November 2012 Archives

Edwards Gets Boost From Career Day

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer



UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As a reserve player a year ago, Ariel Edwards showed, at times, the player she could become as her Penn State career evolves. Five games into the 2012 season the junior forward is beginning to unveil what she will add as a starter to an already star studded starting lineup. 

Edwards posted a career-high 24 points on 11-for-16 shooting against the University of Detroit on Nov. 23. Not only was it a career day for Edwards, but it also lifted a weight off of her shoulders as she continues to learn her role as a starter.

"It is a weight off my shoulders," said Edwards. "I feel like I have accomplished something and I know that I can do it again. It is a benchmark to keep and work towards."

Edwards-Ariel.jpeg"Anytime you have the opportunity to get a career high is an exciting time in your career," she said.

Her performance against Detroit came as no surprise to teammate Maggie Lucas simply because of the dedication Edwards puts into perfecting her craft on the court.

"She has grown so much and her confidence has gotten a lot better," said Lucas. "It's not surprising when she puts out moments like that because we see it in the gym everyday."


In 2011, Edwards played 24.1 minutes per game and averaged seven points. She ended up being one of the top bench players for head coach Coquese Washington a season ago. This year, entering the starting lineup and getting starter's minutes has been a change to what Edwards has done during the first two years of her career.

By being able to post a 24-point night early in the season Edwards has gained confidence in her game as she still learns her role and confidence might be key for a player that can make a huge impact on both sides of the floor.

"You come off the bench for two years and get used to what that role is like and then you become a permanent starter and your role changes a little bit," said Washington. "She has and still is adjusting to that role and to have the game against Detroit where her shot is falling and things are going well for her is certainly a big confidence boost for her.

Edwards has spent time in the gym to work on how she fits on both sides of the floor with the other Penn State starters and her biggest area of focus has been her play on the defensive side of the ball.

Lucas called Edwards the most versatile player on the team and this versatility can turn defense into offense, not only for her but also for other lethal Penn State weapons like Lucas. The aggressiveness of Edwards and use of her long arms and active hands has improved her defense from a year ago and has opened opportunities for her to shine offensively, as she did against Detroit.

"My major role is to be a defensive player, a defensive stopper," said Edwards. "So when I start games, the first thing I think about is that my defense with turn into my offense. I try to get deflections or steals and help pressure the other team to make mistakes."

Creating steals and forcing turnovers is a big reason why Edwards is a part of the starting lineup for Washington and being able to get into transition off of a forced turnover with guards like Alex Bentley and Dara Taylor getting her the ball, the open shot has been there for Edwards.

By being able to see how hard the other four starters work, Lucas in particular, Edwards knows exactly what she needs to do to reach her peak talent in her junior season.

"Even just the fact that Maggie has been in here all the time kind of encourages you to be in the gym all the time, too," said Edwards. "Just seeing (Maggie) in the gym knowing that she is working hard reminds me that I need to continue working hard, too."

Edwards will look continue to build on her career performance against Detroit as Penn State returns home to the Bryce Jordan Center to face Farleigh Dickinson at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Women's Soccer College Cup Quoteboard

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. - The Nittany Lions are set to meet top seeded Florida State on Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET in San Diego with a trip to the NCAA Championship on the line.

Take a look through some preview quotes from both Penn State and Florida State to get ready for the semifinal matchup.

You can watch tonight's College Cup semifinal live on ESPN3:

Penn State vs. Florida State HD Stream


Penn State:
ericacollegecup.jpgHead Coach Erica Walsh
"I mean look at this. This is the highest stage, it's fantastic, but you're looking at three players who've trained with the national team and that have competed in World Cups. You're looking at Maddy Evans who's been a leader at our university, our student-athlete advisory board, and McNulty who's played in, again, world championships for Canada, Raquel Rodriguez. So much experience across the board on this roster. Ann Cook, did it on the professional level, winning championships in the WUSA. So again it's not another game, quote un quote, because it's the college cup, and it's the big one. But at the same time we've had so many players compete on big stages, whether it's academically, athletically, through World Cup, or being the president of SAAB, they're prepared for the challenge."

Christine Nairn, Senior, M
On how the tough preseason prepared the team for the postseason...
"I mean we've kind of had that mentality all season, we've played against Stanford and we've played against BYU and to use those were our do or die games and we needed to get results in those games. I think we might not have won those games but we learned a lot about ourselves and where we've come from in the past few years and where we want to go. I think maybe not getting the results in the beginning of the year will help us kind of take the steps in the right direction for games like tomorrow against Florida State. We're prepared, we've done a ton of video and we've learned more about ourselves in this past tournament then we have all season. So we're ready and may the best team win. We've learned some of our strengths and some of our weaknesses and how to recognize moments in a game where we can kind of impose ourselves on other teams, and we want to play our style, which is soccer on the ground to feet, and I think that is when we are at our best. We are playing our best soccer right now and I think we've shown that in the past couple games, and we're ready to continue to show that to the rest of the country."



Florida State:
Head Coach Mark Krikorian
"As you know, when the selection show comes, we are sitting anxiously sitting and waiting to see if our name is called, and when it, it's a great feeling to get back into this NCAA Tournament.  And when it's called, it's really time to start getting down to the business and our preparation.  Knowing that our schedule has been challenging all season long, and this is the stage we are hoping to get to.  Through the NCAA Tournament, I think like all teams, there some ups and some downs, but our group had persevered, and we are thrilled to be back here in the College Cup and are looking forward to paying a very good opponent tomorrow night in Penn State."


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Newbill Continues Adjusting, Lions Keep Pushing

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By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As of nine o'clock this morning, D.J. Newbill has been the point guard for the Penn State men's basketball team for just 11 days, 19 hours, 24 minutes and three seconds.

8366881.jpegThat's 11 days, 19 hours, 24 minutes and three seconds of learning a position he has never played in college before.

Eleven days, 19 hours, 24 minutes and three seconds of assuming a leadership role that he did not expect to have at the beginning of this season.

But most importantly, it's 11 days, 19 hours, 24 minutes and three seconds that he's been adjusting to becoming the playmaker for the Nittany Lion offense.

And he's growing every time he steps on the floor and doing the best he can.

"And that's all that we can ask from him," said Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers.

Starting point guard and senior Tim Frazier was injured on Sunday, Nov. 18 during the Lions' game against Akron in Puerto Rico. He left the game just five minutes and 57 seconds into the first half and will sit out for the remainder of season with a ruptured Achilles tendon in his left leg.

That's when Newbill took over. Chambers said that although assuming the position as the leader of the offense is not something that Newbill expected, it is one that he is willing and able to do.

"He wants this challenge," said Chambers. "I think for the most part he's trying and he's doing what I ask him to do. He's right there, and I think this is going to make him one heck of a player when this is all said and done."

The redshirt sophomore transferred to Penn State from Southern Mississippi in August of 2011, and suffered a shoulder injury during his first week of practice as a Nittany Lion. As he went through rehab for his arm and redshirted as a transfer athlete, Newbill did not see time on the court last season.

In just six games this season, Newbill has already played a team-high 214 minutes. Now the Philadelphia native will not only spend the majority of each game controlling the Lions' offense, but also adjusting to an entirely new role. But his head coach knows that the task is not an impossible one.

"He's going to be great because we're going to continue to meet, we're going to continue to teach him, we're going to continue to simplify and simplify his decisions so he knows when to score and when to distribute," said Chambers. "If we can do that, and we can keep his head together, he should be fine and he will be."

Penn State moved to 3-3 overall after falling 73-61 to Boston College on Wednesday night in the Bryce Jordan Center. The Lions continue their three-game home stand on Saturday at 2 p.m. and will face the Penn Quakers.

Newbill said that his team will keep learning one another's tendencies and gelling together on the floor while gaining confidence from one practice to the next. The newly named point guard knows his team has a ways to go, and trusts that it will do whatever it takes to get there.

"It's still early in the season and we've still got room for improvement," said Newbill. "We're working hard because that's what we do."

Women's Soccer College Cup Photo Blog

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. - The top-seeded Nittany Lion women's soccer team will meet top-seeded Florida State on Friday at 8:30 p.m. in the College Cup semifinals at Torero Stadium in San Diego.

Stay tuned to the Photo Blog throughout the trip for updated images as the College Cup trip transpires.


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Thursday San Diego Chapter Alumni Event:
After a training session and meeting the media on Thursday, the Nittany Lions enjoyed a reception put on by the San Diego Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association at the team hotel.  Take a look through some photos, including sophomore midfielder Emily Hurd making the rounds interviewing fellow teammates and coaches.

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Nittany Lions Prepare for Toughest Test of The Season

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By: Sean Flanery, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off a week-long break for Thanksgiving, the Nittany Lions are in the midst of a six-game road trip that continues with a two-game series at Mercyhurst this weekend.

Penn State (5-8-1, 1-6-1) entered its Thanksgiving break on a high note recording its first College Hockey America win in comeback fashion, 3-2, at Lindenwood on Nov. 17. Moving forward, the Lions hope they can keep the momentum and build upon it as they prepare themselves for their toughest test of the season. Penn State head coach Josh Brandwene believes the break served the team very well after seeing how the team responded in the first few practices following the week off.

"The break was great," said Brandwene. "The energy at practice the last two days has been phenomenal, both from a physical standpoint and an enthusiasm standpoint. I think we are in a great place right now."

Brandwene-Josh.jpegThe Nittany Lions will need every bit of that energy as they are set to take on their toughest opponent this season. Fellow Pennsylvania and CHA opponent, Mercyhurst (12-1-1, 4-0-0) enters the series with the Lions ranked No. 4 in Division I and are the leaders of the CHA. The Lakers undefeated conference record speaks for itself as the team has won every conference championship since the CHA was created in 2003.

As of late head coach Josh Brandwene believes the Lions have made great strides on the ice. He has stated multiple times that this young team is beginning to learn how to play the game on the ice rather than focusing on the score, which will be vital against the Lakers. Junior forward and team captain Taylor Gross explained that while trying to not let the score get to you is hard, it is important to stay mentally focused.

"No matter what happens, it doesn't matter if they score, you just have to play the game like its one to nothing," said Gross. "So, we just can't let anything get to us during the game."

While staying mentally tough will be a key in the series with the Lakers, coach Brandwene believes if the team can just do all of the small tasks correctly it will give them the best chance at winning.

The Lions will need to use the same intensity they have brought in practice over the last few days and do the little things correctly to compete with a decorated team like Mercyhurst. Brandwene stated that the Lions just can't get caught up in the score, or how good the Lakers are, they just need to maintain their own identity out on the ice.

"The game is the game, and (Mercyhurst) is a terrific team," said Brandwene. "I have a lot of respect for Mike Sista and the job he has done for that program. Our job is to do what we do well and do it to the best of our ability. (We have to) go out and play our game."

Looking forward, the Nittany Lions have just four games remaining, including this series with the Lakers, before the team will have a lengthy winter break. The Blue and White can't afford to look forward as the break approaches, but Gross believes it would be a huge confident boost if the team could strike for another win before the break.

"Obviously, you have to have high expectations," said Gross. "It would be really nice to come out with a couple of wins going into break. But basically we have to continue to get better and hopefully we will be playing our best hockey of the year heading into break."

The Nittany Lions look to continue to improve on the ice as a unit and facing a team like Mercyhurst will be a stepping-stone for the program in its inaugural season. The puck will drop inside the Mercyhurst Ice Center at 7 p.m.  on Friday, Nov. 30.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Success Not Always Defined by Winning

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By Pat White GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Despite dropping a two-game series to No. 7 Union College (8-2-1), the Penn State men's ice hockey team (6-5-0) took another step forward in building a foundation for the program.

"I think we can take a lot of positives (away from the Union series) because we were in two games with the No. 7 team in the country," assistant coach Keith Fisher said. "We're not at that level yet, but we aren't far."


Olczyk-Tommy.jpegUnion was the No. 1-ranked offense in the country, but they were kept in check by some stellar play by the Penn State defense. Sophomore Tommy Olczyk (Long Grove, Ill.) was pleased with the way the team played against a top-10 team.

"Unfortunately we didn't come away with the results that we wanted," Olczyk said, "but there were some positives to take out of there. [Union] is first in the ECAC, was in the Frozen Four last year, and is definitely the best team that we've played all year. They're a very respectable opponent."

One of the bright spots of the weekend was the play of freshman goaltender Matt Skoff (McKees Rock, Pa.). Skoff stopped 82 of 86 shots in the series, including a career-high 42 saves on Sunday. He made some spectacular saves and displayed great lateral movement to keep up with Union's quick passing.

"Playing a team that went to the Frozen Four last year will give any goalie confidence to get in the net and measure yourself against the best kids in the country," said Skoff. "It was a good weekend for the team to figure out that we can play against teams in the top 10. It was a good confidence builder."


Olczyk said the team showed their identity as a hard-working team in the series with the Dutchmen. The Nittany Lions showed that they can play tough against any team, and Olczyk is pleased with the progress of the team.

"I think we're progressing a little bit faster than people thought we would," Olczyk said. "I thought it would be a tougher transition, but we have been able to hang with Union and beat Air Force. We're just trying to take it one game at a time and don't want to look too far."

An area that Penn State has excelled in this season is the penalty kill. Union came into the weekend matchup with the top-ranked power play in the NCAA, but was held to only one goal on eight attempts.

"We stick to our habits: forcing the puck, forcing a dump, getting in lanes and blocking shots are really what we're about," freshman forward David Glen said. "So far we've done a good job with that."

After the successful weekend at Union, Fisher expects the team to use the success against Union as fuel for the rest of the season.

"We have to move forward," Fisher said. "We were given a good lesson by Union about how hard you have to work to be a top team and pay attention to details, not only in practice but in games. We need to carry that over no matter who we play."

The Nittany Lions look to continue that success as they prepare for a matchup with the No. 1 club team in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, Arizona State (18-0-0). A few members on the PSU team faced ACHA competition last year at the club level, but the team is preparing for Arizona State like any other opponent.

"We have to get up for every game," Glen said. "The point of this season is to build a foundation, and it starts over every single game and practice. We make sure we stick to our fundamentals."

Arizona State brings a high-octane offense into the weekend matchup with Penn State. The Sun Devils have scored 114 goals in 18 games while only allowing 29 goals. Olczyk is expecting the team to play the brand of Penn State hockey they know best.

"We don't change our game for anyone," Olczyk said. "We play our way so that we can be successful and there's no reason to change it. We just have to play hard and the results will come."

Penn State kicks off the weekend matchup with Arizona State on Friday, Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Men's Hoops Game Blog - FINAL: Boston College 73, Penn State 61

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live in-game coverage of the Nittany Lion basketball team.

Take a look back at Penn State's 73-61 setback to Boston College in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday night.    


Starting Lineups:
Penn State - G - Marshall, G - Newbill, F - Travis, F - Taylor, F - Graham

Boston College - G - Heckmann, G - Rahon, G - Hanlan, F - Anderson, C - Clifford

15:22 1st Half - Boston College 4, Penn State 2
Junior guard Jermaine Marshall got the Lions on the board first with a runner in the lane.  Boston College countered with a tip-in and two foul shots to head into the media timeout with a 4-2 lead.  Both teams are looking to warm up shooting the ball.  The Lions have also committed three turnovers in the early minutes, which needs to clean up.

10:06 1st Half - Boston College 12, Penn State 9

The Eagles used a 10-0 run to claim an eight-point lead early, but D.J. Newbill warmed up to bring the Lions within one.  Newbill drove the lane twice for lay-ins before knocking down a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cap off a personal 7-0 scoring run.  Boston College center Dennis Clifford answered with a dunk and a free throw to make it 12-9.  Newbill is 3-for-3 from the floor, but the rest of the team is just 1-9 to start the game.

7:36 1st Half - Boston College 15, Penn State 12
Despite a quiet shooting start, the Nittany Lions are within three thanks to a Nick Colella 3-pointer from the corner.  Penn State's defensive effort has been very good, as expected, and the Lions are close on the scoreboard despite five turnovers.  Finding some offensive flow is a must for the Nittany Lions heading into the locker room before halftime.

3:38 1st Half - Boston College 25, Penn State 17
A turnaround jumper in the lane and a free throw from Ross Travis cut an eight-point Boston College lead down to five at the 4:52 mark (20-15).  The Nittany Lions had a chance to trim the margin down further on the ensuing possession, but the Eagles forced a stop and countered with a free throw and a 3-pointer from Joe Rahon to push the lead back up to nine before a layup from Marshall.

Halftime - Boston College 31, Penn State 24
Boston College looked to be on its way to a 10-point halftime lead after Andrew Van Nest nailed a corner 3-pointer, but Newbill knocked down a big three at the buzzer to send the Lions into the break down seven.  The Philadelphia native led the Lions with 12 points, but committed six turnovers as he continues to grow in the point guard role for Penn State.  The shooting numbers were very even, but Boston College went 10-for-13 at the foul line in the first half.  Travis added five points and six rebounds.  Penn State needs a crisp second half to put itself into a position to win.

15:45 2nd Half - Boston College 39, Penn State 33
Baskets from Jon Graham and Brandon Taylor out of the locker room cut the B.C. lead down to five.  Boston College countered with a three, but Marshall knocked down a corner trey to make it a 36-31 contests at the 16:45 mark.  An old-fashioned 3-point play from the Eagles pushed their lead back up to eight, but Marshall notched his second basket of the half to set the score at six.  Both teams started well on the offensive end of the floor (3-4).  Penn State needs to string a couple offensive possessions together to carve into the lead.

11:35 2nd Half - Boston College 45, Penn State 35
The Nittany Lions could not get the stops they needed before the Eagles extended their lead to 12, marking their largest advantage of the night.  Penn State is shooting the ball fairly well at 41 percent, but B.C. has an edge on the glass, 25-19.  The Lions have made too many mistakes tonight, but there is a lot of basketball to play and the margin is 10.  Nonetheless, Penn State needs to find more consistency on offense to slice into the Boston College lead.

7:16 2nd Half - Boston College 51, Penn State 37
The Nittany Lions have cooled off shooting the ball in the second half.  That, combined with solid 3-point shooting from the Eagles has the Nittany Lions facing a 14-point deficit.  Penn State had the game within six at the 15:45 mark, but it has not tallied a field goal since then.

FINAL - Boston College 73, Penn State 61
The Nittany Lions led 2-0 to start the game, but never led again.  Penn State played decent basketball in spurts, but not consistently enough to put itself in a position on Wednesday night in the Bryce Jordan Center.  Nonetheless, give the Nittany Lions a great deal of credit for their effort down the stretch.  Trailing by 20 with 5:22 to play, the Nittany Lions went on a tear.  Fueled by a 14-0 scoring run, the Lions got as close as three (60-57), but the 20-point deficit proved to be too much to overcome.  Marshall was terrific down the stretch, finishing with a game-high 25 points on 8-for-12 shooting.  Newbill finished with a career-high 22 points on 6-for-13 shooting from the floor and 8-for-11 from the foul line.  Travis pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds.  Penn State will be disappointed with the setback, but the rally in the final minutes gave the group some life before it returns home on Saturday to face Penn.

"I was disappointed in the first 20 minutes, but that last five minutes showed me something," Chambers said.

Chambers added that the Nittany Lions need to play with the type of effort they did down the stretch for 40 minutes to win basketball games.



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NCAA Volleyball Tournament Central: Lions Open at Home

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the 23rd consecutive season, Penn State will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament.  The 2012 Big Ten champion Nittany Lions (29-2) open the tournament against Binghamton (13-17) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Rec Hall.

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The winner of the Penn State-Binghamton match will move on to face either Yale (18-5) or Bowling Green (21-10) on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

For the Nittany Lions, they closed the season with eight-straight victories.  Penn State's two losses both came in five sets (vs. Oregon State on Sept. 8 and at Nebraska on Oct. 28).  The Lions tallied a 15-0 mark inside Rec Hall in 2012.

In all, Penn State enters its first round match of the NCAA Tournament having won 24 of its last 26 sets.  Led by Big Ten Player of the Year Ariel Scott, the Nittany Lions claimed 10 postseason Big Ten awards earlier this week.  Joining Scott on the list of individual accolades - sophomore Micha Hancock was tabbed as the Big Ten Setter of the Year, Megan Courtney was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Russ Rose earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors.  Scott, Hancock and Deja McClendon were named to the All-Big Ten team.

