Penn State women's soccer comes into this season ranked second in the country. That is no surprise, even to the casual fan. As such, the Nittany Lions (don't call them the Lady Lions) are pegged to repeat as Big Ten champions, their 18th in 19 seasons, according to the Big Ten women's soccer preseason poll. They were followed up by Rutgers and Wisconsin, their two biggest threats to a repeat in the conference, then Michigan and Ohio State a tier below. Penn State has been the top team in the Big Ten preseason poll every year since 2003, as head coach Erica Dambach (née Walsh) has built a dynasty in State College.
The reigning national champions have tons of depth and incoming talent, so having to replace stars like Raquel Rodriguez, Britt Eckerstrom, and Mallory Weber will be easier than it would for most schools. The leaders of the current team include Brittany Basinger (of the great Purcellville, VA), Nickolette Driesse, and Megan Schafer, all of whom were chosen as preseason Players to Watch in the Big Ten. A number of other standouts like Elizabeth Ball, Emily Ogle, and Frannie Crouse could miss the year because of the Under-20 Women's World Cup, but there is still plenty of talent in Happy Valley. If all goes right, the Nittany Lions should end the season with another conference title.