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No. 13 Women's Soccer Seeks 13th Straight Big Ten Title in 2010

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Aug. 13, 2010

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- - The No. 13 Penn State women's soccer team opens its 2010 slate of games with a preseason exhibition match at Villanova on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. PSU officially opens the 2010 season on Friday, Aug. 20 at West Virginia, which will be covered live by through updates on Twitter and the team blog.

It's not very often a team loses two All-American student-athletes, five starters and seven seniors, while still being expected to win a major conference championship and be a contender for the NCAA Women's College Cup. But that is exactly what the 2010 Penn State women's soccer team is being called upon to do as it is in search of its 13th straight Big Ten title, 16th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and fourth College Cup showing.

"If this group continues its high championship mentality," says fourth-year head coach Erica Walsh. "We should be able to compete with anybody. Overall, I'm just really thrilled about what I've seen across the board heading into the season."

Walsh, the reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year, returns 17 letterwinners from a year ago, which saw the Nittany Lions go on a ten-game run in October and into November where PSU could go little wrong. With the right kind of leadership, the team looks poised for another string of success.

"I've been really impressed with the fitness level of this returning group and the leadership overall," Walsh adds. "Take a player like Lexi Marton that came back fit and is leading this group and is a lot more mature. Our captains Emma Thomson and Megan Monroing are amongst the two fittest players we have. These girls did a great job while they were away this summer. Julie Hubbard went up to a team in New York [QuickStrike Lady Blues FC] and got herself to being the most-fit player on the team right now and she's confident. Jess Rosenbluth's fitness is at a higher level, Maddy Evans looks really good right now and Ali Schaefer and Danielle Toney look good. The returning players really did the work this summer to prepare them selves for the season.



Senior forward Danielle Toney

This year's team will look decidedly different from the senior-laden squad that stepped on Jeffrey Field in 2009. Returning to the fold are offensive stalwarts in senior forward Danielle Toney (Northville, Mich.) and sophomore midfielder Christine Nairn (Arnold, Md.). Toney's speed will keep teams from over committing numbers forward, while Nairn's playmaking ability from central midfield can see the sophomore phenom score from anywhere on the field or feed her teammates for plentiful scoring opportunities.

Penn State is an astonishing 23-2-2 all-time when Toney records a goal, making her contributions even more valuable. Likewise with Toney, when Nairn scored PSU was 5-1-1. The All-Big Ten First Team duo combined for six game-winning goals in 2009 and will supply PSU's offense once again.

"I'm really excited," Toney remarks. "The team is looking really good. As a senior, it's exactly what we want right now. Everyone is coming around and everything is falling into place."

Key forces set to lead Penn State on the field once again are a pair of captains with plenty of experience on the field in senior Megan Monroig (Northumberland, Pa.) and junior Emma Thomson (Nottinghamshire, England). The versatile Monroig has been used all over the field during Walsh's tenure, filling in as a key defensive starter last season for much of the year in 2009. Before that, Monroig found herself patrolling the flanks of the midfield and occasionally in a forward position during her 66 appearances in the Blue and White.

Thomson has been steady in the backline and has a penchant for a key goal in certain situations. Both of Thomson's goals have come in winning games, the first in the championship game of the 2008 Big Ten final vs. Minnesota and the second was a 25-yard rocket in last year's 2-0 win over James Madison.

Thomson, a 2008 selection to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team, held down the central defense last year with unanimous 2009 All-Big Ten Freshman Team pick, sophomore Lexi Marton (Aurora, Ontario). Marton, a Canadian National Team member, is an imposing member, checking in at 5-11, making her the tallest member of the Nittany Lion squad. "They are good with leading by their voices," notes Walsh. "But they are the fittest kids on the team, they do the right thing, train hard, but they can also laugh so they bring that level as well. All around I've been really pleased with these two and I think the team is following them."

