With only five games left in the regular season, the Penn State women’s soccer team is determined to avoid complacency.
Coach Erica Walsh said she is learning something new about her players everyday.
The learning curve has not stifled the No. 4 Penn State women’s soccer team’s momentum as it enters the season’s most crucial point among the top teams in the country.
Since falling to No. 5 BYU on Sept. 8, the Lions (12-2, 6-0 Big Ten) have been on a seven-game winning streak and are one step closer to the team’s ultimate goal of winning a National Championship.
“Our goals are big for this year for a reason because they are doing the work, and they did the work, and they are continuing to do the work,” Walsh said. “They have literally not given me one excuse this fall as to any reason why they should be at anything less than the best in the country.”
Walsh’s squad has been steadily climbing in the rankings this season, reaching the highest mark of the year at the No. 4 spot on Oct. 2 and have held that position for the second-straight week with a 5-2 victory over Indiana last Sunday.
Having the best players in the country is an essential part in building a championship team, and Walsh has said numerous times that she has the best players at nearly every position.
She has called Christine Nairn the best center midfielder in the country, Whitney Church the best defender and cites Maya Hayes and Taylor Schram as the best tandem of forwards.
“I know that I sound very cliché and sound like I am just blowing these guys up, but I have waited six years to have this feeling,” Walsh said. “No one ever knows if you are going to win the big one at the end of the season, but I can tell you we are good enough, and we will be good enough. We are not good enough right now, but we will be good enough to do what the likes of Russ Rose’s group and Cael Sanderson’s group has done in the past few years here.”
Walsh believes that before you can win a National Championship, you have to witness one, and fortunately this team has members who have been in that position before to guide them.
Graduate student goalkeeper Erin McNulty has been to the final four as an undergraduate at Florida State and, Walsh has as a coach, as well.
“[To win a championship], it is going to take health, of course, and it is going to take some luck. It is going to take us surviving some really challenging moments and thriving,” Walsh said. “We are going to draw on the experience of what Penn State has been through since November to push us through the tough times.”