The Nittany Lions are one of seven Big Ten teams in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.  Ohio State, Purdue and eighth-seeded Minnesota are all in Penn State's quarter of the bracket.  Nebraska is the tournament's No. 4 seed.  Michigan and Michigan State are the remaining two conference teams in the draw.

Now, it is win or go home for all 64 teams on the bracket.  Penn State has 28 straight postseason matches at home.  The Lions have ended the year with a national title trophy in four of the last five seasons.  The 2012 Tournament begins on Friday in Rec Hall.



VIDEO: NCAA Tournament Player Preview Interviews



VIDEO: NCAA Tournament Coach Aird Preview Interview



First and Second Round Statistical Rundown

 

Penn State

Binghamton

Record

29-2

13-17

RPI

2

250

Team Hitting Percentage

.305

.215

Opponent Hitting Percentage

.134

.218

Blocks Per Set

2.70 per set

1.8 per set

Top Attacker

Scott - 3.69 kills per set

Partaleva - 3.68 kills per set

Top Blocker

Slay - 1.39 blocks per set

Vickers - 0.88 blocks per set

Top Defensive Specialist

Gonzalez - 3.55 digs per set

Ortiz - 4.69 digs per set



 

Yale

Bowling Green

Record

18-5

21-10

RPI

66

53

Hitting Percentage

.240

.209

Opponent Hitting Percentage

.150

.182

Blocks Per Set

2.20

2.30

Top Attacker

Rogers - 3.00 kills per set

Penrod - 3.85 kills per set

Top Blocker

Wessels - .97 blocks per set

Skinner - 1.19 blocks per set

Top Defensive Specialist

Rudnick - 4.76 digs per set

Dunn - 4.41 digs per set

 


Feature Story Corner
Top-Seeded Lions Prepare for Postseason Play
Story By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2012 women's volleyball team won its first match of the season on Aug. 24 with a sweep of Morehead State.

8132073.jpegBut the team that stepped on the court that night in Louisville, Kentucky is not the same team that comes in as the No. 1 seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament and plays host to its first round of postseason play on Friday night.

"We've gelled a lot together and we just trust each other and we know exactly what each other is capable of doing and what we all can do as a team," said freshman outside hitter Megan Courtney. "I think just putting it all together finally is really coming together and it's really exciting to see."

Top-seeded Penn State hosts America East champion Binghamton in Rec Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. The postseason match will be the first that Courtney plays at the collegiate level, but she said that her teammates have already briefed her on just how to handle the event.

"They've been telling me just to keep calm and have fun and that it's over quick so, never to regret anything and go hard the whole time," said Courtney.

At the beginning of the season, Penn State head coach Russ Rose and his coaching staff continually stressed the need for better serving, better passing and a more confident offensive attack from match to match.

Assistant coach Steve Aird said that, after 31 matches, he's seen the Lions become a team that is trusting not only its skills on the court, but also one another.

"I think we've been playing solid volleyball for the last few weeks," said Aird. "Practices have been tough, competitive and the girls have been playing a pretty high level and I feel really good about where we are right now."

Penn State has hosted first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament 26 times in the past 31 years, including the last 23 consecutive seasons. Aird said that while he is excited to have a homecourt advantage in postseason action, he and the Lions know that they'll be facing tough competition.

"I think the draw of the teams that we have coming to Happy Valley, it's like anyone says - they are volleyball teams who have earned the opportunity to play in an NCAA tournament," said Aird. "Regardless of who is on the other side of the net for the next three weeks, if we play championship-level volleyball we'll have an opportunity to advance."

Last year, the Nittany Lions were knocked off by UCLA in the regional semifinal of the tournament. Sophomore libero Dominique Gonzalez said that she and the rest of her teammates have much higher hopes for the outcome of this season.

"We realize that we want to be able to go a lot further than we did last year and the things that we have to do are be really crisp every day in practice and practice hard every day because we realize that one day off can be a big deficit for us," said Gonzalez."

And the veteran back-row staple agreed with coach Aird and Courtney that the best way for the Lions to win it all is by playing solid, team volleyball.

"I think the thing that we've stressed the most this season is being a team and working every single day," said Gonzalez. "We have to play our best volleyball from serving to passing to hitting to setting, everything has to be on point."  

 



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English's Perseverance Pays Off

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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - Of all the difficult challenges that any collegiate athlete can face, there is perhaps nothing more devastating than being forced to miss an entire season because of injury.

It is a challenge that Penn State wrestler James English has had to overcome twice in his career.

After missing his entire freshmen campaign, English was once again sidelined last year after recurring shoulder injuries forced him to have season ending surgery.

"It was a frustrating experience," said English.  "It's never fun to go through surgery and have to sit out an entire season."

Now a fifth year senior, English has returned to the Nittany Lions lineup as strong as ever, winning his first two matches of the year, including a 5-2 decision over 18th-ranked Shane Welsh during the team's opening meet victory against Lehigh.

While English knew the road back from surgery would not be an easy one, he never doubted that he would return to the mat for the start of the season.

"I knew I'd be back one way or another," said English. "I didn't care if anyone told me otherwise."

English's dedication to his rehab along with the motivation provided by his coaching staff helped him work his way back into wrestling shape.

He stated the words of advice provided to him by assistant coach Casey Cunningham gave him the desire to come back as soon as possible.

"Coach Cunningham pulled me aside right before my surgery when things were starting to get frustrating," said English. "He told me that it was going to make me stronger and work even harder when I got back."

Although English hadn't been able to wrestle in over a year, his success so far this season has not come as a surprise to him or his coaches.

Having entered this season with a 30-11 career record, head coach Cael Sanderson knew he could expect big things from him.

"He's a great wrestler," said Sanderson. "I don't think anyone who has followed him should be surprised by what he's done."

English's performance at the 149 weight has been a major boost for the Nittany Lions, as he has been filing in for the injured Andrew Alton, who entered the year ranked sixth in the nation.

Although he wasn't originally expected to start, English doesn't like to think of himself as a backup.

"I never looked at it as being behind anyone," said English. "I look at it as it's anyone's weight class and we both have the same goal which is to be a national champion."

With Alton almost set to return, English knows he will have to compete to stay in lineup.

That's fine by him, as he understands the competition between he and his teammate will help them both improve and is part of what makes their program so strong.

"Our team has an iron sharpens iron mentality," said English. "We're stacked at every weight and it's awesome having such great teammates to practice with."

This attitude is what English's coaches believe separates him from the pack and has made him so valuable to the team.

When asked about him, Sanderson went out of his way to praise English's character and work ethic, which he believes has been an inspiration to rest of the squad.

"Attitude is everything and he's got a great one," said Sanderson. "From day one whether he's had an opportunity to wrestle or not he's had a smile on his face and has wanted to get better and that kind of attitude is contagious."

English, who has applied for a sixth year of eligibility because of medical redshirt, is just glad to have the opportunity to wrestle again.

"I'm just grateful for every chance I have to get out there and compete," said English. "I've been waiting for this for a long time so its great to be back."

The Nittany Lions compete again on Dec. 9, when they have their first in-conference match against Indiana. 

Lucas-Maggie.jpeg

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When the game you are playing in is a part of a "challenge", you can expect that your opponent isn't going to be a walkover. The Lady Lions will hit the road for their third straight game on Thursday, Nov. 29 when they take their talents to South Beach a Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup with Miami (Fla.).

The Lady Lions are off to a 5-0 mark for the second time under head coach Coquese Washington and will be looking to start a season with a 6-0 record for just the sixth time in school history. The Blue and White have passed a pair of major road tests already this season, defeating No. 16/13 Texas A&M and winning a pair of games away from home last weekend in California.

Tale of the Tape
The floor inside the BankUnited Center might need some resurfacing after Thursday night's contest between these two high scoring offenses. Penn State enters the contest averaging 75 points a game, while Miami averages nearly 73 points in their five contests.

The similarities don't end there, as both teams have similar per-game averages in a multitude of statistical categories. Both teams limit the opposition to less than 60 points, force 22 or more turnovers, hand out over 13 assists and claim around 12 steals per contest.

The only major discrepancies on the stat sheet would be Miami's plus-seven rebounding margin to Penn State's plus-two and the Lady Lions .333 three-point field goal percentage to just .296 from behind the arch for the Hurricanes.

Happy Birthday to the Mayor
Talia East is kind of a big deal around campus and her head coach refers to her as the mayor of Penn State, but on Nov. 28 you can just call her birthday girl. It can get tiring being such a high-profile person on one of the nation's largest campuses, but just imagine the 'happy birthday' exclamations that she will receive around Happy Valley.

The charismatic post player has an infectious smile that complements her tenacious style of play and her head coach loves her attitude, both on and off the court.

"Her personality is outstanding," said Washington. "She is fun. She keeps everybody laughing and keeps the team in stitches. You love being able to coach those type of players. But she also brings some toughness. She is not afraid to give the hard foul and she is going to get in there and rough it up with the other team's (post players). She will get in there and get those tough rebounds, she will block shots and play good physical defense."

M-V-P, M-V-P
When head coach Coquese Washington told the media that the Lady Lions trip to the west coast was a business trip, junior Maggie Lucas dusted off her hard hat before heading west. The 5-foot-10 sharpshooter filled up the stat sheet to the tune of 25.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.5 steals per game in two games in The Golden State. Those numbers were good enough to help the Blue and White claim the tournament title with wins over Detroit and Cal State Northridge and earn her the distinction of most valuable player at the Radisson Chatsworth Thanksgiving Tournament.

Those numbers were also good enough to earn the junior Big Ten Player of the Week recognition for the first time this season and second in her career. Lucas also earned the award after posting a double-double in a victory over then No. 8/11 Ohio State last season.

Follow GoPSUsports.com's Greg Campbell on Twitter @SID_Greg

 

-- NITTANY LIONS --

Penn State College Cup Central

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the fourth time in program history, the Nittany Lion women's soccer team will appear at the College Cup.  Top-seeded Penn State will clash with top-seeded Florida State on Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET in San Diego in the NCAA Semifinals.


VIDEO Preview:


By the Numbers:

No. 1 Penn State

 

No. 1 Florida State

20-3-2

Record

20-3-0

2.92 (No. 1)

Scoring Offense (NCAA Rank)

2.35 (No. 14)

0.897 (No. 56)

Goals-Against (NCAA Rank)

0.56 (No. 8)

0.4 (No. 77)

Shutout Percentage (NCAA Rank)

0.739 (No. 1)

0.83 (No. 47)

Save Percentage (NCAA Rank)

0.851 (No. 19)

73/23

Goals Scored/Goals Allowed

54/13

39/33

Goals Scored by Half - 1st/2nd

29/23

8/15

Goals Allowed by Half - 1st/2nd

7/6

Christine Nairn - 1.72

Points Per Game Leader

Tiffany McCarty - 1.61

Christine Nairn - 0.64

Goals Per Game Leader

Tiffany McCarty - 0.696

Raquel Rodriguez - 0.45

Assists Per Game Leader

Jessica Price - 0.43

Erin McNulty - 0.824

Save Percentage Leader

Kelsey Wys - 0.841

Christine Nairn - 11

Total Assists

Jessica Price - 10

Christine Nairn - 16

Total Goals

Tiffany McCarty - 16

Christine Nairn - 43

Total Points

Tiffany McCarty - 37.0

Erin McNulty - 84

Total Saves

Kelsey Wys - 69




College Cup Schedule:
Friday, Nov. 30 - Torero Stadium - San Diego, Calif.
- 5:30 p.m. (PT) - No. 1 Penn State (20-3-2) vs. No. 1 Florida State (20-3-0)
- 8 p.m. (PT) - No. 1 Stanford (21-1-1) vs. No. 2 North Carolina (13-5-3)

Sunday, Dec. 2 - Torero Stadium - San Diego, Calif.
- 1 p.m. (PT) - National Championship



Penn State in the College Cup:
1999
- NCAA Semifinals - Dec. 3, 1999 - L, 2-0 to No. 2 North Carolina

2002
- NCAA Semifinals - Dec. 6, 2002 - L, 2-0 to No. 9 Portland

2005
- NCAA Semifinals - Dec. 2, 2005 - T, 0-0 (2 OT) to No. 1 Portland (Advanced 4-3 on penalty kicks)



NCAA WSOC_College Cup_Semis.jpg Feature:
Road to the College Cup

By Scott Traweek, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
Playing for the College Cup has been a goal for Penn State women's soccer from the moment the team took the practice field on day one.

It began with the seniors, who decided at the end of the 2011 season that their moment had arrived and 2012 was their year.  They made it their mission to work harder than they ever had before, taking their game to the next level so that they could compete against the top teams in the nation.

"As a team, our goal is to be the number one team in the country," said senior midfielder Christine Nairn.  "It's been a dream of ours since we committed to Penn State is to go to the final four and to go out on top."

Three and a half months later, the Nittany Lions find themselves one game away from playing in the program's first National Championship.

The road to San Diego was not easy and the team fought through obstacle after obstacle to reach the College Cup semifinals.

Penn State started the season without its top two goal scorers in junior forwards Maya Hayes and Taylor Schram, while facing a difficult out of conference schedule, which featured three of the top teams in the country, including Stanford, BYU and Virginia.

The loss of Hayes and Schram, along with a number of injuries on defense, opened the door for a group of talented young players to step in and fill the void.  Freshmen like forward Mallory Weber, midfielder Raquel Rodriguez and defender Corey Persson all were key to Penn State's success early on and throughout the season.  Junior forward Tani Costa also added to the dynamic offense, finishing fourth on the team in goals.

When Hayes and Schram returned after winning the U-20 Women's World Cup, they found themselves in the midst of a battle for the starting job on offense, a dilemma that was welcomed by the coaching staff.

"It provided us an opportunity to test some of these young players early," said head coach Erica Walsh on the absence of Hayes and Schram.  "As a result, when those guys came back in, our biggest challenge was how we were going to fit all of our goal scorers at the same time on the field.  What a great challenge that is as a coach."

Winning the Big Ten for the 15th straight year presented a tough task in its own, but the Nittany Lions endured and entered the NCAA tournament with the experience they needed to earn Penn State's first every victory in penalty kicks against Michigan, followed by a grueling elite eight 1-0 win over Duke.

As a result of the adversity the team has faced, the Nittany Lions have never been more prepared for what lays ahead and the players never lost sight of their goal.

"It's a bit of a process going from filling Maya and Schram to competing at the highest level in preseason and then the Big Ten," said Nairn.  "We wanted to win [the Big Ten], but that's just on our to do list.  We check that off and we move forward, but our goal was to win the National Championship."

The journey has been an unforgettable one and the players have enjoyed the ride, but the journey is far from over.  The Nittany Lions have their eyes set on a national championship and are ready to put in whatever work is necessary to succeed on the national stage.

"It's been an incredible journey," said senior midfielder Maddy Evans.  "It's fun to reflect on, but it's also neat to see how far we've come and still at this point how far we can still go."

"We're excited to be where we are," said Nairn.  "We're happy to be here, but we want to win and we're going to do whatever it takes to be the last one standing."

The challenges Penn State has faced up to this point have given the Nittany Lions the experience they need to compete in the College Cup.

"I just look at the different challenges that we could potentially face, and obviously you never know what's going to be thrown at you, but what I do know is it's not going to be greater than what we've faced," said coach Walsh.  "That gives me a ton of confidence in my team."

Throughout the season, the players have risen to meet the adversity head on and for that reason they know they can compete with the best.

"I think we have the advantage in that we've faced those challenges, so we know how to battle, how to dig deep and grind it out when it's needed," said Hayes.  "That showed tremendously when we played Duke."

As the season progressed, Penn State redefined its goals from winning the Big Ten, to earning the number one seed, to competing in the College Cup, to the ultimate goal of winning that National Championship.

Now their moment has arrived and, though playing in the College Cup is a novel experience for all but coach Walsh and senior goalkeeper Erin McNulty, the Nittany Lions are nothing but confident.  After what they've been through, it's as if they've been there a dozen times before.

"Sometimes you see these teams going to final fours for the first time kind of big-eyed and I don't get that feeling at all with this group," said coach Walsh.  "I look at a group that's got a quiet confidence about them."

Penn State (20-3-2) will take on fellow one-seed Florida State (20-3-0) in a semifinal matchup on Friday at 8:30 p.m.  Both coach Walsh and McNulty's previous College Cup experience was with the Seminoles and the two storied programs know each other well.  They will take the stage to decide who will play for the NCAA women's soccer National Championship.



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: This Week In Penn State Wrestling - Cody Sanderson

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with associate head coach Cody Sanderson in the latest version of This Week in Penn State Wrestling.  Sanderson provides an update on the Nittany Lions as they head into Sunday's Nittany Lion Open at Rec Hall.


Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Highlighting the Big Ten Coach of the Year; Freshman of the Year

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RELEASE: O'Brien Sweeps Big Ten Coach of the Year Honors; Barnes Freshman of the Year


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Bill O'Brien was honored by the Big Ten Conference's coaches and media on Tuesday for his tremendous effort during the 2012 season as the Coach of the Year.  Additionally, redshirt freshman defensive end Deion Barnes earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year accolades.

The honors for O'Brien and Barnes come one day after 14 Nittany Lions were honored for All-Big Ten recognition, including six student-athletes on the conference's first team.


Bill O'Brien - Hayes-Schembechler; Dave McClain Coach of the Year
The leadership Coach O'Brien exuded on the day he was hired resonated with every member of the football program, athletic department and fan base.  The first-year leader met every challenge he faced during his remarkable first seven months on the job with nothing but confidence.  Preparing for a season under the circumstances O'Brien was forced to deal with was truly unprecedented in college football history.  But none of that mattered.  He earned the trust of a special senior class on the day he first met the group.  In return, O'Brien entrusted the group of 31 seniors, which led to a collective bond in one of the tightest locker rooms any program could have.

Sure, O'Brien would love to have a couple plays back in a few games, but winning eight games in 2012 was a tremendous accomplishment for the first-year head coach, the assistants and the players on the roster.  It's hard to speculate where the football program would be today without the leadership of O'Brien and the 2012 senior class.

A tireless work, O'Brien was the first one in the Lasch Building and the last one to leave all season long.  His ultra-competitive attitude became engrained in the mind of everyone on the team.  Practices were competitive every single day because the players on the roster wanted to be the best in everything.  That mindset permeated from O'Brien.  Nobody wants to win more on Saturdays than O'Brien, and his team had the same attitude every time it stepped onto the field.

As he has said numerous times, the 2012 squad was not an undefeated team but it was a special group.  While the senior class played an instrumental role in keeping the team together during its toughest time, O'Brien is the reason this group was so special.  Winning eight games is an unbelievable accomplishment under the circumstances O'Brien and the Nittany Lions did in 2012, but how they approached every practice and game is why there was only one choice for Big Ten Coach of the Year.



DE Deion Barnes - Big Ten Freshman of the Year
Redshirt freshman Deion Barnes has all the tools to become an elite defensive end for the Nittany Lions.  In 2012, Barnes finished tied for fifth in the Big Ten in sacks with 6.0.  The Philadelphia product made 26 tackles, including 10.0 hits for loss.  He also forced three fumbles.  Possessing great speed and quickness off the edge, Barnes posed a big challenge for opposing tackles every week.  Learning from one of the best position coaches in America, Barnes said that the biggest thing defensive line coach Larry Johnson taught him was how to play fast.  The end result was a standout rookie campaign for one of the most likeable personalities in the Penn State locker room.



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Previewing the Lions' ACC/Big Ten Challenge Matchup

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following a hard-fought victory over previously-unbeaten Bucknell, the Nittany Lion basketball team returns to the Jordan Center on Wednesday night for its annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge contest.

For the second-straight season, the Lions take on Boston College in the Challenge.  Penn State has won four of its last five Challenge appearances, and it holds a 5-6 all-time record.  Last season, the Nittany Lions posted a 62-54 victory over the Eagles in Chestnut Hill.

