circled since the day the schedules were released. Who wouldn't want to knock off the defending national champions?

 

That only means one thing: the Lions will get the best effort from each and every team they face from here on out. PSU must be sharp for 90 minutes every game because their opponent surely will be.

 

"It helps our team in the long run in every way, shape and form," said Dambach. "I would say our opponent has a lot of fire in their bellies. That's the best way I could describe it. They have that little bit of extra desire."

 

Dambach even noted one of Penn State's early opponents had the words "make history" written on their arms.

 

It's essentially Penn State against the world this year in the Big Ten. It will be interesting to see how the Lions react.

 

No Games Off

 

The Big Ten conference is so deep and talented this year. Penn State can ill afford to take anyone lightly.

 

As it stands now, four Big Ten teams (Minnesota, Penn State, Ohio State and Rutgers) reside in the NSCAA top 25. Northwestern is right behind as the second team excluded off the list, and Nebraska received a vote as well.

 

Not to mention Wisconsin, who shared the Big Ten Championship with Penn State last year, and both Iowa and Michigan, which own better records than the Lions in 2016.

 

Teams to Look Out For

 

No. 22 Rutgers- The Scarlet Knights sported arguably the best defense in the conference last year, and they have continued that pattern in 2016. Rutgers has given up three goals in seven games and boast a 2-0 win against No. 23 UConn.

 

Offensively, Nicole Whitley leads the conference with six assists in a very balanced offense. Rutgers was one of the favorites to win it all last year, and they have the discipline to make another push this season.

 

Northwestern- The Wildcats finished fourth in the conference last season with a 14-6-2 overall record and a 7-3-1 mark in conference play. They have already exceeded expectations this season, starting a perfect 7-0.

 

The Wildcats don't jump off the page statistically, but they're stifling defense led by goalie Lauren Clem has allowed just one goal all season. Clem's six shutouts leads the conference.

 

No. 10 Minnesota- Penn State's first conference test on Friday may be its toughest all season. Minnesota beat PSU in Happy Valley last season, and its only two losses this season came to top 10 teams in Duke and Stanford.

 

Besides those two setbacks, the Golden Gophers have been pretty darn good. In their six wins this season Minnesota has averaged three goals per game, thanks mostly to the reigning Big Ten Forward of the Year, Simone Kolander.

 

Kolander leads the conference with seven goals and 17 points in 2016 and is making a strong case to repeat as forward of the year.

 

The road doesn't get much easier for PSU as they travel to Madison, Wis. on Sunday to face the Wisconsin Badgers.

 

"Going into Minnesota and Wisconsin, we always know it's going to be competitive, but we know that we need to just start the standard high and bring it right from the start and that will prepare us for the games ahead of us," said Driesse.

 

"We talked about going into conference play where we have a clean slate, so we go in and just got to get work done in conference play on the road this weekend," said Schafer. "All of the stuff that we put in this summer and we've been working for, the season starts now."

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By: Jeff Sattora, GoPSUsports.com    
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-
The winningest coach in Penn State women's soccer history hit another milestone Friday night, as Erica Dambach notched her 200th career win, and 160th with the Blue and White, in a 3-0 victory over the San Diego State Aztecs at Jeffrey Field. 

Despite the milestone, it was her team's performance that made this 200th victory so sweet for Dambach. 

"It's special because the performance overall was special," she said on the victory.

"I'm really proud of the team tonight, one through 26 the entire roster," she added.  "The players that came off the bench I thought were fantastic tonight and obviously to get three goals and a shutout is really rewarding for all the work these guys have put in." 

That hard work showed up early as the Nittany Lions came out firing in this one, dominating possession much of the first half to set the tone.  In the first 45 minutes the home team out-shot San Diego State 16-2 in total shots, and 6-0 in shots on goal.  Those 16 first half shots were above Penn State's average season total per game of 14.8. 

"We talked before the game to press really hard and get our feet moving," said junior Frannie Crouse.  "We knew we would have opportunities to get shots off and every single person was just trying to get that goal."

After some early attempts were held off, Crouse was the first Nittany Lion to get that goal Friday night, as she slipped a ball into the bottom right corner from six yards out to give Penn State a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute of action.   

While that was the only mark on the scoreboard in the first half, the Lions kept pressing after the break, and that effort was rewarded. 

Megan Schafer scored from 18 yards out off a pass from Alina Ortega-Jurado to give PSU a 2-0 lead in the 52nd minute, and Crouse put the finishing touches on the win less than five minutes later with her second goal of the night to secure the 3-0 score. 

The two goals Friday night were Crouse's fourth and fifth of the season, and the win was her second-straight multi-goal game. 

