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NCAA Tournament Content Central: Regionals

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RELATED READING: Penn State Resilient in Regional Final Sweep I Aggressive Serve Powers Penn State in Regional Semis

By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the 15th consecutive year, Penn State women's volleyball has advanced into the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals.

The Nittany Lions are now only four matches away from a national championship, with a chance to move two matches closer this weekend.

For the first time since 2010, Penn State will host third and fourth round matches, meaning it's the first time any of the Nittany Lions on the active roster have been a part of a home regional.

"When you're away for that second weekend, home court advantage does play a factor," senior middle blocker Haleigh Washington said. "There are some very competitive gyms to play in. Being on your own court and sleeping in your own bed is a huge thing."

The University Park regional has a distinct Big Ten flavor, as three of the four teams hail from the conference. The No. 1 Nittany Lions are joined by Missouri, Illinois and Michigan State, all three of whom upended a seeded team in the second round. 

"They've made it this far in the tournament, so they're obviously doing something right," Washington said. "No matter what their records are, they're still very good teams. We still need to be ready for them and be prepared for them like we are for any other team."

Overall, six Big Ten teams remain in the bracket, the highest total of any conference.

"It verifies what I said earlier about how strong the conference is and how teams even in the middle of the pack are threats to win the national championship," head coach Russ Rose said.

The Nittany Lions went a combined 4-0 in the regular season against Illinois and Michigan State, but being familiar with an opponent and attempting to beat them for a third time can be a double-edged sword.

"I think it's equal, they're familiar with us as well," Rose said. "They've played each other and are preparing for each other knowing they might get another conference opponent."

Penn State's third round opponent, Missouri, is fresh off a 3-1 victory against No. 16 Wichita State in Wichita. Coming from the SEC, the Tigers are joined by other conference top-four seeds in No. 2 Florida and No. 4 Kentucky. 

"They come from a great conference," Rose said. "They've earned their position in the tournament and we need to focus on those facts." 

The Nittany Lions know they made some mistakes in last week's victories over Howard and Pittsburgh, and that isn't the type of play that they need to advance in the tournament.

"Our passing was a little bit shaky," Washington said. "There were times when people would come in and be really good, and there were times when they would be really bad. Following the game plan is something we need to focus on a little bit better as well."

The Nittany Lions improved from Friday to Saturday, but losing a set in each of those matches brought out some factors that are going to be important to fix moving forward.

"We played much better Saturday night than we did Friday night and we're going to have to play better this week," Rose said. "I would think that's standard across the board for everybody in the tournament. If you don't play better, someone is going to beat you."

Keeping the ultimate end goal in mind, it's one that's especially important to the senior class.

"Even if you play well, there's no guarantee that you're going to win," Rose said. "If you don't play well, especially because you're distracted, then you have a lifetime to look back and realize you missed a great opportunity to do something with these people." 

Limiting distractions and keying in on a laser-like focus is key to the group of seniors who already know what it takes to make it to championship Saturday.

"We really have to focus on doing the small things right," senior outside hitter Simone Lee said. "Those are the things that lead us to being more successful and even more anticipating of things to come."

Somewhat lost in the preparation for the upcoming matches is the fact that this will be the last weekend playing in Rec Hall for eight Penn State seniors.

"It's kind of crazy," senior outside hitter Ali Frantti said. "I was talking to my mom about that today about me potentially only having two games left here. It's going to be kind of emotional but I can't really think about that because of the tournament." 

Friday's match is set for 2 p.m. in Rec Hall, also broadcasting live on ESPNU with Michigan State and Illinois following in the later match. The winners of each match will meet in the NCAA regional finals Saturday at 8 p.m. in Rec Hall.

Feature: Reed's Unconventional Journey
By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Arriving on campus four years ago, Penn State women's volleyball's Nia Reed was just a regular freshman, excited to be on campus and part of a team that had just come off a national championship. 

