Recently in Women's Soccer Category

11117782.jpegBy Jen Heisel, GoPSUsports.com Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior team captain Raquel Rodriguez recently returned to her native Costa Rica to train with the Women's National Team in preparation for Las Ticas' first FIFA Women's World Cup appearance after a historic second-place finish at the 2014 Women's CONCACAF Tournament. GoPSUSports.com recently caught up with the reigning Big Ten Midfielder of the Year about her experience preparing for the international tournament, hosted by Canada this summer.

Rocky's Take

Since I finished all of my finals, I've been with the national team. We started training last week and will continue to do so this week. Staying together, getting the rhythm back again and bringing back our chemistry are what we're focusing on. 

We will be playing a few friendlies against Mexico and Columbia before the tournament to prepare. The games will be vital for this and, of course, to apply what we've been training. All training is soccer specific so skills and real game application is always present in our trainings. 

I think our national team coaching staff does a great. I do share soccer things I've learned at Penn State, such as communicating in the field by giving instruction. Our coach has been trying to balance the time we spend together during these two weeks because in the next month or so, we will be together 24/7. However, we will go to the movies tomorrow night. I think this group doesn't need bonding-specific activities to unify; we already enjoy each other's company a lot. 

After CONCACAF, we have raised our standards and we won't settle for anything less than what we've shown we can do. Our mindset has changed and we already decided we will go and compete and stay together like we did in CONCACAF and respect each other. The expectations are also higher than they've been in the past. The idea is to always improve and progress. I expect a good performance from our team, a confident and smart team

--Rocky

Next Up

Las Ticas play the Mexican Women's National Team on May 25 and 28 in Mexico City and the Columbian Women's National Team on May 31 at Metro State in Denver, Colo. The team opens the Women's World Cup against Spain on June 9.

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VIDEO: THON 2015 Pep Rally Dance - Women's Soccer

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Check out the Nittany Lions dancing on stage during the THON 2015 Pep Rally on Saturday night.




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By Jen Heisel, GoPSUsports.com Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State women's soccer coach Erica Walsh and associate head coach Ann Cook have made the most of their outstanding credentials and 20-year friendship, orchestrating one of the most successful soccer programs in the nation since they took the reins in 2007.

Their partnership started on the Williamsburg, Va., campus of William & Mary, where the duo broke into the Tribe as bright-eyed freshmen in 1993.  Walsh and Cook helped lead William & Mary to four NCAA Tournament appearances and Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championships. Walsh was an All-American, two-time first team All-CAA pick and team captain. Cook earned three All-American nods and twice finished as a Hermann Trophy finalist.

So when Walsh was offered the helm of the Nittany Lion program, her first thought was the six-year professional soccer veteran who boasted U.S. Women's National Team experience. After retiring from professional soccer in 2003, Cook, a Springfield, Mo., native, made stops on the coaching staffs at Drury University, Missouri State and Nebraska.

"I had been trying to get her on my staff for years," said Walsh. "It can be nerve-wracking, coaching with a friend. But I thought our philosophy was aligned so closely. We were going to go through the good and bad together."

"The number one word I use for hiring is trust and there's no one I trust more than Ann."

That trust has propagated a Penn State program that, in 2014, won its 16th conference title in 17 seasons, a record unmatched by any Division I program, and is the fourth-winningest program in the 21st century. The program's success under Walsh and Cook's tutelage, coupled with her outstanding career on the pitch, resulted in a Missouri Sports Hall of Fame induction on Jan. 25.

"Anyone around Ann and I recognizes quickly how special our relationship is because it's built off of trust and enjoyment," said Walsh. "She enriches my life for sure on and off the field but we genuinely enjoy being around one another."

"Ann and I have an incredible mutual respect for one another," she said. "We provide accountability for one another, are willing to challenge each other and support one another when a decision is made. A big part of [our success] is her knowledge, ability, and relationship with the players. They are so inspired by her. Because she's such an educator, everyone that meets walks away with a great feeling."

