Redemption Song: Penn State Women’s Soccer Wins a National Title
In 2012, when I was a junior, the Penn State women’s soccer team made it to the NCAA title match. And got trounced.
Going up against the closest thing women’s college soccer has to a dynasty in North Carolina, the Nittany Lions lost in the College Cup final, 4-1. Honestly, I remembered the scoreline indicating a bigger blowout, as Penn State was thoroughly outclassed by the Tar Heels that afternoon.
That match came to mind after coach Erica Walsh and Co. won the program’s first national championship on Sunday afternoon against, ironically, UNC’s bitter rival—the Duke Blue Devils. It was the exact opposite of a dominating performance by one team over another. Instead, it was 90 minutes of back-and-forth soccer that culminated in Penn State winning the NCAA title (meaning at least one Nittany Lion team has won a national championship for the ninth consecutive year).
It was things coming full-circle. Three years ago, Penn State got run off of the pitch by a team from the Research Triangle. Sunday was the chance for redemption for Walsh and the handful of seniors who participated in that match against UNC. And because sports can sometimes be the best, that’s exactly what happened. The Nittany Lions’ goal was set up by a brilliant run and pass from senior Mallory Weber and finished by classmate Raquel Rodriguez, the only players in the starting XI for both matches.
The team was dominant for the duration of the tournament. Its attack was potent, as it netted 20 goals in six matches. Its defense was stout, as it didn’t allow a single goal during its entire postseason run. It was the type of all-around performance that you don’t even expect out of teams at the highest levels of soccer, let alone a group of college kids.
And as a fan, man, was it fun to watch. Everyone knew that this matchup was going to be about as even as it came, mostly because the two sides played a thrilling scoreless draw in Happy Valley earlier this year. But this match exceeded expectations. Both sides had opportunities to convert chances, both had long spells of possession, and both perpetually seemed like they were on the cusp of breaking the match wide open.
In the end, Penn State came out on top. Watching Walsh finally getting a national title after years of coming so close was spectacular. Watching the veterans who lost to North Carolina celebrate a championship was spectacular. And watching a team that will bring back eight starters in 2016 can only leave fans with one question: what’s going to happen next year?
Bill DiFilippo, online editor