Penn State isn't being mentioned as a national contender like it was in 2005 when it went unbeaten in 25 games and reached the Women's College Cup,
is doing perhaps the best job in her six years as the Nittany Lions head coach.
On Sunday, the No 10 Lions beat Northwestern, 2-1, to
clinch their ninth straight Big Ten regular-season title.
Wilkins' previous teams were loaded with individual talent like 2001 Hermann Trophy winner Christie Welsh
, two-time Hermann Trophy runner-up Tiffany Weimer
, three-time All-American Joanna
and Canada internationals Erin McLeod
and Carmelina Moscato
After a 3-1 victory over
top-ranked UCLA in their 2006 opener, the Lions showed their inexperience, going four straight games without a win. Wilkins' rebuilding efforts in Happy Valley were hampered by injuries to central
defenders Jean Rettig
and Denay Riley
and Zoe Bouchelle
's leg injury that kept
her out of action for the first half of the season. Moreover, Allie Long
missed the start of the season to represent the USA at the Under-20 Women's World
But captain Ali Krieger
and fellow senior Heather Tomko
were steadying influences for their
young teammates. Junior Aubrey Aden-Buie
, the Lions' most imposing threat up front, scored big goals early in the Big Ten campaign. Sophomore Sheree Gray
, the former U.S. U-19 standout, has blossomed as a sophomore and become a much more consistent player. Aubrey
(who replaced McLeod in goal) and Katie Schoepfer
(seven goals) have had outstanding freshman seasons.
As the Big Ten Tournament at Penn State Nov. 2-5 approaches, the Lions are starting to come together. While Rettig remains sidelined with a concussion, Riley and Bouchelle are playing
again. Against Northwestern, Bouchelle fed Long for the tying goal, and Riley won the game with her second goal of the season.
for video of the Lions' title-clinching win.)