Coming out of high school, she was an All-American and a three-time New Jersey Player of the Year at Immaculate Heart Academy, among a decorated line of Penn State prospects.

Before she could play in any competitive matches, an injury sidelined her for the entire year. Watching her new freshmen teammates succeed around her while she recovered, Reed knew the road back wasn't going to be easy.

She never failed to see the positives in her situation though, as the injury only inspired her to work harder to get back to where she wanted to be.

"It definitely set me back a year, but I did redshirt," Reed said. "It's not like that cost me a year of eligibility. It was a year that I could get stronger and control my skills."

While sidelined, Reed was able to observe some Penn State greats in action, like Micha Hancock, Megan Courtney and Aiyana Whitney. Watching those former Nittany Lions and how they carried themselves taught Reed a lot about what it would take to compete at Penn State.

Seeing the 2014 team eventually take home the program's seventh national championship in 2014, although she did not seeing the court, Reed was still very much a part of the team.

"I learned a lot from that championship year," Reed said. "Even though I couldn't play, coach Rose still let me travel so I learned a lot from that and just sitting on the bench. Players like Micha, Megan and Aiyana, just watching them helped me to learn visually even though I wasn't on the court." 

When her sophomore year came around and she was healthy for her redshirt freshman season, her resilience showed. With time, Reed has steadily seen her playing time increase, as well as a consistent rise in her production. 

After tallying 29 kills and 11 blocks in her first two full seasons, Reed has accumulated 62 kills in her redshirt junior year to go along with 20 blocks in 23 matches played.

"I've definitely improved my ball control, limiting errors as well," Reed said. "Freshman year, after my injury, there was a lot of time in the weight room and I definitely came back stronger from that."

Now in her fourth year in the program, Reed has built a strong relationship with those in the senior class, those she came to Penn State with. It's a unique relationship, with Reed having an extra year of eligibility remaining, but the intensity with which they attack each practice and each point has not waivered.

"I've learned a lot from them on and off the court," Reed said. "They're great people to be around. We compete everyday front row and we're very close. They're really good people and great competitors. Just to be able to compete with them in the gym every day going hard is a blessing."

That competition and camaraderie has spread throughout the entire team and playing against one another in practice has only strengthened all of them as players, especially Reed. 

"She works hard, wants to be good and is certainly our most physical player," head coach Russ Rose said. "I have a lot of confidence in Nia. Otherwise she wouldn't be in the rotation as a player."

Reed's physical play is a large part of why the Nittany Lions are 31-1 on the season and the top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Only four matches away from a national championship, she knows how special it would be to take home a second title in four years. 

"It would mean the world to me," Reed said. "I think we're a bookend team and this is my class. But to win it next year and have another chance next year to come back and win it again in my fifth year would be amazing." 

It would be one of Reed's defining moments, adding to the team's first Big Ten championship in four years, which has already been locked up.

"Winning the Big Ten title was amazing, definitely because we hadn't done it before and we finally were able to win it. If we hadn't have won, it'd be the first class not to win one, so no pressure," Reed said" 

That title has been her favorite memory at Penn State so far, but winning a national championship would surpass that easily.

The challenge of Reed's role is in its inconsistency, as playing behind Ali Frantti, Simone Lee and Simone Lee at outside hitter doesn't always guarantee she will be on the court. When her number is called, Reed always rises to the occasion. 

"Coach always says everybody needs to be ready, on or off the court," Reed said. "It's not about who starts the game, it's about who ends it. I'm ready for whatever and I go in and do my best."

Reed's mentality of always being ready has served her well over her career and eventually, it will be time for her to take over as one of the team's main leaders. In true Penn State fashion though, she's just taking the opportunity one game at a time.

"I haven't thought about it that much," she said. "Yeah, my class is leaving me, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to come back another year and to be a leader for this team next year, emotionally, physically and mentally. I'm still focused on what's ahead."    

