2008 Women's Soccer Season Outlook
Aug. 18, 2008
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a stellar first season at the helm of the Penn State women's soccer program head coach Erica Walsh is looking to improve on a season that saw the Nittany Lions win their 10th-straight Big Ten Championship and 13th appearance in the NCAA Tournament in just 14 years of existence. She is excited to return from her first trip to the Olympics as an assistant on the U.S. Women's National Team. She has played the dual role of assistant U.S coach and head Penn State coach throughout the summer and is ready to embark on her second season in the Big Ten.
Walsh returns two NSCAA All-Americans and adds another Soccer Buzz Top-20 recruiting class to her arsenal. With captains Jessie Davis and Melissa Hayes leading the way the NCAA Championship is not far from reach.
The front line returns two award winners from last season in second team All-American Katie Schoepfer and Big Ten All-Freshmen selection Dani Toney. Schoepfer, a junior, was the leading goal-scorer for the Nittany Lions with 15 in 2007. She hopes to build on those numbers with new line-mate Toney who scored seven goals in 2007 and played most of the time with Schoepfer in the spring.
Also adding to the mix is junior transfer Nikki Watts. Watts, who comes to Penn State from England, is an exciting and crafty player who has a lot of potential and will battle for time both at the forward position and in an outside midfield slot.
Another incoming freshman forward is Carly Niness. She is a natural track athlete who will bring a lot of speed, size and raw talent to the team. She has a ton of potential and could see some time on the front line.
Returning in the midfield is junior captain Melissa Hayes along with redshirt senior Zoe Bouchelle. Bouchelle was named first team All-Region and scored two goals and four assists while starting every game but one last season. She is a crafty, clever and talented player for the Nittany Lions in the midfield.
Hayes is the glue that holds the midfield together and her ability to change the point of attack and command middle is what puts her above the rest. Hayes scored a goal and dished out six assists while starting all 24 games.
Another returner is Alli Rago who played sparingly her first two seasons but has continued to work and improve. She is an extremely hard worker and helps push the team with her work ethic and will push for time in the midfield.
Two leaders on and off the field are senior's Kaleen Adami and Allie Daus. They are both outstanding teammates and know what the program is all about and will help guide the younger players as they transition into the college atmosphere.
Sophomore Megan Monroig returns after a good freshman season that saw her score a goal and three assists in 22 games played. She continues to improve and develop everyday and will see some time in the midfield this fall.
Junior Jess Shue is entering the season with a foot injury that could see her miss all of preseason and some of the regular season as she recovers. She is a great teammate and consummate worker who will add depth to the midfield.
Redshirt freshman Kristie Daus is coming off a season in which she was injured from the second week of training camp. The coaching staff is excited to see her get back on the field and show what she is all about as she comes back fully healthy and ready to go.
Another redshirt freshman who is ready to work her way into the lineup is Meghan Gill who got injured the third game of the season. She is a local product who grew up watching Penn State soccer and knows what the program is about and what it takes to make it.
Three additional freshmen will be battling for time in Jess Rosenbluth, Dani Zavala and Ali Schaefer. Rosenbluth is a Pennsylvania native from Gladwyne, Pa. while Zavala comes all the way from El Camino Village, Calif. to join the Nittany Lions. Schaefer is a late signee from Las Vegas, Nevada and has made a name for herself due to her tremendous work ethic.
The familiar faces in the backline are senior captain Jessie Davis and junior Maura Ryan who both started all 24 games last season. Davis was a second team All-Big Ten selection in 2007 and is the leader on the back line. She sees the game well and controls the entire defense by example as well as vocally.
Another returner is junior Tara Davies who played in 22 games last season and will push for a starting role early in the season. A somewhat unknown for the coaching staff is incoming freshman Emma Thomson. A native of England, Thomson hasn't been seen live by any of the coaches on the staff but has brought with her a tremendous reputation. A member of the Doncaster Rovers Belles, Thomson is experienced at playing with some of the top players in English soccer.
Returning in goal will be junior Alyssa Naeher. Naeher was a first team All-America selection in 2007 and is arguably the best goalkeeper in collegiate soccer. She returns after posting a 0.62 GAA while giving up just 15 goals on the year in 24 contests.
