Women’s soccer coach Erica Walsh could not be more excited for the return of her duo of All-American forwards, Maya Hayes and Taylor Schram, from the U-20 national team, but is faced with a tough decision on how to integrate the stars back into the lineup.
“The family is back together again and it is the best feeling in the world,” Walsh says.
The thing is, the No. 11 Nittany Lions (5-2) have looked sharp through seven games with young players who may have filled different roles otherwise.
Freshman forward Mallory Weber and redshirt junior forward Tani Costa have played vital roles in the dominance of the Lions’ offense this season. Weber is currently second on the team in goals this season with four, including two against No. 8 Virginia.
“Mal Weber has established herself as a starter, so the way we incorporate Maya and Schram will be to fit them in with what Mal and Tani have been doing,” Walsh said. “Those two have carried us through seven games in a spectacular fashion. But I can tell you right now that both Tani and Mal have established themselves as starters on our team. We are trying to figure out a way to get our best players on the field come Sunday.”
Hayes and Schram returned to America on Monday morning after a 1-0 world cup victory last Saturday against defending U-20 champions Germany. They returned to class Monday and began practicing with the team Tuesday and are ready to being competing with the team again.
“I’m excited to finally start the season. Obviously they have been going, but this is Schram’s and my first weekend and game back and we’re excited for it,” Hayes said. “We obviously kept up with the team as much as we could. We were glued to computers when they were playing. We are ready to get back in it and just play.”
Coming off the excitement of a world cup victory and back to the NCAA game will hardly be a challenge for these experienced veterans who have already switched their focus back to Penn State.
“It is kind of cool to come off a high stage and come back to a high stage, you know it is not a big drop off and that’s great. It keeps consistency going and I am excited for it obviously, but we are ready for it,” Hayes said.
The other players on the team have had to fill roles outside their traditional ones with the absence of Hayes and Schram. This proved to be beneficial for the Lions, who have seen improvements in players who would have previously been overshadowed.
“I am just going to try to live up to [my goals], just create the chemistry with Maya and Schram that I have with [Weber] and Christine Nairn right now, just extending,” Costa said.
The return of Hayes and Schram has been long anticipated not only by Walsh, but by their teammates as well who will see their full roster for the first time this season.
The versatility of the Lions will be on display with the return of the forwards as there will be line up changes to fit them back into the mix.
“I have missed playing with [Hayes and Schram] so much because last season when it was me and Maya up top I tore my ACL. So Schram stepped up for me and they had an awesome combination, so to be back in that love triangle is so exciting,” Costa said. “Now that Bri Garcia is out, Schram is going to be integrated into our midfield and so is Mal Weber and Maya and I up top, there are so many possible combinations. It is just going to be interesting to see because we are so versatile, you know Schram can play in the midfield and can play out wide, Maya can play up top and so can Mal Weber.”
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