Growing up in State College, freshman forward Kelton Cheney never viewed Penn State’s soccer program as one of the nation’s best.
However, being a Nittany Lion eventually grew on the local player throughout his high school career and recruiting process.
“I’ve been coming here watching the soccer games for a long time, and over the years I didn’t think they had that strong of a program, but when coach [Bob] Warming came here… it clicked that I wanted to come here,” Cheney said.
Cheney attended State College Area High School and was a standout for three years on its varsity soccer team.
The attacker netted 52 goals in his high school career, including 25 scores in his senior campaign.
Considering his success at the secondary level, Cheney was acknowledged with numerous accolades, including a spot in ESPN’s top 150 in the class of 2012.
The 19-year-old also garnered multiple scholarship offers from high-end soccer programs, such as Ohio State, Georgetown, Bucknell and St. John’s.
However, it wasn’t the accolades that attracted Warming to recruit him, but rather, Cheney’s combination of skill and devotion.
“I was impressed when he drove two-and-a-half hours back and forth for training from PA Classics workouts… a guy with that with that kind of dedication shows the desire to become good,” Warming said.
Considering he’s the only true freshman on the team to play in all nine regular season games, Cheney has clearly made his mark even though he’s only started once.
The rookie didn't break out of his metaphorical shell until the Lions manhandled Adelphi in a 3-0 win on Sept. 16.
With the Lions up two goals at half time against a less than stellar opponent, Warming emptied the bench, making a total of seven substitutions in the second half, with Cheney being one of them.
In the 58th minute, it looked like everything Cheney had done prior to that game had culminated into his first collegiate goal.
After retaining possession of the ball, Cheney launched a shot that looked destined for goal — but it flew by the right post, inches wide of a score.
“I was pretty bummed, you get that close on that first legitimate chance, and when you miss something like that I remember thinking, ‘Wow that was your one chance and you missed it,’” Cheney said.
However, the local product remained adamant on the attack.
After corralling a pass from redshirt freshman Kyle MacDonald 14 yards out, Cheney sent a shot into the left corner of the net in the 67th minute.
To a booming applause from the crowd, the local kid scored his first collegiate goal.
Cheney said scoring at home was something else — being able to help his team win and doing so in front of family and friends.
Since then, the 6-foot-1 forward has used his favorable frame to forge himself into the core nucleus of this Lions’ attack.
Not only did the freshman score against Adelphi, but he also netted the game-winning goal in the Lions’ Big Ten opener, a 1-0 win at Wisconsin on Sept. 21.
And after earning a start on the road against Lehigh, it’s safe to say that Warming plans to use his young, talent forward throughout 2012.
Warming said that Cheney hasn’t had the training necessary to play a full game yet, but his forward’s confidence is crucial heading forward.
The coach isn’t the only one who has seen Cheney blossom, as some of his teammates have taken notice of his progression.
“He has an eye for goal and instinctually puts himself in the right positions,” Lions’ forward and leading scorer Julian Cardona said. “He has done very well adapting to the fast speed of play and physicality of the Big Ten.”
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