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Nov. 9, 2012
By Luke Petkac, Special to GoPSUsports.com from the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Jeffrey Field is considered a great place to play soccer, but for the Penn State women's soccer team, it's far more than just a field.
"Jeffrey Field is my favorite place at Penn State," senior midfielder and team captain Maddy Evans said. "As a freshman coming in, you might see it as just another field. But how important it is to every single person in this program is kind of beyond words. It defies description to be honest."
Head coach Erica Walsh shared the same feelings. When asked about the field and why the Lions have been so good there, she paused and said, "That might be the hardest question of all--that's the intangible."
But even if the team can't describe what the field means to them in words, they're certainly able to do it with their play. The Nittany Lions are good at home. Really good.
Since Walsh took over the program in 2007, the Nittany Lions have gone 45-12-3 at home, including 28-2-1 against Big Ten opponents. The Lions have a Big Ten record of 90-3-4 on Jeffrey Field, a league-leading 93 percent win rate.
"You feel invincible on Jeffrey," Evans said.
Junior forward Maya Hayes said that the reason that the Lions have been so dominant at home is simple. It's a matter of pride and respect.
"We always say, `Play for those who come before you,' and that means respecting everything about this team and what it's brought to us," Hayes said.
Evans said that the team's desire to respect Jeffrey with its play gives them extra motivation on game days.
"Obviously we go into every game to win, but with Jeffrey, there's a little added incentive to protect our field," she said. "It's our home and we want to respect and honor it."
It's given the Lions an absolute must-win mentality when it comes to playing at home.
"We don't lose on Jeffrey and that's been ingrained in us since our freshmen years," Hayes said. "We pass that down onto incoming freshmen every single year."
But for Evans, it goes even beyond winning.
"We hold ourselves to a very high standard no matter what, but there's added incentive on Jeffrey," she said. "We don't want to just not lose on Jeffrey, we don't want to give up any goals on Jeffrey. We want to shut out teams on Jeffrey." Over the past four seasons, the Lions have recorded 20 shutouts in just 40 games at home.
So is it really that different for opponents to step onto Jeffrey Field compared to any other field in the nation? Evans thinks so.
"I would never, ever want to play against Penn State on Jeffrey Field if I weren't here," she said. "Welcome to our house and good luck."