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Vote for the Top Penn State Sports Event of 2012

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2012 calendar year was one marked by excellence and achievement from numerous Penn State teams.

8416786.jpegAs we close in on the final days of 2012, wanted to take time and reflect on a tremendous year for Penn State Athletics.  The hiring of head coach Bill O'Brien on Jan. 6, in many ways, set a tone for the athletic department throughout the calendar year.  O'Brien's introductory press conference highlighted a clear vision for how the football program would try to do its part in helping the athletic department move forward as One Team.

The results speak for themselves, and all 31 Penn State teams across the University Park campus should be recognized for their efforts in 2012.  The list of achievements on the field of play, including one national title and seven Big Ten titles, and in the classroom, including more than 270 Academic All-Big Ten honorees, is tremendous.

The spring season included a Big Ten and NCAA title from the wrestling team for second-straight season.  Three Nittany Lion wrestlers - Frank Molinaro, David Taylor and Ed Ruth - won individual national titles.  The Lady Lions, who clinched a Big Ten title on the BJC hardwood in February, earned a spot in the Sweet Sixteen for the 12th time in program history.  The men's volleyball team earned a trip to the NCAA National Semifinals for the 27th time.  The women's lacrosse team reached the NCAA Quarterfinals.

Additionally, 171 Penn State student-athletes earned Academic All-Big Ten accolades during the winter and spring seasons.  Men's gymnastics' Miguel Pineda was named a first Academic All-American.

The fall campaign was one for the Penn State record books.  Penn State won five Big Ten championships and had five coaches selected conference coach of the year.  The field hockey team (Char Morett) won the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles, the men's soccer team (Bob Warming), women's soccer (Erica Walsh) and women's volleyball (Russ Rose) teams all won Big Ten championships.  Additionally, after leading the Nittany Lion football team to an 8-4 campaign, including six Big Ten wins, Bill O'Brien was named Big Ten Coach of the Year.

In postseason competition, the women's soccer team reached the NCAA College Cup Final for the first time in program history.  The women's volleyball team played in the NCAA National Semifinals for the 10th time in school history.  The women's cross country team captured the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional crown on its home course.

The story was much of the same in the classroom.  A fall record 100 Penn State student-athletes achieved Academic All-Big Ten recognition this semester, including a trio of 4.0 students - football's John Urschel, women's volleyball's Maggie Harding and women's cross country's Katie Rodden.  Football's Pete Massaro and Urschel earned first team Academic All-America honors.  Harding won the Elite 89 Award for the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship for having the highest cumulative grade point average of student-athletes participating in the championship.

With so many events to choose from, narrowing down the list of outstanding Penn State sporting events from 2012 to just 10 was a challenge, but here are your 10 nominees for the top sporting event of the outstanding 2012 calendar year for Penn State Athletics.

From now until Dec. 28, cast your vote for the top event of the year.

7550286.jpegMen's Track's Robby Creese Breaks Four-Minute Mile
February 12, 2012 - Seattle, Wash. - Freshman Robby Creese runs 3:59.52 mile

Freshman phenom Robby Creese etched his place in Penn State history by becoming just the third athlete in school history to break the four-minute barrier in the mile run at the Flotrack Husky Classic at the University of Washington.  Riding the wave of momentum following a superb start to his first indoor track season in Happy Valley, Creese ran a 3:59.52 mile, which was the second fastest in Penn State indoor track history.  Creese joined Ryan Foster and Larry Mangan as the only three Nittany Lions to crack four minutes.

7674055.jpegWrestling Clinches Second-Straight NCAA Title
March 17, 2012 - St. Louis, Mo. - Penn State Clinches NCAA Championship

Head coach Cael Sanderson and the Penn State wrestling team reached the mountain top of the wrestling world for the second-straight season with a truly dominant performance at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis.  The Nittany Lions mathematically clinched their third all-time team national title during the morning session inside the Scottrade Center on final day of competition at the three-day tournament.  Penn State put icing on the cake with three individual national champions, including senior Frank Molinaro (149), sophomore David Taylor (165) and sophomore Ed Ruth (174), who finished the 2011-'12 season with a combined record of 88-0.  Penn State cleared second-place Minnesota by 26.5 points in the final team standings.

8416705.jpegWomen's Basketball Beats LSU for Sweet Sixteen Berth
March 21, 2012 - Baton Rouge, La. - Penn State 90, LSU 80

When the 2012 NCAA Tournament draw was released, the fourth-seeded Lady Lions knew their road to the Sweet Sixteen would likely include a clash against fifth-seeded LSU on its home floor.  The Big Ten regular season champion Lions dispatched UTEP in the first round in Baton Rouge, setting up a showdown with the host Tigers for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.  LSU led 37-36 at halftime before claiming a 50-44 edge in the second half.  However scoring runs of 9-2 and 8-2 from Penn State in in the second half, along with a 30-point night from Maggie Lucas fueled the Lions for a 90-80 victory over LSU in a hostile Maravich Center.  The Lady Lion victory sent Penn State into the Sweet Sixteen for the 12th time in program history.

