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Penn State Men’s Soccer 2023 Season Preview

Penn State men’s soccer was crowned the Big Ten regular-season and Big Ten Tournament Champion in 2021 before falling from its pedestal and finishing the 2022 season ranked fifth in the conference with a 6-6-4 performance. With a new season approaching, the Nittany Lions are hungry to regain their dominance to clinch a title this fall, starting with their first game on Thursday, August 24, against Pitt.

The group had a busy offseason, featuring six players receiving Big Ten postseason honors, three players drafted in the MLS SuperDraft, and welcoming its largest incoming class of 10 freshmen.

Peter Mangione, Seth Kuhn, Femi Awodesu, Liam Butts, Ben Liscum, and Matthew Henderson all received nods following the 2022 season, proving to be a light as five of the six honorees will grace Jeffrey Field for another season.

Meanwhile, Kris Shakes, Alex Stevenson, Owen Elliot, and Butts each decided to return and use their fifth year of eligibility at Penn State. Shakes was named a preseason “Player to Watch” and will return for his role as starting goalkeeper, adding crucial stability between the poles with 14 career shutouts and a .726 save percentage last season.

Stevenson and Elliot will both bring veteran experience and leadership, with Stevenson being a key component of both the defense and midfield. Butts was selected in the MLS SuperDraft but made the decision to return and once again be a productive contributor in the attack, bringing speed and strength to rival his 17 points last season.

Penn State gathered the 10th-ranked recruiting class this year, further developing its global recruiting skill as five athletes were internationally based. While not only international recruiting is strengthening for the Nittany Lions, high-level prospects are saying “yes” to the Pennsylvanian program. Canadian defender Mohamed Cisset joins Penn State as the sixth-ranked player in the nation within the 2023 recruiting class.

The Nittany Lions will compete against the best of the best this season as they place their trust in seniors Mangione and Awodesu as captains. Mangione has been a consistent threat to opponents, powering Penn State’s offense with 21 goals, nine of which have served as game-winners. He was selected to the United Soccer Coaches Forwards to Watch List for the second consecutive year. On the back line, however, Awodesu holds down the defense as a center-back and still notched three goals and one assist through his 47 appearances.

With returning veteran experience, the Nittany Lions have a strong backbone for the 2023 season. Shakes is a dominant force in the net and can help the team go far this year with a performance mirroring his 2021 campaign display.

Only one of Penn State’s six losses came by more than one goal last season, perhaps shrinking the doubt that was felt in 2022 following a Big Ten double in 2021. With the combination of strong leaders and hungry, new faces with elite experience already under their belts, Penn State has an armory of talent to call upon in 2023.

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About the Author

Ashley Connington

Ashley is a sophomore studying journalism from New Jersey. She has the misfortune of rooting for the New York Giants, but at least they have Saquon! You can email [email protected] to send her ways to meet Saquon or watch her obsess over Harry Styles and Chelsea FC on twitter @ashconnington.

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