Aug. 29, 2007
Under the new leadership of first-year head coach Erica Walsh, the Nittany Lions' goals remain the same: making a run for a 10th-straight Big Ten Championship, defending their Big Ten Tournament title and grabbing the elusive NCAA Championship.
Following its eighth NCAA Quarterfinals run in the past nine years in 2006, Penn State is poised for a solid year in 2007 after signing another of Soccer Buzz's Top 20 recruiting classes. Returning to lead Walsh's squad are tri-captains Aubrey Aden-Buie, Jessie Davis and Jean Rettig. The veteran cast also includes 2006 NSCAA third-team All-American Sheree Gray and a host of other talents that will continue to push the Nittany Lions toward their ultimate goal: the program's first national championship.
The team's leading scorer and 2007 tri-captain, Aden-Buie returns for her senior campaign after scoring 12 goals and adding four assists for a career-high 28 points in 2006. Aden-Buie was a first-team All-Big Ten selection on the field and collected ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District honors for her exceptional work in the classroom. One of three captains, she is the veteran on an offense full of sophomores and freshmen. Included in the talented group are North Carolina transfer Melissa Hayes, a sophomore this season after a year with the national champion Tar Heels, and incoming freshmen Bianca D'Agostino and Danielle Toney, both Parade All-Americans.
Sophomore duo Katie Schoepfer and Ashley Myers finished last year second and third on the scoring charts with eight and seven goals, respectively. Myers finished the season strong with four of her goals coming in the last seven games for the Nittany Lions - all were in the postseason tournaments. Schoepfer, who struggled with illness for a good part of the 2006 season, still played 23 games and added five helpers to her eight goals scored.
Also coming in with the talented freshman class is Kristie Daus, younger sister of junior midfielder Allie Daus, and Megan Monroig. Sophomore Tara Davies returns to add depth, and it is not out of the question to see Gray, the speedy All-American on the front line either.
Anchored by third-team All-American Sheree Gray, the Nittany Lion midfield boasts a wealth of talent both with its veterans and its incoming class. Gray earned first-team All-Big Ten honors to go with her first-team All-Mid-Atlantic Region accolades in 2006. Gray's sole goal of the season couldn't have come at a better time as she deposited the game winner vs. then-No. 2 UCLA in the season-opening upset.
Hayes, the Tar Heel transfer, will also play a big part in the midfield for Penn State after playing 15 games for North Carolina last season. Senior Carly Bedesem started 21 of 26 games last year, seeing significant minutes and adding three assists to the Nittany Lions' offensive efforts. Redshirt junior Zoe Bouchelle returns after two assists in only 10 games after combating injury in 2006.
Veterans Kaleen Adami, Allie Daus, Tara Davies, Jamie Morrison, and Alli Rago also provide key depth in the midfield. Newcomers Kristie Daus, Meghan Gill, Jessica Hermann and Nicole Taylor will all come to camp looking to crack the starting lineup. Don't count out a midfield appearance from redshirt senior Jean Rettig either. The converted defender (after playing the midfield early in her Nittany Lion career) could reappear in the center of the action if needed.
Gone is All-American Ali Krieger, a two-time NSCAA first-team honoree, who still earned honors despite changing positions from midfield to defense last season. Also departed from the unit is regular starter Heather Tomko.
The personnel that return for the Nittany Lions are equally as dangerous, however, as tri-captains junior Jessie Davis and redshirt senior Jean Rettig both are back on the defense for Walsh's Nittany Lions. Last year's defense allowed 0.93 goals per game and earned Penn State 11 shutouts in 26 contests.
A key part of those stats, Davis also had a spectacular postseason offensively for the Nittany Lions, scoring her first career goal - the game winner -in the Big Ten semifinals vs. Michigan. Davis also assisted the second goal of the day vs. the Wolverines. Three games later, Davis found the back of the net again, this time dealing the final blow to Villanova in the Nittany Lions' 2-0 victory over the Wildcats in the NCAA second round.
Rettig got involved in the offense as well early last season, lending an assist in the game-opening goal vs. then-No. 2 UCLA. Rettig suffered a season-ending concussion, however, at Texas and missed the rest of the season with complications, leading to her fifth year of eligibility in 2007.
Adding to the veteran feel of this unit is senior Denay Riley. Riley is an incredible talent for the Nittany Lions, whose feisty nature makes her a force in the back. Also a threat on set pieces, Riley scored twice last year.
Look for talented sophomores Maura Ryan and Alli Rago to make an impact as well.
Returning in goal for the Nittany Lions is a healthy, more experienced Alyssa Naeher. Last year's starter as a freshman, Naeher has recovered from an injury that sidelined her during most of the 2006 NCAA Tournament, and she gained extra experience this summer when she spent time with the U.S. Under-20 team at the Pan-Am Games. Naeher earned the start for Penn State in 22 of 26 games, tallying 79 saves and posting a 0.89 goals-against average.
Joining Naeher at the goalkeeper position is Arizona native Alanna Pawlowski. A true freshman, Pawlowski was a second-team All-State selection and will provide solid depth at the position.