Sophomore midfielder
Maddy Evans

Other key returners to the 2010 team were common names in midfield last year as sophomore Maddy Evans (Glenside, Pa.), and juniors Jess Rosenbluth (Gladwyne, Pa.) and Ali Schaefer (Las Vegas, Nev.) will fight for starting positions. Evans notched two goals and an assist in 14 starts last year, while Rosenbluth ended 2009 on a five-match point streak, completing the season with a goal and four assists. Schaefer's speed and strength make her a valuable asset as she can play in any of the midfield spots, but served her role as holding midfield well last season.

"I think Maddy Evans has really looked sharp." Walsh comments. "She's come in with a ton of confidence and will be valuable."

Another flexible piece to the 2010 puzzle is junior Carly Niness (Berwyn, Pa.). Niness, a starter in 10 games, began last season in central midfield as a starter, became a reserve midway through the year but upped her play to regain a spot in an ever-evolving midfield. Niness has also shown her prowess in defense with a tall 5-9 frame and an endless motor as one of the team's most fit members.

There are three unknowns entering the season with Toney needing a running mate up front to crack opposing defenses, the return of two veterans to the lineup from injuries and who will replace three-time All-American Alyssa Naeher in net.

Last season, Toney fed off of the now graduated Katie Schoepfer for passing combinations and open gaps in opponents' defenses. This year, the help will come in the form of youngsters Maya Hayes (Livingston, N.J.), Hayley Brock (Acton, Mass.) and sophomores Jackie Molinda (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Julie Hubbard (Waverly, Pa.).

"It's looking pretty good," Toney says. "There are pretty big shoes to fill with Katie Schoepfer graduating. The underclassmen are up for the challenge trying to prove them selves."

Molinda notched two goals last fall, while Hubbard was a force during the spring season adding offense to a depleted roster, although she was used in a midfield position in 2009.

Hayes arrives in Happy Valley after a stint with the U.S. Under-20 National Team, where she was an occasional starter at the World Cup in Germany. Hayes tallied two assists and started two of the team's four games along with Nairn, who captained the squad twice during the Americans' run. Brock is a speedster out of Massachusetts who will terrorize opposing defenses with her quickness and agility.

Rounding out the trio of freshman forwards is Ellen Arnaud (Dallas, Pa.) who is a pure goal scorer and tremendous athlete, as she was an All-State javelin participant in high school.

The defense will receive a boost from another incoming freshman, as Briana Hovington (Lothian, Md.) will provide an immediate impact. Hovington is a heralded defender out of Maryland capable of running down forwards and containing the pace of play with her physicality and speed.

Redshirt-junior midfielder Meghan Gill with 2009 Big Ten Coach of the Year Erica Walsh

Redshirt junior Meghan Gill (State College, Pa.) and redshirt sophomore Bri Garcia (Babylon, N.Y.) look to shake off the effects of two season ending injuries from a year ago. In Gill's case, last year's preseason ACL tear was her second in three years and prematurely ended a second run at another All-Big Ten honor, which she earned in 2008. Garcia, on the other hand, was a reserve option in defense and will compete for a starting spot this fall.

In net, Krissy Tribbett (Centennial, Colo.) and Kristin Hartmann (Katy, Texas) will battle for the team's starting goalkeeper position during the preseason. Tribbett is the more experienced goalie as she started in three games, while appearing in four more during the 2008 campaign filling in for Naeher during the 2008 U-20 World Cup.

"She's got that experience from playing here in [2008]," says Walsh. "And with her club team, the Colorado Rush, back home. She's played in national championships and in big games in front of big crowds with big opportunities and has taken advantage of it every time."

Last year, Tribbett redshirted in favor of Hartmann being the backup. Hartmann saw time in four games last year and both are options in net for Walsh. Adding to the goalkeeper rotation is freshman Tara Barr (North Wales, Pa.), a decorated `keeper out of Mount. St. Joseph Academy.

"Krissy Tribbett and Kristin Hartmann have been battling it out," Walsh adds. "Krissy is fit and ready to go. Kristin is working on her fitness, but has looked good on crosses. I've been talking to new goalkeeper coach Tim Wassell and he says the attitude is fantastic and they are getting better everyday and that's the most important thing."

