Skip to main content Skip to footer

Recently in Women's Soccer Category

12893077 (1).jpeg

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.

 

Brittany Basinger

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.

 

Megan Schafer

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.

 

Elizabeth Ball

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.

 

Frannie Crouse

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.

 

Haleigh Echard

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.

 

Salina Williford

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.

 

Isabelle Clauss

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."

12898133.jpeg

By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As much credit as head coach Erica Dambach has garnered over her career at Penn State for the team's massive success in the last decade--and deservedly so--her assistant coaches fly under the radar.

 

Associate head coach Ann Cook and recruiting coordinator and goalkeeper coach Tim Wassell seldom see their names associated with Penn State's recent dominance in the national polls, but Dambach says they deserve just as much recognition as she does, and her players agree. 

 

"[Cook's] one of the best coaches I've ever been around," redshirt junior Emily Ogle said. "Just her outlook on the game and the way she helps each and every one of us grow not only individually but collectively is something that I haven't seen through a lot of coaches."

 

Cook is largely responsible for the team's attacking strategies. She's an offensive guru who was a three time All-American in college and was in the running for the MAC Hermann Trophy in 1995 and 1997.

 

After her collegiate career, Cook played on the United States Women's National Team in 1998 and was drafted as the 25th overall pick in the WUSA draft to the Bay Area CyberRays in 2000.

 

Dambach and Cook played on the same team at William and Mary, where they became good friends. Their friendship continued past their playing days, and Dambach reached out to Cook about becoming her assistant coach at Harvard. Cook refused because she said she still had a lot to learn before taking on a job of that magnitude.

 

So that's what she did.

 

Cook took the head coaching job at Drury University in 1999 and took the team from NCAA Division II to Division I in just two years. She then coached as an assistant at Missouri State from 2004-2005 and Nebraska from 2005-2007. Shortly after the 2007 season, the phone rang again.

 

It was Dambach. She was taking the head coaching job at Penn State, so she reached out to Cook one last time to jump on board, and Cook didn't turn down the offer this time.

 

"She was the player I respected the most when I was a player," Dambach said. "Her soccer brain, her joy for the game, her excitement that she brings to training. When I called her up at Penn State and she said yes I was over the moon."

 

Dambach said bringing Cook with her to Penn State was the best decision she's ever made.

 

The tandem is now in their 11th season at Penn State. They have led the Nittany Lions to a 169-55-14 record prior to this season and their first ever national championship in 2015.

 

"When we came to Penn state our hope was to compete for a national championship and do it the right way," Cook said. "Can we really value every kid on our roster? Can we really care about their development and care about them as a human beings and win national championships?"

 

She said her and Dambach have checked all those boxes.

 

Cook has overseen attacking players such as Maya Hayes and Mallory Weber, who etched their names in the team's record book for years to come. Hayes ranks third-best in school history with 163 career points and Weber ranks 10th with 101.

 

From 2011-2016, Penn State scored the second-most goals in the country. Cook is a big reason why.

 

"I think the players really feel free in the attack under her," Dambach said. "They're willing to make mistakes. They don't have a fear of failure. She just makes the environment one that they can express themselves, and that's a real gift."

 

"My philosophy is I want to be mobile and creative," Cook said. "That is the principle that we try to solidify, and whatever that looks like after that is largely up to the players."

 

Away from Jeffrey Field, Cook is heavily involved with the organization Soccer Without Borders, which strives to use soccer to make positive changes in the lives of under-privileged children around the world.

 

"It's been one of the best parts of my career and one of the reasons why I'm still at Penn State," Cook said of her involvement in the organization.

 

Through SWB, the team will be making a trip to Nicaragua in January to host clinics for young girls in the country who have a passion for the sport.

 

As much as Cook has assisted Dambach with the attack, Wassell has done the same with goalkeeping and recruiting. He is in his eighth year with the team and travels all over the globe to recruit.

 

"He is far and away the biggest influencer on our recruiting," Dambach said. "He starts the process. He has the relationship with the club coaches, and I give him full credit for the success that has happened in our recruiting over the past few years. Everything about him tells these families that we're going to take care of their daughter and they trust him 100 percent."

