Penelope Hocking is basking in her professional soccer dreams turned reality

Last week, Hocking scored her first two goals in the NWSL in her third match, helping the Red Stars to their first win of the season.

SHARE Penelope Hocking is basking in her professional soccer dreams turned reality
Goal_55.jpg

Red Stars rookie Penelope Hocking had little say in the matter of athletics growing up.

Her father, Denny Hocking, played 13 years in the major leagues, including 11 with the Twins, and her mom, Venetta, was a college basketball star. So it’s no surprise that Penelope and her twin sister, Iliana, were involved early in whatever sport their parents signed them up for.

“I feel like my career path was supposed to be softball or basketball,” Penelope told the Sun-Times, laughing.

Hocking was selected by the Red Stars with the seventh overall pick in the NWSL Draft in January. Her sister was taken with the 44th pick by Gotham FC. They were the first sisters to be selected in the same draft class in NWSL history.

Soccer was the sport they fell in love with growing up, thanks in part to Denny introducing them to the Premier League. Hocking had dreams of being like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Her Saturdays as a kid were spent glued to the television with Dad, soaking in her two favorite players.

It wasn’t until much later that Hocking realized that her dream was not far off from becoming a reality.

“I didn’t really know how good me and my sister were until I got my first recruitment letter,” Hocking said.

She made history at USC, where she played for four years, breaking the record for most goals scored (54) in program history. The previous record of 48 goals stood for nearly 21 years. Hocking played her final season in college at Penn State, where she totaled seven goals and 11 assists in 23 appearances.

The most substantial difference she has noticed between her collegiate and professional career is that there are no trade-offs.

“In Division I soccer, it’s all about school and sports,” Hocking said. “Sometimes you had to make the choice, ‘Am I going to study for this test or get some good sleep.’ Professionally, it being your career is so rewarding. Every day I step into the facility I have to take a step back and think ‘This is my job. I get paid to do something I love.’ ”

Last week, Hocking scored her first two goals in the NWSL in her third match, helping the Red Stars to their first win.

The first came in the 29th minute when forward Ella Stevens slipped the ball to Hocking after maintaining possession following a missed shot by midfielder Cari Roccaro. In the 67th minute, she scored again off of an assist from Cheyna Matthews.

Ahead of the match, coach Chris Petrucelli spoke about the uphill battle to replace Mallory Swanson, who tore the patella tendon in her left knee in a friendly against Ireland. Petrucelli said making up Swanson’s production is the responsibility of the entire team.

The news of Hocking’s career night was shared with her parents over the phone after the Red Stars’ 4-2 victory against the KC Current. The evening before, Hocking’s brother, Jarrod, hit his first career home run.

“You just had to one-up your brother, huh?” Hocking’s parents joked with her.

“They’re always super-proud and super-supportive no matter what,” Hocking said. “My dad was on Twitter tweeting about it right when I scored. They were so excited.”

The Latest
After parting ways with Nathan’s, 16-time champ says he’ll compete against Takeru Kobayashi on Netflix.
Two vehicles collided early Sunday morning in the 2600 block of South California Avenue. Two people died. Several others were transported to hospitals. The incident is under investigation.
DeChambeau got up-and-down from 55 yards in a bunker — one of the toughest shots in golf — to deliver a celebration at Pinehurst just as raucous as when his hero, Payne Stewart, won with a big par putt in 1999.