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Schafer Shines for Lions Over the Weekend

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11283501.jpegBy Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The sixth-ranked Penn State women's soccer team is off to a familiar great start. After defeating Hofstra and Loyola Marymount handily at Jeffrey Field, the Nittany Lions battled a formidable Duke team to a 0-0 tie and impressed with a 4-2 win against Arkansas during weekend matches.

Megan Schafer was a huge part of the successful duo of games, scoring twice in the win over Arkansas and imposing her will on a stingy Duke defense that hasn't surrendered a goal yet this season. The sophomore was unable to net one Friday night, but her hustle and speed created multiple chances that just fell short for PSU.

As a team, the Nittany Lions amassed 21 total shots against the 21st-ranked Blue Devils, but goalie EJ Proctor was able to turn away a career-high 11 shots. Senior captain Mallory Weber hit the post early in the first half on a promising attack, and reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Emily Ogle struck the crossbar on a powerful free kick in the 62nd minute, but it wasn't meant to be.

"Great energy tonight and learned a ton about our group," said head coach Erica Walsh. "There were times when we were all over them and when they were back all over us I thought we did a good job of solving some problems. I was looking out to the field and seeing players solve problems which is big for us with such a young team."

Despite the blank goal line, Penn State's front line played a fantastic game. Schafer led the charge as every forward pressured the Duke back line whenever they touched the ball. The aggressive game plan forced a plethora of turnovers and breakaways, which is a strong positive to look back on.


"We were all pressing hard and committing numbers," said goalie Britt Eckerstrom. "That does leave us a little bit vulnerable to their attack, but that's just what it takes to waste a little bit more to hopefully get a goal but we didn't get one tonight."

Eckerstrom played a stellar game between the posts for Penn State, as did the entire defense. The keeper saw 14 shots in 110 minutes of play and was able to stop each one on target. The nationally recognized front line of Duke was stifled all night long by Eckerstrom's quickness and length.

"Our defense is strong," Eckerstrom said. "We work together really well and we always want to keep that clean sheet and do everything we can to give our team the best opportunity."

Sunday was a different story as Penn State came out firing on all cylinders. After a flurry of chances in the early goings, Raquel Rodriguez found Mallory Weber with a perfect ball over the defense and Weber skillfully sidestepped the keeper with one touch and finished with her left foot to put PSU on the board in the 27th minute. Her goal vaulted Weber to eighth place on the all-time PSU scoring list.

Six minutes later, Weber shared the love and found Frannie Crouse for a close range goal to put the Nittany Lions up 2-0. Crouse was one of 11 players that appeared off the bench for PSU.

"Feeling comfortable to put all 27 players into this game is massive, especially on a Sunday," said Walsh. "We talk all the time about how it's going to take all 27 to be successful and I thought today was a great step forward. We saw some really good performances out of some of these players who haven't had the chance."

In the second half, Schafer took it upon herself to finish off the Razorbacks in dazzling style. The forward masterfully guided a pinpoint header off of an Emily Ogle cross in the 49th minute to the back post and in with defenders draped all over her.

Later in the contest, Schafer received a through ball from Alina Ortega-Jurado with the defense out of place and beat the final defender en route to a powerful left-footed strike to seal the game for Penn State.

"Coach told me to go in with about 11 minutes left and she said finish it off," said Schafer. "It was an awesome pass from Erika and I had one focus and that was just goal."

Schafer now leads the team in the young season with three goals. She is on pace to shatter her total last year of six goals, and it doesn't look as if she'll be slowing down any time soon.

The Duke game on Friday saw an attendance of 4,207, the second highest total in the history of women's soccer at Jeffrey Field.

The Nittany Lions will be back in action on Sept. 4 in Morgantown, W.V., as they take on the West Virginia Mountaineers. PSU will be back at Jeffrey Field on Sept. 17 to welcome the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten opener.

Women's Soccer Christens 2015-16 Sports Season with Strong Start

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11269681.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Erica Walsh and the Nittany Lion women's soccer team could not have asked for a better setting to open the Penn State sports season than what they had on Friday night.

