Marissa Sheva said she used to be tentative with the ball at her feet when a chance on net arose. This season, the junior midfielder has been an absolute force for Erica Dambach’s Nittany Lions.
“I think my first two years here I wasn’t very confident in front of the goal, and it showed,” Sheva said. “I think that coming in as an upperclassman this year, coach was adamant about being confident in all aspects of my game.”
Sheva, a security and risk analysis major, came off the bench as a true freshman when Penn State claimed its first national championship in program history in 2015. In continuing to improve tremendously each season, Sheva has shown she’s more than just a role player.
With four goals in just three matches, Sheva currently sits in solo second in the Big Ten — trailing only Minnesota’s Sydney Squires, who scored four times in a lopsided 6-1 win over Iowa State Sunday.
“Marissa has proven to be somebody who can handle those big moments,” Dambach said.
As if her exploits on the pitch aren’t enough, Sheva also holds the rare distinction of running track for Penn State. Sheva’s the first two-sport athlete on the soccer team since Maura Ryan (2006-08). Coincidentally, the two grew up just 14 miles apart in eastern Pennsylvania — Sheva in Sellersville and Ryan in Doylestown.
“She could go home in the summer after three consecutive seasons of Penn State athletics and probably take a pretty good rest and everybody would understand,” Dambach said. “For her, it’s take a week off and get right back at it.”
Sheva posted a collegiate-best 4:51.46 mile — her main event — last February, but she’s competed in everything from the indoor 600-meter dash to the outdoor 3,000. Before signing with the Nittany Lions, Sheva laced up her spikes for Pennridge High in the state meet at Horace Ashenfelter Indoor Track.
When switching gears to soccer each summer, Sheva spends hours working with a personal trainer on refining her touches and finesse in the open field. A fan of Christen Press’ playing style, Sheva said no matter how many minutes she’s in the game she always tries to bring a spark and energize her teammates.
“The thing about Marissa beyond the scoring output is she’s doing a lot of things really well,” Dambach said. “Her positioning is good, she’s been good on both sides of the ball. She’s getting rewarded for all of her work.”
Ever humble, Sheva wasn’t quite sure what to make of her newfound national recognition at first. On Tuesday, TopDrawerSoccer named her to its Team of the Week, representing all of Division I.
“It was definitely surprising because I’m used to seeing, you know, Frannie Crouse, Megan Schafer — our big goal scorers,” she said. “I think that, honestly, I’m lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”
While Sheva may say luck is behind her early season hot streak, it’s clear she’s selling herself short. She belongs in the discussion of the Big Ten’s top midfielders, plain and simple.
Next up, No. 4 Penn State (3-0) travels to Morgantown for an enormous non-conference match versus No. 6 West Virginia (2-1) Saturday at 7 p.m.