Every now and then, a player emerges as an instant playmaker — someone that’s able to skip past the learning curve associated with the transition to college sports and whose on and off the field contributions mimic those of a program veteran.
In soccer, these players are defined by the way they both approach and play the game. They can process the faster-moving collegiate game without slowing down their play. They can study film and ask questions about how to improve on the more technical aspects of the game. And they can play with a passion and fire that creates an example for their teammates.
For Penn women’s soccer, that playmaker is sophomore midfielder Lauren Teuschl.
Teuschl came to Penn with a rigorous soccer background, having played three full seasons with the FC Virginia Development Academy club team. Playing for FC Virginia helped Teuschl take some of the more challenging aspects of college soccer in stride.
“I would go 45 minutes to school, and then my practice was 45 minutes the other direction, and we practiced four days a week,” Teuschl said. “So, I definitely learned how to manage school with soccer. Being on a team like FC Virginia, we traveled to Florida, we traveled to California … we were all over the country. I definitely learned how to be able to balance and be ready for games even though [they] might not be at home.”
By sidestepping some of these ancillary factors, Teuschl was able to stay focused on developing her game.
“I think that’s translated well to college soccer,” Teuschl said. “You have to miss class sometimes to go to games, so just being able to stay ahead of the game and stay on top of things is helpful. I think my club team really set me up well for college soccer.”
Learning how to master the balance required to be a successful student-athlete at an Ivy League school is not the only hurdle that young players face when they come to Penn. Another factor that prevents many underclassmen from immediately contributing is the challenge of integrating their game with that of their teammates. They must learn a new playbook, establish new on-field chemistry, and adjust to the faster-paced collegiate game.
In addition to her strong club soccer background, Teuschl had another head start that helped her make an instant impact. While Teuschl was unable to take the field in her freshman season due to COVID-19 , she was able to participate in team meetings all year. In the spring, she was able to go one step further and practice with her teammates. These practices helped her enter this season ready to do what she does best: play.
“She’s someone that came in, even with a very disjointed freshman experience, last semester and made an immediate impact,” coach Casey Brown said. “She really set a strong foundation from the start last spring and [has] been able to get going right away this fall. She came in with a lot of confidence in terms of her abilities, and I think immediately, especially for a young player, demonstrated how you have to train at this level.”
This fall, Teuschl has headlined the Quakers’ offensive efforts. The sophomore midfielder has started every single game for the Quakers this season, and she currently leads the team in both assists (6) and points (12), while also ranking second in goals (3). Last month, Teuschl earned her first Ivy League Player of the Week honor after her performances against non-conference opponents Villanova and Rice.
Teuschl’s offensive prowess has impressed her coaches and teammates this season. Her success has not been limited to just offense, however, as she has also excelled on defense. This versatility has allowed her to become a complete player that can make an impact in any area of the game.
“She has all the tools, and I think seeing those tools all come together and seeing her take things to the next level has been really rewarding for us,” Brown said. “She’s made herself a box-to-box midfielder, where she clearly has a huge impact on the attack. But she’s really grown in the defensive side of the game and [has] made herself a really solid [one-on-one] shutdown defender.”
Early success has not prevented Teuschl from remaining committed to improving her craft, as she has constantly looked for ways to bolster her technical, fundamental skills. Though she has at times played with the poise of a veteran, Teuschl knows she is still a sophomore with lots of room to grow over the course of her Penn career.
Her approach has not been lost on her coaches, all of whom appreciate the way Teuschl seeks to set new standards for herself.
“She has a burn for the game where she constantly wants to get better,” Brown said. “She’s been a student of the game [in] the way she watches film, the questions she asks us, her positioning, her movement off the ball. She’s made herself an even more impactful player because of the position she’s putting herself in, and that’s a credit to the type of learner she is and her desire to get better.”
Even in the midst of trying to improve her own game, Teuschl’s priority remains her team's success. One of the things she missed out on by playing for a club in lieu of her high school was the pride of suiting up in school colors and competing with her classmates. At Penn, Teuschl has finally been able to have that opportunity, and she has relished every minute of it.
“One of the things I like about Penn [is] you get to play for something bigger than just a club team name; I get to play for this school,” Teuschl said. “I really enjoy playing for something bigger than myself, and seeing people come out to games is super encouraging.”
Teuschl has been a fixture in Penn’s early success this season, and she figures to remain a big part of the team’s plans as it continues Ivy League play. While she has already been a playmaker for her team, Teuschl, in addition to her teammates and coaches, knows that this is only the beginning of her story.