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Penn State Men’s Soccer ‘Focusing On Performance’ Amid Challenging Non-Conference Schedule

After winning the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles last season, many fans expected Penn State men’s soccer to get off to a hot start in 2022. Unfortunately, the season didn’t kick off as smoothly as the team would’ve hoped.

The Nittany Lions tied Rhode Island 1-1 after a late equalizer from the Rams and dropped the next game 1-0 to No. 15 Syracuse. Despite preparing to face another ranked team on Friday in the No. 18 West Virginia Mountaineers, Seth Kuhn and the rest of the team aren’t too worried.

“I think this is such an important time this season to learn what your team needs to do better, and that’s something we’ve harped on, as much as it hurts to not win games,” Kuhn said. “It’s kind of what makes great teams, is figuring out what’s going wrong.”

Kuhn said the team could’ve scheduled easier games for the beginning of the season to increase the chances of starting 3-0, but acknowledged the Nittany Lions need to play talented teams in order to improve.

Head coach Jeff Cook expressed a similar sentiment, acknowledging that the most important part of the season comes with Big Ten play and that the team must stay focused and continue to improve ahead of the conference schedule.

“Despite the frustrations of the first two games, there’s a long way to go,” said Cook. “Right now, what we really want to emphasize to our players is that we’re at the stage of the season where we can really focus on performance.”

Goalkeeper Kris Shakes only allowed one goal through 29 shots against Syracuse, much of which he credited to the defense. However, he believes the team can improve as a whole even further with a change of mentality.

“We’re trying to be dogs, you know? That’s something that’s been slipping the last few games — the desire to really want to compete — but I think it’s gonna be good [Friday],” Shakes said.

The Nittany Lions’ next challenge will be the Mountaineers, who are currently ranked No. 18 in the country following a loss to No. 7 Pittsburgh. Cook explained how dangerous he thinks this West Virginia team is and how the Nittany Lions will need to play an aggressive defensive game to win on Friday.

“I think confidence in possession will be really vital to our game development,” Cook said.

Kuhn echoed Cook’s thoughts, stating that the Nittany Lions will need to play on the front foot against a talented West Virginia team.

“We’re gonna look to get after them in the high press, which is something that you’ll see tomorrow night,” Kuhn said. “Ultimately, I think we just have to have composure when we have the ball.”

Cook and the Nittany Lions will continue their tough non-conference schedule against No. 18 West Virginia on Friday, September 2. Kickoff at Jeffrey Field is set for 7 p.m.

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About the Author

Mikey DeAngelis

Mikey DeAngelis is a junior majoring in film production who is also serving as one of Onward State's visual editors. During his free time, he enjoys making content for his YouTube channel. Mikey loves Philly sports, traveling and hiking in National Parks, and watching movies. To reach Mikey, feel free to reach out on Twitter (@mikey_deangelis) or by email ([email protected]).

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