The tangible enjoyment one can feel by watching the pair interact results in the family atmosphere, which permeates every aspect of the program. Before every home game, the team rides the recognizable Penn State blue bus to Jeffrey Field, loudly singing songs passed down from those who wore the Blue and White before them. Dogs aren't adopted without the full support of everyone on the team. Starters are welcomed onto the field with shouting and high fives in a semi-circle. That sense of being welcomed with open arms is a result of the bond between Cook and Walsh.

"The team sees how much we enjoy our job and recognizes how important they are to us," said Walsh. "More of our players are interested in going into coaching and I think a big reason is the relationship we share and the enjoyment we get out of it beyond the wins."

A true coaching partnership in the making since 1993, Walsh and Cook team up to head one of the most talented women's soccer intercollegiate programs. 

"Beyond our friendship, she is the most talented coach in the country and has ability to run any program she chooses," said Walsh. "We are extremely fortunate to have her here and I am the luckiest coach to work side-by-side with her on a daily basis."

 

A Year To Remember: Looking Back on the 2014 Season

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10601910.jpegBy Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion women's soccer team will take great pride in its efforts during a tremendous 2014 season.

Between several players earning national and international acknowledgment and the team's superb record, 2014 is a year head coach Erica Walsh and the Nittany Lions will build on as the group shifts towards next fall.


Ending the season overall with a 20-4 record and earning its 16th Big Ten title within the last 17 seasons, the Lions have a lot to be proud of this season.

Although the team's season came up just short in the NCAA Quarterfinals, the players and coaching staff have no regrets when it comes to how the team performed.

"I thought they were prepared, I thought they performed and unfortunately we ended up on the wrong side of the score line, but we left it all out on the field and I can't complain at all about this season," Walsh said. "Regardless the outcome, I think our team was peaking at the right time. The team's hard work and dedication showed the whole way through."

The 2014 team had one of the best records the program has seen in the past decade, reaching 20 wins for only the eighth time in program history.

With 11 freshmen and four seniors on the roster, the Lions excelled with consistent contributions from both youth and experience.

Freshman Frannie Crouse led the team with 10 goals in her first year at the college level.

The likes Haleigh Echard, Elizabeth Ball, Maddie Elliston, Katy Keen, Megan Schafer and Emily Ogle were among the freshmen who played significant roles in their rookie campaign.


Ogle was one of the four players on the roster to capture a NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region honors. She earned the Big Ten Freshman of the Year accolade and helped showcase the talent of the freshman class.

Although the freshman class was outstanding, the group credits the leadership of the upperclassmen for making this year so successful.

"Despite being a young team and having an abundance of freshmen, we had four tremendous seniors this year that were leaders on the team," Walsh said. "Each one of them carried a special role on the team, we're not only losing four players-we're losing four additional coaches."

What made this senior class special was how they use their drive and passion to always motivate the team to take it one game at a time.

Although Emily Hurd, Whitney Church, Kori Chapic, and Kindrah Kohne will be saying goodbye to Jeffrey Field, their impact on the team will not be forgotten. Church was named a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy Award earlier this week.

"Probably more than anything this group of seniors left on the program was their attitudes and how unselfish they were. These seniors continuously showed how often they put this team first," Walsh said.

In addition to the seniors, veterans Mallory Weber, Raquel "Rocky" Rodriguez, and Britt Eckerstrom stepped up as additional role models for the team. All three will play a paramount role in Penn State's success in 2015.

The 2014 season was especially memorable for Rodriguez, who also was able to help Costa Rica's national team make history.

Mid-way through the Penn State season, Rodriguez departed Happy Valley to play for her native country of Costa Rica. Rodriguez helped Costa Rica qualify for the FIFA Women's World Cup for the first time ever.

Both individually and as a team, the team has a lot to be proud of this year.

Through the highs and low of the season, the Lions prevailed as a family and never gave up.

"I look at it as a very successful season. I think regardless we are one of the top five teams in the country. This team made me extremely proud and gets me excited to see what the future brings," Walsh said.

VIDEO: NCAA Women's Soccer Quarterfinal Preview

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with senior forward Emily Hurd leading up to Penn State's NCAA quarterfinal match at Texas A&M on Saturday (8 p.m.).




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Happy Thanksgiving from Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 'Tis the season for giving thanks, and the Penn State Athletics would like to take an opportunity to say thank you to the loyal fans on Thanksgiving.

