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Penn State Women’s Soccer Enlivened By Tagliaferri’s Transformation

Last season at Jeffrey Field, Frankie Tagliaferri could be seen holding the ball up for her teammates, dashing into the penalty area to meet crosses, and chasing long passes as a center forward.

This year, she’s the one playing the passes — and playing them with style — as an attacking midfielder for the Nittany Lions. She is now Penn State’s playmaker, a number 10, the creative attacker that sits behind the forwards, plays inventive passes, and loves to dribble at defenders.

The junior scored seven goals for the Nittany Lions as a center forward last season. But head coach Erica Dambach has dropped her into midfield this year where she’s more likely to start Penn State’s attacks than she is to finish them.

“Last year I was more of a role in the nine, the center forward, and now I’m kind of all over the place,” Tagliaferri said of her new position, which allows her to drift and play where the space is instead of leading the line up front.

Dambach’s decision has paid off. Tagliaferri’s notched nine assists already this season, and she’s chipped in four goals of her own. Against Michigan State last month, she tied Ali Krieger’s record for the most assists in a single game with four.

Tagliaferri’s at her best when she drops deep to collect the ball, turns, beats a few defenders, and slips a killer pass to a forward or winger, as she did against Purdue to assist Ally Schlegel’s 10th goal of the season.

“Frankie’s an awesome playmaker,” said winger Kerry Abello, who is often on the receiving end of Tagliaferri’s passes. “Her ability to play a final ball has completely opened up the game for us.”

Schlegel’s rise and scintillating form as a center forward has contributed to Tagliaferri’s success in a deeper-lying role. The redshirt sophomore currently leads the Big Ten with 10 goals. Choose any of Penn State’s 32 goals on the season, and it’s likely that one or both players were involved in its creation.

Tagliaferri serves the dual role of a mentor and an attacking partner for the young forward, who missed the entirety of last season due to injury. They’ve formed a dangerous provider-finisher connection up top for the Nittany Lions.

The pair’s paths barely crossed before its members arrived in Happy Valley, though they played against one another at several youth national team camps.

“We’ve always known of each other, we never really played together, though,” Tagliaferri said.

Schlegel returned to Colorado to train over the summer, while Tagliaferri spent her break training with Kerry Abello in State College. Tagliaferri said the two kept in touch and worked together when Schlegel returned before preseason, which allowed them to build a unique attacking chemistry.

“She has a lot of experience in the college game, she’s a beast,” Schlegel said of Tagliaferri. “I’ve just been trying to learn from her and learn all the movements she makes.”

Schlegel stressed Tagliaferri’s vocal presence on the field as a key to the duo’s success up front.

“I think we’ve made a good little combo because of the communication that we’ve had,” Schlegel said.

Penn State (9-6-1, 5-3-0 Big Ten) will count on Tagliaferri to continue as a creative force as they attempt to recover from a midseason slump that dropped them from the national rankings and handed them three conference losses. The Nittany Lions face Illinois (7-6, 1-5 Big Ten) Thursday at Jeffrey Field before hosting Northwestern in their final home match of the regular season.

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About the Author

Jim Davidson

Jim is a junior English and history major and the features editor for Onward State. He, like most of the Penn State undergraduate population, is from 'just outside Philadelphia,' and grew up in Spring City, Pennsylvania. He covers a variety of Penn State topics, but spends nine months of every year waiting for the start of soccer season. You can reach him via email at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @messijim.

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