Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said “It’s easy to have faith in yourself and have discipline when you’re a winner, when you’re number one. What you got to have is faith and discipline when you’re not a winner.”
That quote could easily be attributed to the No. 3 Penn State women’s soccer (17-2-1) team who earned a No. 1 seed heading into the NCAA women’s soccer tournament and will host Long Island University-Brooklyn on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Although the squad has secured the top seed it took overcoming many obstacles to get there.
The Lions were the top-seeded team going into the Big Ten tournament last week, but fell to Illinois, 1-0 in the semifinals for the second straight season.
Dating back to preseason, the Lions have held themselves to high standards and earning the No. 1 mark is just another accomplishment they can check off their list.
Yesterday around 4:30 p.m., the basement of Rotelli’s, 250 E. Calder Way, erupted in screams and applause because they did it, Penn State is the No. 1 seed for the first time since 2007.
“You set goals and when you achieve those goals it is the greatest feeling in the world. Whether it’s in soccer or whatever it is you are trying to pursue in life, to actually achieve one of your major goals is the best feeling in the world,” coach Erica Walsh said.
It has been said all season long by coaches and players alike that there is something about this team that is different than the one in 2007, different than the one in 2010 that struggled to make the NCAA tournament and different than the one that came just one year ago. Walsh said that the dedication and determination that this team embodies is what will drive them to winning a championship.
“I think that we definitely have the talent, we have always had the talent, but now the experience, the leadership and the chemistry,” junior forward Taylor Schram said.
“It’s just a little bit of everything now that we have had pieces of in the past, but now we have all of them and I think we’re going to do it, I’ve got a good feeling.”
Overcoming hurdles is part of sports and there have been no shortage for the Lions this season, whether it is injuries or heartbreaking defeats and those shortcomings is what will perhaps carry the team through the postseason.
Before Illinois the last time the Lions lost was Sept. 8 to BYU and after that sparked a 13-game winning streak en route to a 15th consecutive Big Ten title.
“The commodore on our team is unreal. Even off the field, we are all talking to each other, we are close and the different things that we go to just bring us closer together. After the loss to Illinois we were just ready to go, we are just expecting a national championship,” junior defender Bri Hovington said.
They have won the Big Ten regular season title, secured the No. 1 seed for the Big Ten tournament and now eared a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament, but the Lions still see those feats as stepping stones for the next accomplishment.
“Before it was just, ‘oh Big Ten championship, we want to win the Big Ten,’ but now this year it was, ‘yeah, we won the Big Ten,’ but we are aiming for bigger and better things,” Hovington said.