Speedy sophomore Charlotte Williams has stepped up big-time in an Emily Ogle-less Nittany Lion midfield, as the Rochester, N.Y., native is enjoying a breakout season for head coach Erica Dambach.
The 5-foot-4 Williams immediately boosted Penn State’s breakaway attack upon her arrival last season. The effortlessly-quick aspects of her game translated to All-Big Ten Freshman honors for Williams, who finished with three goals, two of which came in the Nittany Lions’ shutout NCAA run to their first National Championship. Williams added seven assists in 2015 — good enough to tie her for second in the conference with Frannie Crouse behind only teammate Mallory Weber’s Big Ten-best 11 set-ups.
Crouse and Williams lead this year’s Nittany Lions with six and three goals, respectively heading into their conference opener on the road at Minnesota this Friday at 8:00 p.m. on the Big Ten Network. Williams, who netted a career-high two goals in a 3-1 win over Hofstra, discussed what she’s absorbed from Crouse and Penn State’s most experienced midfielder Nickolette Driesse following Wednesday’s practice at Jeffrey Field.
“From Nickollette, being our only senior, I learn a ton from her,” Williams said. “Just watching her, she’s super helpful with my movement, and just working together. Frannie, she does her thing. She’s amazing on the ball, she has a great shot, and I definitely watched her — especially last year too, and we’re working more together.”
Williams’ pair of assists through seven matches lead No. 16 Penn State (4-2-1) as it prepares for a tough test against the Golden Gophers. Williams credits her head coach Erica Dambach for getting the Nittany Lions ready to defend their national title despite being without five of their top players in Emily Ogle, Maddie Elliston, Kaleigh Riehl, Ellie Jean, and Rose Chandler, who are trying to make the U.S. Women’s National U-20 World Cup Team.
“She’s the best coach in the country,” Williams said. “Every day she expects a lot of us, it’s just a great opportunity to be playing for someone like that.”
While three of those hoping to be in Papua New Guinea were instrumental in the Nittany Lions’ stonewall defense last season, perhaps the biggest loss comes in the form of Ogle, a would-be junior who started every match of her first two seasons on campus. But Williams has taken to her increased leadership role in the midfield alongside Driesse and redshirt junior Salina Williford and it’s been evident in her strong play all season.
“She’s creative as it gets,” Dambach said at Fall Sports Media Day earlier this season. “And she’s two-footed, shifty, and it’s tough to tackle her. You’ve gotta chase her down to tackle her and that’s not easy to do. Typically, when you see her dispossessed, it’s because there’s three players around her.
“She’s got a tremendous upside. She was a skier in high school (at Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy), so she’s just figuring out playing year-round for the first time in her life, and she’s only going to get better.”
Her dad Sandy Williams competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics and a pair of world championships with the U.S. Ski Team. Charlotte scored 47 goals and dished out 25 assists during a decorated career at Brighton High School in Rochester, much like the legendary local feats of Abby Wambach, who she followed closely growing up.
“She was definitely one of my idols, she lives about five minutes away from my house,” Williams said. “I grew up playing against the high school she went to (Our Lady of Mercy), so she’s a big-time name in Rochester. I used to go to her Flash games, she definitely inspires me.”