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Penn State Women’s Soccer Continues To Churn Out Pro Players In NWSL

When the National Women’s Soccer League kicks off its fifth season Saturday, the presence of Penn Staters will be clear.

12 Nittany Lions have been named to the opening day rosters of seven different NWSL. That tally is good for second among all schools with alumni in the league, behind North Carolina, and makes up almost half of the 25 former Big Ten players in the league.

    • Whitney Church (2011-14) — Washington Spirit defender
    • Nickolette Driesse (2015-16) — Orlando Pride midfielder
    • Britt Eckerstrom (2011-15) — Portland Thorns goalkeeper
    • Maddy Evans (2009-12) — Orlando Pride midfielder
    • Maya Hayes (2010-13) — Sky Blue FC forward
    • Ali Krieger (2003-06) — Orlando Pride defender
    • Joanna Lohman (2000-03) — Washington Spirit midfielder
    • Alyssa Naeher (2006-09) — Chicago Red Stars goalkeeper
    • Christine Nairn (2009-12) — Seattle Reign midfielder
    • Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez (2012-15) — Sky Blue FC midfielder
    • Mallory Weber (2012-15) — Portland Thorns forward
    • Tiffany Weimer (2002-05) — Boston Breakers forward


Not only have members of the program been featured prominently on NWSL teams in the past few seasons, they’ve also been able to make an impact on the women’s professional game.

Both Ali Krieger and Alyssa Naeher have been part of the United States women’s national team player pool for a number of years, with Naeher becoming the first choice goalkeeper in recent months. In the league, Krieger was named to the NWSL Best XI in three of the past four seasons and Naeher was named the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year in 2014. Last season, Penn State legend Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez earned her first professional accolade when she was named NWSL Rookie of the Year.

Since Erica Dambach became the team’s head coach in 2007, Penn State has been able to consistently bring in top talent and develop them into professional players during their time in Happy Valley.

A Nittany Lion has been selected in each of the NWSL’s five drafts. Only two other programs, Stanford and Virginia, can also make that claim. With a number of current players racking up postseason awards and getting called to U.S. youth national teams, that’s a streak that is likely to continue for years to come.

The coaching staff’s main focus has been key in that development, which Maya Hayes believes is a big part of her success.

“They care more about who you are as a person when you leave that program than who you are as a player,” Hayes told GoPSUSports. “It wasn’t just a number going through their program. They really care about who you are after you leave and the impact you make on the world after you leave Penn State. That was definitely felt. They did a great job instilling the right mentality in me life-wise and soccer-wise.”

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About the Author

Steve Connelly

Steve Connelly is a senior majoring in PR and an editor for Onward State. He is a proud native of the state of New Jersey, and yes, he is literal trash. He is a soccer fan, nap enthusiast, and chicken tender connoisseur. He tries to be a photographer sometimes despite one of his photos inspiring the name of his future sports bar, the Blurry Zamboni. You can follow him on Twitter @slc2o (feel free to slide), email him at [email protected], or come say hi to him in his office, the Irving's basement.


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