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Penn State Women’s Soccer Veteran Trio On Fire During Three-Game Win Streak

It wasn’t easy, but No. 13 Penn State women’s soccer got the job done on Thursday against No. 24 Indiana.

The Hoosiers took the lead in the 52nd minute, but two goals in the following 10 minutes sealed a close win for the Nittany Lions. Once again, Erica Dambach’s veteran attacking trio were the stars in the comeback effort.

Frankie Tagliaferri struck first, equalizing from the top of the box on her own rebound.

The winner came from the other two sides of the formidable attacking triangle, as Ally Schlegel found Sam Coffey on a decisive through-ball. The senior made no mistake on a clinical finish.

“The ball was played in to [Schlegel], and she is so good with her back to goal,” Coffey said regarding her goal. “We work so much on her ability back to goal in practice, her ability to flick me or Frank or one of the wide players on. I saw there was a little space wide, and she flicked it into me. The keeper was a little out — I maybe tried to go a little more to the far post, but it wound up working out.”

“We train that play pretty religiously during practice,” Coffey added.

Seniors Coffey and Tagliaferri have connected for years now in Happy Valley, but the emergence of Schlegel, a redshirt sophomore, in the past two seasons has given birth to an incredibly dynamic and resilient attack. They proved that on Thursday when Indiana had the lead.

“We pride ourselves on moments like that. Our group is unbelievably resilient,” Coffey said. “Usually, when you go a goal down, it’s crushing. We just looked each other in the eye and said, ‘We got this.’ This is our turf and we don’t lose here.”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Nittany Lions on Thursday even before Indiana scored. Penn State recorded only one shot on target in the first half despite dominating. Indiana held a low block and then tallied off of a set piece, a classic example of just how cruel the sport can be.

In the end, Hannah Nemeth’s go-ahead goal for the Hoosiers sparked Penn State’s killer instinct.

“Oftentimes in these games, you need a little shot in the arm. Unfortunately, it came in the way of a goal,” Dambach said. “We felt we were keeping possession, but we didn’t have the urgency we needed until they put one in the back of the net.”

The team can beat opponents in countless ways, but the three most important threats have accounted for seven of the team’s 10 goals thus far, as well as five of the seven assists.

“Schlegel can play-make, Frankie can play-make, I can play-make. There are so many goal-scorers, and that makes us lethal as a team,” Coffey said.

Penn State’s attacking versatility makes things easier for Dambach when things go wrong as well, something that Coffey said was “unscoutable” for the opposition. This was on full display when midfielder Cori Dyke had to leave Thursday’s game late on, and Schlegel, a striker, dropped back to cover for her.

“[Schlegel] did a very good job playmaking for us. She was receiving balls with her back to goal. She had to hold it up. That’s a tough skill,” Dambach said. “She also has the ability to play the six [defensive mid]. When Cori had to go out, we were searching for another option and ‘Schlegs’ has done it. Her air presence is as good as it comes, so that was the piece we needed from her, and she did a good job.”

Dambach’s team will next face Michigan State, another test where a low block is probable. She is confident that the team will continue its steady progression and find more ways to win games.

“I think this team is slowly growing in their belief,” Dambach said. “Losing in your opening game knocks you down a few pegs, but I think that could’ve been the best thing for us. It was a reality check after only playing against ourselves for the past however many months.”

“I’m pleased, although it was a bit of a circus at the end,” Dambach added with a smile.

Penn State was once again reminded on Thursday that it won’t always be easy in the Big Ten. The team may be “unscoutable,” but it isn’t hard to pick out three important numbers on the field: 17, 19, and 34.

In order for the team to have success down the line against the likes of Michigan, or in tournament play when giants such as Florida State or UNC, the front three must lead by example.

“The key to this season is that they figure out how to bring the team along together,” Dambach said regarding Tagliaferri, Coffey, and Schlegel. “Those are wonderful individual players. They are just trying to figure out how to do it together. With each game, I see a little progress.”

Penn State is brimming with confidence heading into Sunday’s contest with Michigan State, and the three veterans are a big reason for that.

“When we are able to connect cohesively, there is no defense in the country that can stop us,” Coffey said.

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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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