January 2017 Archives
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's Nick Aponte knew as soon as he was named 2017 team captain, he was going to be the example for the younger Nittany Lions. Head coach Jeff Tambroni knew that Aponte, Penn State's lone captain this year, was fit for the job based on his work ethic on the field and his approachable personality.
"I think in a lot of ways, it provides a great deal of confidence because he has a productive balance of being very loose and very confident, but also being very focused," Tambroni said. "I think you can become very loose and very vocal and lose your focus, or you can become too focused and become too tight and not be able to adapt to adversity throughout the game."
Tambroni said that his team has really played off of Aponte's fun-loving personality off the field, but the team and coaches respect how driven and focused he is on the field.
Aponte is one of the key returning starters at attack this season and his 30 goals for the Nittany Lions during the 2016 campaign led the team, making his offensive presence essential for Penn State's success. He also had 19 assists last season, good for second on the team.
Among a wealth of highlights from the season, Aponte secured Penn State's upset win against then-No. 8/7 Harvard with the game-winner in overtime. He also closed out the season with a team-high four goals in each of the final four games of the season, entering 2017 on a 32-game point-scoring streak that dates back to April 5, 2014.
At attack, the Nittany Lions also return sophomore standout Grant Ament, who quickly gained recognition last season for his playmaking abilities in just his first season at Penn State.
Ament scored 20 goals last season, but his 34 assists were what made him a dual threat as a distributor with the ability to finish if needed. Ament's 34 assists also closed out the year as the most for a Nittany Lion since John Hollerbach notched 38 in in 1989. His 2.43 assists per set also closed out the year ranked third in the conference and sixth nationally.
Between Aponte and Ament, the pair took more than 120 shots on net, combining for 50 goals.
In the offensive zone, the Nittany Lions return all but one starter this season, having lost senior TJ Sanders, Penn State's second all-time leading scorer to graduation last spring. In his place, freshman attacker Mac O'Keefe has quickly emerged, even with just preseason games under his belt.
O'Keefe comes into the mix at a critical time, since Sanders' departure had already left a hole for another left-hander to take his place. For Aponte and Ament, O'Keefe has been fitting into that spot nicely.
"To be able to add someone with Mac's skill set is perfect for [Aponte and I] considering we're more dodging attackers, not necessarily finishers," Ament said. "With the things Mac is able to do with the ball from about 12 yards and in, if we're able to set him up we should be able to compliment him really well."
also highlighted that the return of sophomore attacker Jimmy Nowoswiat in
addition to midfielders Matt Florence, Kevin Hill, and Ryan Keenan, who will
all be essential for the Nittany Lions this season. Tambroni has said that he
might switch things up at midfield, but those changes won't be sorted out until
closer to the regular season.
Aponte said that during fall practices and into the preseason, the offense has keyed in on being more creative on the field, which he says hopefully will transition into an explosive offense. Additionally, the offense has focused less on set plays and more on going with the flow of the game.
"We've been really focused on transition offense, early offense, offense where if it's just us three playing against our defensemen, maybe if we're up a man, down a man, seeing if we can maybe get a shot off before we settle into our 6-on-6 offense," said Aponte. "But just looking at the offense as a whole, we have that talent there it's just a matter of working hard out on the field."
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's hockey team is focused on returning to Big Ten play, as the Nittany Lions head to Minnesota this weekend.
Penn State is coming off a 5-4 loss to Princeton last Saturday in the Philadelphia College Hockey Faceoff and looking for redemption. Despite the final score, head coach Guy Gadowsky was pleased with the team's overall showing.
"Offensively the guys played really well, 47 shots, 22 chances," Gadowsky said.
For Gadowsky though, he noted that he focused his Nittany Lions a little too much on the offensive side of things. Although taking his eye off of Penn State's defensive performance, he praised players like freshman defenseman Kris Myllari for standing out as a top performer of the weekend.
"I'll tell you what, Kris Myllari was the best player on the ice Saturday night for sure," Gadowsky said. "He was tremendous."
Myllari blocked eight shots on Saturday and currently has a three-game point streak.
As for Minnesota, the Nittany Lions faced the Gophers four times last season, amassing a 2-2 record, including a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory in Hockey Valley last January. Gadowsky is looking forward to the challenging weekend the Nittany Lions have ahead of them, hoping to use this weekend to get back to the team's early season success.
"Every team goes through ups and downs, every team does," Gadowsky said. "There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about what's going on right now, even with the results."
Penn State will travel to Minnesota for back-to-back outings against the Golden Gophers beginning Friday, Feb. 3 before wrapping up Saturday, Feb. 4.
By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While the Illinois Fighting Illini may have come into Happy Valley looking to play like their namesake with physical, assertive play, it ended up being their downfall as Penn State was able to combat it with an aggressive mentality all the while remaining under control. With the level-headed attack, the Lady Lions were able to open up their game and cruise to an 82-66 victory.
Penn State's gameplan was executed to perfection in many ways early on, and it all started with the full-court press on defense. In the first half, the Blue and White were able to elicit 12 turnovers and three steals, turning them into 18 total points going the other way.
"We wanted to be aggressive with defense. We wanted to have active hands to try and speed the game up so that we could force some turnovers," coach Coquese Washington said. "I thought that our depth was a huge factor in our ability to mix up the defenses and stay aggressive on the boards."
The ability to turn defense into offense propelled the Lady Lions into leads as big as 11 entering the second quarter. Illinois continued to push forward with their physical play, but they struggled to avoid fouling in the process.
Between the starters alone, Illinois racked up 14 fouls. This was especially troubling for the visitors since the Fighting Illini came into the matchup tied for 12th in the nation from the charity stripe, converting 77.7 percent of the time. They would continue to have success there by being perfect in 13 attempts from the line, but the sheer volume of fouls acquired allowed Penn State to thrive in the bonus, earning 10 more points in 18 more attempts.
Coach Washington said it was part of the team's mentality to dominate at the stripe after being beaten there handily before.
"We certainly talked about defending better after coming off the Indiana game where they shot 30 free throws and we shot 10. I thought that we put a lot of emphasis on it and we did a better job with it today," Washington said.
With several Illinois players in foul trouble and two leaving the game early because of fouling out, the veterans of Penn State's offense were able to take advantage by friving to the hoop. Two players that stood out were seniors Kaliyah Mitchell and Sierra Moore, producing similar results by each having big games.
Mitchell put up 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting along with six rebounds in just 15 minutes on the court. The forward led a bench unit on the night that outscored the Illini 35 to 11. She helped elevate the team and really changed the game when out on the floor.
"I thought that [Kaliyah] was a difference maker in the game for us," Washington said. "She was impactful on both ends of the floor. She came in the game and gave us a little bit more speed and a little bit more ability to guard."
Moore also made an impact in her ability to electrify the team with her feisty play. She would continue to drive inside and draw foul after foul, converting on seven of her nine free throw attempts. Her final sheet would read 19 points (a team best and season high for her), going 6-of-9 from the field and a plus-18 plus/minus while in the game.
"Sierra Moore is our 'Energizer Bunny,'" Washington said. "She doesn't know how to go half speed or turn it off and that is a great thing for us. When she is going out and getting rebounds or making baskets and being aggressive, it opens up a lot of things for everyone else."
The team captain was humble with her big game, saying it was just her playing her part.
"[Being aggressive] and getting to the basket is one of my roles. When we all take care of our roles everything flows really well for [our team]. I just tried to do that to help my team win," Moore said.
With the big game and the big win, the Lady Lions now look to keep the momentum going as they hit the road for a pair of Big Ten games. Even though uncertain territory lies ahead, the squad plans to take their mindset from this game and continue to concentrate on staying in control.
"The answer is execution," Washington said. "You cannot focus on two road games or seven more regular season games, you have to focus on one game plan and executing one game plan at a time which is exactly what we are going to do."
Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Three pins highlighted an outstanding 45-3 win for the Nittany Lions against the Northwestern Wildcats Sunday afternoon in front of a season-high crowd of 6,630.
"I think the effort was good for the most part," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. "You're always looking to improve obviously but overall, I think we wrestled well and all things considered, we were out in Wisconsin two days ago and we get back in time to get off the bus and go right to practice last night and we're wrestling again [today]. But I think the guys, overall we looked good."
True freshman Nick Suriano set the tone with a pin of Anthony Rubinetti 3:10 into the bout while Caleb Livingston collected a pin in his first home dual at Rec Hall at 165 pounds. Jason Nolf also recorded a pin at 157 pounds.
"The atmosphere was awesome," Livingston said. "Wrestling in Rec Hall has always been a dream of mine when I started on the team four-and-a-half years ago.
Livingston was named the Ridge Riley Award winner, given to the most outstanding wrestler of the dual. The Vollrath family, whose son Jimmy, a former Penn State wrestler, passed away earlier this year, presented the award to Livingston.
"I found out afterward when I won the Ridge Riley award that in Jim Vollrath's last match he also won the Ridge Riley award with a pin," Livingston said. "So for me that was pretty special. He was a good friend of mine, a wrestling partner, who we lost earlier this year, so it really meant a lot to me that we had very similar circumstances and I was able to win the award as well as him."
Livingston said it was a teammate that taught him the move he used to win with the pin, one that meant so much to him in honor of a former Nittany Lion.
"That's a move I've got to credit Zain [Retherford] with for showing me," Livingston said. "I learned it because he hit it on me about three or four times in practice in one match and pinned me with it. I turned to him and said hey you have to show me that move because I wasn't going anywhere. So we worked on it, that was about two weeks ago, and when I got on top of him I felt his arm kind of extend and I knew that move was there so I went for it."
Just last year, Livingston wrestled in six bouts at heavyweight to replace a then-injured Nick Nevills, jumping up to 205 pounds, but this year he feels much lighter wrestling at 165.
"I feel a little lighter now that I'm not a heavyweight anymore for that brief stint," Livingston said. "It took me a while to get that weight off. I got up to 205, but that was a whole lot of Canyon Pizza."
Jimmy Gulibon also dazzled the crowd, continuing his momentum with a tech fall win over Alec Mckenna. Gulibon has now scored 35 points in the last six periods of wrestling.
"He's wrestling well," Sanderson said. "His shots are great, his attacks are great, he's just as solid as he has ever looked so I'm excited for Jimmy [Gulibon] and for the rest of the season. It's fun for us and we like him, we want to see him happy, going out there and having a good time."
Mark Hall collected his first home dual win, but by forfeit. While, Zain Retherford also won by forfeit, securing 50 straight wins for the junior.
Although the Northwestern forfeits weren't exactly what Sanderson was expecting coming off of the road victory at Wisconsin Friday night, there wasn't much Penn State or Northwestern could do.
"It's disappointing when you find out your guys don't get matches, we want them to wrestle, especially after we missed a tournament in December," Sanderson said. "We wanted to watch Zain wrestle, we wanted to see Mark Hall wrestle, we wanted him to get that match. They didn't do that on purpose, it just kind of is what it is."
The Nittany Lions travel next to Columbus, Ohio to face the Buckeyes at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb 3.
By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Rebounding from midweek road loss at Ohio State, Penn State men's volleyball went 6-1 in a pair of wins against Mount Olive and Coker at Rec Hall this weekend.
Friday night, the Nittany Lions swept past Mount Olive to record its 10th consecutive victory in the all-time series against the Trojans. Chris Nugent and Lee Smith both had big nights offensively, combining for 26 kills, just four less than the Trojan's team total.
The next night, Penn State completed its undefeated weekend, taking down Coker in the first meeting between the two teams in program history.
Coker entered the matchup with an undefeated record, but it was strong outing by the Nittany Lions that handed the Cobras their first loss of the year in four sets.
The Cobras were the first to five in the opening set, but the Nittany Lions quickly worked their way to a lead. When Penn State pulled ahead at 16-13, neither team was able to build a lead of more than three, before the Nittany Lions scored five consecutive points to break the 20-point mark with a commanding 20-13 lead.
A big part of the Nittany Lions success came from Smith, who finished the night with 16 kills, eight digs and five blocks. Smith was joined by Nugent and Calvin Mende, who each had 12 kills each, to give Penn State a total of three Nittany Lions with double-digit kills.
Postgame, Nugent gave credit to his team's ability to execute its plays with quality passing.
"We were able to stay in system a pretty good amount," Nugent said. "When we hit .479, it's usually pretty good passing, so Luke [Braswell] can kind of run whatever he wants, so I think that helped us a lot too."
Penn State rode their hot streak to set point at 24-17, but the Cobras answered to arrive within two at 24-22. Setter Aleksa Bijelic's service error ended the comeback giving Penn State the first set, 25-22.
An emphatic block by Mende and Kevin Gear opened the second set, establishing the tone for the Nittany Lions for the rest of the set. Penn State followed with three more blocks and 13 kills, attacking at a .600 clip as they cruised to a 25-16 victory for a 2-0 lead at the intermission.
With Penn State leading the match, 2-0, Coker came out aggressive behind the big arms of Joao Victor Santos and Luca Berger, powering the team to a 25-22 victory.
Head coach Mark Pavlik and his squad came out with a different look than they did in the third set, battling back with stellar all-around play, limiting Coker to -.045 hitting to secure a 25-14 win in the final frame to secure the win.
With the big weekend, coach Pavlik said he was pleased with the
team's ability to finish out the month strong as the Nittany Lions head toward
"I think it's important every weekend that you close on a high," Pavlik said. "And it just propels you into a week where we can sit down and look at the shortcomings that popped out at us and attack it."
With February looming and EIVA competition drawing closer, Penn State is happy to have earned its wins, but will not remain content, continuing to push forward/'
"This team enjoys the win, and then it's over with," Pavlik said. "They tend to turn things around pretty quickly. I'm sure they'll enjoy this win tonight, and then Monday get in the gym and start preparing for Saint Francis."
"We could've easily let that one slip away but we made the necessary plays down the stretch to find success and I'm really proud of them," head coach Patrick Chambers said.
Although entering Saturday afternoon's matchup on a three-game skid, the Nittany Lions found a way to reignite the energy from the sound of the first whistle, earning Penn State's fourth January victory for the first time in the Chambers era.
"That's the first time we've done that in my six years here," Chambers said. "To be able to get to 4-5 [in the Big Ten] and creep up the standings a little bit is a credit to these kids and the upperclassmen that kept competing."
Firsts seem to be a little bit of a theme for the Nittany Lions on Coaches vs. Cancer day as more than 10,000 filled the Bryce Jordan Center, including former players in honor of alumni day.
In the first half, Penn State shot out to the early advantage as veteran leaders Shep Garner and Payton Banks came alive from the 3-point line, knocking down a trio of triples. Penn State cruised to halftime, with a last-second bucket from freshman Tony Carr bolstering the advantage to as many as 20 points, 45-25.
Heading into the locker room, Penn State was clicking, shooting 60 percent from the field to match its best first half since the Michigan State win at the Palestra in early January.
As Chambers and his Nittany Lions have noted all season though, the offensive momentum, the lead and the shooting clip aren't exactly the focus, but rather, it's what's happening defensively that leads to the offensive success.
In the locker room at halftime though, the message was keeping the consistency alive, playing out the full 40 minutes.
"We did it in non-conference when it was coming down the stretch at St. Johns, Wright State, and Morgan State," Chambers said. "I feel like we got to that goal, and in the Big Ten, it's a whole other animal."
True to his note, it was Illinois that came out in the second half looking like a whole other animal.