 

According to TopDrawerSoccer.com, Penn State tallied back-to-back No. 2 overall recruiting classes in 2014 and 2015 and brought in the No. 4 class in 2017. That success wouldn't have been possible without Wassell.

 

Wassell said bringing in international players and watching them experience a whole new world of soccer is one of the most rewarding parts of his job.

 

"It's a global game, so let's leverage that in some way," Wassell said. "When you see these internationals see how the women's game is supported here, it's incredible. I remember [Alina Ortega Jurado] and [Laura Freigang] and these guys, the first time they see our fields literally they started to cry."

 

Ortega Jurado and Freigang are both originally from Germany.

 

Besides coaching and recruiting, Wassell genuinely cares about each and every player and possesses an unparalleled passion for Penn State and the soccer program. Dambach said his attitude revolves around the players before himself.

 

"The first time I watched him coach and spent some time with him I knew he was most importantly a first class individual and a total pro," Dambach said. "He's all about the team, all about Penn State and Penn State soccer and would literally do anything for this program and these girls."

 

Both Cook and Wassell bring different strengths to the Nittany Lion program, and it wouldn't be where it is today without them.  

12893077.jpeg

By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2017 senior class is one of the most decorated groups in Penn State history.

 

Over the last four years, the senior class has led the Nittany Lions to a record of 63-15-7. The group was instrumental in Penn State's first ever National Championship run in 2015.

 

"This is a really special group of seniors," said head coach Erica Dambach. "To be able to get all of them out there and all of them contribute--just really proud of this group of seniors overall."

 

Seven seniors--Elizabeth Ball, Brittany Basinger, Megan Schafer, Frannie Crouse, Haleigh Echard, Salina Williford, and Isabelle Clauss--were honored before Sunday's game against Michigan State on Senior Day.

 

Each player and their families received a bouquet of blue and white flowers, a standing ovation from the crowd of 1,649, and a hug from Dambach. Even a few of the players' dogs made the trip to Happy Valley to join in on the day's festivities.

 

"Throughout the four years we've felt like family," Schafer said. "For everyone to come together to honor the seven of us, I think it's a really cool environment that we created and I couldn't have asked for a better senior day."

 

It was an emotional afternoon for all, but there was still a game to be played. A game that had major implications in fact, as Penn State came in to the game tied with Purdue and Minnesota for second place in the Big Ten. With only four regular season games remaining, every point is crucial.

 

As they've done their entire careers, the seniors rose past the distractions and emotions of senior day and played lights out in route to a 4-0 victory. Every goal was scored by a senior.

 

Schafer scored the first in the 14th minute and added another in the 60th. She has now scored three goals in the past two games after scoring three in the first 11 games.

 

"[Megan's] been working. I haven't been disappointed at all with her work rate," Dambach said. "There's been some chances she's missed but you can see her feeling it. You can see her just driving this team right now."

 

Ball then joined in on the senior magic in the 77th minute to put the game out of reach for the Spartans. She hadn't scored a goal all season until Sunday's game.

 

If that wasn't enough, Echard found the net in the 87th minute for her second goal of the season. Crouse left the match in the first half with an injury, but the way the game was going she probably would've scored too.

 

"We were going crazy," Schafer said of Echard's goal. "It was just a lot of fun. She scored with three minutes left to go and we didn't take the foot off the gas. It's great to be part of this team."

 

The senior class has one more regular season game on Jeffrey Field, and both Ball and Schafer said they're cherishing the few games they have left in Blue and White.

 

"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," Dambach said.

12889283.jpeg

By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Megan Schafer isn't used to long stretches without a goal to her name.

 

She had scored 27 career goals before Friday night's match against Michigan, and she scored 13 in her sophomore season. However, goals have been hard to come by this year for the senior out of Langhorne, Pa.

 

Schafer only netted two goals in the 2017 season and hadn't scored since September 14 against Northwestern, so she decided to change that Friday night.

 

With Penn State riding a one-goal cushion in the second half of the match, Schafer made a run up the right half of the pitch in the 76th minute. Charlotte Williams placed a perfect through ball to her foot and Schafer finished to the bottom left corner for her third goal of the season.

