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Dec, 2017

Youth Club Preparation Pays Off for Penn State Standout Emily Ogle

By Parker Cleveland/

2017 was an up and down year for Penn State Women’s Soccer. The team went finished fifth overall in the Big Ten with a 6-2-3 regular season conference record, going 9-4-3 overall. However, the Nittany Lions charged into the postseason winning the Big Ten Tournament and making a deep run as they tried to win the NCAA College Cup. Alas, the team fell in the Elite Eight to the eventual champions Stanford. Despite the loss, reaching that point in the tournament showed the toughness and resilience of the team. 

One player who had a key role in helping the Nittany Lions achieve what they did was Strongsville, Ohio native Emily Ogle. The junior anchored the midfield for Penn State and chipped in four goals and five assists, including displaying her steady nerves with three penalties converted. 

She looked back at the 2017 fall season and, although the team struggled, Ogle said, “Overall, we grew a lot we faced a lot of adversity, we learned a lot about ourselves throughout the course of the season, and it’s a lot to be proud of anytime you make an Elite Eight game.”

In order to reach that point in the tournament, the team had to find the mental strength to put the struggles in the regular season behind them. After the season ended, the team held a meeting with their sports psychiatrist to prepare for the postseason. Ogle said that as a team, “We knew what we had to do from that point on and [the psychiatrist] had this phrase ‘just drop the backpack.’ It didn’t matter what happened previously.” 

That meeting helped serve as a turning point in the season as the team went on a tear in the Big Ten Tournament. That game was also not without adversity and featured Penn State going down a goal early to Northwestern. After a rain delay and move to an indoor stadium, the Nittany Lions came back to beat the Wildcats 2-1. 

That was a big moment for the team, one that Ogle said she had been conditioning for since she was with her youth club team: Internationals SC of Medina, Ohio. 

Her time with the club taught her the best lesson before heading to Penn State, saying she learned “Just to work hard in every single training, in every single practice, every single workout - give it your all.” 

That might seem simple, but the experience she gained with Internationals in winning tournaments like the 2012 U.S. Club National Championship started in training. 

As Ogle put it, “I think that really helped me know that I put in all that work and in those big moments I had nothing to be afraid of and I can just rely on all of the stuff I’ve done over the years so that I am ready for those moments.” 

Those moments included a national title with Penn State as well as six starts with the U.S. U-20 Women’s National Team in the 2016 U-20 Women’s World Cup.

Emily’s abilities in big matches with her university and the U-20s show her “tactical, analytical, and competitive” qualities, which she says were shaped by playing as a youth player with Internationals SC. 

She said that aside from learning technical skills, the club allowed her to become more competitive, saying she learned “It was ok to be like that, it was ok to try to win every single battle, every single game, every single practice. So it was something they harbored in me.” In order to develop her analytical ability, Ogle added, “I would watch big EPL games or stuff of that sort and talk to them about it.” 

Developing these aspects of her game clearly paid off and helped her grow as a player. The founder of Internationals SC Zdravko Popovic spoke about Ogle and described how their training philosophy helped build the tactical, analytical, and competitive qualities that Ogle displays. As he puts it, “Everything we do is game related, and in order to succeed is game you have to compete in everything that we do. Nothing is just for fun, everything goal has a goal, a purpose and an objective, it is a competition.” 

Looking back, the value of those training sessions wasn’t lost on Ogle. She gives credit to her club team for her success on the field and off noting that, “I wouldn’t be the person or player that I am without them. So just having that good foundation during my club years really just made the jump from club to college a little bit easier, and that helped me again when I was trying to make the jump from college to the international game with the U-20s.” 

Popovic described how Internationals tries to create an environment to help players at higher levels than preparing for matches with the club. He says that he and the other coaches set a high bar for the players noting, “We put high expectations and demands on our players that are going to be very similar to the level expectations and demands of the next level, not only of the high school but definitely college and the national teams as well.” 

Obviously, setting those expectations is a challenge that the players must meet and Ogle achieving what she has in college and with the national team speaks to how she has been able to match those expectations and demands with her own effort.

Aside from the challenges on the field, Ogle also had to make a difficult decision about continuing to play with her high school team. After her first two years with the Strongsville High School Mustangs, the midfielder decided not to return to her team and focus solely on developing with Internationals SC. 

Though it was a hard to leave her friends on her high school team to focus on her club, Ogle says, “I knew this was my dream and it was something that I wanted to try to go after and Zdravko and [Internationals coach Keri Sarver] were very supportive of that and they helped me get to that point.” 

That work wasn’t only rewarding for Ogle, Popovic is also gratified at what she has been able to accomplish. He described his feelings about what the player has been able to achieve saying, “Emily is one of the joys and prides that came through the program and watching her reach the level she is at and knowing that she came through the program and that it was beneficial for her is the most rewarding, fun, and enjoyable thing.”

As far as what is next for Ogle, she’s looking forward to next year, commenting that “I’m really excited just looking ahead and having this whole spring to put in a lot of work as a team and as a player so that next year we can make that final four, we can win that national championship. We’re so close, we’re closer every year, it just has to be that final little jump, that final little push.” 

While 2016 saw her wear the captain’s armband for the U-20s, she’s hoping her play at Penn State helps her earn a spot with the more competitive U-23s. “I’m not worried too much about callups or anything of that sort, just trying to grow as a person and get better every day.” 

If the call to represent her country does come again, Ogle may have an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of World Cup winner Lauren Holiday.  The USWNT midfielder is a player Ogle has tried to learn from saying, “I did watch a lot of Lauren Holiday when she was with the national team playing the six and I just thought she was a really sold midfielder and had both sides of it: offensive, defensive, and was really good with the ball.”

Whether or not Ogle ends up playing in a World Cup like Holiday, she is the kind of player that makes the most of the opportunities she has earned. It will be exciting to follow her in 2018 and see where her career takes her. 

Parker Cleveland writes for the SB Nation blogs, covering the Men's and Women's U.S. National Teams, and, covering Atlanta United and the NC Courage. His freelance work has also appeared in Howler Magazine,, and 

Photo Credit: Penn State Athletics and Brent Durken/

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