Women's soccer unveils challenging slate for 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State women's soccer program has announced its 19-game schedule for the 2014 season. The Nittany Lions will, once again, face some of the toughest competition in the nation, taking on 12 opponents that reached the NCAA Tournament in 2013. Penn State welcomes 11 opponents to Jeffrey Field this season, including six Big Ten foes.

"Philosophically, we always attempt to play against some of the top programs around the country to prepare for a very competitive B1G season," said head coach Erica Walsh. "Our hope is to compete against the best in the non-conference portion of our schedule in order to challenge our strengths and expose our weaknesses. We believe the 2014 squad will have the talent to compete against the best and their preparation will be second-to-none this summer under the guidance our strength coach, Greg Miskinis."

The season unofficially begins on Aug. 16 as Penn State travels to Washington D.C. to take on Georgetown in an exhibition match. The Lions then head back to Happy Valley for the home and season opener vs. West Virginia on Friday, Aug. 22 in the 10th annual Penn State Invitational. Syracuse and Missouri will kick off the Invitational in a 5 p.m. matchup before the Nittany Lions and the Mountaineers take the field at 7:30. WVU and Missouri open the Sunday slate of the tournament at Noon and PSU will close out the weekend in a 2:30 p.m. match vs. Syracuse.

The Blue and White continue their three-game homestand on Friday, Aug.29, facing Connecticut at 5:30 p.m. before hitting the road for four straight contests.

The Nittany Lions open up their first road swing of the year at the Duke Nike Classic, where they will compete against Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouses Duke and North Carolina. PSU and Duke are slated for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff on Friday, Sept. 5 while the Lions and the Tar Heels will play on Sunday at a time to be determined.

The road trip continues the following weekend as Penn State matches up with Purdue in the Big Ten opener on Friday, Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. The Nittany Lions then head to Indiana to face the Hoosiers on Sunday, Sept. 14 at 1 p.m.

Penn State returns to Jeffrey Field for four home games, beginning with Ohio State on Friday, Sept. 19 at 6 p.m. and follows with a midweek matchup vs. Bucknell on Tuesday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. The Lions will then host Northwestern on Friday Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. and Illinois on Sunday, Sept. 28 at 1 p.m.

The Big Ten schedule continues with back-to-back road games at Minnesota (Fri., Oct. 3, 7 p.m.) and Wisconsin (Sun., Oct. 5, Noon). Penn State heads home to face first-year Big Ten opponent Rutgers on Saturday, Oct. 11 before playing its final two road games of the regular season at Michigan (Thurs., Oct. 16, 7 p.m.) and Michigan State (Sun., Oct. 19, 1 p.m.).

The Blue and White close out the regular season at home with three Big Ten contests. Penn State opens the final homestand vs. reigning Big Ten Women's Soccer Tournament Champion Nebraska on Friday, Oct. 24, followed by a match vs. Iowa (Sun., Oct. 26, TBD) and the regular season finale vs. Maryland (Thurs., Oct. 30, 7 p.m.).

The Big Ten Tournament will follow a new format in 2014, with eight teams competing over a two-weekend period. The quarterfinals will take place at campus sites on Sunday, Nov. 2 while the semifinals and championship game will be hosted by Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind. on Friday, Nov. 7 and Sunday, Nov. 9.

The first round of the NCAA Tournament will take place from Nov. 14-16 at campus sites.

Penn State earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the 19th consecutive season in 2013, claiming a 3-0 win over Monmouth in first round action. The Lions bring back two of their top five scorers from a season ago, with Mallory Weber (Novi, Mich.) and Raquel Rodriguez (San Jose, Costa Rica) returning to the pitch for their junior seasons. Weber notched seven goals and eight assists in 2013 and earned first team All-Big Ten honors in the process. Rodriguez added six goals and a team-high nine assists in her sophomore campaign.

The Nittany Lions will have a strong backline with Whitney Church (Ashburn, Va.), Brittany Basinger (Purcellville, Va.) and Salina Williford (Wayne, Pa.) leading the defense. Goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom (Germantown, Md.) will return in net for the Lions after starting all 23 matches for the Blue and White in 2013. The redshirt junior collected 94 saves and three shutouts for Penn State last season.

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Last Updated May 30, 2014