 

"We knew going into halftime up 1-0 we didn't want to be complacent," Schafer said. "We needed to come out strong in the second half, and we were going at them really hard and it just wasn't coming. We knew how important getting that second goal would be."

 

Schafer said it was relieving to get back in the scoring column after a fairly long dry stretch by her standards.

 

The game was especially physical between the two rivals, as the Nittany Lions and Wolverines combined for 12 fouls. Luckily for Schafer--and unluckily for Michigan--those are her favorite types of games.

 

"Not a lot of people do like [physicality], and it's weird that I do like it. I just think it's the fun of the Big Ten and you have to rise up to the challenge," Schafer said.

 

Schafer said her freshman year playing against Big Ten teams made her strive to get stronger and more physical. She has grown to love the body-banging conference matchups.

 

Head coach Erica Dambach said physical Big Ten games bring out the best in Schafer.

 

"This is a perfect example of 'this is a game for Megan Schafer,'" Dambach said. "That goal came at such a key moment by a senior. We needed it. We needed to take the wind out of their sails at that point in the game, and she came up huge for us."

 

Penn State is now 3-0 this year in games when Schafer nets a goal. The Nittany Lions also didn't lose any of the five games in which Schafer scored in last season.

 

"Megan Schafer drives this team," Dambach said. "Her heart and her energy is Penn State soccer. As she goes, we go.

 

Brittany Basinger scored the first goal of the game in the 12th minute. It was her first goal of the season and fifth of her career.

 

The Penn State defense allowed seven corner kicks in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but goalkeeper Rose Chandler came up with a few huge saves and the Nittany Lions were able to fend off Michigan's lengthy attack.

 

Penn State improved its all-time series record with Michigan to 21-4-7 with the win. The Nittany Lions are also 5-0-0 at home this season.

 

PSU will be back on Jeffrey Field Sunday to take on Michigan State at 1 p.m.

12885944.jpeg

By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Academic advisor Jim Weaver has a shelf in his office lined with trophies and plaques commemorating the great athletic success his teams have enjoyed over the years.

 

Front and center on the top of that shelf sits the women's soccer 2015 National Championship ring, framed in a glass case.

 

No, Weaver wasn't on the team roster or the coaching staff for that historical season, but he was just as much a part of that team as Rocky Rodriguez or head coach Erica Dambach. Ask anyone on the team.

 

"Let's just say I would not be graduating this December without Jim Weaver," senior Frannie Crouse said. "Through and through he's a savior with our classes, our scheduling and our soccer schedule. He's always there on the phone or email, and he never lets you down."

 

Weaver_Jim_H-13-MS_1778.jpg

As a matter of fact, ask anyone who has ever donned a women's soccer uniform at Penn State over the years. Weaver was the academic advisor for every single one of them. He also works with the men's and women's volleyball teams and the men's lacrosse team at Penn State.

 

Weaver began his tenure at Penn State in 1993, a year before the women's soccer program was born. He's the only staff member who has been with the team for all 24 years.

 

"There's a lot of programs out there that have academic advisors, but he's different," Dambach said. "He's different in his ownership, he's different in his accountability, and he's different in his desires to drive them to be their best."

 

Weaver's relationship with the players begins before they even enroll. He's a stop on nearly every recruiting trip for high school prospects, and he gets started transferring high school credits and building schedules the second they arrive on campus.

 

He first makes sure every incoming player receives eligible credits from high school classes, then meets with them to plan their first semester. This step is crucial for some freshman, like former player Emily Hurd, who was on the team from 2010-2014.

 

Hurd came to Penn State with the possibility of earning 35 college credits before she even sat in a Penn State classroom. Weaver made sure of that, and Hurd began her quest for an early degree as a second semester sophomore based on academic credits.

 

Because of the jump start, Hurd was able to earn an undergraduate degree in communication arts and sciences in three years and a graduate masters degree in higher education administration in a year and a half. Hurd said all the credit goes to Weaver.

 

"Jim's so good at reading people and knowing what makes people tick and being able to find passions in people by having meaningful conversations, so he was able to lead me toward the direction of communications," Hurd said.