7821970.jpegMen's Volleyball Tops George Mason for 14th-Straight EIVA Crown
April 28, 2012 - Rec Hall - Penn State 3, George Mason 1

Penn State's string of success in the EIVA is unmatched.  On the heels of the heels of claiming the best record in the conference in 2012, Penn State earned the luxury of hosting the championship match on its home floor.  The eighth-ranked Nittany Lions used 15 kills from Joe Sunder and 11 kills from freshman Aaron Russell to claim a 3-1 victory over George Mason in the EIVA title match inside Rec Hall.  The Lions quickly built a 2-0 lead after a strong start to the match, but George Mason answered by winning the third set.  Nonetheless, Penn State erased a 12-9 Patriot lead in the fourth set en route to the victory, automatic bid in the national semifinals and its 27th appearance in the NCAA Championship.

navyfootball.jpgFootball Downs Navy for Bill O'Brien's First Win
September 15, 2012 - Beaver Stadium - Penn State 34, Navy 7

Following an 0-2 start to the 2012 season, the Nittany Lion football team had one of the best practices of its season on the Monday of Navy week.  Penn State did not look back from there.  Led by three touchdowns from standout sophomore receiver Allen Robinson, the Nittany Lions rolled past Navy, 34-7, en route to the first victory for head coach Bill O'Brien.  The Lions led 20-0 at halftime following a pair of Robinson scores and a third touchdown pass from Matt McGloin to Jesse James.  McGloin finished with four touchdown passes, and sophomore Mike Hull put an exclamation point on the victory with a 74-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in the second half.  O'Brien received a shower of water when the clock ticked to 0:00, and the win kick-started a string of five-straight victories for the Nittany Lions. 

8416731.jpegField Hockey Shuts Out Michigan for Big Ten Title Sweep
November 4, 2012 - Iowa City, Iowa - Penn State 2, Michigan 0

On the heels of winning the Big Ten regular season title, the Nittany Lion field hockey team capped off an impressive run through the postseason tournament draw with a dominant defensive performance against third-seeded Michigan.  Standout senior forward Kelsey Amy tallied both of Penn State's goals to lead the Nittany Lions to a 2-0 victory over the Wolverines and their second-straight Big Ten Tournament championship.  Senior goalkeeper Ayla Halus notched three saves and earned her fourth shutout of the season.  The victory boosted the Lions into hosting NCAA Tournament competition for second time in three seasons.

8308722.jpegWomen's Cross Country Claims NCAA Regional Title on Home Course
November 9, 2012 - Blue/White Course - Penn State Clinches NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional

There is no better motivation for a team to enter a season knowing it has an opportunity to host postseason competition at home.  When the Nittany Lion cross country team began its formal preparations for 2012 at the end of the summer, it knew the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals loomed on the Blue/White Course loomed in early November.  Penn State took full advantage of the opportunity and unseasonably warm weather to edge No. 9 and defending NCAA champion Georgetown (61-63) for a victory.  Junior Victoria Perri and senior Brooklyne Ridder led the way with fourth and sixth-place finishes, respectively.  The Lions went on to finish 14th at the NCAA Championships on Nov. 17.

8416748.jpegFootball Ousts Wisconsin on Senior Day to Remember
November 24, 2012 - Beaver Stadium - Penn State 24, Wisconsin 21 OT

It would have been hard to script a better ending to the 2012 football season.  A senior class that will forever be remembered for its commitment to Penn State had to earn ever ounce of success it achieved, even on its special day.  After an emotional senior ceremony to honor the 31 members of the senior class, the Nittany Lions quickly found themselves down 7-0 to Wisconsin.  The Lions rallied back to take a 21-14 lead until the final 18 seconds of the game when the Badgers sent the contest into overtime with a late score.  Sam Ficken's leg put Penn State up 24-21 in OT before a missed field goal preserved the Senior Day win.  Defensive tackle Jordan Hill was the star of the show.  Hill was simply not going to let the Lions be denied in his final game, notching 12 tackles in dominant fashion.

8369918 (1).jpegWomen's Soccer Edges Florida State in Dramatic Fashion for first Trip to College Cup Final
November 30, 2012 - San Diego, Calif. - Penn State 2, Florida State 1 OT

After winning its 15th-straight Big Ten title, the Nittany Lion women's soccer team etched its place in program history with a remarkable run through the NCAA Tournament.  But the string of postseason victories will be trademarked by a soggy night in San Diego on the final day of November.  The Nittany Lions had been to the College Cup three times before their trip to the West Coast, but never to the College Cup Final.  Senior midfielder Christine Nairn changed that with an overtime goal that will live in Penn State women's soccer lore forever.  After taking a 1-0 lead in the 57th minute, Penn State held on until the final 48 seconds when Florida State tied the contest in improbable fashion.  Nevertheless, Penn State's senior class was not going to let the season end.  A long pass from Maddy Evans on the right wing into the box set up Nairn's tap-in, game-winner from six yards out, sending Nittany Lion women's soccer into the College Cup Final for the first time in program history.

8393292.jpegWomen's Volleyball Punches Ticket to 10th NCAA Semifinal
December 8, 2012 - West Lafayette, Ind. - Penn State 3, Minnesota 1

Faced with the task of needing a third victory over the same team to earn a spot in the NCAA National Semifinals, the top-seeded and Big Ten champion Nittany Lion women's volleyball team entered its regional final match in Purdue's Mackey Arena focused on the task at hand.  Penn State built a 5-0 lead over eighth-seeded Minnesota in set one en route to a 1-0 lead in the match.  No strangers to adversity, though, the Nittany Lions dropped set two and found themselves in a 23-21 deficit in the third set.  Just two points from going down 2-1 in the match, Penn State answered.  Micha Hancock and Deja McClendon combined for four-straight tallies to make it 25-24 before Big Ten Player of the Year Ariel Scott finished the match with a kill, punching Penn State's ticket into the NCAA Semifinals for the fifth time in six season and the 10th time in school history.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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