It was a hectic two weeks for coach Erica Dambach’s squad, traveling to California last weekend and playing in back-to-back-to-back Friday-Sunday slates.
The team has played solid throughout, with its veteran leadership performing up to par for a 4-1-1 record.
However, it was the freshmen who showed up this weekend.
Kate Wiesner, Cori Dyke and Peyton Linnehan have been starting games for the Nittany Lions since the opener against Stanford. Kat Asman started against West Virginia and James Madison in Amanda Dennis’ absence and Jordan Canniff made her debut against the Mountaineers. Ally Schlegel has scored in each of her last four games.
Dambach is cautiously optimistic with the standout performances as the team head into Big Ten play.
“Obviously we’re leaning heavily on the freshmen right now,” Dambach said. “They’re coming up big but they have a lot to learn so we’re making mistakes as you’d expect this time of the season.”
Asman put in a good shift in the past two games, conceding one goal each game — neither of which would she be expected to save. She also helped preserve the 2-1 victory against James Madison by saving a crucial penalty in the 73rd minute.
She credits the team for helping her settle in, while also acknowledging she has improvements to be made along the line.
“I don’t think I can ask for better teammates and coaches to put me in both these games,” Asman said. “I think I’m doing pretty good but I think I got a lot of room to improve, a lot of things to clean up.”
On the other end of the pitch, Schlegel is the star of the show this season. She has been an integral part of both the offense and the defense, putting goals into the back of the net while also spearheading a potent high press after the opponent regains possession.
“Ally has been a real bright spot for us,” Dambach said. “She has been an important piece on the field and is a leader for us as well. I’m thrilled for her and believe she will continue to play an important role going forward.”
Schlegel is confident about her performance, and really enjoys sharing the field with the young players on the team.
“I think our young players did an awesome job coming in ready for the season,” Schlegel said. “They’re big time, they seem more mature than freshman. They’re calm and collected and they’ve just been absolutely amazing for us this season.”
Schlegel, who shared the pitch with them over the summer as she readied for an attempt to make it back on the team after the season-long injury, also shared her joy for seeing the freshmen grow.
“It’s awesome to see,” she said. “I was with them all summer so just for all of us to put in that work together and see it showing on the field is the best feeling.”
Wiesner, Dyke and Linnehan’s roles cannot be overlooked as well.
Wiesner played a left back/midfield hybrid very well, making dangerous runs into the channels and scoring in her debut against Stanford. Linnehan has shown sparks of brilliance playing primarily on the right, breaking through defenses often on her own.
On the other side of the field, Dyke serves as a perfect holding midfielder. She linked passes together during the recycling of possessions and often withstood pressure.
It was a bit of an unlucky situation for Dambach and her staff early on, with Dennis and Shea Moyer having to sit out games already. The rigorous play also saw players like Sam Coffey and Frankie Tagliaferri pick up minor injuries.
In spite of those injuries to some of the more seasoned veterans, it’s clear the future is bright for the Nittany Lions if the freshmen continue to step up the way they have.
“[The experienced players] just need time right now. We’ll get them back but they need time,” Dambach said. “In the meantime, we have to lean on the experience these other guys are getting. When we can put it all back together we’ll be ticking.”