By Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- This past weekend was a great one for Penn State. With victories coming from Croke Park [Football], Rec Hall [Women's Volleyball] and Jeffery Field [Men's Soccer], it was only fitting that Penn State's field hockey team earned a pair of victories this weekend, too.

Win Over Old Dominion Shines Light on Nittany Lions' Offensive System 

This weekend's matchup against Old Dominion was a familiar one, as the Nittany Lions have opened their regular-season against the Monarchs for the past ten years. This contest was evenly matched for the better portion of the first half; most of the play occurred between each of the 25-yard lines. 

"We knew that they played a lot in the middle because that is where their strength really is," head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss said. "They [Old Dominion] have a lot of strong international kids who you see just have that flare with the ball so we knew we had to protect the middle." 

By the half way mark of the first half the Nittany Lions and the Monarchs were even in shot total with each team having four shots on goal. Twenty-three minutes into the first half, Old Dominion capitalized off of a deflected shot that Monarch Katy Fuhrman played in the air. The ball went over Kylie Licata's head, giving Old Dominion a 1-0 lead with 12 minutes left to play in the first half.

"Once they scored we were like 'let's go, lets rally' and we got really pumped up," said senior forward Jenna Chrismer. "We knew we had to play our game." 

Penn State's offensive strategy has always capitalized off of their corner execution, which came in handy in Friday's contest. Three minutes after the Monarch goal, the Nittany Lions forced a corner giving them an opportunity to even the score before halftime. Chrismer inserted, the pass found Bethany Mink and in a scramble in front of the cage, Chrismer tipped it in. With two minutes left to play in the first half, Chrismer capitalized on another scoring opportunity with an unassisted goal, putting the Nittany Lions ahead 2-1.

"Jenna [Chrismer] had an awesome goal," coach Morett-Curtiss said. "That is just great effort and guts. A lot of positive things came out of this game." 

There was a change of pace in the second half as most of the play occurred inside the circle. Old Dominion outshot Penn State 12-5 but the shots went unanswered thanks to keeper Kylie Licata. The Nittany Lions were able to force more corner play, earning six corners.

The Nittany Lions walked away with a 2-1 victory. Licata made nine saves, a career best for the fifth-year senior.

Shutout Against Virginia Proves Penn State's Defensive Strategy

A pair of season and career firsts took place for Penn State in Sunday's matchup against No. 6 Virginia. Red shirt senior Natalie Buttinger scored her first career goal just four minutes into the game, giving Penn State an early lead. Six minutes later, Buttinger scored her second goal off a pass from Chrismer, putting the Nittany Lions a head 2-0.

"I was really excited to start off the game with a high tempo," Buttinger said. "We really attacked the net."

Penn State's offense dominated the first half of the game, forcing five penalty corners and earning eight shots on net. Following the half, senior and State College native Amanda Dinunzio scored off of a deflected corner shot from senior Taylor Herold, giving the Nittany Lions a 3-0 lead.

While the scoring effort of Penn State's offense was a major contribution to Sunday's win over a higher seeded Virginia, the Nittany Lion defense earned its first shutout of the season. 

"Our defense was really strong today, especially the entire second half," coach Morett-Curtiss said. "We really just couldn't find a way out [of our circle]. We told them they needed to have guts and that they had to double team and that is what they did." 

Coach Morett-Curtiss made the decision to move Penn State's leading scorer and shot taker Laura Gebhart back to the center defensive position. This decision not only highlighted the versatility of Gebhart's play, but also spoke to the leadership and experience of the fifth-year senior captain, who is just returning from playing with the US World Team.

"Her [Gebhart] experience and understanding of the tempo of the game is why we chose to do this," coach Morett-Curtiss said. "Her leadership qualities and being able to organize the team is why we made this decision. She just gives a lot of confidence to those on the field."

Another shining star in Sunday's contest was the goal keeping of Licata. In the second half, Virginia took eight shots on net and earned six late corners. Licata's versatility in the cage, especially during corner play, helped the Nittany Lions earn their first shutout of the season.

"Hopefully this shutout is the first of many more to come," Licata said. "But it wasn't just me. The forwards and defense did outstanding today. They deserve so much credit."

 Looking Ahead...

