Erin McNulty is from Winnipeg, Raquel Rodriguez is from Costa Rica and Tani Costa is from Honolulu.
For some of the members of the Penn State women’s soccer team, home can be time zones away.
But for freshman Megan Ritchey, home is within walking distance of Jeffrey Field.
Ritchey, despite being born in Buffalo, N.Y., grew up in State College, is a State College High School graduate and now is a midfielder on the women’s soccer team for her hometown college, Penn State.
“In a nutshell, it is a dream come true,” Ritchey said. “It’s all I wanted to do. It’s the only place I wanted to play. I knew I wanted to play somewhere in college, and I knew from the start it was a stretch, but I did what I could and finally got here.”
The freshman has lived in Happy Valley for 18 years. Her parents are both alumni of the university. Ritchey played for State College’s high school team. She is the third person to play for both the Penn State women’s team and State College High’s team.
“It stands alone to have such great student athletes playing right down the street from the high school,” Ritchey’s high school coach, Kevin Morooney, said. “With Megan’s appearance on the [Penn State] roster, it makes that connection that much more meaningful for her ex-teammates at the high school.”
Morooney described Ritchey as a quiet leader. However, when the Little Lions needed a goal, Morooney could rely on her to put the ball in the back of the net.
“She had the kind of presence on the field that if Megan was on, on a particular day, it would carry a large portion of the players around her,” Morooney said.
In her freshman season, Ritchey has tallied 117 minutes of playing time. Ritchey is used to working hard to get what she wants. She adapted her workout style to get her into shape for high school and now she is making the transition into college play.
“She struggled, to be fair, but response has been nothing short of spectacular,” Nittany Lion coach Erica Walsh said. “She trains every morning with our trainer at 7 a.m. She runs on the treadmill, because now she gets that opportunity. She understands what she was given. She is smart enough to know, and she is a very intelligent young woman, she is smart enough to realize she was given a gift that she needs to work for.”
Ritchey’s foundation for her soccer career started in youth soccer with a fellow Penn State athlete, Kelton Cheney.
Cheney is also from State College, a freshman and plays soccer, just on the men’s side. The two played for a local club team while growing up.
“I definitely have a good relationship with him,” Ritchey said. “He is definitely one of my best guy friends.”
Along with Cheney, one of her closest childhood friends is also a part of Penn State athletics. Lauren Kenney is part of the track team and is the sister of wide receiver, Alex.
Ritchey and Lauren grew up as neighbors, and Ritchey said that the relationship is extremely close.
“Coming into it, I was talking to her a lot about being on an athletic team and starting to go here and how the whole experience was for her,” Ritchey said. “She is my best friend, I grew up with her. I have lived here for 18 years so as soon as I could walk and talk, she was always there.”
As for Walsh, she plans to keep using her local resources while she is coaching the Nittany Lions.
“My hope is as long I am here we will continue to get the best talent and people out of State College High and all the local high schools,” Walsh said.