During their respective fall sports media availability days, Penn State women’s soccer head coach Erica Dambach, and women’s volleyball head coach Russ Rose admitted squad depth would be a challenge this season.
Nonetheless, the two teams have come out firing on all cylinders with Nittany Lions volleyball going 5-0, and Dambach’s team stringing along four wins and a tie after narrowly losing to No. 3 Stanford in its season opener.
For both teams, the incorporation of younger players isn’t something that will just be helpful this season, it’s vital. However, according to soccer’s redshirt freshman Ally Schlegel and junior Frankie Tagliaferri, the underclassmen are well on their way to contributing to the team.
“This environment is very competitive, so it can be hard to come into a place like this, especially with the players and coaches we have,” Tagliaferri said. “But I think they are fitting right in with our group and we’re welcoming them very well. Us being a team this year is going to be huge for us.”
In agreeance, Dambach said her upperclassmen have done well with showing the freshmen the Penn State soccer culture, and acclimating the new players.
“So much of it is a testament to the way they brought them in so that right off the bat they were able to have the confidence they needed to step out in front of 5,000 plus fans on a Friday night and perform,” Dambach said. “That’s a big ask and I thought the way they responded was very impressive and indicative of who they are as people and competitors.”
Heading into his 41st season as head coach, Rose was less optimistic about his team’s depth. With 15 out of the 20 players on the team being freshmen and sophomores, reliance on some of the team’s more experienced players is crucial this season.
“I don’t think our depth is very good this year, I thought our depth was a little better last year,” Rose said. “I think we’re going to have to depend on our starters, and some of the people who aren’t playing right now have a long way to go to contribute at the level we hope to play at.”
Notwithstanding Rose’s doubt, sophomore Kaitlyn Hord explained her confidence in the team and her excitement in playing in a competitive gym.
“The freshmen that came in have really great attitudes and a lot of them are showing some really strong improvement just from preseason,” Hord said. “If we have people to push us we’ll grow individually and grow as a team and I think we really need that.”
Despite early-season concerns regarding both their teams, Dambach and Rose have certainly got their players headed in the right direction.
Nittany Lion women’s soccer will look to push its home record to 3-1 against Oklahoma State on Thursday, and women’s volleyball is aiming to keep its undefeated streak alive with a home game against Stanford on Friday.