Megan Rapinoe’s penalty shot sliced into the right corner of the goal, prompting an eruption of cheers from those in Panzer Stadium.
Penn State women’s soccer hosted a viewing party at Panzer Stadium for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup final between the United States and the Netherlands. As a bonus, the Penn State team raffled two signed jerseys from the alumnae on the national team, Alyssa Naeher and Ali Krieger.
Fifteen minutes before the game, many of the stadium seats on the western end of the field were filled with nearly 400 guests — many dressed in American apparel for the U.S. Women's National Team.
Penn State women's soccer Coach Erica Dambach organized the event because she said she knew the community would show up, should it have the opportunity. She also said she wanted to give back to the community that continuously supports her and her team.
“This community loves soccer,” Dambach said. “They will show up, and they will be loud and proud. It is a huge reason why I am at Penn State, because of this community.”
Kerry Abella is a returning forward on Penn State’s team and said she was “so proud” of the two alumnae on the field.
“It’s inspiring that someone who was in our exact same place right now can make it to the highest level and be such a role model for us,” Abella said. “It gives us a lot of hope that we all have that potential playing for such an amazing program. This program didn’t only shape them as soccer players, but also as people.”
Abella was joined by several members of the women’s and men’s soccer teams, many of which signed next year’s schedule posters near the entrance of Panzer Stadium. Dambach wanted to bring the players together at such an event to improve camaraderie.
“I think it gives them the reality that we are something bigger than ourselves and we have the responsibility to give back to the community,” Dambach said. “They need to be role models for all the young boys and girls in the area. We take that very seriously because somebody along the way touched their lives and introduced them to the game, and we have the opportunity to do the same.”
Abella agreed with Dambach’s objective of team building.
“Being here together, watching a team like this play is eye-opening,” Abella said. “I think it’s a good lesson, especially for the incoming freshmen, of ‘This is how we want to operate and have success like that.’”
Kate Wiesner is one of the incoming freshmen, coming onto the team as a defender. Knowing that Naeher and Krieger were once under the supervision of Dambach, Wiesner said she appreciates the opportunity to be mentored by her coach.
“Playing under Coach Dambach is such an honor,” Wiener said. “She’s been there and she’s coached the best of the best. She has a lot of wisdom and advice to give them, and I’m trying to take as much of it in as I can.”
For the first hour of the match, neither team managed to light up the scoreboard, adding some tension to the proceedings.
Katelyn Mullen, mentorship program and outreach coordinator for the Penn State School of Law, said she considered not joining the watch party because she is a “stress watcher.” However, she decided she wanted to be surrounded by other Penn State fans.
Considering that the U.S. team scored within the first 12 minutes of all its previous matches at the World Cup, Mullen said each additional minute added doubt of an American victory.
As she watched the first U.S. goal sink into the net, Mullen jumped to her feet, her arms thrown up in excitement. She spun around to record the crowd’s reaction and high-fived a stranger sitting in front of her.
“It was stressful. [The U.S.] wasn’t breaking [the Netherlands] down the way I knew we could,” Mullen, a life-long soccer fan, said.
Regarding the penalty kick, Mullen especially enjoyed the fact it was scored by Rapinoe.
“She has ice in her veins so I was pretty sure she was going to nail it,” she said.
Despite the team gaining an additional goal thanks to Rose Lavelle, Mullen said she didn’t allow herself to confirm an inevitable win until “about three seconds after Rose scored.”
As the stadium cleared post-win, Dambach reflected on seeing her former players on the national stage.
“It gives you chills,” she said. “It just makes you so proud.”
After the team accepted its trophy, Dambach said she thinks her own players will feel “more relevant” after the spotlight given to the national team.
“As a woman in athletics, that’s a big deal,” she said. “I’m just excited for our country and my one- and three-year-old girls who will grow up in a country that values women’s soccer.”