Finding an Identity
Penn State's confidence level grew tremendously in the second half of Friday's victory over Bucknell.  The Lions shot north of 70 percent for nearly all of the second 20 minutes while holding off a late charge from the Bison to win, 60-57.  Without Tim Frazier, sophomore guard D.J. Newbill carried the bulk of the ball handling duties, something that he is growing to like as he gets more reps each day at practice.  Newbill came into the lineup at the start of the season as an off-ball threat alongside Frazier, but now, the Philadelphia native is the leader of the offense.  Coach Chambers said on Tuesday that he does not expect Newbill or fellow guards Jermaine Marshall and Nick Colella to play the role of Frazier.  What Chambers is looking for is a point guard to bring the ball up the floor, get the offense into a set, and most importantly, play defense and rebound on the other end of the floor.  Newbill played a very solid game against Bucknell last week, tallying a career-high seven assists in 37 minutes of action.  When Newbill was not on the floor, Marshall ran the offensive show, and he will continue to do so moving forward.

Marshall Key on Offense
Penn State needs to play great defense and rebound in order to put itself in a position to win against any team on the schedule.  That mindset will never change under Coach Chambers.  Wednesday night's clash against Boston College is no different, but Marshall is the key figure for Penn State on the offensive side of the floor.  The redshirt junior led the Lions with 17 points against Bucknell, including 15 in the second half.  When the 6-4 guard is making outside shots, the Nittany Lions are a much more difficult team to defend.  The defensive effort will be there every night for the Nittany Lions, but Marshall's consistent offensive output is huge boost.

Taylor Finding a Groove
Brandon Taylor may still be learning the Penn State offense and the youngest player in the starting lineup, but the 6-7 forward exudes confidence every time he steps on the floor.  Taylor had 16 points (4-8 from 3 pt.) in his first career start against Bucknell.  Taylor brings good size and range to the rotation, and he plays hard every time he steps on the floor.  Averaging 6.4 points per game, like Marshall, Taylor's outside shooting will be key for the Nittany Lions moving forward.  He may be a freshman, but Taylor knocked down several shots like a veteran in Penn State's victory over a good Bucknell team.

A Look at Boston College
The Eagles enter the Bryce Jordan Center with a 2-4 overall mark following a 56-54 home loss to Bryant on Sunday.  B.C. has wins over Auburn (50-49) and Florida International (84-70).  Forward Ryan Anderson leads Boston College in scoring at 15.8 tallies per game.  Anderson is one of three Eagles averaging in double figures.  Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon enter the game averaging 12.5 and 10.5 points per game, respectively.  The Eagles are averaging 66.7 points per game while shooting 43 percent from the field and 32 percent from beyond the arc.  Defensively, B.C.'s opponents are averaging 69.5 points per game and shooting 46 percent from the field and 40 percent from the arc.  It is a very young Boston College squad with just one senior and two juniors on the roster.  B.C. starts three sophomores and two freshmen.


Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Paniccia Role Model to More Than Just Her Teammates

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By: Sean Flanery, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- When Penn State began its inaugural season, everyone knew that with a young defensive unit, having an outstanding goaltender would be a priority for the team to be successful and so far this season, junior Nicole Paniccia has proved she is just that.

Being a native of Oakville, Ontario, which is located just outside Toronto, Paniccia has hockey in her blood. In her younger years, Paniccia spent many seasons with various youth teams across Canada. Most significantly, her stint with the Toronto Aeros. While with the Aeros, she helped lead the team to a gold medal finish at the Provincial Championships and was also named MVP of the final game of the 2009 Can-Am Junior Hockey Challenge.

After receiving numerous accolades at youth levels of hockey, Paniccia began to pursue awards at the NCAA level by traveling to the University of Connecticut, which would be her home for two seasons on the ice. During her two seasons with the Huskies, Paniccia posted a 7-12-3 record in 24 appearances, which included four shutouts.

Paniccia-Nicole.jpegWhile Paniccia stated UConn was a great school, but she never felt like it was the right fit for her. When Penn State stated last year that they would be starting a Division I women's hockey program, Pannicia saw the opportunity to be a part of something special.

"It's just an awesome opportunity to be here," said Paniccia. "It's the beginning of something brand new, especially for me. I've never been an older girl on a team before, so it's kind of a chance for me to step up, be a leader and kind of start history, and I saw it as an awesome opportunity. I had heard of coach [Josh] Brandwene before and I love him as a coach. I think he's the best coach I have ever had in my hockey career. It's just an amazing opportunity to be here."

Since trading in her Husky jersey for one with the Blue and White of Penn State, Paniccia has become a tremendous leader both on and off the ice. Being one of only a few upperclassmen on the roster, she has been a voice within the locker room along with fellow UConn transfers Taylor Gross and Jenna Welch. Coming into the season, the three of them were the only Nittany Lions with any Division I experience. Paniccia said prior to the season starting the younger girls on the team would ask for advice on how to approach the games and how to make the transition to Division I hockey.

"I think it was more before we played any games," said Paniccia. "Them just coming up to me and asking, 'what can we expect, what's the level going to be like?' It's good that they're asking those questions because I've had the experience, but ultimately I think it's just them being on the ice and getting the experience that teaches them how to play at this level."

Paniccia has administered wise advice to the younger players on the team off the ice, but on the ice she has led by example. So far this season, Paniccia has competed at a high level posting a 5-6-1 record while stopping 92.1 percent of the shots she has faced. Her .921 save percentage ranks third among goalies in College Hockey America (CHA).

The Toronto-area native has been the anchor of the Penn State defense all season saving 407 total shots to date, which ranks second in the CHA. Paniccia accredited a lot of her success this season to the confidence she gained this past offseason and really trying to refocus in between periods and from game to game. Penn State head coach Josh Brandwene has commented that he rarely says anything to Paniccia after a bad period or game because of her ability to refocus and forget.

"For me the biggest thing is just experience," said Paniccia. "I would be lying to you if I told you I could do that my freshman or even my sophomore year. I think it's just, for me, being off the ice, just taking a sip of water and just refocusing and putting everything behind me. Just thinking to myself, if it was a bad game or a bad period, you know you can't do anything about it. It's in the past. Try and go out there and kill it this period and be there for your teammates."

While Paniccia constantly tries to improve her game, she gains extra motivation from a family member. Paniccia's younger sister, Daniela, also plays goaltender, but is a few years younger in age. Nicole says that her younger sister provides a different kind of support and is more of a motivating factor to always be a role model.

"I actually think she is better than I was at her age," Nicole said about Daniela.  "Whenever I'm having a bad night, or there's those days where you get tired and you don't feel like practicing, I kind of think of her and that I want to be a good mentor for her and just be a leader and show her the ropes. I want to be a good role model for her, so it definitely motivates me to do well."

While Nicole has many behind the scenes factors that motivate her to succeed on the ice, she never leaves anything to chance. The junior goaltender has many rituals that go hand in hand with her skill. She stated that she is a very superstitious person when it comes to playing hockey. If a puck ever hits a post during a game, at the next break in action, Paniccia will tap her post with the stick and utter the words 'thank you', just to prevent karma from making it bounce in next time.

As for other rituals, she jumps rope before each game and warms up with squash balls 37 times to signify the number she wears out on the ice. Nicole says she has always believed in karma and she will continue to do all of these things no matter at what the level of play.

While the junior goaltender continues to warm up in the same way before every game, the Nittany Lions will continue to become a more well-rounded team, both offensively and defensively, and have shown positive signs of late.

This past weekend the Nittany Lions struck for their first CHA victory, a 3-2 comeback win at Lindenwood University. For a team in it's first season as a Division I program Penn State has fared well against good competition. The one constant throughout all of the ups and downs this season has been Paniccia. She has provided the team with a sturdy backbone and solid last line of defense. The main goal she set for herself before the start of the season was to be a team leader and teach the younger players what work ethic was necessary to compete at this level.

"I just wanted us to be the team that nobody wanted to play," said Paniccia. "Nobody wants to lose to a first year team. Especially, like our first game against Vermont. I don't think anybody saw that coming; winning our first game ever. Just being a team that nobody wants to play and if we work hard enough anything can happen."

So far this season, she is showing the team and the fans that with hard work anything can happen. Paniccia's lifelong dream was to obtain a Division I hockey scholarship and since doing that she still has yet to stop striving to be a better player and leader. On the back of Paniccia's game day helmet it reads 'Defy The Odds' and the junior goaltender along with the rest of the Nittany Lions hope to continue to do just that throughout the remainder of their inaugural season.

Penn State will remain on the road when they travel to take on conference opponent and nationally-ranked Mercyhurst on Friday, Nov. 30 in the first of a two game series. The No. 4 Lakers will welcome the Nittany Lions to the Mercyhurst Ice Center for a 7 p.m. faceoff in the series opener.

 

--NITTANTY LIONS--

Fresh Faces of Men's Hoops: Brandon Taylor

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By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Nittany Lion fans are going to start seeing a lot more of the jersey with the No. 10 on it this season.

The injury of senior guard Tim Frazier has opened up Penn State head coach Pat Chambers' options and gotten his creative juices flowing in the process of crafting a new starting lineup. Chambers said that freshman Brandon Taylor has earned one of the five starting spots.

8356367.jpeg"He's played well the last few games and hopefully he can continue that," Chambers said of the Tabernacle, N.J. native. "That's a confident kid. That's the type of confidence that we need to continue to have regardless of the circumstances."

Taylor has been featured in all five of the contests that Penn State has had so far this year, and started his first game in Friday's win over Bucknell. In the last two games, the 6-foot-7 freshman has scored 26 points and shot 62.5 percent from the floor.

Chambers said that his freshman's ability to quickly mesh with the rest of the veteran starters that surround him is impressive, but the head coach is even more pleased with the level of confidence that Taylor plays with.

For Taylor, the confidence and self-assurance is something that he says comes naturally.

"I've always had it, even when I was a young player," said Taylor. "I'm just always creating confidence, working on my game and just trying to be the best player that I can become."

But not everything has come so easily to the rookie forward.

Four years that culminated into a standout high school career at Trenton Catholic took a toll on Taylor's body and he developed a case of plantar fasciitis. He took close to two months off from playing basketball or doing much of any physical activity at all, and gained a decent amount of weight in the process.

When Taylor got to Penn State for his first week as a Nittany Lion, he said he weighed 260 pounds. Now, the freshman said he comes in at just 230.

Taylor said that he knew he had to get in shape, and his coaching staff and teammates made sure that they helped him along early on. 

"Doing the workouts was hard but it was easy losing all the weight from all that running," said Taylor. "I'm a lot quicker, I've got a quicker step and I'm jumping higher and I feel a lot better all-around. I came in and I never gave up."

And Taylor said that his teammates are the ones who motivate him to continue to work hard.

"I just learn from them every day," said Taylor. "You learn how to be a better leader, a better player and a better person."

Sophomore Ross Travis said that he's happy to be able to have a guy like Taylor find his way into the Nittany Lion family.

"We can definitely depend on him to be in the right spots, shoot the ball with confidence when he's open and it just adds another place to the offense that can score," said Travis. "He's a fun guy, always smiling, always trying to get better and working hard."

But Coach Chambers said that not everyone knows the complete story behind Brandon Taylor just yet. Outside of his hard-work mentality and strong confidence on the court, Chambers said there's one more thing that the freshman brings to the table.

"What he has that most people don't realize is that he has a great IQ for the game," said Chambers. "He's picked up our rotations, he picks up our terminology.... He's got a knack and he's got a good feel for the game."

Taylor has emerged as a staple on the Nittany Lion rotation and is improving day in and day out. But without the rest of his team and a dedicated head coach, he said that he wouldn't be able to be nearly as successful.

"We try to be the hardest working team in the Big Ten so, of course, [Chambers] always brings it," said Taylor. "He challenges our level of focus every day."

Highlighting Penn State's 2012 All-Big Ten Selections

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RELEASE - Six Nittany Lions Named First Team All-Big Ten

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On the heels of Saturday's thrilling 24-21 overtime win over Wisconsin, the Nittany Lion football program earned All-Big Ten recognition for 14 players, including six Lions on the First Team All-Big Ten list, on Monday.

Take a look through a highlight list of Penn State's 2012 All-Big Ten selections.


First Team All-Big Ten Honorees:
WR Allen Robinson - Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year
Sophomore wide receiver Allen Robinson laid the groundwork for a stellar 2012 season during spring practice.  The Michigan native evolved into Penn State's top wide receiver at the end of spring drills before the team headed into summer conditioning.  He had a great summer workout season, and from there, Robinson never looked back.  He entered the season with three career receptions for 29 yards and zero touchdowns.  Robinson ended the season as the school's season reception leader (77), a 1,000-yard receiver and 11 touchdowns.  Robinson topped the Big Ten in receptions per game (6.4), receiving yards per game (84.8) and receiving touchdowns 11.  A smooth route-runner with great hands, Robinson made 19 catches in the first two games of the season.  In all, he made at least nine receptions in four different games, including a career-best 10 receptions for 197 yards and three touchdowns against Indiana.  The future is bright for the Nittany Lion who re-wrote the receiving record books in 2012.


C Matt Stankiewitch
Senior center Matt Stankiewitch was the first offensive player sprinting from drill to drill on the practice field every day, all season long.  The leader of the Nittany Lion offensive line was a physical, gritty force that played an instrumental role in helping Zach Zwinak reach 1,000 rushing yards, marking Penn State's eighth-straight season to accomplish that feat.  A starter in every game for the past two seasons, Stankiewitch was a consistent producer every week for the Nittany Lion offense.


G John Urschel
Junior guard John Urschel is perfect student in the classroom, and his play on the field in 2012 was not far behind.  Playing in every game for the past two seasons, Urschel established himself as one of the top right guards in the conference with consistent production every Saturday in 2012.  The Williamsville, N.Y., native helped Nittany Lion running back Zach Zwinak reach 1,000 rushing yards for the season, marking Penn State's eighth-straight season to accomplish that feat.  Urschel also helped anchor an offensive line that played a paramount role in Matt McGloin's record-breaking season at the quarterback position, which included 3,271 yards.


TE Kyle Carter
From the day head coach Bill O'Brien was hired, Kyle Carter knew it was going to be a thrill playing tight end in his offense.  Carter fits the mold of a prototypical "F" tight end in Coach O'Brien's offense with great speed to go along with a 6-3, 241-pound frame.  Despite missing three games due to injury, Carter finished second on the team in receptions with 36.  Carter and the Nittany Lion tight end corps finished with 82 receptions and 10 touchdowns in 2012.  The Bear, Del., native made several tremendous receptions in games, but he arguably led the team in highlight real catches on the practice field.  Carter is a tremendous athlete with an incredibly bright future in Penn State Blue and White.


DT Jordan Hill
Hard work is the only way to define Jordan Hill's recipe for a dominant season on the Penn State defensive line.  The Steelton, Pa., product is a blue-collar Nittany Lion who practiced just as hard as he played every Saturday afternoon.  Hill finished fourth on the team in tackles with 64, but his numbers are not indicative of the impact No. 47 had on opposing offenses.  A senior leader in every sense of the word, Hill set an example for every player on the team with his work ethic on the practice field.  Hill saved the best performance of his career for his last game.  The senior finished with 12 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks in the overtime victory, including eight stops alone in the fourth quarter in overtime.  His effort on Senior Day epitomized what Hill was all about.  The senior leader was willing to do whatever was necessary to win every single time he pulled on the No. 47 jersey.


LB Michael Mauti - Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year
Words will never do Michael Mauti's impact on the Penn State football program justice.  Instrumental in helping keep the 2012 team in tact, Mauti was the heart and soul of the Nittany Lions this fall.  A leader in every sense of the word, Mauti willed the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 season.  On the field, the senior linebacker was superb, finishing with 96 tackles despite playing in just a one quarter during the final two weeks.  Mauti finished seventh in the Big Ten in tackles.  A fixture on several special teams units, as well, the Louisiana native was willing to do anything necessary to help the team win.  Mauti made a team-high three interceptions for the Nittany Lion defense, including a 99-yard return at Illinois.  He made a season-high 13 tackles against Ohio State.  Additionally, the senior linebacker had at least 10 stops in four games this season.  Mauti is a rare talent whose impact on the defense and program will be felt for many seasons to come.



Second Team All-Big Ten Honoree:
LB Gerald Hodges
Senior linebacker Gerald Hodges capped off a superb senior season as the team's top tackler.  His 109 tackles (9.1 per game) ranked fifth in the Big Ten.  A terrific athlete, Hodges evolved into one of the conference's top outside linebacker during the 2012 season.  The New Jersey native made 14 tackles on two different occasions - Ohio State and at Nebraska - in 2012.  Additionally Hodges tallied at least 10 stops in five different games.  To honor Michael Mauti, Hodges traded in his No. 6 jersey for a No. 42 on Senior Day.  The senior played an instrumental role on a Penn State defense that allowed just 19.1 points per game during the 2012 season.



All-Big Ten Honorable Mention
CB Adrian Amos
Adrian Amos was listed as a cornerback on the depth chart all season long, but the sophomore has the skill set to play just about anywhere on the defensive side of the ball.  A physical tackler with a nose for the football, Amos finished the season with 44 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a secondary-high two interceptions.


DE Deion Barnes
Redshirt freshman Deion Barnes has all the tools to become an elite defensive end for the Nittany Lions.  In 2012, Barnes finished tied for fifth in the Big Ten in sacks with 6.0.  The Philadelphia product made 26 tackles, including 10.0 hits for loss.  He also forced three fumbles.  Possessing great speed and quickness off the edge, Barnes posed a big challenge for opposing tackles every week.


OT Mike Farrell
A senior leader on the offensive line, Mike Farrell's strong 2012 season was a by product of a superb summer of workouts.  Farrell entered the season in the best shape of his career, and it led to a strong senior campaign for the Pittsburgh native at tackle.  Capable of playing on either side of the line, Farrell played a big role in the success of a Penn State offense that averaged 417.5 yards per game.  Additionally, Farrell helped Nittany Lion running back Zach Zwinak reach 1,000 rushing yards for the season, marking Penn State's eighth-straight season to accomplish that feat.


QB Matt McGloin
Senior quarterback Matt McGloin put together the finest statistical season from a quarterback in Penn State history.  The West Scranton native worked relentlessly in the offseason to master the philosophies behind Coach O'Brien's offense.  The effort paid off with a 3,271-yard record-breaking season.  McGloin led the Big Ten in yards per game (272.6), yardage (3,271) and touchdowns (24), while finishing with just five touchdowns.  He threw at least one touchdown pass in every game this season.  McGloin finishes his Penn State career first in touchdown passes (46), second in yardage (6,390), second in completions (513) and second in attempts (894).  The statistics speak for themselves, but McGloin's consistency, leadership, decision-making and game management were tremendous in 2012. 


CB Stephon Morris
Arguably the most improved player on the roster in 2012, Stephon Morris became a consistent force in the Penn State secondary.  A skilled man-to-man coverage player, Morris was the leader of the defensive backfield for the 2012 campaign.  Morris made 60 tackles, leading all players in the secondary.  He made 5.0 tackles for loss and broke up five passes.


DE Sean Stanley
Senior defensive end Sean Stanley is a quiet leader, but his game speaks loud and clear.  Stanley finished his final season in blue and white with 35 tackles, 9.5 hits for loss and 4.0 sacks.  When needed, the Rockville, Md., native dropped back in coverage from his end position.  A starter in 10 games, Stanley was a consistent force for the defensive line throughout the 2012 season.


RB Zach Zwinak
Sophomore Zach Zwinak's season started with three total carries in the first three games.  His season ended with 1,000 yards and six touchdowns.  The physical sophomore back started in just the last four games, but played an integral role on the Nittany Lion offense in 2012.  The Maryland native finished the season with four-straight 134-plus yard performances, and he had six 100-yard efforts in his last eight games.  A downhill runner, Zwinak was a punishing player to opposing defenses.  He is the fifth Penn State player to rush for 1,000 yards since 2005 and the 14th different player to accomplish the feat.



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The Beautiful Game: An Inside Look at Penn State Women's Soccer, Part 2

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By Shane McGregor, Special Feature to GoPSUsports.com
This past Friday the Penn State Women's Soccer team defeated Duke 1-0 in their quarterfinal match of the NCAA Tournament, thereby clinching a trip to San Diego for this weekend's College Cup, the Final Four of college soccer.  These are the stories of two days--an emotional Senior Day on Oct. 21 and an unbelievable NCAA Tournament victory over Michigan on Nov. 18--that paved the way for the Lions' first trip to the College Cup since 2005. 

