Penn State Soccer

Penn State women’s soccer celebrates national title with fans at Rec Hall

Penn State women’s soccer team poses with their NCAA trophy and young soccer players from the community after being welcomed home on Sunday.
Penn State women’s soccer team poses with their NCAA trophy and young soccer players from the community after being welcomed home on Sunday.

Seven young girls, bundled up with coats, gloves and hats, but beaming with excitement, wanted a better view.

As a tunnel of cheerleaders, student-athletes, and booster club members crowded the entrance to Rec Hall, the group ran up the steps to higher ground, overlooking the chaos.

They, just like everyone on Sunday night, wanted a glimpse of the national champions.

A herd of supporters welcomed back the Penn State women’s soccer team after the Nittany Lions captured the program’s first national title earlier that afternoon. Penn State defeated Duke 1-0 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.

It was a historic day for the Nittany Lions, and they treated it as such.

“To come back here to Rec Hall to all of our fans and the community,” coach Erica Walsh said, “it just topped off a perfect weekend.”

After parading off the bus, holding the College Cup trophy high and in sight, the team funneled into Rec Hall.

The crowd followed.

As DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” blared in the background, the Nittany Lions posed for pictures with the trophy — and plenty of fans.

There was even an unorganized line to get a snapshot with the star of the day, Raquel Rodriguez.

The senior who scored the game-winner was, with reason, rather popular. She was just trying to enjoy the moment.

“I couldn’t be more grateful,” Rodriguez said. “Just to be a part of this is amazing. It’s something bigger than just me.”

Rodriguez was especially thankful for the backing, both down at the College Cup and back in Happy Valley.

“I think that’s what differentiates us from most schools,” Rodriguez said. “We’re really a family. And to know you have that support regardless, really, it makes a difference.”

Walsh agreed.

The coach, in her ninth year at the helm, has wanted a national title for the program since she stepped on campus.

But it was how the team achieved it that has her most proud.

“I wanted it more for this team more than any other team, because the culture was right,” Walsh said, a bit misty-eyed. “You want them to do the right things, not just talk about it. And their actions spoke volumes about what they really wanted.”

Those actions were, first, winning the national title, and then celebrating appropriately: With their family, friends and supporters.

As for those young fans, they made sure to get in on a few pictures with the players and championship trophy.

That not only brought smiles to their faces, but also Walsh’s.

“You can see these guys dreaming,” the coach said of the young fans. “It hopefully just puts the whole thing in perspective for our players.

“It’s an incredible opportunity. A unique opportunity.”

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9