The Nittany Lions will make their way to Connecticut this weekend to take on defending National Champions, University of Connecticut, on Saturday and Quinnipiac on Sunday.

"We need to have more team attack next weekend," coach Morett-Curtiss said. "We just need to keep stepping up early and pressing the net." 

By Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Entering 2014, the biggest question for the Penn State men's soccer team was who would step up as the team's go-to-guy on offense.

Two games into the season, the answer appears to be sophomore forward Connor Maloney.

Against both Oakland on Friday and St. John's on Sunday, the Nittany Lions entered halftime needing to generate more opportunities in scoreless ties. Both times, it was the 5-foot-6 sparkplug from Harrisburg that answered the bell minutes into the second halves of 1-0 and 3-0 victories, respectively.

"We're a second-half team," Maloney said after Sunday's win. "Coach [Bob Warming] has been motivating us in the locker room for the second half...I just feel so confident out there and we know we can get it done."

Against Oakland on Friday, the Nittany Lions came out of halftime having been outshot by the Golden Grizzles seven to five. It would take Maloney just seven minutes to turn the tide of the game, as he took a pass from fellow sophomore Mark Wadid and tapped it past goalie Eliot Tarney to give Penn State the only cushion they would need.

Against St. John's on Sunday, it might as well have been groundhog's day. The Nittany Lions got just one shot off in the first half in what appeared to be a defensive struggle against the Red Storm.

Once again, Maloney broke the tie with a little help from Wadid, knocking in a rebound in front of the net after Wadid initially beat his defender and had his shot blocked. Maloney would add a second goal with less than a minute remaining to put the icing on the cake for the Nittany Lions.

"[Mark and I] hope we're the tandem of the future," Maloney said. "Mark's great player and we work well together. We hope to be the future."

Back at his natural position of forward after spending much of last season playing midfield, Maloney is coming into his own as a goal scorer, with all five of his career goals coming in the Nittany Lions past seven games dating back to last season.

However, the player who led the team in assists last season is still respected by his coach more for his unselfishness than his ability to put the ball in the net.

"It's not like he's just being selfish," Warming said on Sunday. "He created another goal for us, so I think it's great. The maturity in the whole [sophomore] class in 12 months has been remarkable. Their maturity level has jumped through the roof in one year."

Apart from Maloney, the other standout of the weekend was senior striker Mikey Minutillo, who on Sunday scored for the first time since September 16, 2012 to extend the Nittany Lions lead to 2-0.

After missing all of last season, Minutillo entered this season bearing the expectation that he would bolster an offense that won seven games by a score of 1-0 last season.

In his first game back against Oakland, the San Jose, Calif. native was active all night and got off six shots, yet couldn't get the ball in the net. The bad luck looked like it was continuing on Sunday after the senior had a breakaway opportunity stopped with 21 minutes remaining.

Just three minutes later, Minutillo would redeem himself, taking a cross from Drew Klingenberg and putting it past goalie Jordan Stagmiller before being engulfed by his jubilant teammates.

"I was struggling the first half," Minutillo said. "I finally put it together and all I had to do was roll it in."

The moment certainly put a smile on the face of Warming, who had been waiting for Minutillo to get on the stat sheet.

"He needed that goal," Warming said. "As a striker you're thinking, 'when am I going to get my first one?' What I loved about it was that he hit in in with such confidence...knocked it into the back of the net like he was saying 'I'm gonna do this." 

The two wins also put goalie Andrew Wolverton into second place on the Nittany Lions all-time shutout list with 25. He needs four more to pass Greg Kinney for first place.

Sunday's three-goal performance also marked a change for a team that usually plays a low-scoring, defense-first style. Not that they're complaining about the sudden boom in offense.

"It's a lot more comfortable, definitely," Maloney said. "Once we got that first goal we just got going and we didn't stop. We could have kept going even longer."

Monday Notebook: B1G Honors to Kick Off Akron Week

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10268294.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On the heels of a dramatic 26-24 victory over UCF to open the season in Ireland, the Nittany Lions are focused solely on one thing: Saturday's home-opener against Akron (Noon on ABC).

While the win over UCF is a big confidence boost heading into the remainder of the season, the only game on the schedule for the team is the one this week.

