By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Laura Freigang had only scored two goals all season coming into Friday's Big Ten clash against Purdue. Both goals just happened to be overtime game-winners.
When the game is on the line and Penn State is in dire need of a savior, Freigang has been able to provide. The biggest moments at the end of games bring out the best in her play.
"She's proven that she can score goals late in games, and she's become kind of our go-to player in those moments and she wants the ball," head coach Erica Dambach said. "She's a pressure player. She wants to be on the ball late in the game."
With Penn State down 2-1 with just three minutes remaining on the clock, the Nittany Lions were in desperation mode as the regular season Big Ten title seemed to be slipping from the team's fingers. A loss would've sealed its fate, as Ohio State had beaten Minnesota to jump four points ahead of Penn State with one game to play.
With hopes fleeting, Penn State made one last push forward, and guess who was there to tie the game.
You got it. Laura Freigang.
There was a scrum in the box as the ball bounced off multiple players before finding Freigang's foot close to net. She said she saw Frankie Tagliaferri get a foot on it to nudge the ball to Freigang who finished calmly.
Penn State, however, was unable to push a winning goal across in the overtime period and ended with a 2-2 draw. Freigang's goal in the 87th minute was her earliest goal scored in a game all season long.
The sophomore from Oppenheim, Germany put on a footwork clinic all day, weaving in and out of trouble with clever touches and spins throughout the match. She was the ignition for an offense that put up 23 shots in the game.
Freigang made plenty of chances for herself aside from the goal. She recorded a team-high six shots in the match and hit the post on a close-range shot in overtime that seemed destined for the back of the net
She stepped up in Frannie Crouse's absence and played 102 solid minutes.
"Frannie is a major part of our team and losing her is not good, so I just try to do my best out there working with [Megan] Schafer and the attack," Freigang said. "Everyone else makes it easy for me to be honest. We have so many great players."
Penn state outshot Purdue 23-4 in the game and controlled the ball for most of the match, but star Boilermaker forward Maddy Williams found the net twice to spoil the Nittany Lions' home finale.
Williams is the all-time leader at Purdue in both goals (36) and assists (26). She is a contender to become an All-Big Ten First Team selection this season, and she showed why Friday night.
"That's a kid who doesn't want their season to end," Dambach said. "Maddy Williams decided before the game that she didn't want her season to end, and she decided that she wasn't going to need many chances to do it, so a ton of credit to them."
Elizabeth Ball scored the first goal for Penn State for her second of the season. She said the defensive group played well but that there are room for improvements in communication and leadership.
"I thought our team showed a bunch of grit. We need to come out stronger and faster and try to put these teams away early, and that's not happening right now," Dambach added.
The Nittany Lions finish the regular season with a trip to Madison, Wisconsin. To take on the Badgers of Wisconsin next Wednesday. They currently sit three points behind the Big Ten leaders, Ohio State. Penn State would need a win against Wisconsin and an Ohio State loss to Illinois next week to share the Big Ten regular season title with the Buckeyes.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On a Thursday afternoon in Happy Valley, Penn State's iconic Old Main lawn is anything but low key, bustling with construction as ESPN's College GameDay prepares to go live ahead of Saturday's primetime matchup a little more than a mile across campus inside Beaver Stadium.
Beyond the seemingly perfectly coordinated crew busy bringing the set to life, following the twists and turns of 1,000 feet of tightly bound fiber-optic cables all the way back behind Old Main though, is where the magic of College GameDay really happens.
Tucked inside the production office is Judi Weiss, College GameDay's senior operations producer and also, a Nittany Lion alumna.
While the Emmy award-winner's name might not be instantly synonymous to the average College GameDay fan, Weiss' responsibilities include just about everything related to pulling off the perfect show. From location to set up and breakdown, the behind-the-scenes College GameDay operation is like a highly organized logistical feat and Weiss is always up for the challenge.
