The most dangerous soccer players are not necessarily the ones you would expect.
Penn freshman forward Elissa Berdini fits that description perfectly. She might not be the most vocal or physically imposing player on her team, but she sure does strike fear into opposing goalkeepers.
“She was a little bit timid, but her confidence is growing as anyone’s does who gets into the season, plays a lot of games and scores some goals,” women’s soccer coach Darren Ambrose said. “She has every right to be confident — she’s absolutely a dangerous player.”
Berdini scored Penn’s only goal of Sunday’s 1-1 tie against Saint Francis, an 18-yard shot into the top left corner.
Through nine games this year, she has two goals and two assists. What’s more impressive, however, is that she has mostly been employed as a change-of-pace, substitute player.
According to Ambrose, her numbers could be even better.
“She takes her chances incredibly well — she’s clinical when it comes to it,” he said. “She’s had goalkeepers make incredible saves and probably should have five, six, seven goals by now.”
Of course, as for any freshman adjusting to the higher level associated with college play, Berdini’s transition is not always easy and comes with growing pains.
“College is a lot more fast-paced game, and it’s also a lot more physical,” she said. “So what’s a little difficult to adjust to is getting rid of the ball quicker … and to hold up the ball better and shield it.”
The Quakers are still looking for a consistent goal scorer, and if she finds a way to contribute more consistently, Berdini could very well be the long-term answer.
Especially since, according to her coach, she possesses a highly-coveted set of abilities.
“She’s got a tremendous skill on the ball, and in front of the goal she’s a natural scorer,” Ambrose said. “She just strikes the ball so cleanly, she’s got a good acceleration, she’s a great dribbler and that’s rare nowadays — most players are good passers of the ball.”
In one of her best performances of the year, a 3-2 victory over Sacramento State in September, Berdini found the net herself and then assisted fellow freshman Erin Mikolai’s golden goal in double overtime.
Overall, Ambrose has had success letting his freshmen play this year, including Berdini.
“Players play, and they earn what they get,” he said.
And indeed, thus far, Berdini has proven that she deserves her playing time.
“I’m really excited because I didn’t really expect it,” she said. “All the other forwards and centers are great, so I’m just happy to be a part of the attack.”
If Berdini reaches her potential, then one can only imagine how far she and the Quakers could go.
“She’s a very dynamic player, she’s going to grow within our program,” Ambrose said. “We’re very excited that she’s here.”