Editor's Note: With college sports currently on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Daily Collegian will preview what Penn State fans can look forward to in the fall, when sports are scheduled to return.
After falling in the second round of the CHA Tournament for the third straight year, Penn State hopes to reload and take its next step in the 2020-21 season.
Ending the 2019-20 campaign with a record of 13-15-8, the Nittany Lions were led by a handful of key contributors, including defenseman Mallory Uihlein and the forward tandem of Shea Nelson and Natalie Heising.
Penn State will lose seven players to graduation, the most impactful of which is Brooke Madsen. Ranked third in program history in assists, averaging .32 assists per game, Madsen was a staple in the lineup throughout her senior year.
Ending her final season in Happy Valley with eight goals and 13 assists in 36 games, replacing Madsen’s production will be a difficult task for coach Jeff Kampersal’s side, but Uihlein, Nelson and Heising are expected to fill in nicely.
Named a CHA All-Rookie Team performer, Uihlein had a breakout freshman season with 11 points by way of two goals and nine assists in 36 games.
Nelson collected 20 points on the year, tallying seven goals and 13 assists in 36 games. With a seven-game point streak in the middle of the season, the junior topped her sophomore year point total by six points.
Already an impact player on the team, it can be expected that Nelson’s role will increase in her senior season.
Heising, who ranks first in program history with .47 goals per game and just under one point per game, had an outstanding junior season.
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The 2020 season will be another shot for Penn State to prove it is still a top volleyball program.
Previously becoming the first Penn State player to earn CHA Rookie of the Year honors, Heising put up 21 points in 2019, tallying 13 goals and eight assists in 34 games.
Heising has already established herself as a dominant playmaker and consistent contributor for Penn State and is expected to continue building her legacy in her senior year.
After playing just four games as a freshman and one game the following year, junior goaltender Chantal Burke came into her own this past season.
Burke ended the season with a .938 save percentage, including a season-high 40 saves against Wisconsin. She also posted six shutouts on the year.
Outside of the returning players, the incoming freshman that looks to be a contributor in the fall is Kiara Zanon.
Zanon had 64 points in 35 games this season with the Kingston Jr. Ice Wolves in Kingston, Ontario. She also scored the gold medal-winning goal for the U18 United States Women’s National Team at the IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship in Bratislava, Slovakia.
If Zanon can step in and immediately produce in her first season, then Penn State could take another step forward as it looks to compete in the CHA.