Weiss' path to ESPN's College GameDay started at Penn State in 1987, when she transferred to University Park and later graduated in 1989 before returning to pursue a master's degree in film. With an interest in documentary filmmaking, Weiss wasn't interested in the go-to "Penn State parking problem" angle that most film, broadcast and journalism students opted to pursue. Also taking Russian studies, Weiss decided to spend a summer abroad in Volgograd, Russia at the Pedagogical Institute.
"I went there with four other Penn State students and it was a program that accepted you on all levels," Weiss said. "You didn't have to be advanced Russian because to go to Moscow or St. Petersburg, you already to be in advanced Russian and I was like, I don't time for this. I want to go fast I want to learn and I'm going to bring my eight millimeter video camera and get footage."
Intending on shaping a project around Russian musicians and the day-to-day lives of women living in Russia. Already dealing with some culture shock, things got even more interesting to Weiss upon arrival.
"We got to Volgograd and we found out the Pedagogical Institute in summertime is pretty much defunct," Weiss said. "So they gave us private teachers from the university to tutor us in Russian."
It was one of those tutors, a Ph.D graduate student from South America, who happened to be a musician who invited the group to band's studio.
"We went to the studio and the man sitting at the console working on, you know recording some musicians at the time, some Russian musicians, which is the music part, wound up becoming my husband," Weiss said.
Weiss never returned to Penn State to finish out her master's degree, having partnered with friends to start the first private radio station in Volgograd, Russia bolstered by some internship experience she picked up in her freshman year.
Drawing on contacts from her brother, an ABC Sports staffer, Weiss had done work as a runner in the past, but it soon took off. From the Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg, Weiss moved to Atlanta Olympic Broadcasting later moving up to ABC Sports, where she spent several years on college football and figure skating as a production manager. All because of her simple choice to opt out of the Penn State parking problem of course.
Among nine Olympic Games, Weiss is the only person to own a tie-Emmy. In her third season on College GameDay, Weiss was also freelancing for Turner Sports' pregame basketball studio show, which earned a submission for its playoff coverage. In 2013, College GameDay took home the Emmy for best weekly studio show alongside the NBA studio show.
"It's a tie for weekly studio show and it was us, and the NBA studio show, so I have a certificate from them and a statue from College GameDay in the same category in the same year," Weiss said.
After years of traveling across the world with figure skating, with the Olympics also sprinkled in, it was her boss at the time who came to her and asked if she would consider College GameDay.
"At that time GameDay was a big show, but it wasn't the way it is now and nobody wanted to work on it," Weiss said.
With an unpredictable location as the weekly norm, Weiss' boss asked her for two years, but four shows in, Weiss was sold. It's been seven years on College GameDay and she hasn't looked back.
"I fell in love with the show," Weiss said. "It's extremely challenging. It's fresh. It's just exciting to be a part of this project."
It takes six semi-trucks to haul ESPN's College GameDay setup to its weekly location, and that's not counting the bus or the other sponsor box trucks that go along too.
Once finding out the location, it's Weiss who reaches out to the schools to begin the conversation before a site survey. Penn State's bye week allowed some extra time for surveying, allowing for just the right location - this time not Beaver Stadium.
"We want to capture an iconic set location," Weiss said. "What the campus locations allow us to do, is give our audience a sense of place. The idea that we are at Penn State, this is Old Main. It's that sense of place and sometimes with the stadiums, it's not always obvious what stadium you're in front of."
With everything in place, Weiss deployed the trucks to Happy Valley, where the crew arrived late Wednesday, typically needing around four to five hours to begin early construction. Thursday brings another full day of building, which wraps up in the early evening.
"Usually about six or seven at night on Thursday everybody is gone and clear of the set, clear of the truck, ready to go for TV at 8:30 in the morning on Friday," Weiss said.
On the ground, Weiss is driving everything from on-site policy to overall procedure, brining all the pieces together to ensure that nothing skips a beat.
"I kind of connect a lot of the dots during the week, so I'll get legal talking to the legal at school, I'll get I.T. talking to our I.T. department and I just connect a lot of the dots for everybody," Weiss said. "That's how it works is just making sure you get the right people talking to the right people and delegating."
