Each year, the freshmen are called into a meeting with the seniors.
But it is not about rookie pranks or about playing abilities.
Instead it is about protecting the team’s home field and instilling into the young players that they do not lose on Jeffrey Field.
The motto of the No. 4 Penn State women’s soccer team is “play for those who came before you.” And the team has done just that, boasting an 83-3-3 home record against Big Ten opponents since the program’s first season in the league in 1994.
No other team in the Big Ten is better at home than the Nittany Lions and the squad has an overall record of 169-21-8 at Jeffrey Field.
“The seniors actually get emotional when they talk to us about what Jeffrey means to them and all of the great memories that they have on it,” freshman Mallory Weber said. “It definitely puts a lot of pressure on us freshmen and it makes us kind of realize how important it is. It kind of inspires me to want to create those memories on Jeffrey.”
The Lions have also had six undefeated seasons at Jeffrey Field and are still undefeated at home in conference play this season, falling only to then-No. 1 Stanford at home this season.
Jeffrey Field seats approximately 5,000 but in the team’s 3-2 loss to Stanford on Aug. 24 the crowed was tallied at 5,117, which shattered the previous record of 3,921 set on Aug. 27, 2010 against Virginia.
The loss to Stanford is only the 21st loss in program history at home and it still burns in many of the player’s minds.
“When we lost against Stanford on Jeffrey it was the worst feeling in the world, not because we lost, but because Jeffrey is like our home. We call [the field] him, he is like a real person to us and we always say protect Jeffrey and defend Jeffrey,” Weber said. “I know when we lost I felt it, not only just losing, but we lost at home and on our home field which is what we are supposed to protect.”
Each player has a memory that defines her experience on Jeffrey Field and players pass down those memories to the classes below them to promote the winning mentality that they all have engraved in their minds.
Senior captain Lexi Marton also recalls being down with 17 seconds left on the clock in a Big Ten championship game two years ago and says that Ali Schaefer scoring for the win is a memory she has passed down to the freshmen.
Weber says she will never forget scoring her first goal against Stanford at home and remembers her teammates embracing her and said she felt like she was surrounded by 5,000 family members because she says that’s what the Penn State family is.
The team does not practice on the field. It is solely used for games, and Marton says that is what makes it so special.
“Ever since I was a freshman at this school, I remember my first time stepping on Jeffrey Field and the seniors kind of sat us down basically told us the history of the success on that field and that they would defend Jeffrey at all costs,” Lexi Marton said. “The blood, sweat and tears, as cliché as that sounds that goes into kind of defending our scared place and the just told us straight up ‘we don’t lose on Jeffrey field, you protect it and just do whatever you can within your power to win on that field.’”
Being a Pennsylvania native, coach Erica Walsh said that every picture in her house growing up was of Penn State. Although she attended William and Mary she says there is no place like Jeffrey Field.
“It is hard to describe, very much an intangible about this place. When I first got here I think that we had some real faithful fans, but now through the excitement of our sport in general the group of fans has grown and developed into people who are not just necessarily even soccer people. But people who just love being entertained and I think our group is very entertaining this year,” Walsh said.
At home games, fans are seen donning colonial outfits and blowing loud horns as part of the women’s soccer fan club, the Park Avenue Army. According to senior Christine Nairn the women’s softball team, men’s lacrosse team and women’s basketball team come to every home game.
“We love playing this game and the fact that we have people in the stands watching us play means a lot to us,” Nairn said. “We have girls on our team from all different countries whether it is the US, Canada, Costa Rica or England for the ones who have graduated, so Jeffrey Field is our favorite place to play and that says a lot about how special this field is to us.”
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