Recently in Women's Soccer Category

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.

Team Intensity Rises as Lions Prepare For NCAA Tournament

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10525858.jpegBy Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After ending a successful season with a 17-3 overall record and earning its 16th Big Ten Championship, the Penn State women's soccer team is set to embark on its last journey together in 2014.

When the Lions step onto Jeffrey field against Buffalo, Friday night it will officially kick off their NCAA Tournament competition, the tournament that gives no second chances.

Thanks to a superb regular season, the Nittany Lions earned a No. 2 seed in the 64-team draw.

Now, they're looking forward to the upcoming action and are using a the Big Ten Tournament result as motivation and encouragement to progress further in the NCAA Tournament.

"Give us the rest of the day and the bus ride home to reflect, but once we get back to the field we know we have another task we need to focus on," Whitney Church said. "After any loss we make sure we improve for the next game and concentrate on what is in front of us."

This is the Lions' chance to mount a run into the postseason, and head coach Erica Walsh is excited about the opportunity.

"The loss against Northwestern got them fired up and the players want to not only play in this tournament but advance," Walsh said. "The team knows what they need to do to win, as a coach I can see the intensity in them increase every practice."

The Lions will begin their tournament play with a match against Buffalo, and although Penn State is no stranger to this tournament, this will be the first time Buffalo has received an NCAA bid.

"Since it's their first NCAA tournament appearance I think we will see a great crowd for both teams during the game. I think it's going to be a really exciting game and great start to the tournament," Walsh said.

In a win or go home setting, the team is well aware of the consequences of playing in the NCAA tournament. However, they are keeping the same "one game at a time" mentality that has helped them succeed this season.

"We want to always move forward. We try and learn from every game and grow as a team," said Church. "For some of us upperclassman, we know the risk that comes with this tournament so we want to show the freshman what is expected from these games."

The seniors have played a vital role the entire season. With 11 freshmen experiencing the NCAA Tournament for the first time, the upperclassmen will be a leading the charge.

For the four seniors on the team, this is their last chance to make the most of their collegiate career.

"This is the seniors' team, they have taken all the younger players on their back and it's amazing as a coach to watch," coach Walsch said.

The upperclassmen have been able to prep the younger players and show them what to expect from the next two weeks.

Starting on Friday, the intensity on the field is sure to increase. With the start of the NCAA and the end of the 2014 season, the team is going into this tournament with determination and positivity.

"We're all really happy and super excited to get started in this tournament. We have a belief in this team and that's what can take us far in this tournament," Church said.

Nittany Lions Start Postseason Journey with Big Ten Tournament

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10442147.jpegBy Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's soccer team will officially start its postseason on Wednesday afternoon when the Lions meet Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament (1:30 p.m.). After winning its 16th Big Ten Championship and third outright title in the past four years, Penn State earned the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.

Coming off of its strong finish to the regular season, the team is staying focused on what needs to be accomplished during the tournament.

"We take it one game at a time," senior Whitney Church said. "We approach every game as a new opportunity and try to stay more focused on the present than on the past."


The Lions start off the week facing Northwestern, who they beat 4-1 in the regular season. If victorious, Penn State would play the winner between Iowa and Rutgers. Both Rutgers and Iowa played a significant role in the Lions' regular season.

Finishing the season with an overall record of 17-2-0, Penn State lost just once on Jeffrey Field in 2014. That came in a narrow 1-0 decision against Rutgers on Oct. 11.

If the Lions do find themselves facing Rutgers again, they can use the past as a learning experience and build on that game with confidence.

"We never try and dwell on the past, as a team it's important to always stay positive," Church said.

The other potential opponent in the second match of the tournament, should the Lions advance, would be Iowa. Last week, Penn State beat Iowa, 2-1, to clinch the Big Ten regular season title. Nonetheless, all eyes are looking ahead to the first game on the tournament schedule against Northwestern.

The conference tournament structure presents a unique challenge for the Nittany Lions.


With the team potentially playing up to three games in just five short days, the players and coaching staff have been preparing both mentally and physically for this tournament.

"It is a lot within a short amount of time. We give it our all during the games and then make sure we recover for the next game," Church said.

