Aug. 20, 2008
After a stellar first season at the helm of the Penn State women’s soccer program head coach Erica Walsh is looking to improve on a season that saw the Nittany Lions win their 10th-straight Big Ten Championship and 13th appearance in the NCAA Tournament in just 14 years of existence. She is excited to return from her first trip to the Olympics as an assistant on the U.S. Women’s National Team. She has played the dual role of assistant U.S coach and head Penn State coach throughout the summer and is ready to embark on her second season in the Big Ten.
Walsh returns two NSCAA All-Americans and adds another Soccer Buzz Top-20 recruiting class to her arsenal. With captains Jessie Davis and Melissa Hayes leading the way the NCAA Championship is not far from reach.
The front line returns two award winners from last season in second team All-American Katie Schoepfer and Big Ten All-Freshmen selection Dani Toney. Schoepfer, a junior, was the leading goal-scorer for the Nittany Lions with 15 in 2007. She hopes to build on those numbers with new line-mate Toney who scored seven goals in 2007 and played most of the time with Schoepfer in the spring.
Not far behind is redshirt junior Ashley Myers. Myers had an on and off year in 2007 due to numerous injuries. She has trained throughout the spring and summer and looks to return fully healthy and battle for a starting spot. She scored three goals and three assists in just 13 games last season.
Also adding to the mix is junior transfer Nikki Watts and incoming freshman Carly Niness. Watts comes from England after playing two seasons at Filton College. Niness is a natural track athlete with great speed.
Returning in the midfield is junior captain Hayes along with redshirt senior Zoe Bouchelle. Bouchelle was named first team All-Region and scored two goals and four assists while starting every game but one last season. She is a crafty, clever and talented player for the Nittany Lions in the midfield.
Hayes is the glue that holds the midfield together and her ability to change the point of attack and command middle is what puts her above the rest. Hayes scored a goal and dished out six assists while starting all 24 games.
Another returner is Alli Rago who played sparingly her first two seasons but has continued to work and improve. She is an extremely hard worker and helps push the team with her work ethic and will push for time in the midfield.
Two leaders on and off the field are senior’s Kaleen Adami and Allie Daus. They are both outstanding teammates and know what the program is all about and will help guide the younger players as they transition into the college atmosphere.
Sophomore Megan Monroig returns after a good freshman season that saw her score a goal and three assists in 22 games played. She continues to improve and develop everyday and will see some time in the midfield this fall.
Junior Jess Shue is entering the season with a foot injury that could see her miss all of preseason and some of the regular season as she recovers. She is a great teammate and consummate worker who will add depth to the midfield.
Redshirt freshman Kristie Daus is coming off a season in which she was injured from the second week of training camp. The coaching staff is excited to see her get back on the field and show what she is all about as she comes back fully healthy and ready to go.
Another redshirt freshman who is ready to work her way into the lineup is Meghan Gill who got injured the third game of the season. She is a local product who grew up watching Penn State soccer and knows what the program is about and what it takes to make it.
Three additional freshmen will be battling for time in Jess Rosenbluth, Dani Zavala and Ali Schaefer.
The familiar faces in the backline are senior captain Davis and junior Maura Ryan who both started all 24 games last season. Davis was a second team All-Big Ten selection in 2007 and is the leader on the back line. She sees the game well and controls the entire defense by example as well as vocally.
Ryan has a tremendous engine and can run all day if need be. She is one of the fastest players on the defensive line and could see time both in the center and outside defensive roles.
Another returner is junior Tara Davies who played in 22 games last season and will push for a starting role early in the season. A somewhat unknown for the coaching staff is incoming freshman Emma Thomson. A native of England, Thomson hasn’t been seen live by any of the coaches on the staff but has brought with her a tremendous reputation. A member of the Doncaster Rovers Belles, Thomson is experienced at playing with some of the top players in English soccer.
Freshmen Bri Garcia and Jackie Hakes will both battle for time early.
Returning in goal will be junior Alyssa Naeher. Naeher was a first team All-America selection in 2007 and is arguably the best goalkeeper in collegiate soccer. She returns after posting a 0.62 GAA while giving up just 15 goals on the year in 24 contests.
One obstacle this season will be Naeher’s selection to the U-20 U.S. World Cup team that will take her from the Penn State squad throughout the season. Waiting in the wings for their chance will be incoming freshmen Krissy Tribbett and Kristin Hartmann. Both are accomplished youth soccer goalkeepers and will push for the starting nod in Naeher’s absence. Tribbett is coming off a club season in which her team won the U.S. Youth Soccer U-18 National Championship.