"Frannie Crouse is playing as well as I've seen here play in a Penn State jersey," Dambach said on her junior forward.  "She's quietly having a really good season which is no surprise to us.  She always gets the job done."

For Crouse, that job was all about working with her teammates Friday night.    

"It's basically just cutting from my teammates," she said on what it took to find the back of the net.  "When you have teammates that can make those plays you have to finish them off."

While 29 total shots and 13 shots on goal in the offensive end stands out when looking at the box score, it was a quiet defense that helped secure the shutout win.  

"It was all about the way we imposed ourselves (on the defensive end)," Dambach said.  "It was about making sure from the opening whistle we were on top of them." 

That imposing defense showed, as the Nittany Lions held the Aztecs to five shots total and just one shot on goal the entire night. 

A dominating night on the field both offensively and defensively was the perfect way for this group of Nittany Lions to reward their coach on this special night.  While Dambach might have downplayed the 200th victory, for Crouse, the impact Dambach has made coaching is undeniable. 

"She's the best coach I've ever had and probably will ever had," she said.  "Our team really wanted to get this win for her and we know that there will be plenty more wins for her to come.  Playing for her there is nothing like it."

Dambach and the Nittany Lions will look to add to that win total Sunday afternoon as they take on La Salle at 1:00 p.m. at Jeffrey Field. 

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There are hundreds of countries spread across the globe, each of which feature unique languages and cultures.

 

There are very few ways to converse with foreigners who speak a completely different language, but luckily, there are universal mediums in which people from all over the world can communicate.

 

One of those mediums is soccer.

 

The Penn State women's soccer team learned this and more when the Papua New Guinea U-20 National Team visited State College for a day of international bonding.

 

"It was an awesome experience to get to play with these girls," said junior Elizabeth Ball. "They made us better and we made them better. It was cool because they're training for a World Cup and we're training for a national championship so we have similar goals, and it was awesome just to get to play with them and experience a new kind of soccer."

 

The two teams first went through a scrimmage that featured set pieces and areas of improvement for both squads. It was much different than the normal Penn State practice day.

 

After battling it out on the field, PSU and the visitors came together to share a meal and talk about each other's culture. The Papua New Guinea squad busted out some native dance moves and presented Penn State with handmade gifts from back home.

 

It was a full day of fun and a meshing of two completely unalike backgrounds.

 

"It's such a cool reminder of the bridge that soccer can play for people," said associate head coach Ann Cook. "Obviously it's the world's game, but it's a medium through which we can communicate no matter what our circumstance is."

 

Cook has been friends with Papua New Guinea's head coach, Lisa Cole, for many years. Last March, Cook visited the team in Papua New Guinea and spent three weeks working with Cole and helping out with the team.

 

Cook is extremely active globally in the realm of soccer. As a member of Soccer Without Borders, Cook has met hundreds of coaches and players around the world and is actively involved in the organization helping international children use soccer as a tool for growth.

 

Cook and Cole were finally able to make a practice happen, the first time Penn State has done anything with an international team in the Erica Dambach era.

 

"Spending a little time with this team, they realize the joy that's in their life," said Dambach. "Maybe they don't have quite as much, but they are able to get as much pleasure out of what they do have."

 

The biggest takeaway from a large portion of the Penn State team was how positive the Papua New Guinea girls were.

 

"It's incredible because they have so much less than us and honestly they had way more energy than us," said Ball. "They have an excitement for the game that you just don't see every day here and it made us take a step back and just be so grateful for everything that we have."

 

The short glimpse into another country gave PSU a taste of how different the sport is around the world. It's still the same sized ball and the same length between the posts, but the opportunity to excel in the United States is unmatched.


"The only difference between our team and their team is the opportunities that we've been afforded," said Cook. "It's a good reminder for us of how lucky we are to have been born where we were born and to whom we are born and the opportunities to come to a place like Penn State and represent our school."

 

"It's extremely eye-opening because they don't have as much as we're given and sometimes we take it for granted," sophomore Charlotte Williams said. "They wanted us to eat first and they made little skirts that they were so willing to give to us and it was really sweet."

 

The two teams finished the day with a competitive sing-off to end the experience with a few laughs. It was unlike any practice these PSU players have ever been a part of.

 

"I hope that they'll have an appreciation for the fact that the world is a little bit bigger than the United States and that we take so many things for granted," said Cole. "Having the field, having this great stadium, having coaches that know what they're talking about every day. For these guys that's not the case."

 

The differences are glaring, but one thing brought these two teams from two different nations together: the sport they both love.

