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Penn State Men’s Soccer Leaning On Freshman Talent To Round Out Depth Chart

Penn State took down Le Moyne 4-0 on Sunday afternoon, with four players hitting the back of the net. The dominant win came just three days after the season-opening tie against Pitt, and despite the quick turnaround, the team achieved the same intensity.

“The first step is recovering,” head coach Jeff Cook said. “Our practices were geared towards getting the guys physically ready to prepare and I thought that showed over the 90 minutes today. That was number one. We wanted to get back to the same intensity.”

Along with the squad needing to recover before another match in two days, 10 new freshman players on the team have to adjust to collegiate life.

“It’s been great to have their energy, their enthusiasm, and it’s been a huge transition,” Cook said. “Some of our guys are coming from clubs where maybe they don’t practice every day of the week and then you throw a new experience in front of them. It’s pretty much a whirlwind for them from the time they arrived in Happy Valley, but I’m really pleased with their progress.”

Adjusting from the demands of club play to Division I, and Big Ten play at that, is a major adjustment. Still, not all 10 freshmen are expected to hit the field together. However, some are already standing out in the first few games of the season.

Caden Grabfelder joined the Nittany Lions with experience in the MLS Next, a youth development league, and has already recorded a goal and assist this season against Le Moyne. Fellow freshman Freddie Bell has already seen 146 minutes of playing time through two games.

Penn State gained a strong connection over the offseason, with the team’s time spent together being the glue that will hold it together this season.

“It’s that togetherness, I think there’s a lot of unselfish players in this team,” captain Peter Mangione said. “It’s four different goal scorers today and that’s huge for me. I think there’s so much talent on this team, so if we can get that mindset it doesn’t matter who scores. We saw Caden and Samson [Kpardeh] come on and had an assist.”

The new additions have also helped with the squad’s depth. The Nittany Lions struggled with injuries and limited experience last year, despite game-changing players like Mangione and Liam Butts.

“I’ve seen unselfishness and the ability to stay healthy and just be deep,” Mangione said. “Last year we struggled with that. We had guys playing out of position the first game of the season last year and now we have multiple guys that can come into multiple positions and that’s just huge for us.”

Twenty players hit the field for Penn State against Le Moyne, and three players made their collegiate debuts.

Penn State will rely on the experience and accomplishments of all players to make an impact this season and keep its momentum rolling. With a face-off against defending National Champion Syracuse approaching on September 1, the Nittany Lions will need to fully recover and use their newfound depth to an advantage.

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About the Author

Ashley Connington

Ashley is a sophomore studying journalism from New Jersey. She is not okay about Saquon leaving the Giants and was crying on her couch all day. She can't look at all of her Saquon merch and doesn't know when she will recover. You can email [email protected] to send her ways to meet Saquon or watch her obsess over Chelsea FC on twitter @ashconnington.

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