Freshmen Key For Women’s Soccer This Season
Penn State women’s soccer lost its captains to the pros. Five likely starters are forgoing this season to play in the U-20 World Cup. The narrative has been discussed so many times.
The team itself has never been too keen on excuses, though, even with this season’s slow start. With all these absences, a drop off in play was expected.
As the Big Ten season gets underway, a huge drop off hasn’t been evident in the Nittany Lions’ play. An essential part of that is the freshman class stepping up and filling in key roles.
The biggest gap left on the field was at goalkeeper. Freshman Amanda Dennis, while not always perfect, has stepped into the role of starting keeper confidently at an important time.
Following the exit of three-year starter Britt Eckerstrom, Rose Chandler was expected to take the mantle. Chandler, however, was called up by the United States U-20 National Team for the World Cup in November, meaning she had to miss the season for the Nittany Lions.
We didn’t know much about Dennis initially aside from her experience with various U.S. youth national teams. After a rocky start to the season, she has posted shutouts in three of the last four games.
“I think she learned some valuable lessons early,” Coach Erica Dambach said. “She’s doing video and she’s putting all the work in. She’s putting all the time and effort in she needs to be great. I think she’s got a bright future.”
Dennis is the only freshman on the roster to start all nine games so far this season. That doesn’t mean other freshmen are lacking — every game it seems like another positive storyline for a young player.
The season kicked off with German midfield Laura Freigang picking up Big Ten Freshman Player of the Week honors after scoring the opening goal against then No. 6 West Virginia.
Freigang wasn’t the only Nittany Lion to be named Big Ten Freshman Player of the Week. This week, Laura Suero shared the honor with Rutgers midfielder Nicole Whitley.
Suero came up huge on Sunday, scoring the game winning goal against Wisconsin late in the second half. The freshman defender is yet to start a game, but she’s caught the coach’s eye.
“Laura Suero in particular is a real trustworthy player,” Dambach said. “She kind of gives a pure effort. A real blue-collar player, gives an honest effort everyday. Certainly deserving of the opportunity and is taking advantage of it.”
Another international player, Grace Fisk, has factored in on a back line that has rotated through multiple freshmen and experienced veterans Elizabeth Ball and Brittany Basinger. Fisk has started in eight games so far and had the crucial put-away goal against La Salle on September 11.
Behind the scenes, different freshmen are earning some playing time on the field. That work on the practice field paid off for Emma Hasco this weekend and, in return, the trust paid off for Dambach.
“I think Emma Hasco was one that stood out for us,” Dambach said. “She had an incredible performance and in fact, changed the game against Wisconsin, to be honest, with her air presence.”
So many freshmen showing potential for big roles is only good for the Nittany Lions at this point. With just one graduating senior leaving and proven veterans returning to the team next season, interesting competition could arise for starting spots. Penn State is in good hands for now and moving forward these next couple seasons.