Five Penn State Women’s Soccer Alumnae To Participate In 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

It’s gameday down under.

Penn State women’s soccer is well-represented in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and boasts five Nittany Lion alumnae representing their respective countries in the international tournament that begins Thursday.

Alyssa Naeher, Rocky Rodriguez, Olivia Smith, Marissa Sheva, and Laura Freigang were each named to their nation’s rosters ahead of the global battle to hoist the World Cup on Sunday, August 20.

“Having five women representing five different nations in the 2023 Women’s World Cup is truly exciting, and a testament to the type of athletes that we are cultivating here at Penn State,” head coach Erica Dambach said in a release. “Alyssa, Rocky, Laura, Marisa and Olivia have each contributed so much to the growth of this program over the years, and we can’t wait to see all that they will accomplish in Australia and New Zealand. I wish all five of them the best of luck as they compete on the game’s biggest stage.” 

Naeher, a Nittany Lion goalkeeper from 2006 to 2009, became the first-ever Penn State World Champion after clinching the U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2008 with the United States. Since then, Naeher has been named to three FIFA Women’s World Cup rosters, two Olympic rosters, and has served as the starting goalkeeper for the United States since 2016.

The Bridgeport, Connecticut, native holds the all-time save record in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and is the most-capped goalkeeper in the NWSL.

At Penn State, Naeher earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors, a spot on the MAC Hermann Trophy finalist list, and several All-American designations.

The Portland Thorns and Costa Rica’s midfield linchpin, Rodriguez will appear in her second FIFA Women’s World Cup. Rodriguez led Penn State to its first National Championship in 2015, received the 2015 MAC Hermann Trophy, and was drafted into the NWSL with the No. 2 selection in 2016.

In 2015, Rodriguez was named to Cost Rica’s first-ever World Cup team following the country’s debut at the international tournament. The midfielder scored Costa Rica’s first FIFA Women’s World Cup goal in the team’s group-stage matchup with Spain. Now, Rodriguez is Costa Rica’s all-time leading goal scorer with 55 and is the standout player of the group.

An 18-year-old from Whitby, Canada, Smith will represent Canada ahead of her sophomore year at Penn State. Smith is the youngest player to ever register a cap with the Canadian Women’s National Team and did so at age 15 in 2019. She was named the Canadian Youth International Player of the Year in 2019, too.

Smith recorded 16 appearances, one goal, and one assist in her first season in Happy Valley under Dambach. The midfielder will join a Canadian team aiming to avenge its Round of 16 exit in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Sheva will join Ireland’s national team for her first FIFA Women’s World Cup appearance with just four national caps under her belt. A native of Sellersville, Pennsylvania, Sheva maintains dual citizenship in Ireland and the United States and was first named to Ireland’s national squad in February.

The midfielder was a part of the Nittany Lions’ 2015 National Championship run, and she contributed three goals and three assists to the team that season. Sheva most recently signed a one-year contract with the Washington Spirit in November.

Freigang, a Nittany Lion from 2016 to 2017, spent just two seasons in Happy Valley and forewent her remaining eligibility to pursue a professional soccer career in Germany. Since then, Freigang earned her first cap with the German national team in 2020 and has recorded 12 goals through 20 appearances at forward.

In her first call-up to the national team, Freigang will attempt to help Germany move beyond its quarterfinal retirement in the 2019 FIFA World Cup following a loss to Sweden.

A complete schedule for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup can be found here to keep up with the United States, Costa Rica, Canada, Ireland, and Germany’s matches throughout the tournament.

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About the Author

Keeley Lamm

Keeley is a senior from Richmond, Virginia, majoring in journalism. She's an associate editor and talks about awesome stuff on our podcast, Podward State, too. You can usually find her on a porch, but if not, feel free to contact Keeley on Twitter @keeleylammm or [email protected].

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