CARY, N.C. – This is the way it was supposed to have started for Penn State senior Raquel Rodriguez and Mallory Weber, with a national championship.
Although it was just three years in the past, 2012 seems so long ago now. They were freshmen who just so happened to be on a squad that made it all the way to the Women’s College Cup finals for the first time in school history.
It was the first time in seven years Penn State had made it to the Women’s College Cup, and just the fourth time ever.
That was the good news. The flip side was that the Nittany Lions lost to perennial DI women’s soccer powerhouse North Carolina 4-1. Now seniors with a lot of collegiate soccer behind them, Rodriguez and Weber finally made it back.
Only this time, just making it wasn’t going to be good enough. The Nittany Lions won this time around, and it was somehow fitting that Rodriguez scored the title game’s only goal … with an assist from Weber.
How cool is that?
Related: DI women's soccer hub
The loss to Carolina was still there, even as Rodriguez was on the field.
“I know that during the game, I was thinking about that, actually,” Rodriguez said. “All I could think of was, ‘I don’t want that to happen again, not today. We still have the opportunity. We can still fight for it.’ All I could think of was that. It fueled us … at least … it was in the back of my mind.”
Weber smiled when asked about 2012.
“I think it makes up for it a little bit,” she added. “It’s a good note to go out on.”
They’re the elder statesmen on a team that won a national championship here. They’ve been through a lot together, through the disappointment of 2012 and now the highest emotional high possible in sports.
“Mal, throughout the years, I’ve come to know her better,” Rodriguez said. “We have those things in common, that we started as freshmen. We’ve been together, experiencing many, many emotions together with the team. We both just love this team. We love the people on the team. It was both our goals to just win.”
Weber appeared quiet following the game, as she began to soak in the experience of what had just taken place. The 2015 women’s College Cup title was hers … finally.
“We’ve worked for four years for this,” she said. “To go out on this note and be the first team to win a national championship and be that senior class that’s led them … it’s indescribable. It’s just such a great feeling … such a high right now.”
Penn State head coach Erica Walsh welcomed Rodriguez’s leap of faith, coming from her home country of Costa Rica all the way to University Park, Pennsylvania. It certainly paid off on Sunday.
“Watching student-athletes come from overseas to an environment that’s so different from home … seeing the courage that they bring … allowing us to bring her into this environment and her family trusting us that we’ll take care of her, having never met us before … she inspires me,” Walsh concluded.
“It inspires all of us to do things that maybe we’re a little bit scared to do. She packed her bags and moved to another country and moved to a small town, didn’t know where she was going or what she was doing. Something inside of her told her it was the right thing. I thank God she did, because she’s been a blessing in all of our lives.”