There was no easing into the action for these freshmen.
They couldn’t wait to leave their marks on the program.
Playing in their first game for the Penn State women’s soccer team, new Nittany Lions played roles in all the scoring as No. 24 Penn State toppled No. 12 West Virginia 3-1 Friday evening at Jeffrey Field.
“You can prepare and prepare and prepare, but at the end of the day they’ve got to perform,” head coach Erica Walsh said. “You never know what you’re going to get sometimes from freshmen. I tell you, their performance was outstanding.”
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The youthful Emily Ogle scored one goal and assisted on another by veteran Kori Chapic, and Frannie Crouse netted the day’s first score on opening day of the fall sports season.
Seven freshmen got onto the field Friday, including four.
“A lot of us freshmen — there’s a lot of us this year, but we all came in prepared and we were all ready,” Ogle said. “The upperclassmen helped us transition. It showed out on the field.”
The recruiting class had been rated among the nation’s best, and their poise and talent was quickly noticeable.
“Knowing them in the recruiting process, I expected a lot out of them,” West Virginia coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. “It was exciting to see them do so well.”
Walsh said there were some jitters before the game, but they seemed to relax as soon as the whistle blew.
“I knew they were good players,” Walsh said. “They showed it in training, they showed it for the three years we were recruiting them, but it’s West Virginia. This is the big time. This is Jeffrey Field and the poise, the toughness and the fitness level — I was blown away by the freshman performance.”
The Nittany Lions outshot the Mountaineers 9-3, with Britt Eckerstrom making one save and allowing only a goal with 18:26 left by Kadeisha Buchanan to spoil the shutout.
Penn State will face Syracuse at 2:30 p.m. Sunday on the second and final day of the Penn State Invitational.
Senior Emily Hurd set up the first score by taking the ball deep and fed the ball to Crouse in the middle. The freshman was patient, took a step as keeper Hannah Steadman came out to challenge and slipped the ball through 13:26 into the season.
“Unbelievable,” Hurd said of the freshmen. “We knew they were going to be a talented group, but college is a whole different game. But their transition through everything is just so seamless.”
Raquel Rodriguez nearly made it 2-0 when she drew a foul just inside the top of the penalty box, but her penalty kick sailed wide.
But just over 90 seconds later the Nittany Lions did add to the lead when Ogle’s corner kick found the head of Chapic. The ball bounced off Mountaineer Kelsie Maloney, who was guarding the post, and across the line.
With 1:00 left in the first half, freshman Megan Shafer drew a foul in the box, and this time Penn State converted, with Ogle hitting the net to add to her daily tally.
“Meg Shafer did an awesome job to get the foul in the box,” Ogle said. “It’s a PK, and I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to take it.”
Buchanan finally put the Mountaineers on the board, scoring from about 10 yards out off Maloney’s corner kick.
“We didn’t come ready in the first half,” Izzo-Brown said. “Unfortunately, playing a great team like Penn State, 45 minutes isn’t enough and we ran out of time.”
The Nittany Lions improved to 7-2-1 in season openers the last decade.
“We had a great result tonight,” Hurd said. “But it’s important to keep the highs and lows as neutral as possible, because we’ve got a big game coming up on Sunday, and that’s where all our focus is now.”
Syracuse and Missouri met in the day’s other game, playing to a scoreless draw through two overtimes MacKenzie Moranz and McKenzie Sauerwein earned the shutouts for their respective teams.
Notes: The start time was moved up from 7:30 to 5 p.m. with the expectation of heavy evening thunderstorms. It forced the two games to be played concurrently, with the Orange and Tigers battling on Penn State’s practice field. … At halftime, new director of athletics Sandy Barbour took the “ALS ice bucket challenge,” having a bucket of ice water dumped over her head by the Nittany Lion mascot. She was challenged to participate in the fund-raising effort by a number of people, including softball coach Amanda Lehotek. … Because of Friday’s warm, humid conditions, a short “hydration break” was taken midway through each half.