By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Three Big Ten regular season titles. Sixty-four total wins. A winning percentage of .735. One National Championship, the first in program history. And they aren't done yet.
Those are just a few of the accomplishments the 2017 senior class members have achieved so far in their careers. It's quite simply one of the most accomplished classes Penn State has ever had.
The group will play its final regular season game on Jeffrey Field this Friday, October 20.
"It's never a good feeling when you know you're about to say goodbye to a really special group, but they've certainly left their legacy and hopefully we got a lot of soccer still ahead of us," head coach Erica Dambach said.
With all of their postseason experience, the seniors will be crucial to Penn State's success this season in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. The team will go as far as they take it.
"These are guys that have impacted the program since day one on and off the field," Dambach said. "That's a group that can take from all of its experience and drive this team right now."
Sophomore Laura Freigang said this year's senior class was paramount in helping her adjust to the college game and fit in with the team. Freigang came to Penn State from Germany and she said the upperclassmen help make her transition a smooth one.
She also said the seniors are the biggest reason for No. 9 Penn State's success this season.
"I personally always count on them. They're incredible. We have so many great seniors on this team," Freigang said. "I feel like you can see it on the field. Just the energy they bring and they talk to everyone. They drive the team. This year they have a huge impact."
Each senior has impacted the team on and off the field in various ways over the course of their careers. Here's what each one has accomplished in Blue and White.
Basinger has been a team captain her junior and senior years as a Nittany Lion. She's a natural leader on and off the field.
As a defender, Basinger doesn't get many chances to score, but she's been a sturdy back line piece her entire career. She can also push the tempo offensively down the flanks when she feels it necessary.
She started all 23 matches as a freshman and logged at least 1,762 minutes on the pitch in each of her first three seasons. That role changed this season, as she has come off the bench for a few games because of Penn State's defensive depth, but that hasn't fazed her one bit.
Basinger is also incredibly proficient in the classroom. She has earned Academic All-Big Ten status from 2014-2016.
Schafer is a fierce, physical attacker no defender wants to see barreling toward them. She's always had a knack for finding the back of the net.
She has totaled 30 goals and 17 assists over the course of her career. Within the senior class, Schafer ranks second in goals scored and first in assists.
In 2015, the National Championship season, Schafer netted 13 goals to lead the team and the Big Ten. She also added four assists.
Schafer has been a clutch performer since day one, with tallied 11 game-winning goals in her career.
In her four years as a Nittany Lion, Ball has earned the label of dependable team workhorse, and deservedly so. She has totaled 7,065 minutes in her career, by far the highest mark on the team.
She has started 83 of her 86 total matches played.
Ball has been a rock in the center defense since 2014, but she didn't even come to Penn State as a defender. She was actually a highly touted striker prospect coming out of high school.
Ball scored 57 goals from 2011-2014 with her club team, the Richmond Strikers ECNL. Dambach needed help in the back line when Ball arrived on campus, and she was more than happy to fill the void.
It's safe to say the move worked for both Ball and Dambach. Ball recently had her best year as a Nittany Lion, as she was named to the First Team All-Big Ten squad.
Wait, what was that bolt of lightning that almost hit the field? Oh, it was just Frannie Crouse.
Crouse is the speediest player on the team and uses her pace to simply outrun bigger defenders for clear angles at goal. She's pretty darn good at finishing too.
Crouse has netted 35 goals and added 16 assists in her illustrious career. She's scored double-digit goals in each of her first three seasons.
She, with Ball, was also named to the All-Big Ten First Team last season. She was also one of the biggest reasons Penn State won its first national title, scoring three goals in the NCAA tournament and receiving College Cup All-Tournament Team honors in 2015.
Echard has been a valuable substitute during her career. She's played in as many games as Crouse, but her career-high for starts in a season is just 10.
While Crouse and Schafer handle most of the scoring for this group, Echard plays more of a setup role. She's tallied 10 assists in her career and scored five goals.
When Echard does attack, however, she's incredibly accurate with her shot. She leads the senior class in career shots on goal percentage (.509).
Echard also shines in the classroom. She made the Academic All-Big Ten team in 2015 and 2016. She also earned the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar honor last year.
Williford is mostly a possession player in the midfield. She rarely turns the ball over, and she's a natural with beginning an attack.
She's scored seven goals and tallied seven assists in her career. Her best season came in 2014 when she scored five goals and added five assists.
Williford also earned Academic All-Big Ten team honors last season.
Clauss has played in three games in each of her four years at Penn State. She's been described as the perfect teammate and one of the hardest workers on the team.
Maddie Elliston, who was originally part of this senior class before she redshirted last season, said Clauss has made the biggest improvement of anyone on the team since freshman year.
Clauss made the Academic All-Big Ten team in 2015 and 2016. She also was named a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar last year.
Elliston said she's going to enjoy every minute she has left with the senior class. She said her goal is to play with or against some of them in the pros.
"I'm going to miss all of them as people," Elliston said. "They're awesome people and they're grinders and they really set a standard. They've left a big mark on the program. I'm going to miss so much, but mostly their friendship."