 

Weaver inspired Hurd to pursue a career similar to his. Hurd now works at James Madison University with the Duke Club, which is similar to the Nittany Lion Club at Penn State.

 

She said in the future she wants to work with a college athletic program as an advisor, just like Weaver.

 

Hurd's story exemplifies why Weaver loves his job. He said the most rewarding part of his career is being able to help a student-athlete realize their passion and grow to thrive in that field.

 

Just recently Weaver helped a women's volleyball player land a work study with a Penn State librarian. She enjoyed it so much she might pursue a master's degree in library studies or a similar field.

 

"Helping people accomplish their goals is what it's all about," Weaver said. "The beautiful thing here is we got some people with some serious goals. Half the time I have to tell them to settle down and take it slow."

 

Weaver's everyday duties go far beyond just helping with scheduling and finding student-athletes' passions, though.

 

He hosts study halls for players, teaches a first year seminar course, proctors exams for players on the road, and makes sure a team's Academic Progress Rate (APR) is where it needs to be.

 

APR is an NCAA standard that holds institutions responsible for progressing student-athletes in the classroom. Weaver's job is to help ensure every player is academically eligible each semester and that the team keeps above a 0.925 APR.

 

Throughout his career, the teams he oversees have consistently outperformed the NCAA standard. Even the 2015 championship team, which was on the road all semester, earned a 3.49 average GPA.

 

"Women's soccer is the epitome of what this is all about as far as success in the classroom, success on the field, and good citizens and members of the community," Weaver said. "The staff--coach Dambach in particular--makes my job very easy. They set the tone."

 

Weaver and Dambach work closely with both the academic and athletic pieces of the players' lives. Dambach constantly checks with Weaver about getting players tutors and making sure they're all going to class.

 

Weaver also sits on the sidelines for every game. He said their ability to merge the two worlds of a student-athlete makes them so successful both in the classroom and on the field.

 

Weaver's relationship with players goes beyond the classroom and the playing field, however. Dambach said he's a genuine friend to the team before anything else.

 

"He is not just an academic advisor," Dambach said. "He is their mentor, their teacher, their friend, their coach. His ownership is unlike anything I've ever seen in the world of academia before."

 

Junior Charlotte Williams said Weaver cares about each and every player as the person they are, not just the student or the soccer player.

 

"Jim has been huge, not only with our academic success, but he cares about all of us on a personal level, which is really nice to have," Williams said. "He allows our schedules to work the way they do, especially with travel and everything so he's been super helpful."

 

Hurd still maintains her friendship with Weaver, even though she rarely gets to visit State College. When she came back for a recent Penn State football game, she said Weaver was one of the first calls she made.

 

"He builds relationships that are lifelong. He's not just a student academic advisor. He's a person in your life that becomes so important to you," Hurd said.

 

Weaver has different approaches for every student-athlete he works with, but his resounding goal with all of them is to make sure they're ready to take on the world after soccer.

 

He's been a large part of the high graduation rates for Penn state athletics in recent years, most notably the 89 percent rate last year, but he says that's just part of his job.

 

"I want two things when you're done," Weaver said. "I want you to not want to leave because that means you just loved it here, but I want you to be prepared to go."

12871569 (1).jpeg

By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The college soccer season is a grind, and players rely on their coaching staff more than ever to keep their minds and bodies in tip top shape throughout the year.

 

The head coach and assistants surely aid players by pushing them when they can handle it and dialing it back when they've clearly had enough, but coaches have far too much on their plates to be worried about each and every player's bodies on a daily basis.

 

That's where the duo of Andra Thomas and Rhian Davis come in for Penn State women's soccer.

 

Thomas and Davis keep track of the team's physical and mental fitness day in and day out so that head coach Erica Dambach and company can focus on scouting and game planning.

 

"There's a lot of years that that support staff can make or break you," Dambach said. "You look at the dynamic of this staff and first and foremost you love coming to work every day, so from a personal standpoint they make my day much better."