"Coach [Chambers] was telling us they're one of the toughest teams in the league, so just like us, we usually have a lot of fight, and we knew they were going to try to make a run," Banks said.
With Penn State leading by as many as 21 five minutes into the second half, Illinois adjustments led to a 28-10 run that narrowed the Nittany Lion advantage to as few as three.
Banks looked to double the lead with his fourth 3-pointer of the day, but Illinois answered right back with another triple to trim the gap back to three, 65-62 with less than two minutes to play in the game.
Next it was Garner who went 4-for-4 from the free throw line, in the final few minutes of play, drawing the Illinois charge to send him to the charity stripe to keep Penn State ahead by five with eight seconds to play, 69-64.
"Shep really set the tone to make his free throws down the stretch there, that shows where his head is right now," Chambers said. "I think we see an emerging leader. He's definitely back."
Garner led the team with 18 points, including four 3-pointers. Although quieter than usual across the last few games, Garner showed glimpses of settling back into a rhythm with three triples in Tuesday's trip to Wisconsin.
That's no reason to be concerned for Garner though, who simply hit the gym and continued to listen to his teammates to break free from the slump.
"My teammates always tell me to shoot," Garner said. "They've been telling me to shoot when I'm open, so that just gave me a little bit of confidence coming into the game."
Along with Garner though, Banks finished second on the team with 17 points, shooting 5-for-8 from the field despite being limited to just one three in the second half.
"I think they did a really good job finding me in transition," Banks said. "That's where I like finding a lot of my threes."
Aside from the veteran leadership though, curious case of the Nittany Lion dunks came back to help Penn State in the win.
In each of Penn State's Big Ten wins this season the Nittany Lions have posted at least five dunks, with PSU registering five in the win against the Illini.
For Garner, the dunks are a sign that the energy is back.
"Dunks definitely get me excited, because I'm not the most athletic person," Garner said. "I like to see dunks a lot. That's my thing. I like to give up passes for dunks."
For Chambers though, he would prefer it a little differently."I wish stops and charges and big-time grown-man rebounds that are above the rim, I wish those would get us going instead of dunks," Chambers said. "We need juice, we need energy, we need that fire. Especially when you're going through a grueling 10 minutes."
By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Three weeks ago, when asked about her personal goals, senior Laura Bowman talked about wanting to make it to 100 points. In the third period of Saturday's game, that became a reality as Bowman tallied her most significant point on an assist to Amy Peterson.
"Honestly, when it happened, I didn't realize it," Bowman said. "I knew I hit 99, but then when I hit the 100 I kind of forgot about it. Amy had such a great shot. I just threw it in front of the net and she bounced it off the post and in. I was just so happy that we were getting closer and closer to them."
Despite Bowman's achievement, the Lions came up just a little short, losing a hard-fought 4-3 decision to the Mercyhurst Lakers. Bowman remained positive after the game, keeping her mind focused on the road ahead.
"There's a lot of hockey left, I think this team only has up to look. I think we're going to do some great things later this season and I'm going to expect some big things from everyone else too," she said.
The result didn't come without drama, as the Nittany Lions erased a two-goal deficit early in the game and had multiple quality chances to tie the score in the third period.
With just about seven minutes remaining, Bowman found Petersen on a centering pass to the weak side which led to a wide open shot on net that was thwarted by the glove of the Mercyhurst goalie at full extension. Not long after, a shot from the point clanked off the goalpost, one of several Penn State shots that drew iron throughout the game.
"They're game-changers," interim coach Dean Jackson said. "I think today we hit four or five posts. Give the goalie credit [on Peterson shot], she made a terrific save. Amy got a lot of wood on it and it was a rocket to the weak side. Those ones sting. You feel as if you've got it and then you just feel like you literally got robbed. But we kept going and that's excited. We didn't fold and we kept pushing."
"It's frustrating, but it's also good to see that we're getting chances and pucks on net and really testing the goalie," Bowman said. "Yesterday, we weren't really getting that many chances, but today seeing those was really helpful. I think that our team is resilient enough to be able to handle that."
Plenty of resiliency was present at Pegula Ice Arena in the stands, as the annual Skate for the Cure game not only helped raise funds, but also recognize some of the breast cancer survivors in the crowd. The largest crowd of the season (990) welcomed the survivors with a loud ovation and made the entire afternoon very enjoyable.
"It's always great, I love our pink game," Bowman said. "We always have such a great crowd and it's awesome to see everyone support such a great cause and we really love skating for a great cause in front of that many people."
"That was fantastic," Jackson said. "I've only been here since the beginning of the season but that was definitely the largest crowd that I've seen. You could see the enthusiasm that they had so it was really nice to see them engaged and involved."
Saturday also served as the final postgame skate opportunity, giving the large crowd a chance to interact with some of the players while having some fun.
The same could not be said for Friday night's game, as the Nittany Lions fell in a 6-0 defeat in the first game of the series.
"It wasn't the prettiest of games for 60 minutes," Jackson said. "Certainly a penalty-filled game and when that happens, there's no flow to the game. It's tough to build any type of momentum."
Ten penalties in total were called on Penn State, equating to an entire period of playing with a man down.
"We've got to move our feet, we've got to be in the right positions," Jackson said. "We've got to anticipate the plays. When we get caught out of position and don't move our feet, that's when the sticks come out for the hooks and trips and interference."
The Nittany Lions are off next weekend before starting a four-game road trip consisting of visits to Lindenwood and Robert Morris in back-to-back weeks.
As always, it's time for the Nittany Lions to keep looking forward.
"It's always difficult to walk away from a weekend 0-2," Jackson said. "I think yesterday we definitely didn't deserve that, but I think today we played well enough to be on the other side of the column. There are certainly some things we need to clean up and I'm really looking forward to tackling Monday."
By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Isaiah Harris, Tessa Barrett and Danae Rivers currently all have NCAA leading times after the Penn State National Open this past weekend.
Sophomore Isaiah Harris started the day off with a bang. Harris and Penn State alum, Casimir Loxsom ran a world record-breaking race in the 600m. Loxsom won the race with a time of 1:14.91. Not far behind, Harris came in second with a time of 1:14.96. Loxsom and Harris are now No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, respectively.
"I felt really good throughout the whole race, even when I was done," said Harris. "I knew Cas was going to go out fast like we talked about what he was going to do before the race. I knew he was going to try to go out at 48, so I knew if I just stuck with him it would be a perfect race for me. So, I want to thank Cas for pulling me along."
Harris and Loxsom had already ran against each other at this past summer's Olympic trials, so they had formed a special bond on and off the track.
"We talked a lot, like we texted, talked on Twitter and stuff like that. We kept in contact, so he's like a friend now. It's pretty cool," said Harris. "We were at Oregon at the trials and he had dinner with us a few times and hung out with me and (Penn State alum Brannon) Kidder. It's cool having someone who can push you and be competitive with, but you're also friends with at the same time."
This world record-breaking race is just a start of what the rest of the season will be for Harris.
"I think it's a big confidence boost for what I can do in the future," said Harris. "It's really going to help me in the 800. When we go out fast in the 800, the first 600 I'm going to feel more comfortable knowing that I can run faster than that. It's going to help me overall and hopefully it can lead to a faster 800."
Harris' time is now the collegiate 600m record and currently No. 1 in the nation.
Also on the track, sophomore Tessa Barrett broke the 3,000-meter school record running a time of 9:07.22, which is also the top time in the nation.
"I'm so glad I had Tori (Gerlach) to help push me along," said Barrett. "It was really cool because the (5,000m) school record holder, Bridget Franek, was here today, so that was really cool. I didn't even know."
This school record and leading national time is just the beginning for the rest of Barrett's indoor season. This mark and her teammates will only push her to achieve more going forward.
"I think it was a good benchmark just to know that I could run that time. I think moving forward, just keep the ball rolling," said Barrett. "It's amazing having teammates like Danae and Isaiah and seeing them run amazing, it's just inspiring me to do more. I think we got a lot of energy right now so definitely just keep moving forward."
Along with those huge performances, freshman Danae Rivers is right there with her older teammates. Rivers is now 3-for-3 in school records. Rivers has broken the 600m school record, the 800m school record and now the mile school record consecutively in past three meets. Rivers' mile time of 4:34.87 is now No. 1 in the NCAA.
"I had a game plan from the get-go, so I knew to go out with Grace (Trucilla) who was rabbiting today. Stick with her then that last 800 just keeping going," said Rivers. "It feels amazing. I'm on my feet right now so that's pretty good. I'm a little sore, but I'm just glad I got it done and working with the coaches is very great."
Head coach John Gondak knew that Rivers would be a top performer after watching her throughout this past preseason.
"It's pretty amazing. As I said after the first two, she did some things this fall in training that made me think that this was a special athlete and she just continues to show it," said Gondak. "What's pretty amazing is that you go 3:18 for a 1200 last night, then 4:34 No. 1 time in the country for the mile, then back it up with a second PR in the 4x4 with a split of 53.6 It's just amazing range and she's got some great opportunities ahead of her to do some special things and she's got a great head, looking forward to seeing where things go with her."
Gondak is more than pleased with the performances on and off the track that happened at the Penn State National Open.
"It got started with a bang with a world record, which was thrilling. Cas Lozsom came back and was shooting for that world record, and pulled Isaiah Harris to a collegiate record and the No. 1 and No. 2 times ever in the world. It was an exciting start," said Gondak. "The meet today produced a lot of Big Ten No. 1 performances and a lot of No. 1 NCAA performances. Across all of the events, it was just a fantastic National Open and I'm thankful for the teams that came here and made it a great experience."
By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - As the temperature dropped, so did the beat on Wednesday night in Freeman Auditorium as members of various Penn State athletic teams came together for the annual SAAB Lip Sync Battle benefitting THON.
The event, now in its second go-around, has gained notoriety because it is one of the few events throughout the year, outside of THON itself, where most Penn State teams come together to support a common cause in the same place.
Aly Hardy, Kate Rydland and Kelsey Crow represented the women's hockey team, performing a stirring rendition of Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" in front of a packed house.
Seeing the entertaining side of some of the other Penn State student-athletes is always an enjoyable experience, especially in something as fun and playful as a lip sync battle.
"We don't get to see that a lot, so it's really special when everybody gets together. Not all teams could come out, but we had a lot of people there. It was a good turnout," Hardy said.
Unfortunately for Hardy, Rydland and Crow, they were outdone by the women's soccer team's performance of Sia's "Chandelier" which earned the top spot.
"They did a really good job," Hardy said. "We didn't get to watch it, but we saw a video after and they did really well."
"It's a big deal for this team," coach Dean Jackson said. "They hold it at a special place in their heart and they take a lot of pride in what the university does and now with the program helping out in that cause."
Pegula will be decked out in pink, as fans who wear pink to the game will get in for free. Last year's edition of the game drew 1,373 fans, the highest total for that season.
The "Skate for the Cure" game will be at 2 p.m. Saturday against Mercyhurst. The teams also face off Friday night at 6 p.m.
By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following a tough loss in Bloomington, Indiana at the beginning of the week, Penn State returned to the practice gym in the Bryce Jordan Center to regroup and refocus before the second half of Big Ten play begins.
The Lady Lions have a six-day break before they get ready to host Illinois on Sunday, and standing at the midpoint of conference play, the bye is coming at just the right time.
The second half of conference play includes matchups with three of the top ten teams in the Big Ten, including Ohio State, who currently sits at No. 15 in the nation. The slate also includes four road games, with one week sending the team to Columbus and Evanston, Ill. for back-to-back games against Ohio State and Northwestern, respectively.
As those games approach, senior Kaliyah Mitchell says the players are focusing on adjusting certain aspects of their games that were weak to start the season.
"This break allows us to rest from all the games we've played but at the same time catch up on some work in class," Mitchell said. "So we take this time to also rebuild and work on things from the first half of conference play that we probably need to clean up a little bit so I think the bye week is really helpful for us."
Washington doesn't plan to change the team's practice schedule during the bye week too much, besides giving her players as much rest as possible.
"I wouldn't say there's big changes but certainly we take an extra day off than we probably normally would since we don't play right away," Washington said. "So we'll take an extra day off and allow them a chance to refresh and recuperate both mentally and physically."
As far as preference to when during the season the bye week is, Washington isn't too picky. She'd just prefer for it to come at a time when the team will most appreciate it and need it so that it can be advantageous to their season. With this year's break coming exactly in the middle of Big Ten play, there's nothing more Washington and her staff could ask for.
"It doesn't matter as long as it's not too early and not too late so you want it to be somewhere in there where the break is going to be beneficial," Washington said. "Sometimes when it's too early it's not really beneficial because you're just coming back from Christmas break and you don't really need a bye. If it's too late, you may be a little more exhausted because you've played too many games in a row.
The bye is the first of the year for the Lady Lions, with their second break coming in mid-February, just before the end of the season.
The Lady Lions are home against Illinois on Sunday, January 29 with tip set for 2 p.m.
By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com
student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State senior Jimmy Gulibon continued his season last week, while Nittany Lion freshman Mark Hall got his first experience in dual meet action.
For Gulibon, he earned a win over Iowa's then-No. 18 Topher Carton, remaining No. 12 in this week's InterMat rankings, having improved to 8-6 on the year.
Gulibon highlighted his matchup with a gritty come-from-behind performance, which featured four takedowns in the third period to secure the win.
"I was happy," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. "I could've kissed him when he was coming off - he probably wouldn't have liked that. That was a big match in the dual meet. That was one that they [Iowa] probably felt like they needed to get to win the dual. I think that's a great match for him to get and to get it in a big matchup like that and to score three or four takedowns in the third period to win, it's good to see and we're very proud of him."
Gulibon says he had such a strong third period because he knew he had to go all in.
"I felt good," Gulibon said. "I started off a little slow, didn't finish a shot or two, but then kept wrestling. I knew I was down and I knew I had to score some points, so I just kept wrestling and just started shooting. I didn't think about the score and just kept going."
This year though, it's the keep it simple mentality that's been driving the fifth-year senior All-American.
"I've had a couple rough matches here and there, a couple good matches here and there," Gulibon said. "I mean overall just keep wrestling and keep fighting. That's really it."
Looking ahead to the weekend, Gulibon and the Nittany Lions head to Wisconsin to take on the Badgers at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27 before returning home to host Northwestern at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 29 at Rec Hall. Gulibon will be tested yet again, set to face Wisconsin's No. 15 ranked Cole Martin.
Off the mat, Gulibon enjoys his time off and has a few lazy days, just like the rest of us. Gulibon is one of many Nittany Lion wrestlers who spent a bit of their free time gaming.
"I like to do nothing a lot, and I like to play video games," Gulibon said. "I also like working out and that's just about it."
Hall Competes in
In other Nittany Lion news, true freshman Mark Hall got the start at 174 pounds in last Friday night's Big Ten outing at Iowa. Although a surprise for Nittany Lion fans, Hall took his time making the decision surrounded by the support of his family, teammates and coaches.
"I knew Wednesday night," Hall said. "It was kind of my decision. I was kind of thinking about it for a while, but coach Cael [Sanderson], my teammates, and my parents were pretty adamant about letting it be something that I wanted to do if I wanted to do it and they were really open. No one was going to be really upset if I didn't and no one was going to be really upset if I did."
Hall was likely set to be designated as a redshirt freshman, posting an 18-1 record wrestling unattached this season with impressive tournament victories, capturing the title at the Binghamton Open and the Southern Scuffle, picking up Scuffle Outstanding Wrestler honors.