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Frannie Crouse led a heroic second half comeback, but Penn State (1-1-1) conceded a late goal and fell to BYU 3-2 on Friday night at Jeffrey Field.

 

BYU's Ashley Hatch netted a hat trick to lead the Cougars to a rare victory at Jeffrey Field. The Nittany Lions have only lost five games at home since 2011.

 

After going down 2-0 in the 57th minute, all seemed finalized for Penn State. But Frannie Crouse had other ideas.

 

In the 62nd minute Crouse headed home a beautiful cross from Haleigh Echard to give PSU a glimmer of hope.

 

"The ball from Haleigh was absolutely perfect," said Crouse. "We've been working on getting on the end of those during practice. Once she beat the girl I kind of felt like I should finish it."

 

The goal was Crouse's first of 2016.

 

Four minutes later Crouse decided to share the love and let someone else get in on the fun. After beating her defender for a free ball, Crouse calmly sent a ball into the box in front of Charlotte Williams, who gathered and finished with a curling left-footed shot to tie the game at two.

 

"I had Charlotte who was wide open, and she was calling for it so I figured if I just slip her in she would have a wide open shot so luckily she finished it," said Crouse. "It was a great shot by her."

 

Williams' goal was her third on the young season. She leads the team in goals so far.

 

Crouse, being a junior, is stepping into a leadership role this season and illustrated it in this game. The team was down after surrendering two goals, but Crouse provided the spark to bring Penn State level.

 

"Frannie's always done that for us," said head coach Erica Dambach. "I think her pace is obviously terrifying for back lines, and when she starts to feel it then we can follow her."

 

With only seconds left on the clock, PSU almost tied the game again, but Laura Freigang's shot hit the crossbar and was cleared before anyone could recover the rebound.

 

The Nittany Lions are still trying to figure out the perfect substitutions and lineups with so many new players, but they showed a string of chemistry to come back and tie the game. The first half brought not enough pushing forward, but PSU looked much sharper in the second frame.

 

"We changed how we were playing," said Dambach. "In the first half we were trying to save some energy to attack, and that comes out in our defense right now. Certainly we can run, run, run if we have the depth to do it, but in some cases we don't, so we got to make sure we're smart on both sides of the ball."

 

Learning from early losses is a key part of developing as a team.

 

"You grow from these moments," said Dambach. "We're still trying to figure out the grit within this team, and if this team can come back from this loss and dig in, we've got a big road trip coming up ahead of us. We'll learn a lot from the way that we respond to this loss."

 

"This is a game we're going to have to learn from and take from," said Crouse. "Hopefully our games after this we'll take a little bit from this game and show it in the next couple and throughout the whole season."

 

Penn State gets a week off to work out the rust and get ready for UCLA and Long Beach State next weekend. The Nittany Lions will return to Jeffrey Field on September 9th to take on San Diego State.

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Home field advantage is a very real sports phenomenon.

 

There are stadiums and arenas around the country that strike fear into the hearts of visiting opponents, even before they board the plane or bus to make the journey.

 

Oracle Arena, CenturyLink Field and Lambeau Field, among others, possess unmatched atmospheres created by die-hard fans that fuel their teams to perform at its highest possible level. A great fan base can quite literally add wins to a team's season.

 

In the realm of women's college soccer there is no place that illustrates this more than Jeffrey Field. It's an intimidating ground that chews up even the strongest enemies and spits them out when it's finished with them.

 

Since 2011, Penn State is 56-4-5 on Jeffrey Field. For head coach Erica Dambach and her troops, it seems like more of a home field certainty than a home field advantage at this point.

 

"Every time we go out on the field we always say protect Jeffrey," said forward Megan Shafer. "That's one of the biggest things coach always says. It's a sacred ground to play on. It's just an honor to wear that jersey on that field."

 

The biggest fuel to the fire that is the Jeffrey Field atmosphere is the student section called the Park Avenue Army. The Park Avenue Army is a wild group of loud, dedicated Penn State students with large drums and seemingly unending singing voices that show up early to every home contest and keep the crowd engaged all game.

 

"They drive the environment at Jeffrey Field," Dambach said. "They drive the atmosphere. They are one of the main reasons why opponents hate coming in to play us. I think that college players want to play in front of their peers. When we walk out and we can hear The Park Avenue Army on Jeffrey Field it just raises the energy."

 

This season, the group is even more prevalent than in previous years. For the home opener against No. 6 West Virginia, the rowdy crew led the team onto the field and will do so for every home game.

 

This was new for everyone on the team, but for freshman Laura Suero, it was her first ever experience at Jeffrey Field wearing blue and white.

 

"My nerves are going crazy before walking out," said Suero. "You can hear them in the locker room and you can hear the crowd. It was probably one of the most amazing experiences walking out onto Jeffrey Field."

