Oklahoma State is heading to the lion’s den with nothing to lose.
Specifically, the Nittany Lions of Penn State as the Cowgirl soccer team is set to face off in a top-tier nonconference match Thursday night.
OSU is off to a hot start in a year it is looking to get back to the postseason after missing the NCAA Tournament last year following a slew of injuries. The Cowgirls, who graduated top scorers Haley Woodard and Marlo Zoller, haven’t missed a beat with freshman Olyvia Dowell, Mississippi State transfer Gabriella Coleman and stalwart senior Jaci Jones carrying the offense so far this year.
That offense and the always-tough OSU defense will be tested against the No. 8 Nittany Lions at 6 p.m. Thursday at Jeffrey Field in State College, Pennsylvania.
OSU coach Colin Carmichael knows that, but he also understands that this isn’t the first rodeo for the Cowgirls as they have faced off against plenty of powerhouses in his two decades with the program.
“We understand the challenge ahead and it will be a huge step up in the competition we faced to this point,” Carmichael said. “From our perspective, we have nothing to lose. We are going there with confidence it will be a great game. They are one of the top teams in the country, but we are going to do what we do and we are actually excited to test ourselves. There is nothing to lose when you go on the road and play a top-10 team. If you win, it is a huge result and if you lose, it helps your RPI.”
Penn State (4-1-1) has only a loss to No. 3 Stanford and a tie with the reigning Big 12 Conference champion West Virginia. The Nittany Lions, who have made the national title game twice this decade, winning in 2015, won’t be beaten easily.
“For us to win a game on the road against a top-10 team, we have to defend well, our goalkeeper had to make some plays, they have to miss some chances and we have to make the most of our chances,” Carmichael said. “That is the outline to beat a top-10 team on the road. It sounds easy, but it is very difficult.”
OSU junior midfielder Camy Huddleston has seen the team beat big-time opponents before, as the Cowgirls knocked off a ranked Florida squad last year in Neal Patterson Stadium. On the road, it will be tough, but she likes the Cowgirls’ strengths.
“I think our strengths are how well we work together,” Huddleston said. “We pick each other up and if someone makes mistakes, someone else picks them up. We are very cohesive as a team and we don’t give up. We work really hard.”
Sophomore midfielder Grace Yochum was also there for the Florida match, and she thinks it is possible for the Cowgirls to replicate that success.
“I think it is pretty cool to be the underdog,” Yochum said. “Obviously, you want to win and you go into an environment like that. I am excited for it. We have nothing to lose. We might as well go in and get a win.”
The Cowgirls (4-0-1) tied with Oklahoma, but otherwise have been dominant in their wins. Carmichael thinks if OSU can at least get a draw with the Nittany Lions, it will help their playoff resume immensely.
“These places are tough, but they make you a better team,” Carmichael said. “And if you can get the positive result, your program gets a lot of credit. We are really focused on us. We will give them the same respect. If we play to the best of our abilities, we know we are capable of giving them a good match.”
Defending a former Cowgirl
At OSU’s weekly availability Tuesday, Carmichael commented on an event that transpired over the weekend involving former Cowgirl goalkeeper Adrianna Franch.
Franch, who played for the United States World Cup championship team, is a star for the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League. During a game against the Utah Royals in Salt Lake City, she was subjected to racial slurs and tweeted about it after the match.
Carmichael said it has no place in today’s society, especially at a sporting event.
"I think most normal, good human beings just think there is no place for that,” Carmichael said. “It is not a soccer issue, it is a societal issue. We are fully behind what AD said. Color, creed, whatever, It doesn’t matter, especially at a sporting event like that. Hopefully they find whoever said it and they should be banned for life. It happens in my country of Scotland all the time. People are fed up with it. Society has moved on from the racial things and remarks that are said in all sports. It is a shame it is coming to women’s professional soccer. I hope we never have to deal with it on a collegiate level. I have no time for people who feel that way. They need to grow up.”