 

MORTALITY

 

There are very few things in college sports more emotional than Senior Day.  It's the last time to lace up the cleats, put on the uniform and play in the stadium that has seen four years' worth of triumphs and tragedies that make up the career of a college athlete.  For most, it signals the end of not just a four-year journey, but a fifteen or twenty-year one.  The reality of life is that most college athletes won't play their sport professionally.  Senior Day, then, is one of the last--if not the last--official sporting contest in a lifetime colored by sports.

On the brisk afternoon of October 21, the emotions of Senior Day engulfed eight of the 27 players on the Penn State women's soccer roster.  They arrived in Happy Valley at different times and took different steps on their paths, but their journeys all converged in the tunnel under the home side of the Jeffrey Field bleachers a little before 1 o'clock on that brisk afternoon.

They were accompanied by fathers and mothers and brothers and friends.  They were greeted with applause and smiles and laughs and tears.  They were announced by number and name and a little tidbit of how their teammates will remember them long after they've ceased wearing the blue and white.

Number 24.  Amanda Dotten.  Spunky and energetic.

Number 0.  Kristin Hartman.  Team glue.

Number 4.  Lexi Marton.  Bright kid, communicates well.

Number 6.  Jackie Molinda. 

Number 00.  Erin McNulty.  Hardest worker, most positive attitude, goofy.

Number 9.  Bri Garcia. 

Number 10.  Christine Nairn.

Number 18.  Maddy Evans.  Best leader they know of. 

It was a scene so powerful that I failed to catch what the teammates had written about three of them (my apologies to Jackie, Bri, and Christine).  Powerful because there I was, standing on the sidelines with a team of people I barely knew, almost getting caught up in the emotion of it myself.

Sometimes I think that thinking about the end is worse than actually experiencing it.  Whenever the final buzzer of their season sounds--even if it's in victorious championship splendor in San Diego-- that will be the end, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.  The college careers of eight seniors will conclude, and the juniors will ascend to take their vacant places.  But it's the thinking, the pondering, the dwelling, the wondering of what life will be like without Jeffrey Field or Penn State or kicking around a little white ball for a few hours a day with your best friends that really gets you. 

I know that scene was powerful because when it ended, when the line of seniors and loved ones disbanded and went back to their rightful places, head coach Erica Walsh walked to the bench and hugged a pair of waiting arms, eyes wet with emotion.  She didn't think it would be this hard.

There is a certain seemingly-illogical fascination that our country has with college sports.  Other nations don't have collegiate sports.  They have sports clubs.  College sports don't have the highest level of play to offer.   That title goes to the professional leagues.  And a large majority of college sports fans don't personally know the players they cheer for, not like one might know the local high school star who lives down the block or in the neighborhood.  So what makes us care so passionately about the lives of amateur athletes whom we've never even met?

I remember a scene in the movie Troy, an adaptation of Homer's ancient epic, the Iliad.  The masterful warrior Achilles, played by Brad Pitt, speaks to a captured Trojan priestess in a tent on the beaches outside the city walls.  He lends his thoughts about what the ancient Greek gods really feel about humans.

I'll tell you a secret ... The gods envy us.  They envy us because we're mortal.  Because any moment might be our last.  Everything is more beautiful because we are doomed.

There is no time limit for the length of a professional athlete's career.  Abby Wambach plays for the U.S. Women's National soccer team at age 32.  Jerry Rice played in the NFL until age 43.  Satchel Paige pitched in the Major Leagues until age 59.  As long as your body, your level of play and your passion for the game holds up, your career can last for as long as you'd like.

But college sports are different.  College sports are not immortal.  College sports are more like life.

A college career has limits.  It is born on that first day you step on campus and passes away when that final buzzer of your last game sounds.  Whether you're the Heisman Trophy winner or the third-string backup, those limits are the same.  Four seasons of on-field play.  No more, no less.  There is an ending, and when that day comes, your career is laid to rest like the thousands of careers that lived before yours.

We live these games under the looming shadow of our career's inevitable death, as every second's tick is a second less we have to play.  Yet we also live these games with the golden light of future's promise shining out ahead.  The blank pages of our future lay open, waiting to be filled with the hopes and dreams and achievements that our lives will bring.

No matter what the year, you can watch a college sports game and see young men and women in the prime of their physical existence, playing a game they love, with the promise of an unwritten life waiting for them in the future.  And that is what makes it special.

If all the players on this team could return for another go-round next year, I don't think Coach Walsh's eyes would have grown wet with emotion a little before 1 o'clock on a brisk afternoon in early October.

But all of them can't return, and that is what makes the time they spent here so meaningful. 


MICHIGAN


Many sports games go as expected.  The favorite wins, the underdog loses, the score is about what it was expected to be. 

Then there are games that don't go as planned.  They can be surprising, perplexing, disappointing, overwhelming, bewildering, exhilarating or heartbreaking.  They can throw out all the conventions, all the predictions, all the expectations, and show you something that you never dreamt you'd see before.

By logic's rules, Erin McNulty should not have been standing there, ready to defend the goal in the third-round match of the win-or-go-home NCAA Tournament.  She should not have been standing there between the two white posts in the north end of an illuminated Jeffrey Field, wrapped in a blanket of cold night air in the late hours of Nov. 18.  She should've been back home in Winnipeg, Canada, or down in Tallahassee, Florida, where she started her collegiate career and won a national championship as the starting goalkeeper for Florida State before transferring to Happy Valley.  Either of those places would've been more logical than here.

But sports--and all the passion and emotion that comes with them--sometimes have a funny way of trumping logic.    

The score was 1-1 and had been that way for a long time now.  So long that the college soccer rules called for a complete halt of the normal flow of play after the 90-minute regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods.  The shooting of penalty kicks--the equivalent of an NBA Finals game being decided by a dunk-off or a tie in the Boston Marathon being settled by a 100-meter dash--would decide who would win the match, advance to play Duke in the Elite 8 round the next weekend, and keep their national title dreams alive for another week.  The most shots made out of five would win.

Penn State kicked first.  Miss.

Michigan kicked second.  Goal.

Penn State kicked again.  Another miss.

Michigan kicked again.  Another goal.

So there the Penn State women's soccer team was, staring down the insurmountable odds that a 2-0 penalty-kick deficit presents, watching the life-soul of their national championship dreams slowly slip away into the darkness of the night.  But sports have a funny way of pushing you to the edge--mentally, physically and emotionally.  And when you get to that edge, when the ground behind you turns to a thousand-foot drop and all you have is the crumbling cliff under your feet, one of two things happens.

You fight, or you die. 

I didn't have to ask her to know that Erin McNulty wasn't ready for her season to die.  Heck, I wasn't ready for their season to die.  There were too many remarkable stories that hadn't been written yet.  Even though all logical signs pointed to this being the end, it couldn't be.  It just couldn't.

A line of ten locked-armed Nittany Lions, the eligible PK shooters, stretched out along midfield.  The other sixteen Lions locked arms and stood along the sideline, with Coach Walsh joined in on the end.  All eyes were fixed on the north goal of Jeffrey Field.

Up to the line stepped senior captain Maddy Evans, the best leader her teammates know of, and she did what leaders do in times of crisis.  She came through with a goal.  2-1.

The split second after a penalty-kicking foot strikes the ball has to be one of the tensest moments in all of sport.  Your insides get all tight and the most deafening silence permeates the air for the longest tenth of a second soccer can offer.  And in the next tenth, a goalkeeper dives, a shooter watches, a crowd holds their breath, and a ball either goes into the net or doesn't.  

Everything happens so fast, though, that a keeper doesn't have time to see the ball in flight, process what she sees, and then tell her body to react accordingly.  It simply happens too fast.  She has to rely on either a gut feeling or--if her opponent had kicked a PK earlier in the season--a scouting report, to guess which way the shooter will choose.  So this game, this season, would essentially come down to a three-question test that McNulty could barely study for.  And if Erin guessed wrong on any of the next three shots, the national championship dreams would shatter and the season would be over.

The next Michigan shooter stepped to the line and struck the ball.  The deafening silence ensued, followed by the roar of the home crowd.  Erin saved it.  2-1.

But the pressure wasn't just on Erin.  The season would also be over if either of the two final Penn State shooters, forwards Tani Costa and Maya Hayes, missed their attempts.

Tani stepped to the line and struck the ball.  The deafening silence ensued, followed by the roar of the home crowd.  Tani came through.  2-2.

The fourth Michigan shooter stepped to the line and struck the ball.  The deafening silence ensued, followed by the roar of the home crowd.  Erin saved another.  2-2.

Maya stepped to the line and struck the ball.  The deafening silence ensued, followed by the roar of the home crowd.   Maya came through.  3-2.

And as far as that three-question test that Erin could barely study for goes, well, it turns out she did have a little tip to help her out.

Erin's own goalkeeper coach, Tim Wassell, just happens to be a film-watching junkie and penalty-kick connoisseur. And Michigan's final shooter, defenseman Holly Hein, just happened to have shot a PK in a match earlier in her career.  So just before the penalty kicks started, Tim, who also doubles as recruiting coordinator for the Lions, took out a small note card, wrote on it, and gave it to Erin to tuck into her sock.  Every time Erin pulled it out and looked at it before the next PK, she engaged in a little mental warfare with next Michigan shooter. 

Does she know which way I'm going?  Should I stick with my strength or shoot to the other side?   Every moment spent thinking about what that wily Penn State keeper actually knew was another moment distracting the shooters from the task at hand.

No one but Tim and Erin knew that there was nothing written on the card about the first four Michigan shooters.  But Erin pulled it out just the same, putting on a lovely show that could keep the Wolverine shooters guessing. 

There were only two things written on that card.  First, that the fifth and final Michigan shooter would go right.  She had before, and she probably would again.  The second thing was a word of advice that would take care of everything else.

Believe.


Stay tuned for the next installment of The Beautiful Game...

Hill, Nittany Lions Finish 2012 in Fitting Style

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Saturday's Senior Day clash with Wisconsin was a microcosm of Penn State's 2012 season.

8354174 (1).jpegThe Nittany Lions were knocked to the mat early, rebounded and then battled to a dramatic overtime victory.  Everyone on the roster wanted to see a comfortable victory on Saturday afternoon, but it would not have been the proper way for the senior class to go out.

This group of 31 players defined what it means to be resilient.  An easy win over Wisconsin would not have done the group's Penn State journey justice.

Wisconsin wasted little time scoring twice in the first quarter, and the Nittany Lions did not lead until the 13:32 mark in the fourth quarter when Jesse James raced 41 yards on a crisp fourth-down throw from Matt McGloin.  The Badgers answered with a touchdown in the final minute, but senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill was not going to let his team lose.

Battling a sore knee, Hill was unstoppable in the fourth quarter and overtime on Saturday afternoon.  His career has been marked by big plays in the center of the defensive line, but Saturday was, without question, Hill's finest hour in a Penn State uniform.

"It was a storybook ending," Hill said.  "It was a perfect ending to a bad beginning.  I felt the whole game it really told the story about what we went through all year, being knocked down early and being able to get back up."

Hill was unblockable in the fourth quarter and overtime.  He finished with a career-high 12 tackles on Saturday. Eight of his tackles and three tackles for loss occurred in the fourth quarter and overtime, alone.

"It's just hard to put into words what Jordan Hill's meant to this team," head coach Bill O'Brien said.  "He just plays so hard.  He's an excellent football player.  He plays with great leverage, great hands.  He's a phenomenal kid off the field.  He's great in the locker room.  There's nothing that you can say bad about him.  His personal story is unbelievable and I just wish we had him for longer."

The Steelton, Pa., native is a blue collar football player who always wore his emotions on the sleeves of his No. 47 jersey.  Hill never took a play off in his career at Penn State - not at practice and not in a game.  He is a model for defensive line coach Larry Johnson to use in his film room forever.  Anytime a future Penn State defensive lineman wants to see how hard he needs to play, Johnson will show a tape of Hill.

Hill's effort on Saturday was a performance for the ages.  He did whatever was necessary to win.

"It means the world for the senior class and for this 2012 team," Hill said.

Hill and the senior class will go down as a group of remarkable players who stuck with Penn State during its toughest days.  The final chapter for the 2012 season is one that will be remembered for a very long time.  It was a chapter Hill and the 2012 football team earned and deserved.

"I want it to go down in history, not for the wins but for the character of all our guys and everything that we've been through and how to overcome stuff when you get knocked down," Hill said.


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Lions Sweep Spartans in Regular Season Finale

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By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Megan Courtney walked into the media room wearing her Big Ten Champions hat and sat proudly between her coach and fellow teammate. The freshman was smiling from ear to ear.

Courtney and the Nittany Lions ended their regular season on Saturday night with a sweep of Michigan State in Rec Hall. The freshman outside hitter notched a team-best nine kills on .529 hitting and had five block assists and one solo block.

After the match, Penn State head coach Russ Rose said that his freshman's performance was more than just satisfying.

"I thought that was the best match that [Megan]'s played since she came here," said Rose. "She hit well, passed well and blocked especially well so I thought that was a good match by her at a great time."

After starting in 30 of the 31 contests that her team played this year, Courtney said that she's learned to trust her skills and the skills of her teammates when it comes down to the wire. 

"I've been playing here for a whole season now and you just get the confidence from the girls and the crowd and the coaches and they just trust you," said Courtney. "You know that you're good and you know you're here for a reason so you've got to trust yourself and trust your teammates and just play around them the best you can."

Junior middle hitter and team captain Katie Slay said that it has been encouraging to see her young teammate grow from week to week, and that she is just as confident in Courtney's abilities standing by her side.

"It's really exciting," said Slay. "You want to peak at the end of the season so it's nice to have momentum going into postseason."

The finale win over the Spartans sealed the conference title for the Lions, and the team was awarded its Big Ten Champion trophy at the end of the match. Penn State ends its regular season with a 29-2 record overall and lost just one conference match, to finish 19-1 in the Big Ten.

Penn State has clinched nine Big Ten titles in the past 10 years. Rose said that, as a coach, he sets the bar high for his athletes every day and expects them to achieve more and more as a season goes on.

"It's not easy to win a great conference and we worked hard and I'm hard on these guys all the time," said Rose.

Courtney said that aside from gaining confidence and reassuring self-trust in her own skills after a season of play at the collegiate level, she's also learned what it really means to be a part of a winning team.

"We're about each other and we play for each other," said Courtney. "Going into the postseason all we have is each other."

The Lions received the No. 1 seed for the 2012 NCAA Tournament and will begin postseason play against Binghamton on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Rec Hall.

VIDEO: 2012 Senior Day All Access at Beaver Stadium

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Watch highlights and postgame locker room celebration footage from Penn State's thrilling 24-21 overtime victory over Wisconsin on Senior Day.


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VIDEO: Postgame Locker Room Interviews vs. Wisconsin

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head into the Penn State locker room to hear from head coach Bill O'Brien and several players following Penn State's 24-21 overtime victory over Wisconsin on Saturday.


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Gameday Photo Blog: Wisconsin

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to the GoPSUsports.com Gameday Photo Blog for Penn State's Senior Day clash with Wisconsin in Beaver Stadium.

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Week 12 In-Game Blog - Wisconsin

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to in-game coverage for the 2012 Penn State Football season.  Each week, GoPSUsports.com will provide insight from the press box at all 12 games on the schedule.  Check back often for running updates as the action unfolds.

The Nittany Lions take on Wisconsin in the final game of the 2012 campaign.

Take a look back at Penn State's 24-21 overtime victory over Wisconsin.

13:11, 1st Quarter - Wisconsin 7, Penn State 0
Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon puts the Badgers on the board quickly, with a 57-yard touchdown catch and run pass from Curt Phillips. Montee Ball opened the game with rushes of nine and seven yards, leading to the quick touchdown for Wisconsin. 


8:17, 1st Quarter - Wisconsin 7, Penn State 7
Penn State answers with a great drive. The Nittany Lions put together a 15-play drive taking up 4:50 on the clock. PSU converted on all three third downs and Zach Zwinak capped off the drive with a three-yard touchdown run. Zwinak was huge, rushing for 41 yards on nine carries. A big pass interference call gave the Nittany Lions the ball at the Wisconsin 47. Later in the drive, Matt McGloin hit tight end Jesse James on a big 12-yard reception to the 17. From there, it was all Zwinak with the next five carries, leading to the touchdown. 


6:27, 1st Quarter - Wisconsin 14, Penn State 7
Another quick drive of four plays for 53 yards results in a 17-yard touchdown run for Ball. Wisconsin's Kenzel Doe had a return of 47 yards on the kickoff giving the Badgers a drive start at their 47. Jarred Abbrederis took a reverse for 24 yards, followed by Ball rushes of five, seven and 17.

 

End of 1st Quarter - Wisconsin 14, Penn State 7
Through a quarter of play, the Badgers have outgained the Nittany Lions 143-112. Penn State is doing a good job of moving the football, totaling 25 plays in the first quarter. Zwinak already has 70 yards on the ground. 


Halftime - Wisconsin 14, Penn State 7
The Nittany Lions and Badgers played a scoreless second quarter.  The Nittany Lion defense did a better job containing the the running game in the second quarter, but the offense did not threaten on its three possessions.  Zach Zwinak led the way offensively with 92 rushing yards and a touchdown during the first half.  McGloin finished the half 10-for-18 for 47 yards.  Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball tallied 84 yards on the ground and his NCAA record 79th career touchdown.

End 3rd Quarter - Wisconsin 14, Penn State 13
Arguably the most improved player for the Nittany Lions during the 2012 season has been Sam Ficken.  The sophomore kicker was inconsistent to start the season, but he has been terrific in Big Ten play.  Ficken made his eighth and ninth-straight field goals in the third quarter to trim the Wisconsin lead down to 14-13.  The Nittany Lion defense has been terrific since the second Wisconsin touchdown in the first quarter.  The Badgers have managed just 79 total yards since they scored on the first two drives of the game.

13:32 4th Quarter - Penn State 21, Wisconsin 14
Facing a fourth-and-6 at the 41 yard line, Matt McGloin delivered a crisp throw to freshman tight end Jesse James on a crossing pattern.  With nothing but green grass in front of him, James raced in for a go-ahead touchdown.  Zwinak plunged into the end zone for a two-point conversion, handing Penn State a 21-14 advantage.  McGloin has now thrown a touchdown pass in every game during the 2012 season.

FINAL - Penn State 24, Wisconsin 21
The Nittany Lions finished the season in fitting fashion.  Wisconsin scored a touchdown with 18 seconds to play in the game, which sent the teams into overtime.  The Lions had not played an overtime game since 2006 at Minnesota.  Penn State had the ball first, which resulted in a Sam Ficken 37-yard field goal.  Needing a score, Wisconsin did not move the ball on its OT possession.  Enough cannot be said about the way Penn State's defense played in the second half.  Aside from the final touchdown, the Lion defense shut down the Badgers.  Settling for a field goal, Wisconsin's tying field goal attempt in overtime sailed to the left of the left upright, sealing a victory and an 8-4 season for head coach Bill O'Brien during his first season at the helm of the program.  It was the only way Penn State's seniors should have ended their careers in Blue and White.  The class has meant a ton to this football program, and the group deserved to finish the year with a victory.  Saturday's game was physical from start to finish, but the Lions stepped up when they needed to. Individually, Zach Zwinak finished 2012 with 1,000 rushing yards.  Allen Robinson eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards.  And Matt McGloin finished with more than 3,000 passing yards.  The Nittany Lions were not an undefeated team, but the 2012 team will go down in history as a special group.



________________________________________________________________________________

Pregame Reading:

- To honor senior linebacker Michael Mauti, Penn State will wear 42 on the left side of its helmets for the Senior Day clash with Wisconsin.  The team first learned of the gesture when it walked into the locker room shortly before 1 p.m. after walking off of the Blue Buses.  It is an incredible gesture for the heart and soul of the Nittany Lion football team in 2012.  Mauti will be on the sidelines Saturday.

- Football is a team game, but no group in the 126-year history of the football program at Penn State deserves more individual recognition than these 31 players: Mark Arcidiacono, Joe Baker, P.J. Byers, Cody Castor, Derek Day, Andre Dupree, Emery Etter, Jacob Fagnano, Mike Farrell, Frank Figueroa, Patrick Flanagan, Michael Fuhrman, Jordan Hill, Gerald Hodges, Brian Irvin, Christian Kuntz, Evan Lewis, Pete Massaro, Michael Mauti, Matt McGloin, Shane McGregor, Stephon Morris, J.R. Refice, Matt Stankiewitch, Sean Stanley, James Terry, Jamie Van Fleet, Garrett Venuto, Mike Wallace, Mike Yancich and Michael Zordich.  Those 31 players will run out of the Beaver Stadium tunnel one final time on Saturday.