Rounding out the roster for Penn State this season will be junior defender Jackie Hakes (Spokane, Wash.), sophomore defender Meghan McCarty (Baldwin, N.Y.), redshirt freshman forward Tani Costa (Honolulu, Hawaii), freshman midfielder Emily Hurd (Sammamish, Wash.) and freshman forward/midfielder Taylor Schram (Canonsburg, Pa.).

The Nittany Lions will be up against another difficult schedule with little in the way of easy games. All told, nine opponents made trips to the NCAA Tournament in 2009 including quarterfinalist Portland.

"Our ultimate goal is to make the College Cup," Monroig says. "That's every team's dream. We do have a good non-conference schedule. Our goal in the non-conference games is to set our selves up well for the NCAA Tournament. We want to win games so that we can get a good seed."

The season starts off in the toughest of fashions as Penn State travels to West Virginia on Friday, Aug. 20 for a 7:00 p.m. matchup at Dick Dlesk Stadium.

The following week sees PSU host the Penn State Invitational and a 7:30 p.m. match against Virginia on Aug. 27. Last season, the Nittany Lions and Cavaliers split their two games with Virginia prevailing in last year's NCAA Tournament. It will be UVa's third trip to Jeffrey Field in less than a year and for the second time in two seasons, Penn State will try to break the all-time women's soccer attendance record. The goal for this year's game is 4,500 fans, which would easily top the 3,208 set in 2006 vs. UCLA.

The PSU-UVa game takes place after the UConn-William & Mary match at 5:00 p.m. William & Mary wraps up the Invitational for Penn State on Aug. 29 at 2:30 p.m. after UConn and Virginia square off at Noon.

After a two-game road trip to Connecticut (at Yale, Sep. 3; at UConn, Sep. 5), Penn State flies to famous Merlo Field and two games at the Nike Portland Invitational. The Lions take on Pac-10 foe Washington on Sep. 10 and host Portland on Sep. 12.

"The trip to Portland is obviously the big one," Walsh notes. "We're thrilled to go out there to be apart of their tournament and get to play Portland at Portland is an opportunity every college player should have. Certainly Washington will pose a certain challenge, too. You've got the usual suspects in Virginia, West Virginia, William & Mary as well as local opponent Bucknell, but that Portland trip is definitely a highlight."

Returning home, PSU hosts three in a row at Jeffrey with games against Bucknell (Sep. 15), Walsh's former side, Dartmouth (Sep. 19), and the Big Ten opener against Michigan State (Sep. 26).

A three-game road trip kicks off at Ohio State (Oct. 3) for a 3:00 p.m. live Big Ten Network showdown between the two top squads from a year ago. Penn State bested OSU by two points in last year's standings for the title. A Midwest trip to Northwestern (Oct. 8) and Iowa (Oct. 10) rounds out the road swing in preparation for one of the biggest Big Ten home stands in years.

Friday, Oct. 15 welcomes Minnesota to town. Always a tough opponent, the Golden Gophers and Nittany Lions have played some classic games over the years, including a 2-1 PSU triumph in the 2008 Big Ten Championship game and a thrilling 1-0 win in St. Paul last year. Minnesota returns all its starters from a team that narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament and is looking for an upset of the Lions.

The weekend is rounded out by Wisconsin (Oct. 17) for the second of PSU's three Big Ten Network games. Wisconsin shocked Penn State last year in a 3-3 double-overtime draw last year, rallying from two goals down to force overtime. Wisconsin finished the Big Ten last year in a surprising third, while garnering the Big Ten's only Sweet 16 appearance in last year's NCAA Tournament.

A Sunday game at Illinois (Oct. 24) is followed by a Thursday night special at Jeffrey Field against Indiana. A quick turnaround is needed as Penn State travels to Purdue for a Sunday showdown against the Boilermakers on Halloween.

Penn State will celebrate Senior Day on Nov. 7 at Jeffrey Field against Michigan for the final Big Ten Network telecast of the season. By then, the Nittany Lions will know whether they have done enough to capture the squad's record-breaking 13th straight Big Ten title and wrap up a 16th straight showing in the NCAA Tournament, which is slated to begin at campus sites on Nov. 12.

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