Penn State Women’s Soccer Unfazed In COVID-19-Affected Season

It has been a wacky year with seasons shifted and a less-than-normal environment for Penn State women’s soccer to play in.

But given the circumstances, the Nittany Lions have shown that they can still play an impressive season, regardless of the conditions.

“I think what it’s done is bring the group closer together, and I think what happens off the field obviously impacts you on the field as well,” head coach Erica Dambach said. “They’ve gone through their ups and downs through the course of the fall. [The team] kind of got torn apart a little bit. They bent but did not break.”

The season has proven to go really well for Dambach’s squad, yielding a No. 6 standing in the nation. The team hasn’t let that ranking get to its heads, though. The squad has worked hard in preparation for each challenge that gets thrown its way.

“I think that they’re being responsible and taking all the measures they can to ensure that we can continue to have success on the field and get opportunities to have success,” Dambach said. “So credit goes to the players. They are being put in tough conditions, and they just keep growing together and getting better together.”

It’s not just the work they put into preparing for each game that has helped the Nittany Lions get to where they are now. The precautions amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have kept players safe, healthy, and ready to play each match.

“It’s weird, I mean obviously you see how sad it is for Michigan and all these other teams that are kind of struggling with that,” striker Ally Schlegel said. “I think we’ve been pretty diligent about taking care of those things off the field, and I think we’re supported by so many people at the university in terms of all the coronavirus things.”

Although COVID-19 safety is still something that the team and staff need to keep in mind, it hasn’t been a burden to how the team has been working.

“It’s been difficult. But to be honest with you, when we’re on the field, like when we’re at practice, it’s like it doesn’t even exist,” Schlegel said. “I’m not really thinking about this as the ‘rona season’ or anything like that. I still feel like we have the same mentality, which we had in the fall, to be honest, while we were still practicing.”

Moving forward with COVID-19 precautions, Dambach doesn’t see them causing many issues. The focus isn’t on worrying about the future, especially since the team is in a dead period and doesn’t need to worry about future recruitment. Instead, the Nittany Lions are looking forward to the rest of the Big Ten postseason tournament, where they will face Iowa next.

“We can just focus on our team and be in the moment. After being shut down for a year and these guys having to train for 13 months, it’s kind of nice to be in the moment. It’s kind of nice to enjoy the moment and not have to worry about the future,” Dambach said. “Our goal right now as a group, and individually for me as well, it’s just to really enjoy this ride with them because they’ve certainly earned all the success that they’re having right now.”

Amid the heaviness of the COVID-19 pandemic, Penn State women’s soccer has still found ways to grow as a team and learn from each other. With its season being pushed to the spring, the team has had plenty of opportunities to work on its team chemistry.

“They came together, grew together, and I think that’s what this spring’s been about, making sure that the ebbs and flows are going in the right direction,” Dambach said. “We know that the times are challenging. We know that mentally it’s a little bit exhausting at times. But I have to say, I’m incredibly proud of them.”

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About the Author

Mackenna Yount

Mackenna is a junior food science major from Manitou Springs, Colorado, and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She loves food, is addicted to coffee, and can give you random facts or bad jokes that you didn't ask for. Ask her to bake gluten-free goodies so she has an excuse to try out new cupcake flavors. Mackenna can be contacted via Twitter @mackennayount (especially if you want to show off your best dad jokes) or you can shoot her an email at [email protected].

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