Filling the Gaps: 2022 Penn State Women’s Soccer Season Preview
Following a fifth consecutive trip to the third round of the NCAA Tournament, Penn State looks to repeat its recent success in the upcoming campaign.
The blue and white ended the 2021 season with a 12-8-1 mark and pulled off an upset victory over No. 11 USC in round two of the Tournament.
However, the Nittany Lions' Cinderella run came to a close one game later as they fell 2-0 against South Carolina.
Keeping their recent success going was made more difficult following the departure of two key players from last year's team.
Sam Coffey was a catalyst for the offense and tied for the team lead with 24 points during her third season at Penn State while capturing First Team All-Big Ten honors in as many seasons.
The midfielder started her professional career with Portland Thorns FC in March after being selected in the second round of the 2021 NWSL Draft.
Kerry Abello also made the First Team All-Big Ten last season after tallying three goals and two assists as a defender.
During her six seasons as a Nittany Lion, where she was a part of three Big Ten championship teams, Abello made her pro debut with the Orlando Pride, who selected her in the third round of the 2021 NWSL Draft.
While the departures of Coffey and Abello create big holes on the roster, the ability to plug and play new players is nothing new for coach Erica Dambach.
The Nittany Lions' latest Sweet 16 appearance was the program’s 27th consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, and there is still a large amount of talent on the roster to try and extend the streak.
Ally Schlegel led the blue and white in goals a season ago, finding the back of the net ten times.
Schlegel enters 2022 with heightened expectations as she ranks amongst the top goal-scorers in the nation.
During her career in Happy Valley, she has tallied 34 goals and was named the 2021 Big Ten Forward of the Year during the shortened spring season.
Alongside the redshirt senior is Payton Linnehan, who has battled injuries, but both are expected to pace a potent Nittany Lion offense.
Linnehan started each of the first eight games last season before missing close to two months due to injury and not returning to play until the NCAA Tournament, where she came off the bench and scored the game-winning goal against Monmouth in the first round.
The senior midfielder was off to a scorching hot start to begin that season with five goals in her first three games, including a hat trick against La Salle.
Linnehan finished with seven goals which were good enough for third on the team and recorded three assists.
Other midfielders such as Jordan Canniff and Rachel Wasserman, who played vital roles a year ago, return as key veterans for the team.
Canniff tallied 11 points last season despite making just one start, and Wasserman was right behind her with seven points.
Goaltending duties should remain with Katherine Asman for another season.
Asman has been the starting goaltender for the Nittany Lions since the 2021 spring season and ended up playing in every game this past season.
In that season, Asman tallied 79 saves and a 1.44 goals against average.
Expectations are high for the Nittany Lions this season, with the United Soccer Coaches Poll ranking Penn State at No. 14 to open up the year.
That ranking is the third highest among Big Ten schools behind Rutgers, who went undefeated in conference play behind former Nittany Lion Frankie Tagliaferri, and Michigan, who knocked the Nittany Lions out of last year's Big Ten tournament.
The 2021 season started on a rough note schedule-wise for the blue and white with three non-conference matchups against ranked opponents on the road.
While this season will also see three non-conference ranked matchups, one of them will be the Nittany Lions' home opener on Thursday against No. 19 Georgetown.
The toughest of those matchups will be against No. 5 Santa Clara, who made it to the NCAA College Cup Semifinals, where it ultimately fell against BYU in penalty kicks.
There’s no lack of talent or veteran presence on this Penn State team as it gets set to begin its quest for the team's first NCAA Championship since 2015.
Logan Bourandas is a fourth-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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