Sophomore Laura Freigang is as good a candidate as anyone to be Penn State’s breakout player this season. Her innate ability to create looks in the open field merits far more attention from the rest of the Big Ten.
“She’s a big personality in this group, makes us smile, makes us laugh,” head coach Erica Dambach said. “But as far as her abilities on the field, she’s just different. She sees the game in different ways, she plays the game in a bit of a different way. She makes players around her better.”
While Germany lost to France 2-1 in last week’s semifinals in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Freigang and her home country secured a berth in next August’s biennial FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. She played in the event last fall, but missed out on Penn State’s NCAA tournament run, which came to a close in the second round versus Virginia, 3-0.
— Penn State WSOC (@PennStateWSOC) June 19, 2017
The effortlessly cool Freigang immediately added a level of lightheartedness to Penn State’s practice upon rejoining the team a few days ago. Ever-focused on the pitch, Freigang is a riot on the sidelines, cracking jokes and dancing to Empire of the Sun’s “Walking On A Dream.” Team DJ duties, though, usually fall on Charlotte Williams or Shea Moyer.
“I’m super excited,” Freigang said. “I wish I could’ve been here. It’s my second year coming in late, so that obviously sucks a little bit. I’m just trying to give my best to take care of my body so I can practice and play.”
With No. 9 Penn State heading to Arkansas Friday for what Dambach anticipates will be an extremely physical match, she was quick to temper expectations for Freigang’s return to the lineup.
“We’ll kinda ease her back into this, and obviously respect the fact that she came off a big event and now we’ve gotta travel again, so there’s some management there. But she said she feels really good,” Dambach said.
Senior forward Megan Schafer looks forward to lacing up the cleats with Freigang this weekend in Fayetteville.
“She brings another variation to the midfield. We missed her this past weekend, but we came out on top, and I’m just pumped for her to be back and training with the team,” Schafer said.
Freigang and junior Alina Ortega-Jurado, a product of Waldgirmes, Germany, are the lone international players on this year’s roster, but the sport as a whole has certainly been trending overseas. Dambach believes the vast array of playing styles one’s exposed to on that level only better prepares them to make a difference stateside.
“U.S., you kinda know what you’re gonna get in the college game,” Dambach said. “It’s gonna be one of a couple things. I think in the international game you’ve got a much wider variation.”
Freigang, who earned All-Big Ten Freshman recognition, scored Penn State’s first and last goal of the 2016 regular season against the Mountaineers and Ohio State. When it comes to the heated Bayern Munich-Borussia Dortmund debate, Freigang doesn’t boast a particular rooting interest.
“I just like to watch Bundesliga in general,” she said. “I don’t have a favorite club, which is kinda weird I guess, but I didn’t really grow up in a soccer family.”