 

Thomas is the Associate Director of Athletic Training Services for the team and has been at Penn State since 1992. She has worked with the women's basketball, men's and women's golf, softball, and men's and women's soccer teams during her tenure.

 

Her duties span from conducting yoga sessions with the team to working rehab with injured players.

 

Thomas spent four years with the women's soccer team from 2008-2012 and returned for a second stint at the start of last season. She said coming back to the team was one of the best decisions she's made in her professional career.

 

"That was the absolute best year that I've ever had with a team," Thomas said. "They were the most enthusiastic to do anything and everything that I asked, and they completely bought in. They're the easiest group I have ever had to work with. I love working with them."

 

Thomas said her favorite part of the job is rehabbing players who deal with injuries. She prides herself in bringing players from a sense of hopelessness to becoming a stronger and more skilled version of themselves before the injury.

 

Over 25 years, Thomas has been through a plethora of changes in regards to the way training staffs track player fitness. She said the various technology the team is able to use today helps her immensely with her job.

 

"The amount of data that we can get on kids right then and there to be able to assess injuries and better see how we can get them ready--it's a night and day as compared to 25 years ago," Thomas said.

 

One of the most prominent ways the team is tracking fitness this year is a cell phone app called Fit for 90.

 

Fit for 90 tracks how players are feeling on different scales--mentally and physically. It can tell players if they're sore, fatigued or sleep deprived based on the info they input to the app.

 

For Thomas and Davis, the team's strength and conditioning coach, the app helps them diagnose a hurt body part as a serious injury or simply soreness from training. It can tell them when to hold certain players out of practice by giving them a readiness score for each player.

 

"First and foremost we always make sure that our program has injury prevention in it," Davis said. "That's the most important for me. Strength in terms of muscle weight is important, but it's not everything."

 

Davis has been with Penn State since 2013 and oversees both the women's soccer and softball teams. She also worked as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Rice University and Jacksonville University.

 

She said seeing scrawny and somewhat out-of-shape freshman turn into to mentally and physically strong players on and off the field is what keeps her going. She said she loves seeing the team's work in the weight room translate to the field.

 

"My favorite thing is when we're not the biggest kid out there, but the big kids bounce off of us," Davis said. "I think that has a lot to do with the culture that spread to this program through Erica and the rest of the staff in that our kids hit the ground running as hard as they can, and they're not going to fall down. If you're going to hit them it better be a really hard hit and even if they do fall down they're going to get right back up."

 

Both Thomas and Davis may not be in the spotlight like players and head coaches are every week, but their work never goes unappreciated, especially by the players.

 

"They're so important to the team, especially with all the prevention stuff and flexibility things that we do I think it's made a world wind of change, not just with soccer but in everyday life," Salina Williford said.

 

"The players believe in them," Dambach said. "They trust them. They want to go seek out their help and guidance and there's no healthier environment you could create than the one they have created."

12856546.jpeg

By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Having just one goalkeeper on the roster who can be trusted to make all the saves and police the defense to where it needs to be is rare, but having two is an absolute luxury very few teams enjoy.

 

Penn State happens to be one of those teams.

 

Starting goalie Rose Chandler and backup Amanda Dennis combine for what could be considered the best one-two punch in all of college soccer.

 

"I would argue we've got the two best goalkeepers in the country," said head coach Erica Dambach. "They are the classic definition of iron sharpens iron. They make each other better every day. They can both go as far as they dream about in this game because I cannot imagine a better collegiate training environment than the one they're in."

 

Chandler, a redshirt junior, jumped into the starting role this season after taking last year off to play with the United States U-20 Women's National Team at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup. It's her first year carrying the duties of an every day starter, and she's performed at a high level so far.

 

She owns a 6-2 record this year and a 1.02 goals against average. She has also notched two shutouts so far.

 

Originally from Atlanta, Ga., Chandler said she never seriously thought about Penn State until she was recruited and made her first visit to State College, but she was instantly hooked afterward.

 

"I thought that I wanted to play ACC soccer, but it took one visit and I fell in love and I knew that I definitely wanted to be a Nittany Lion," Chandler said.

 

Chandler has improved steadily each year since stepping foot on campus due to U.S. National Team experience, the mentorship of Britt Eckerstrom in 2015, and the help of goalkeeper coach Tim Wassell.

