For 15 consecutive seasons it has been the same thing, win after win.
But this season was different.
Not because of a loss, but because the team is still striving for more.
The No. 4 Penn State women’s soccer team said all season that its only goal is to win a national championship and after clinching its 15th consecutive Big Ten Title with a 1-1 tie against No. 17 Michigan on Sunday the goal is one step closer to reality.
“[There are] just different expectations [this year], this one seems like a stepping stone I think for this team. Whereas the others may have felt more like an endpoint this felt more like a hurdle for this group, for good reason,” Penn State coach Erica Walsh said. “These guys are prepared to make the sacrifices to go another six weeks and that is a tremendous sacrifice at this point with the exams, the fatigue and the stresses of life, but they are ready.”
No other team at Penn State is more dominant in the Big Ten than women’s soccer right now. Women’s volleyball is a close second with 8 consecutive conference titles, but have yet to reach the 15-win milestone.
“It is an amazing streak and record. My assistant just asked me do they store the T-shirts here at Penn State, you know for the next year. You know they’ve got it going,” Michigan coach Greg Ryan said. “I think Erica [Walsh] has just done a fantastic job with the program and I think they are playing better soccer than they have ever played.”
Ryan agrees with Walsh that this team is better than he has seen before and said the talent the team has is unbelievable.
“I mean they were good during the years they went to the final four, and I was there they were very good, but I have never seen a team play with this level of skill and creativity and athleticism,” Ryan said. “It is a pleasure to watch except you don’t like to coach against it. You know, its like [Penn State] is supposed to be Big Ten champions, there is so much talent over there it’s unbelievable.”
The senior leadership is what sets this team apart from the ones in years past, senior Christine Nairn currently leads the team in goals at 13 and Maddy Evans is the emotional leader on the field mentoring the younger athletes.
“[The seniors are] absolutely everything, whether it is Lexi Marton and Jackie Molinda on the bench screaming and losing their voices every game or Bri Garcia returning from injury and giving us 10 minutes of hard work and keeping us together and Maddy Evans winning head balls. We just have such a big group of seniors and they all bring different things to the table,” Nairn said. “For us to go out winning the 15th Big Ten title, I think it says a lot because we just get so many different aspects and characteristics from our senior class.”