Connor Maloney’s neon orange cleats take a brutal beating during every practice and game he suits up for, attacking the smooth grass and durable soccer ball with intensity.
Having scored nine goals so far in his sophomore season and adding three assists, the Penn State forward has proven himself a notable offensive weapon. He darts across the field with ease, maintaining the coif of his spiked blonde hair that just barely marks him at 5-foot-6.
Known as one of the most diligent and committed members of the Nittany Lions men’s soccer team, according to head coach Bob Warming, the 19-year-old Maloney is a young player with an active approach.
Even as a freshman, he started every game and scored two goals, along with seven assists.
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Topping off his personal success, Maloney had the good fortune of beginning his collegiate career as part of the 2013 Big Ten championship team and being selected to the 2013 All-Big Ten Freshman Team. Still, he has bigger goals.
“We want to win a national championship, and I think this team is definitely capable of doing it,” he said.
Maloney said he thinks the team, now 11-4-1, is falling under the radar and that its “blue-collar” approach could put it in national championship contention.
After a dominant start to the season, the team hit a three-game losing streak, falling to Maryland, Michigan State and West Virginia. Penn State snapped its losing skid with a 2-1 win over Wisconsin. However, the Nittany Lions dropped a 2-1 loss to Northwestern in double overtime on Sunday, which leaves one regular-season game left to return to winning form before conference tournament play starts.
Scoring his ninth goal in Wednesday’s 2-1 home loss against the Mountaineers, Maloney maintained his status as the Big Ten leader in points (9) and points per game (averaging 1.43).
Although he is one of the youngest on the 26-man squad, his youth does not detract from his active voice and leadership on the field.
Warming explained that Maloney’s grit and dedication in games and in practice sets him up as a role model for others who need to match his effort.
While Maloney admits it can be stressful when some of his older teammates are not as open to his role as a leader, he just wants to see the most powerful team possible.
Next year, the team will include his younger brother, Austin Maloney, also a forward.
A senior at Connor Maloney’s alma mater, Bishop McDevitt High School, Austin Maloney is the third sibling, who will play collegiate soccer.
At the University of West Virginia, sister Kelsie is a junior forward on the women’s soccer team.
Though his hometown is only two hours away, Maloney said attending Penn State was never a given.
He looked at programs across the country, including at other Big Ten schools. Ultimately, they all lacked one thing: “Coach Warming was definitely my biggest decision,” Connor explained, while describing the atmosphere, fan base and other factors that put Penn State ahead.
According to Maloney, something similar must have done the trick for his brother.
“He made that decision on his own,” Connor said. “I know how hard it was with people pressuring me, so I let it go and let him make his own decision, and he wanted to come play with me.”
While he didn’t have to worry about recruiting his sibling, Maloney, who is an advertising major, has had to balance the life of a busy student with that of a Division I athlete.
Still, all other thoughts are swept from his mind once he sets foot on the pitch. To Maloney, there’s no difference between practice and a game, something his head coach notices.
“This is a kid who never takes a practice off,” Warming said. “He works as hard in practice as he does here on the [game] field.”
Though there might not be a difference in his play each game, Maloney said he can always notice something unique about a home game — his family is usually there.
His parents, Terence and Tammy Maloney, attend nearly every home game. Sometimes, Maloney said, some of his friends who attend Penn State will go to games and create a small fan club for him.
Next year, the elder Maloneys will have a pair of reasons to make the trip to Jeffrey Field.