 

"It's been incredible to watch Rose's growth, and I think it's such a testament to the environment that [the goalies] intentionally shape on a daily basis," Wassell said. "I'm the luckiest guy in the world to get to share my days with those guys and to see them go chase excellence is fantastic."

 

Wassell also said the tandem is the best one-two punch he's coached in his eight seasons as a Penn State assistant coach.

 

Chandler may be the starter, but Dennis is not your normal backup.

 

She came to Penn State last year as the No. 2 ranked goalkeeper in the country and started all 21 matches as a freshman. Dennis also boasts U.S. National Team experience. She has been a member of the U-14, U-15, U-17, U-18 and U-20 teams in the past.

 

Dennis recorded seven solo shutouts and ended the 2016 season with a 0.92 goals against average. She was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team last year, but she had to take a backseat to Chandler in 2017. Instead of getting down about the demotion, Dennis has embraced the opportunity to improve her skills and push Chandler to get better as well.

 

"We both want to just make each other better, so at the end of the day if she's in the goal and she's making great saves and we're winning--whenever she makes a save it almost feels like I'm making a save," Dennis said. "It's a fantastic thing to see Rose doing so great."

 

Dennis has subbed in for only one match so far this season, but coach Dambach said there's no drop in talent when she goes to the bench for her backup keeper.

 

"I've got 100 percent confidence in Amanda," Dambach said. "She proved herself last year. She proves herself in training every day, and most importantly she continues to invest in her teammates."

 

What makes the dynamic duo of Chandler and Dennis so special is their competitiveness on the training field in practice. Since they're so close in skill level, they're always pushing each other and trying to one-up each other in drills.

 

"The growth that they're bringing out of each other in the last six weeks has been unreal, some of the stuff they pull off in training," said Wassell. "This iron sharpens iron is so cool to watch, and I think it's translated into games. It's been awesome to see."

12850624.jpegBy Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Through 109 minutes, the scoreboard still read 0-0 and reality set in that Sunday just might not be Penn State's day.

 

It wasn't as if the Nittany Lions didn't deserve the victory. They outshot Illinois 27-2 and held possession for the majority of the game. A draw just wouldn't have seemed right with the way Penn State dominated the match.

 

As the clock ran down in the second overtime, Laura Freigang refused to let three points in the standings slip through the cracks.

 

After a flurry of Penn State chances, Maddie Elliston sent a high ball to the top of the box for Freigang. She controlled it off her chest, dribbled once to her right to face the goal and ripped a right-footed bullet into the net with just 42 seconds remaining to give Penn State the walk-off win.

 

"I just tried to hit it on goal," Freigang said. "I knew that we didn't have much time left, and it was honestly kind of lucky. [The goalkeeper] had her hand on it and it rolled in, but it's all we needed."

 

Head coach Erica Dambach said she never doubted her team would eventually find the back of the net.

 

"We do a five-minute drill all the time," Dambach said. "We know we can score with five minutes left in a game. I believe in this group. I always think that they're dangerous and can put a ball away."

 

The goal was Freigang's first of the season and third of her career. She and Charlotte Williams led the team with six shots apiece in the game.

 

Penn State tested Illini goalkeeper Jaelyn Cunningham with 12 shots on goal in the contest. Cunningham made a season-high 10 saves and miraculously kept the Nittany Lions off the board as long as she could. Dambach said Cunningham was the MVP of the match.

 

If Penn State had an MVP, it would most certainly be Freigang.

 

The sophomore from Oppenheim, Germany fought fatigue and a physical back line all day without giving an inch. She came off the bench and played 70 minutes in the game, more than any other substitute.

 

Freigang can be forgotten at times playing with high-powered scorers like Frannie Crouse and Megan Schafer up top, but she's just as dangerous when she receives the ball in the right position. She's clever with her passes and uses her 5-foot-8 frame to pin defenders before making her move, like she did Sunday.

 

Defender Ellie Jean was a key contributor to Penn State's fourth shutout in eight matches this season. She said a game like Sunday's shows that the team can fight through different forms of adversity.