In front of a picturesque sunset in Happy Valley, more than 3,100 fans packed Jeffrey Field to cheer on the Nittany Lions to a 2-1 victory over Hofstra in the first contest of the fall.

A tremendous turnout of students, spearheaded by "Park Avenue Army" group, set the stage for an outstanding opening weekend for the sixth-ranked Nittany Lions.

"This was one of the most incredible environments we've had here at Jeffrey Field in my nine years," said head coach Erica Walsh. "In a lot of ways, those guys in the stands won the game for us by keeping our spirits up."

On the pitch, the Nittany Lions showed their versatility in two wins over the weekend. On Friday, senior Mallory Weber notched the first tally of the season on a great feed from freshman Ellie Jean in the 17th minute of action.

"It's always a huge emphasis to start fast," said Walsh.

The score remained 1-0 until Hofstra found the back of the net in the 65th minute of play. Nonetheless, the lead was short-lived and the Lions quickly answered. Emily Ogle deposited a perfectly placed shot into the back of the net on a free kick to give the Lions the lead for good in the 68th minute of play.

Ogle's goal was a thing of beauty off of the free kick, but the team's ability to take control so quickly after Hofstra equalized the match is what stood out on Friday night.

"So much of the character about this team was shown tonight," Walsh said. "Obviously you have to build that character over time, but we took a really positive first step in that area tonight. With a young team you're never sure what the response will be when you face a little adversity, but I was really proud of them."

Penn State showed its balance on Sunday afternoon during a 4-2 victory over Loyola Marymount. Four different players scored - Weber, Frannie Crouse, Charlotte Williams and Megan Schafer - and the Lions tallied three scores in a span of 11:06 during the second half.

The Lions accounted for 45 total shots in the opening two matches, including 19 on goal. Starting a season with two victories is a good step for a young, athletic squad.

"I think a lot of the things we did during preseason, I saw on the field," said Walsh. "It was a positive step forward."

The Nittany Lions return home on Friday for a matchup against Duke (8 p.m.). The Duke match is part of a big night on the University Park campus. The men's soccer team will kick off its season and a tripleheader on campus with a contest against San Francisco (5:30 p.m.). The two-time defending NCAA champion women's volleyball team begins its campaign at 7 p.m. against Buffalo in Rec Hall.

The fall sports season is off to an unblemished start thanks to two wins from the reigning Big Ten champion women's soccer squad.



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

VIDEO: 2015 Season Preview - Women's Soccer

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The defending Big Ten champion Nittany Lion women's soccer team will have the honor of kicking off the 2015-16 Penn State athletic season on Friday (vs. Hofstra at 7:30 p.m.).

The Lions host Hofstra in the first regular season contest of the season. With a host of talent back from a squad that advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals for the 10th time in program history and a recruiting class rated No. 2 in the nation by TopDrawerSoccer, the Nittany Lions head into the season with a great deal of confidence.

GoPSUsports.com paid a visit to pre-season practice to talk with head coach Erica Walsh and a host of players to preview the 2015 season. Take a look.






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

VIDEO: 2014-15 Year in Review with Sandy Barbour

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour to review a superb 2014-15 season for Penn State Athletics.





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

VIDEO: 2014-15 Season Highlights

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's 2014-15 season was one marked by excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community. GoPSUsports.com takes a look back at the campaign in a season highlight reel.


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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup officially kicked off on June 6, and senior team captain Raquel Rodriguez (San Jose, Costa Rica) and the Costa Rican Women's National Team begin their quest for international success on June 9 against Spain. Rodriguez spoke with GoPSUSports.com for the final time before Las Ticas become the first Central American team to compete at the World Cup in Canada.

Rocky's Take

We played three friendlies before the World Cup and they taught us that a huge part of our success comes from the mindset that we bring to the field. We know we are capable of doing good things but that won't be possible if our minds aren't focused the whole game. Our team has speed in the attack and likes to elaborate in the midfield. We are conservative when it comes to pressing but of course, all those tactical decisions will depend on what makes sense against the opponent. 

