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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - There are few things more rewarding for a parent than seeing their child succeed after a lot of hard work. For the mother of freshman Kate Rydland, that opportunity came earlier this year when she visited Penn State for the Nittany Lions' exhibition match against Guelph as Kate began her Division I hockey career.
Rydland hails from Eden Prairie, Minnesota and had a very successful career in high school, so her parents Rick and Valerie had plenty of opportunity to witness her accomplishments. She was a team captain of her state championship squad last year and was named an all-state honorable mention that same year. She tallied 32 points in her senior season on five goals and 27 assists, capping a career that destined her for Division I hockey.
Coming to Penn State was a family-oriented decision for Kate, as Valerie went to Penn State and was a member of the swim team from 1982-84.
"She influenced me a little bit," Kate said. "She wanted me to go wherever I was happy but she always kind of was like 'well you should look at Penn State, it's a really good school, you'd love it out there.' So there was definitely an influence, but not in a bad way at all. It was in a loving way because she knew me and she knew I'd like it."
"When Kate told me what she wanted out of a school, I'm like 'you need to look at Penn State,'" Valerie said. "She came from a large high school with a lot of school spirit, big football program, and she loved that and so she wanted that too."
Valerie stayed true to her word of not forcing Kate into anything, but in the end, both really feel that Kate made the right decision.
"I chose Penn State because of the wonderful academics, school spirit, the awesome facilities and coaching staff and also the great alumni association," Kate said.
It's been several years since Valerie last walked around campus, and some things were a little different on her most recent trip.
"It was really weird looking at her [Kate] in white and blue," Valerie said with a laugh. "She's been in black and red [high school colors] her whole life. It's really thrilling, really different being back on campus. I talked to Kate about where things were. It's grown and it's really fun to see."
From a hockey perspective, Kate attributed much of her interest and development in the game to her late grandfather, Pat Quinn. Quinn played nine seasons in the NHL, including stints with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, and Atlanta Flames. Quinn also spent several years as an NHL coach, taking two different teams to the Stanley Cup Final as well as winning four gold medals at the helm of Team Canada.
Kate can play all over the ice as well at both forward and defense, earning high praise from head coach Josh Brandwene, who was as happy as any of Kate's family members that she chose the Nittany Lions.
"Height, strength and versatility set Kate apart," Brandwene said. "She brings outstanding work ethic and hockey sense to our program,can contribute at both forward and defense, and brings an incredible amount of enthusiasm to the rink every day."
Kate has already had a chance to contribute to the team, as she saw ice time in the exhibition and both games of the season-opening series at Clarkson, before sustaining a minor upper body injury last week. She looks to return to the lineup soon.
The Nittany Lions play their first regular season home games this weekend against Boston University. Game 1 puck drop is set for 6:00 p.m. Friday at Pegula Ice Arena.