 

"We have a really tough season, and I think it's really good for us just to prepare for whatever postseason," Jean said. "We're looking to just be a team, create as a team, be a unit, and create every game."

 

If Sunday's hard-fought win proved anything, it's that no matches in the Big Ten are ever guaranteed victories.

 

"We say it day in and day out--any team in this conference can play with any other team regardless of who it is and when it is, but you got to show up with your A-game," Dambach said.


Penn State will hit the road for three straight games away from home. The Nittany Lions travel to Iowa City, Iowa next to face the Hawkeyes on Friday, September 22 at 8 p.m.

12844341.jpeg

By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Brittany Basinger is listed on the depth chart as a defender, but she is much more than just that, and she showed it Thursday night.

 

Basinger's primary duty is to police the left quarter of the defense as the left back, but she's never static. The redshirt senior from Purcellville, Va. must run at least a mile up and down the left flank game in and game out. She might cover more ground than any other Nittany Lion over the course of a match.

 

Basinger was at it again Thursday night, sprinting up constantly to get involved on offense and retreating back to help the defense when necessary. She was one of the focal points of the offensive attack, which went through the left half for the majority of time that she was on the pitch.

 

Midfielder Emily Ogle and forwards Frannie Crouse and Megan Schafer continuously fed Basinger with through balls down the left flank, and the redshirt senior would instinctively find a seam and send a cross into the box.

 

Basinger's aggressiveness offensively led to 15 shots and eight on target in the first half against one of the stingiest defenses in the country. The first Penn State goal in Penn State's 3-0 win was primarily Basinger's doing.

 

In the fourth minute Crouse dished a pass backward to Basinger who took one touch and flew a curling cross into the box that landed right on Schafer's head and she was able to finish to give the Nittany Lions an early lead.

 

"Today we were really focusing on big five moments and giving each other boosts throughout the entire game, and it just happened to come and [Schafer] did a fantastic job to finish it," Basinger said.

 

The assist was Basinger's first of the season.

 

Basinger also made her impact felt on the defensive end early in the first half. She nabbed three solo steals in the first five minutes of the game and finished with five in the half.

 

She played a key role in a dominating first half performance for the Nittany Lions defensively. Penn State didn't allow a Northwestern shot until the 40th minute.

 

Most players don't have the skills to be an offensive firecracker and a defensive stone wall in the same game, but Basinger isn't most players.

 

"[Basinger] was a warrior for us today," said head coach Erica Dambach. "That's your fifth-year senior captain. That's what you would expect in Big Ten play. She knows the mentality that she needs to bring, and she shares it with the group."

 

Penn State tallied another goal in the 42nd minute off an Ogle free kick from 24 yards out. The redshirt junior ripped a bullet around the wall and into the bottom right corner to give the Nittany Lions a two-goal cushion at halftime.

 

"It's something that the whole team works on every day in training, and we want to be strong in all aspects of our set pieces," Ogle said. "We've been training it, working it, trying to get the details, so it's good that we finally got one today."

 

Basinger showed off even more of her versatility in the second half. She entered in the 54th minute after a much-needed rest, but this time she lined up as a center back.

 

Center back and left back may be a slot next to each other on the pitch, but the two have completely different duties. Basinger had to dial back on her attacking role and focus solely on being the last line of defense.

 

"I'm working on center back," Basinger said. "It's different. Just being in a different part of the field is a change but we're working on it."

 

Penn State added an insurance goal in the 48th minute courtesy of Charlotte Williams and the game was all but sealed.

 

The three-goal shutout is all the more impressive taking into account Northwestern's defensive dominance of late. Wildcat goalkeeper Lauren Clem was a third-team All-American last year and is tied for 15th all-time with 39 shutouts in her career.

 

The last time Northwestern gave up three goals was in 2015 to West Virginia. Penn State also beat the Wildcats 3-0 that season.

 

"They had a good game plan and I thought our movement was quite good and we were able to unlock them a little bit," Dambach said. "That's a very good team that we just put three goals away on."

 

Penn State moved to 24-3-0 all-time against Northwestern. The Blue and White have outscored the Wildcats 17-5 in their last six matchups.