"Mark's a team player," Sanderson said. "He saw that he thinks he can help the team, but it was also a tough decision. A tough decision for him and I'm excited that we have Mark Hall in our lineup now. I'm excited about the next month and a half and getting him ready for nationals. I think you'll see him make a big jump between now and then. There's a difference when you're redshirting and not."
In high school, Hall went 277-4, putting together one of the most prolific high school careers, including a record six Minnesota state championships."It's hard for me to be just sitting and watching when I know I can be competing with these guys," Hall said. "I just think the more I was with the team and the more I was just seeing how things ran I just wanted to be a part of that. I think actually wrestling and getting in the Carver-Hawkeye environment, there's nothing better than wrestling somewhere like that, besides here of course."
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 'Mommy and Me' classes.
That's what started it all for freshman Kristen Politz.
Politz began to practice gymnastics with her mother when she was four years old. Soon after attending the classes, she fell in love with the sport and had no desire to stop.
"I love always improving, getting new skills and just trying to get better each week," Politz said.
Even at a young age, it was evident that Politz was an extremely talented gymnast. She continually practiced and at 12 years old, she had qualified for the Level 10 USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic National Championship meet six-consecutive times. During her senior year of high school, she was named the 2016 New Jersey Optional Gymnast of the Year across the Levels 7, 8, 9 and 10. She also captained her high school gymnastics team, at Saint John Vianney, to a second-place finish at the New Jersey State Championships.
"We started watching her when she was in eighth grade and just really liked what we saw," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "We watched her improve, progress and go from the Junior Olympic level to the Elite level for a little while before she came back to level 10. If I had to pick one thing about Kristen, the best would have to be her consistency in competition. It seemed like even if she had bad warm ups or the coach may have said she had a bad week, she was always able to step up under pressure and hit. That's the main thing for us - to get out there in a leotard in front of 5,000 people, be confident and hit your routines."
Nonetheless, it wasn't just gymnastics that held Politz's focus; she was actively involved in academics. In high school, she was named one of 30 New Jersey State Scholar-Athletes, held a four-year place on the Honor Roll of Distinction, was in the National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society and won the 2016 President's Education Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence.
"My high school accomplishments made me more confident coming into Penn State and I think a lot of the things I was able to achieve in high school helped me to be where I am at this point," Politz said.
She continues to show that as a Nittany Lion.
"The thing that separates Kristen from the other freshmen is her leadership ability," coach Thompson said. "She got accepted into the Sapphire Leadership Program here, and it's 50 freshmen that get invited out of 7,000. She's also part of our leadership committee. There's representation from all four classes and she is the freshmen representative."
The women's gymnastics team is only three meets into the season, and Politz is showing that she even though she may be young, she brings a lot of experience and skills to all the events.
Politz made her collegiate debut in the first meet of the season against BYU, Temple and Bowling Green. She started on the uneven bars and finished with a score of 9.775 to tie for eighth. She also tied for third (9.800) on balance beam and notched second (9.675) on floor.
"I like floor the best because there's so much enthusiasm. And I like dancing and having a powerful floor routine," Politz said.
In the second meet of the season against Nebraska, Politz completed in her first collegiate all around and finished third overall with a 39.050. She tallied 9.875 on the uneven bars, a 9.625 on the vault, a 9.750 on floor and a 9.800 on the balance beam.
"My experience has been amazing," Politz said. "Each meet, I'm learning something new. I just love the team aspect and all the excitement and energy that I get. It's a lot different than the feel in Junior Olympics."
When the Nittany Lions collected their fourth win of the season against Maryland, Politz was again there to help. She tied her career-best all around score of 39.050 for second place. She placed fourth in the vault (9.750), uneven bars (9.775), balance beam (9.700) and floor (9.825).
Even with the early success, Politz still has some skills that she hopes to build on.
"I need to make little improvements here and there to boost our all around score and our team score," Politz said. "I want to continue to be consistent and as a team, I want to try to get up in the rankings. Going into Big Ten's, I want to be really consistent and confident."
Outside of gymnastics, this freshman loves to hang out with friends, shop and just relax. But now, she's focused on her success at Penn State.
"She's able to look at this as a journey and where she was in the first meet of the year isn't where she plans to be at the end of the year, and most freshmen don't get that," coach Thompson said. "She's very mature for her age and we're glad she's here."
By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - From a young age, Penn State freshman gymnast Favian Valdez was a natural gymnast. Going all the way back to his playground days, Valdez referred to himself as a wild kid, racing around the monkey bars and swinging all over the place.
He chose gymnastics as a way to harness all the pent up energy inside him, and his original inspiration came from an unlikely source.
"When I was young, I was very hyper," Valdez said. "My dad would take me to the park and there was this one stranger that went up to my dad and asked if I was in gymnastics. He [Valdez's father] said no and he said, 'You should consider it.' So one day, my dad put me in gymnastics class and I ended up loving it. I've been doing it ever since."
The individual nature of a sport such as gymnastics allows little time for team development especially on the highly-competitive junior circuit. For Valdez, this doesn't seem to have been much of a problem, as he has been a three-time member of the Junior Olympic National Team, winning the national championship in vault and the all-around in 2014.
In college, however, the focus is much more on collective success and doing whatever you can to help the team win.
"My freshmen understand that there's a responsibility that's on them," head coach Randy Jepson said. "Some of them take it too heavily to where they're a little intimidated to let anybody down. That's a common thing with young guys but we'll hopefully get through that."
With an increased team aspect comes more focus and desire for Valdez, knowing that he has to devote much more of his time to be up to par with the elite guys in the gym. Just as any athlete, he wants to be the best and he uses those around him to motivate him. He finds a huge source of motivation from his teammates both in and out of the gym.
"All my teammates are super supportive," Valdez said. "They help me not just in the gym but outside too. They help me with school and the older guys are really supportive."
The motivation has paid off, as Valdez now has won Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors in back-to-back weeks. This award comes on the heels of three top-five finishes in the Nittany Lions' most recent meet, including an individual title on pommel horse.
"I heard Trevor [Howard] got a few of them, maybe six or seven," Valdez said. "I'm actually looking forward to trying to break that. It does give me confidence because I was a little nervous at first but I killed it last week and I did pretty well again this weekend."
"He's a really solid competitor, and we knew that he could compete at a high level coming in," Jepson said. "He's done that for years as a junior national competitor and it's good to have a guy who's seasoned that way. As his fitness and body develop, his skill level will expand and he'll be able to compete at a higher level."
Throughout his career prior to Penn State, Valdez was one of the highest rated prospects in the country, naturally leading to several Division I scholarship offers from some of the top schools for gymnastics. When it came time to make a decision, however, Valdez was very confident in his choice.
"Why wouldn't I come here?" Valdez said, "I mean, it's amazing. You have great facilities, great academics. Overall, it's the best I think."
Now that he's here, Valdez doesn't shy away from a challenge, particularly on the toughest event, which also happens to be his favorite: pommel horse.
"It's the hardest event for most guys," Valdez said. "I struggled with it first but I kept practicing it like crazy and now it's my best event."
Valdez and the Nittany Lions are back in action Jan. 29 at 1 p.m. when they travel to Springfield College.
By Jack Milewski, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Trust your arm, or T.Y.A. It's a phrase that Penn State senior Chris Nugent has been hearing that from head coach Mark Pavlik since the beginning of his freshman season. One day in practice it was Nugent who struggling with his back row attack, the next Pavlik was telling him to trust his arm.
"I just blew up at him," Pavlik said. "My final words, very emphatically, were trust your arm. T.Y.A. has kind of become a little mantra between the two of us and it's something he has bought into."
Nugent came to Penn State in the midst of former Nittany Lion All-American and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Aaron Russell's career, so Nugent was able to learn from the success of the upperclassman. Nugent's potential that has come to fruition throughout a stellar career though, has always been on Pavlik's radar. As a role player early on, it's sometimes tough to trust the physical gifts that you have. After that talk with Pavlik, Nugent has never doubted his ability though.
"He doesn't let me forget it either," Nugent said. "I hear it from him every day in practice and it's true. A lot of confidence has to be in every swing and so I keep trying to work toward that and helping the team on every swing I take."
Nugent has been taking swings with added importance as each year has passed. Transitioning from a role player to a leader on the court and focal point of the offense hasn't been easy, but he has made it seem that way. Last year he finished 12th in the nation in kills per set and was named an AVCA Honorable Mention All-American. The progression for Nugent has been noticeable and tremendous in his time at Penn State.
"He has the mentality where he always wants to get the best out of himself and his teammates," Pavlik said. "I think that has served him extremely well here in his playing career."
The transition for Nugent hasn't just been one of increasing offensive offensive production, as there has also been an added emphasis for Nugent to step up as a leader of the team. This year, Nugent is serving as one of the captains for what is a relatively young Nittany Lion squad.
Pavlik describes Nugent as someone who always wants the best for not just himself, but for everyone around him, a trait that has made the leadership transition easier for both Nugent and Pavlik.
"It's not only easy, it's desperately need every year," Pavlik said. "The guys who have been through four and five years and have found success, or maybe more importantly survived failure, are the ones who can turn around to a freshman or sophomore and say something."
Nugent has been a part of a lot in his time at Penn State, however last year's first ever loss in EIVA Tournament is one that has hung around throughout the offseason, not in a negative light, but more so as a motivational tool for this year's season.
During the offseason there was a lot of discussion surrounding Penn State's ability to come out and play with a chip on their shoulder. This year the focus is right back where it always is, working toward an EIVA championship.
"I think both being a senior and losing the EIVA last year have added motivation to this season for me," Nugent said. "Obviously I want to go out on top and losing the EIVA last year now we aren't the team to beat, so were trying to get back to number one."The quest for number one continues for Penn State against Mount Olive and Coker this Friday and Saturday. Nugent and the Nittany Lions have dropped two matches to a pair of ranked opponents, but will look to get back on track at home inside Rec Hall. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m. on both nights.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Filling the HUB-Robeson Center Freeman Auditorium with Penn State students and Nittany Lion student-athletes, the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) hosted its second annual lip sync battle Wednesday evening.
In a full for the kids effort, the annual event benefits THON, Penn State's Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon to support pediatric cancer.
Featuring musical lip syncing acts from 11 different Penn State Athletics programs, months worth of planning and preparation finally came together in an energetic evening for a tremendous cause.
"I think it just bring out more of the sense of community that we really already have in athletics," track and field sophomore and lead event coordinator Tess Kearns said. "We're so strong all together but to be able to something for THON and see the impact that it's making every year - if we could just raise that number even a little bit on final reveal, that would be all the difference."
From lip sync covers ranging from Justin Beiber mixes to Beyoncé, Sia and School of Rock, the event, which was open to all to attend, brought laughs throughout the night with guest judges featuring director of student-athlete welfare and development Liz Johnson, director of Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, John Affleck and Penn State Blue Band drum major Jimmy Frisbie.
Penn State women's volleyball highlighted early with their Justin Beiber mix, followed up with women's soccer's rendition of Sia's "Chandelier" midway through the program.
"SAAB THON is my favorite thing in the world," said SAAB THON chair Angela Widlacki, a member of the Nittany Lion women's soccer team. "Being able to come out here and see this huge crowd, it means so much to us and I know it meant a lot to our family the Messina's."
Men's hockey and defending SAAB lip sync battle champion wrestling closed out the evening lip syncing to a pair of movie tunes featuring "Zach's song" from School of Rock and "Breaking Free" from High School Musical.
With the final scores tallied, the panel of judges voted Penn State women's soccer duo of Widlacki and Liisi Vink-Lainas in the top spot this year to earn the golden microphone. Men's hockey finished second, while wrestling claimed the third-place finish.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky is stressing a back to basics mentality as it preps for a trip to Philadelphia for the Philadelphia College Hockey Faceoff against Princeton.
"This is all about us getting back to being who we are," Gadowsky said. "It doesn't matter who we're playing, that's how I feel."
Gadowsky, who was the head coach at Princeton from 2004-2011, is determined to get the Nittany Lions back on track after a tough showdown with Ohio State at home this past weekend. The Nittany Lions tied the Buckeyes on Friday night, but lost the shootout, before falling 6-3 on Saturday night.
The Nittany Lions have compiled an impressive 16-3-2 record this season though, something Gadowsky said shouldn't be overlooked.
"This doesn't, to me, negate what this team has done this year at all," Gadowsky said of the Ohio State series.
Gadowsky is hopeful that his team has rested up this week and is prepared for a single game against Princeton, in Penn State's fifth consecutive appearance at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday. Despite some minor improvements, Gadowsky emphasized this weekend will be all about getting back to the simple roots of Penn State Hockey.
"It's easy to think of the last game you played, but if you look at it as a whole this is a very special season they have going," Gadowsky said. "They've got to look at it that way."
Catch up with Penn State's David Goodwin as he looks toward this weekend's Princeton matchup.
By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior two-time Big Ten Champion Tori Gerlach thought her career as a Penn State runner was ending last year, but things quickly changed.
Gerlach had competed in four indoor meets during the 2016 indoor season and intended on running and competing during the 2016 outdoor season as well. Then, she got injured and couldn't compete at all for what was supposed to be her last outdoor season.
After carefully considering her options, Gerlach decided to come back for a fifth year at Penn State. Now, she knows this spring will be her very last time competing as a Nittany Lion.
"I'm excited, but I also thought I was done last year until all of a sudden, with two months to go, I had to change my plan entirely because I got injured," said Gerlach. "I'm really excited although it's kind of bittersweet, knowing it's coming to an end, but I feel like it's going to be the best season I've ever had."
Gerlach only has outdoor eligibility left, so she has spent this year's cross country and indoor seasons training for the upcoming season.
Although she isn't running for Penn State right now, she still gets to compete unattached in indoor home meets in order to be as prepared as possible for meets coming up this March.
"The training is still intense. I'm doing the same exact things; I just don't have that many races to prepare for," said Gerlach. "In cross country, I just trained for everything. I didn't have to cut back in mileage because I was racing. It was emotionally not as intense, which is really nice."
"Her training really doesn't differ that much than if she were competing in the indoor season," said head coach John Gondak. "She still is running in multiple races unattached and is training with the team. I wish the outdoor season would start tomorrow in respect to her, she's ready for it."
"She's a multiple Big Ten champion and will be a great asset to our team this outdoor season as we prepare to win a Big Ten Championship at home."
Having this chance to run at the indoor home meets unattached allows for Gerlach to get back in the racing mindset, so she isn't completely starting over this outdoor season.
"I am racing at home, and it definitely feels like I'm getting back into it," said Gerlach. "It's not as intense and I don't have to spend my energy worrying about (indoor) Big Tens and Nationals, I can just workout with my teammates, race with my teammates and know in the back of my mind that outdoor is the main focus."
Gerlach has been a huge part of this Penn State track and field program since she came in as a freshman in 2012.
She currently has the number one all-time indoor performances in the mile and the 1,000-meter run with times of 4:37.83 and 2:43.15, respectively. She also has the second all-time indoor performance in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 15:50.49 and the second all-time outdoor performance in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 9:53.98.
Gerlach is also a two-time Big Ten indoor champion where she won the 3,000-meter run in 2014 and then later won the 5,000-meter run in 2015.
Although track has been successful and a major part of Gerlach's college years, she says the whole student-athlete experience has impacted her life in more ways than just running.
"Being an athlete isn't all about the running and racing, it definitely has shaped me into who I am as a human being in general."
