Penn State Women's Soccer: It's Business as Usual Entering the College Cup
Penn State will play one of the biggest games in program history Friday night (8:30 p.m., ESPN3) as part of the College Cup, soccer's Final Four, when it clashes against Florida State in San Diego, Calif.
That doesn't mean this team is unfamiliar with the bright lights. Coaches and players boast international and World Cup playing time, as junior forward Maya Hayes led the United States Under-20 team to a World Cup victory this summer and tops the current roster with 12 career goals. Junior midfielder Taylor Schram is also a member of the United States Under-20 team.
Senior Midfielder Christine Nairn boasts international experience with the United States women's soccer team, scoring a winning goal in a 1-0 effort against Canada in 2009. She was the ninth-youngest player to ever score for the women's full team.
Coach Erica Walsh has served as an assistant coach for the U.S. women’s national team since Dec. 2007 and helped lead the United States to the 2008 Olympic gold medal. She was also an important fixture of Pia Sundhage’s staff for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
With a 20-3-2 record, the Nittany Lions know they are beatable, but staying grounded and focused on the task at hand is well within the wheelhouse of one of the nation's most potent scoring attacks.
“Business as usual," Nairn said prior to Friday night's game. "We look to [coach Walsh] for that sense of calmness in times like these. We can look to our seniors and our captains all we want, but if our coach isn’t leading us in the right direction and showing us how to act and how to behave in these scenarios and situations, we might as well be lost. She’s been here, and we’re ready to follow her wherever she takes us."
The Nittany Lions are playing in the College Cup for only the fourth time in program history and the first since 2005. Friday night's matchup provides an interesting storyline as both Walsh and graduate student and goaltender Erin McNulty have coached or played for Florida State.
"Obviously that is a hot topic," Walsh said. "And as you know my past goes through Florida State as well, and I was at the College Cup with them in 2005 and it seems like a million years ago at this point, and I think it’s the same for Erin. We’re here, we’re with this program, and Erin would do anything for these players and this university.
"This is the highest stage, it’s fantastic, but you’re looking at three players who’ve trained with the national team and that have competed in World Cups," Walsh said.
"There is so much experience across the board on this roster. So again it’s not another game, quote un quote, because it’s the College Cup, and it’s the big one. But at the same time, we’ve had so many players compete on big stages, whether it’s academically, athletically, through World Cup, or being the president of [Student-Athlete Advisory Board]. They’re prepared for the challenge.”