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Both Penn State Soccer Teams Receive Top-15 Preseason Rankings

Both Penn State men’s and women’s soccer will enter the fall with national recognition following strong spring seasons.

The United Soccer Coaches preseason poll has the women’s team at No. 10 nationally, while the men are ranked No. 11. Only three colleges — UNC, Clemson, and Georgetown — have better combined preseason rankings.

Erica Dambach and Penn State women’s soccer won the Big Ten regular-season title last April, although a semifinal loss to Iowa in the conference tournament controversially lowered their NCAA Tournament seed, leading to a Sweet 16 exit to No. 1 Florida State.

In the offseason, Dambach lost former captain Frankie Tagliaferri to Rutgers, which will hurt the Nittany Lions’ offense immensely in the coming season. However, the team added Boston College transfer Jill Jennings as Tagliaferri’s replacement for 2021. Experienced goalkeeper Morgan Messner from Boston University should help, too.

Penn State is the top-ranked team within the conference. Rutgers (No. 25) is the only other Big Ten team to appear in the rankings.

Meanwhile, Jeff Cook has the men’s program soaring to new heights. Now in his fourth year, Cook brought Penn State from a below-average Big Ten side to a bona fide national powerhouse.

The Nittany Lions remain the second-best Big Ten team behind Indiana, which has been a theme for the past few seasons during Cook’s tenure. However, the gap seems to be closing after Penn State took the Hoosiers to penalty kicks in last April’s Big Ten Championship game.

It is still unclear whether Cook will retain captain Brandon Hackenberg, as the center back could move on to Orlando City SC in the MLS. However, new signings Mani Diop and Sean Bettenhausen will provide an exciting, youthful flair to the side. Senior Dax Hoffman also announced he would stay one more season.

Both nationally ranked programs will get their seasons underway this month. The women will open all Penn State sports for the year when they host UMass on August 19, while the men host George Mason on April 26.

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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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