Penn State men’s soccer looks to repeat as conference champs in 2022
After a stellar 2021 campaign, expectations are high for Penn State entering the new season. Those expectations are reflected in a No. 21 ranking in the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll.
A year ago, the Nittany Lions finished with a 13-7-1 record and won the Big Ten regular season and tournament, defeating Indiana 3-0.
However, an 8-2 home loss to the Hofstra Pride sent the Nittany Lions packing in their opening NCAA tournament match.
Despite the lackluster finish, the blue and white are returning a plethora of starlets that fueled the Big Ten winning run last season. Some even believe the sequel to the 2021 push could top its predecessor.
Although strong players such as striker Danny Bloyou and veteran midfielder Pierre Reedy have departed, Penn State still boasts a strong attack.
Reigning Big Ten offensive player of the tournament, Seth Kuhn, is back for his fifth season and fourth as a Nittany Lion to lead the team in midfield.
Kuhn and the team caught fire late last season after he scored an overtime-winning screamer of a goal to upset the Maryland Terrapins by a final score of 3-2.
This game began the late-season stretch that saw the Nittany Lions going all the way to winning the Big Ten tournament.
Kuhn was recognized for his success in the offseason when he was drafted 73rd overall in the MLS SuperDraft by the New York Red Bulls.
Joining Kuhn as returning players in the midfield and attack are fellow veterans Peter Mangione and Andrew Privett.
One area the Nittany Lions will need to improve on from last season is their defending.
Penn State conceded a goal in 13 of their 21 matches last year and allowed a staggering eight goals in their lone NCAA tournament match.
Kris Shakes returns to the squad as a quality goalkeeper, but it’s his back line in front of him who will need to step up to give the blue and white a fighting chance to defend its Big Ten title.
Tyger Evans was an ever-improving player last season, showing flashes that he could one day be an everyday starter. Penn State’s defense could vastly improve if Evans takes the next step.
One mainstay defender from last year, Femi Awodesu, will also look to solidify the group’s efforts in preventing goals, especially with the departure of central defender Brandon Hackenberg.
There are plenty of exciting matches to look forward to on Penn State’s schedule for the 2022 season.
In just the third match of the season, the Nittany Lions welcome West Virginia to Jeffrey Field, a side they lost to by a score of 3-1 on the road in 2021.
The contest should be a good measuring stick game to see if the blue and white are up to playing to their high level from last season.
Perhaps the match looming on the calendar is Penn State’s trip to Bloomington on October 14 for a rematch of last year’s Big Ten title game against Indiana.
Before last year’s 3-0 win over Indiana, the Nittany Lions had not defeated the Hoosiers since 2015.
Needless to say, Indiana will be looking to restore things to the way they were before when playing Penn State.
They will get that opportunity on its home pitch in what could be an important tilt in deciding the regular season Big Ten champion.
Penn State will open its season on August 25 against Rhode Island at Jeffrey Field.
The Nittany Lions can no longer slide by with success in the shadows and surprise the college soccer world like they did last year. Expectations have arrived, and it’s time to see if Penn State can rise to meet them or fall flat on the big stage.
Maclain Young is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com
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