Facing the challenge of a massive cable run to encompass all of Old Main in the perfect College GameDay shot, Weiss worked alongside all involved parties to execute a major undertaking.
Looking past the bright Home Depot orange, the faintest sight of cables looped through street lamps along the sidewalks and tethered to trees can be seen in the distance.
Regardless of what happens when the lights pop on and the show airs live at 9 a.m. ET Saturday morning, it's her experience at Penn State, that Weiss credits to her success.
"I really do credit my experiences here, my education here, but the study abroad, learning a second language, that was key," Weiss said.
Making an impact on her career, it's now mission critical for Weiss to continue making an impact on students following in similar paths. Hosting tours for students and challenging her staff to take an all-in approach at all times, it's hard not to be inspired by her motivating work ethic.
"It's really important to me to get the next generation, trained, engaged, excited and educated on working in this business," Weiss said.
By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Between senior night, a THON-dedicated game and ESPN's College Gameday just a few blocks away, Happy Valley was bursting with activity as Penn State field hockey hosted Rutgers to wrap up their regular season home schedule.
Maybe it was the swirling excitement, or maybe it was pure motivation as the Nittany Lions seamlessly defeated the Scarlet Knights to earn their fifth conference victory.
Junior midfielder Gini Bramley was impressive on the field, quickly switching possession and sending the ball to Penn State's forwards. Penn State capitalized offensively in the first five minutes, as forward Moira Putsch offered another attempt at opening up the scoring, followed by Madison Morano, giving the Nittany Lions three shots.
Unable to take possession of the ball until the 14th minute, Rutgers earned the first penalty corner of the game, converting a shot into a goal for the Scarlet Knights. The Nittany Lions didn't let the disadvantage hold them back, despite heading into halftime with a 1-0 deficit.
"We knew they were going to come out strong," Bramley said. "It is a Big Ten game, so we knew it was going to be something we needed to battle."
As the teams returned to the field, the Nittany Lions rang in the second half with two consecutive penalty corners. With an assist by Mary Nell Smith, sophomore back Bes Bovelander converted the second opportunity into Penn State's first goal to tie up the match.
"As I said to the girls at halftime, we have been in this position before with Rutgers, where we've come back after halftime," head coach Char Morett-Curtiss said. "We made a great adjustment with opening up the field. We just were able to get pressure on the ball and create turnovers, which was one of our goals."
One goal, with some help from the most enthusiastic and most packed stands at a home game yet, was all the Nittany Lions needed to spark the scoring.
Putsch didn't waste any time, pounding in a second and third goal just moments later for a three-goal outing, thanks to assists from teammates Katie Dembrowski and Bramley.
"Mo [Putsch] had an amazing game, she played so outstanding," Morett-Curtiss said. "I thought Shay [Cannon] and so many of the seniors played so inspired tonight and they really set a great tone for us."
Rutgers nearly snuck an opportunity with a shot at the post, but Bramley wasted no time to carry the ball the entirety of the field to Putsch, who slammed another goal in the back of the cage.
The Nittany Lions dominated as the clock ticked to zero, leaving little opportunity for the Scarlet Knights to trim the deficit, outshooting Rutgers 15-5.
"I think this set us up really well for Indiana now that we won and are more comfortable again, it's just going up from here," Bramley said.
Hosting the Scarlet Knights on senior night, Penn State honored seniors Skyler Fretz, Shay Cannon, Delani Higgins and Cassie Kline, who all took to the field for their final regular season home game.
Cannon reflected on her last regular season home game of her collegiate field hockey career following the game.
"We practiced really hard this week with a game plan," Cannon said. "We wanted to get back to Penn State field hockey, we felt like we haven't been able to get goals. Today it worked out because we stretched the field, we were able to find our teammates and goals happened. It's sad, I can't believe this is my last season here. I love my team, we have each other's backs and I wouldn't have wanted to go through this with anyone else."
The Nittany Lions will hit the road to face the Indiana Hoosiers for their final game of the regular season Sunday, Oct. 22 in Bloomington, Indiana.