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Saturday's clash is shaping up to be an intriguing matchup when the Nittany Lions have the football.  Penn State enters the week second the Big Ten with 33.9 points per game in conference matchups.  Wisconsin heads to Beaver Stadium as the Big Ten's No. 2-rated scoring defense by virtue of allowing just 17.4 points per contest in conference games.  Additionally, the Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in total offense during conference games (447.6), while the Badges rank second in total defense at 289.7 yards per game.  Wisconsin's rushing defense ranks ninth nationally and No. 1 in the Big Ten (106.64).  For the Nittany Lions to have success on offense they will need to move the chains and establish a running game.

Nittany Lions Battle as One Team in Quarterfinal Victory

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By Scott Traweek, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - All Penn State needed was one goal to punch a ticket to the College Cup, as the players united to shutout one of the toughest offenses they have faced so far this season.


8347198.jpegThe Nittany Lions took the field on a cold, windy evening in front of 1,794 Penn State faithful with their eyes set on the NCAA Semifinals in San Diego, Calif.  Standing in their way was a talented Duke team that boasted two of the top forwards in the country along with an aggressive style of play that challenged the players on both sides of the ball.

Both teams struggled to find a rhythm on offense throughout the game as the elements caused problems with touch passing and set pieces.  The key would be for the players to adapt and capitalize on any opportunities that presented themselves.  Penn State came prepared, which could have been the deciding factor.

"That's soccer and that's what you have to embrace," said head coach Erica Walsh on dealing with the wind.  "We talked before the game about embracing the challenge and tonight we embraced the challenge."

The Nittany Lions struck first in the 13th minute when senior midfielder Christine Nairn garnered a loose ball near the top of the box in Duke's defensive third and was tripped, resulting in a penalty kick.  The veteran Nairn stepped in and launched a picturesque bending shot inside the right goalpost to put Penn State up 1-0.  Coach Walsh never doubted her senior's capabilities.

"That's when you know a player has arrived is their smart enough to know when it's their turn and smart enough to know when to pass the baton to somebody else and tonight was her night," said coach Walsh of Nairn.

With the score 1-0 at halftime, Duke entered the second period hungry for a game-tying score and attacked the Nittany Lions on defense relentlessly.  McNulty made clutch save after save in goal, squandering any opportunities the Blue Devils had to equalize.

"When you talk about Erin McNulty, she's the best and she's going to continue to win these games for us," said coach Walsh.  "I've got all the confidence in the world.  It doesn't matter if it's a shot from a distance, a cross, a [penalty kick], I've seen her handle every situation."

Duke outshot the Nittany Lions 19-7, 11-2 in the second half, and earned six corner kicks over Penn State's three, but was unable to capitalize on the plays that mattered.

The Nittany Lions played with four defenders the entire match and coach Walsh went as far as to put Nairn, Penn State's lead goal-scorer, on defense.  It would take the entire squad to stifle the Blue Devils offensively, which exemplified the team's passion and desire to win.

"We would bend at times, but we never broke and they put us under a ton of pressure," said coach Walsh.  "Just a testament to the courage and the willingness of this team to accept a challenge."

"When it's all said and done it's just who wants it more and I think we had the heart and the drive," said Nairn.  "Sometimes it's not always pretty and a wins a win."

The crowd made its presence known from the opening kickoff and were at their loudest in the second half when Penn State needed them the most.  In a crucial moment with just over six minutes left in the game and Duke threatening, the fans erupted into a 'We Are Penn State' chant that fueled the players as they repelled the Blue Devils unyieldingly.

"I think that the crowd really picks us up and gives us hope and gives us that extra drive, that extra push, to get in and put everything we have out there," said sophomore defender Kori Chapic.

As the clock struck zero and the horn sounded, the crowd cheered and the players celebrated Penn State's fourth ever trip to the College Cup.  The journey and all of its challenges had led to that moment and now the Nittany Lions are one step closer.  For the players, it's hard to express the feeling.

"I think Maddy Evans just said it the best: 'A feeling of numbness through our entire bodies'," said Chapic.  "It's almost unbelievable, but all that hard work that we've put in since January, since December of last year, everything is all coming together now.  It's just a great feeling."

Penn State travels to San Diego for the NCAA College Cup this weekend.  The Nittany Lions will face fellow one-seed Florida State in the semifinals on Friday.

Thank You, Seniors!

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Mak--
You have always been someone I could talk to about anything and get advice from. You were my road roomie last year and helped show me the ropes when I was a freshman. This year especially you have meant so much to me. I know I can rely on you to laugh at my jokes, and I am glad to be your sounding board anytime! I'd say our senses of humor match pretty well, and I don't ever want you to not be around. But, I know your charm and nutty personality will land you with an awesome career and you'll do fantastic things. I will only take part responsibility in your successes :)
Love you-- Magaggie


Carp--
I consider it a privilege to have had the opportunity to play with you for three years. Not only have you taught me about the game and helped me see what it is to be a part of the Penn State volleyball tradition, your outgoing, energetic, loving personality is inspirational. But we do have a very skilled ability to harmonize our singing...minus the having voices part...you must be rubbing off. There's no one that could possibly replace you as my stretching buddy, but I will try my best to pass down your looney-ness. And you will always be appreciated.
Love you-- Farmer Ted

Marika-
You have been such a great teammate to me the years I've gotten to spend with you. You are always someone I know I can talk to. You have a great heart, and you're a hell of a player on the court. You have given me key advice at times and I wont ever forget it. I hate to see you leave, but I know you are going places and you will succeed at whatever you choose to do. You will be missed dearly but we will keep in touch, LOVE YOU TWIN :)

-Micha

Carp-
The thing I like about you most is there is nothing that can bring you down. You always are having fun no matter what it is, and I know its hard but its that great optimistic view you have. The days I cant seem to find a reason to be upbeat you're always there to lend your hand. On top of that you've been a great teammate, talking to us and giving me info from the sidelines. You are so fun to play with and I'm grateful I could learn from you, you and your positive attitude will be missed. Love you girl!

-Micha

Marika & Carp,

I know y'all always stress to all of our team that we need to enjoy and take advantage of our time hear because it goes by faster than we could imagine. I can honestly say these past two seasons have made me realize just that. I could've never imagined that the time would come so quickly for me to be writing y'alls senior thank you notes. The two of you have made such an impact on my time here at Penn State so far. Y'all have taught me what Penn State Volleyball is truly supposed to be about. The dedication and effort the two of you put into making this team better doesn't go unnoticed. Not having both of you around this team next season is going to be tough, but I know that y'all are taking the next step in bettering your lives. All that I ask is that the two of you go out into the world and make an impact on the next group of people y'all surround yourself with as you did with me. Thank you for everything!

-Dom

Carp,
Thanks for being so supportive this year. You set a great example everyday at practice by how hard you compete and how much the team means to you. Thanks for helping us as freshman find our way here at PSU and as members of the team. You were the player I was most looking forword to playing with here at PSU, and the player I enjoy playing with the most. I've learned a lot from you. I'll really miss you next year even though I won't have to worry about what I say:) Lot's of luck in the future.

-Lara

Marika,
Thanks for all the support and encouragement you given me this season. You were always looking out for us with classes and volleyball and it was good to know that you were available to help whenever we needed it, a.k.a. giving us rides over the summer:) It won't be the same without you next year. I'm going to miss you tons! Best of luck in the future.

-Lara

Carp,
You are like family to me. I have gotten to know Penn State so well over the past few years and I honestly can't think of it without you. You are such a strong and compassionate leader that I find very appealing. Some days are tough, but they seem bearable with your contagious smile and personality. You are a truly great person with a heart as large as anyone for the game. You are one to always have another's back when they are struggling, or in our case "I got your leg, I got your leg." I wish you the best of luck in your future. I love you Carp!

-Megan

Mak,
You are one of the sweetest and most down-to-earth girls I have ever meet. You have a heart of gold and you are always someone who can give great advice. Your work ethic is one that I envy and strive to match every day. A compassionate and loving combination like yourself is hard to come by. I'm going miss you so much next you. You were a great leader and I wish you the best of luck in your future. I love you Makie!

-Megan

Kristin,
When I think back on my days as a recruit it is inevitable for you to be included in those memories. You made all my visits amazing ones and I want to thank you. It is because of those times you took to help me see what PSU was all about and to make sure I had a nice time that I am here at this amazing program. You have always told it like it is to me and helped me with good advice whenever I asked for it. I admire your love and pride for our school: I really believe you embody a true Penn State heart. You will be missed! P.S. My mom still calls you "la Boricua" haha ;)

-Paulina

Mak,

I'll get right to the point, you are one of the best and most loyal teammates I have ever had. You have always been there for me no matter what. Starting with my official visit when you went to dinner with Coach and I, you let me stay in your house, and you even took me to the airport at 4 am in the morning! In spring when I got here early, you were there as well. When I got my wisdom teeth out, you and Ryan (who I will give a huge shout out for being so nice, genuine, and awesome! I am so grateful for you as well. For all your help, advice and genuine talks!) took great care of me, and let me stay in your house again. In the summer, when you refused to let us freshman walk to the track and picked us up at 6 am for every conditioning. In fall, with my injury you have always made sure to include me in everything and ask me how I am doing and trying to help in any way you can. Teaching me all about the Latvian culture and language which I am now so interested in. All in all, what I am trying to say is that you are such a genuine, great and caring person. Never afraid to stand up for what is right and for the people you care about. One of the best teammates I have ever had. So hardworking, strong and a true role model. You have touched my heart and I will miss you greatly. Lastly, I want to thank Andra and Woonie for doing an amazing job of raising such a great woman with great values and heart. Your parents have been amazing with me as well. I will greatly miss them as well and hope they come to see our games after you've graduated. I will end with a quote: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." I will never forget how you've made me feel. Thank you.

-Paulina

I consider Mak the big sister that I never had. Not only was her family more than extremely welcoming to let me into the Penn State Family, but Marika especially was there every step of the way.

From the first day of even being a recruit, Mak was the first one to shake my hand and introduce herself to me and my entire family, then following always came Carp with the big bear tackle.

As I was the last of the freshman to get to Penn State due to nationals, I missed the team vacation and trip to Mak's beach house. However Mak of course didn't forget to include me as much as she could. In fact, I remember scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook to see a picture of the entire team in NYC with a caption, " We miss you Kendall". I eagerly showed my mom and with big watery eyes said look mom! My new family, see! Don't worry they'll take care of me".

Later, once finally united with the team, Mak always joked to Lara and I, " Yay my little blondies. We've got to stick together"... and so we have!

She always took one for the team, literally, probably getting hit in the head more than anybody else and myself right there behind her. But in all seriousness, I have never met, or played with a better team player. Especially at a program like this, we are all so talented, aggressive, and eager to get our playing time that sometimes the little green monster can put blinders on us and get the better of us. Although she understands like the rest of us, that every day is always a competition, she never loses the more important fact in that, we are teammates first. Mak has always been willing to do anything for the betterment of the team... even willing to be my roommate and put up with my constant snoring and sleep talk. All kidding beside, I think she is one of the strongest most amazing girls I have ever played with and for that I am so thankful. Thank you for being one of the best senior teammates a girl could ask for. I hope one day our future freshmen can think as highly of me as I do you.
Best of Luck in the Future, I know you will go far and brighten the world with your talent and beauty.

Love you Mak!

B side Baby!

-Kenny (Kendall)

Carp-
If I had to choose one thing that I was going to take away from meeting a person like Carp it would be, "Make sure you are doing what makes you happy".

During preseason, while at dinner at her favorite, Texas Roadhouse I sat there exhausted and starving after a long 3 session day of practice. We had all had a tough day, but you would have never guessed so once you took a look at Carp beaming sitting across from me and humming along as she buttered her rolls. I kind of just stared at her, wondering how on earth this girl is literally the energizer bunny. And she asked me, "Kendall, what makes you happy?" What seems like a simple question, actually caught me off guard. I've never been asked that before. Anytime before that I might have simply said, "Well volleyball, duh." But at the time, I was hating my body, the thought of another practice, or even the thought of doing anything else but sleeping. Carp then gave some examples and rambled on about how she loves leaving fun little post it notes for people, never the boring yellow ones, but the fun shapes and fun colors, and also watching people smile when they read happy or cute text messages. "The little things you know, it's actually what get you through the big hard things".

In wraps, if there were a person I wish everyone could have or even just meet for a second in their lives, it would be Carp. I promise you, you will never walk away the same or without a smile and a little giggle in your heart.

So I would like to thank her for the best hugs, the best laughs, for all of the free and contagious smiles, and for making me feel at home and realizing that I do belong here.

While looking through some quotes, I just laughed at a couple because I could totally see her saying these...
- "It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" - A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
- "Oh, I love hugging. I wish I was an octopus, so I could hug 10 people at a time!" - Drew Barrymore
- "Cats are magical. . .the more you pet them the longer you both live."
- "Friends are like balloons, if you let them go, you can't get them back, So I have tied you to my heart....So that I will never lose you".

Luvv you Carp! - Keep shining your smile and awesomeness on this World

-Ken

Carp,
I have really enjoyed playing with you for the past 2 years. You are a great leader on and off the court, and I am going to miss your positive energy. You have been so dedicated to this program and I want to make this season last as long as it possibly can for you.

Peace and BLESSANGSS,
Lacey Ann Fuller the 1rst.

Makiii,
I am really going to miss you! You always are smiling and going hard in practice. You are the person who got me through preseason. I don't know where I would be now without our pregame eiffel towers. I hope we finish this season out with a win!

Sincerely,
LAY-C

Kristin (Carp),
I honestly can not believe it has already been three seasons playing with you. Just by being around you on the court and listening to you talk I have learned more then I could have ever imagined from a single teammate. You have been such an amazing role model for the pride and hard work that this program is all about. I know that you had your good and bad times when it came to playing but you always kept your head held high and smile on your face. You honestly don't know how much that helped me to stay positive through even the most frustrating of times.

As far as this year being your roommate I have had an absolute blast. Some of the crazy things that you Dom and I have gotten ourselves into or even the conversations we have had will be things I will never forget. I couldn't ask for a more drama free and easy going group, and it's just a perk that we have so much fun!

I am seriously going to miss you come next year. I hope that you get to do all the great things that you want to and more. You really are an amazing person and I am going to miss you both on the court and at home more then you can even imagine.

I Love You!!!!
Erica

Marika,
You are truly an incredible individual do you know that? You are one of the very few, if not the only person, who honestly could say nothing bad about any other individual. Even if you have ever right to be angry with someone you always have his or her back. That is truly the definition of a great friend. All you want to do is help in every way that you can and the energy you put forth, even when you are downright exhausted, is admirable in every way possible. I love playing with you, and girl when we are clicking we just can't be stopped! Watching you improve just from my freshman year to now has been so much fun I'm so proud of you and I honestly don't know how I will get through practice without you. I really wish you luck in everything that you plan on doing in the future and just know that I am supporting you in every way that I can. I will miss you so, so much and all I have to say is you had better come back and visit!!!

I Love You!!!!
Erica

Kristin,
To the person who always kept me smiling, next year won't be the same without you. Your positive attitude and infectious smile meant more than you'll ever know. I remember the first day I met you at a club tournament when we were in high school and your energy was just as infectious then as it is now. My parents and I fell in love with your personality that day and it has just grown more and more as the years have gone by. Practice surely won't be as comical without your inappropriate jokes and one-liners. You are the best all-around player I've ever been around and will truly miss you next year. Good luck in anything and everything that you encounter. Your next employer will be very lucky to have such a great person like you working for them.

Much love,
Maddie

Marika,
Summer days won't be the same without the struggles of putting together our pool for the backyard and the endless days of sunbathing on the lawn chairs. You are truly one of the best teammates I have ever played with. You care so much about the team and each one of us. You helped so much in my decision to come to Penn State and from then on I knew we were going to be great friends. Next year won't be the same without you but I know your going to become a great businesswoman like your mom and have many great things yet to come.

Much love,
Maddie

Men's Hoops Game Blog - FINAL: Penn State 60, Bucknell 57

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live in-game coverage of the Nittany Lion basketball team.  

Take a look through the running blog from Penn State's 60-57 victory over Bucknell inside the Bryce Jordan Center on Friday evening.


Starting Lineups:
Penn State -
G - Marshall, G - Newbill, F - Travis, F - Taylor, F - Graham

Bucknell - G - Ayers, G - Johnson, G - Hill, F - Muscala, F - Willman

15:41 1st Half - Bucknell 3, Penn State 2
The Bison lead at the first media timeout thanks to a Bryson Johnson in the opening 17 seconds.  Penn State's basket came at the hands of D.J. Newbill, who snaked through traffic for a scoop lay-in.  True freshman Brandon Taylor earned his first career start after a solid outing against Akron in Puerto Rico.  Penn State's energy has been good on the defensive end of the floor early.

11:16 1st Half - Bucknell 10, Penn State 4
Credit the Nittany Lions for their defensive effort in the first 8:44 of game action.  Penn State is 2-for-14 from the field and 0-for-7 from beyond the arc, but the effort on defense is keeping the Lions in the game.  The Nittany Lions have had good looks, but need to find a way to get some shots down.

7:19 1st Half - Bucknell 13, Penn State 12
Taylor has been a spark for the Nittany Lions in his initial start.  The 6-7 forward leads Penn State with eight points and two rebounds on 3-for-7 shooting.  Additionally, forward Pat Ackerman knocked down a 17-foot jumper to trim the Bucknell lead down to just one.  Again, Penn State's defense is the reason why the Lions are within striking distance.  The Lions have held Bucknell to one basket in the last six minutes of game time.

3:41 1st Half - Bucknell 19, Penn State 14
The Nittany Lions have attempted twice as many shots as Bucknell, largely due to 10 turnovers from the Bison.  Penn State is 5-for-24 from the floor thus far, but good defense has the Lions well within striking distance at the final media timeout of the opening half.  Penn State needs to string together a few good possessions on the offensive end of the floor to generate some confidence.

Halftime - Bucknell 22, Penn State 16
Despite shooting 5-for-31 from the field, Penn State walked into the locker room down just six points.  The Bison led by as much as eight in the first half, but the Lions played gritty defense to keep the margin within striking distance.  It goes without say that Penn State needs to find a way to score the basketball, but being down just two possessions is good considering how the shooting numbers finished for the initial half.  Taylor led the way with eight points on 3-for-8 shooting.  The rest of the team combined for eight points on 2-for-23 shooting.  Bryson Johnson paced Bucknell with 10 points.

15:54 2nd Half - Bucknell 29, Penn State 24
The Nittany Lions came out of the locker room 3-for-4 from the field, which included a pair of 3-pointers from Taylor.  Taylor is now 5-for-10 from the field and 4-for-8 from beyond the arc for 14 points and three rebounds.  The Lions drew to within two (24-22) on Taylor's second three, but Bucknell came right back with a Johnson triple.  The Lions started the second half with more flow on the offensive end of the floor, but stringing together possessions will be key down the stretch.

11:31 2nd Half - Bucknell 36, Penn State 34
After a 16-point first half, the Nittany Lions have shown new life out of the locker room.  Penn State has scored 18 points in the first 8:29 of the second half.  Marshall has a basket and two free throws, which tied the game at 34-34 before a Bucknell basket from Cameron Ayers.  Marshall is a crucial part of the Nittany Lion offense, and Penn State needs the redshirt junior to find a groove.  Nevertheless, the Lions are 7-for-11 from the field to start the second half.

7:43 2nd Half - Penn State 43, Bucknell 39
Thanks to eight points from Taylor and seven points from Marshall this half, Penn State is on the first time tonight.  Taylor leads all scorers with 16 tallies.  The Nittany Lions have been aggressive on the offensive end of the floor getting the ball to the basket, and unlike the first half, a few perimeter jump shots have fallen.  Bucknell has cooled off in the second half, but the margin is just four.    