Gerlach and the rest of the Nittany Lions will kick off their 2017 outdoor season with the Pac-12-Big Ten Challenge in Tempe, Arizona on March 24th.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When Penn State's go-to energy guy Josh Reaves checks in to hit the court, the Nittany Lions typically find their spark. Last Saturday at then-No. 21 Purdue, Penn State had trouble generating its even its more recent second-half spark.
Penn State's last few conference outings have been a bit riding roller coaster-like, as the Nittany Lions have battled back from double-digit deficits on multiple occasions to either arrive right within, or even pull off the comeback, as demonstrated against the Golden Gophers fewer than 10 days ago.
On the road at Purdue though, something was missing as Chambers noted Monday afternoon that the much needed spark outside of a brief push, surprisingly didn't strike.
"I thought we would compete a lot more than we did," Chambers said. "I was a little surprised at that because these kids, they find a way typically to get it back - which we did, 24-20, but we never got it close again, which is disappointing."
With just a day to prep for No. 15 Wisconsin, Chambers will not be harping on the Purdue setback, rather turning the focus toward Penn State's response, the counter punch.
"I think that's what I want to see most," Chambers said. "I think we struggled as group. I want to see that punch, I want to see that response, I want to see that we're going to keep competing at a high level and I didn't really see it that much."
As the grind of the Big Ten slate continues to roll along, for Chambers, staying dialed in and focused isn't nearly as much of a physical challenge as it is a mental hurdle, especially for a younger squad experiencing nearly everything for the first time.
"Mentality is really 85 to 90 percent when you hit late January, February," Chambers said. "You have to push through and as freshmen, this is all very new to them, this level of competition."
The January, February mental grind is certainly familiar to Reaves though, as he can recall dealing with it just a year ago.
"You kind of learn from it just being in so many games," Reaves said. "Last year BT [Brandon Taylor] really helped me through it and definitely JD [Jordan Dickerson]. BT just pulled me aside and just told me that you're not going to have your best game every game and you're not going have the energy that you had the last game because we're going to be so tired and exhausted from everything that we're doing and how hard we play and you just have to tough it up and play basketball."
Now it will be on Reaves and the rest of the Nittany Lion leaders to reignite the spark that helped guide the Nittany Lions to a 3-1 mark in conference play in the first half of the month of January.
For Chambers the key to bringing back the energy all begins with movement, and as Reaves noted, a players-only film review after Purdue didn't just reveal an uncharacteristically low level of competition for the Nittany Lions. For Reaves, it will be defense that sets the tone for better offensive movement, triggered by purpose and a greater sense of urgency.
Penn State is set for a 9 p.m. ET tipoff at Wisconsin Tuesday night with live coverage on the Big Ten Network featuring Brian Anderson and Seth Davis on the call.
What About Wisconsin
Wisconsin enters the matchup atop the Big Ten standings fresh off of a 78-76 overtime win at Minnesota Saturday. At 16-3 on the year and 5-1 in conference play, the Badgers have put together an unblemished 11-0 mark at home in the Kohl Center this season, with the only league loss of the season coming on the road at then-No. 20 Purdue on January 8.
With wins in 12 of their last 13 games, Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ have been key components of the Badger success. In the last 13 games, Hayes is averaging 15.5 ppg, at a nearly 52 percent shooting clip. Contributing 13.6 ppg on the year, Happ is coming off of stellar performance against the Golden Gophers, where he led the team with 28 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and five blocks to earn Co-Big Ten Player of the Week honors.
Outside of the pair of surging Wisconsin starters, Chambers also noted that with a team that's senior led and experienced, the Badger bench can be just as potent as its starting five.
"They have a good group," Chambers said. "What's different from this group, is that I like their bench a lot, they have speed, they have some quickness."
More from Chambers on the Badgers below.
Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and
Penn State's road trip to Wisconsin followed by its home outing against Illinois Saturday are both part of Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Awareness week. A cause that hits close to home for Chambers, the Nittany Lions have been active supporters of the nationwide event each year. Encompassing coaches from around the country, staffs throughout the week will pair sneakers with their suits in honor of the event, which raises awareness regarding the importance of nutrition and physical activity in lowering cancer risks.
"We have to remember what's important and definitely raising awareness and raising money - I lost my brother obviously, and it has been difficult for everybody," Chambers said. "As long as we can bring it to that forefront this week, we're doing our part in raising that type of awareness."
Penn State will also lace up with yellow shoelaces in honor of Princess Lacey's Laces, in memory of 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth, a Michigan State basketball fan who passed away in 2014.
More from Chambers on Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Awareness week below.
Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's lacrosse head coach Jeff Tambroni, along with senior midfielder Dan Craig and senior defenseman Peter Triolo answered questions Monday afternoon for Spring Sports Media Day. Check out five things to know from the first session of the annual media event.
Veteran Presence Adds to Chemistry
The Nittany Lions return all but one starter from the 2016 team, something Tambroni is excited about. On attack, familiar names like sophomore Grant Ament and senior Nick Aponte will be staples this year. Ament and Aponte combined for 50 goals last season.
At the other end of the field, returners like senior defenseman Peter Triolo, along with sophomore defensemen Chris Sabia and Kevin Fox all return for the Nittany Lions. Triolo caused nine turnovers and picked up 14 ground balls during the 2016 campaign.
"There's a great deal of chemistry going into this year's season," Tambroni said. "As a coach we've been able to step back a little bit. This group is very mature, especially in the offensive end, there's a lot of veteran either starters or guys who logged a lot of minutes last year. Even the sophomores are playing like veterans right now and it's allowed them to have a lot more creativity."
Tambroni said the veteran presence on the field has allowed his coaching staff to allocate some responsibilities to the players, giving the coaches more time to observe the team and challenge them to play at the next level.
Schreiner Returns in Net
Junior goalie Will Schreiner will once again suit up for the Nittany Lions in net, after starting all 15 games during the 2016 season. Schreiner made at least 10 saves in 10 games last season, securing a .458 save percentage.
"His confidence has grown significantly over the course of the summer and into this fall," Tambroni said. "I would say that in conjunction with the competition we have, the two freshmen who came in, are really pushing him to be as good as he can be."
Tambroni said the competition between all the goaltenders on the team has only encouraged Schreiner to be game ready and focused.
Nonconference Schedule Challenges
The Nittany Lions start their regular season on February 4 when they host Robert Morris. Penn State will play nine nonconference games before facing their first Big Ten opponent, Ohio State, on April 2.
Tambroni and company are excited for their nonconference schedule, as the Nittany Lions will face teams such as Cornell and Cleveland State. Prior to Penn State, Tambroni was the head coach of Cornell's program from 2001-2010, while the 2017 season marks Cleveland State's first year as a Division I lacrosse program.
"I think it's important for us to do two things, one prepare our guys with a challenging schedule that is going to present some of the same issues that may rear themselves at the end of the season as we enter into the conference schedule," Tambroni said. "But also give our guys an opportunity to maybe try some things throughout the course of the year and see if we can get into the depth of our team."
Passing Down No. 16
After the summer of 2015, the Nittany Lions decided as a program to honor the memory of goaltender Connor Darcey in several ways. Penn State commemorated his memory by pinning the No. 16 to the back of their nets for every home game starting at the beginning of the 2016 season. The Nittany Lions also named the locker room after Darcey during a pregame ceremony before their Apr. 30, 2016 game against Michigan on senior day.
"He was a wonderful teammate, brother and son - hopefully that story will continue to be told year after year." - Tambroni on Darcey-- Penn State Lacrosse (@PennStateMLAX) January 23, 2017
But one of the most personal things the team has done, is pass down Darcey's jersey number. During the 2016 season, midfielder James Burke wore No. 16 to honor Darcey. This season, senior midfielder Matt Sexton was selected to wear No. 16 in a tradition that has become very important to the Nittany Lions.
Tambroni said he hopes passing down of the No. 16 will become a long-standing tradition for the program, long after his time as head coach is over and long after the players who played alongside Darcey have graduated.
"We had talked about retiring the number altogether, just throwing it back into the mix, or what they came up with was each year somebody would wear that and for the following year when the season was complete they would then hand it down to another senior," Tambroni said. "It would provide them an opportunity to talk about Connor Darcey and what he meant to them, what the number meant to them, what it meant to shoulder that responsibility but also that spirit."
Tambroni said he hopes that through this tradition, the memory of Darcey will resonate with players now and in the future, and allow future Nittany Lions to remember Darcey's enthusiasm for the sport but also his competitive nature on the field.
Former Nittany Lion Chris Hogan Headed
to Super Bowl
With the Super Bowl just around the corner, a familiar face to Penn State lacrosse fans will be donning a New England Patriots jersey for the occasion. Wide receiver Chris Hogan, who once wore the Blue and White as a part of the Penn State lacrosse program, will be competing for New England come Super Bowl Sunday on February 5. Hogan, a Penn State men's lacrosse graduate, also played football for one season at Monmouth.
"It's pretty surreal seeing him out there on the field on such a big stage knowing that he was one of us at some point in his life," Triolo said. "I think it puts into perspective that you can do anything you set your mind to and I'm really happy for him."
By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Monday afternoon, the women's lacrosse team joined the men's Lacrosse and track and field teams to speak to the media at the first session of Penn State's Spring Sports Media Days. With just under two weeks until the regular season opener, here are some takeaways from the team's comments.
Looking to Build off 2016
After a season that saw the Nittany Lions make a trip to the Final Four for the first time since 1999, Penn State finished last season with a ton of momentum and will look to pick up where it left off.
Coming off No. 4 ranking in the nation to end last year, the squad has an increased confidence and believes it can play with the best of the best.
"That process starts all over again this year, to get to the point to where no matter what team that we're playing, we really want to get out there and prove that we belong amongst the top teams in the country," head coach Missy Doherty said.
Penn State will open the season with four straight games in Happy Valley, where it has gone 29-6 over the past four years. If the Nittany Lions can generate enough steam with a solid start to the year, it should allow them to capture last season's magic and carry it with them through a schedule has the team facing a slate of eight of the country's top 20 preseason teams.
Chemistry and Experience Fuel a Seasoned Starting Lineup.
The Nittany Lions return eight of its 12 starters off last year's squad, keeping intact the majority of the starting lineup, especially on the defensive end.
"Returning a really big defensive group for the most part has helped us experience-wise and staying on top of things," Doherty said. "On defense, we're really ready to come out and stay on top of things and on offense we're still trying to gel as best we can."
Team captains and seniors, Erika Spilker and Abby Smucker, believe the fact the group has been able to prove it can go deep and knows what it's like to play in big games can help add on to the team's experience.
"It gets you the experience of being able to play the top teams and playing against other people who are the top players in the nation," Spilker said.
"[We can] just make it known to the underclassmen that there's no pressure when you get there, it's just another game. You approach it the same way," Smucker added.
Team Ready for New Playmakers
While only four starters were lost this past offseason, they made up the majority of the midfield and the goalie for last year's squad. Coach Doherty said while the team has a solid foundation, the offense will need to develop a little more in order to find some more players she can count on in clutch situations.
"I think the midfielders we lost, they were playmakers," Doherty said. "To be successful for the course of the season, we probably need two or three more people to really be those 'go-to's' that when crunch time comes, they take over and score points like those seniors that we lost did."
Doherty also said she has seen a lot of good competition from the possible netminders Cat Rainone and Madison Cunningham, and that she believes the veteran defense in front of the net will help them tremendously.
"With the experience we have coming back from defense, it helps that goalkeeping position," Doherty said. "It's not like they're going to have young players in front of them, they're going to have some pretty experienced players."
End Goals Won't Take Away from the Journey
In their national semifinal matchup with North Carolina, Penn State fell by just one goal to the eventual national champions and came as close as it gets to a national title bid. Now, with a team that has a lot of its essential core still remaining, the team is hoping to accomplish some big things.
As a rising program that is gaining national attention as a top-five ranked team in the preseason, coach Doherty said it's more important for her to focus on the play and the big moments that can come from it rather than a "guarantee" or the "end game."
The seniors, who have seen this team achieve better results each year, also want the team to succeed, but for them it's the journey that matters most.
"This is one of the hardest working group of girls that I've ever played with," Spilker said. "Just learning together and growing as a team is what I look forward to the most every season, and then hopefully that gets us to some goals we want to hit later in the season."
Penn State Lacrosse is a Family
Sunday night marked a big night for the Penn State men's lacrosse team, as one of its alums, Chris Hogan, helped lead the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl berth. The former Penn State midfielder hauled in nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns, giving not only himself, but also Penn State Lacrosse, a lot of national attention because of his incredible story.
Members of both the men's and women's lacrosse teams watched Hogan put on a show and said they were inspired and proud of what he has accomplished.
"Every time he caught it we were cheering for him," coach Doherty said. "Now you see someone who keeps making the best of the moments he's been presented with and what a great example for Penn State and Penn State Lacrosse."
"That was so exciting for us to see," Smucker said, while also mentioning Hogan's fiance, Ashley Boccio, also played lacrosse for the Blue and White. "It's great to see a Penn State Lacrosse family making us so proud and making the Penn State name out there in a positive way,"
There was no mention of whether there will be some form of official Penn State Lacrosse Super Bowl viewing party, but no matter how the teams view the game, Hogan can count on having the support of his lacrosse family back in University Park.
By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - The beauty of sports lies in the unpredictability. That is to say, the game is not decided until the final whistle blows. This was the case Sunday for the Nittany Lions, who scored four goals in the third period to force a 4-4 tie against RIT after a 3-0 victory on Saturday.
"To make a comeback and play as hard as we did from a four-goal deficit, to squeeze out a tie is something very exciting and something the team can be proud of," interim head coach Dean Jackson said. "You're down 4-0 with 20 minutes remaining, it just showed what kind of characters we have in that locker room."
After three RIT goals in the first period, Jackson made a change in net for the Nittany Lions. After pitching a shutout on Saturday, Hannah Ehresmann relieved Daniela Paniccia and made 21 saves on 22 shots.
Victoria Samuelsson scored the first goal of the third period for the Nittany Lions, flicking in a shot that deflected off a stick and into the net. The goal came on the power play, one of two Penn State goals on the man advantage.
"I think the moment we scored that first goal, we knew they were all going to start falling," Laura Bowman said.
And they certainly did start to fall later in the third period as Kate Rydland was able to slice through the defense and put one in the back of the net just after the halfway mark of the third period.
"It's so cliche, but 0-0 mentality," Jackson said. "We hit that first one, you never know. We got that second one and we knew we were in great shape. You can just see it in their eyes and the momentum they were picking up from shift to shift and the pressure we were putting on RIT."
Freshman Brooke Madsen made it a one-goal game with under four minutes remaining on a shot from a tough angle that found its way between the pipes.
A charging penalty on Tori Haywood with 2:04 remaining set up Bowman's game-tying goal. Bowman was able to sneak the puck past goaltender Terra Lantaigne with less than one minute to play in regulation, thus forcing an overtime period.
Jackson decided to take further advantage of the late power play by pulling Ehresmann in favor of an extra forward and a two-man advantage, something that was indicative of the toughness and aggression of Penn State throughout the entire third period.
"The power play has been very strong for us," Jackson said. "It kept us in games and won us some games. We've had success and we are a threat five-on-four. Having that extra attacker, two minutes left, trying to tie it; had to do it. The message was that we were not going to lose a one-on-one battle or a loose puck battle. There was no reason."
