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Penn State Women’s Soccer Poised For Success With Returning Stars

Penn State women’s soccer will likely enter the 2020 season with one of the better rosters in the country. The Nittany Lions return to Jeffrey Field after reaching the NCAA Sweet 16 last fall, their 25th straight appearance in the national tournament.

Women’s soccer student-athletes began returning to campus last week to start preparing for the upcoming season. With around six weeks until the season kicks off, let’s see how the Nittany Lions might line up this fall.


This season, Penn State will be without former stars such as Ellie Jean, Kaleigh Riehl, and Amanda Dennis, among others. Despite losing much of the group’s core, head coach Erica Dambach will welcome back nine players who made at least 20 appearances last season.

The lack of experience will affect the defense the most. Currently, there’s no defined successor to PSV defender Ellie Jean at right back. The backline is currently in flux without many players penciled in, opening up an opportunity to incoming freshmen.


The goalkeeper is typically the position with the most clarity when it comes to lineup decisions. However, that won’t be the case for Penn State in 2020.

Three-year starter Amanda Dennis left to join the Houston Dash this offseason, leaving behind a battle for the No. 1 spot.

Based on 2019 appearances, the heir would be Katherine Asman. The redshirt sophomore got the nod over Sarafina Valenti when Dennis was injured last fall. The Nittany Lions will need to have experience in the back during the early weeks of the season, which should give Asman the edge.

Julia Dohle will be an option after taking a redshirt season last fall. Dohle, the starter for the USA U-20 women’s national team, enters her first season of eligibility wearing No. 1 for Penn State. That usually denotes a team’s starting keeper, however, Dohle earned the same number during her redshirt year.


Junior Caitlin Haislip is the only true known quantity in the backline for Penn State. The Munster, Indiana native earned the starting center back spot in the sixth game of the 2019 season and hasn’t looked back since. Meanwhile, it’s unclear who will be her partner this season.

Kate Wiesner will line up as the left back in Dambach’s 4-2-3-1. The sophomore will hope to be a factor for the duration of the season after an injury sidelined her for most of 2019.

The right back depth chart is anyone’s guess at the moment. However, Anna Carson gets the nod here. Carson is the only true defender from the 2020 recruiting class. Lucky for her, Carson will get the chance to enter the squad early into her career in Happy Valley.

Front Six

The 4-2-3-1 formation allows for a lot of fluidity in attack, which includes fluctuation in starting formations.

The first choice group will see reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Ally Schlegel as the lone striker. Kerry Abello, Frankie Tagliaferri, and Payton Linnehan will support Schlegel as the second line of attack, while defensive midfielders Cori Dyke and Sam Coffey will round out the front six.

Simply put, this is one of the most scary and experienced groups in women’s college soccer. All six presumed starters earned Big Ten honors last season for an offense that scored over two goals per game. With one more year under their belt, Schlegel and Co. will be the best offense in the conference.

Jordan Canniff will likely resume her role as a super-sub for the second year running. Canniff played in 21 matches while only starting seven in her first year. The sophomore is a versatile piece to the attack and will be a spark off the bench for Dambach.


Penn State should always expect to be near the top of the Big Ten and to make the national tournament at a bare minimum.

If the attack is flowing and players step up on defense, the Nittany Lions could be traveling to Cary, North Carolina in December for the College Cup.

While the team shouldn’t look too far forward, it would be reasonable for Dambach to set the expectations at a Big Ten finals appearance and a return to the Sweet 16.

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About the Author

Otis Lyons

Otis is a sophomore majoring in print journalism and is one of Onward State's associate editors. He lives just north of San Francisco, and is a diehard San Jose Earthquakes fan. Feel free to send over your soccer hot takes to his twitter @otisnlyons1 and instagram @otislyons

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