Sunday’s matchup against Northwestern was more than just Penn State’s final home game of the 2019 regular season.
The Nittany Lions celebrated their five seniors who prepare to take their final bow in blue and white when the campaign comes to a close.
Penn State 3-1 victory over the Wildcats extended its winning streak to five games and produced the ideal atmosphere to recognize the contributions of its senior class.
“It’s a really special group,” coach Erica Dambach said. “They deserve everything and they’ve given so much to this program. I’m really proud of them.”
Penn State’s two redshirt seniors, defenders Ellie Jean and Kaleigh Riehl, are the remaining players from the 2015 squad that won the first national championship in program history.
Jean, a force to be reckoned with on Penn State’s back line throughout her five years, sees the win as a momentous occasion in her final season
“We feel like we’ve finally hit a groove in the season, the pieces are all starting to come together, so it was a great senior day to have here, to get a win, and to share it with this group of people,’ Jean said.
Also honored were goalkeepers Amanda Dennis and Sarafina Valenti, as well as defender Laura Suero.
While picking up the win on her special day meant a lot to Dennis, she believed the collective team performance was the highlight of the day.
“It’s huge. You don’t want to make any game bigger than any other, but it’s awesome to see that we put our best 90 minutes together that we have all season,” Dennis said. “I think the group played great, so I’m really proud of everyone.”
Jean, Riehl, Suero, and Dennis featured in the starting lineup, with Valenti entering the game in the 85th minute.
Riehl earned her 94th consecutive start for Penn State, as she leads the NCAA Division 1 in career games played.
“This senior class is incredible,” Riehl said. There are a bunch of different personalities and we really do want to lead this team.”
While Sunday’s game was the occasion to send off their graduating players, the Nittany Lions hold hopes of extending their success to the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments still to come.
“I really love my senior class and it’s gonna be sad when it’s over, but we still have time and we’re still working,” Riehl said.