Laura Suero's numbers don't tell the story.
Suero, now in her final season as a Nittany Lion, has filled the role of quiet contributor, playing wherever she was asked for Penn State over her four years with the women’s soccer program.
From the moment she stepped foot on campus, Suero knew that Penn State was home. After all, she grew up in Royersford, Pennsylvania, roughly 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia and three hours from State College.
“When I came on my visit it was just the most welcoming, from the coaches to the teammates, it was the most welcoming I’ve seen in college soccer,” Suero said.
“The coaches were like family and it just felt like home when I was here. Everything to the facilities, to the field, to the players, to the education, it all was what I wanted in a college team.”
The pride of representing her home state and seeing her family in the stands certainly sparked Suero’s affinity for Penn State as well.
“Pennsylvania’s awesome, there’s a lot to offer, so I just wanted to stay close to home and it means everything,” Suero said. “This community is great and just seeing my family come and their support, it’s been awesome.”
As a freshman, she saw limited minutes in fifteen appearances, tallying only a single goal and an assist, followed by her sophomore season in which she stepped on the field on just two occasions. Suero then subbed into 21 games as a junior.
One would imagine that a player confined to the bench would feel discouraged or displeased with a reduced role, but Suero refused to see her situation as such.
“I got occasional minutes some years, no minutes the others, so it’s just the role you have to accept when you’re coming here,” Suero said. “You come in and just work your hardest and come out every practice and make others around you better, so playing time didn’t really affect me in a negative way.”
Suero cherished the opportunity to serve as an asset to her team, even if it was limited to the training field. She continuously worked hard and diligently studied film to be prepared to give her all on the field when she was called upon.
“It was just learning, growing, how can I make my team better, how can I make myself better to get those minutes,” Suero said. “Each and every opportunity I got to play occasional minutes, I just gave everything I got.”
The senior also shared valuable words of wisdom for anyone in a similar position.
“I think that’s super important for players in the future, just don’t give up, and keep working hard, and do everything you can, just to keep getting better and making those around you better.”
Despite her shortage of minutes on the field over her first three years, Suero has not failed to impact the Nittany Lions’ team environment.
In both 2017 and 2018, she was honored with the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, which according to the conference’s website, recognizes “individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior” and “have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting.”
Suero’s character speaks volumes to her value not only as a soccer player, but also as a friend to her teammates off the field.
“I just want to be the best player and person I can be for this team and I just want to help them out,” Suero said. “I want them to help me be a better player, be a better person. On or off the field, in the classroom, I just think that it’s an honor to have that award for the past two years and I give it all to my teammates, and my coaches, and my family for their support.”
In the eyes of coach Erica Dambach, Suero’s personality epitomizes what it means to be a Nittany Lion.
“[Suero] just embodies everything that we’re all about in terms of selfless and team-first behavior,” Dambach said. “This is somebody that in everything that she does, not just in soccer, but she puts others in front of herself. She’s just good down to her core.”
Suero may not have seen much of the field during her first three seasons as a Nittany Lion, but the defender has established herself as a crucial element to Penn State’s backline in 2019, starting in 15 of her 17 appearances.
Her composure and awareness in the defensive third contradicts the fact that she made her first ever start for Penn State as a senior.
Suero’s versatility in defense has also come in handy for the Nittany Lions. Seeing action at both the center back and outside back positions has allowed her to step in wherever she’s needed.
Beginning the 2019 campaign as Penn State’s starting center back alongside redshirt senior Kaleigh Riehl, Suero was later charged with filling in at left back when freshman Kate Wiesner sustained an injury against Virginia on September 15.
The adjustment was no intimidating task for the veteran, as Suero has always prepared herself for any role she may be asked to assume.
“Throughout my four years, center back and outside back, it’s just wherever they need me at the time and I just tried my best, worked my hardest in that position to help the team out in any way I can,” Suero said.
Riehl remarked on Suero’s capacity to improve the Nittany Lion’s product on the field in a variety of ways.
“She’s a very smart player, which helps,” Riehl said. “She’s just versatile, she shows up in different positions, and it’s super helpful for us.”
Suero’s Penn State journey would not be what it was without the teammates with whom she shared the field. Her fellow seniors, Riehl, Ellie Jean, Amanda Dennis, and Sarafina Valenti, have been at her side along the way
“Just growing as a person, as a player, my class has been so supportive and it’s been an honor going through the process with them and seeing them every day in the classroom and on the field,” Suero said. “It’s just been awesome having my last four years spent with them.”
Riehl also praised Suero for her reliability.
“Laura is incredible,” Riehl added. “She is one of the most dependable people on the field. You know that regardless of what her role is, she’s gonna do it to the best of her ability and she’s gonna execute.”
Looking back on her four years in blue and white, Suero expressed that her experiences and relationships with those around her have been the highlight of her career.
“My time here at Penn State, it’s just been incredible,” Suero said. “All the people I’ve met, where we’ve gone in the Big Ten, we’ve seen so many cool schools and that experience has shaped me just to be open to change, to be open to adversity, and all my teammates have helped me in that way.”
When she arrives at the end of her days in Happy Valley this December, Suero will miss game days at Jeffrey Field and the people with whom she shared them.
“Just stepping out on that field and the opportunity that was given to me to be out on that field has just been the most incredible thing,” Suero said. “I’ll miss my teammates, I’ll miss the coaches and just overall the atmosphere that Penn State soccer has given me.”
Before she takes her final bow as a Nittany Lion, Suero aims to leave behind a lasting reputation of being one that those around her could count on.
“I just want to be remembered for being that teammate that can always be there for you,” Suero said. “I just want to help others be better people, be better players. I just want to be there for others and that’s what I’ve been trying to do and that’s who I really am as a player, just working hard out on the field every day, showing what I can give to this team and being there for my teammates, family, and coaches.”
Like many college seniors, Suero’s uncertainty concerning her future makes her prospective graduation somewhat daunting, but if she’s certain of one thing, it’s that she will look to sustain her benevolent attitude and contagious sense of compassion beyond her soccer career at Penn State.
“This experience has been awesome and I’m just gonna continue to learn, grow, and make others around me better and I know they’ll do the same for me.”