Notable Numbers:Bowman's late goal on Sunday gave her 97 points for her Penn State career, now only three away from the century mark.
Three points (now a total of 12 in conference play) kept the Nittany Lions in third place in the CHA, currently trailing only Robert Morris and Syracuse in the standings with just about a month remaining in the regular season.
The Nittany Lions host Mercyhurst at home next weekend before a week off.
By Jack Milewski, GoPSUSports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- A five set volleyball match tests a team's resiliency like nothing else in the sport. Pushed to the brink, both teams are tired and often the match is won solely on guts. For a young team, sometimes there is nothing better than competing in a five-setter to truly gauge where the team is at.
For Penn State men's volleyball, one five-setter in its home-opening weekend wasn't enough. The Nittany Lions pushed both of their matches, against Loyola Chicago and Lewis, to a fifth and final deciding frame. In Thursday night's home-opener, No. 15 Penn State battled in a back and forth affair, before downing ninth-ranked Loyola Chicago in a close five-set outing. Friday night presented a minor setback, as Lewis outlasted a Nittany Lion comeback attempt in yet another five-setter.
Despite Friday's loss, the Nittany Lions showed a few things that head coach Mark Pavlik has talked about all season long - depth and the belief that no matter what, Penn State has the chance to turn a match around at any point.
"We are never out of a match," Pavlik said. "What we are doing is seeing how far and how long we can push our opponents until they kind of throw up their hands and say, we just can't match them."
Thursday night, that mentality was at the forefront of the match, as Penn State and Loyola traded points, exchanging sets to force a fifth frame. Chris Nugent and Calvin Mende were the spark plugs for the Nittany Lions, leading the way with 15 and 13 kills respectively. However, Penn State also received 10 kills from Aiden Albrecht. Middles Kevin Gear and Matt Callaway added six kills apiece.
"Our depth is going to be one of our biggest strengths this season, Pavlik said. "We are going to use just about everyone in a match because everyone has a role on this team. We just have to work on finding exactly what that is."
On Friday, Penn State continued to maintain the mentality that they've embraced throughout g the course of this early season, fighting all the way down to the final whistle. However, the Nittany Lions came up just a bit short, falling to Lewis in five.
It was Nugent again, who led all Nittany Lions with 15 kills. Unlike Thursday, Penn State battled back from a 2-0 deficit, but couldn't come up with the win in the deciding frame.
"I liked the way we came back in games three and four," Pavlik said. "The way we played in game three and four kind of gives you glimpses of where our future could be."
Certainly the future is bright for the Nittany Lions and matches like Thursday and Friday should only strengthen the confidence throughout the roster. The challenge now, is to find consistency and Pavlik believes if the team finds that, they will find success as well.
"We need to start stringing together those runs of good play over the course of an entire match," Pavlik said. "I think the next big step for us is consistency and once we get that going, we have the talent to do a lot."
The Nittany Lions return to action quickly, as they head to Columbus, Ohio to face defending NCAA national champion Ohio State on the road. First serve is slated for a 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 1 Penn State men's hockey (16-3-2, 5-2-1-0 Big Ten) put fourth an unrelenting effort on Friday night, hosting No. 11 Ohio State (12-4-6, 3-2-1-1 Big Ten) in an electric white out atmosphere at Pegula Ice Arena.
The Nittany Lions came out of regulation with a tie, and overtime wasn't enough to break the deadlock. Though the Nittany Lions lost in the seventh round of the shootout 2-1, they earned a point in the Big Ten standings.
In Saturday night's rematch against the Buckeyes, Penn State jumped out of the starting blocks quickly, scoring the first goal of the night. Senior defenseman David Thompson found the back of the net for the Nittany Lions less than three minutes into the first period. Sophomore forward Chase Berger and senior forward David Goodwin provided the assists.
The Buckeyes scored two unanswered goals to end the first period with a 2-1 lead. With the long change of the second period, those in attendance for Penn State's sellout crowd were treated to a back-and-fourth battle for puck possession. After giving up a third goal to the Buckeyes, freshman defenseman Kris Myllari netted Penn State's second goal of the night. Sophomore forward Andrew Sturtz scored his 15th goal of the season, which was the final tally of the period. The Nittany Lions went into the intermission tied at three goals each.
"We're not looking for a hero in our locker room," Sturtz said. "We're looking for 28 guys to pull together and I think that's what's going to take us very far."
While Ohio State capitalized three times in the third period, head coach Guy Gadowsky pointed out some positives from the weekend, especially the performance of Myllari.
"I thought it was fitting that he scored a goal because I thought he was tremendous all week and I thought yesterday he was, especially defensively, fantastic," Gadowsky said. "He blocked big-time shots, and he made really good reads in the defensive zone."
Gadowsky said it's encouraging when players like Myllari, who put fourth so much time and effort, are rewarded during games. Another player working on finding success on the score sheet is freshman forward Brett Murray.
Gadowsky said he felt Murray raised his level of competition against Ohio State, when compared to his debut in last weekend's series against Michigan State.
"I think he's slowly getting it," Gadowsky said. "Again, it's tough to come in midseason. I think a lot of our freshmen have improved a lot and he hasn't had the same opportunity for a number of games."
As for the Nittany Lions, they'll use this weekend's results of a draw and a loss as learning tools for the remainder of the regular season and in to the Big Ten playoff campaign.
"This has been not a great weekend for us, that's going to happen, there's probably going to be others," Gadowsky said. "We're still having a great season and we're moving forward and I think individuals have to face that as well."
By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - In front of a large crowd at Rec Hall, the Penn State men's gymnastics team put on a show, taking down Army West Point for the team's second overall victory in as many meets. Senior captain Dominic DiFulvio led the charge, taking two individual titles on rings and vault as well as achieving the highest all-around score among the two teams.
Just as any great athlete, DiFulvio still looked for things to improve even after his success on Saturday.
"I definitely liked the way that I just kept my head up," DiFulvio said. "Floor didn't exactly go the way I planned and neither did pommel horse, but like I said, I needed to buckle down and get the rest of this done. I was proud about that."
Head coach Randy Jepson had nothing but praise for DiFulvio, whose gutsy upperclassman effort was one of the main reasons why the Nittany Lions got the win.
"It's the difference between a freshman and a senior," Jepson said. "Really steady, confident and experienced. Even though Dom didn't feel that great, he put in a great meet and did his job, so I was pleased with him."
The atmosphere played a huge part in the success of the team, as one of the biggest crowds in recent memory came out to support the Nittany Lions. The volume of the crowd was aided in large part by the fact that the meet was a double dual, also including the Penn State women's team and its matchup against Maryland.
"This was amazing, I don't think we've ever had as many people here before," DiFulvio said. "It was pretty awesome to be home and have it be that loud in there. I thought it was great for our guys because it's normally not loud in the dual meets. But when we get to Big Tens and NCAAs, it gets really loud so I want them to get that type of experience."
"It's nice to compete in front of the home fans," Jepson said. "[The Army coach] agreed to change our warmup time up so we could finish more on time with our women's team and it worked pretty well. I think from a fan's standpoint; it was a better show than we've done in some years."
The Nittany Lions were dominant on parallel bars as well, tallying the top six scores, ahead of every single competitor for Army.
"It's definitely one of our strong areas," DiFulvio said. "We have a lot of guys that competed last year that are back here now. Also, Wyatt [Tyndall] was a bright point today. He hasn't really shown us that in practice, so it was awesome to see that today. I was really proud of him. I'm hoping that he can keep that up and continue that during practice."
"It was okay, it's not nearly what we can do," Jepson said. "We may have placed well, but it's not about placing. It's about performance, and our performances need to improve. Second meet out, we've still got a lot of work to do, but I'm hoping the jitters can subside as we go a couple more meets into the season. It's going to get more difficult when we go into Big Ten season: more tough teams."
Favian Valdez also had a strong day as well for the Nittany Lions, taking home the top overall score in pommel horse a week after finishing second in that event at the West Point Open.
"Favian is right there behind [DiFulvio], he just needs a little more fine-tuning and to make some changes in training and translate that to what he does in competition."
The Nittany Lions' next meet is at Springfield College in Massachusetts on Jan. 29. They return home to take on Ohio State Feb. 11 in another double dual with the women's team.
Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Only three meets into the 2017 season, junior Briannah Tsang is off to a phenomenal start for the Nittany Lions. Tsang led the Penn State women's gymnastics team to its fourth win of the season on Saturday evening, with an all-around score of 39.325, against Maryland.
"It felt good to win the all-around title," Tsang said. "I don't come in thinking, 'Am I going to win the all-around today?'. I come in saying, 'I need to hit for my team,' so the title is just a bonus."
Tsang captured the title after owning the team's top score on vault (9.825) and balance beam (9.825). She also placed second overall on uneven parallel bars (9.950) and eighth on floor exercise (9.775). It was a close performance between Penn State and Maryland on the floor exercise, with the top three gymnasts all earning a score of 9.825, but Tsang's performance anchored Penn State's victory.
"Briannah Tsang came out and nailed a good routine to get us the victory," head coach Jeff Thompson said.
This was Tsang's seventh all-around title and second of the season, after winning her first in the season-opening Penn State quad meet against Bowling Green, BYU and Temple.
Nonetheless, it was not only Tsang's performance that led the Nittany Lions to a win.
Freshman Kristen Politz made a big impact throughout the meet. She finished second in the all-around with a score of 39.050. This was also her second all-around in her collegiate career. Politz placed fourth in the vault (9.750), uneven parallel bars (9.775) and balance beam (9.700). But in the final event of the evening, Politz showed a beautiful performance on floor exercise to secure first place with a score of 9.825.
"I was really proud of Kristen Politz, a freshman," coach Thompson said. "Last week, she jumped into the vault lineup and just did a layout. This week, she competed a full, did a great job and helped us out on vault."
With the great routines throughout the meet, Politz captured the Ann Carr award, given to the most inspirational Penn State gymnast at the meet.
"Winning that award felt amazing," Politz said. "I wasn't expecting it, but it was really an honor to get that award. I'm really proud of this team and the direction that we're heading in... [Finishing second] makes me feel amazing, too. It just builds my confidence going forward in the season and we're off to a really good start, so I'm really excited [for the year]."
Rec Hall held an electric crowd Saturday afternoon as it hosted the first double dual of the season for the men's and women's gymnastics teams, which created a supportive atmosphere throughout the meet.
"It's amazing to have both teams here," Politz said. "There's more support and fans, and it was so much fun. I can't wait for our second double dual. Even though it was a new experience, I'm really glad that I was able to compete."
Penn State finished with a season-high point total of 195.525.
"I was really proud of the girls," coach Thompson said. "We basically did everything that we wanted to do tonight. The goal was to go out there and hit all of our routines. We only had a couple of mistakes and we know that we can fix those because they do well on those events every day at practice. All in all, we started with great energy and ended with great energy in front of a great crowd with our men's [team], so I couldn't be more proud of our team and I'm looking forward to next week."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the midst of a busy recruiting weekend on campus, Penn State head coach James Franklin met with members of the media Saturday morning for a year-end press conference.
Franklin spent time reflecting on the historic season which featured a Big Ten Championship and a Rose Bowl appearance, among an abundance of highlights.
Among all the highlights though, Franklin was pleased with the poise and maturity the Nittany Lions demonstrated throughout the season, continuing to remain focused even in the face of both adversity and success.
"I think our guys really handled a lot of things well," Franklin said. "I think the way the season ended, I think the Rose Bowl, how our guys handled themselves academically, how our guys handled themselves socially - you know, right now I think we're in a position that we're going to be able to retain most if not all of the staff, which is great."
With signing day less than 10 days away, Franklin did speak to the decision of a few of the newest Nittany Lions who have already arrived in Happy Valley.
Penn State welcomed four early enrollees including, hybrid linebacker Brelin Faison-Walden, defensive back Lamont Wade, offensive lineman Mike Miranda and wide receiver KJ Hamler at the start of the spring semester.
Although Franklin hasn't been able to spend a ton of time with the newcomers due to a packed recruiting schedule, all four are well underway taking classes and also getting into the weight room for a jump on winter workouts.
"I'm going to have a meeting with all four of those guys today and just sit down and just make sure they are doing well and they're adjusting well, but the feedback I get from Todd Kulka, our academic advisor, they seem to be doing really well," Franklin said. "The feedback that I get from Dwight Galt, the strength staff, they seem to be doing well. Tim Bream and his staff, Will Flaherty, who runs our player development, is very hands-on with our guys in the adjustment process, they seem to be doing well."
As Franklin and the staff have stressed throughout the season, the decision to enroll early certainly offers tremendous value, providing student-athletes with an edge in all different phases, getting a head start on transitioning from high school to collegiate life as opposed to arriving for camp.
"If you're just showing up on campus for the first time, it takes a pretty special guy to say you're going to play as a true freshman or earn a starting job when you've only been on campus for four to six weeks and you're competing with guys who have been on campus four, three, two years. I think it helps, but it's not for everybody," Franklin said.
As noted though, Franklin stressed that he and his staff never try to convince student-athletes that enrolling early is the way to go. Rather it's more of a case-by-case basis, taking into account the student-athletes' total readiness, from a social, academic and athletic standpoint.
ever try to talk guys into doing it because I also think there's value in
saying I'm going to go to my prom; I am going to play my senior year of
basketball," Franklin said. "There's value in that, as well, being with my
buddies for six more months and kind of going through that process, being able
to go away for vacation with my mom and dad after I graduate for a week, those
types of things."
On The Quote Board -
- While proud of the way his Nittany Lions handled their business this year, Franklin noted that there's only really one happy team at the end of the year.
"We have things that we should be very proud of, and our guys, they should be confidence-building experiences, but we also have things that I think should be motivating, that, again, the way I look at it, there's one happy team at the end of the year, and that's Clemson and my boy, Dabo [Swinney]. Everybody else is salty and angry and ready to get back to work again."
- Among those Nittany Lions who are ready to get back to work again, is quarterback Trace McSorley, who Franklin praised for being totally aware of his strengths and weaknesses, with great intent on utilizing the offseason to study the year.
"What we're going to do between now and next year is how can we take the amount of times that he maybe made decisions that he would prefer to make differently in the future and how can we limit them," Franklin said. "Say 12 percent of the time last year he made decisions that he would have, now looking back at it, made differently; how can we take that and reduce it to maybe 8 percent or 6 percent next year, and kind of keep heading in that direction."
- Franklin stressed that under his guidance, the Penn State Football program is simply not in the mindset of building a team that's meant to be a feeder system for the NFL.
"And for us, what we're trying to do is we're trying to recruit guys that we think are great fits to this community, that are great fits academically, that are going to be really, really good college players, that will leave here with degrees, and then hopefully can continue playing the game of football as long as they possibly can in the NFL, but it's really in that order."
Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team is looking for its first Big Ten win of the season as they take on Maryland Saturday afternoon. This meet will be the first double dual of the season for the Nittany Lions, meaning both the Penn State men and women will compete together in Rec Hall on Saturday.
"Double dual meets are always the most exciting meets of the year," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "I think that the women's gymnastics fans love coming to see the men compete and I think the men's gymnastics fan love seeing the women compete. It's a good crossover because even though the sports are completely different, they're still very similar. Fans understand and know what's going on. Even though they might not know all the names of the skills on the high-bar or parallel bars, they know good gymnastics when they see it, and we're looking forward to it."
However, when fans enter Rec Hall, they might notice something different about this double dual than in previous years. The setup for Saturday afternoon will be more open, giving fans and judges better views of the competition.
