By Tom Shively, GoPSUSports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The first meet of the season is behind the Nittany Lions, as they look forward to this weekend's meet against Army in the home opener. Here are five things to know about the upcoming meet.
1. Rare Home Opportunity
Saturday's meet marks the first of only four home meets for the team, as they have a road-heavy schedule all the way through the postseason. The team will be home only once in February and twice in March.
"Our guys are really excited," head coach Randy Jepson said. "They love competing in Rec Hall. We're going to have a little different format, push the bleachers to one side and have a little different floor space. There'll be a little different seating so our fans better get there early. We're hoping to have a packed house."
2. Fabian Valdez Leads a Stellar
The Nittany Lions took four individual titles, including a victory for Valdez in the uneven bars, in the season opener. Valdez is one of five freshmen on the team and the first to take home an individual event title.
"He's a seasoned competitor even though he came in as a freshman," Jepson said. "He's competed at a high level all the way through the junior ranks. But you have the team on your back now and you don't want to let anybody down."
Valdez and fellow freshman Stephen Nedoroscik are expected to be forces on the pommel horse as well, although teammate Colin Coates took the title at West Point.
3. Returning All-American Leroy
Clarke Stepping Up as a Leader
As an All-American on both parallel bars and still rings in 2016, Clarke obviously will play a large role in determining this team's success this season. Clarke finished second in the pommel horse at West Point and is looking to build off a solid performance in the opening meet.
"He's so experienced, and so steady," Jepson said. "He's been injured all fall and through the summer and he just did a great job this weekend. He's rock solid and he's just a great competitor, so we're going to see a lot of good stuff from him this year."
In addition to Clarke, this Penn State team is loaded with senior talent who can help carry this team all the way to the top. DiFulvio spearheads the effort, coming off a strong finish at West Point, taking home a title on still rings.
"[Their leadership] is huge because you want to see the ethics and the standards of our team transfer from season to season," Jepson said. "I have alumni that come back who were here in the 50s and 60s, and they talk about that. They want to see that this team succeeds as well. That torch that's been passed down for generations is huge. Watching that happen now is a big deal. Knowing that our freshmen are going to be doing the same thing in a few years is big."
5. Versatility is a Major Key
Nothing shows a team's depth like success in the all-around, and the Lions took care of business in the meet at West Point with relative ease. Michael Burns took home the spoils as the team swept the event to secure an overall victory.
"It shows our depth," Jepson said. "We didn't really have great performances, we had solid performances. With the kind of talent we have right now, that's what we're looking for. Be solid, be consistent, and be yourself."
Hopefully the Nittany Lions can build off their success heading into this weekend.
Saturday's meet will be a dual with the Penn State women's team beginning at 4 p.m. at Rec Hall.
By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lady Lions defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 86-69, Thursday night at the Bryce Jordan Center behind 18 points from sophomore guard Teniya Page.
But it was another guard who took home the night's biggest honor: junior Lindsey Spann became the 37th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points.
Spann reached the milestone thanks to a jumper in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't something she had her sights set on coming into the game.
"I didn't really know where I was," said the Laurel, Maryland native. "And then we came in at halftime and they were like 'did you know you're three points away?' and I was like 'no, but why did you guys tell me that because now I'm like thinking about it.'"
Spann added: "It's a great feeling but I didn't do it by myself."
Head coach Coquese Washington agrees with Spann's selfless mindset, and has seen all the work that Spann has put in behind the scenes in order to play at the level that she does.
"I think, like she said, her teammates have helped a lot," Washington said. "And Lindsey's a kid who works really hard and she puts a lot of time in the gym to be able to produce offensively for us. So to see all that hard work pay off this early in her career, she's halfway through her junior year, it just speaks volumes about how much she's contributed on a game-in and game-out basis over the course of her career."
Despite Spann finding out at halftime that she was so close to history, she played it off and didn't worry about it.
"I did [feel the pressure] but then I was like 'alright just get over it,'" she said.
And get over it she did. Spann added eight points in the second half to finish with 14, one of four Lady Lions to reach double figures on the night. Despite coming off the bench the last couple of games, her ability to perform on the court hasn't slowed down.
"It's a luxury as a coach to know that at any time we can put Lindsey in," Washington said. "She's hot off the bench. She's going to come in and she's going to push tempo. She gets shots up, she shoots at a very high percentage and so she's gong to change the game [when she's playing]."
