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By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Penn State men's soccer team prepares to take the pitch against in-state opponent St. Francis on Friday, Pennsylvania natives will prepare to face-off against familiar faces, similar play, and a reminder of their home-state roots.
"Just being around Penn State all of our lives we know a lot of things about the campus, about the sports teams and we have a pretty good connection," said midfielder Austin Maloney (Harrisburg) on a common bond between the opponents.
Between the Nittany Lions and the Red Flash there will be 18 players suiting up Friday night who find familiarity in things like Hershey Park, hunting season, and each other.
While more than half of Penn State's roster comes to Penn State from neighboring states, the West Coast and across the pond, the Blue and White uphold a core group of individuals who enter Jeffrey Field breathing in the same scents and seeing the same tree lines as their childhoods. Some teammates and future opponents even recognize each other through past opportunities.
"Me and (teammate) Mac [Curran] actually played together on club team so we have a really good connection," said Maloney.
Defender Stephen Kenney (State College) hopes to contribute to the teams scouting efforts with his familiarity with past State College high school teammate and current Red Flash forward Kyle Moerschbacher.
"I played with him [Kyle] in high school," said Kenney. "I know him as a player so I can use that in the game and I can inform other players about him if he's on the field...just get a tactical advantage."
Among Maloney, Mac Curran (York) and Kenney are other Keystone State representatives like Pierre Reedy (Kutztown), Christian Sload (Reading), Travis Kell (Bear Creek), and Sam Bollinger (State College). Penn State's assistant coach Owen Griffith (Lewisburg) also calls the Keystone State home.
Although St. Francis houses 11 of the 18 student-athletes that called Pennsylvania home growing up, the Nittany Lions still find an immense pride and benefit from recruiting within the confines of the state and upholding a Pennsylvania presence.
"There are a lot of great players in Pennsylvania, you can go all over the state and find players," said associate head coach Chad Duemberger. "We like Pennsylvania players, we like to keep them in-state."
The natives also find great opportunity in head coach Bob Warming's emphasis on Pennsylvania recruiting because of their ability to stay within state lines and receive an education and expand their soccer careers.
Maloney and his teammates also enjoy the added benefit of seeing familiar faces cheering them on from the stands of Jeffrey Field.
"For me probably how accessible it is for my family to get up here for games," said forward Sload. "It's only like a two hour drive for them so they pretty much have been to every home game so its nice to have that connection...There is a bunch of kids from my hometown that go to this school so being able to see them after games and around campus is really nice."
"Everyone gets to come up for all of the games and all of my friends are from around Pennsylvania and they come here for school and they come to watch my games as well," added Maloney.
Those friends and family in the general vicinity of Penn State will also have the opportunity to bring the Blue and White spirit on the road, as the team will also head to opposite sides of the state when they face off against Temple and Pitt this season.
Although Friday against the St. Francis Red Flash will be another regular season game for a number of players on the pitch, it will also be a celebration and sense of pride for Pennsylvania's core of soccer talent that streams through youth leagues up to the mantel of university and professional play.
For more information on Nittany Lion men's soccer, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on the various social media platforms.