For the four seniors on the team, this is their last chance to walk away with not only the Big Ten regular season title, but the tournament crown, as well.

"I think this year is more nerve wrecking than any prior," Church said. "It's because it's the seniors last time with this team and we want to know we gave it all we could for our last season together."

The four seniors on the team have not only taken on leadership roles on the team but have become second coaches for the younger players.

There are 11 freshmen on the 2014 team which also means that are 11 players experiencing this tournament and the intensity of a postseason for the first time in their collegiate careers.

"It's really exciting since it's a new experience but also a little overwhelming. I think as a team we are ready," freshman Haleigh Echard said. "It makes the journey easier knowing there are 11 of us going through this new experience together. We can also always look up to the older players who have been through this before for advice if we need it."

The 2014 team has transformed from a team into a family, and that transformation has translated into success.

The Lions are approaching the tournament one game at a time with the same dedication, passion, and momentum that has carried them throughout the season. 

Lions Ready to Take on the Big Ten Tournament After Defeating Maryland

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10486417.jpegBy Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After defeating Maryland to end the regular season, the Penn State women's soccer team is ready for the Big Ten Tournament.

Penn State scored in 25th minute on a shot from Frannie Crouse to claim a 1-0 lead, an edge the Lions would never relinquish in the regular season finale.

With significant postseason implications on the line for Maryland, Penn State shut down the Terrapins to end its regular season with 17-2 overall record.

"We knew Maryland was going to come out fighting since they needed the win," said senior Emily Hurd. "We were able to match their energy right away and I think we did a great job keeping the lead."

Having already clinched the 2014 regular season Big Ten title with its win over Iowa on Sunday, the team treated this game as preparation for the postseason.

"There is definitely a different mindset going into this game," said head coach Erica Walsh.
"If we didn't get it right it can turn into a slight letdown but I think the team did great job coming out and looking sharp for the game."

In their last guaranteed game on Jeffrey Field, the Nittany Lions already looked postseason ready on Thursday night.

"The biggest message today was that this game should be treated like the start of the tournament," said Walsh.
"We need to continue to grow and keep staying focused. We want them to view this not as the end but as the beginning of something new."

The players know how important the conference tournament is and are using last year's defeat in the semifinals as motivation to come back stronger than ever.

This season has shown the depth and talent of the team, proving the Lions' potential to carry their success into the postseason.

"I think we're continuing to grow and putting together great performances which will carry us all the way through the Big Ten tournament," Hurd said.

Hurd is no stranger to the tournament and understands the demands and strains that are put on the players during the postseason.

"The Big Ten Tournament is so different. It's a lot of games in a short amount of time," said Hurd.
"With such a demand on our bodies we need to not only mentally prepare but make sure we stay physically healthy also."

With such a diverse mix of players in significant roles on the roster, this tournament stands as both a last shot for the four seniors and the start of a new chapter in the freshman's careers.

"I
'm very excited being a freshman and this being my first Big Ten Tournament. It's nice having the seniors to look up to," said freshman Maddie Elliston.

During the regular season, the freshmen have credited the leadership of the seniors for contributing to the team's success.

The four seniors have seen every high and low possible during their years at Penn State. Although they lost in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament last year, the senior players are motivated to make their last postseason a
memorable one.

"These five years have gone so fast. I'm extremely happy I chose this to be my home for the last few years. I still can't believe it's almost over." Hurd said.

The Big Ten Tournament begins on Wednesday in West Lafayette. Penn State will be the No. 1 seed in the tournament.

Rodriguez Makes History with Costa Rica's National Team

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10483032.jpegBy Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After assisting the Costa Rican national team in qualifying for the FIFA Women's World Cup for the first time ever, Raquel Rodriguez returned to Happy Valley this week with plenty of new experience.

Rodriguez, along with her Costa Rican teammates, made some history, and she was thrilled to be a part of it.

"I'm so grateful to part of the team that's making history. It's a huge deal for Costa Rica and I'm blessed to be a part of it," said Rodriguez.

By being the first Central American team to qualify, Rodriguez and her team are role models for future female athletes in their country.