As Washington has figured out, it's all about timing with Spann. As someone who can quicken the pace on the floor, putting her in when the opposing team is wearing down provides an advantage for Penn State.
"Oftentimes she's going in when the other team is a little tired and maybe they don't get back, maybe they lose her, maybe they don't remember where she is and that allows her to come in and make some big plays for us and kind of get us going," Washington said.
Spann finished the game at 1,005 career points, putting her 17 points behind Helen Holloway ('94) and 19 points behind Rashana Barnes ('02) on the all-time scoring list.
She'll have her chance to move up those two spots to 35th all-time when the Lady Lions travel to Indiana for a matchup with the Hoosiers on Monday, January 23. Tip is set for 7 p.m.
By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State swimming and diving teams have big farewells planned for this weekend's upcoming matchups against Navy. The men's and women's squads will be honoring a total of 12 swimmers for their time as Nittany Lions over the past four years.
The seniors include: Bob Bantley, Mike Kwasnik, Shane Ryan, Andrew Schuehler, Matt Stasiunas, Mackenzie Cornell, Casey Francis, Mackenzie Hornibrook, Bridget Moody, Katie Saloky, Katelyn Sowinski, Megan Wujciak.
This group of seniors is head coach Tim Murphy's first class to swim all four years under him.
teams have one more dual meet this season before heading into Big Ten and NCAA
Championships. They take on Villanova in Philadelphia on February 3.
Senior Day ceremonies are slated to start on Saturday, January 21 at 11:40 a.m. in McCoy Natatorium, and the meet will begin at noon.
By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Redshirt freshman Vincenzo Joseph has made an immediate impact in his first year wrestling for the Nittany Lions. With a 10-1 record on the year, Joseph has earned a No. 4 ranking in the InterMat individual rankings at 165 pounds.
Joseph's noticeably impressive contributions for the Nittany Lions this year though, are just what Cael Sanderson says he has always expected.
"When we recruited him we were expecting him to be a guy that was competing as a freshman," Sanderson said. "He was doing very well in high school and comes from a great club. He has trained with a lot of the kids that we have from that part of the state and they all spoke very highly of him. I think he's where we thought he would be, the important stuff is still ahead though so it's just a matter of staying focused and continuing to progress and that's our plan for him."
In just a few short months Joseph put together wins in each of his last nine consecutive outings, improving steadily with each win, including three against another ranked opponent in the span.
"I think he's just improving overall," Sanderson said. "All positions, his finishes, his shots, his tie-ups, his snaps, he's getting better on top - he's not a guy that probably tried to wrestle on top a lot, but in college it makes a big difference in close matches. He's looking better, I think his confidence is continuing to improve, but he's wrestling real well. He's scoring from a number of different attacks, his defense is solid, so we're happy where Vincenzo is at."
Practice in a room each day that's filled with some of the top wrestlers in the nation, Joseph has picked up a lot.
"We have a lot of guys on our team that have different feels," Joseph said. "So it's a really good variety of people to work with. I wrestle with Jason [Nolf] a lot. He has a lot of cool tricks and things that he does, Bo [Nickal], Shakur [Rasheed] even, and even Mark [Hall] now that he's here and he has a lot of neat things that he does differently too. So it's really good for me to wrestle with all of these guys."
After opening his collegiate career with a win on the road, Joseph began his first career dual meet in Rec Hall with a loss, but that was more than two months ago and he has since come to love the historic home gym.
"So my first experience in Rec Hall wasn't that great," Joseph said. "But then, after that, wrestling there again, I really came to appreciate it. I love wrestling there so far this year. The fans are incredible, the atmosphere is awesome, it's just a really great place to be at."
With Penn State hitting the road this week traveling to Iowa for a Big Ten showdown featuring the second-ranked Nittany Lions and the third-ranked Hawkeyes, Joseph will be tested in a tough environment away from home.
"I think recent history, these dual meets never really fail to entertain, so it's going to be a great match, it's going to be a lot of fun, a lot of passion and fire from their team and from our team. so it's going to draw a great crowd," Sanderson said.
While many wrestlers would be intimidated by an electric atmosphere like Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Joseph says he will feed off of it.
Penn State and Iowa are set to get underway in Iowa City beginning at 9 p.m. ET, with live coverage on the Big Ten Network.
More from Sanderson below.