3:16 2nd Half - Penn State 55, Bucknell 48
The Nittany Lions are white hot in the second half.  After a 5-for-31 start to the game, Penn State is 16-for-22 in the second half (73 percent).  Taylor, Marshall and Newbill are all in double figures.  A Marshall jumper at the 4:17 mark put Penn State on top by seven, but a timely Bucknell 3-pointer from Ayers cut the lead down to four.  Nonetheless, Marshall came right back with a contested 3-pointer as the shot clock ticked to zero to put Penn State back on top by seven.

FINAL: Penn State 60, Bucknell 57
By no means was it easy for the Nittany Lions, but they battled down the stretch and found just enough success at the foul line to score a much-needed victory.  The Nittany Lions led by seven at the under four-minute timeout, but the Bison never went away down the stretch.  The Lions opened the door for Bucknell with a pair of missed free throws in the final 13.6 seconds, but a tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the iron to seal a 60-57 victory for the Lions.  Marshall led a trio of Nittany Lions in double figures with 17 points.  Taylor played a terrific game in his first start, finishing with 16 points.  Newbill added 10 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Final Thoughts
It was a tale of two halves in the Bryce Jordan Center on Friday evening.  Penn State shot 5-for-31 from the field in the first half, and then followed that up with a sizzling 17-for-26 in the second half.  Penn State competed from start to finish in the first full game without Tim Frazier.  Despite the shooting woes in the first half, the halftime margin was just six points, which is a testament to Penn State's effort level.  Had the Lions not competed the way they did in the first half, it would have been a much taller task to win on Friday.  The 44-point second half will be huge for Penn State's confidence heading into Wednesday's Big Ten-ACC Challenge matchup against Boston College (9:15 p.m. on ESPNU).

"I just thought our kids played hard...They didn't let missing shots or turning the ball over affect their effort," head coach Patrick Chambers said.

Newbill played a very good game in his first start as the primary ball handler for the Nittany Lions.  He finished 5-for-18 from the floor, but stepped up with big plays when Penn State needed them in the second half. 

"I thought he did an incredible job for his first time playing 37 minutes (at the point)," Coach Chambers said of Newbill's performance.

Taylor's big 3-pointer on the opening possession of the second half set the tone for a strong finish.  Give the 6-7 freshman a great deal of credit for providing the Nittany Lions with several key baskets during stretches of the game when the rest of the lineup was cold.  Ross Travis also added a strong effort with nine points and eight rebounds.

Penn State will have four days off before returning to the BJC for the matchup against Boston College, but Friday night's win will be a big confidence boost.


Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Coach O'Brien Honors Senior Class at Final Practice

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's 2012 seniors continued a tradition of wearing different jersey numbers during the final practice of the season, but that wasn't the only wrinkle at the season's final practice.  Coach O'Brien honored the seniors with a send off as they walked off the practice field for the final time.  Take a look.


Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Wisconsin Gameday Preview - Lions Host Badgers on Senior Day

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Wisconsin Week Gameday Central

FEATURE: Honoring a Historical Senior Class

VIDEO: Nittany Lions Enjoy Thanksgiving Feast

VIDEO: One-on-One with Matt McGloin and Jordan Hill


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions (7-4, 5-2) will closeout the 2012 season with a Senior Day clash against Leaders Division foe Wisconsin (7-4, 4-3) at 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2) in Beaver Stadium on Saturday.

8343981.jpegPenn State will honor a senior class unlike any other in its history prior to kicking off with the Badgers.  Coach O'Brien is urging fans to be in their seats at 3 p.m. when a special senior ceremony begins to recognize the 31 student-athletes and their families who stuck with the program through some of its most challenging days.  It will be a Senior Day ceremony that fans will not want to miss.  Be in the stadium early.

On the field, the Nittany Lions enter the final game of the season off of a dominant offensive performance against Indiana last week.  Penn State tallied 546 offensive yards, including a career-high 395 passing yards from senior Matt McGloin and 197 receiving yards from standout sophomore wide receiver Allen Robinson.

The Badgers enter the season finale with a berth in the Big Ten title game already locked up.  However, Wisconsin has lost two of its last three games, including a narrow 21-14 overtime setback to unbeaten Ohio State last week.

Welcome to the gameday preview for the 12th and final contest on the 2012 schedule.


Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
1. 
Football is a team game, but no group in the 126-year history of the football program at Penn State deserves more individual recognition than these 31 players: Mark Arcidiacono, Joe Baker, P.J. Byers, Cody Castor, Derek Day, Andre Dupree, Emery Etter, Jacob Fagnano, Mike Farrell, Frank Figueroa, Patrick Flanagan, Michael Fuhrman, Jordan Hill, Gerald Hodges, Brian Irvin, Christian Kuntz, Evan Lewis, Pete Massaro, Michael Mauti, Matt McGloin, Shane McGregor, Stephon Morris, J.R. Refice, Matt Stankiewitch, Sean Stanley, James Terry, Jamie Van Fleet, Garrett Venuto, Mike Wallace, Mike Yancich and Michael Zordich.  Those 31 players will run out of the Beaver Stadium tunnel one final time on Saturday.  This group stuck with Penn State during some of its most challenging days.  It will undoubtedly be an emotional pregame ceremony to honor these 31 players, but the seniors have a job to do in the final game on 2012 schedule.  Managing emotions once the game kicks off will be essential on Saturday.

2.  Saturday's clash is shaping up to be an intriguing matchup when the Nittany Lions have the football.  Penn State enters the week second the Big Ten with 33.9 points per game in conference matchups.  Wisconsin heads to Beaver Stadium as the Big Ten's No. 2-rated scoring defense by virtue of allowing just 17.4 points per contest in conference games.  Additionally, the Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in total offense during conference games (447.6), while the Badges rank second in total defense at 289.7 yards per game.  Wisconsin's rushing defense ranks ninth nationally and No. 1 in the Big Ten (106.64).  For the Nittany Lions to have success on offense they will need to move the chains and establish a running game.  McGloin's third-down passing will also be key against a very stingy Wisconsin defensive unit that has held five of its last six opponents to 16 points or less.

3.  Stopping Wisconsin's running game is atop the Penn State defensive gameplan.  Wisconsin is 17th in the nation in rushing offense (217.64 yards per game).  Senior tailback Montee Ball spearheads a talented backfield duo for the Wisconsin offense.  Ball and junior James White each average more than 5.0 yards per carry.  Thanks to a tremendous season from Jordan Hill in the middle of the defensive line, Penn State has been very good against the run this season.  The linebacker trio will be without its heart and soul leader, Michael Mauti, but Glenn Carson, Gerald Hodges and Mike Hull will need to collectively step up and play well between the tackles.  Penn State wants to force Wisconsin senior quarterback Curt Phillips into a third-and-long passer.

What to Watch For - Wisconsin
1.  Montee Ball is among the nation's top running backs.  Currently at 78 touchdowns, Ball needs just one score to become the NCAA's career touchdown record.  He has scored 14 times in his last seven games.  Wisconsin's offense runs through Ball, and the Badgers need a strong outing from the senior running back to score a victory before traveling to Indianapolis next week for the Big Ten title game.  Keep an eye on James White's production when Ball is not on the field, as well.  White is averaging 7.0 yards per carry this season.

2.  On the defensive side of the ball, Wisconsin has only yielded five rushes of 10 or more yards during its last four games.  That being said, the Badgers are looking to force Penn State out of its offensive balance by limiting Zach Zwinak's production.  The Nittany Lion offense enters the game with a great deal of confidence, but no Big Ten team has scored more than three touchdowns in a game against Wisconsin's defense in 2012.

3.  With a Big Ten title game berth locked, Wisconsin does not have much on the line Saturday afternoon.  Nonetheless, playing with intensity will be critical for a Badger team coming off a home loss against Ohio State last week.  By no means does Wisconsin want to enter the Big Ten Championship Game with back-to-back losses.  Staying focused and a quick start are essential for Bret Bielema's team.


Gameday Rundown
Kickoff: 3:35 p.m.
TV: BTN - Mark Jones (PBP), Brock Huard (Analyst), Jessica Mendoza (Sideline)
Radio: Penn State Sports Network - Steve Jones (PBP), Jack Ham (Analyst), Loren Crispell (Sidelines)
Stadium: Beaver Stadium (106,572) - Natural Grass
Coaches: Bill O'Brien - 7-4, 1st season
Bret Bielema - 67-23 at Wisconsin, 7th season at Wisconsin (Same overall)
The Series: 16th meeting


The Final Word:
It's hard to fathom walking in the shoes of the 31 senior members of the 2012 Penn State football team. The group faced more turbulence in the past 12 months than some people might encounter in a lifetime. But no matter how difficult the situation was, the Nittany Lion seniors found ways to be leaders for the rest of the locker room, the community, the student body, the athletic department and the University.  No group is more deserving of ending their careers with a victory than this one, but it will be a challenging afternoon in Beaver Stadium.  Wisconsin has never lost two-straight games in November under Bret Bielema.  The Senior Day ceremony will be emotional for the Nittany Lions, but the game will be decided in the trenches.  How both teams block the opposing front four will play a big role in determining the outcome.  Be in the stadium at 3 p.m. to honor the seniors and enjoy the final game of the 2012 season on a chilly November day inside Beaver Stadium.


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VIDEO: Nittany Lion Football Enjoys Thanksgiving Feast

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a Thursday morning practice, the Nittany Lion football team, staff members and families enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast on the Penn State campus.

More than 25 staff members at the Pollock Dining Commons helped prepare a white tablecloth buffet dinner for the Nittany Lions on Thanksgiving Day.  Assistant Director of Food Services at Pollock Commons James Hopey said the staff began pre-preparation for the meal on Tuesday.

Thursday's Penn State Football menu included a wide-range of Thanksgiving favorites.  The feast began with appetizers before a full buffet and desserts.  Feeding more than 100 football players and staff members is no small task.  Here are some of the numbers for the Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving Football Feast Menu Highlights:

- 72 bottles of sparkling red grape juice
- 20 gallons of apple cider
- 60 pounds of shrimp cocktail
- 180 pounds of turkey
- 60 pounds of ham
- Assortment of Penn State Creamery ice cream
- 20 pumpkin pies
- 3 apple pies
- 2 carrot cakes
- 4 New York cheesecakes
- 6 pumpkin cheesecakes


The Nittany Lions will hold regular meetings and a walkthrough on Friday before taking on Wisconsin in Saturday's Senior Day clash.  Coach O'Brien has urged all fans to be in their seats by 3 p.m. for the special ceremony for the 2012 Senior Class.


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VIDEO: Happy Thanksgiving from Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 'Tis the season for giving thanks, and the Penn State Athletics would like to take an opportunity to say thank you to the loyal fans on Thanksgiving.

As you sit down with family and friends to eat your traditional meal while the Lions and Cowboys host their annual Thanksgiving day home games, Penn State Athletics would like to thank you, the fans, for the unrivaled support you give every team on campus.  Penn State's teams would not be the same without the greatest fans in college sports.

Make sure to get out and support the Penn State men's basketball (4:30 p.m.) and women's soccer teams (7 p.m.) on Friday and the football (3:30 p.m.) and women's volleyball (8 p.m.) teams on Saturday in home games during this holiday weekend.

As a token of their appreciation, several members of teams on campus would like to say thank you and Happy Thanksgiving for the support you give them throughout the athletic season.

Honoring A Historical Senior Class

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Thirty-one names will be announced before Saturday's game against Leaders Division rival Wisconsin.

They are 31 names that will forever be etched in Penn State football lore.

8340983.jpegFootball is a team game, but no group in the 126-year history of the football program at Penn State deserves more individual recognition than these 31 players: Mark Arcidiacono, Joe Baker, P.J. Byers, Cody Castor, Derek Day, Andre Dupree, Emery Etter, Jacob Fagnano, Mike Farrell, Frank Figueroa, Patrick Flanagan, Michael Fuhrman, Jordan Hill, Gerald Hodges, Brian Irvin, Christian Kuntz, Evan Lewis, Pete Massaro, Michael Mauti, Matt McGloin, Shane McGregor, Stephon Morris, J.R. Refice, Matt Stankiewitch, Sean Stanley, James Terry, Jamie Van Fleet, Garrett Venuto, Mike Wallace, Mike Yancich and Michael Zordich.

No group of seniors has faced more adversity.

No group was knocked to the mat more than this one.

No group faced taller odds.

But no group stood up with more Penn State pride when the deck was stacked the other way.

It's hard to fathom walking in the shoes of the 31 senior members of the 2012 Penn State football team. The group faced more turbulence in the past 12 months than some people might encounter in a lifetime. But no matter how difficult the situation was, the Nittany Lion seniors found ways to be leaders for the rest of the locker room, the community, the student body, the athletic department and the University.

On some occasions the leadership came through words. On other occasions it was through hard work. And sometimes it was through actions, or a combination of all three.

On July 25, they all had the option to walk out the door and leave for other opportunities. Most of the seniors had offers to do so, and they could have done it with no consequence.

But they didn't.

They pledged their commitment to new Coach Bill O'Brien and they stuck with Penn State despite the unprecedented challenges ahead of the 2012 season following the NCAA's announcement.

Why?

"We have a never-say-die attitude," quarterback Matt McGloin said.

"We're resilient. We are fighters," cornerback Stephon Morris said.

"It's not about how many games you win or lose, it's about us sticking together," linebacker Gerald Hodges said.

"We know it's not going to be easy, but we know what we are made of," running back Michael Zordich declared.

"We are playing for our team, we are playing for our coaches, and we are playing for Penn State," defensive tackle Jordan Hill said.

"We take this as an opportunity to create our own legacy," linebacker Michael Mauti said.

From the day Coach O'Brien met the team in January, he knew the makeup of what he always called a special senior class. That's high praise for a head coach who had never even seen the group practice, let alone play a game.

O'Brien earned the trust of the seniors from the moment they met him inside the squad room at the Lasch Football Building on Jan. 8. And they earned the trust of O'Brien. Together, O'Brien and the seniors became the glue on a team that forged an unbreakable bond in 2012.

"As I have said from day one, this team is led by a fantastic senior class," O'Brien said. "You've heard a lot about Michael Mauti and Jordan Hill and Matt McGloin, but there's about 27 (more) of those guys. Guys that you've probably never heard of, who are fantastic kids who are going to graduate with Penn State degrees and go on to be huge successes in life. And, really, at the end of the day that's what it's all about."

The Nittany Lions started the season 0-2 before rattling off five-straight victories en route to a highly successful winning season in O'Brien's first year at the helm of the program. While the season featured its fair share of highs, including three consecutive Big Ten road victories, the results on the field pale in comparison to what the senior class has done for the present and future of the Penn State football program.

In the words of Coach O'Brien, the true measure of a man is how he handles adversity.

Never once did any member of the senior class complain about the situation the team was in. The group brought effort, intensity, passion and unmatched work ethic to the practice field every single day from Aug. 6 through Nov. 23. It wasn't always perfect, but the group loved to practice.

"These kids absolutely love to practice," O'Brien said. "They come to work every day ready to give maximum effort, and they want to work hard."

O'Brien deserves immense recognition for how he and the coaching staff faced the challenges head on and guided the team through the 2012 season. But the seniors kept the locker room closer than likely any Penn State locker room in the program's history.

"When you look at what these guys have been through, they've played for a lot more than a bowl game," O'Brien said.

Regardless of what life challenges these 31 seniors will face, they will be prepared for it. In the most difficult times, each individual handled himself with dignity, class and honor.

"In the future, when life throws adversity after you, you know that you can handle it because of the things you went through when you played college football here," McGloin said.

It was written that before the team even played a snap in 2012, the Nittany Lions were going to be winners. Now that the season is 11 games and 12 weeks old, that statement could not be more true. The members of this team stuck together, worked hard and forged a bond as one collective group through the most difficult time the program has ever seen.

"Even though this is not an undefeated team, this is a very special team of kids," O'Brien said.

One-by-one, all 31 student-athletes will run out of the South Tunnel to receive a Beaver Stadium curtain call for the hard work and dedication they have given to the program for four and in some cases five years.

Eight of the 2012 seniors earned their degrees before the season began, including defensive end Pete Massaro, a first-team CoSIDA Academic All-American. Nine more will graduate in December, while others are on schedule to receive their degrees in the spring.

"We have a resilient bunch of players and like I've said every single week, it's led by a fantastic senior class, a bunch of guys that have a passion for playing football for Penn State, for going to school here at Penn State," O'Brien said.

Stand up, cheer and pay your respects to a truly historic Penn State football senior class as it puts on the Penn State Blue and White uniform one final time in Beaver Stadium.

"There have been some great teams in this program's history -- the 1982 and 1986 National Championship teams, the 1994 undefeated team -- on the field," O'Brien said. "But no team has gone through more than this team. That's why this senior class will go down as one of the greatest in Penn State history."


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Nittany Lion Basketball Moving Forward with Confidence

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When faced with adversity, Nittany Lion basketball coach Patrick Chambers always says that you have two choices.

You can face the adversity with a positive attitude and enthusiasm.

Or you can deal with the adversity with a negative outlook.

8329617.jpegIn Chambers' mind, there is no thought process that went into how he and the Nittany Lion basketball program will deal with Tim Frazier's season-ending Achilles injury.

"We're going to go out and compete," Chambers said. "Don't feel sorry for us.  We're going to go out and grind."

It goes without saying that Frazier's production will be sorely missed by the Nittany Lions in 2012-13, but the senior guard will bounce back from the injury.

"He is resilient.  He will persevere.  He will rebound from this injury.  And he will come back bigger, better and stronger," Coach Chambers said.

Without Frazier's production - 21.7 points per game and 5.0 assists per game through the first three outings - the Nittany Lions will need a collective team effort every night on the floor.  One person will not fill the shoes of Frazier.  It is going to take a committee of players stepping up on a nightly basis.

"Now, somebody has to step up," Chambers said.  "It is a great opportunity for some of our freshmen and for some of our guys who have been wanting to play.  They have to step up.  We always talk about play with a purpose.  Maybe Tim Frazier is just that purpose that you need to play a little bit harder."

Sophomore guard D.J. Newbill will take the reins of the offense as the primary ball handler, something he is looking forward to.

"I think I am adjusting to it fine.  Coach is working with me," Newbill said.  "We can't play as fast as we did with Tim, but we can still push the ball, move the ball and get good shots.  Guys have to step up."


Newbill added that everyone on the team understands how important it is for the team to compete every time it steps on the floor.  Junior Jermaine Marshall is a player that will play a key role in Penn State's offensive attack moving forward.  Marshall is a skilled guard with the capability of being a consistent scorer, but he also understands the importance of each player providing consistent effort on defense.

"We have to win games on defense," Marshall said.  "That's our staple and we just have to continue to play hard."

There is no time for the Nittany Lions to dwell on the absence of Frazier.  An undefeated Bucknell team (5-0) will be in the Bryce Jordan Center on Friday at 4:30 p.m.  The Bison have wins over Purdue (70-65) and George Mason (61-56).

"We have a great team coming in on Friday," Chambers said.  "We have to defend and rebound.  We have to play Penn State basketball."

Newbill and the Nittany Lions have one option heading into Friday's game - play hard.

 "It's unfortunate, but we can't sulk on it," Newbill said.  "We have to move forward.  We have a long season ahead of us.  We still have a great group of guys who are willing to work hard, and we can still come out and compete."


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Depth Key for Aggressive Lady Lions

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK Pa. - Coquese Washington has made it obvious that she will play anyone at any time to give her team the best chance to win. While it is clear who her starters will be for the majority of the 2012-2013 season, the talent and depth of her bench players has not gone unnoticed either.


"The great thing is that we have a number of people that can provide that spark," said Washington.

Agee-Candice.jpegTori Waldner, Talia East and Gizelle Studevant return to a group of bench players that also add transfer guard Dara Taylor and true freshman center Candice Agee. Each player replaces a key component of the Penn State offensive and defensive attacks, including Waldner and East who come in off the bench for starter Nikki Greene.

With the aggressive style of play that Greene brings to the table, fouls come with it, thus, Waldner and East have to prepare themselves to be ready to fill the void.

"For the minutes that we go in and take Nikki out, we don't let up," said Waldner. "We keep the pace going and there is no drop in intensity."

The Lady Lions are known for their fast, up-tempo style of play, which can produce situations similar to the Nov. 14 game in College Station against Texas A&M. Guard Alex Bentley found herself on the bench early in the first half with foul trouble and that is when the responsibility falls on Taylor to ensure the drop off in production is minimal without Bentley or guard Maggie Lucas on the floor.

