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Women's Soccer 2016 Season Preview

Women's Soccer 2016 Season Preview

9/2/2016 — Last season, the Penn State Altoona women’s soccer team made its first appearance in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference postseason tournament since 2011 and earned a berth into the semifinals after an upset victory in the first round. This fall, the Lady Lions will look to their returning players to lead the way forward.

“Our returners are focused this season, and they have all made the decision to lead by example on and off the field. The talent in this group is undeniable, and our challenge this season will be to finally put it all together on the field,” said women’s soccer head coach Pam Snyder Etters, who is in her seventh year with the program.

In particular, two senior players will be keys at their respective positions. The team’s back line will benefit from the steady, veteran presence of senior defender Libby Strayer (McConnellsburg, PA/McConnellsburg), who started 17 games last season. At the midfield position, senior Rhi Miller (Hummelstown, PA/Lower Dauphin) is coming off of a season in which she started all 18 games, scored three goals, and took third team All-AMCC honors.

“Libby is one of my favorite college athlete stories. After a rough freshman year as a forward, she was ready to give up the sport. But she completely gave herself to the team and trusted the coaching staff to utilize her wherever, however, and as much – or as little – as needed,” Etters said of Strayer’s progression through the past three seasons. “We slowly transitioned her through the midfield, into the defensive midfield, and finally into our back line, where she started and played nearly every minute as a junior. Her growth as a player and individual has turned her into a solid, knowledgeable center back and leader for her teammates, and she is a unique defender in that she possesses the foot skills of an attacker.”

Joining Strayer along the back line will be sophomore Sydney Emershaw (Dallas, PA/Dallas), who was originally recruited as a goalkeeper but has transitioned to defense, along with fellow sophomore Brooklyn Haugh (Altoona, PA/Altoona) and freshmen Kayla Gardner (Williamsport, PA/Loyalsock Township) and Maddy Jorich (Middletown, PA/Middletown).

“Rhi will be the staple of our midfield, and she will need to be the bridge between the defensive line and our attack,” Etters continued, regarding her senior midfielder. “She is extremely quick on the dribble, and she is able to gain significant ground at speed while allowing us to remain in possession of the ball.”

In addition to Miller, Etters expects sophomore Caroline Menges (Harleysville, PA/Lansdale Catholic) to contribute but offensively and defensively at the midfield spot.

The Lady Lions’ attack will be bolstered by returning junior Shoshana Mahoney (Sweet Valley, PA/Lake-Lehman), who was a third team All-AMCC pick last year after playing in all 18 games and ranking second on her squad in goals (5) and points (11).

“Sho is a force on the field. She is incredibly strong, speedy, and skilled. She had a tremendous showing in our spring tournament, and I expect she will build on the momentum she has generated over the last year,” said Etters. “To complement her, I brought in first-year player Marissa Panasiti (Bellwood, PA/Bellwood-Antis), who is coming off of a very accomplished high school career. She is a gritty, fast, and skilled attacker who can keep pace with Sho up top and will undoubtedly give opposing teams fits with that pace.”

After losing four-year starting goalkeeper Mackenzie Strubhar to graduation after last season, Etters and the Lady Lions will turn to sophomore Molly Malone (Altoona, PA/Altoona) between the pipes. Last season, Malone played in eight games, including four starts, and made 36 saves.

“Molly has stepped into the role of starting keeper this year. She will have a strong field in front of her and is capable of making big saves,” Etters said. “She played significant time as a freshman and should have no trouble adjusting to the full time responsibility.”

Etters hopes that her group of returners will help carry her team this fall, and she expects to get significant contributions from the first-year players. If all goes according to plan, she sees her team making another run at the AMCC Tournament.

“Settling in has come pretty quickly, as our freshmen seem to have meshed with the returners quite well,” Etters explained. “Our expectations are once again reaching the playoffs. Talent-wise, this team is capable of contending, but we will need some of our younger players to step up right away and play like returners.”

Penn State Altoona women’s soccer opens its season with a home game against Dickinson College on Saturday, September 3 at 2:00 PM.

Photo: Senior defender Libby Strayer (left) and senior midfielder Rhi Miller (right) are two upperclassmen that the team will depend on for consistency and leadership this season.

TAGS: women's soccer