Aug. 26, 2004
Aiming for its seventh-straight conference title and a run at its third College Cup in six years, the Penn State women's soccer team is loaded with talent again, but must overcome its youth to succeed in the 2004 season.
Gone is M.A.C. Hermann Trophy runner-up Joanna Lohman, standout forward Heidi Drummond and midfield fixture Stephanie Smith. All three left their marks on the all-time record book in every offensive category. The Lions will also miss starting defenders Leigh Hamilton and Mandy Komar, leaving some big shoes to fill on both sides of the ball this year. Supplemented by a recruiting class tabbed in the Top 5 by SoccerBuzz.com, Penn State's veterans won't be able to skip a beat this year as a very challenging schedule awaits the team.
"We're extremely excited about the upcoming season," said head coach Paula Wilkins. "We've obviously got some holes to fill with graduations, but have both experienced players and a young, exciting incoming class to fill those roles.
"We're looking forward to competing for another Big Ten championship and working towards a national championship. I feel our non-conference schedule with the likes of Portland, Washington, UCONN, Harvard, and Maryland, is a good one to prepare us for NCAA's as is the always-challenging Big Ten schedule. Our schedule, especially early, will yield great experience for our young squad."
Penn State's only returning first team All-Big Ten selection, Tiffany Weimer will be the core of the Nittany Lions' offensive power this season. Weimer, who scored in every Big Ten game except one last season and reset every sophomore record for scoring, returns after tallying 21 goals and nine assists. The Lions will also gain support from veteran Brooke Mertz, who had a very strong spring, and Carmelina Moscato, who returns for a full stint this year after missing part of the 2003 season to compete in the World Cup representing Canada. Senior Sophie Hiler, who saw action in 18 games last season, and sophomore Alison McKeown also return for the unit. These veterans will all try and mesh with a host of new freshmen, which is perhaps the Lions' biggest challenge this season at any position.
U.S. Under-19 star Sheree Gray will highlight the list of incoming forwards, but will not see much time due to her participation in the U-19 World Cup. Aubrey Aden-Buie, Alli Donofrio, and Carly Bedesem also join the Lion forwards this year for the first time.
"I think our early season schedule will expose the newcomers to what they're going to have to expect in the NCAA tournament," said Wilkins. "I think by starting with a very difficult schedule, we can see what areas we need to focus on quickly. That way we can solve them and prepare the newcomers and the team for the future, especially in the Big Ten."
The largest loss from last year's team remains M.A.C. Hermann Trophy runner-up Joanna Lohman. Lohman, who was the team's second-highest scorer last year out of the central midfield, was responsible for 19 goals and six assists during the 2003 season. This year, 2003 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Ali Krieger will need to step up and lead the unit after an outstanding freshman campaign. Sophomore Sarah Dwyer will also be a key in the midfield, and joined Krieger on the Big Ten All-Freshman team and as a 2003 Soccerbuzz.com pick for all-region honors.
Joining Krieger and Dwyer in the midfield are sophomore Jean Rettig, junior Carmelina Moscato, junior Janelle Hoak and senior Amanda Lentz, who started 14 games last season. This unit should prove to be a solid one once the group meshes together, especially with the addition of freshmen Kay Adami, Carly Bedesem, Zoe Bouchelle, Sheree Gray and Holly Musso.
Returning starters Stephanie Pezzullo and second team All-Big Ten selection Natalie Jacobs will be the center of a solid back four for the Lions this season. Last year's defense, anchored by Leigh Hamilton and Mandy Komar, pitched 10 shutouts and allowed only 0.90 goals per game, so this year's defense has a lot to live up to. Both Pezzullo and Jacobs are both very capable, seasoned veterans, and will make room for help from captain Lindsay Bach, senior Amanda Lentz, and sophomores Heather Tomko and Holly Lincoln.
Freshman Denay Riley and Holly Musso will also look to make an impact. Sophomore Sarah Dwyer could get put into the defensive mix as well.
Two-year starting goalkeeper Amanda Brown returns for her junior campaign after attending the Under-21 U.S. National Team's training camp. Her performance as well as the competition that senior keeper Jaime Stich and transfer Erin McLeod bring will provide an excellent presence in goal for the Lions. Stich was Brown's back-up last year, while McLeod enters the Penn State program after two years at Southern Methodist University as well as experience as part of the Canadian National team with Carmelina Moscato. Senior goalkeeper Jen Liese will redshirt this season, leaving three keepers to battle it out.
"Returning Amanda Brown in the back will be a key element to the defense," commented Wilkins on this key part of her team. "She completes the structure of the back along with Stephanie Pezzullo and Natalie Jacobs as returners who will probably take on more of a central role than in the past along with Lindsay Bach."