By 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.
Recently in Women's Soccer Category
By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
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.).
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
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.
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."
By 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."
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.
By 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.
By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
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
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.
By 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.