"The win means a lot to the team because it's something where we all had to come together, and we accomplished something as a group. It's a game to build on," said redshirt freshman offensive tackle Andrew Nelson.

"It means we got off to a good start, but we now focused on Akron," junior defensive end Deion Barnes said.

After practicing on Sunday, Monday is an off day for the players. The team will get back to work on Tuesday, which is also media day for Akron week.

Ficken, Hamilton Headline Big Ten Awards
The Nittany Lions received good news on Monday with the Big Ten's announcement that Sam Ficken (Special Teams) and DaeSean Hamilton (Co-Freshman) were named players of the week for their efforts against UCF on Saturday.

Ficken converted a career-high four field goals (4-for-4), including a 36-yard game-winner to lift the Nittany Lions past UCF. Monday's honor marked the third time Ficken has been selected Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week.

Hamilton made an immediate impact in his first outing as a Nittany Lion. The redshirt freshman re-wrote the record book for Nittany Lion rookies with his 11 catches for 165 yards against UCF. Hamilton took a workmanlike approach to the offseason while building a rapport with Christian Hackenberg. The duo got off to a spectacular start across the pond.

"I was just hoping to go out there and make the plays that were coming to me," Hamilton said. "And then after the first catch, I just started to get into a groove.

Hackenberg Stands Alone in 400 Club
Sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg is the only player in Penn State Football's illustrious 128-year history to reach 400 passing yards in a game. Hackenberg finished 32-of-47 for 454 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The Nittany Lion sophomore connected with seven different receivers in the victory, including three players who had seven or more catches. Zack Mills previously owned the game passing record mark with 399 yards against Iowa in 2002.

Final Numbers

Take a look through some standout numbers from the season-opener against UCF.

3,332 - The Nittany Lions tangled with UCF 3,332 miles away from Beaver Stadium, marking the furthest distance Penn State has ever played a game on the road.

454 - Christian Hackenberg set a school record with 454 passing yards in the victory over UCF.

338 - Geno Lewis and DaeSean Hamilton combined for 338 receiving yards on Saturday. Each player topped 150 receiving yards, which marked the first time in program history that two players tallied 150 receiving yards or more.

94 - Penn State now has 94 victories in season-openers. The Lions are 94-20-2 all-time in the first game of the season.

18 - Placekicker Sam Ficken noted after the game that he had to play the wind on the final field goal inside Croke Park. The wind speed during the game in Dublin on Saturday was 18 mph.

11 - There were 11 players who saw the field for the first time as a Penn State player on Saturday. The list included six redshirt freshmen and five true freshmen.

7 - Junior tight end Jesse James tallied a career-high seven receptions against UCF.

6.8 - The Penn State offense averaged 6.8 yards per play in the season-opener.

5 - Five days remain until the Nittany Lions meet Akron in Beaver Stadium.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Freshmen Key in Opening Weekend Wins

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10267672.jpegBy Samantha DelRosso, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. --The Nittany Lions kicked off their first weekend of the season with success as champions of the Penn State Classic inside Rec Hall. The team defeated TCU, Iona and William & Mary and won each match in three sets.

Much of the success came from offensive powerhouse Ali Frantti. Frantti, a freshman outside hitter, set the bar high in her collegiate debut. She was the leading scorer against TCU and Iona. Frantti also proved her blocking skills in all three matches.

Head coach Russ Rose was impressed with the freshman's performance. He said it was a "marvelous introduction" into college volleyball for her and never doubted starting her this weekend.

"Alli has been starting since she showed up. She's pretty much been on the starting side since her first breath on campus," Rose said.

In the first match against TCU, Frantti had 13 kills and hit at a .500 hitting percentage. She also had four blocks.

Frantti said that the support from the veterans helped her shake off her nerves in the first match.

Veterans like setter Micha Hancock and outside hitter Megan Courtney also led the No. 1 Nittany Lions to victory in their first match of the season. Hancock dished out 37 assists and had two kills and two blocks. Courtney had 12 kills on .556 hitting. Senior Nia Grant had seven kills and two aces.

Penn State beat the Horned Frogs in three sets, 25-10, 25-17 and 25-17, respectively.

Rose noted that blocking and serving needs improvement, but was happy with the team's first performance of the season.

