Erica Walsh has a message –– “pick your poison.”
Versatility has been stressed all season for the No. 1 offensive team in the country who averages three goals per game and 66 total goals scored.
The No. 1-seeded Penn State women’s soccer team defeated Long Island-Brooklyn 4-0 last weekend in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Each of the four goals came from four different players, showcasing the mobility of the Lions offense.
With the first round victory, Penn State will play Boston College in the second round at Jeffrey Field on Friday.
The Lions roster lists only three true forwards, but goals have come from across the board this season with 13 players getting into the scoring mix.
With the 2-5-3 offense that Penn State runs there are more attacking midfielders who pose as another scoring threat aside from just the true forwards. The attacking from all angles causes trouble for opposing defenders.
“We actually prepared those guys for some movement in the front six. The idea was just variety. We felt that it was stale; we didn't feel like anything we were doing was working,” coach Walsh said. “There are two approaches. You can continue on with it and make it work or you can spice it up and we did. Sometimes it works; sometimes you look like a bonehead.”
In order to make a run in the tournament Penn State will have to bypass Boston College who is currently tied with No. 1-seeded BYU with the 15th best offense in the nation averaging 2.33 goals per game with 49 total goals scored.
Boston College has the No. 228 rated defense, allowing 1.56 goals per game and may be challenging defending the high-powered offense of Penn State.
The Lions depth and multiple offensive weapons will allow for many scoring opportunities and pose as a threat to their competitors.
“The run in the tournament is obviously important. But I think getting us here was the most important part of our depth,” Walsh said. “I think if you look across the board at the No. 1 seeds my guess is it is the same situation that they have depth and they can rely on depth and that depth steps up for them.”
When compared to the other No. 1 seeds, Penn State spreads the scoring between 13 different players with three players scoring more than 11 goals. BYU has 11 players recording goals and no player having more than eight goals.
No. 1-seeded Stanford has the No. 8 rated offense in the country averaging 2.60 goals per game and again no player has more than eight goals. Florida State rounds out the No. 1 seeds with the No. 18 offense in the nation has its 46 goals dominated by two players combining for 20 of the teams goals.
According to LIU-Brooklyn coach Tracey Bartholomew, Penn State predominately drives up the middle to score and the game plan was for her team to force the Lions wide. But the wide crosses inside from the outside midfielders and different lineup combinations have resulted in a variation of goals this season.
Throughout the month of October, Walsh said if she looks back to her team’s combinations, she didn’t see the same combination in two consecutive games and that it is so many different players stepping up at different times.
“We have quite a few wide players this year and I haven't seen that in my time at Penn State. It's been a pleasure to work with a team that has such variety in their attack. Having good wide players allows the central players to be that much more effective,” Walsh said. “Defenses have to figure out what they're going to deal with at this point. Sometimes it's the wide players that open up lanes. Other times it's vice versa, so pick your poison.”
Although the Lions have the highest rated scoring offense in the nation, senior midfielder Christine Nairn said the team still needs to capitalize off the cross ball that redshirt sophomore midfielder Emily Hurd delivers from the wing.
“[Hurd] gives us at least ten good ones a game and if we could finish one of them, it would be awesome,” Nairn said. “We still need to work on finishing and putting away opportunities.”