Penn State Women’s Soccer Sophomores Start Season Strong
Kerry Abello, Shea Moyer, and Frankie Tagliaferri combined to score four of Penn State’s seven goals during the opening weekend of the women’s soccer season.
After spending last fall getting acclimated to the college game, this trio of sophomores took a big step forward for the Nittany Lions in preseason camp. All three made their first career starts over the weekend as Penn State beat West Virginia and Duquesne.
Moyer scored the game-winning goal against the Mountaineers in the 80th minute of a rainy 1-0 contest Friday night. It was her first time finding the back of the net as a Nittany Lion.
Two days later, Tagliaferri and Abello were key parts of a second-half scoring outburst versus the Dukes in which Penn State tallied five goals. Tagliaferri, who hails from Colts Neck, NJ, and grew up idolizing Mia Hamm, notched her second multi-goal game on the college level Sunday.
“The sky’s the limit for Frankie,” Coach Erica Dambach said postgame. “She’s working, she’s growing, she’s getting better. I’m proud of her and obviously excited she could put a few in the back of the net.”
Tagliaferri’s four goals as a true freshman in 2017 tied her for third on the team. She came off the bench in all 24 of Penn State’s games last season, with the program reaching the NCAA quarterfinals before losing 4-0 to eventual national champions Stanford.
Starting center back Kaleigh Riehl praised Tagliaferri’s work ethic a few weeks ago during camp.
“I mean, Frankie’s a beast,” Riehl said with a laugh. “All through spring she’s been working on what she needs to focus on and carried that into summer. She’s looking really sharp.”
Casey Ballow, the fourth sophomore on Penn State’s roster, played in her third career game Sunday but has yet to make a significant impact. Ballow won the 2016 Maryland 3A state title with Urbana High School.
Abello and Alina Ortega Jurado earned assists on Tagliaferri’s first goal against Duquesne, a beautiful redirect from 2 yards out. Three minutes later, senior midfielder Marissa Sheva found Tagliaferri from close range again.
“Another player who’s come into her own over the past nine months,” Dambach said of Abello. “She’s fit, she’s healthy, she’s driving the standard right now, and I see her up and down that left flank torturing opponents.”
Abello, who’s known for her spectacular flip throw-ins, made another appearance on the stat sheet in the 70th minute of a 6-0 beatdown of the Dukes, finding the upper right corner of the net after collecting a pass from freshman Kelli Beiler.
“I must have been around 9 or 10 when I first learned how to do the flip throw-in,” Abello said. “I used to be a gymnast before I was a soccer player, so I’ve been able to do the front handspring forever.”
Abello spent her summer training with the Red Stars Reserves of the WPSL in her home state of Illinois. The Batavia standout lined up at center back in Chicago despite primarily playing a forward/wing position for the Nittany Lions.
“There were a lot of first-team players from the Red Stars playing with the Reserves throughout the summer,” Abello said. “That was an amazing opportunity just to learn from them.
“I got to play center back next to the starting center back of the U-23 Mexican national team, which was phenomenal and I learned a ton at a new position.”
Moyer also played in the WPSL this summer, joining teammate Sarafina Valenti, a backup goalkeeper, with the Lehigh Valley Tempest near Moyer’s hometown of Wyomissing, PA.
Moyer, Abello, and Tagliaferri are all quite familiar with the U.S. youth national teams, having represented the United States at various training camps and competitions around the world. In fact, Moyer and Abello played on the same U-18 team at the 2016 Women’s International Cup in Ireland.
“[Moyer] had a wonderful offseason,” Dambach said. “I challenged her this past season in some of the things that she needed to work on — and credit to her, in the December break went after it, got herself fit, had a great spring, and is looking good right now.”
The Nittany Lions (2-0) return to Jeffrey Field Saturday when they face No. 2 UCLA at 4 p.m. in a televised match on ESPNU.
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Michigan will return to the White Out after a blowout loss to then-No. 2 Penn State in 2017.
“In a town like State College, that is so transient, where people come and go all the time, it’s really important to have things and places that stay the same.”
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