Despite the losses, we've learned that sometimes we need a "slap" in our face to wake up and realize what we are doing. Even though there are differences regarding preparation between national teams, we have the choice to work and stop making excuses. We definitely know that the first game is going to be vital to how we do in the World Cup. We know it's going to be very important for Spain to win so it'll be a good match. 

Earlier in the year, Amelia Valverde took over as the head coach. She has been around for five years now and she knows the team and we know her very well. We have the confidence to talk to her about anything and vice versa. It's not easy to coach a national team whose support is only developing, but it is vital to for the coach to have the players' support and she has it. 

Personally, working with the national team, I've learned that I am very disciplined and determined. I am honest and with regards to soccer, it's clearer now that my strengths as a soccer player are my strength, foot skills and ability with the ball. 

Honestly, this is the most I've ever enjoyed my soccer career. I feel more confident and the fact that I have the opportunity to experience a World Cup the first time a Costa Rican national team appears in it is a dream come true. In addition, coming into my senior year with this much experience is also a joy for me and an opportunity to grow as a leader. 

--Rocky

The Costa Rican Women's National Team makes its World Cup debut against Spain at 4 p.m. in Montreal. All World Cup matches will be broadcast live on the Fox Sports networks.




Commemorating 25 Years of Penn State and the Big Ten

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Penn State has won 92 Big Ten titles, including 21 in women's soccer (16 regular season).



By Tony Mancuso
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just four months into his tenure as commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, Jim Delany recalls an idea brought to the table by former Illinois President Stan Ikenberry.

It was October of 1989 when Ikenberry, who spent time as a senior administrator at Penn State earlier in his career, broached the thought of adding an institution to the Big Ten for the first time since Michigan State was invited to become a member in 1949.

The Big Ten then began a formal research process of an institution that would bridge a Midwestern league to the East.

The Pennsylvania State University was on the table for discussion as a superb academic institution with a rich tradition in athletic success.

Delany, whose sister attended Penn State as a graduate student, didn't need much convincing. He knew the level of potential a partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten could foster.

"The Big Ten hadn't changed in many, many decades, but I thought if the opportunity to expand presented itself it was a no brainer," Delany said earlier this week. "Excellent academics. Excellent athletics. And pointed towards the East Coast, I thought there was a lot of potential there. That was my recommendation at the time."

The process moved forward with the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten institutions discussing the topic before news broke just before the holidays in December of 1989 that Penn State could be on its way into a new conference. Under the direction of athletic director Jim Tarman at the time, Penn State had been competing as an independent in football for more than a century, and the rest of the department had been a member of the Atlantic 10 since 1976.

When the news initially surfaced, women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose, who along with field hockey coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss are the two current Penn State head coaches who were on staff in 1989, was giving a presentation at the annual women's volleyball coaches convention (AVCA) about the importance of NCAA Tournament at-large bids for teams in smaller conferences.

"I remember talking in front of the group about the importance that not all of the at-large bids go to the bigger conferences and that there were good teams in other conferences even though they didn't have the same notoriety, said Rose. "We have a lunch break. I turn on ESPN at lunch, and I see that Penn State is going to be a member of the Big Ten. I come back. I say to some people that I would like to retract what I said about at-large teams."

The formal process concluded with a vote in Iowa City on June 4, 1990, at which time Penn State was officially accepted as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Twenty-five years have passed in a partnership that allowed both the University and conference to reach unprecedented heights on the field and in the classroom.

"From a broad perspective, at the time, my view was that it was a tremendous fit for both sides. And history has proven that," Delany said. "With all the other expansions around the country, I'm not sure there was one that benefitted both institution and conference as much as this did, largely because of the characteristics of Penn State were so well matched with the characteristics of the Big Ten."

The positive news zipped throughout campus shortly after the vote in Iowa.

"I remember hearing about the announcement from Mary Jo Haverbeck, from the Sports Information office," said Morett-Curtiss. "She told me about us going in and how it was going to have a major impact for women's athletics at Penn State."