"I feel fortunate that we played as well as we did this evening," Rose said.

Freshman Simone Lee also had her collegiate volleyball debut this weekend. Against TCU, she recorded six kills. Like Frantti, the encouragement from the upperclassmen helped Lee stay focused and calm throughout the game. 

"For me, going in to the back row and seeing everyone on the sidelines saying 'good job', 'keep it up', 'you can do it', they're always so encouraging and helping you no matter what," Lee said. "All the support and everything that comes with Rec Hall is just amazing."

The next match against Iona was equally as successful, as the Lions defeated the Gaels in three sets (25-13, 25-14, 25-11).

Frantti led the offense again with 11 kills, two aces, two digs and two blocks. Freshman Heidi Thelen made her debut against Iona, with eight kills and a team-high three blocks.

Again, Rose was impressed with the performance of the freshmen players.

"If you can average five or six errors per game in the first weekend of the year, with 3 freshman on the floor at times, you have to feel good not even taking into account who is on the other side," Rose said.

In the final match of the weekend against William & Mary, Penn State defeated the Tribe in straight sets (25-13, 25-12, 25-9). Freshmen Lee and Frantti and redshirt junior Aiyana Whitney, who was nine for nine in kills, led the offense in Saturday night's match.

Lee recorded 10 kills, four digs, and a block. This was her first collegiate double-digit kill performance. Frantti had seven kills, four digs and four blocks. Frantti was also named Penn State Classic Most Outstanding Player.

Rose said it was a great tournament for Frantti to kick off her college career. He said he will have an even better parameter of "how bright the star might shine" after the matches next weekend against No. 3 Stanford and UCLA.

"She had a great weekend and she plays really hard and plays with a big smile on her face. I think those things are for real, I don't think they're manufactured. That's just the way she is," Rose said.

Hancock, who made the All-Tournament team, acknowledged the performance of the freshmen and the support of the upperclassmen.

"Alli had a great weekend. She passed really well, hit well, no one backed down or curled up when the lights turned on and that's what you like to see in your teammates," Hancock said. "I think the upperclassmen did a really good job of trying to talk to them and keep them focused on what's going on; not so much of what's going on around you, but what's going on in the match."

Next up for the Nittany Lions is a trip to Palo Alto, California, to play Stanford and UCLA. 

By Miranda Kulp, Student Staff Writer


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off of its opening weekend with two big wins, the Penn State women's soccer team entered Friday's game against the University of Connecticut determined to keep the streak alive.

The two teams last meeting was on August 23, 2013 when the game ended in a 2-2 tie after double overtime. Both Penn State and UConn were set on not letting history repeat itself.

Penn State was able to reverse history on Friday by winning, 3-1.  A strong performance from the defense allowed just its second goal of the season

"They [the defense] have done an unbelievable job. So far, they are the glue during the game," said head coach Erica Walsh.

One defender who stood out was senior Whitney Church. Church has been a key defender for the Nittany Lions for the since 2011, and played a full 90 minutes protecting Penn State's lead over the Huskies.

"It's always great when we can deny them any shots," Church said.

"We've had a great start to the season," she said. "It's key to make sure the chemistry on and off the field works as well. Our defense is made up of two seniors and two freshman. The seniors have to make sure we can bring the freshmen along with us and help them."

The Ashland, Va., native is a four-year starter and made her presence known at the beginning of her Nittany Lion career. She was honored on the All-Big Ten Freshman Team in 2011 and continued garnering accolades her sophomore year, being named the Big Ten Defender of the Year in 2012.

Alongside Church against UConn was freshman defender Elizabeth Ball. Ball played 76 minutes in Friday's game and was helped keep the Huskies away from the net.

Midfielder Salina Williford played solidly on Friday. The sophomore spent much of her time in UConn's end, putting three shots on goal and assisting the defensive backfield during the second half of the game.

"I feel confident with everyone behind and in front of me," Williford said. "Honestly, we just have such a great team. I feel confident with whomever I'm on the field."

A strong defense would be nothing without a focused goalkeeper. Junior Britt Eckerstrom had three saves during the match and shut out the Huskies for nearly 66 minutes.

Penn State will be taking its perfect record on the road next week at the Duke Nike Classic, facing North Carolina and Duke on ESPN 3.