 

Penn State played West Virginia to a 1-1 draw in front of a record setting 5,791 fans, the most ever for a women's soccer game at Jeffrey Field.

 

"It was just an incredible feeling," said Shafer. "This atmosphere to play on Jeffrey Field, we couldn't ask for anything better, especially on opening night."

 

The environment was electric, and it all starts with The Park Avenue Army. It had the crowd chanting "We are... Penn State" and various songs to keep the energy from ever dying down.

 

Coach Dambach, although she has a job to do, sometimes gets caught up in the fun. Her favorite songs The Army performs are "Sweet Frannie Crouse" because of her deep Neil Diamond fandom and, of course, "Walsh's World."

 

Defending home field is a goal of every team in the country, but for Penn State it's a necessity. Coach Dambach believes her team is better than any team in the country on Jeffrey Field, and she has made a point to schedule tougher teams at home to test her squad.

 

West Virginia is a top-ten team capable of winning a championship, and Penn State will play No. 15 BYU next in Happy Valley. It's a challenging start to a new year, but that's just the way Penn State likes it.

 

"Because of the environment that's created, it doesn't scare us to bring anybody in to this place," said Dambach. "We feel like the atmosphere can lift us over any opponent. For us, if you come into our home it's protect Jeffrey. I dare you."'

 

If the United States Women's National Team came to Jeffrey Field and suited up against Penn State, the Nittany Lions would expect to put up a fight with The Park Avenune Army and almost 6,000 fans behind them.

 

The friendly confines of Jeffrey Field drastically improves the team's energy and all-around play. It's an unrivaled atmosphere in college soccer.

 

"Every time we step out on the field, defending Jeffrey is one of our biggest aspects," said Suero. "Playing your heart out, playing for your teammates, for your community, for your coaches and each other it's just one big family and it is awesome playing out on Jeffrey."

 

Dambach puts it best.

 

"There is literally no better place on a Friday night than Jeffrey Field."

BLOG: Fall Sports Media Day in Review

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While the Penn State Fall Sports season may have kicked off with women's soccer in action last week, Nittany Lion fans got a unique perspective from the annual athletics Fall Sports Media Day.

Coaches and student-athletes from seven different Penn State programs set to compete this fall met with members of the media to talk 2016 and their expectations for the upcoming year.

Check out some highlights and links to videos, transcripts and extra coverage from today's event. 

Women's Soccer
Penn State women's soccer head coach Erica Dambach guided the Nittany Lions to its first NCAA National Championship last year. With a 1-0-1 start to the 2016 campaign having tied sixth-ranked West Virginia before beating Hofstra 3-1 last weekend, the No. 2 Nittany Lions are poised to continue their success.

As defending national champions, Dambach addressed her thoughts on how the competition might approach Penn State differently than last year. 

"We'll we certainly earned the right to have a target on our back and we've got to embrace that. I think this team has done a nice job of embracing that role," Dambach said. "We all know what it feels like to go out on a Friday night against defending National Champions. Everybody thrives in that environment, everybody gets excited. They get up for those games and we feel that." 

Press conference video
Periscope session with Nickolette Driesse

BLOG: Williams, Reserves Key In Hofstra Win

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUsports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  The damp and dreary weather cleared up just in time for Penn State women's soccer to secure the first victory of the 2016-17 Penn State sports season. The No. 2 Nittany Lions defeated Hofstra, 3-1 to complete their season opening weekend with a 1-0-1 mark. 

The scene was much different than Friday's record-setting atmosphere, where 5,791 fans watched the Nittany Lions battle to a 1-1 draw against sixth-ranked West Virginia on a picturesque evening in Happy Valley.  

With heavy rain all throughout the afternoon, the ominous clouds did dissolve in time for Penn State's 2:30 p.m. kick at home in Jeffrey Field

Things did not immediately look pleasant for the Nittany Lions as Hofstra took an early 1-0 lead less than 10 minutes in off a corner kick opportunity.

"We looked pretty sharp early on and then started to die off and had a huge impact from our reserves," head coach Erica Dambach said. "They are kind of the story that I would take out of the day, as well as Charlotte Williams, obviously. I thought our reserves were the difference in this match."

Among the stellar play from Nittany Lion reserves, lets talk about sophomore Charlotte Williams first.

Williams, who powered the team with her first career multi-goal outing, scored twice in the first half to help the Nittany Lions out of an early deficit.

With Penn State trailing the Pride 1-0, Williams found the back of the net in the 24th minute, following up a shot that hit the post with a rebound for her first goal of the season.