 

Lucas sees having the bench depth that her team has as a luxury with the tough schedule featured in 2012-13.

"It is awesome," said Maggie Lucas. "It gives us a lot of confidence because throughout the course of the game there are going to be a lot of fouls, so knowing that you don't lose much (production) when you bring the bench in is a big confidence builder."

Confidence is visible with the starters as well as Taylor, who knows exactly what the bench needs to do and also knows that each of them are capable of stepping in for the starters.

"The five (starters) can't play the whole game, so when we come in there can't be a let down or a step off," said Taylor. "We have to come in right in stride and (show) the other team that it is not just a bench player that is coming in, it is a whole new five that is going to be tough for them to play against."

In Sunday's 75-34 win over Lafayette the Penn State bench combined for 28 points between Agee, Taylor, East, Studevent and Waldner and Taylor recorded six assists in just 23 minutes of play on a night. There were only two Lady Lions that reached double digits in points and the team was still able to tally 75 points, simply by having nine players score five or more against the Leopards.

The true freshman, Agee, had a career-high seven points and four rebounds in just her third collegiate game. The growth of Agee will be very important and something that Washington hopes will progress during the team's tough non-conference slate and before Big Ten play begins.

"As the game slows down and she gets more experience, Candice is going to be somebody who is going to come in and make an impact," said Washington. "She's just has so many talents, so many gifts on both ends of the floor that as the year goes on I think she's going to be having more and more of an impact for us when she's on the floor."

Washington and the Lady Lions look to continue to grow the depth of their bench as the team heads to Northridge, Calif. for the Radisson Hotel Chatsworth Thanksgiving Tournament. Penn State will open play versus Detroit on Nov. 23 and play either host Cal-State Northridge or South Alabama on Nov. 24.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

VIDEO: Matt McGloin & Jordan Hill - Wisconsin Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with senior quarterback Matt McGloin and senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill during Wisconsin week.


Matt McGloin



 
Jordan Hill




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Week 12 Presser Roundup - Coach O'Brien Previews Wisconsin

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State will play its final game of the 2012 season on Saturday against Wisconsin on what will be a memorable Senior Day in Beaver Stadium.

The Nittany Lions practiced on Tuesday afternoon in shells following Coach O'Brien's weekly press conference to preview Saturday's game.  Take a look through some of his key remarks.


8338294.jpegHonoring the Senior Class
There is work to be done this week for the Nittany Lions as they prepare to take on a talented Wisconsin team that will play in the Big Ten Championship Game next week, but it is also a week-long tribute to a group of seniors that will go down in Penn State history as one of the all-time best.  No group of players has faced more adversity, and no group of players deserves a proper send off more than this group does.  What the 31 seniors who will be recognized before Saturday's game have done for the program is beyond the call of duty ever asked from a collection of seniors in Penn State's history.

"It's hard to put into words, in my opinion, what this senior class means to this football program, to this athletic department, and to this University," O'Brien said.  "I think people have to understand within those walls over there at the football building these guys will always mean a lot to this football program, mean a lot."

Be In Your Seats at 3 p.m. Saturday
Penn State fans can do their part in helping pay tribute to the seniors by arriving to Saturday's game early.  The senior class members and their families will be introduced at 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.  Coach O'Brien and the squad encourages all fans to be in their seats by 3 p.m. to give the seniors the sendoff they deserve.

"I want to make sure everybody knows is at three o'clock on Saturday, we need everybody here," Coach O'Brien said.  "We need everybody here because we're going to honor this senior class and their families.  That's a big deal.  And I know that we have honored the seniors in the past, but I don't think we have included their families.  We're going to honor ‑‑ that's the least we can do for this senior class, this particular one this year, is honor them.  So we need everybody in their seats at three on Saturday."

Hull Stepping In at Linebacker
No one can replace the leadership qualities senior linebacker Michael Mauti brought to the field for the Nittany Lion defense.  But sophomore Mike Hull will meet the task of filling Mauti's shoes with hard-nosed, instinctive football at the linebacker spot alongside Glenn Carson and Gerald Hodges on Saturday.  Hull has been a productive player on defense and special teams throughout the season for the Nittany Lions.  Hull's future in Blue and White is extremely bright, and Saturday will be an opportunity for the Pittsburgh native to step up for the Lion defense.

"Mike Hull, here is a guy that's been our fourth linebacker all year; he's made big plays for us on defense and special teams," O'Brien said.  "He's an instinctive guy, he's a Pittsburgh guy, he's a football guy.  He was in my office last night and we were talking' football.  This guy is a rock solid football dude so he's going to go in there and play as hard as he can and it's going to be fun to watch him play."

Wisconsin Scouting Report
Wisconsin running back Montee Ball enters Saturday's game needing one touchdown to break the NCAA career record for touchdowns (78).  Ball, who leads the Big Ten in rushing, is the focal point of a physical Badger offense.

"Starting on offense I see a physical, big, tough football team that is going to run ‑‑ personally a football team that I really admire," O'Brien said.  "They're not an east/west team they're a north/south team and they've got obviously a great running back in Ball, great tight ends, it's going to be a challenge for our defense on Saturday."

Defensively, Wisconsin ranks No. 13 nationally in scoring defense (15.3 points per game).  The Badgers are very good against the run.  Additionally, Wisconsin has held its last six opponents under 300 yards.  Of the 122 rushing attempts by Wisconsin opponents during the last four weeks only five have gone for more than 10 yards.

"When I look at their defense I think they're stout, physical, they led the Big Ten in rushing defense; they only give up 300 total yards a game on defense, so big challenge," O'Brien said.  "Are we going to be able to run the football?  Is that something we're going to be able to do?  We have to be able to do that.  We can't go in there and throw it 60 times, that's not our identity, that's not what we do.  We try to be balanced.  So a big challenge for our team."


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Blog - Maggie Harding, November 20, 2012

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Well it was an exciting weekend for Penn State sports all around! Our football team came away with a Big Ten win, the women's soccer team won their playoff match in a nail-biter Sunday night, and we finished the weekend with Coach Rose's 15th Big Ten Championship! OneTeam!

The flight to Indiana was pretty uneventful, other than everyone not havingHarding_Maggie (H-11-MS)340.jpg class this week, so we didn't have to worry about doing much homework. The gym at Indiana is pretty small, so we had to create our own energy and take control of the match. Indiana played hard but we won 3-0 and flew off to West Lafayette. A bunch of us crammed around a TV in the hotel lobby to watch the end of the Minnesota-Nebraska match. With Minnesota's win, we were officially Big Ten champs, so we were all excited. But we knew Purdue was a very good team and that we would have to be very prepared to play them. Also, we knew Purdue was trying to pack Mackey Arena for the match, so we had to be ready for a big crowd rooting against us. They ended up getting a big turnout, although the fans weren't as loud and rowdy as some places we play. The team got really fired up when we had some questionable officiating calls, and we won the match 3-1. It was a really good experience getting to play there though, since Mackey Arena is one of the four sites for regionals this year.

We got back to State College that night, and are looking forward to a whole week at home. It is such an awesome feeling to not have class! Lots of the team's family members will be traveling to Happy Valley this week for Thanksgiving, so it will be really fun getting to see all of them. And senior night is on Saturday, I don't want to believe it! Kristin and Marika are two of my best friends and they have given so much to the Penn State Volleyball program. The team won't be the same without them!

Until next time--

Maggie Harding

VIDEO: 2012 Women's Volleyball Big Ten Title Interviews

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Juniors Katie Slay and Deja McClendon talk about Penn State clinching its ninth Big Ten title in the past 10 years.  The Nittany Lions return home on Wednesday night for a match against Ohio State inside Rec Hall (7 p.m.).  The Lions also take on Michigan State on Saturday at 8 p.m. in the regular season finale.


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NOTEBOOK: Nittany Lions Begin Final Week of Practice

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the past 16 Mondays, the Nittany Lion football team has walked onto the fields next to the Lasch Football Building to begin a week of practice.

Today, the Lions will kick off the final practice week of the 2012 season.  It will have a different feel, much like training camp, than the previous 13 weeks during the regular season because the campus is closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Without classes this week, the team will hold all of its regularly scheduled meetings and practice earlier in the day.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be normal preparation days before an earlier practice on Thursday prior to the team getting together for a Thanksgiving meal.

Without question, it will be a special week for the Nittany Lions to enjoy the final five practices with a very unique senior class.  Penn State will remain focused on the task at hand, but the team will honor a group that played a big role in keeping the program together during an unprecedented offseason.  The Lion seniors will be on the practice field five more times before Saturday's Senior Day clash against Wisconsin (3:30 p.m. on ESPN2).

8333409.jpegMcGloin Re-Writes Record Books
Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week etched his place in the Penn State record book on Saturday with a stellar performance against Indiana.  With 395 yards, five shy of the all-time game record, and four touchdowns, McGloin stands alone in three major passing categories in program history.  The West Scranton native, who began his career as a run-on, will leave Penn State as the career passing touchdown leader (45), single-season completions leader (251) and the single-season yardage leader (3,071).  This season, McGloin has thrown 23 touchdown passes.  Heading into the year, he had thrown just 22 career touchdown passes.  McGloin leads the Big Ten in passing (279.2 yards per game) by more than 30 yards per contest over his nearest competition.

Robinson Stands Alone
Needing just one reception to pass O.J. McDuffie and Bobby Engram at the top of the single-season reception list, Allen Robinson put an exclamation point on a breakout sophomore season against Indiana.  The Michigan native hauled in 10 receptions for 197 yards and three touchdowns against the Hoosiers to become Penn State's single-season reception leader, and the program's first 70-plus reception player.  Robinson is now within 17 yards (983) of a 1,000-yard season.  He leads the Big Ten in touchdown receptions (11), yardage (983) and yards per game (89.4).  Robinson is a tireless worker who has not yet reached his full potential.  With continued progress during the offseason, No. 8 is poised for even bigger things during his time at Penn State.

Badger Defense vs. Nittany Lion Offense
Saturday's finale will feature one of the Big Ten's top scoring offenses against one of the conference's top scoring defenses.  Penn State enters the 12th game second the Big Ten with 33.9 points per game in conference matchups.  Wisconsin heads to Beaver Stadium as the Big Ten's No. 2-rated scoring defense by virtue of allowing just 17.4 points per contest in conference games.  Additionally, the Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in total offense during conference games (447.6), while the Badges rank second in total defense at 289.7 yards per game.

Badger Running Game vs. Nittany Lion Run Defense
On the other side of the ball, Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in rushing offense during conference games with 260.3 yards per contest.  Penn State's rushing defense ranks No. 2 in Big Ten games at 118.3 yards per game.  Wisconsin standout running back Montee Ball (128.8 ypg) leads the Big Ten in rushing.

Star-Studded Finale
Saturday's game will feature the Big Ten's top passer - Matt McGloin, top rusher - Montee Ball and top receiver - Allen Robinson.


Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Women's Soccer Outduels Michigan in Dramatic Fashion

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By Scott Traweek, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The journey continues for top-seeded Penn State women's soccer as the Nittany Lions fought from behind in penalty kicks to defeat Big Ten rival Michigan and advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.

8333006.jpeg"I'm proud of them," said head coach Erica Walsh after the game.  "I'm proud of this group, specifically the seniors. And every time we have to face a different challenge, we overcome it with such grace and dignity. I'm just excited for the next challenge."

Penn State's prior encounter with the Wolverines in the last home game of the regular season was a defensive battle that ended in a 1-1 tie.  Though the Nittany Lions outshot Michigan 7-1 in overtime and 31-9 during the contest, they were unable to put the game away.

The stage was set in the third round of the NCAA tournament for the two teams to settle the regular season draw and the game proved to be a defensive struggle as expected; however, this one couldn't end in a tie and would have to be decided in penalty kicks.

The Wolverines were on the offensive early and in the 16th minute earned a penalty kick when a Michigan player was fouled inside the box by senior midfielder Maddy Evans.  Senior forward Clare Stachel took the shot and scored to give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead.

But Penn State has been down before and the high-powered offense hadn't been shutout all season.  The Nittany Lions ignited in the 30th minute, creating a number of opportunities, but were unable to break the Michigan defense until the 42nd minute.

Senior midfielder Christine Nairn finessed a beautiful corner kick into the box off sophomore defender Whitney Church's head to Evans, who tapped the ball into the back of the net.  The game would enter halftime tied at one apiece, but Penn State held an 11-4 advantage in shots.

The defensive clash persisted into the second half with the Nittany Lions continuing to dominate control of the ball.  Penn State challenged Michigan senior goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer late with shots from freshman forward Mallory Weber in the 83rd minute and junior forward Taylor Schram in the 90th minute, but both were denied.  Kopmeyer had an incredible game with 10 saves.

In overtime junior forward Maya Hayes produced what may have been the best opportunity of the matchup as she received the ball in space, danced by two Michigan defenders in the box and took a shot in front of the goal that sailed high over the crossbar.  The Nittany Lions outshot the Wolverines 26-10, but the Michigan defense held fast.

Penn State was 0-5 in games that went into penalty kicks and senior goalkeeper Erin McNulty had never participated in a contest decided by penalty kicks before in her career, including her time in high school.

The odds were stacked against them when the Nittany Lions fell behind 0-2 facing one of the top goalkeepers in the Big Ten.  Nevertheless, coach Walsh knew her team was ready to face the challenge.

"We were prepared," said coach Walsh.  "It's never a dull moment at training. These guys keep us laughing and keep us guessing. But when those penalty kicks rolled around, as far as I'm concerned, we have the best goalkeeper in the country in penalty kicks."

Senior Maddy Evans was the spark as she put Penn State on the board with a decisive shot to the upper left corner of the net.  McNulty proceeded to make two consecutive saves, accompanied by a goal from junior forward Tani Costa to even the score, 2-2.  McNulty described her mentality during the shootout after the game.

"I was just trying to get in their heads," said McNulty.   "I knew that once I made one stop, it would give our team a little bit of momentum. I'm confident in our shooters, too. We've been practicing a lot, so I was confident that we were going to put the rest of them away."

Maya Hayes stepped up to the line to take Penn State's fifth and final attempt.  Calm and confident, Hayes placed a perfect shot in the upper right corner of the net past Kopmeyer. The attention returned to McNulty, who made a textbook diving save to seal the 1-1 (3-2) victory in penalty kicks and the celebration ensued.  Coach Walsh never lost faith in her keeper and knew she would come through.

"It's just confidence," said coach Walsh on having McNulty in goal.  "It's confidence in our defense. It's confidence in our ability to shut out great teams and to handle all sorts of pressure. This is somebody that has come into our program and has changed our lives, both on and off the field."

Penn State will face third-seeded Duke in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament Friday at 7 p.m. on Jeffrey Field.

The Beautiful Game: An Inside Look at Penn State Women's Soccer

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By Shane McGregor, Special Feature to GoPSUsports.com


PREFACE

 

They say that art imitates life.  They say life imitates art.  Either way, the two are so intertwinably close that the judgment lies in the mind of the beholder.  For the last few months I've had the opportunity to behold the Penn State Women's Soccer team on their journey through their 2012 season.  I've seen it from all different angles--high up in the Jeffrey Field bleachers, up close on the sidelines, in newspaper articles and on Twitter feeds--all of which have afforded me a unique viewpoint of a team and its quest for success and excellence.

The initial plan for this piece was to write a short feature article about the team.  I quickly realized that a short feature article could never capture all the observations, events and emotions I had seen.  There'd be one story, then another, then another, and the more I talked to the players and coaches, the more I realized that there were stories everywhere:  Best-in-the-world talent.  Intense personalities.  Record achievements.  Heartbreaking tragedies.  A quest for a dream.

For the past few weeks I've attempted to listen to everything this team told me, by word or by deed.  And now I'm writing it down.

What you find here now is not the finished piece.  I've approached this like sport of soccer: fluid, a living sport, molded by rules but still open to the creative artistry of its players.  I've approached it like the end of this team's season:  Now into the NCAA Tournament, it's a single elimination, win-or-go-home season.  Every match could be your last. 

So starting today and running for however long their season lasts--whether it's until tonight's match or until the NCAA Championship Game in San Diego on Dec. 2--a story or two or three will be added to this living article.

When will it end?  Right now, none can tell.  But when it does, I guess that will be the end that the article--and the team--was destined to achieve.

Because at its heart, that's all this is.  Stories of a team.  Stories of The Beautiful Game.


BEAUTY


It had to be one of the most aesthetically-pleasing sporting events I had ever seen.  A clear-skied evening in late August, the kind that central Pennsylvanians will long for once the stretch of white winter days arrives in a few months' time.  A single-game-record 5,117 fans flocked to Jeffrey Field, the modest home of Penn State Soccer that rests with the other athletic complexes on the northeast side of campus, to watch the sixth-ranked Nittany Lions take on the top-ranked Stanford Cardinal in the first home match of the 2012 season.

Large sporting sanctuaries with flashy scoreboards and many thousands of seats may be impressive, but there's nothing quite like looking up from the pitch to see a Clementine sun fading away behind a regally blue ridgeline, its dying rays accentuating the colors on the field below.  The deep reds of the visiting uniforms, the pristine whites of the home team.  The vivid blue of the Nittany Lion logo painted on either end of the pitch, which looks greener and fuller in the slanting sunlight.

I first heard soccer called "the beautiful game" years ago--thanks to Nike's "Joga Bonito" marketing campaign, which means "play beautifully" in Portuguese--but never quite understood it until that night.  Many sportsmen talk about how players must get in the "flow" of the game, but soccer actually has a visible one.

Removed from the field and perched halfway up the southwest end of the Jeffrey Field bleachers, the field becomes an ocean, with tides of forwards and waves of midfielders all acting and reacting to a white pearl sloshed about by a current of swinging legs and dashing feet. 

Move closer, though, and you'll realize that this beautiful sea is punctuated and driven by split-second acts of violence.  The reds and whites will dance around the green canvas in a benevolent current, only to burst towards each other suddenly in a heavy-breathed scramble for possession of the pearl.  Slide tackles, trash talking, even the core act of the game--the striking of the ball with one's accelerating foot--are violent occurrences, with firing muscles and loud "poomp" sounds and collisions sending bodies to the pitch.

The duality of it all--the flow and the harshness, the beauty and the violence, the ball in flight and the bodies churning down below--counterbalance each other, as any good invention of nature does.  And in that moment, I came to know that this game, especially when wrapped in the light of another day's death, is beautiful.

THE BUS RIDE

           
On a brisk Sunday morning in early October, one mile across a picturesque college campus from Jeffrey Field, my first up-close gameday experience with the Penn State women's soccer team starts with a bang.

Well, more like a scream.  Many screams.

As tradition goes, an hour and a half before gametime, the 27 players board a blue school bus outside Rec Hall, the location of their everyday locker room, all swooshed out in Nike shirts, shorts and backpacks on their shoulders.  They file in with a scripted smoothness, as if each knows their role and place on the bus.  I file in near the end, and take the seat just behind the bus driver.  I should have brought ear plugs.

No one sits, at least not in the way one should sit in a bus seat.  Two players--"Bus Leaders," as they're called--congregate in the front of the bus and begin the festivities.  First, the radio playing over the speakers must go.  This group would need no background music. 

Some teams are silent leading up to a game, with a solemn focus needed for preparation. 

This is not one of those teams.

One of the Bus Leaders, a senior midfielder from Long Island named Bri Garcia, grabs the bus microphone and gets the show started.  As a guest on the bus, I' m asked to introduce myself ("My name is Shane McGregor") and, as with any normal introduction, say what I had for dinner last night ("and I went to Applebee's!!")  I consider the shriek-cheers that followed a welcoming approval. 

The chorus of shriek-cheers immediately turns into a shriek-song--a wild rendition of The Outfield's "Your Love," starting with the signature line "Josie's on a vacation far awayyyy.."--complete with the efforts of 27 amateur drummers whaling away on anything the bus has to offer.  If buses could bruise, this one would be black and blue.

The song flows into some chants, all led by Garcia and redshirt freshman goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom, the other half of the bus-leading tandem.  This is Garcia's third consecutive season as a Bus Leader, a noteworthy accomplishment for a job that is usually occupied by seniors.  How does one become a Bus Leader?  By developing a rapport for being ridiculously crazy on the bus, of course.