As you sit down with family and friends to eat your traditional meal while the Lions and Cowboys host their annual Thanksgiving day home games, Penn State Athletics would like to thank you, the fans, for the unrivaled support you give every team on campus.  Penn State's teams would not be the same without the greatest fans in college sports.

As a token of their appreciation, several student-athletes from teams on campus would like to say thank you and Happy Thanksgiving for the support you give them throughout the athletic season.

Weber's Header, Superb Team Defense Send Lions to NCAA Quarterfinals

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10569097.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A header from junior Mallory Weber in the 71st minute and a standout defensive performance lifted the Nittany Lion women's soccer team (20-3-0) to a 2-1 victory against Virginia Tech (16-6-0) in the NCAA Third Round on a warm Sunday afternoon at Jeffrey Field.

With the triumph, the Nittany Lions are headed to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the 10th time in program history and the second time in the past three seasons.

"Obviously it is a fantastic feeling (to get back to the quarters)," head coach Erica Walsh said. "That was a very good Virginia Tech team, well-coached...Obviously they gave us everything we could handle today. It certainly felt like we had to bend at times, but we never broke."

Weber will be credited with the game-winner. And senior Raquel Rodriguez's goal in the 40th minute was a crucial momentum boost for the Nittany Lions late in the first half, but the day belonged to the defense. Penn State's effort against Virginia Tech's relentless attack was exceptional.

"That unit has been very good all season," Walsh said. "But the great thing about them is that they have been getting stronger as the season has gone on and becoming more of a unit, and led by Britt Eckerstrom, who was great today. You look at Kori Chapic and you look at Whit Church. They have freshmen on either side, who are no longer playing like freshmen. They believe they are as good as they are because of the leadership."

Chapic and Church spearheaded a tremendous 90-minute performance against a Virginia Tech squad that came into the game averaging 2.90 goals per game.

"It was definitely a tough task that we had today," Church said. "They were bringing it to us. Like Coach said, we would bend at times and kind of give them things away at times, but we never broke and we stayed strong. It was really great."

The Nittany Lion back line was outstanding with the ball in the air during Sunday's victory. Virginia Tech delivered a number of balls into the box during both halves, but the Lions yielded just one scoring play from the Hokies. Defending in the box, along with the midfield's work rate and ability to track down balls were Walsh's keys to Penn State advancing into the round of eight.

The visiting Hokies nearly struck first in an entertaining opening half. Virginia Tech's scoring leader, Murielle Tiernan (14 on the season), delivered a shot towards Penn State keeper Britt Eckerstrom in a one-on-one opportunity in the 27th minute. Eckerstrom managed to get a hand on the drive, but it was sophomore midfielder Salina Williford's foot that directed the ball away from the net as it rolled freely into the 6-yard box towards the goal line.

Penn State broke the scoreless tie on a blast from Rodriguez at the 39:59 mark. A great feed from Katy Keen set Rodriguez up with a breakaway opportunity. The Nittany Lion midfielder dribbled to the edge of the 18-yard box before ripping a shot that careened off of the post into the back of the net.

But the Hokies were far from done. Virginia Tech threatened on two occasions in the opening eight minutes of the second half before midfielder Ashley Meier tapped a ball home to set the score at 1-1 as the clock read 52:42.

Nevertheless, Penn State went right back to work on both ends of the field. The Lions earned a free kick in the 71st minute of action from 30 yards out. Midfielder Emily Ogle delivered a flawless set piece into the box where Weber elevated for the eventual game-winning header.

"We work on them in practice day in and day out," Weber said. "(Ogle) played a great ball in and the goal came out. I just need to get a touch on it."

The Jeffrey Field crowd willed the Lions on from there as the Hokies looked for the equalizer. Limiting Virginia Tech to just two shot attempts in the final 10 minutes of play, the Lions held strong en route to raising their all-time postseason record at Jeffrey Field to 33-6-1.

"The crowd was super pumped and energetic out there today," Church said. "It makes that much of a difference. Hearing the crowd behind us, that gets us going and helps us a tremendous amount. That was a very special day out there to hear all of them behind us."