 

The Nittany Lions dive back into the conference slate Sunday at home against Illinois at 1 p.m.

Haleigh.jpeg

By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State, the Big Ten slate isn't just a portion of the schedule--it's a whole new season.

 

The non-conference section of the schedule is used to find out the team's strengths and weaknesses so that head coach Erica Dambach can fine-tune the issues and have the team playing its best soccer when it matters most.

 

That's why Dambach loves to schedule top-ranked opponents in the beginning of the year, each with different playing styles. Doing this exposes Penn State to all forms of play the team may see from conference foes during the year.

 

"We've had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at us, so I don't think there's any team in the Big Ten that's going to give us something new," senior midfielder Haleigh Echard said. "I think we're going to take all the challenges that we had in the past six games and just bring them in to Big Ten play and come out firing."

 

Since 1998, Penn State has dominated the Big Ten. There's no other way to put it. The Nittany Lions have won or shared 18 of the last 19 conference regular season titles.

 

"[Conference opponents] circle this date on their schedules," Dambach said. "They come out and they play hard, and I think at this point we get everybody's best game."

 

Penn State is Goliath, but there's always a David lurking. This year, there may be a few Davids with a chance to slay the giant.

 

Rutgers is always one of Penn State's biggest threats on the schedule, and this year looks no different. The Scarlet Knights have started the season 6-0-1 and haven't conceded a single goal. They also lead the conference in goals scored with 20.

 

Rutgers has been a defensive juggernaut in recent years thanks to goalkeeper Casey Murphy.

 

Murphy was named a National Soccer Coaches Association of America Second Team All-American in 2015. She took a redshirt last season to play for the U.S. U-20 Women's National Team, where she was teammates with multiple Nittany Lions, but she's back in net for the Scarlet Knights this year.

 

Penn State will meet Rutgers Oct. 12 in Piscataway, NJ.

 

Wisconsin is another dangerous team that has the tools to challenge Penn State for a conference title.

 

The Badgers (6-1-0) are ranked No. 9 in the United Coaches Soccer poll, right behind No. 8 Penn State. In 2015 the two teams shared the Big Ten title with 8-2-1 records, and Wisconsin might be even more talented this season.

 

Offensively, youth is powering the Badgers early on. Three of their top four goal scorers are underclassmen. Wisconsin's leading goal scorer is sophomore Dani Rhodes, who has notched four goals so far coming off a freshman season in which she was named to the 2016 All-Big Ten Freshman Team.

 

The Badgers may be young up top, but they're experienced where it matters most--in the net. Goalkeeper Caitlyn Clem is a redshirt senior who ranks ninth all-time at Wisconsin with 18 shutouts. She has tallied 17 saves on the young season and is allowing 0.91 goals per game.

 

Penn State finishes up its regular season in Madison, Wis. against the Badgers in what could be a winner-take-all game.

 

Rutgers and Wisconsin may be the top dogs with the best chance to dethrone Penn State this year, but the Big Ten as a whole looks much more competitive and well-rounded than in year's past.

 

Twelve of the 14 conference teams come into Big Ten play with a winning record, and seven teams have five wins or more. Three Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 25, while Ohio State and Nebraska both received votes as well.

 

"I was really impressed with our conference during non-conference play," Dambach said. "It looks like there's going to be a lot of competition for the Big Ten championship this year, which is exactly what we want. We want to be challenged. We want to obviously play against the best and hopefully prepare ourselves as much as possible for an opportunity in November."

 

As for the Nittany Lions, they enter the conference slate coming off a 3-2 loss to Virginia. They sit at 4-2-0 on the year, but both losses came to teams ranked inside the top six.

 

Penn State will open up Big Ten play at home Thursday night at 7 p.m. against Northwestern. The Wildcats had their best Big Ten season to date last year, going 7-1-3 in the conference and sharing the regular season title with Penn State and Minnesota.

 

Whether the challenger is a team listed above, or another Big Ten opponent, the Nittany Lions know that it will be tough competition in conference play all season long.  

@GOPSUSPORTS

  • Loading Tweets...
    1 second ago