Penn State embarked on an early season road trip to test its squad which proved to be beneficial as the Nittany Lions moved to 3-1 on the season after two wins this weekend.
Coach Erica Dambach’s squad looked comfortable in its two games in Southern California, scoring three goals in each of its games against Long Beach State and Loyola Marymount while keeping a clean sheet against the latter.
“Overall I was really pleased with our performance in both matches,” Dambach said.
She also highlighted the difficulties coming into the games.
“This was a really challenging trip and I was proud of the way that the players handled not only travel, but the heat, to come away with six points on the weekend,” she added.
The team built on a strong performance against Hofstra and showed that it is capable of playing ahead and at ease in all times, even on the road. Penn State mounted offensive pressure, often camping out in the opposition final third, and created numerous opportunities off set-piece plays.
Recent Boston College transfer and All-American Sam Coffey was the star of the show for the weekend. She featured in a deeper role as a midfield playmaker in Shea Moyer’s absence and conducted the offense with ease.
In the Loyola Marymount matchup, she took 13 corner kicks throughout the match and opened the scored for the team off a free kick by driving a low ball through the wall and beyond the opposing keeper’s reach.
“We were able to get her more involved in the attack and it paid off. Her goal on Friday night was one of the best yet this season and it was great to see her get one off of a set piece as well yesterday,” Dambach said.
The changes to the starting lineup were minimal, with the most notable one being Ally Schlegel’s hot form being featured in the lineup.
Schlegel, who sat out of her freshman year due to injury, has quickly stepped up and proved that she deserves serious consideration on the team.
Dambach and the team were ecstatic that Schlegel was able to bounce back and contribute after her injury.
“Ally Schlegel has worked so hard at her rehab over the past 12 months and the staff and team alike are thrilled to have her back on the field,” Dambach said.
She was able to find the back of the net in both games over the weekend, while also putting on a show of her industrious work ethic with leading the high press up top. Her position fluidity up front also presents herself as an excellent option for team selection.
“She’s made an immediate impact and has filled in for us in several areas over the past few matches as we work to figure out how to best utilize her within our group,” Dambach added.
The weekend also saw a stellar performance off Frankie Tagliaferri. The returning co-leading point-scorer on the team notched one goal and two assists in the slate of games. She was seen making crucial runs and key passes to not just open space up for herself, but also her teammates.
Her goal was the fruition of her work ethic. She was pressing high in the final third when an unbeknownst defender made a back pass toward keeper Lee Erickson.
Tagliaferri was able to latch on to the pass, take the ball around the rushing Erickson and fired a high shot into the goal over another defender making a last-ditch effort to block the goal.
Shifting gears to the defensive end, the Nittany Lions were able to put the clamps onto the opposition, conceding only one goal in the 180 minutes played; that goal came late in the first match, when the game was all but decided.
The team remained disciplined throughout the games, not to be deterred by a couple of flurries by both their oppositions. The games did open up toward the end as the lead was comfortable and the opponents were making a late push for goals, but Dambach’s specialty in defense did show up early on this season, especially with four returners and all three captains in the back.
Another positive sign was the rotation the team got because of the relatively at-ease action over the California trip. 19 players featured over the course of the weekend, reducing workload in the heat and also showcasing the depth of the squad.
“Arguably the best part of the weekend was the opportunity to see so many players get big minutes,” Dambach said. “These players work hard day in and day out and it’s great to reward them with a chance to shine on game day.”
Penn State will be on the road for the next game against West Virginia on Friday, Sep. 6 and will return to Jeffrey Field to face James Madison on Sunday, Sep. 8.