This bus ride over isn't just all fun and games, though.  "Bus Prizes" are announced in the early part of the five-minute ride.  Today's include a bottle of Cool Blue Gatorade (!!) and a foam baseball bat (!!!), and are awarded in the locker room just after the ride's conclusion.  A sequence of zany events follows the Bus Prize announcement, as senior midfielder and team captain Maddy Evans, with shirt off and sports bra showing in full Brandi Chastain style, sprints up the middle of the bus and back, riling up her already-riled-up teammates even more.

Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" and an a capella version of "Zombie Nation" come next, filling the air until the bus wraps around Jeffrey Field and readies to enter the parking lot.  With the journey nearing its end, the most aggressive of cheers--"YOU-ALL-WISH-YOU-GOT-IN-TO-PENN-STATE!"--rings out well within earshot of today's opponent, the Indiana Hoosiers.

Whew.

The bus ride may be over, but there's still an important decision to make.  The Bus Prizes, after all, are a hot commodity that Garcia and Eckerstrom must prudently award.

Garcia opens up the discussion and the name "Kaminski" is quickly brought up, followed by an awed recollection of her wildness on the bus today.  So which prize shall Kaminski--full name Meghan Kaminski, a freshman goalkeeper from Doylestown, Pa.--receive?

"Don't give her the bat," says Garcia.  "Kaminski with a weapon is scary."

The team enters the small locker room under the Jeffrey Field bleachers and changes Nike footwear from sneakers to game cleats, all decked out in a wild array of loud colors, and Garcia announces the Bus Prize winners.

The shriek-cheers return as Kaminski receives the coveted Gatorade bottle.  Chants of "CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!" fill the room.  Kaminski promptly downs whole thing in roughly 10 seconds and spikes the empty bottle on the floor in triumph.


Stay tuned for the next installment of The Beautiful Game...

The Beautiful Game: An Inside Look at Penn State Women's Soccer

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By Shane McGregor, Special Feature to GoPSUsports.com


PREFACE

 

They say that art imitates life.  They say life imitates art.  Either way, the two are so intertwinably close that the judgment lies in the mind of the beholder.  For the last few months I've had the opportunity to behold the Penn State Women's Soccer team on their journey through their 2012 season.  I've seen it from all different angles--high up in the Jeffrey Field bleachers, up close on the sidelines, in newspaper articles and on Twitter feeds--all of which have afforded me a unique viewpoint of a team and its quest for success and excellence.

The initial plan for this piece was to write a short feature article about the team.  I quickly realized that a short feature article could never capture all the observations, events and emotions I had seen.  There'd be one story, then another, then another, and the more I talked to the players and coaches, the more I realized that there were stories everywhere:  Best-in-the-world talent.  Intense personalities.  Record achievements.  Heartbreaking tragedies.  A quest for a dream.

For the past few weeks I've attempted to listen to everything this team told me, by word or by deed.  And now I'm writing it down.

What you find here now is not the finished piece.  I've approached this like sport of soccer: fluid, a living sport, molded by rules but still open to the creative artistry of its players.  I've approached it like the end of this team's season:  Now into the NCAA Tournament, it's a single elimination, win-or-go-home season.  Every match could be your last. 

So starting today and running for however long their season lasts--whether it's until tonight's match or until the NCAA Championship Game in San Diego on Dec. 2--a story or two or three will be added to this living article.

When will it end?  Right now, none can tell.  But when it does, I guess that will be the end that the article--and the team--was destined to achieve.

Because at its heart, that's all this is.  Stories of a team.  Stories of The Beautiful Game.


BEAUTY


It had to be one of the most aesthetically-pleasing sporting events I had ever seen.  A clear-skied evening in late August, the kind that central Pennsylvanians will long for once the stretch of white winter days arrives in a few months' time.  A single-game-record 5,117 fans flocked to Jeffrey Field, the modest home of Penn State Soccer that rests with the other athletic complexes on the northeast side of campus, to watch the sixth-ranked Nittany Lions take on the top-ranked Stanford Cardinal in the first home match of the 2012 season.

Large sporting sanctuaries with flashy scoreboards and many thousands of seats may be impressive, but there's nothing quite like looking up from the pitch to see a Clementine sun fading away behind a regally blue ridgeline, its dying rays accentuating the colors on the field below.  The deep reds of the visiting uniforms, the pristine whites of the home team.  The vivid blue of the Nittany Lion logo painted on either end of the pitch, which looks greener and fuller in the slanting sunlight.

I first heard soccer called "the beautiful game" years ago--thanks to Nike's "Joga Bonito" marketing campaign, which means "play beautifully" in Portuguese--but never quite understood it until that night.  Many sportsmen talk about how players must get in the "flow" of the game, but soccer actually has a visible one.

Removed from the field and perched halfway up the southwest end of the Jeffrey Field bleachers, the field becomes an ocean, with tides of forwards and waves of midfielders all acting and reacting to a white pearl sloshed about by a current of swinging legs and dashing feet. 

Move closer, though, and you'll realize that this beautiful sea is punctuated and driven by split-second acts of violence.  The reds and whites will dance around the green canvas in a benevolent current, only to burst towards each other suddenly in a heavy-breathed scramble for possession of the pearl.  Slide tackles, trash talking, even the core act of the game--the striking of the ball with one's accelerating foot--are violent occurrences, with firing muscles and loud "poomp" sounds and collisions sending bodies to the pitch.

The duality of it all--the flow and the harshness, the beauty and the violence, the ball in flight and the bodies churning down below--counterbalance each other, as any good invention of nature does.  And in that moment, I came to know that this game, especially when wrapped in the light of another day's death, is beautiful.

THE BUS RIDE

           
On a brisk Sunday morning in early October, one mile across a picturesque college campus from Jeffrey Field, my first up-close gameday experience with the Penn State women's soccer team starts with a bang.

Well, more like a scream.  Many screams.

As tradition goes, an hour and a half before gametime, the 27 players board a blue school bus outside Rec Hall, the location of their everyday locker room, all swooshed out in Nike shirts, shorts and backpacks on their shoulders.  They file in with a scripted smoothness, as if each knows their role and place on the bus.  I file in near the end, and take the seat just behind the bus driver.  I should have brought ear plugs.

No one sits, at least not in the way one should sit in a bus seat.  Two players--"Bus Leaders," as they're called--congregate in the front of the bus and begin the festivities.  First, the radio playing over the speakers must go.  This group would need no background music. 

Some teams are silent leading up to a game, with a solemn focus needed for preparation. 

This is not one of those teams.

One of the Bus Leaders, a senior midfielder from Long Island named Bri Garcia, grabs the bus microphone and gets the show started.  As a guest on the bus, I' m asked to introduce myself ("My name is Shane McGregor") and, as with any normal introduction, say what I had for dinner last night ("and I went to Applebee's!!")  I consider the shriek-cheers that followed a welcoming approval. 

The chorus of shriek-cheers immediately turns into a shriek-song--a wild rendition of The Outfield's "Your Love," starting with the signature line "Josie's on a vacation far awayyyy.."--complete with the efforts of 27 amateur drummers whaling away on anything the bus has to offer.  If buses could bruise, this one would be black and blue.

The song flows into some chants, all led by Garcia and redshirt freshman goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom, the other half of the bus-leading tandem.  This is Garcia's third consecutive season as a Bus Leader, a noteworthy accomplishment for a job that is usually occupied by seniors.  How does one become a Bus Leader?  By developing a rapport for being ridiculously crazy on the bus, of course.

This bus ride over isn't just all fun and games, though.  "Bus Prizes" are announced in the early part of the five-minute ride.  Today's include a bottle of Cool Blue Gatorade (!!) and a foam baseball bat (!!!), and are awarded in the locker room just after the ride's conclusion.  A sequence of zany events follows the Bus Prize announcement, as senior midfielder and team captain Maddy Evans, with shirt off and sports bra showing in full Brandi Chastain style, sprints up the middle of the bus and back, riling up her already-riled-up teammates even more.

Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" and an a capella version of "Zombie Nation" come next, filling the air until the bus wraps around Jeffrey Field and readies to enter the parking lot.  With the journey nearing its end, the most aggressive of cheers--"YOU-ALL-WISH-YOU-GOT-IN-TO-PENN-STATE!"--rings out well within earshot of today's opponent, the Indiana Hoosiers.

Whew.

The bus ride may be over, but there's still an important decision to make.  The Bus Prizes, after all, are a hot commodity that Garcia and Eckerstrom must prudently award.

Garcia opens up the discussion and the name "Kaminski" is quickly brought up, followed by an awed recollection of her wildness on the bus today.  So which prize shall Kaminski--full name Meghan Kaminski, a freshman goalkeeper from Doylestown, Pa.--receive?

"Don't give her the bat," says Garcia.  "Kaminski with a weapon is scary."

The team enters the small locker room under the Jeffrey Field bleachers and changes Nike footwear from sneakers to game cleats, all decked out in a wild array of loud colors, and Garcia announces the Bus Prize winners.

The shriek-cheers return as Kaminski receives the coveted Gatorade bottle.  Chants of "CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!" fill the room.  Kaminski promptly downs whole thing in roughly 10 seconds and spikes the empty bottle on the floor in triumph.


Stay tuned for the next installment of The Beautiful Game...

In Game Blog: Women's Basketball vs. Lafayette

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to in-game coverage for the 2012-13 Penn State women's basketball season.  Each home game, GoPSUsports.com will provide insight from press row. Check back often for running updates as the action unfolds.

Penn State will host Lafayette (1-2) on Sunday inside the Bryce Jordan Center. The Lady Lions are coming off of a 63-58 victory at #13 Texas A&M on Tuesday, while Lafayette dropped a 73-34 contest at home to Villanova.

15:45, 1st Half - No. 9/9 Penn State 14, Lafayette 0

The Lady Lions raced out to a 14-0 lead over the opening four minutes, with Maggie Lucas and Mia Nickson leading the way. Lucas accounted for five points, while Nickson added four points. Penn State has three steals and forced four turnovers, so far in the contest. The Leopards are 0-for-6 from the field, while Penn State is 5-for-9.

11:40, 1st Half - No. 9/9 Penn State 20, Lafayette 4

Penn State is shooting 53 percent from the floor and Lucas has connected on the lone three pointer of the contest and now lead by 16 points at the second media time out. Ariel Edwards and Lucas are now tied with a team-high five points, while three different Lady Lions have two rebounds. Gizelle Studevent got her first points of the season on a layup and seven different PSU players have scored in the game.

6:26, 1st Half - No. 9/9 Penn State 32, Lafayette 6

A 12-2 run over the last five minutes has opened the game up for the Lady Lions and Lucan continues to have a solid start versus the Leopards. The junior has five points and five rebounds, while Nickson leads the Lions attack with seven points. Penn State has limited the Leopards to 15 percent shooting from the floor, while they continue to shoot well, at 48 percent.

3:56, 1st Half - No. 9/9 Penn State 36, Lafayette 8

Limited offense over the past two-plus minutes, but Penn State continues to lock down the Leopards on the defensive end. Lafayette has connected on 3-of-23 shots (13%) and Penn State is connecting on exactly half of their shots (15-of-30) and forced eight turnovers through the first 16 minutes of the contest.

End of the 1st Half - No. 9/9 Penn State 42, Lafayette 14

I am sure head coach Coqueses Washington will point out the ten first half turnovers when the media praises her team's first half effort, but that may have been the only undesirable stat for the Lady Lions in the opening 20 minutes. PSU forced 12 turnovers, scored 14 second chance points, added 24 points in the paint and nine of the ten players that were dressed cracked the scoring column. Nickson led the way with seven points and Nikki Greene and Alex Bentley added six points each.

15:58, 2nd Half - No. 9/9 Penn State 44, Lafayette 16

Both teams have looked a little sluggish to start the season half, with each squad collecting one basket. The Lady Lions' bucket came from Talia East, who collected her first two points of the afternoon, and every available PSU player has now scored in the game.

11:05, 2nd Half - No. 9/9 Penn State 49, Lafayette 23

Lafayette has scored nine of the first 16 points in the second half, but Penn State continues to hold a comfortable 26 points lead. The Lady Lions are just 3 of 18 to open the second half and have three more turnovers in the first nine minutes.

7:45, 2nd Half - No. 9/9 Penn State 57, Lafayette 23

The Lady Lions have used an 8-0 run over the last 3:20 to extend their lead to 34 points and continue to limit the Leopards offensively. PSU has forced 21 turnovers, limited Lafayette to just 18 percent shooting and are out-rebounding their visitors by a 50-30 margin. Nickson's nine points lead all players, while Bently has eight and two other Lady Lions have seven.

3:45, 2nd Half - No. 9/9 Penn State 66, Lafayette 26

Penn State continues to hold a sizeable lead against the Leopards, but free Chicken Nuggets are looking to be out of reach for the second straight game. The Lady Lions will shoot the double-bonus the remainder of the night, so the 75-point mark is still well in reach. Nickson and Lucas each have 12 points on the afternoon, while Lucas is one rebound shy of the double-double.


FINAL - No. 9/9 Penn State 75, Lafayette 34
The Nittany Lions outplayed the Leopards in both halves - limiting them to just 14 first half points - and held a 57-40 edge on the boards to extend their non-conference home winning streak to nine games with the 75-34 victory.

Lucas missed a double-double by just on rebound, tying with Nickson for high-scorer honors at 12 points, and added two assists and four steals. All ten Lions scored in the game, including Candice Agee's first career points, and nine of the Lady Lions contributed five or more points.

The Lady Lions will travel to Northridge, Calif. next weekend to participate in the Radisson Hotel Chatsworth Thanksgiving Tournament. Penn State will kick off their stay versus Detroit at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23 and play either host Cal State Northridge or South Alabama on Saturday, Nov. 24.

Fast Break Press Conference Recap
"I think we have to play a lot more disciplined than we played tonight. We have to be better on both ends. (Fiacco being in foul trouble) made it a lot easier for us on the inside. She is a big threat and was still a problem for us, but we were able to make the adjustment and defend her well."
- Candice Agee

"It's a comfort level. I am getting more comfortable every game, but I am all about getting better."
- Candice Agee on her steady improvement

"The focus for the guards today was to get a body on someone and get on the boards. My shot wasn't falling like I might have wanted today, but I have to find a way to make an impact in some way."
- Maggie Lucas

"It is a business trip...but it's also a great opportunity for us to get closer as a team, like we did in Europe."
- Mia Nickson on the team's upcoming trip to California

"I thought we had good play out of our bench. I thought Candice [Agee] and Tori [Waldner], in particular, came into the post and had a presence. They played well together, which was good to see. We are still trying to figure out some rotations, who plays well together and who can do what. So to see those two play well together with their size, it's certainly going to be a big benefit for us moving forward.."
- Head coach Coquese Washington


Pregame Reading:
- Penn State was a streak stopper last week when they defeated Texas A&M at Reed Arena in College Station. The Aggies had won 58 straight non-conference games on their home floor before the Blue and White claimed the five point victory. The Lady  Lions are looking to extend their own home winning streak today versus Lafayette, entering with an eight game non-conference winning streak.

- The Lady Lions are a perfect 20-0 against Patriot League teams, with the majority of those wins coming against the Leopards. Penn State is 19-0 versus Lafayette and claimed their other win against Bucknell in 2011-12.

- The Leopards are 1-2 on the season with a win over Loyola Chicago and losses to Big East foes Seton Hall and Villanova. Danielle Fiacco paces Lafayette, averaging 11.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game. Madeline Fahan is accounting for 8.3 points per outing for the Leopards.

VIDEO: Postgame Locker Room Interviews - Indiana

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head into the locker room for postgame remarks from several Nittany Lions following Saturday's 45-22 victory over Indiana in Beaver Stadium.



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Week 11 In-Game Blog - Indiana

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Take a look back at Saturday's 45-22 victory over Indiana.

Welcome to in-game coverage for the 2012 Penn State Football season.  Each week, GoPSUsports.com will provide insight from the press box at all 12 games on the schedule.  Check back often for running updates as the action unfolds.

The Nittany Lions take on Indiana in the penultimate game of the season in Beaver Stadium.

 

4:26, 1st Quarter - Penn State 7, Indiana 0

Allen Robinson's fourth-down, 26-yard touchdown reception capped off a seven-play, 91-yard drive for the Nittany Lions. After a costly fumble and an incompletion forced the Hoosiers to punt the ball, McGloin completed 4-of-5 passes on the drive. With the touchdown pass, McGloin broke the program's single-season completions record (235) and moved into second place on the career passing yardage list.

 

End of the 1st Quarter, Penn State 7, Indiana 0

Although Indiana ended the quarter driving down to the Nittany Lions' nine-yard line, Penn State kept its ninth opponent scoreless in the opening frame. Besides the Penn State touchdown drive, the Nittany Lions have struggled to find its rhythm. Indiana will open the second with a first-and-goal from the nine-yard line.

 

14:44, 2nd Quarter - Penn State 7, Indiana 3

Although Indiana's Mitch Ewald connected on a 26-yard field goal, Penn State did a great job forcing the attempt after the Hoosiers started the quarter with a first-and-goal. The Nittany Lion defense forced three straight incompletions, highlighted by Jacob Fagnano's pass breakup in the end zone. The field goal capped off a 10-play, 55-yard drive for the Hoosiers.

 

13:20, 2nd Quarter - Indiana 10, Penn State 7

Ted Bolster's two-yard touchdown reception finished a six-play, 27-yard drive for the Hoosiers. Cameron Coffman went 4-for-5 through the air on the drive and ran for seven yards as Indiana capitalized on Matt McGloin's interception.

 

8:56, 2nd Quarter - Penn State 14, Indiana 10

Allen Robinson's career-long 53-yard touchdown reception capped off a six-play, 75 yard-reception drive for the Nittany Lions. Facing a second-and-three, Robinson made the reception near the line of scrimmage before executing a beautiful spin move to avoid the tackle and sprinting down the field for the score. Great response by the Penn State offense after Indiana grabbed the lead on the previous drive.

 

7:06, 2nd Quarter - Penn State 14, Indiana 13
Mitch Ewald knocked through a 44-yard field goal to cap off a seven-play, 51-yard drive for the Hoosiers. Indiana effectively used its hurry-up offense to move down the field, but the drive was slowed following an eight-yard sack from Stephen Obeng-Agyapong.

 

2:25, 2nd Quarter - Penn State 21, Indiana 13

Allen Robinson caught his third touchdown of the day to finish off a nine-play, 77-yard drive for the Nittany Lions. After Penn State opened the drive with eight straight runs, McGloin connected with Robinson for a 10-yard touchdown on third down. With the touchdown pass, McGloin moved into sole possession of first place on the program's all-time list with his 44th career touchdown strike.

 

0:31, 2nd Quarter - Penn State 28, Indiana 13

Zach Zwinak recorded his first career receiving touchdown with a 16-yard grab to end a three-play, 62-yard drive. Freshman tight end Jesse James opened the drive with a career-long 42-yard catch before McGloin connected with Zwinak two plays later. The drive was set up by Gerald Hodges' acrobatic interception.

 

Halftime - Penn State 28, Indiana 13

Although the Penn State offense struggled at times, the unit flourished toward the end of the half as the team registered touchdowns on its last three drives. The Nittany Lion defense also kept the Indiana attack at bay, forcing the Hoodiers to take field goals and also forcing a turnover that resulted in Zach Zwinak's score. Matt McGloin completed the first half 12-for-18 for 218 yards and four touchdowns as he continues his ascention up the Penn State record books. Wide receiver Allen Robinson, who has three touchdown grabs on the day, also moved into first place on the program's single-season receptions list.

13:04, 3rd Quarter - Penn State 28, Indiana 19
After a defensive stand, the Hoosiers struck on their first play from scrimmage when Cameron Coffman found Stephen Houston for a 79-yard catch and run for a touchdown.  The extra point was no good, which set the score at 28-19.  The 79-yard score was the longest play from scrimmage the Nittany Lions have allowed this season.

8:34, 3rd Quarter - Penn State 28, Indiana 22
The Hoosiers trimmed the Nittany Lion lead down to six (28-22) with a 46-yard field goal attempt from Mitch Ewald.  Indiana obtained possession following a Zach Zwinak fumble, Penn State's second turnover of the afternoon.