"We're going to use a new set-up this week," coach Thompson said. "The setup that has been used for double dual meets for the past 20 years, our judges sit way too close to the equipment to judge properly and they always complain, so we're using more of the women's setup and it's going to be more wide open. It should be great for the fans, the competitors and the judges."
In addition, Saturday afternoon will be THON Awareness Night for both the men's and women's gymnastics team.
"Most people know that the women's gymnastics team does a ton in the community," Thompson said. "Having won the Champs Cup for community service the last six years in a row, it should come as no surprise that they love doing these types of events. Anytime we can give back to our community and to the world's largest student-run philanthropy, is something that we take great pride in."
The Blue and White are coming off a hard-fought matchup against Nebraska last Saturday, just coming up short 195.700-192.900.
Nonetheless, senior Nicole Medvitz was able to help the team by securing the balance beam title.
"It felt pretty good [winning my eighth balance beam title]," Medvitz said. "I just went up and did what I do in practice and it was great that I was able to finish the meet off strong for my team and just hit a good routine."
She hopes to continue her success as the Nittany Lions return to Rec Hall for the THON double dual meet.
"It's really exciting because it's nice to support a good cause and we really try to help out in the community, so I like being able to compete for that cause," Medvitz said. "Also, having a double dual brings in a lot more fans and there's a lot going on at one time, so there's a lot of energy which really pumps us up and gets us excited for the meet. We usually do well when we do that, but we do have to make sure that we stay focused on us and just do what we always do in a regular meet."
The meet against the Terrapins will begin Saturday at 4 p.m.
By Tom Shively, GoPSUSports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The first meet of the season is behind the Nittany Lions, as they look forward to this weekend's meet against Army in the home opener. Here are five things to know about the upcoming meet.
1. Rare Home Opportunity
Saturday's meet marks the first of only four home meets for the team, as they have a road-heavy schedule all the way through the postseason. The team will be home only once in February and twice in March.
"Our guys are really excited," head coach Randy Jepson said. "They love competing in Rec Hall. We're going to have a little different format, push the bleachers to one side and have a little different floor space. There'll be a little different seating so our fans better get there early. We're hoping to have a packed house."
2. Favian Valdez Leads a Stellar
The Nittany Lions took four individual titles, including a victory for Valdez in the floor exercise, in the season opener. Valdez is one of five freshmen on the team and the first to take home an individual event title.
"He's a seasoned competitor even though he came in as a freshman," Jepson said. "He's competed at a high level all the way through the junior ranks. But you have the team on your back now and you don't want to let anybody down."
Valdez and fellow freshman Stephen Nedoroscik are expected to be forces on the pommel horse as well, although teammate Colin Coates took the title at West Point.
3. Returning All-American Leroy
Clarke Stepping Up as a Leader
As an All-American on both parallel bars and still rings in 2016, Clarke obviously will play a large role in determining this team's success this season. Clarke finished second in the pommel horse at West Point and is looking to build off a solid performance in the opening meet.
"He's so experienced, and so steady," Jepson said. "He's been injured all fall and through the summer and he just did a great job this weekend. He's rock solid and he's just a great competitor, so we're going to see a lot of good stuff from him this year."
In addition to Clarke, this Penn State team is loaded with senior talent who can help carry this team all the way to the top. DiFulvio spearheads the effort, coming off a strong finish at West Point, taking home a title on still rings.
"[Their leadership] is huge because you want to see the ethics and the standards of our team transfer from season to season," Jepson said. "I have alumni that come back who were here in the 50s and 60s, and they talk about that. They want to see that this team succeeds as well. That torch that's been passed down for generations is huge. Watching that happen now is a big deal. Knowing that our freshmen are going to be doing the same thing in a few years is big."
5. Versatility is a Major Key
Nothing shows a team's depth like success in the all-around, and the Lions took care of business in the meet at West Point with relative ease. Michael Burns took home the spoils as the team swept the event to secure an overall victory.
"It shows our depth," Jepson said. "We didn't really have great performances, we had solid performances. With the kind of talent we have right now, that's what we're looking for. Be solid, be consistent, and be yourself."
Hopefully the Nittany Lions can build off their success heading into this weekend.
Saturday's meet will be a dual with the Penn State women's team beginning at 4 p.m. at Rec Hall.
By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lady Lions defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 86-69, Thursday night at the Bryce Jordan Center behind 18 points from sophomore guard Teniya Page.
But it was another guard who took home the night's biggest honor: junior Lindsey Spann became the 37th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points.
Spann reached the milestone thanks to a jumper in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't something she had her sights set on coming into the game.
"I didn't really know where I was," said the Laurel, Maryland native. "And then we came in at halftime and they were like 'did you know you're three points away?' and I was like 'no, but why did you guys tell me that because now I'm like thinking about it.'"
Spann added: "It's a great feeling but I didn't do it by myself."
Head coach Coquese Washington agrees with Spann's selfless mindset, and has seen all the work that Spann has put in behind the scenes in order to play at the level that she does.
"I think, like she said, her teammates have helped a lot," Washington said. "And Lindsey's a kid who works really hard and she puts a lot of time in the gym to be able to produce offensively for us. So to see all that hard work pay off this early in her career, she's halfway through her junior year, it just speaks volumes about how much she's contributed on a game-in and game-out basis over the course of her career."
Despite Spann finding out at halftime that she was so close to history, she played it off and didn't worry about it.
"I did [feel the pressure] but then I was like 'alright just get over it,'" she said.
And get over it she did. Spann added eight points in the second half to finish with 14, one of four Lady Lions to reach double figures on the night. Despite coming off the bench the last couple of games, her ability to perform on the court hasn't slowed down.
"It's a luxury as a coach to know that at any time we can put Lindsey in," Washington said. "She's hot off the bench. She's going to come in and she's going to push tempo. She gets shots up, she shoots at a very high percentage and so she's gong to change the game [when she's playing]."
As Washington has figured out, it's all about timing with Spann. As someone who can quicken the pace on the floor, putting her in when the opposing team is wearing down provides an advantage for Penn State.
"Oftentimes she's going in when the other team is a little tired and maybe they don't get back, maybe they lose her, maybe they don't remember where she is and that allows her to come in and make some big plays for us and kind of get us going," Washington said.
Spann finished the game at 1,005 career points, putting her 17 points behind Helen Holloway ('94) and 19 points behind Rashana Barnes ('02) on the all-time scoring list.
She'll have her chance to move up those two spots to 35th all-time when the Lady Lions travel to Indiana for a matchup with the Hoosiers on Monday, January 23. Tip is set for 7 p.m.
By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State swimming and diving teams have big farewells planned for this weekend's upcoming matchups against Navy. The men's and women's squads will be honoring a total of 12 swimmers for their time as Nittany Lions over the past four years.
The seniors include: Bob Bantley, Mike Kwasnik, Shane Ryan, Andrew Schuehler, Matt Stasiunas, Mackenzie Cornell, Casey Francis, Mackenzie Hornibrook, Bridget Moody, Katie Saloky, Katelyn Sowinski, Megan Wujciak.
This group of seniors is head coach Tim Murphy's first class to swim all four years under him.
teams have one more dual meet this season before heading into Big Ten and NCAA
Championships. They take on Villanova in Philadelphia on February 3.
Senior Day ceremonies are slated to start on Saturday, January 21 at 11:40 a.m. in McCoy Natatorium, and the meet will begin at noon.
By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Redshirt freshman Vincenzo Joseph has made an immediate impact in his first year wrestling for the Nittany Lions. With a 10-1 record on the year, Joseph has earned a No. 4 ranking in the InterMat individual rankings at 165 pounds.
Joseph's noticeably impressive contributions for the Nittany Lions this year though, are just what Cael Sanderson says he has always expected.
"When we recruited him we were expecting him to be a guy that was competing as a freshman," Sanderson said. "He was doing very well in high school and comes from a great club. He has trained with a lot of the kids that we have from that part of the state and they all spoke very highly of him. I think he's where we thought he would be, the important stuff is still ahead though so it's just a matter of staying focused and continuing to progress and that's our plan for him."
In just a few short months Joseph put together wins in each of his last nine consecutive outings, improving steadily with each win, including three against another ranked opponent in the span.
"I think he's just improving overall," Sanderson said. "All positions, his finishes, his shots, his tie-ups, his snaps, he's getting better on top - he's not a guy that probably tried to wrestle on top a lot, but in college it makes a big difference in close matches. He's looking better, I think his confidence is continuing to improve, but he's wrestling real well. He's scoring from a number of different attacks, his defense is solid, so we're happy where Vincenzo is at."
Practice in a room each day that's filled with some of the top wrestlers in the nation, Joseph has picked up a lot.
"We have a lot of guys on our team that have different feels," Joseph said. "So it's a really good variety of people to work with. I wrestle with Jason [Nolf] a lot. He has a lot of cool tricks and things that he does, Bo [Nickal], Shakur [Rasheed] even, and even Mark [Hall] now that he's here and he has a lot of neat things that he does differently too. So it's really good for me to wrestle with all of these guys."
After opening his collegiate career with a win on the road, Joseph began his first career dual meet in Rec Hall with a loss, but that was more than two months ago and he has since come to love the historic home gym.
"So my first experience in Rec Hall wasn't that great," Joseph said. "But then, after that, wrestling there again, I really came to appreciate it. I love wrestling there so far this year. The fans are incredible, the atmosphere is awesome, it's just a really great place to be at."
With Penn State hitting the road this week traveling to Iowa for a Big Ten showdown featuring the second-ranked Nittany Lions and the third-ranked Hawkeyes, Joseph will be tested in a tough environment away from home.
"I think recent history, these dual meets never really fail to entertain, so it's going to be a great match, it's going to be a lot of fun, a lot of passion and fire from their team and from our team. so it's going to draw a great crowd," Sanderson said.
While many wrestlers would be intimidated by an electric atmosphere like Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Joseph says he will feed off of it.
Penn State and Iowa are set to get underway in Iowa City beginning at 9 p.m. ET, with live coverage on the Big Ten Network.
More from Sanderson below.
By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the world of sports, nearly all of the attention is drawn towards the starting lineup. It's where both the credit and criticism find a home depending on whether glory or failure comes a team's way. Arguably more than any other sport, however, the importance of the team extends further than just the starting five in basketball. Depth plays an extremely vital role in a game that features constant swaps of personnel in real time.
That is no different with the Penn State women's basketball team, as the bench has been the backbone to the team this season.
This of course all starts with depth. In an offseason that saw just two new freshmen join the team's ranks, the Lady Lions returned nine letterwinners and five players with starting experience, losing only Candice Agee and Brianna Banks.
Of that crew, four upperclassmen in junior Lindsey Spann, and seniors Kaliyah Mitchell, Sierra Moore, and Peyton Whitted picked up where they left off and have contributed not just on the court but as leaders for the underclassmen-heavy roster. A lot of those successes have come not from where one might expect in a veteran starting lineup. Instead, much of that production has come from the bench.
The wealth of depth on the roster has given head coach Coquese Washington the ability to constantly tinker with the lineup and make decisions based on personnel and situations rather than by necessity. In her rearrangements, often times she has put a lot of experience on the bench.
"I like our depth and I like that we continue to grow and build it over the course of the season. We've shuffled some things around all season long but I think we're settling into being in a pretty good groove," she said.
The trio of Spann, Mitchell, and Whitted head the squad that recently has come off the bench to create production in any given situation. In that group alone, you have the Lady Lions' top two rebounders, and two of the team's top three in steals and top five in scoring. Coach Washington said she has been impressed with the crew and says their experience adds another wrinkle to Penn State's attack.
"It absolutely is a wonderful advantage because you have kids coming off the bench with a lot of confidence that understand how to make an impact fairly quickly when they get in the game," Washington said. "You can make adjustments and put people in the game who are experienced in making those adjustments."
Spann said the ability to get many skilled bench players in has proved to be a tactical advantage, as the team is able to take over as soon as the opponent starts to show signs of fatigue.
"We go in and we play up-and-down, we play fast and it helps us be successful having people come in with fresh legs and tiring out the other team with that fast pace that we want to play at," Spann said.
As a result, the bench unit as a whole has paid dividends. In the past 10 games alone, Penn State's bench has outscored its opponent's bench a whopping 247-105, averaging more than 14 points more per game than the opposition. Of those games, only once was the Lady Lion bench outscored. That was against Maryland, where the Terrapins barely edged them, 14-13.
The bench's average of 24.7 points per contest over that span accounts for 37.5 percent of the Blue and White's scoring, showing just how immense the impact has been.
With the boost in energy and results all members of the bench have had this season, Washington has a lot of faith that any of her players can leave their mark once they get out onto the hardwood.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In a second consecutive gritty
comeback effort, Penn State men's basketball showcased its toughness once again
Wednesday evening. Battling back from behind, the Nittany Lions ultimately came
up short though, in a 78-75 loss to Indiana at the final buzzer.
As head coach Patrick Chambers entered the postgame media room, he noted that it was Penn State who hurt Penn State in the bitter loss, one that lacked execution of the the little things.
Entering the matchup, Penn State had hit 76 percent of its free throw attempts on the year, a mark which ranked 21st in the Division I standings and third in the conference.
Among those little things was a bit of an off night from the charity stripe for the Nittany Lions.
Those foul shooting woes did disappear in the final seconds of the game though, as Penn State's top free throw man freshman Lamar Stevens, sank a pair of crucial attempts to tie the score, 75-75 with four second left in the game, sending the crowd of 7,818 into hysteria.
As fellow freshman Tony Carr had done just one game prior, there was nothing but confidence in his mind when Stevens stepped up to the line.
"I told him to just trust in himself and to shoot the same shot, don't put any extra pressure on yourself, just go up there and go through the same routine and just knock them down," Carr said.
In a roller coaster evening at the Bryce Jordan Center, the Nittany Lions shot out to a nearly double digit lead early in the game before the Hoosiers came storming back.
Penn State opened the game with all six points of its scoring coming from junior Julian Moore before an emphatic dunk from Stevens lifted the Nittany Lions ahead by one, 8-7. Following the Stevens jam, Penn State used a 7-1 run to pull ahead by as many as seven, 15-8 with 12:47 remaining in the first half.
The Hoosiers quickly found their way back within one twice more though, answering back with a 9-3 stretch to make it 18-17. Penn State leading shot blocker and rebounder Mike Watkins also picked up a pair of fouls in the streak.
As the fouls continued to pile up for the Nittany Lions in the first half, Indiana slid ahead by two before junior Shep Garner put away a 3-pointer to give Penn State the edge, 21-20.
Penn State could not sustain its momentum though, trading points until Indiana took off with the lead for good, leading 44-37 by halftime before stretching the lead to double figures nearly seven minutes into the second half.
As expected, Penn State regrouped and responded in the second half, wiping away a 14-point Indiana lead with a signature second-half effort.
Staring down a double-digit deficit is no new challenge for the Nittany Lions, as a mere days earlier Penn State used a second-half charge to rally from behind by as many as 14 before topping then-No. 24 Minnesota 52-50.
"We have been there before being down double-digits in games and we know we have what it takes to fight back and get back into the game so we rely on our defense and rebounding and making them turn the ball over a little bit and we got back in it," Garner said.
Garner, who was limited to just three points in the opening frame, came alive in the second half, scoring 12 points including a 3-for-4 mark from 3-point range to finish second on the team with 15 points.
