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Alina Ortega Jurado’s Value Unquestioned For Penn State Women’s Soccer

Alina Ortega Jurado is the most underappreciated player on this year’s Penn State women’s soccer team, and maybe even in the whole Big Ten.

Head coach Erica Dambach and a host of Ortega Jurado’s teammates always speak highly of the senior, who’s played every field position at one point or another in her college career.

“She has a great soccer mind,” Dambach said. “Technically, she’s as good as anyone in the country. She’s one of the players on the team who can completely change the game.”

When the Nittany Lions claimed their 19th Big Ten regular season title with a 2-0 win over Minnesota Sunday, Ortega Jurado’s parents, Valentin and Maria, were in the stands cheering her on at Jeffrey Field.

It was the first time in three years that the Waldgirmes, Germany, native had played in front of her parents, who traveled nearly 4,000 miles to be in attendance for the occasion.

“They were super supportive from the beginning,” Ortega Jurado said. “They knew that I wanted to do this. They knew it was the right thing. They’ve watched every game that they could.”

Penn State won seven matches in a row to close out the regular season.

Ortega Jurado played in 20 matches with one start as a true freshman during Penn State’s run to its first national championship in 2015. She earned a Big Ten All-Freshman nod as a midfielder.

Now, with 83 games under her belt, she’s part of a veteran corps of leaders who Dambach can rely on when the lights are brightest. Ortega Jurado is every bit as influential on the team’s success as captains Maddie Nolf and Emily Ogle.

“She’s so good anywhere on the field,” fellow center back Kaleigh Riehl said. “She can literally play any position. She’s so solid and she’s so smart and savvy on the ball.”

Charlotte Williams, who was honored alongside Ortega Jurado and the rest of the seniors Sunday afternoon, wasted little time earlier this season when picking a player she thought deserved more hype.

“I think she’s been doing a phenomenal job,” Williams said. “We recognize her and respect her on our team.”

Ortega Jurado enters her final postseason with four career goals and 11 assists. She scored the equalizer in last year’s 3-1 road win over West Virginia in the Sweet 16.

Following Sunday’s shutout of the Golden Gophers, Kerry Abello said Ortega Jurado’s diagonal ball kept Minnesota off balance all game long in the driving wind. She facilitated the first of Abello’s two goals, delivering an incredibly placed pass from distance that hit the sophomore winger in stride.

“OJ can play that magical ball because she has such good range and such good accuracy,” Abello said.

Ortega Jurado watches Riehl drive the ball upfield against West Virginia.

As the conference’s top seed, Penn State will begin its quest for an eighth Big Ten tournament championship Sunday at Jeffrey Field. The Nittany Lions will find out their opponent at the conclusion of Wednesday’s action.

After hoisting the regular season trophy with her teammates and posing for plenty of photos, Ortega Jurado reflected on her Penn State experience so far.

“Whenever they bring in recruits or anyone asks me, ‘Do you wish you had done anything differently?’ I’m like, ‘Oh my god, no. I wish I had another four years and another four and another four.’ I could stay forever. I love this team and we just have great people here.”

Though Dambach has routinely praised Ortega Jurado and her impact on the team over the past few seasons, her remarks Sunday were particularly telling.

“I believe Alina has developed more in this program in these four years than any other player that we’ve had,” Dambach said. “Her growth as a teammate, as a person, and as a player has been just spectacular to be a part of. I couldn’t be more proud of her.”

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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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