Focus now shifts towards a quarterfinal matchup against No. 1-seeded Texas A&M (21-2-2). The Nittany Lions will play the Aggies in College Station on Saturday with a spot in the College Cup semifinals on the line.

"I think this is a very good soccer playing team this year, but even more importantly, they've got a ton of courage," Walsh said. "We've talked a lot about that it is our family, and we live to fight another day and play another day together."

Nittany Lions Advance to the NCAA Sweet 16

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10569493.jpegBy Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion women's soccer team (19-3-0) used an early goal and a determined defensive effort to defeat UConn, 1-0, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Jeffrey Field on Friday night.

The NCAA Tournament is full of surprises, but the Lions wasted little time getting on the board in the second-round matchup. Penn State scored in the seventh minute and never looked back.

The goal was scored by freshman Frannie Crouse and assisted by veteran Kori Chapic. Crouse got the ball and headed in the back post.

"
I wasn't really sure if it went in or not at first, but as soon as I heard my teammates and the crowd cheer I knew," Frannie Crouse said.

The Greensburg, Pennsylvania, native is currently the team leader with 10 goals for the Lions, despite this being her first year at the collegiate level.

"
I just always remember what coach preaches, believe. We need t o believe in ourselves and believe in our team and that's how we'll score," Crouse said.

Both teams were aggressive and had opportunities to score throughout Friday
's game. Penn State had 19 shots in total while UConn trailed with 10 shots.

"
We knew they would come out strong and so did we, I couldn't be prouder of the way the girls played," said head coach Erica Walsh.

With an aggressive offense from both teams, the Lions
' defensive line made sure to not to let UConn get on the board.

"
As a defense we're all playing really well together right now," goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom said.

"
We're all communicating constantly and we're so connected right now, we really are playing as one backline," Eckerstrom added.

As the starting goalkeeper, Eckerstrom helped lead the team to victory on Friday night with five saves for her eighth shutout this season.

Eckerstrom was also in goal for the regular season match against UConn back in August, but she acknowledged that since the last meeting both teams have improved.

"
Although we play some of the same teams in this tournament it's always different every game," Eckerstrom said. "When we played UConn earlier we both were just different teams, we both have grown so much with our regular seasons. It's cause in the beginning of the season everyone is still trying to find their place on the field. We both have grown so much so re-playing them today was like two brand new teams playing."

With the NCAA Tournament in full swing, Penn State will take on its next challenge by facing Virginia Tech on Sunday.

"
The best thing about this tournament is its unpredictability," Walsh said. "We are exposed to both familiar and new teams and we get to see what each team can bring. I'm excited to see what Virginia Tech can do."

Lions Looking to Feed Off of Jeffrey Field Crowd as Postseason Continues

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8288514.jpegBy Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's soccer team has called Jeffrey Field home since the program's inception in 1994.

Located in the heart of the Penn State athletic facilities at the corner of Park Avenue and University Drive, the stadium was named in honor of the late Bill Jeffrey, legendary head coach of the soccer program from 1926-'52, and has carried a winning legacy since it opened.

To the student-athletes who have spent countless hours playing on Jeffrey, it will always hold a special spot in their lives.

"It's crazy this being my last year, I've always said that Jeffrey field is the greatest place to play soccer," senior Kori Chapic said. "Everything about this place is magical, with the location, Park Avenue Army, and roar of the stands, just everything ties in so perfectly that there truly is no other place I rather of spent the last four years."

The current team holds an 11-1 record at home for this season. Historically speaking, the Nittany Lions have been dominant on their home pitch. The Lions own a 202-23-9 all-time mark at Jeffrey Field, including a 103-5-4 mark in Big Ten matches. The Jeffrey Field history includes a 39-match unbeaten streak stretching from 2001-''04.

Earning the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Nittany Lions have the opportunity to again host their second and third round matches in the 2014 postseason. With so much history, tradition and support on Jeffrey Field, it's easy to see why the Nittany Lions are eager to host UConn on Friday night (7:30 p.m.).

