No. 7 women's soccer looks to extend perfect record

September 05, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The No. 7 Penn State women's soccer team (3-0-0) hits the road for its first contests of the 2014 season away from Jeffrey Field. The Nittany Lions open the Duke Nike Classic in Durham, N.C., on Friday., Sept. 5 at 5 p.m. against No. 14 North Carolina and face hosts Duke at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 7.

After a 3-1 win over UConn on Aug. 29, Penn State moved up one spot in the NSCAA, Soccer America, and Bennett rankings. The team's 3-0 start put them seventh in three of the four polls.

No. 14 North Carolina (1-2-1) split last weekend in southern California after taking the reigning national champions, No. 1 UCLA, to a 0-0 draw and falling to No. 17 Pepperdine, 1-0. The Tar Heels have had trouble offensively this season, scoring just one goal, by Megan Buckingham, and getting off 20 shots in four matches, 14 of which were recorded by Joanna Boyles. The team's defensive corps has been strong, however, allowing just two goals.

North Carolina leads the all-time series, 1-5-0. The Tar Heels and Nittany Lions last met in the 2012 Women's College Cup title match, when Penn State fell 4-1 to finish as the tournament's runner-up.

Duke (2-2) swept its weekend with wins over No. 11 West Virginia and UAB, led by sophomore midfielder Toni Payne. The ACC Player of the Week, Payne scored two goals, including the game-winner over UAB, and dished out one assist during the weekend. In addition to their offensive contribution, goalkeeper Ali Kershner has been a steady presence in net, holding a 0.62 goals against average.

Penn State holds a 2-1-0 series advantage over the Blue Devils. The teams' last meeting was in 2012, when the Nittany Lions won 1-0 to advance to the Women's College Cup.

The Nittany Lions' 3-0 start is certainly impressive, but it's even more so when looking back in the program record books. The team has not had a 3-0 start to the season since 2005, when Penn State went 23-0-2 and advanced to its second Women's College Cup. Additionally, the perfect start is the first under head coach Erica Walsh's tutelage.

Megan Schafer (Langhorne, Pa.) was named the Big Ten Co-Freshman Player of the Week on Sept. 3 after a stellar performance in the 3-1 win over UConn. She netted the first two goals of her collegiate career and became first freshman since 2010 to score a pair of goals in a single match. Schafer scored the 2-0 game-winner in the 27th minute, capitalizing on a UConn clearing attempt to put it past the Huskies goalkeeper. She scored again at 43:49, rising above a goal mouth scramble following a Penn State corner kick for the 3-0 lead. Schafer played a season-high 62 minutes and took a team-best four shots, three of which were on net.

The Nittany Lions' freshmen have proven to be major contributors three games into the 2014 campaign. Emily Ogle (Strongsville, Ohio), Frannie Crouse (Greensburg, Pa.), Elizabeth Ball (Richmond, Va.) and Maddie Elliston (Omaha, Neb.) started all three games, while Haleigh Echard (Lebanon, Pa.), Katy Keen (Zionsville, Ind.) and Megan Schafer (Langhorne, Pa.) played as reserves in the matches. The seven players have combined for four of the team's eight goals scored and 32.5% percent of the shots taken this season. At the top of the class sits Ogle and Schafer. Ogle, a Women's Team of the Week honoree, scored a goal and dished out an assist against No. 12 West Virginia, while Schafer, the Sept. 3 Big Ten Co-Freshman Player of the Week, became the first freshman since 2010 to score a pair when she netted two, including the game winner, against UConn.

The Penn State women's soccer team takes home field advantage to the next level. The team is 193-22-9 all-time at Jeffrey Field, losing just two matches in the past three seasons and shutting out visitors 17 times in 35 matches in that time.

Penn State was tabbed to win the Big Ten regular season title, according to the 2014 Big Ten Women's Soccer Preseason Coaches' Poll. Wisconsin and Maryland earned the second- and third-most votes, respectively. The Nittany Lions have sat atop the poll every season since the poll began in 2003.

Three players from each Big Ten team were named Big Ten Women's Soccer Preseason Players to Watch, with senior Emily Hurd (Sammamish, Wash.) and juniors Mallory Weber (Novi, Mich.) and Raquel Rodriguez (San Jose, Costa Rica) representing the Blue and White. This is Rodriguez's second-straight appearance on the Preseason Players to Watch list.

Penn State senior Whitney Church (Ashburn, Va.) was named to the 2014 Women's Missouri Athletic Club's Hermann Award Watch List. This is Church's second-consecutive appearance on the Hermann Award Watch List.

Church is one of 35 female NCAA Division I players named to the list and one of two Big Ten female student-athletes selected. The senior was an NSCAA All-Great Lakes and All-Big Ten second team selection in 2013. A defender, Church logged the second-most minutes on the Nittany Lions, starting 21 of 23 games for 1,945 minutes.

The MAC Hermann Trophy, the highest individual award presented to a collegiate soccer player, is presented annually to one male and one female athlete. The winners will be announced Fri., Jan. 9, 2015, at the trophy presentation banquet at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis. Christie Welsh is the only Penn State student-athlete to win the award (2001).

Over the summer, sophomore Brittany Basinger (Purcellville, Va.) and freshman Rose Chandler (Atlanta, Ga.) represented the United States at the 2014 FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup, hosted by Canada. Penn State Head Coach Erica Walsh was also a member of the U.S. U-20 Women's National Team, serving as an assistant coach. The U.S. U-20 team went 2-2 at the tournament, besting China PR and Brazil, and was eliminated after the Group stage after falling 3-1 to Korea DPR. This was Chandler's first appearance as a member of the U-20 team while Basinger was a member of the 2014 CONCACAF Women's U-20 Championship team.

Chandler, Basinger and Walsh won't be the only Lions to don their country's colors in 2014. Junior Raquel Rodriguez (San Jose, Costa Rica) is a member of the Costa Rican Women's National Team. Rodriguez will compete for Costa Rica at the 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship in October in an attempt to qualify for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.

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(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 05, 2014