Costa Rica clinched a spot in the World Cup field by beating Trinidad and Tobago on penalty kicks in a CONCACAF semifinal match on Friday night.

"The tournament is so unique that it's such a different experience from playing college soccer. I was really happy to be with my Costa Rican teammates again and being able to play for my country means so much," Rodriguez said.

Going from being a leader on Jeffrey Field to playing for Costa Rica, Rodriguez continues to be a rising star at the international level. She scored three goals for Costa Rica during the CONCACAF tournament run.

"We had a great chance to qualify so we played with a clear goal in mind," said Rodriguez. "The mentality we had was to win."

Having played for the national team before Penn State, Rodriguez was grateful to experience some international play again.

"Playing internationally is a really cool experience," said Rodriguez. "When facing the other countries you can see how each one has their own playing style."

Coming from Costa Rica to Penn State, Rodriguez is given the chance to inspire fellow international students on campus and be an example for fellow female athletes in Costa Rica.

She has previously mentioned how she wants to change the way her native country views female athletes and stand as a role model for future generations.

Not only does Rodriguez represent female athletes, she inspires younger women in Costa Rica to get a meaningful college degree, as well.

After college she has plans to return Costa Rica with her college degree and prove that anyone can excel as an athlete and earn a prestigious degree.

"It's a legacy that we are leaving behind and we hope that future generations continue to carry," said Rodriguez.

While Rodriguez was playing in CONCACAF, she found comfort in knowing her Penn State family was back at school cheering her on.

"It's awesome to be back," said Rodriguez. "It was so nice having everyone greet me with such excitement. I love my PSU family so having them shower me with this much love means a lot to me."

After celebrating Costa Rica's qualification, Rodriguez received the news that Penn State clinched the Big Ten title. 

Although she was unable to be celebrate with her teammates on Jeffrey Field, she couldn't be happier for the Lions' accomplishment.

"I'm so proud to be part of Penn State. To hear the news I was so happy and wish I could have been here," said Rodriguez.

With one regular season game left for the Lions, Rodriguez and the rest of the team are staying focused before they embark on the 2014 postseason.

Rodriguez is the type of player anyone can look up too. She is using her passion for soccer to help change history in Costa Rica and is continuing to represent the ideal student-athlete at Penn State.

"I'm really proud of what we accomplished for Costa Rica, but it's great to be back with Penn State," Rodriguez said.

Two Weekend Wins Propel Lions to Big Ten Title

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10474446.jpegBy Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The seventh-ranked Nittany Lion women's soccer team added to its Big Ten legacy on Sunday when the Lions capped off a weekend sweep over Nebraska and Iowa to earn their 16th regular season title in the last 17 seasons.

Penn State knocked off Nebraska on Friday, 3-1, and then kept the momentum going with a 2-1 comeback victory over Iowa on the team's Senior Day Sunday afternoon to clinch the program's third outright conference title in the last four years.

"The team plays best at Jeffrey field. These players want to play here and that's what this weekend has been all about," said head coach Erica Walsh.

Heading into the final week of the regular season, the Nittany Lions improved to 16-2 overall and 11-1 in Big Ten matches after both wins this weekend.

With a young team of 11 freshmen and only four seniors leading the Lions, the weekend matches demonstrated what makes this group unique - valiant team efforts from both the underclassman and the veteran players.

During Friday's victory over the Cornhuskers, freshman Haleigh Echard scored her first goal for Penn State.

"Bringing Haleigh in was great because she keeps getting better and better. You can see a new confidence in her now when she plays," said coach Walsh.

Echard's goal helped the Lions secure a 3-1 win over the Huskers.

"The goal definitely meant a lot since it was my first goal. Being able to get the ball from our senior captain with an open net was just overwhelming with emotions," said Echard.

Being one of the new contributors on the team, Echard credited the seniors in helping make her first tally possible.

"I'm really excited for these younger players since they make such a difference," said senior Emily Hurd.

"That was Haleigh's first goal, and what a way to get it by doing it on Jeffrey Field against the team that knocked us out of Big Ten Championship last year," Hurd said.