By Andy Kuros, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 11 Penn State displayed a combination of depth, youth, and experience in its 7-5 win against American International in front of its first regular season home crowd of the year at Pegula Ice Arena Thursday evening.
Setting a season high mark with seven goals, Thursday's outing marked the first time since 2015 seven different Nittany Lions scored at least one goal.
Head Coach Guy Gadowsky strategically opts to spread the wealth of talent between numerous lines something that plays a role in Penn State's depth.
"That is the plan," Gadowsky said. "We have never been a program that is very effective when we put all our eggs in one basket."
Gadowsky was pleased with Penn State balanced offensive attack and rightfully so.
"We (got) depth and scoring from everybody and when this happens, it's an indication we are going in the right direction," Gadowsky said.
Although perhaps uncommon, Gadowsky is hoping the Nittany Lions will continue the trend.
"I would love to see more of that," Gadowsky said. "It's encouraging to see seven different goals scorers."
One of the Nittany Lions in the scoring column was freshman defensemen Cole Hults, who scored arguably the most meaningful one of all - his first collegiate goal.
Gadowsky was complementary of Hults, who has been a key contributor for Penn State on both sides of the puck so far this season. "He made a great play in the offensive zone. That was a very nice goal for any forward, let alone a defender."
Although Hults was drafted in the fifth round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings, he has been especially impressive in the way he has carried himself on the ice, something Gadowsky made note of postgame.
"He always seems to be comfortable and never appears to be rattled," Gadowsky said. "He doesn't look like he will have any problems in transitioning (to the college game)."
Thursday night's home opener not only served as a coming out party for Hults, but perhaps a welcoming back for the returning upperclassman.
Forward Chase Berger, who registered 36 total points last season, had a career-high three assists, while Andrew Sturtz, who finished 2016 with 37 points, tallied one goal and one assist against American International.
Gadowksy praised both Berger and Sturtz not only for their good play, but also their veteran presence on the team.
"He (Chase Berger) played much better, and I thought (Andrew Sturtz) deserves a lot of credit for just being the guy (leader) he is," Gadowsky said.
Gadowsky also noted the tremendous amount of energy his two juniors brought throughout the first period.
"They got us all going," Gadowsky said. "They provided a real spark for us early."
Forward Denis Smirnov picked up where he left off, finding the back of the net early in the third period. Even though he has scored in each of the past four games, Gadowksy made a point of mentioning his great vision and playmaking skills.
"Any time he is on the ice he is dangerous," Gadowsky said. "He makes things easier for his linemates and people gravitate to him when he has the puck."
RELATED LINKS: Gameday Central I Game Notes I Depth Chart I Tuesday Presser Roundup I Wednesday Practice Report I R. Rahne Q&A I Monday Notebook I Nittany Lions in the NFL - Week 6 I Gameday Promos and Reminders
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Back from a restful bye week, No. 2 Penn State football (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) returns to Beaver Stadium, set to host No. 19 Michigan (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) in a Penn State White Out Saturday.
The Nittany Lions and the Wolverines will meet in a primetime matchup set for 7:30 p.m. on ABC with Chris Fowler (pxp), Kirk Herbstreit (analyst) and Maria Taylor (sideline) on the call.
Earlier this week, head coach James Franklin called Saturday's matchup a real challenge for the Nittany Lions, as the two storied programs prepare to collide with a variety of intriguing storylines coming to life under the lights.
At the midpoint in the year, Penn State storylines have continued to take shape, including an explosive offense, an efficient special teams unit and a powerful defense highlighted by a secondary loaded with ball hawks who have proven key in pivotal moments.
Outscoring opponents 76-0 in the first quarter, Penn State's defense is limiting opponents to a national-best 9.0 points per game. In the big plays category, Penn State ranks within the top 25 nationally and second in the Big Ten with 38 plays of 20 or more yards.
Turning toward Michigan, the Wolverines head to Happy Valley for their second weekend on the road, coming off a 27-20 OT win at Indiana last week. Ranked within the top 10 of nine defensive categories in the NCAA standings, Michigan's defense is tops in FBS in total defense (223.8 avg.), third down defense (20.5 pct.) and passing efficiency defense (88.85). At the midpoint in the year, the Wolverines have also limited five of six opponents to a season-low points total an all six to a season-low in yardage.