It was an announcement that changed the landscape of funding and development for all of Penn State's 28 programs at the time, and it was a day Morett-Curtiss remembers quite well.

"Ironically, I had gone for a run that day on the trails near Sunset Park and as I'm running, I see someone walking in front of me and it was Joe Paterno," Morett-Curtiss said. "And it was that day, so I said to him, 'hey what's going to happen?' He said, 'I think this is going to be a really good thing for Penn State and the exposure all of the programs are going to get.'"

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The women's volleyball program captured Penn State's first Big Ten title in 1992, marking volleyball's first of 16 conference crowns.

 
Penn State's teams felt the impact of the Big Ten conference almost immediately.

"What it did for us when we joined the Big Ten is that it No. 1 it resulted in a reassessment of the levels of commitment we had to the various programs," Rose said. "We became fully funded when we joined the Big Ten. Prior to that, we were not fully funded. And we were not fully staffed. Entering Big Ten, collectively, for all of the sports resulted in us having a new commitment from the University to try and be competitive. From a volleyball perspective, we had been competitive prior to that, but playing in the Big Ten in women's volleyball made us better because the level of competition was better than we were experiencing in the Atlantic 10."

At the time, women's volleyball had just one assistant coach on the staff alongside Rose and nine scholarships to field a roster. Joining the Big Ten boosted the program to full funding and 12 scholarships.

"As I look at it now, we could have had some great teams if we had funding in the early years," said Rose. "That was just the way that it was.  When you take a job, that is the job you took. When we joined the Big Ten, a lot of us got a better job without having to move. But it's way more competitive. Recruiting is a lot different than what we had experienced in the Atlantic 10."

The same can be said for what Morett-Curtiss experienced within the field hockey program.

"The financial support from a scholarship standpoint was huge right away," said Morett-Curtiss. "And knowing our field that we were going to build was going to be a first rate facility."

The investment for success around the Big Ten stood out during Penn State's transition. Every institution and athletic program strives to be the best. It's a trait that has not changed during the department's 25 years as a member, and it's something that will be a trademark of the Big Ten for decades to come.

"The level of commitment to being good across the conference, everybody cared," said Rose. "I don't believe every conference across the country has that sort of commitment in all of their sports. I think that is one of the things that makes the Big Ten really unique. If they offer it, they care and they want to be relevant."

Penn State's time in the Big Ten has been marked by excellence in the classroom and on the field of play. In all, Penn State's programs have accounted for 92 Big Ten championships from 15 different programs - 76 regular season and 16 post-season. Additionally, more than 170 student-athletes have accounted for nearly 300 individual Big Ten titles.

Penn State student-athletes have earned more than 5,000 Academic All-Big Ten recognitions since it joined the conference, with its three highest totals during the past three years, led by 296 in 2012-13.

"Penn State's entrance into the Big Ten not only changed the intercollegiate sports landscape, it also changed our academic landscape and our future. Our size, our academic reputation and our athletic tradition matched up well with Big Ten schools," said Penn State President Eric Barron, who also noted that all Big Ten schools are flagship universities for their states. "The academic side of the Big Ten is known as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the institutions together have annual research expenditures topping $10.2 billion -- more than the Ivy League and the University of California System combined -- and they educate a total of nearly 600,000 students. The benefits from being part of such an outstanding and prestigious organization with such an expansive footprint across the nation are immeasurable."

The women's volleyball program earned Penn State's first Big Ten crown during the 1992 season, just one year after the team began competing in the league. The title marked the first of Penn State's superlative 16 Big Ten titles in women's volleyball, in addition to seven NCAA Championships since 1999.

Like women's volleyball, the women's soccer program has been a benchmark of success in conference play. The program became the department's 29th varsity sport in 1994. Since then, Penn State has won an unprecedented 16 conference titles, including a string of 15-straight from 1998-2012.

The football program claimed the Big Ten title in its second season of competition during an undefeated Rose Bowl championship campaign in 1994. Coach Joe Paterno's '94 squad became the first Big Ten team to ever post a 12-0 record. The '94 crown marked the program's first of three Big Ten championships to date (2005 and 2008).