"I absolutely see a difference in the team when we're playing here compared to on the road," head coach Erica Walsh said. "It's a comfort zone when it comes to playing at Jeffrey Field. We get to sleep in our own beds, go out to eat at our own restaurants and most importantly play in front of our home crowd. It's really a secret advantage we have right now," she said.

From the Park Avenue Army student section to the friends and family that travel countless miles to watch the girls play, there is never a silent moment in the stands during the game.

"I look at the Army and crowd and I'm so thankful for their dedication. It can be absolutely freezing and you''ll still see everyone come out and support the team," Walsh said. "As a coach that is an amazing feeling seeing the support from the fans and seeing how it causes the team to always put on a show for them by playing their best."

Not only do the fans create a powerful atmosphere for Jeffrey, the grass surface is something that separates Penn State's soccer home from other places in America.

"The field is a true role, down to the length of the grass and the bounce this is the type of field we play our best on," Walsh said.


Widely regarded as one of the best grass fields in college soccer, Jeffrey Field was honored as the 2006 Collegiate Soccer Field of the Year by the SportsTurf Managers Association.

For the seniors on the team, this is the time in their collegiate career when they can reflect on all the time they've spent on Jeffrey Field. And it is their mission to finish on a high.

"Some of the greatest memories I have were made on this field, it's been a great experience that wouldn't be the same without Jeffrey," Chapic said.

Needless to say, the Lions' season and storied history of success wouldn't be the same without Jeffrey Field and the crowd's impact during the matches. To all the players who have played on this field, it has become more of a second home to them.

"Every time you step onto this field it strikes you and gives you an indescribable feeling of both joy and determination," Chapic said.

Nittany Lions Start NCAA Tournament With Strong Outing

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10540072.jpegBy Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion women's soccer team (18-3-0) used a big second half to power past Buffalo, 4-1, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Jeffrey Field on Friday.

With midfielder Raquel Rodriguez leading the charge, Penn State showed its determination to make the most of out of the opportunity presented by the NCAA Tournament.

Using the "one game at a time" mentality, head coach Erica Walsh prepared the team not only physically for the postseason tournament but mentally, as well.

"We always try and keep the end goal in mind when training. When it comes to the NCAA we can only prepare for the game in front of us and give it everything we have," Walsh said.

Starting the game off with a goal by Mallory Weber on an assist from Rodriguez in the 15th minute, the Lions ended the first half with a 1-0 lead over Buffalo. Despite the one-goal advantage, the Lions were motivated to extend the lead in the second half.

"Coach gave us a good halftime speech, which got us fired up. We wanted to play for our seniors and we knew one goal wasn't going to be enough," said Weber.

The Lions answered the bell in a big way in the second half.

Within a span two minutes early in the second half, Penn State scored twice against the Bulls with tallies by Rodriguez in the 51st minute and then freshman Megan Schafer with assistance by Salina Williford during the 52nd.

Recently retuning from her international play with the Costa Rican women's national team, Rodriguez returned better than ever.

"I'm just really happy to be back with playing with Penn State. I view this program as more of a family than a team and that makes a huge difference while playing the game," said Rodriguez.

Buffalo scored off a penalty kick by Katie Roberts in the 81st minute, but the Lions finished strong.

Mallory Peterson scored in 86th minute with assist by Anna Witte and Haleigh Echard for Lions' fourth goal of the night.

"The team's energy and excitement was fantastic today, as a coach I couldn't be prouder," said coach Walsh. "I thought the team's tempo was incredible tonight, it was clear that they wanted this win."

In its first visit to the NCAA Tournament, Buffalo walked off the field impressed by Penn State's tactical and technical game.


"Tons of credit to Penn State, they were just too much for us to handle and showed they are a team that can go far in this tournament. No. 11, is a handful and she was on fire tonight," said Buffalo head coach Shawn Burke.

After showing their ability to bounce back from a tough loss, the Nittany Lions are eager for their next match.

The Nittany Lions move on to face Connecticut at Jeffrey Field on Friday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Penn State is eager to move into prep mode for the second match in the postseason.

"I think the best thing is that although we looked a lot better than last week there is still room for improvement. This group of players always amaze me with their consistent improvement. As a team I think we have avoided plateauing which says a lot about this program," said Walsh.