Regardless of what the statistics say though, Franklin and the staff have stressed focus above all things this week, with University Park buzzing ahead of the Penn State White Out, the Nittany Lions' highest AP poll ranking in nearly 20 years and ESPN's College Gameday [MORE: College Gameday Info] taking over the Old Main lawn.
"My message for the team this week is, they've earned these things," Franklin said. "These things are nice. The rankings are nice. The fact that ESPN and College GameDay is coming is nice. The fact that this is a white-out is nice. At the end of the day none of those things matter. It's about our preparation."
What To Watch For -
1. Franklin noted that Saturday's matchup will bring some interesting chess matches between coordinators, also putting on display, as he says, two of the best defensive coordinators in college football. Having coached together at a previous stop, Franklin was quick to note Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown's success.
"Don's big thing, it shows up on tape, they're going to solve their problems with aggression. That's something I remember years ago Don talking about. It still shows up on tape. His answer for the game of football is to be aggressive, be aggressive in the way he calls the game, be aggressive in how their players play. They're a big wreck-the-decision-maker, try to get to the quarterback as much as they possibly can and either sack him or make him uncomfortable in the pocket, and don't give any yards away, no free-access throws."
2. Penn State is tops in the Big Ten and second in FBS in turnover margin at plus-12. With 17 takeaways in the in the first six games marking the most for the Nittany Lions in a six-game span since 1993, the mark is also tied for third in FBS. With the Nittany Lion secondary contributing a Big Ten leading nine interceptions, it's more than just the secondary that has helped Penn State make take such a significant step forward.
"I don't think it's just our secondary," Franklin said. "I think it's our D-line. I think it's the linebackers. "Christian is a senior and has been playing since his freshman year. Grant is a senior, has been playing since his freshman year. Amani, his role just continues to grow every season. I think those guys have had a dramatic impact. But, again, to play really good defense, all three phases, D-line, linebackers, secondary, all got to be coordinated and working together."
3. Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki enters Saturday's matchup looking to eclipse a career milestone. Coming off of the road trip win at Northwestern, Gesicki is just 249 yards shy of the a nearly 50-year old career receiving yards record for a Penn State tight end. He also needs just one touchdown reception to match the career touchdown catches record, also tying his own record for single season touchdown grabs.
What to Watch For -
1. Franklin identified Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst as both explosive and disruptive for the Wolverines.
"I think Hurst is really fun to watch on tape," Franklin said. "He's a really good player. He's explosive. He is quick. His get-off is what really jumps out. You watch the ball snapped, he's the first one across the line of scrimmage. They move their defensive line a lot. He uses his hands well."
Hurst is second on the team with 7.0 tackles for loss with defensive end Chase Winovich leading the team with 8.0 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. On the year, Michigan's defensive line has accounted for nearly 50 percent of its 20 sacks. The Wolverines are sixth in FBS and tops in the Big Ten averaging 3.33 sacks per game.
2. From his early film study Penn State wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins mentioned Michigan's trust in the secondary, noting that winning the contested matchups will be key.
"Basically we've just seen guys who are very sound in their technique with footwork and attention to detail," Thompkins said. "These guys are very comfortable with being one-one-one on the outside and that's something that they do pretty much every game, so that's something that's not different for them. They kind of live in that environment, and they thrive in that environment."
3. Michigan running back Karan Higdon enters Saturday coming off of a career-high 200-yard performance with three touchdowns against the Hoosiers. With starts in three consecutive games, Higdon has totaled 401 yards at the midpoint of the season.
The Final Word -
Nearly every Nittany Lion asked about the Penn State White Out this week explained the electric atmosphere as something you'd have to experience to be able to describe. Penn State and Michigan have met for a Penn State White Out four times since 2004. Under the lights though, the Nittany Lions and the Wolverines' last primetime meeting came Oct. 12, 2013 when Penn State battled to a 43-40 win in four overtimes.
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