Perhaps no triple was bigger than his final one of the night, where he calmly pulled up past a diving Blackmon to knock down a 3-pointer to lift Penn State within two, 75-73 with 39 seconds on the clock.
Like a popped balloon, the energy and enthusiasm of yet another comeback from down by 10+ was quickly vanquished, as Indiana scrambled to get off a long contested 3-pointer for the win at the final blare of the horn.
"It is very tough especially when you lose on a shot like that," Carr said. "You fight so hard to get back into the game and you just give all your effort and then you lose on a heartbreaking shot like that."
Despite the highs, the lows, the little things and even the deficits, Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers was nothing short of proud of his team postgame.
"They showed some guts, they responded in huddles and they didn't quit battling," Chambers said. "It was a physical and tough game but overall I think that the two teams played as tough as I have seen all year."
All part of the Penn State process this year, the Nittany Lions will have to quickly reset and turn their attention toward their second of three ranked opponents in its current four-game stretch.
"Tomorrow we will watch film, get some shooting in and then we will start preparing for Purdue," Chambers said. "This is a long season, a process, so we cannot dwell on this we will just have to keep moving forward."
Penn State travels to Purdue to take on the Boilermakers Saturday, Jan. 21 at noon ET in West Lafayette, Indiana.
By Jack Milewski, GoPSUSports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Consistency is often an aspect that all coaches and teams strive for over the course of a season. More often than not, consistency leads to success, no matter what level you are playing at. In the case of Penn State men's volleyball this season, consistency will be the key for success as the 2017 season continues to roll along.
Four games in and Penn State has put together an even 2-2 record, with splits in a pair of back-to-back weeks of competition on the road. Among the mark, the Nittany Lions' two losses have come against UCLA and Ball State. For Penn State, in its losses and even in its wins against USC and Fort Wayne, sustaining long stretches of high level play, has been reason for concern.
"I thought against USC, we were great in some sets and not so great in others," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "I loved our resiliency in that match, but we were very up and down."
That early season inconsistency can be expected from such a young group, as the Nittany Lions are looking for a multitude of freshman and sophomores to step up and carry the workload. That sign bodes well for the future, as Penn State has already started to settle in to new roles during the first two weeks.
"We've seen improvement," Pavlik said. "We obviously want more but we know that it will be a process and the results we have seen so far have been good."
For the Nittany Lions, the consistency aspect will come with time. Pavlik believes that one of the only ways to gain that consistency is by competing against the tough opponents Penn State has scheduled early this season. The Nittany Lion's have two upcoming battles against Loyola Chicago and Lewis that will certainly test them once again. Pavlik believes that they will need everyone on board in order to beat the two teams.
"They are both very physical teams and they play hard all the time," Pavlik said. "I think that it will be another good opportunity for everyone in our group."
The one thing that is evident with this group is that it is just that, a group. Not one player will be able to win games for the Nittany Lions, but that is the furthest thing from a negative. Pavlik has praised Penn State's depth again and again early on in the season.
"We have incredible depth," Pavlik said. "Everyone on the team will be looked to to contribute in some way and if someone is struggling, we have the next man up mentality where another player will be ready to go."
Penn State is set to take the court again Thursday, hosting Loyola Chicago at Rec Hall, before welcoming Lewis Friday. First serve for both matches is set for 7 p.m.
Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Until the summer of 2016, Penn State hockey freshman forward Brett Murray was a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, having grown up in the Toronto suburb of Bolton, Ontario. However, his allegiances realigned when the Buffalo Sabres drafted him in the fourth round, with the 99th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
"Growing up I was a big Leafs fan," Murray said. "My dad, my whole family pretty much were Leafs fans, but that changed after the draft."
Murray joined the Nittany Lions during winter break, making this the first time a Nittany Lion has joined the program midseason. Murray started out the 2016-17 season with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL, where he played in 27 games and scored seven goals.
"With team success comes individual success," Murray said. "So trying to better the team and playing for the team would help myself as a player, which is what I was trying to do at Youngstown so I could grow and work up to Penn State."
Murray said that despite knowing he would be leaving the Phantoms' program midseason, he wanted to stay in the moment with Youngstown and contribute in any way possible, all while developing as in individual player.
"I was very surprised when I came to Penn State, all the guys were very welcoming," Murray said. "Right away I was part of the team. The first practice was a little different, just being with a new team and coaching staff but it didn't take very long to feel comfortable."
Murray said he is already receiving feedback from head coach Guy Gadowsky on what areas of improvement he should focus on and how to use his 6-foot-5-inch frame on the ice, but for now, it has been all about adjusting to how Penn State hockey works.
Murray traveled with the team to Ohio State earlier this month, but made his on-ice debut for the Blue and White last Friday, when the then-fourth-ranked Nittany Lions hosted Michigan State. He earned the assist on freshman forward Liam Folkes' goal during the second period of Penn State's 5-2 win over the Spartans.
Although Murray didn't play in the second game of the Michigan State series, he is eager to continue to contribute in the coming weekends. He emphasized that there's still plenty of room for him to grow as a player and a team contributor.
Having experienced a few games with the Lions, either watching or playing, the 18-year-old has observed a few things about his new team.
"I think Penn State prides itself on being one of the best back-checking teams in the country," Murray said. "When we do it's a quick transition, so once you are back on defense being able to two-way transition quickly, get on the offensive side of the puck and create chances. At the same time always having support in the back so we don't give up odd-man rushes."
Murray concluded noting his eagerness to get back out in a Penn State sweater and see more ice time, possibly this weekend when Penn State hosts Ohio State. Earlier this month, the Nittany Lions earned a split during their road series with the Buckeyes.
"I'm just trying to get better day in and day out, and contribute where needed," Murray said. "When it's my time, I want to be ready."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach Patrick
Chambers and Nittany Lions Payton Banks and Julian Moore took time to meet with
members of the media Monday afternoon. Last week, Penn State knocked off
then-No. 24 Minnesota but will now shift the focus toward a midweek matchup
against Indiana Wednesday at home.
Since earning a spot in the starting lineup against Rutgers, Julian Moore has continued to develop throughout the year, emerging as a more of a veteran presence on the court for the Nittany Lions.
"I think having him start has given him a little bit of an edge, a little bit of confidence," Chambers said. "I see a different kid, shoulders back, a very confident young man who knows what he's doing."
While Chambers praised Moore for his defensive improvement this year, Moore has also been key in bringing Nittany Lions to their feet on a few recent occasions with a few highlight reel-worthy dunks. Tied for the second-most dunks on the team, Moore has logged at least two jams twice since entering the starting lineup, including a pair in the most recent win against the Golden Gophers.
Making the most of his opportunities this season, Moore has also embraced more of a leadership role, especially when it comes to bringing along redshirt freshman Mike Watkins, who is coming off of his second Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor following a double-double (15 points, 15 rebounds).
"I think Julian has really bought in in the month of January to, I'm going to defend, I'm going to rebound and when my opportunities come, I'm going to make the most of it and I'm going to keep working with Mike in practice, go at him hard, help him in drills, help him in film," Chamber said. Those two working in combination, collaborating together makes a good big man for us."
The "buy in" for Moore began after the road-loss to Northwestern, when Chambers brought Moore into his office. Seemingly not difficult to guess, Chambers' message was simple -defending and rebounding would be the key to keeping Moore on the floor, placing the team in position for success.
"After that I've just tried to focus on it a lot more and we're on the up right now, so it's been good," Moore said.
Although Moore wasn't one to talk much about an increase in his defensive physicality this year, teammate Payton Banks opened up about the improvement.
"I think when we have Julian in the games that he has been playing, we're 100 times better and especially when Mike [Watkins] comes in, his game speaks for itself, but when we have him going in, we're taking that to another level so I definitely think he has gone above and beyond," Banks said.
More from Chambers on Moore below.
Check out a few more takeaways from the media session.
Focused on Penn State Basketball
As Chambers noted last week, the landscape of the Big Ten conference is wild this year. Improving to 3-2 in the conference standings following the thrilling comeback victory against the Golden Gophers, the Nittany Lions are currently tied for fifth in the Big Ten standings with Purdue and Nebraska. The last time Penn State opened the league slate 3-2 dates back tot he 2010-11 season, marking a first for the program under Chambers' leadership.
Penn State isn't paying attention to any additional noise regarding who it's played or who it still has yet to play. Rather, the focus is internal and as Chambers has said throughout the season, targeted at doing simple better.
"I just have us focused on getting better every single day," Chambers said. "We're a good basketball team, but we haven't earned anybody's respect yet. Non-conference would back that opinion up, so we have to continue to do it, today in practice we need to do it, film session, tomorrow we need to do it in practice and then Wednesday we need to compete at a very high level against a good basketball team."
Looking at Indiana
At 12-6 on the year and 2-3 in Big Ten outings, Indiana heads into Wednesday's matchup coming off a 76-57 win at home against Rutgers last weekend. The Hoosiers are atop the conference standings in scoring averaging nearly 80 points per game, led by junior James Blackmon Jr., who leads a total of four double-figure scorers with 17.5 points per game and 17.0 points per game in league games. Indiana also presents challenges from behind the arc leading the conference in 3-point field goal percentage (44.3) and nearly 10 triples per game. Blackmon is leading the team with 52 3-pointers on the year.
Defensively, the Hoosiers are fifth nationally with a +10.9 rebounding margin and eighth in rebounding, averaging 41.4 boards per game. Four Hoosiers on the roster are currently averaging at least five rebounds per game, led by 6.9 per outing from Thomas Bryant.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday with live coverage on the Big Ten Network featuring Jeff Levering and Stephen Bardo on the call.
More from Banks and Moore below.
By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After allowing 72 points over the first five games of conference play, the Lady Lions defense came up big on Monday night, allowing nearly half of that average to the visiting Wisconsin Badgers in a 76-46 victory at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Wisconsin's 46 points were the fewest points allowed in a
game by Penn State against any team since December of 2015 when Sacred Heart
scored the same amount. It was also the least the Lady Lions have allowed in
Big Ten play since Wisconsin was only able to put up 40 one day shy of exactly
four years ago.
Out of the gate, the Lady Lions struggled to keep up with the Badgers. In the game's first five minutes, Wisconsin led Penn State 13-8 off of 6-7 shooting, knocking down its only attempt from three. Penn State, on the other hand, shot just 3 of 10 from the field and 0 of 4 from behind the arc.
Where the Blue and White were still able to have life was from their ability to cause turnovers and capitalize off of them. In that same time frame, Wisconsin had four turnovers that Penn State was able to convert just as many points out of, giving them half of their early point total.
The offense would eventually catch up in the first quarter and tie it up at 18, but the team would still go on droughts with not much offensive production. The defense was able to step up in these situations, pressuring the Badgers to force bad passes that led to steals or contested shots.
A lot of the success came off of the emphasis of being aggressive in the team's man coverage, allowing the team to take the ball in the other direction, coach Coquese Washington said.
"Once we settled down and did a better job at contesting shots, we had a little more activity with our hands and being disruptive defensively and then we were able to get going in transition," Washington said.
The Lady Lions' defense was particularly successful in the second and third quarters, where a stretch of 8:12 that bridged the two halves went by without a Wisconsin field goal. Branching off of that cold streak, the visitors continued to struggle, going on 3-24 from the field over 15:10 of play.
Coupled with an offensive surge by Penn State in the third quarter that saw the Lady Lions shoot 4 of 8 from deep, the Blue and White outscored Wisconsin 22-8 and broke out to a commanding 58-34 lead.
"We take pride in being a third quarter team," team captain Sierra Moore said. "We just talked about what we needed to do coming out of the second half and we came out there and executed it."
Entering the game, Wisconsin had already been in a rough place offensively when it came to keeping possession of the ball, averaging 21.7 turnovers over the team's last three matchups. That was no different Monday night as Penn State exploited the Badgers carelessness with the ball.
In just the first half alone, Penn State won the turnover battle 14-4, which included six steals and resulted to 16 points off of turnovers. At the end of the night, those numbers grew to 23 forced turnovers to just six from the Lady Lions, along with ten steals and nearly a third of the team's points scored off turnovers with 25.
In fact, the Lady Lions were so efficient at causing turnovers, Wisconsin's final turnover rate (31.5%) ended up being higher than its scoring rate (30.1%).
In the end, Penn State's defense spelt disaster for the Badgers, and now it will be just a matter of time to see whether Monday night's phenomenal defense can start much-needed momentum for the Lady Lions through the rest of Big Ten play.
Up next, Penn State takes on Nebraska at the Bryce
Jordan Center on Thursday at 7 p.m.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Fresh off a weekend sweep against Michigan State, Penn State men's hockey climbed to the top of the uscho.com poll for the first time in program history. The Nittany Lions remain home this weekend, welcoming Ohio State to Pegula Ice Arena for a pair of 7 p.m. matchups Friday and Saturday.
Catch up with Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky and Nittany Lions Chase Berger and Denis Smirnov to recap the weekend sweep against Michigan State, while also taking a look at what's coming up this week in Penn State hockey.
Penn State opened the day with a back-to-back wins from both the men's and women's teams, defeating Yale and Penn. The Nittany Lions continued their momentum into the third round, taking down Duke with a 20-7 win on the women's side and a 17-10 victory on the men's side.
By mid-afternoon Penn State was primed for its toughest matchup of the day, set to open competition against back-to-back defending NCAA champion Columbia.
Fans poured into the gym to pack the stands for the marquee matchup of the day against the top-ranked Lions, creating an electric atmosphere filled with energy.
"The atmosphere at the home meets is always crazy," sophomore Karol Metryka said. "A lot of fans showed up, the 800 strong movement with athletes who come to each other's events is a great thing for this university."
Metryka noted that Penn State's "800 strong" movement reflects a commitment among all Penn State student-athletes to support one another in competition throughout the year.
"It just means we're one big family, all the athletes, all the sports, everyone shows up for everyone's events to cheer them on so that we can all be better as a school," Metryka said.
Penn State got right to work against Columbia, but found itself trailing early on both the men's and women's sides. Despite a 3-0 epee shutout from 2016 epee NCAA national champion Jessie Radanovich, the Nittany Lion women fell short in their first team setback of the day, falling 16-11.
The Nittany Lion men battled back and forth throughout the day, with the round four matchup coming down to the final sabre bouts.
It was Metryka who tied the score at 13-13, before sophomore Matthew Lewicki clinched the victory with a final 5-2 sabre win to give the Nittany Lion men the 14-13 upset decision.
As Lewicki recounted the thrilling round, he noted that it was captain Andrew Mackiewicz who focused the unit and then brought the Nittany Lions back within before Metryka's win set him up for the winning point.
"It's just a lot of mixed emotions, I was nervous obviously, I had the team relying on me and everyone was watching me but it's just great that everyone ran over to support me," Lewicki said. "I knew going in that I had to do this not only for me, but for the team and I just couldn't lose in front of a great audience like this."
As he stepped on to the strip, Lewicki noted that throughout the excitement, both head coach Wes Glon and his teammates told him to remain calm and simply go out and fight.
"It shows that we have great courage," Metryka said. "Columbia is a very strong team, back-to-back NCAA national champions, so to come in here and get this win for us is a big deal and I'm very grateful."
Penn State surged through the afternoon with both the men's and women's teams capturing wins against North Carolina. The Nittany Lion women also competed in one additional round against Temple, claiming a close 14-13 win.
The Nittany Lions closed out the event with a pair of dominant wins against Haverford to wrap up the day.