The fall season of 2005 stands out as a monumental period in Penn State's history within the conference. Nittany Lion teams clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days. The list included field hockey, football, men's soccer, women's soccer and women's volleyball. Since the fall of 2005, Penn State teams have won 51 Big Ten championships (5.1 titles per year in a 10-year span).

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Penn State clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days during the fall of 2005, including one for the women's volleyball team.



It's impossible to quantify how the partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten altered the recruiting landscape for the teams on campus and how the recruiting gains equated to success on the field of play. But pitching a world-renowned education with an elite conference affiliation cultivated relationships with premier student-athletes.

"The name recognition was big for football, but when you see how many of the Universities and programs have been successful on a national level, I think that has greatly helped," Morett-Curtiss. "Exposure for all of the Universities within the conference has helped us all grow. Combining the academic side of what these Universities have with the athletics, it's a very powerful combination when we go out recruiting student-athletes."

A big piece to the exposure of Penn State teams during the past 25 years was the launch of the Big Ten Network on Aug. 30, 2007. More than 800 Penn State sporting events have aired live on the BTN since it launched. The benefits of the conference's TV network, which is in more than 60 million homes,  increased visibility across the country for the department in a way that cannot be measured.

"The Network was a major step for us," Morett-Curtiss. "Just having the opportunity to have games on TV so that little girls can watch and learn about the sport. It's helped, not only exposure for the program, but it's helped the sport grow. It's just a phenomenal avenue for us to showcase our University and the sport."

The BTN's impact goes back to what Rose talked about as one of the immediate impacts his program felt - funding. Not only did the BTN infinitely increase exposure for Penn State teams, it has played a paramount role in increased revenues for each institution.

"Certainly, the Big Ten Network has been instrumental in generating funds for the Universities and the conference and the bowl revenue sharing has resulted in more money for all of the schools and the conference," said Rose.

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In 2008, Penn State captured its third Big Ten title in football en route to a trip to the Rose Bowl.

 

While the competitive atmosphere is intense between teams across all of the conference's sports, each member institution understands that the individual success aids in the growth of the collective conference.

"I think the relationship has been a really positive one," said Rose. "There are a lot of similarities between the various Universities."

"Everybody in the Big Ten shares what they do and why they do it; best practices," said Dave Baker, Associate Athletic Director for Business Operations. "We share lots of ideas, at least from the business manager and ticketing perspective. We learn things from one another. And there aren't secrets. We all work together and try to help each other out...We all don't do things the same way. We all have limitations, but we are all looking to help one another out for the betterment of the conference.

"Some people would find it hard to believe that people in the Big Ten root for other Big Ten teams in the postseason, but we do. We follow what is going on...It is a cooperative spirit and a partnership."

Baker is one of just a handful of Penn State administrators and coaches who have been with Intercollegiate Athletics during the past 25 years. That list includes Jan Bortner, who was head coach of the men's tennis team in 1990 and has since transitioned into a role as an associate athletic director. Among the key changes Baker felt from the business operation centered on travel. Bus trips were the norm for Penn State teams in the Atlantic 10, but the geography of the Big Ten led to more plane travel.

A quarter century has passed since initial discussions of a new relationship took place and bonds were formed. Many things have changed significantly for Penn State, the conference and intercollegiate athletics nationwide, but it's been 25 years marked by growth stemming from a vision in 1989.

"Pennsylvania is a very important state. It served as a bridge to the East for us. It made our football offerings stronger," said Delany. "It has been excellence with national championships in a variety of sports. And I have always felt that the 1994 Penn State team was the best team in the country; no disrespect to Nebraska. When you look at the players that team had (five first team All-Americans on offense) and what that group accomplished. That team was the national runner-up. That was a tremendous football team. I've seen some very good basketball teams both on the men's side and the women's side. And obviously, the wrestling and volleyball programs have been dominant on the national scene."

Penn State has won a total of 27 national championships since joining the Big Ten, including three in 2013-14, and the department's collective success speaks for itself.

