Last Friday, midfielders Christine Nairn and Maddy Evans received the exciting news that they would be joining teams in the newly established National Women’s Soccer League. Nairn, hailing from Arnold, Maryland, will be joining the Seattle Reign, while Evans, a Glenside, Pa. native, will play for the Boston Breakers. It is undeniable that both seniors gave their all during the four years they spent here, and will continue to do so at the professional level.
Onward State had the chance to talk to Nairn and Evans about their college soccer careers and their future endeavors.
Onward State: Was being drafted into a league ever part of your career plans or hopes?
Christine Nairn: Since I was four years old, I have always wanted to be a professional soccer player. I used to get laughed at by a lot of people because there was no professional league at that time. I am, as well as Maddy, excited to represent Penn State Women’s Soccer at the professional level.
Maddy Evans: Admittedly, I have dreamt of playing professional soccer since I was a little girl. Being an avid Philadelphia Charge fan growing up certainly fueled this dream. In more recent years, however, I have been inspired by players like Christine and many others to play at the next level.
OS: You were both drafted in this inaugural year for the NWSL. How do you think the league will bring women’s soccer back into the limelight?
CN: Because of the Women’s National team’s accomplishments over the years, I think the NWSL will continue to show why our National Team is ranked number one in the world. Almost all of the players from the World Cup and Olympics are staying in the US in order to promote this league and make it last for many years. All of the collegiate players who are going to our teams are excited to join with the USWNT to promote women’s soccer around the country.
ME: From my understanding, a lot of hard and behind-the-scenes work has been put into forming this new league. There are a lot of people, players and fans alike, who are incredibly passionate about women’s soccer, and the NWSL has the potential to be the best women’s league yet. I encourage anyone to buy NWSL tickets (for any team!). To be even a small part of this is an absolute honor. I hope that some of the many young girls who dream of playing professional soccer will play in this same league some day.
OS: What was it like to take Penn State to its first ever national title game — and to play against a dynasty like UNC?
CN: It was amazing. We had so many fans there, whether it was family, friends, alumni, or the Park Avenue Army. With all of those people there, you couldn’t even hear yourself think. It was awesome. It just shows how far this program has come and where it will go in the upcoming years. I am excited to see where Coach [Walsh], Ann, Tim, and Joel take this program in the near future. This will not be the first or last time you see PSU Women’s Soccer in the National Championship game.
ME: To be honest, it defies description — I cannot quite put it into words. Pardon the cliché, but the championship game was ultimately a culmination of a lot of blood, sweat, and tears shed on the pitches between our pristine practice fields, our home Jeffrey Field, and all over the country. To play my final, last possible game as a Nittany Lion in the College Cup Final is an absolute dream come true and a huge testament to the work and dedication my teammates, coaches, and support staff invested in the process. The “process” wasn’t always easy but we remained resilient, kept the end in mind, and most importantly enjoyed the journey.
OS: Maddy, as president of SAAB, what is it like having that role, and what are you looking forward to for the rest of the year?
ME: It has been a complete honor to work with athletics, my executive board, and Dr. Yukelson and Dr. Sherburne in the Morgan Center. To be able to lead such an inspiring and galvanized group of student athletes is an absolutely privilege. This semester I am really looking forward to our Student Athlete Pageant (which is actually tonight — come on out!), supporting our SAAB THON dancers, and ultimately putting my stamp as president on this wonderful organization.
OS: Christine, you were a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy. What was that experience like, and how did it influence your career outlook?
CN: It was such an honor to even be considered for that award. I said, before they announced the MAC Hermann Trophy winner, that if I am lucky enough to win, it is all for my team. They are the reason that I am in the position that I am in my new professional career. They push me everyday to be my best, and I hope I can affect them as they have over my four years. Although I didn’t win, I am motivated more than ever to represent my former teammates and Penn State with hard work at the professional level with the Seattle Reign.
OS: Maddy, what was it like to have a teammate as a MAC Finalist?
ME: It has been and absolutely privilege to play with Christine over the past four years. We have become close friends, and to see all of her hard work recognized and rewarded was incredible. Christine, the type of person who deflects any and all attention, is the type of player and person who deserves to be recognized for her talent, passion, and hard work.
OS: Could you both comment on the Park Avenue Army and the following that women’s soccer has gained at Penn State over your four years here?
CN: For my first two years at Penn State, we did not have the Park Avenue Army. Now we give out shirts every game to students who stand with the Army. I cannot thank them enough for continuing to watch our games through sunshine, rain, snow, and even flying out to San Diego to support us in the National Final. What team can say that they have a HUGE home field advantage because of their own cheering section/die-hard fans that travel thousands of miles across the US to watch them play? Penn State Women’s Soccer can…
ME: I can’t say enough good things about The Park Avenue Army. Their commitment to supporting us is absolutely invaluable. In San Diego, the atmosphere was electric and our fan base and the Park Avenue Army made San Diego feel like we were back on Jeffrey Field. In general, the following that PSU soccer has received has certainly made for a great time on Jeffrey. We appreciate every single one of our fans — I would like to send a (very) belated ‘thank you’ to everyone who came out to a game this year.
OS: Soccer has become incredibly competitive, especially at the college level. How has this affected your experience as players and as students?
CN: Because it is extremely competitive, it makes us push each other to be better everyday. On our team, any player can start at any given time. It’s is all about who can perform their best that day. At Penn State, we are fortunate enough to have players that are super subs that can come on and change a game. These players might not get the credit in the media, but our team knows how valuable they are to making our team the best in the country.
ME: At this rate, any one of the Division 1 teams could win the National Championship next year. The winner is no given — the depth and breadth of the talent is so wide that the term “underdog” seems to be slowly disappearing. I feel very fortunate to have been able to compete in such a competitive environment. It made for very tough and exciting games, and I hope to see women’s soccer continue to develop.
OS: So, you’re being coached by a NSCAA National Coach of the Year. Any words about Coach Walsh and your experience with her and her influence on the both of you for the last four years?
CN: Before Penn State, I had never played for a coach that I trusted as much as ours. In my mind, she is more than just a coach because a lot of us go to her for advice in areas other than just soccer. I am forever in debt to her because she is the reason for where I am today. She stuck with me and pushed me for four years to be the best player and person I can be when other people had their doubts in me. I have completely changed since my freshman year, and I am being given opportunities because she made me the player that I am today. She has been my favorite coach to play for. I trust her with everything, and I cannot wait to see where she continues to take this program in the upcoming years.
ME: It has been an honor to play for Coach Walsh and the rest of the Penn State coaching staff these past four years. They are certainly one of a kind and have so much to offer. From day one, Coach has been an incredible role model and true inspiration. She cares about her players as individuals, not as names on a roster. She encourages us to better ourselves as not only soccer players, but more importantly as women and students. I can’t think of anyone more deserving for her recent awards. I am thrilled for her and very proud to call her my coach.
OS: And last, but certainly not least, if you could be any dinosaur, which would you be and why?
CN: I don’t know much about dinosaurs, but I’m going to have to go with a Saber-Toothed Tiger because it’s pretty cool and resembles a Nittany Lion — except with ginormous teeth.
ME: Do pterodactyls count? If so, count me in – who doesn’t want to fly?