VIDEO: Postgame Press Conference In Ireland - vs. UCF

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VIDEO: Player Interviews

DUBLIN, Ireland - Head into the media room following a thrilling 26-24 victory over UCF in the Croke Park Classic to hear from head coach James Franklin, quarterback Christian Hackenberg and defensive tackle Anthony Zettel.

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VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews from Ireland

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VIDEO: Postgame Press Conference

DUBLIN, Ireland - Hear from several Nittany Lions following Penn State's thrilling 26-24 victory over UCF in the Croke Park Classic.

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Lions' Will to Win Shines on Final Drive in Ireland

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irelandblog_story_drive.jpgVIDEO: Postgame Press Conference | VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews

DUBLIN, Ireland - It was almost as if a sense of calm came over the Penn State sideline on the pitch in Croke Park Stadium on Saturday afternoon when UCF capped off a 75-yard drive with a go-ahead touchdown as the clock read 1:13 to play.

Down 24-23, Christian Hackenberg trotted onto the field with three timeouts in his pocket knowing he need to get the ball into field goal range or the game was over. While he is just a sophomore, Hackenberg has the poise of a senior and was no stranger to the stakes.

"We were excited. This team has been there before," Hackenberg said. "Even though we are young, we knew what we could do. Geno (Lewis) made a big play. Bill (Belton) made a fantastic play to get out of bounds. It's just one of those things where guys stepped up."

From top to bottom, the offensive unit never doubted how the game was going to end. That says a lot about the leadership in the huddle on an offense that had five players starting in their first game on Saturday.

"We all believed in each other," redshirt freshman Andrew Nelson said. "We all knew that the person next to you had your back. We had repped it in practice, and we were confident in what we were going to do."

"Whenever he is out there, everyone has the most confidence in him," senior Mike Hull said. "When he is in a two-minute situation at the end of a game, we know he is going to get the job done."

The final drive began at the Penn State 26-yard line. Hackenberg connected with Geno Lewis for a seven-yard gain. Following a third-down incompletion, the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year made a quick decision to scramble for a do-or-die first down on fourth-and-three.

"I knew it was fourth down and if I was going to go, I had to go," Hackenberg said. "I just tried to get as much as I could."

One play later, Hackenberg shoveled a pass to Bill Belton, who raced 13 yards to the UCF 46. Lewis and Hackenberg connected for completions of nine and 18 yards, respectively, on the next two plays.

"It's just like it was last year, we practice it so much, and the coaches do such a great job of putting us in situations (on the practice field)," Hackenberg said. "I think today, guys went out and they wanted it. Guys made plays."

The final reception to Lewis led to a Nittany Lion timeout with three seconds on the clock.

Ficken trotted onto the field with the kicking unit, and the rest will live in Penn State and Croke Park lore.

"It wasn't a really difficult kick. The wind was blowing right to left," Ficken said. "I asked them to get the ball to the right side of the field so that I could play the wind a little better. The snap was good. The hold was good. Honestly, I didn't hit it great, but it went through and that's all that matters."

As the 36-yard kick sailed inside the right upright to give Penn State a 26-24 victory, the Lions stormed the field to chase after Ficken, who made a victory lap in front of the more than 15,000 Penn State fans who flew across the pond to see the game. The field goal made it a storybook ending for head coach James Franklin's first win as Penn State head coach.

"That guy has had as consistent of a spring and summer as anyone on our team," Franklin said. "I'm just happy for him...He's a perfect example of people in life and in this program that if you stay positive, persevere and keep working, good things will happen."

After landing in Pittsburgh on Saturday night around 11 p.m. ET and a bus ride to State College, the team will get some rest before getting right back to work on Sunday in preparation for Saturday's home opener against Akron.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Photo Blog - Penn State vs. UCF

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DUBLIN, Ireland - Welcome to's coverage of the 2014 football season. Check back often for an inside look at the Lions' season-opener across the pond in Dublin.


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2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. UCF

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DUBLIN, Ireland - Welcome to's live, interactive coverage of the 2014 football season. Tune in for live blog coverage from all 12 games on the schedule. We kick things off today with coverage from the season-opener inside Croke Park against UCF in Ireland.

Live Blog 2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. UCF

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