Last week, several Penn State players were elected to and recognized in All-Big Ten teams and other individual accolades for their performances in conference play.
However, the absence of one midfielder from the list of award winners was sharply felt.
That player was senior midfielder and former All-Big Ten second team player Anna Simon.
Those who were selected for the awards were definitely deserving, but Simon had every right to be included among the best players in the Big Ten.
Simon is one of the most versatile players at Penn State and likely in the conference — playing offense, midfield and defense throughout her time as a Nittany Lion.
Her teammates selected the Hanau, Germany, to be a captain for this season because of the leadership she has provided for the team on as well as off the field.
As a captain, Simon led Penn State to a successful 13-4 regular season and a semifinal spot in the Big Ten Tournament.
Without Simon, it’s tough to say where Penn State would be, as the senior has been at the center of much of the blue and white’s success this season.
Simon is near the top of her team with 14 goals on the campaign as a midfielder, which speaks volumes about her aggression and offensive flare playing in a deeper lying role than the forwards in this blue and white group.
The only player to have outscored Simon on Penn State is All-Big Ten first team recipient sophomore forward Sophia Gladieux, narrowly edging out Simon with 17 goals.
A team-high six of those goals from Simon were game winners in crucial situations, an area where the senior has become a bit of an expert.
One of these game-winning situations included Penn State’s matchup with Maryland in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
Not only did Simon score the game winner against the Terrapins, but she earned a hat trick, scoring all three goals on one of the biggest stages of the year.
The conference deservedly recognized Simon for her outstanding play during the tournament, as she landed on the All-Big Ten Tournament team.
However, the captain was just as impressive in the regular season as she was in the tournament, making her omission from any All-Big Ten regular season teams even more of a question mark.
Simon scored the lone goal against Michigan State to send Penn State home with a 1-0 win over the Spartans.
In addition to the games where Simon scored the last goal, there were six games where she scored the first goal, which can be just as important.
The first goal of a game can be what gets the momentum going and more often than not held true for Penn State in the fall of 2021.
Five out of the six games where Simon scored the opening goal ended in a Nittany Lion win.
Simon also earned another hat trick in the 7-2 win against William & Mary, along with scoring the first blue and white goal of the season against Virginia.
The captain is the only player on Penn State’s team to have two hat tricks in the 2021 season.
With 76 shots, and 56.6% of those shots going on goal, Simon is a powerhouse on both offense and defense, cementing her place as a leader by example on Penn State’s team.
She is just as good at stopping the momentum of the opposing teams as she is at creating the momentum for Penn State.
The senior is constantly intercepting passes in the middle of the field and stealing the ball right out from under the opposing offense.
It’s her attacking mentality and natural intelligence for the game that prove her worthy of the recognition from the Big Ten.
In 2019, Simon was named second team All-Big Ten, as well as being named Freshman of the Week twice during her first year.
The 2021 season has been Simon’s best campaign, considering almost all of her statistics have increased since the start of her collegiate career.
This year, the senior midfielder ranked among the very best attacking players in the conference on the stat sheet, ranking top five in goals scored, game-winning goals, points, shots on goal and total shots.
Coach Char-Morett Curtiss has counted on Simon all season to make an impact in various positions across the field, but her presence was greatest felt on corners.
The senior was put at the top of the circle for penalty corners this season because of her lethal ability to finish powerful, accurate shots from that area.
In fact, nine of Simon’s 14 goals in 2021 came from corners.
The senior performed at a high level when she appeared for the blue and white, and additionally, Simon was a constant fixture in the Nittany Lions’ lineup.
Simon started, and played in, every game but one this season, with her single absence coming due to a groin injury, but the senior immediately returned to the team after sitting out for only one match.
The former All-Big Ten selection has posted her best season yet in 2021, and it begs the question as to why the conference did not feel the need to recognize Simon for an even better season than when she originally earned a second-team place in 2019.
There’s no excuse for leaving Simon out of the All-Big Ten regular season honors, and this ultimately furthers a narrative that the senior has been massively overlooked.
She will likely have a chance to make a statement to those who felt she was not a top player in the conference in the NCAA Tournament, a competition the blue and white is all but guaranteed a place in.