By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - All season Penn State Lady Lions' head coach, Coquese Washington has stressed how young her team is, and that constant learning that takes place. Read More

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By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - All season, Penn State Lady Lions' head coach, Coquese Washington has stressed how young her team is, and that constant learning that takes place.

The Lady Lions do not have one senior on their roster, which is composed of five juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen based on their eligibility. 

"We've got a lot of weapons, and I think our best games this year have been when we have utilized all those weapons," Washington said. "If we can find a way to be more consistent in that and find a way to get those contributions every night, I think we will be in really good shape going into conference play."

The freshmen in particular have had to step in right away and contribute big minutes especially when Teniya Page missed time early in the season. In particular, in Page's absence freshman guard Kamaria McDaniel has stepped forward playing almost 23 minutes per game and has averaged just under 10 points a game at 9.6. 

"Coming in I wasn't going to be able to take that many shots," McDaniel said.  "I have to get in the game and I have to knock down shots. Because I know when I get in the game I have to make those shots. Coach has done a great job of putting me in spots to be successful and my teammates do a great job of getting me open." 

Other freshman Alisia Smith and Sam Breen have both contributed in all nine of Penn State's games so far. Both have lower numbers than McDaniel, but have never the less gained experience in each game played. Breen is a forward with the ability to stretch the floor from 3-point range, and Smith, another forward has shown physical play on the post early in her career.

Against Wake Forest on November 30, the Lady Lions were faced with a press. After at first being taken aback, the team was able to adjust and conquer the press in the second half. It is that ability to learn on the fly and take coaching that has made the young players so special.

 "We don't try to worry about limiting mistakes, its learning from them, so we aren't making the same mistakes again and that's one of the things I liked from the Wake Forest game," Washington said. "We made the adjustments within the game and worked from there."

Since the game against Wake Forest the Lady Lions breezed through a win over Manhattan, and won a hard fought battle against Fordham. Coming off of those wins, Penn State will next take to the road and travel to St. Bonaventure on Saturday. The team knows how important it is to bring energy while on the road, especially off the bench in the form of McDaniel. 

"It's just about being competitive, I love to see us winning and that just drives my energy," McDaniel said, "I just try to come in and see what the team needs and bring that and if it's the energy then that's what I will bring." 

Washington has added that while the team is young, they are ready to play against anybody. The trust in teammates has gone a long way in their ability to adjust and improve throughout games.

"I think we are growing by leaps and bounds; we seem to take big steps from game to game. We had some big growth in Vegas and I think that's a credit from their willingness to learn lessons from watching and learn from each other and go out there and try something differently," Washington said. "They have to have trust in themselves and trust in each other that they can go out and make adjustments on the fly and I think that's how they are going to grow over the course of the season." 

Moving forward, Breen and Smith will work to continue to see their playing time grow throughout the season and contribute on the court, adding to the work McDaniel has already done. Against Fordham, Smith saw seven minutes of action and picked up time late in the game to help seal the victory.

Something that has allowed McDaniel to see large quantities of action is her great self confidence in her game. 

"She (Kamaria) has come in with a lot of confidence as a freshman and her confidence didn't get shook by any means with having a game where she was 0-5 against Wake Forest. That didn't shake or rattle her confidence. She got back in the gym and got to work," Washington said. "I think it's really uncanny for a freshman to come in with that kind of confidence in their abilities and it doesn't rattle them from having a different role than she did in high school. I think that is one of her strengths and I think that has allowed her to be successful early this year." 

Along with McDaniel's confidence in herself she has no doubts about how good this team can become.

"We are confident in each other and a confident team is a scary team," McDaniel said. "We believe in what we can do. We are going to go out and execute the game plan every night. We are going to worry about ourselves and control what we can control and bring the energy." 

The young Lady Lions are learning and growing each day on the court, and when you add confidence to that mix, there is nowhere to go but up.  

