#11 Penn State Women's Soccer 2012 Preview

Penn State Nittany Lions

Overall Rank: #11
Conference Rank: #1 Big Ten
Penn State Women's College Soccer 2012 Team Preview
Penn State Team Page


Penn State had another incredible season ending with another Big Ten title and another deep run in the NCAA Tournament. The Lady Lions were unbeatable at home and it was on the road where their season ended at the hands of Wake Forest. Penn State returns more than enough talent to dominate the Big Ten and more than enough talent to be a very dangerous team in November.

2011 Record: 21-5-0, 10-1-0
2011 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Erica Walsh

The sheer numbers returning are staggering. Actually Maya Hayes’ numbers are staggering on her own. As a sophomore she led the nation with 31 goals and added eight assists as well. Her 70 points also were tops in the nation and set Big Ten and Penn State records. It may be tough for the 5-7 New Jersey native to live up to those lofty expectations, but she will get plenty of help. Taylor Schram, another junior, is a great scorer in her own right. Her 12 goals and 12 assists would make her a star on most teams, but she obviously gets a little overshadowed in the scoring department by Hayes. Schram will score plenty of goals and set up Hayes and fellow goal scorer Christine Nairn. Nairn, a senior midfielder, scored three goals and led the team with 13 assists during the 2011 campaign. Yet, in the spring, Nairn proved that she could score plenty of goals on her own. Emily Hurd, Kori Chapic and captain Maddy Evans are all capable scorers and playmakers. Each has the potential to put up big numbers, but there are only so many goals and assists to go around.

If Penn State has a weakness it is in the back line. Part-time starter Carly Niness and four-year starter Emma Thompson will be missed. But the Lions have plenty of options in the back. Jackie Molinda, Whitney Church, Bri Garcia, Bri Hovington and Lexi Marton were all part-time starters in 2011 and are capable of filling the minutes and leadership left by Niness and Thompson. Yet, when Penn State loses it is usually not due to lack of scoring. The Lions began their 2011 campaign by allowing four goals against Stanford and ended it with a 4-2 loss at the hands of Wake Forest. Against quality opponents, the offense may be able to still score, but the defense has not always been able to keep up. That needs to change if Coach Erica Walsh wants to lead her Lions to the College Cup.

Final Projection:
With the return of goalie Erin McNulty, the Penn State defense has the potential to take the next step and stop teams with quality offenses. McNulty has been around collegiate soccer for quite some time and has a ton of experience. Back in 2007 she started all 27 games for Florida State. In 2008 she took the collegiate season off to compete for Canada at the U-20 World Cup. In 2009 she was back with the Seminoles and had another great season, allowing just 21 goals in 25 games. The next season McNulty was back on the sidelines redshirting prior to her transfer to Penn State. In 2011 she started all 26 games for Penn State and will start again in 2012. Her four shutouts in 2011 was a season low. The Lions score early and often so they are bound to receive a lot of pressure from the opposition, but this is a defense that needs to be a little more consistent.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Tournament

Returning Leaders:
Goals: Maya Hayes, Junior, F, 31
Assists: Christine Nairn, Senior, M, 13
Shots: Maya Hayes, Junior, F, 97
Saves: Erin McNulty, Senior, GK, 68

Madness 2012 Women’s Soccer Recruit Rankings:
#105 Corey Persson