Is It Time For Penn State Women’s Soccer To Hit The Panic Button?
Penn State women’s soccer is 0-3 in the Big Ten.
No, the conference didn’t decide baseball would be played in the fall. Nor did the men’s basketball team’s flaming bus begin a month early.
Erica Dambach’s team, the defending regular-season champion that’s been picked to win that particular prize every year since 2003, has failed to earn even a single point in the first three matches of the year.
So, how does this happen?
To Dambach, the solution is clear. Following the loss to the Buckeyes, her press conference lasted a full two minutes and 31 seconds. In that span, the head coach said “chances” 10 times.
It doesn’t take an analyst to see that some of these chances needed to have been put away, and that is exactly what the team needs to work on at the training field this week.
Simply put, this is a slump. And typically, slumps begin and end with offensive production.
“We got our chances, and we didn’t take our chances. In other games, we get those types of chances and put them in the back of the net. We created too many chances to not put one in the back of the net,” Dambach said following Sunday’s loss to the Buckeyes.
The Nittany Lions weren’t struggling up until the past few weeks, going 6-1 in the non-conference slate, including a win over No. 3 Virginia — on the road no less. However, the college season is short enough to put the team in panic mode.
Dambach said that she couldn’t fault the effort of the team, adding that players need to each get better and grow in belief.
However, why did that belief ever leave the squad after they were ranked in the top 10 following a blistering non-conference slate? The Nittany Lions aren’t used to being in this position, especially considering the fact that the team’s ambitions lie with the Virginias of the world, not Northwestern.
Just weeks later, Penn State is playing its worst brand of soccer for at least the past two years. Now, the Nittany Lions are a far cry from the group that beat the Cavaliers in the 4-2 shootout.
Dambach’s squad could have been excused from losing to Rutgers in the Big Ten opener. Last spring, the Nittany Lions fell to the Scarlet Knights to open the season, and then went on to win the conference and make a run to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.
There could even be the “things didn’t go our way” argument after the second consecutive 2-1 defeat, which came to Northwestern. However, that game was the Big Ten home opener and the Wildcats’ only win to date. And now, after losing to a respectable-yet-outmatched Ohio State squad to open at 0-3, it may be time to hit the panic button.
Penn State will be on the hunt for its first conference win on Thursday at Wisconsin. Should it come up short, the squad will head to Minnesota on Sunday.
It’s do-or-die time for a team that shouldn’t neeed to worry about its NCAA Tournament chances, much less its Big Ten Tournament chances (only eight of the 14 teams qualify to the conference postseason). The match at Wisconsin, set for an 8 p.m. kickoff on BTN, is a massive chance for the Nittany Lions to rebound against a team sitting in an enviable position in the standings.
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