By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Down 54-44 to Fordham with just under six minutes left in the game, it didn't seem like the Lady Lions' night. Read More

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Down 54-44 to Fordham with just under six minutes left in the game, it didn't seem like the Lady Lions' night.

 They were being outrebounded by 20, including a difference of 18 on the offensive glass. The Rams held a 20-2 advantage on second chance points, and had five scorers in double figures, including a double-double from their center, Mary Goulding.

Who the Rams didn't have, however, was Teniya Page, as she proved once again why she is the leader of this team and one of the best players in the Big Ten with an outstanding fourth quarter to give the Lady Lions a 65-60 victory Wednesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Page made her last five shots on the night, and shot a scorching 11-for-15 from the field in only her fifth game back of an offseason injury. She also added a season-high 27 points and team-high eight rebounds, all part of a 16-0 run late in the fourth quarter to bring the Lady Lions all the way back and give them the lead for good. 

"It's always a part of the game plan to get Teniya shots, because she is an incredible shot maker," head coach Coquese Washington said. "She's still feeling her way and I think it's tough when you don't play basketball for months and jump back in the middle of the season. I think tonight, it finally came together in the fourth quarter. But we don't want to be a team that has to rely on Teniya having fourth-quarter heroics." 

Shot selection changed for Page in the fourth quarter as she got more and more into a rhythm, and she just got hot at the right time when her team needed it the most.

"There were shots that were open in the first three quarters that I just didn't take," Page said. "Coach told me that I needed to be more aggressive, and that's what I did."

Page's comeback efforts on the offensive end were supplemented with much better defense and rebounding, as the Lady Lions made Fordham look lost down the stretch and force a lot of questionable shots.

Forward Jaylen Williams was a big reason for that, coming up with two huge blocks late in the fourth quarter at a point where every possession was so valuable to the Lady Lions. 

"Jaylen's blocks were really big," Washington said. "We talked in the timeouts about how we needed to get stops. We had been playing zone, and we got some big defensive rebounds. We decided to go man-to-man when we were up three with about 45 seconds left, and Jaylen came up with a big block to get the ball, and we were able to go down and get to the free throw line." 

The Lady Lions were much improved on the defensive side, as Fordham shot only 18 percent from the field in the fourth quarter and managed only 11 points.

"We talked about some rotation things that we needed to do better, and we wanted to do a better job contesting shots," Washington said. "In the first half, they got too many wide open looks, and we certainly didn't want to give them that. I thought in the second half, we did a better job of moving and contesting their threes in the zone."

Rebounding was a drastic turning point as well, as the Lady Lions pulled down 12 in the fourth compared to only 11 in the other three quarters combined. It was the only quarter in which they outrebounded Fordham.

"I thought the last four minutes of the game, we did a much better job securing defensive rebounds," Washington said. "The first three quarters, they were a lot more aggressive. But that aggressiveness, at the same time with them going to the boards when we actually got defensive rebounds, we were able to get going in transition." 

While it wasn't the most conventional win for the Lady Lions, it was the third straight as they now move to 8-2 on the year. Penn State next travels to St. Bonaventure for a 7 p.m. game on Saturday.

Penn State Weekly Check In

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUsports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's weekly check in returns this week, catching up with Nittany Lion head coach Guy Gadowsky, as well as Andrew Sturtz and Trevor Hamilton. Read More

Penn State Weekly Check In

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's weekly check in returns this week, catching up with Nittany Lion head coach Guy Gadowsky, as well as Andrew Sturtz and Trevor Hamilton. Check in this week as the Nittany Lions look back on a successful road trip at Ohio State, while also looking ahead to a trip to PPG Paints Arena before returning home to Pegula Ice Arena for a home-and-home against Robert Morris this weekend. 

