Freshman Shea Moyer had a chance to gel with teammates Emily Ogle, Charlotte Williams, Laura Freigang, and Maddie Elliston before returning to town for preseason camp. They practiced nearly every weekday and competed against other WPSL clubs on weekends.
Moyer, who enrolled early for the spring semester, discussed the benefits of the experience and how it helped her grow closer with her fellow Nittany Lions. “We were able to form bonds that are vital during the season,” Moyer said. “We got really close and I think that’s gonna help immensely during the fall.”
A frequent member of the U.S. youth national teams, Moyer embraced the rare opportunity to go head-to-head against legendary midfielder Megan Rapinoe. “For somebody like Shea, that’s a dream come true,” Dambach said.
“I [watched]her tendencies and how committed she is — what she brings to the field every day, and obviously it’s one of my goals to hopefully make the full team,” Moyer said.
The five Penn Staters spent two weeks training with Seattle Reign FC, where Moyer, a Wyomissing native, gleaned a key piece of advice from Welsh star Jess Fishlock.
“She said she’s very impressed with the way I play in the middle and my quick and small passes,” Moyer said. “But she thinks I’ll be almost unstoppable if I can mix in some long-range passes, so after practice we worked on two-touch, opening my body, and just flipping some balls out wide.”
Penn State pride runs deep in Moyer’s family as both of her parents were student-athletes at University Park. Her father, Jerry, was a four-year starter on the men’s soccer team, while her mother, Janeen, swam for the Nittany Lions.
“It’s an honor and it’s definitely a tradition in my family,” Moyer said. “I’ve heard all their stories. It was cool to finally be a Nittany Lion and create my own path and own name for myself.”
Williams, a junior midfielder out of Rochester, N.Y., was a major contributor on the 2015 national championship team during her first season on campus. Dambach routinely praises the former competitive skier for her two-footedness and agility. Her coach did some research and asked if Williams was interested in heading to Seattle.
“During one of our meetings, she mentioned the idea to me,” Williams said. “I thought it was a great opportunity and it would be silly not to take it.”
Williams put a big emphasis on her fitness this summer as well as playing quicker on and off the ball. She said players from Florida State, West Virginia, and North Carolina — the latter two of which the Nittany Lions will face this year — participated with the Sounders. The players stayed with host families and spent plenty of time outside exploring.
“We did a ton of hiking,” Williams said. “Seattle’s really cool because you have the city and then you can just drive an hour and you’re by some crazy waterfall.”
Freigang, a sophomore midfielder/forward from Oppenheim, Germany, is one of the more versatile players on a loaded Penn State squad that returns five standouts who redshirted last season to represent the U.S. at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. Freigang, who started all four matches for her native country in Papua New Guinea, had never been to the West Coast before this trip.
“Traveling is for sure one of the things that I like the most about playing soccer,” Freigang said. “The training level was very high. It was really interesting to not only meet some new people, but also to get to know their different styles of play.”
Freigang said she and her teammates made sure to visit a few touristy spots like the world famous Pike Place Market when they weren’t going on adventures or hanging out with their host family. “They had a beautiful backyard with a basketball court, a soccer goal, and a great view across the water.”
She’ll compete with Moyer, Williams, and others for playing time in the midfield or push a strong group of forwards headlined by Frannie Crouse. “I already can’t wait to be back at State College, see the rest of the team, and of course for the season to start,” Freigang said.