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Amanda Dennis Leading Penn State Soccer’s Veteran Defense

Penn State women’s soccer goalkeeper Amanda Dennis has been a key part of the team’s veteran defense this season, reasserting herself as one of the Big Ten’s best shot-stoppers.

Dennis started all 21 matches as a true freshman in 2016, but was relegated to a backup role last season. When Rose Chandler unexpectedly left the program this summer, Dennis immediately stepped into her familiar place between the posts.

Toward the end of preseason camp, head coach Erica Dambach said the team was ready for Dennis to be its starting goalkeeper again. The junior from San Diego has combined with backup Sarafina Valenti for six shutouts so far this season.

“She was ready her first year, her second year, and her third year,” Dambach said. “I think she exudes confidence in her play. What I like is she plays with a smile. She calms our team down and she makes them feel comfortable.”

Dennis was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team to begin her career.

Dennis has taken over for Salina Williford as the “team mom,” according to senior captain Maddie Nolf, who said Dennis routinely makes banana bread and invites her teammates over to hang out when they have some rare downtime.

“She’s pretty constant,” Nolf said. “She’s a great person to be around, good energy, and kind of like a team mom.”

Dennis said she prides herself on her coachability as a player. She’s constantly watching film with assistant coach Tim Wassell and her fellow goalies. Dambach said Dennis has also taken freshman Kat Asman under her wing this season.

“One of the coolest things you see is that when Amanda does well and she makes a big save, Kat is right there celebrating that moment because she knows that she helped drive Amanda to get to that moment,” Dambach said.

While growing up in Southern California, Dennis said she especially enjoyed watching U.S. women’s national team goalie Hope Solo, who was a crucial member of the 2015 World Cup championship team.

“I think she’s an incredible goalkeeper,” Dennis said. “Just the way she played, it was so confident. That’s how I wanted to be. I was a little bit quieter when I was younger and had to grow into being a more loud, fierce goalkeeper, which took a lot of work.”

Dennis has been a fixture on the U.S. youth national teams, most recently participating in a U-19 training camp in her hometown this summer alongside teammates Frankie Tagliaferri and Shea Moyer.

Dennis looks for an outlet pass in a 4-0 win over Ohio State.

Redshirt junior forward Kristin Schnurr, who’s also been a breakout performer for the Nittany Lions this fall, said Dennis’ vocal leadership is vitally important to the team’s success.

“She’s awesome,” Schnurr said. “She’s always just so solid in the back and just a great voice on the field for us.”

Dennis isn’t afraid to tell it like it is, either. After the team’s 1-0 win over West Virginia in the season opener, she said the Nittany Lions “showed more grit” than the Mountaineers.

Dennis carries herself with poise in big matches, focusing only on what she can control. When the team finds itself playing from its defensive third, Dennis maintains her confidence and continues orchestrating the backline the exact same way.

“I don’t have the privilege of running up there and scoring a goal,” she said.  “So I can only control defensively what we do and give us good counter-attacking moments when the ball is in my hands.”

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About the Author

Ethan Kasales

Ethan’s a senior journalism major who grew up in Lemont, a few minutes from campus. When he’s not covering Penn State sports, you can usually find him golfing or teaching snowboarding at Tussey Mountain. Feel free to email him at [email protected]

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