Seizing another opportunity, Williams scored again in the 39th minute off a set piece from nearly 20 yards out following a red card assessed to Hofstra's Rhian Cleverly.

Prior to the go-ahead goal, Williams was dialed in and ready to make the most of the chance, saying she knew where she wanted to put the ball and all that was left was to follow through.

"Today was a display of what Charlotte is capable of doing and we have felt it over the past year and now she's starting to finally believe it," Dambach said.  "She's someone who is creative as can be and she can create changes on her own -  and today she put a few in the back of the net."

Now on to just a few of the key reserves. 

With the Nittany Lions leading 2-1, redshirt junior Salina Williford placed her first goal of the season and sixth of her career in the left side of the goal past the Hofstra goalkeeper in the 84th minute to give Penn State a 3-1 advantage. Freshman reserve Laura Suero earned an assist on the goal, marking her first career point.

Following her first collegiate goal in the opener against West Virginia, freshman Laura Freigang also finished the afternoon with a career-high six shots.

After the Williford goal, the Nittany Lions did not look back, holding on to the lead to secure their first win of the 2016 campaign.

"There were a lot of positives that came out of today," Dambach said. "I think the biggest was the impact that the bench had on the play with the energy and their movement. Obviously there's fatigue from Friday night - there was a lot of excitement, but those guys came off the bench and gave us a huge lift and that's what you want from your reserves."

While excited to have led the team with a pair of goals, Williams was also quick to point out the bench impact.  

"We came from a big game on Friday playing against West Virginia with a huge presence in the stands to a game that's not as high energy from the crowds," Williams said. "But I thought that we brought it and then a lot of players who came off the bench brought a huge boost and I think that's how - it took everybody to respond."

No. 2 Penn State women's soccer remains home next week, welcoming No. 16 BYU to Jeffrey Field for a 7 p.m. matchup under the lights Friday, Aug. 26.

Among other fall teams competing on Friday night, Penn State field hockey opens its 2016 season at home at 6 p.m. against Old Dominion, while the Nittany Lion women's volleyball team kicks off 2016 against West Virginia at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall. 

BLOG: Freigang Makes Immediate Impact

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State women's soccer true freshman Laura Freigang arrived just in time to lead the second-ranked Nittany Lions to a 1-1 draw in the 2016 season opener against West Virginia Friday evening at Jeffrey Field.

Making her collegiate debut in the Blue and White, Freigang entered the match at 30:47, stepping on to Jeffrey Field for the first time in front of a record-setting crowd of 5,791 fans in attendance.

Remaining in the game at the start of the second half, it was Freigang who netted her first collegiate goal just 10:10 into the second frame to break open a tied score (0-0).

Curving just enough after her release, Freigang's shot bounced off the left post and into the goal past West Virginia keeper Rylee Foster to give the Nittany Lions at 1-0 lead.

"I was pretty lucky to be honest," Freigang said. "It [the ball] took a curve to the left and just hit the post. That was pretty close, but I'm lucky."

Prior to her impressive Nittany Lion debut, Freigang had been in the United States for less than a week, having arrived in Happy Valley on Monday, Aug. 15.

Freigang's arrival to Penn State was delayed by the Union of European Football Association (UEFA) Women's Under-19 Championship, where she was playing with the women's German Under-19 team.

Traveling from Europe to University Park was no easy task though, as she had just a few days to meet her teammates and prepare to open the season against the sixth-ranked Mountaineers.

"The transition was pretty crazy at first because there was long travel and I had a bit of jetlag for a few days," Freigang said.

Jetlag and significant travel time presented no reason to be concerned, as the Oppenheim, Germany native mentioned that she's now arrived and feeling fine, having made an immediate impact for the Nittany Lion offense.  

"I feel very welcomed and I think we have a great team," Freigang said. "I think we played a good game, we just didn't finish like we should have."

The Nittany Lions looked to hold on to the lead following Freigang's goal, but West Virginia struck back with the equalizer at 76:59. With several opportunities in regulation and a pair of overtime periods, Penn State could not convert on its opportunities seeing its season opener end in a draw.

The future is bright for Freigang though, who will return with the rest of the No. 2 Nittany Lions to take on Hofstra Sunday, Aug. 21 at 2:30 p.m. in Jeffrey Field.

"Obviously with Laura's international experience and playing with the German national team, she brings a wealth of experience," head coach Erica Dambach said. "And you could see, she stepped in there and it's as if she had been with us for months and months."

"I think she's going to find herself in a couple different positions for us and play a good role for us," Dambach added. We're going to ask her to continue doing what she did tonight."

Check out Freigang's first collegiate goal below. 

 
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