By no means was the integration in 1990 an easy one, but the partnership between the University and Big Ten is a match that enabled both sides to mutually prosper in a way neither side could have envisioned when the formal vote concluded 25 years ago today.


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The wrestling team began a string of four-straight Big Ten titles in March of 2011.





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

VIDEO: Walsh Looks Ahead to Women's World Cup

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's a big summer for women's soccer, and the Nittany Lion women's soccer program will be well represented at the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015.

In all four Nittany Lion alums and one current player are set to compete on three different teams in the World Cup, which begins on Saturday. Senior Raquel Rodriguez will make her debut in the World Cup with Costa Rica, which qualified for the first time. Former Nittany Lion standouts Alie Krieger (defender) and Alyssa Naeher (goalkeeper) will play for the United States and Erin McLeod (goalkeeper) and Carmelina Moscato (defender) will play for Canada.

GoPSUsports.com caught up with head coach Erica Walsh to get her thoughts on the upcoming World Cup and Penn State's role on women's soccer's grandest stage.


Penn State Participant World Cup Schedule
Group A
June 6 - Canada vs. China at 6 p.m. ET (Edmonton)
June 11 - Canada vs. New Zealand at 9 p.m. ET (Edmonton)
June 15 - Canada vs. Netherlands at 7:30 p.m. ET (Montreal)

Group D
June 8 - USA vs. Australia at 7:30 p.m. ET (Winnipeg)
June 12 - USA vs. Sweden at 8 p.m. ET (Winnipeg)
June 16 - USA vs. Nigeria at 8 p.m. ET (Vancouver)

Group E
June 9 - Costa Rica vs. Spain at 4 p.m. ET (Montreal)
June 13 - Costa Rica vs. Korea Republic at 7 p.m. ET (Montreal)
June 17 - Costa Rica vs. Brazil at 7 p.m. ET (Moncton)


The Round of 16 begins on June 20.





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

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior team captain Raquel Rodriguez (San Jose, Costa Rica) and the Costa Rican Women's National Team is hard at work preparing for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, its first appearance in the tournament. On May 25, Las Ticas were defeated, 2-1, by the Mexican Women's National Team in a Mexico City friendly, with a rematch scheduled May 28. Rodriguez recently updated GoPSUSports.com about the journey she is on, representing her country at the World Cup, hosted by Canada this summer.

Rocky's Take

Right now and throughout these past few weeks, we've been trying to get the rhythm back and the friendlies we've been playing serve that purpose. The team has been focusing on tactical strategies and practicing those. 

It's a little frustrating to have these games so close to the World Cup; however, there is no time to lose and much work to do. We've only played against Mexico so far and the games have been vital for us to get us back into a rhythm and practice what we want to apply at the World Cup.

As a player in Costa Rica, one would wish the environment would be just like the men's World Cup, but the reality of women soccer in our country is a different one. The media has been covering basic and general news, but it could definitely be better. Unfortunately, I don't think our country or the media in our country realizes the big deal this is, but this is part of what this team has been dealing with for years. Women's soccer in Costa Rica is improving and developing, and we recognize change doesn't come from night to morning. 

The team has been through tough moments together outside the field throughout several years now. This has created a family and has bonded our team for good and makes us fighters in the field. This group has been growing together and the unity that we have has been a product of that. 

When we have free time, we get together and joke around. The different personalities in the team are so varied and each of them contributes to the fun times we spend together. It's the little things that keep us together and loose, and I feel like our bond comes naturally. Additionally, there are two other players who play at colleges in the States. In the past, we would compare and contrast the styles and methods between the American and the Costa Rican and take the best out of both and recognize the not so best. 

Overall, we have the mentality that we want to compete instead of just participating. I'm looking forward to the matches against Colombia. 

--Rocky

Las Ticas continue preparation leading up to the Women's World Cup with a second friendly in Mexico City against the Mexican Women's National Team on May 28. The team will play a final pre-Women's World Cup friendly against Columbian Women's National Team on May 31 at Metro State in Denver, Colo., before beginning the Women's World Cup against Spain on June 9.

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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