Gadowsky

Sturtz, Hamilton

Nittany Lions Resilient among Adversity

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUsports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It came down to the final seconds of play, but Penn State men's basketball couldn't complete its comeback attempt, falling short against Wisconsin in the Big Ten home opener. Read More

Nittany Lions Resilient among Adversity

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GAME 10: Wisconsin

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It came down to the final seconds of play, but Penn State men's basketball couldn't complete its comeback attempt, falling short against Wisconsin in the Big Ten home opener.

For Nittany Lion head coach Patrick Chambers, Penn State did all could, climbing back from a nearly 20-point second-half deficit to arrive within one in the final seconds of regulation. 

"I'm proud of my guys competing to the end," Chambers said. "They put us in a position to be successful. I thought we executed our end of game stuff as good as you can. To come back from that deficit, we dug a little deeper because we looked a little sluggish in the first half."

Trailing 31-25 at halftime, Penn State struggled out of the locker room as the Badgers went up by as many as 17 points with 9:40 remaining.

Signature to a Chambers-led team though, the Nittany Lions weren't going to go quietly.

"We're a team that never gives up, no matter the deficit," Shep Garner said. "We're a team that never gives up and we always preach one possession at a time. We focus on the possession that we're on, whether it's offense or defense, we try to compete the best we can on each possession and try to get back in the game."

With fewer than nine minutes left in the game, Garner sparked a 23-9 scoring streak, bringing Penn State within three, 60-57, with a clutch triple forcing Wisconsin to call a timeout with 1:53 left to play.

"I thought we needed it at that time, I thought it was perfect for the time," Garner said. "I knew once we got going, once the crowd got into it a little bit, we would go on a run. I just knew I had to start something to get us going." 

A pair of Garner free throws out of the break drew the Nittany Lions within one, 60-59, as Penn State continued to trade foul shots with the Badgers. 

Trailing by one with 15 seconds on the clock, Penn State collected a board off a missed free throw attempt to send the ball the other direction, but a missed Tony Carr 3-point attempt clipped the comeback attempt.

"I thought we had the right matchup and Tony made that decision," Chambers said. "Whatever Tony thought. I am not in his vision, I am on the sideline. I don't know what he saw. But he is a heck of a player and he makes really good decisions, so I am going to trust that decision."

The Nittany Lions certainly won't spend time dwelling on the final possession or the outcome though.

"We're a team that sticks together through thick and thin and we didn't lose the game on that shot," Garner said. "It's a long game, a lot of mistakes from start to finish. We're confident in him [Carr] to make those shots. He didn't make it tonight, but we didn't lose the game on that play. He's fine."

While Chambers noted there's plenty to learn from, Penn State can also take pride in a few positives.

Mike Watkins led all scorers with a career-high 22 points for his second career 20-point outing. He grabbed eight blocks and totaled a Big Ten career-best seven blocks, helping to limit Wisconsin All-American Ethan Happ to a 3-for-12 outing from the field.

"Even though we kept him to nine points, the three assists he made were critical," Chambers said. "He's was in a little bit of foul trouble and again I thought Mike did a really good job on him, but it was our team for the most part that did a really good job on him."

Watkins was one of three Nittany Lions in double figures, alongside Carr (16) and Garner (13). Carr led the team on the boards, setting a Big Ten career mark with nine rebounds against the Badgers.

With Penn State's next Big Ten game scheduled nearly a month from now, the Nittany Lions will get back to work, spending the next three weeks wrapping up the nonconference slate.

"We are going to watch this film," Chambers said. "We are going to dive into Iowa a little bit more and we will have a good film session on Wednesday and try to get better. I didn't think we played our best basketball, and we still gave ourselves a chance to win. Let's give Wisconsin some credit though, but we still gave ourselves a chance. We had the ball, down one with 10 seconds and the ball was in our best player's hands. That is all we can ask for at that stage."

By Patrick Anglin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When he was hired to take over as head coach this past summer, Jeff Kampersal knew he needed a strong Director of Operations for his team. The Director of Operations is a prestigious position that operates behind-the-scene for all the Penn State athletic teams. Read More

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