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Penn State Women’s Soccer Seniors Leaving Their Legacy

This year’s Penn State women’s soccer seniors will be remembered as one of the most successful graduating classes in program history.

Maddie Nolf, Emily Ogle, Charlotte Williams, Marissa Sheva, and Alina Ortega Jurado have played in a combined 435 matches for the Nittany Lions heading into Sunday’s Big Ten quarterfinals at Jeffrey Field. All five are starters for Erica Dambach’s team.

Dambach led Penn State to its 19th Big Ten regular season title with a 2-0 win over Minnesota last Sunday. Afterward she discussed the lasting impact the seniors have had on the program.

“They were game changers,” Dambach said. “Upon their arrival, we won our first national championship. They were a huge part of that and continue to change this program. I think they’ve elevated the level and they’re establishing their legacy.”

Earlier this week, Dambach shared a heartwarming video of her eldest daughter, Addie, calling out the names of her soon-to-be-graduating “big sisters.”

Ogle, who was promoted to co-captain alongside Nolf on October 3, currently leads all active Division I players with 93 career games under her belt. All 93 of those appearances were starts.

Dambach has described the Strongsville, Ohio, native as the team’s “quarterback,” with the offense ultimately flowing through her in the central midfield. She’s also Penn State’s set piece specialist, scoring four of her five goals this season on penalty kicks.

“She’s the one who you want your team following. There wasn’t any shift in what she was doing or what she was all about, but it was the right thing to do,” Dambach said of promoting Ogle to captain.

Both Ogle and Nolf redshirted in 2016 in order to represent the U.S. at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea. Dambach said she’s extremely proud of Nolf’s development both on and off the field.

“Maddie Nolf is an incredible young woman,” Dambach said. “She’s grown into one of the best leaders that I’ve seen in this program.”

Ogle, Nolf, and Williams celebrate another Big Ten regular season crown.

Kaleigh Riehl, who starts on defense alongside Nolf, described her innate ability to bring the team together and keep everyone focused on the task at hand.

“She’s super genuine and really cares about everyone on the team,” Riehl said. “I think she really motivates everyone around her and brings out the best in people.”

Nolf, née Elliston, married Penn State wrestler Jason Nolf this summer in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. Both have won national championships during their collegiate careers and are undeniably positive influences on their respective locker rooms.

“Those two are winners,” Dambach said. “They’re winners in every way in life. They give themselves to the team. That’s the biggest piece for me is that they serve others.”

Nolf isn’t ready to think about the possibility of playing her last game at Jeffrey Field. After shutting out the Golden Gophers and hoisting the first of what she hopes will be two Big Ten trophies this season, she didn’t allow herself to go there just yet.

“I haven’t really thought about it and I don’t want to,” Nolf said. “I just try to enjoy every moment. It was another fun opportunity to be with my teammates. I love every time I get to play with them.”

Sheva tries to thread a pass to one of her teammates against Minnesota.

Sheva’s first goal of the season was a 48th minute game-winner against Rutgers. It helped vault the Nittany Lions into first place in the Big Ten standings. The midfielder from Sellersville, Pennsylvania, had a pair of two-goal games as a junior.

Dambach highlighted the two-sport athlete’s importance to the starting lineup earlier this season, observing how her distance running background seemingly gives her another gear late in games.

“There’s just an energy that she brings,” Dambach said. “Her engine is obviously beyond anything I’ve seen before. She presents a different piece on the field as a winger getting into inside spaces. She’s an irreplaceable piece of the puzzle for us.”

Williams, a former competitive skier from Rochester, New York, has been a mainstay in Penn State’s midfield throughout her career. Her ability to finish with either foot has made her a dangerous goal-scorer. She’s found the back of the net 15 times so far in a Penn State uniform.

“Char is so creative,” defender Ellie Jean said. “She’s always up for the battle and she just wants to win. She’s so competitive. I think her energy just fills the team. She’s a great leader.”

Williams commands plenty of attention on the ball.

Ortega Jurado, who hails from Waldgirmes, Germany, has played every field position at one point or another during her Penn State career. Now occupying the center back spot next to Riehl, she has proven herself as one of the Big Ten’s most uniquely gifted players.

“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.”

Jean arrived on campus with Sheva, Williams, and Ortega Jurado in 2015, but has one season of eligibility remaining next fall. She summed up her feelings on the senior class following Wednesday’s practice.

“It’s going to be really sad to see them leave,” she said. “They are such great leaders and such great role models. They’re always trying to help the people around them get better.”

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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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