The Penn State women’s soccer standouts took redshirt seasons last fall in order to don the stars and stripes at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea, where both started all six matches for the U.S.
This summer, the duo headed to the West Coast to train with the Seattle Sounders Women of the WPSL alongside teammates Charlotte Williams, Shea Moyer, and Laura Freigang.
“Those five that went across to Seattle obviously had a really cool life experience and came back with a great energy to them,” head coach Erica Dambach said.
“I think we all had a blast. We had five Penn Staters out there which brought the level up. It helped us learn each others’ tendencies,” Elliston said.
But training with fellow college players and even Seattle Reign FC paled in comparison to the surprise Elliston would receive on the trip. As Penn State wrestler Jason Nolf boarded a flight with a ring in his pocket, her teammates had a tough time keeping the big news under wraps.
“It was so hard to keep that a secret, but it was awesome. I feel like I was part of it,” Ogle said.
“Jason actually texted me a couple weeks before he surprised her,” Williams said. “He flew out and we blindfolded Maddie and told her we found this cool spot on Alki Beach and we wanted to show her the view. We all knew about it and we were there.”
The newly engaged Elliston was happy to have her teammates around to soak up the experience with her.
“That’s the thing about Penn State — we’re really a family and they’re my best friends. It was really cool to get to share that moment with them,” Elliston said.
As sophomores in 2015, Ogle and Elliston played huge roles for Penn State on its emphatic run to the program’s first national championship. With a year of international soccer under their belts, they’re back in the lineup with their sights set on a second NCAA title.
“It’s always an honor to represent your country,” Ogle said. “That was a great experience, but now we’re ready to take that experience and bring it back here and focus on the season ahead.”
Dambach also noticed a difference in her seasoned redshirt juniors upon their return to training camp, saying, “Their leadership, their brains, and their confidence to share and lead the rest of the group in those areas [has improved].”
Even after all the long hours spent training, watching film, and focusing on their studies, Ogle and Elliston never lose sight of the reason why they lace up their cleats every day — an unbridled love for the game.
“I love playing soccer. I love being a part of something that’s bigger than yourself, being a part of the team, being a part of the Penn State community,” said Ogle, who was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy watch list Tuesday.
“My why is I love the game and I always love to compete,” Elliston said. “I just remember to represent my school, myself, my faith, and my family in the best way possible.”
That passion for the sport has helped them reach the pinnacle of college soccer, as the Nittany Lions shut out each opponent in a dominant NCAA tournament performance two years ago. This season, they’re ready take the baton as leaders.
“We’ve had great examples. We had Rocky Rodríguez, Mal Weber, Britt Eckerstrom,” Elliston said. “We have tons of people on the team that are in leadership roles, we just happen to be the older ones. We’re just trying to be our best selves every day.”