Coming off a pair of impressive performances, Penn State will journey to California to play against Long Beach State and Loyola Marymount.
The Nittany Lions will play against Long Beach State at Long Beach, California on Friday, Aug. 30 at 10 p.m. Eastern. The team will make a quick turnaround down to Los Angeles, California for the Loyola Marymount matchup on Sunday, Sep. 1 at 4 p.m. Eastern.
It will be a new experience for a new crop of players, and coach Erica Dambach highlighted the difficulties of a trip.
“First and foremost, we have another chapter in classes starting this week,” Dambach said.
“With a lot of young players, just really helping them to make sure they’re getting proper rest is the key to it all in terms of keeping your health. That’s the No. 1 piece right now,” Dambach added.
Looking over at the opponents, Long Beach State is coming off a close, 1-0 loss against No. 4 UCLA in its lone game this season. For the Sunday matchup, Loyola Marymount went winless in two road matchups — a 5-4 loss against Pitt and a 1-1 tie with Duquesne.
The Nittany Lions have a strong existing core with players like Kaleigh Riehl, Ellie Jean and Frankie Tagliaferri, but it was the new players who put in sharp performances in the two early games.
Part of it was credited to the diligence of the new players over the summer and the welcoming effort done by players already on the squad.
“I was with a lot of the freshmen over the summer and I think even just within those six weeks, they have grown tremendously,” redshirt freshman Ally Schlegel said. “I think that they’re way more mature than I anticipated them to be.”
Tagliaferri echoed Schlegel’s thoughts, but also expanded on the squad structure and the extant environment of the team setup.
“This environment is very competitive so it could be hard to come into a place like this, especially with the players and coaches we have,” Tagliaferri said.
“I think they are fitting right in… I think it will be a huge factor for us because, yeah, we do have a lot of talent but if you just have talent and it’s not put together then that doesn’t do anything,” she added.
As well as the new players have been blending in, Dambach still realized that Rome could not be built in one day.
“I do think one thing we have to be conscious of is the journey right now and understanding it’s going to take some time to bring them along,” Dambach said.
“These [returning players], their patience in it, their willingness to help us teach and to be patient with the process because right now, it’s about learning from every experience, learning from the different styles of play that we’re playing against and understanding that you have to be a pro in all those environments,” she added.
Dambach also stressed the importance of playing a series of challenging nonconference opponents to assess a team with such high aspirations.
“We’ve got to know where we stand. We’ve got to know what our strengths are and how we break down opponents,” Dambach said.
“We came here to Penn State to play against the best and compete against the best and hopefully, at the end of the day, be the best. But you won’t know that until you put all of us in that environment.”