Going off of the excitement of Friday night's win, the team stayed focused as they hosted Iowa in the second Big Ten match of the weekend on Sunday.

During the sixth minute, the Hawkeyes notched a goal off of a corner kick to get on the board. Using the early marker as motivation, Penn State was determined to bounce back.

Trailing Iowa, 1-0, in the early moments of the second half, senior Kori Chapic was not going to be denied. Chapic notched two goals in a span of 5:22 to lead the Nittany Lions to a Senior Day triumph while clinching the Big Ten title.

"It's so nice to play with these girls. This team is the closest team I've ever played with at Penn State and to win the title makes me feel extremely blessed," said Kori Chapic. "I want to leave a little pride with the No. 14. It's my senior year I want to make sure I give it my everything and continue to be a leader for the younger players."

Topping off a tremendous Senior Day, Chapic's efforts alongside Emily Ogle, Salina Williford's two assists apiece characterized a complete team effort to put icing on the cake of a comeback victory and another Big Ten title.

Going from freshman Echard's first career goal on Friday to senior Chapic's outstanding performance on Sunday, the weekend illustrated the depth and talent of the 2014 Big Ten champion Penn State women's soccer team.

"It epitomizes this year. This season we have had both freshman and senior heroes and the entire team lifts each other up. We have an extremely close team and to see them earn this title is incredible," said coach Walsh.

Kohne's Impact on the Team Goes Beyond the Game Statistics

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10461762.jpegBy Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - So far this season, Kindrah Kohne has been affecting the Penn State women's soccer team in a way that goes beyond statistics. 

While the New York native and senior has 234 minutes of playing time and four shots so far this season, Kohne's biggest asset to the team can't be found on the stat sheet. What makes Kohne an essential piece to the team is her ability to be the glue that keeps everyone together.


"One thing I want to leave behind for this team after graduation is the change in environment of turning the team into a family," said Kohne.

Part of what makes the 2014 team so successful is the chemistry between the players. Kohne is someone on the team that has been the driving force for this transformation from team to family.

"What makes Kindrah special is her team first attitude. She has played four years with us now and has done so with more class dignity than any college athlete I've ever seen before," said head coach Erica Walsh. "Without her we would of never been able to create the environment this team has."

As her final season winds down, Kohne has been reflecting on her time in Happy Valley and the kind of legacy she wants to leave behind.

"I want to leave this season with no stones unturned," said Kohne. "I make sure to give it my all for every game since I never know how many minutes I'll get during a game so I want to maximize my opportunities for this whole season since it is my last."

With such a young team in 2014, Kohne made sure back in August that the team's 11 freshmen had no problem transitioning into collegiate soccer.

"I wanted to make sure the freshmen felt welcomed and made a point to get to know each of them right from the get-go," she said. "I wanted them to know I'm always here to help if they need or want to talk about anything since the demands of the season and school can get crazy at times."

Her compassion and eagerness to help goes beyond making new players feel welcomed.

Fellow midfielder Kori Chapic, who is also one of Kohne's roommates, cited her as one of the most influential players on the team.

"A lot of people on the team know she's someone that can always help them with their problems and is always that shoulder to lean on if needed," said Chapic. "She just likes to make people smile."

Having four years of experience under her belt, Kohne has improved greatly as a player and brings her team first attitude on the field with her.

"On the field she always make sure to get the details right. In soccer, details are so important positioning wise and she always knows how to put herself in the best place," said Chapic. "She makes everyone else's job that much easier whenever she is in the game."

Although she may not be a fixture in the starting lineup, Kohne is the type of player the team can rely on in tight games.

"When the team is in a tight situation and you look down the bench and see Kindrah we know as coaches she'll get the job the team needs done. She's earned our trust as a player," said Walsh.

Earning the team's trust as a reliable player and a true friend, Kohne's impact on the team is something that goes beyond game statistics.

The family feel that the 2014 Penn State's women soccer team wouldn't be possible without a genuine player such as Kohne.

"She's had such a positive impact on the players, coaching staff, and this program. She's one that we'll remember for years to come," said Walsh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lions Come Up Short Against Rutgers Despite Late Surge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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