One obstacle this season will be Naeher's selection to the U-20 U.S. World Cup team that will take her from the Penn State squad throughout the season. Waiting in the wings for their chance will be incoming freshmen Krissy Tribbett and Kristin Hartmann. Both are accomplished youth soccer goalkeepers and will push for the starting nod in Naeher's absence. Tribbett is coming off a club season in which her team won the U.S. Youth Soccer U-18 National Championship.
The Nittany Lions once again put together one of the toughest schedules in country in their quest for an 11th-stairght Big Ten Title and first ever NCAA Title. The team will take on six teams ranked in the top-25 in last season's final poll including three of the top five. They also have to contend with 11 NCAA Tournament participants from last season including 10 who made it past the first round.
The team gets things started August 30 as they travel to head coach Erica Walsh and assistant coach Ann Cook's alma mater, William & Mary. The Tribe competed in the NCAA Tournament last season making it to the second round to Virginia. They finished the season with a 15-5-2 record including a big 1-0 victory over then-No. 2 North Carolina.
The Nittany Lions then return home August 29-31 for the Penn State Invitational. They will host last season's NCAA runner-up Florida State before taking on 2007 postseason foe Hofstra. FSU finished the season with an 18-6-3 mark and a No. 2 ranking. Hofstra is coming of a 18-4-0 season in which they reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to Penn State 2-1 in overtime.
Up next will be a Friday, Sunday match-up where the Nittany Lions travel to Rutgers on Friday before heading home to face Bucknell on Sunday. Rutgers was 9-9-3 in 2007 ending the season at the BIG EAST Tournament with a 2-0 loss to Notre Dame. Bucknell finished with a 11-8-1 record and fell in the second round of the Patriot League Tournament despite entering as the number one seed.
PSU will then travel to Connecticut to take part in the UConn Classic. They open up with a match-up against Brown before taking on Connecticut. Brown finished the 2007 season 6-10-1 and failed to qualify for any postseason tournaments. Connecticut had a 14-6-2 record and advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinal where the team lost 3-2 to Florida State in double overtime.
The next game will be the following Thursday at James Madison and will be broadcast on the Fox Soccer Channel. James Madison finished the season 17-5-1 and lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Dukes set a school record for wins and fewest losses in 2007.
Notre Dame rolls into town next bringing with it a No. 4 final ranking from last season after compiling a 19-5-2 record. The Fighting Irish ended the season with a 3-2 loss to Florida State in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.
PSU will then open up Big Ten play as the team travels to Indiana on Friday, September 26. The Hoosiers finished with a 13-7-3 and a 5-4-1 Big Ten mark. They advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament and lost to Duke earning themselves a No. 21 ranking to finish the season.
The Nittany Lions will then jet home for their final non-conference opponent, No. 5 Portland, on Sunday at 11 a.m. The Pilots finished with an 18-4-0 record and lost in the NCAA Quarterfinals to UCLA 3-2 in double overtime.
PSU's first home Big Ten games will come October 3 and 5 as they host Northwestern and Wisconsin. The Wildcats finished with a 9-7-4, 4-4-2 Big Ten record and advanced to the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Wisconsin went 6-11-1 and 2-8-0 in the Big Ten and did not advance into the postseason.
The state of Michigan will then play host to the Nittany Lions as they travel to Michigan and Michigan State. Michigan struggled last season to a 3-9-6 mark and a 1-5-4 finish in the Big Ten while Michigan State went 7-10-2 and 1-8-1 in the Big Ten.
Returning home the Nittany Lions take on Minnesota and Iowa. Minnesota was the only Big Ten team to beat Penn State in the regular season in 2007 and the Nittany lions will look for revenge Friday, October 17. The Golden Gophers went 9-8-2 and 5-5-0 in the Big Ten before falling in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Iowa went 8-8-4 and 4-6-0 in the Big Ten and ended the season with a loss to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament.
Illinois and Purdue welcome the Nittany Lions on October 24 and 26 for PSU's final two road games of the regular season. Illinois went 12-7-2 and 6-3-1 in the Big Ten before ending their season in the NCAA Second Round with a 2-0 loss to Notre Dame. Purdue was the Big Ten Tournament Champions and ended the season with a No. 16 ranking.
The final home game of the regular season will be against Ohio State on Friday, October 31 at 4 p.m. The Buckeyes went 12-10-1 and 5-5-0 in the Big Ten. They finished the season at Penn State losing to Hofstra 1-0 in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament.