Erin Kehoe’s first night at Penn State in the fall of 2011 didn’t quite resemble the State College, Pa., campus’ “Happy Valley” moniker.
“I was so scared when I first got here,” said Kehoe, a women’s soccer athlete who transferred from Loyola after the 2010 season. “I didn’t know who anybody was. Girls were asking me to go out to dinner, and I just sat in my room.”
This fall, the Prairie Ridge graduate admits she now has nearly 30 “best friends” while helping the Lions (21-4-2) to their first national championship game in school history, a 4-1 loss Sunday to North Carolina.
“It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life,” said Kehoe, a junior. “It was a pretty amazing year. I can’t wait to go back there next year.”
Kehoe was a key reserve for PSU, subbing in at left outside back and left outside midfield, a position that “got me into the attack more often.” While playing nearly 36 minutes in 24 matches, Kehoe scored a goal and had two assists.
Penn State won its 15th consecutive Big Ten Conference title, a draw for Kehoe when she was seeking a transfer.
Kehoe’s career got off to a slow start last season, she said, when coaches asked her to make a bigger commitment to conditioning.
“They said, ‘If you don’t take this more seriously, this might not be the right fit for you,’” Kehoe said. “From that point, I got very serious and dedicated.”
Kehoe said she was among nearly a dozen teammates to stay on campus over the summer to train daily, including morning track workouts.
“Every minute I played this season, I think I earned it with the work I put in this summer,” she said.
Competing in the national semifinals and title match at the College Cup in San Diego was a “surreal” experience for Kehoe. As a youth player, she attended camps each year at the site of the College Cup.
“I always thought the players were so old and so big,” she said. “It was amazing being there and being like those players that I looked up to.”
Her experience at Penn State has had plenty of benefits for Kehoe.
“It’s made me more disciplined in the classroom,” said Kehoe, a business major. “I’m definitely a stronger person.”
A-State speedster: Arkansas State women’s cross country athlete Kristina Aubert posted the best time of her career in the biggest meet of her first two college seasons.
Aubert, a Crystal Lake South grad, ran a career-best time of 20:56.3 at the 6-kilometer NCAA Division I national championship event last month in Louisville, Ky. A sophomore for the Red Wolves, Aubert finished 124th in a field of more than 250 runners as the first ASU female runner to compete at nationals. After falling to the back of the field early in the race, Aubert moved up more than 100 spots by the race’s midway point, according to ASU coach Kyle Chandler.
This season, Aubert earned first-team All-Sun Belt Conference and All-South Central Regions honors.
All-American Warhawk: Johnsburg grad Kelsey Nobilio, a sophomore libero at D-III Wisconsin-Whitewater, was chosen last month to the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America Third Team.
Nobilio, who also earned first-team All-Midwest Region and All-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors, compiled a school-record 821 digs this fall, which is the fourth-highest total in conference history. In October, she posted a school-record 44 digs against Calvin College.
In two seasons, Nobilio has produced 20 or more digs in a match 28 times.
The Warhawks (26-12) ended their season in the NCAA regional semifinals.
Augie honors: D-III Augustana College junior running back Eric Chandler was named the team’s Offensive Player of the Year on Tuesday.
Chandler, a Cary-Grove grad, led the team in rushing (718 yards) and rushing touchdowns (five). He also caught two touchdown passes while earning second-team All-College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin recognition.
Augie senior defensive back Rob Mago, will play for the Blue team Sunday in the National Bowl, a college all-star game for players from all NCAA divisions, and NAIA athletes, in Allentown, Pa. Over the past two seasons, Mago compiled 93 tackles.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.