Moments before Penn State kicks off, the likes of Ally Schlegel, Kerry Abello and Sam Coffey take the field poised to make an impact.
But there’s more to the Nittany Lions’ roster than just the 11 starters.
Penn State’s “super subs” have played an instrumental role in maintaining the consistency of the on-field product throughout the season.
In 2019, the Nittany Lions have featured a number of players in this role, among them three freshmen: Maddie Myers, Devon Olive and Jordan Canniff.
Exhibiting a team-first mentality, the young trio has made the most of its minutes on the field, providing relief and an injection of strength for the likes of habitual starters Schlegel, Abello, Payton Linnehan and Frankie Tagliaferri.
Myers, the lone redshirt freshman of the trio, sat out the 2018 season with a torn ACL, an experience she would not describe as easy, but one that improved her perspective on the game.
“I think just being able to watch and learn and kind of have knowledge before stepping on the field was super helpful to me and everything that I’ve done this year,” she said.
A substitute in 16 of her 19 total appearances, Myers has most often found herself taking up Linnehan’s position on the right wing, putting to use her aggressiveness in the Nittany Lions’ attack.
The midfielder from Grand Rapids, Michigan relishes each opportunity to help her team and values the confidence she has earned from coach Erica Dambach.
“I’m just kind of enjoying every experience that I have on and off the field,” Myers said. “So, just whenever coach needs me, I’m ready to go, and I think that’s important just to be there for your team, be there for yourself, and make it so your coaches do trust you.”
Olive, without a single starting appearance to her name, has subbed on for the Nittany Lions in 14 matches in 2019.
Even with limited playing time, she emphasized the importance of being a team player and providing a source of enthusiasm for her teammates.
“I’m always excited to make that impact on the field and help the team in any way possible. I come in with fresh legs, always ready to go,” Olive said. “I love being that super sub and helping the team in any way I can.”
“When we’re on the bench, I’m always giving positive vibes to make the team better, give them energy to keep the full 90 minutes.”
While she may have begun preseason as an outside back, Olive has mainly been deployed in midfield as a winger. Her versatility has greatly benefited the youngster’s ability on the field.
“Having that transition is definitely tough because there’s different aspects of the game that you need to know to be an attacker and to be a defender, but they both correlate because when I’m in the winger position on the field, it really helps to know both aspects of the game,” Olive said.
Canniff has seen her role split between a starter and a substitute, breaking the starting lineup in seven of her 16 appearances, however, she does not distinguish between the two.
“Obviously as a sub, you have to come in and try and bring the energy up, but as a starter as well, you’re trying to keep the energy the whole game,” Canniff said. “Just being a sub, you’re trying to come in and really bring your team up and trying to push them in any way possible.”
The attacker from California, Maryland utilizes her skills at various positions in the offensive third, sometimes playing on the wing, while other times assuming a more central role up front.
Canniff also highlighted the collective force that she and her teammates impose when they enter the game.
“We come in and we really make an impact and we’re making runs and we’re flying around the field,” she said. “Our technical ability, we all have that ability to come in and score goals and assist people and to just keep the ball and be threatening.”
All three players have found the back of the net in their debut season, as Olive contributed to Penn State’s 5-1 beating of Michigan State on Sept. 22, while Myers and Canniff both scored in a 3-2 victory over Ohio State on Oct. 6. Olive provided the assist on Canniff’s goal, another career first.
Sophomore forward Rachel Wasserman, who shares a similar role, sees the quality of the Penn State’s bench as a testament to the team’s talent and depth.
“It’s a great dynamic this year cause we’re a really deep team so that you trust that anybody who’s coming on the field is gonna do whatever they can to help the team and puts the team first with everything,” Wasserman said.
While it may not seem fitting to associate leadership with a group of budding freshmen in non-starter roles, Penn State has counted on each member of its squad to infuse their personality into the group, as expressed by redshirt senior co-captain Ellie Jean.
“I feel that everyone on our team has a great leadership role and embraces their role right now within how they can affect the team and how they can create change,” Jean said. “I would say we got 28 really great leaders rather than just three.”
Accordingly, the freshmen have shown no reserve in influencing their teammates.
Myers enjoys showcasing her boisterous and fun-loving character, while establishing her grit on the field whenever called upon.
“I think I bring a lot of energy to practice and on the field,” Myers said. “I’m also very hard-nosed, so just being able to be reliable, get in my tackles, work hard. I think I bring that on another level and I’m really proud of where I bring that type of energy to the team.”
Olive, on the other hand, was admittedly timid upon her arrival at Penn State, but the native of Brooklyn, New York has since come into her own.
“Now I’m loud, now I’m energetic, now I’m trying to crack jokes whenever I get the opportunity,” she said. “Whenever we get the chance to release our fun side, I love doing that ‘cause I’m an energetic type of person.”
The Nittany Lions relied a great deal on the contributions of their super subs throughout the regular season. Moving forward, the young trio promises to play a major role in Penn State’s quest for postseason glory.
“We have asked a lot of a lot of young players and it’s taken time,” Dambach said. “Now you see them coming in it and credit to their teammates, they’ve helped them build their confidence and when things were up and down earlier in the season, they just stayed with them and now you seem them clicking in what they’re able to do.”