Penn State returns to action next weekend, heading to Queens, New York to square off five different teams, including another round with Columbia.
More highlights from the Columbia matchup below.
Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Although Michigan State (4-15-1, 0-6-0-0 Big Ten) fought hard, Penn State's (16-2-1, 5-1-0-0 Big Ten) strong offensive performance gave the Nittany Lions their first sweep in 2017.
Penn State, who entered the weekend ranked No. 4, had few problems handling the Spartans, thanks to standout performances from several Nittany Lions, including a new face.
Freshman forward Brett Murray made his debut for the Nittany Lions in Friday night's 5-2 victory. Murray arrived in Happy Valley just a few weeks ago during winter break, having made the decision to give up the remainder of his junior hockey season to join the Nittany Lions as a mid-year enrollee.
Murray, who recorded his first collegiate point with an assist on Liam Folkes' goal during the second period, was pleased with his weekend debut. Folkes' goal widened Penn State's lead, 3-1.
"It felt good," Murray said of his first game with the Nittany Lions. "Especially to get a win makes it feel even better. It was a lot of fun."
Murray played Friday night alongside freshman Liam Folkes and freshman Nate Sucese. The forward said he was nervous for his first game in Pegula, but once he got a few shifts in, his eager energy subsided.
Head coach Guy Gadowsky said after Murray's debut that the 6-foot-5 forward was in a tough spot joining the team in the middle of the season, but Murray handled himself well.
Gadowsky also noted how sophomore forward Chase Berger was in his element all weekend. Berger had both a goal and an assist in Friday night's win.
Come Saturday night, Berger and his linemates, senior David Goodwin and freshman Brandon Biro were fighting hard for chances in the first period, including a shot by Goodwin that nearly went in, batted away by Michigan State's goaltender Ed Minney.
Less than a minute into the second period, with Penn State behind 1-0, Berger was planted between the hash marks and redirected a pass from sophomore defenseman Kevin Kerr, tying the game at a goal each. Kerr and junior defenseman Trevor Hamilton assisted Berger's power-play goal.
Penn State entered the third period trailing 2-1, but the Nittany Lions were just getting started. Halfway through the third period, senior forward Ricky DeRosa got the momentum rolling once again as he tied the game at 2-2.
Minutes later, senior forward Dylan Richard followed suit with a goal of his own, and less than 10 seconds later, Berger followed up with his second goal of the night. Freshman forward Denis Smirnov followed with a goal of his own for good measure, giving the Nittany Lions a 5-3 win.
Berger said the toughest part about the weekend was battling a tough opponent like Michigan State and overcoming adversity.
"I think we had a lot of adversity last weekend with Ohio State," Berger said. "We kind of kept confidence in our game and didn't really change anything and I think that was the same kind of thing tonight. The message after the second was stick with it and it will come."
Berger ended the night with two goals and six shots on net, closing out the weekend with three goals and one assist.
Gadowsky was proud of the sweep, but as always, kept his eye on the finish line and the team's next game.
"If you're fortunate enough to sweep in the Big Ten you should celebrate that," Gadowsky said. "It's tough to do and at this point in the season they're all big wins."
By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State track and field team opened its indoor season Saturday, Jan. 14th on home turf. The Nittany Lions hosted their own Nittany Lion Challenge at the Multi-Sport Facility where Bucknell, Cornell, Georgetown, Maryland, Pittsburgh, UConn, Villanova, Central Connecticut came to compete.
Last year at this meet, the Nittany Lions won 13 events, set four meets records, and broke three school records. This year, the team captured 12 event wins and a new school record.
Freshman Danae Rivers broke Briene Simmons' seven-year-old 600 meter Penn State school record of 1:29.81 as she ran a new record time of 1:29.06.
Rivers was in shock about her opening indoor performance.
"It really hasn't hit me yet, but it's a blessing I'd say," said Rivers. "All the hard work is just starting to pay off and it's only the beginning of the season."
The great start to her first indoor season at Penn State has only set the tone for where the rest of her indoor season will take her.
"It lets me know where I am running wise. I am looking forward to the future competition and just getting better from here," said Rivers.
Along with Rivers' record-breaking performance, the Nittany Lions also had many personal bests set at their indoor home opener.
Bryce Williams opened his junior year with a first place and an over two-foot indoor personal best in the triple jump.
"Opening the indoor season with a PR (personal record) feels awesome especially because I didn't get a chance to jump last year," said Williams. "I trusted my coach and kept going strong in workouts. I'm really excited to PR and get the win."
"For the season, I feel really good. I want to go up from here and continue to work hard in practice. I don't want to change anything because it's been working. I'm looking forward to the season and to see what happens," he added.
Williams surpassed his triple jump indoor PR of 49'5" to 51'8.25".
Along with Williams, senior Dannielle Gibson also won triple jump with a new indoor personal best mark of 43'09".
"It feels exhilarating. Not only for myself, like an accomplishment for myself, but for my team as well. I feel like I have to give it up to my team because first my teammates starting it off and added fuel to the fire, so it was really good to get that start and look forward to what's going to come next," said Gibson. "Mentally, I feel like I'm ten steps or ten moves from where I was last year, so it's a continuation of starting from square one and I feel really good about that."
Gibson also took first in the long jump with a leap of 19'01.25".
Along with Williams and Gibson, many other Nittany Lion runners took first in their events Saturday.
For the men, Junior Malik Moffett won the long jump (23'7.5"), junior Xavier Smith in the 60-meter dash (6.75), sophomore Morgan Shigo in the men's weight throw (64'8"), and freshman Tyreek Mathis in the 200-meter dash (21.98). The men's 4x400 meter relay also took first place.
On the women's side, freshman Rachel Banks won the 800-meter dash (2:11.72), junior Quenee Dale in the 60 meter hurdles (8.36), redshirt junior Lexi Masterson in pole vault (13.25') and senior Alyssa Robinson in the shot put (50'6.75").
Robinson knows the shot put win was just the start her last indoor season needed.
"I'm pretty excited. I thought of today as kind of a rust buster. It was a meet to shake out the nerves, you know, just compete and get ready for the rest of the season," said Robinson. "I think it's a good confidence booster for the rest of the season. I go more by mark than what I place, so I'm pretty happy with how I did today, and I think it was a good start. I can only go up from here."
The Nittany Lions will next be in action Friday, Jan. 20th and Saturday, Jan. 21st as they compete in Lexington, KY in the Rob McCravy Memorial.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's basketball isn't the
same team it was a few months ago. Unsure if his Nittany Lions could have
pulled off the same comeback just a few weeks or even months ago, Penn State rallied
from behind to take down No. 24 Minnesota in a close 52-50 decision.
Returning to the roots of Penn State basketball, Chambers' renewed emphasis on fine tuning toughness when it comes to defense and rebounding, has only created trust and communication as a welcome byproduct along the way.
Saturday afternoon, Penn State displayed another chunk of how far its come in front of 11,759 fans inside the Bryce Jordan Center, even showing a little bit of where it's still headed.
"These guys have really grown up, they're committed, they're starting to build trust out there and they believe in us," Chambers said. "The connectivity of the program and this group right now is really in a good place. That's why you're able to win a tight game down as much as we were and be able to finish it off."
After trailing by as many as 14 in the first half, Chambers felt like his team could not play much worse, as it entered the locker room facing a double digit deficit.
The Nittany Lions quickly found themselves down by 11, 33-22 no more than a few minutes into the second half.
Striking the spark though, it was Julian Moore, connecting on a pair of dunks in between one from the Gophers to shave the gap to nine, 35-26.
The Nittany Lions then ignited the flame, as Payton Banks drained his first triple of the day to open an 11-3 run that pulled Penn State as close as one, 38-37, after Josh Reaves went 2-for-2 from the charity stripe.
Penn State wasn't stopping there, as a Mike Watkins and-1 gave the Nittany Lions their first lead of the game, 40-38, with fewer than 10 minutes to play in the second half.
The Golden Gophers refused to go away though, battling back-and-forth until a pair of free throws off of an intentional foul called on Reaves and another bucket, sent Minnesota back up by as many as four, 46-42.
As both teams stalled offensively, Penn State put together a 3-for-5 stretch from the free throw line to climb back within one, 46-45. Looking to pull ahead for good, the Golden Gophers capitalized on a Penn State miscue, connecting on a bucket off of a missed Nittany Lion dunk to go ahead by three, 48-45.
Calm under pressure, the Nittany Lions called a timeout to regroup, coming out of the break with another clutch 3-pointer from Banks to tie the score, 48-48.
Still, Minnesota answered back.
Fouled on a second chance attempt on the next offensive possession, Watkins came through with a pair of timely free throws to tie the score once again, 50-50, with 1:25 left on the clock.
Taking another timeout to regroup after a missed 3-pointer, Carr went driving in for the bucket with a mere seven seconds remaining in the game, drawing a foul.
Coming off of the ball screen, Chambers noted that Carr attacked the basket just as he was asked, but as Carr stepped up to the free throw line to attempt a pair of go-ahead shots, there wasn't much that Chambers or his teammates needed to say to him before the release.
"I looked at him and I said, just like practice," Reaves said.
Carr sank both shots, giving Penn State the 52-50 edge as the Golden Gophers heaved a near-half court attempt to try and force overtime at the buzzer.
"He wanted the basketball, so make or miss, no matter what happened today you have yourself a really good point guard who has a lot of courage," Chambers said.
Having shot less than 30 percent from the field in the first half with 10 turnovers, the Nittany Lions transformed a sluggish start into a fiery second half, all credit to tightening up on the defensive end, knowing in the locker room at halftime, that defense would be the key to emerging with a win.
"Every game in the second half we just kind of have this boost and we just ride that momentum but, that's a really good team," Reaves said.
Among a host of key contributors, Chamber noted postgame that it was Reaves who made up 90 percent of the victory.
With nine points and eight rebounds, Reaves wasn't the leading scorer or the team's top rebounder. Those honors went to Watkins, who finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds for his fourth career double-double, a Penn State freshman record.
Reaves did however, lead the the team with five steals and three assists, but that's just a small representation of how much he meant in the Penn State victory.
"His energy, his effort, his juice, his fire, his compete, his passion, his edge, he was unbelievable, he was all over the floor," Chambers said.
Not represented on the stat sheet, are a total of 39 "attitude points," kept internally by the team for plays that encompass all the little things.
"That's remarkable," Chambers said of Reaves' impressive tally. "That means you're getting things done."
As Chambers also noted, Reaves told him he wanted to be the heart and soul of the team. With the "torch accepted," there was no doubt Saturday that he was anything short of the team's driving heartbeat.
"I just go," Reaves said. "My second wind is really fast and it comes really fast and I don't try to think about getting tired because that's a mental thing," Reaves said.
Penn State remains home next week, with a quick turnaround before another Big Ten outing. The Nittany Lions welcome Indiana for a midweek matchup Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center.
By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions opened the night dropping two of their first three bouts on the mat, but once Penn State reached their fourth bout of the evening, there was no looking back.
Penn State's consistent wrestlers, Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf and Bo Nickal continued their undefeated seasons with bonus point victories leading the Nittany Lions to a 37-6 win against the Scarlet Knights.
Nick Suriano, who is also undefeated on the season, began the night with a 16-2 major decision over Brandon Paetzell, putting the Nittany Lions ahead 4-0. Penn State dropped its next two bouts by decision, including a close, but tough loss for No. 12 Jimmy Gulibon who lost to the sixth-ranked wrestler at 141 pounds, Anthony Ashnault.
"We were happy [Gulibon] fought the whole time," head coach Cael Sanderson said. "He got a little overaggressive in the first period and got countered in a couple positions. Ashnault is a tough kid, but we'll take the over aggressiveness any day over the opposite so I think Jimmy's attitude is good and he's going to keep plugging away."
With the heart of Penn State's lineup upcoming, Sanderson says he wasn't too worried when his team trailed 6-4.
"Well when you have Zain coming up that's a confidence booster," Sanderson said. "We lost a couple matches early, but sometimes it just depends on where the matchups are. I think Rutgers is a good team, they have some good wrestlers that were just in the same weight as some of our guys that are really good."
Penn State tallied six bonus point victories, including two pins from Retherford and Nickal, and three technical falls from Jason Nolf, Vincenzo Joseph and Nick Nevills.
Joseph, who won 19-3 has quietly risen to the No. 4 ranked wrestler at 165 pounds. Joseph is 10-1 this season.
"I think he's just improving overall," Sanderson said. "I think all positions, his finishes, his shots, his tie-ups, his snaps, he's getting better on top. He's not a guy that probably tried to wrestle on top a lot, but in college it makes a big difference in close matches. He's looking better and I think his confidence is continuing to improve. He's wrestling real well, he's scoring with a number of attacks, his defense is solid, so we're happy where Vincenzo is at."
With Penn State ahead 23-6, No. 2 Nickal faced No. 14 Nicholas Gravina. Gravina came out aggressive and physical, but that didn't seem to phase Nickal.
"I think [Nickal] kept his composure," Sanderson said. "He took his points when they were there. He probably could have fired off a couple shots earlier, but sometimes you kind of feel them out a little bit, I guess, and score when the time is right."
With an impressive move, Nickal was able to spin to a sitting up positing from bottom, then turn in with a cradle and lift Gravina up and slam him down, finishing the move off with a pin moments later.
"I had his leg and then I just kind of sat," Nickal said. "Then I picked him up and then I threw him down."
Nickal called it his "secret move" and said he developed it with Retherford, along with with the help of YouTube, and has been working on it for about a year-and-a-half.
Sanderson also enjoyed the spectacular move just as move as the sold out Rec Hall crowd did.
"I enjoyed it just like you guys did," Sanderson said. "That's wrestling."
To close out the night, Nick Nevills improved to 11-0, and is one of five undefeated Nittany Lions along with Suriano, Retherford, Nolf and Nickal. Nevills used nine takedowns with four near-fall points to win by technical fall.
"It's a lot more enjoyable to go out there and get takedowns rather than having some of the closer matches that I've had," Nevills said. "The coaches have just been stressing going out and being more offensive and getting the takedowns that I'm capable of getting. It was a nice match to go out there and open up more and to get going and to just listen to the coaches telling me to let the guy go and keep going out and getting after the guy. It was fun. If that's what I have to do it's not bad taking a tech fall for the team."
As he noted earlier this week, Nevills aims to keep the fans in their seats until the very end of each dual meet.
Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the past two seasons, the Penn State women's gymnastics team has opened its Big Ten conference slate by competing against Nebraska. This 2017 season will be no different. The Nittany Lions will head to Lincoln, Neb., for the Big Ten opener against the Huskers on Sunday, Jan. 15.
"It's good and bad when you face one of the top teams in the nation early in the season," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "You can catch them off guard or they can be 100 percent healthy because they haven't done a whole lot yet. Since they came into the league, Penn State has yet to defeat Nebraska in a women's gymnastics meet, but I think we're going to do it on Sunday."
Sunday's meet will mark the start of Nebraska's season, but the Blue & White are coming off a first-place finish in their first meet of the season last Saturday, where Penn State (194.625) defeated BYU (194.225), Temple (191.925) and Bowling Green (190.725), respectfully. Penn State also won on the vault, balance beam and floor exercise.
"One of the advantages we have this year is that we competed last weekend, so we had a chance to go out there and shake some of the rust off," coach Thompson said. "The freshmen got a chance to see what it's like and what it feels like to [compete in collegiate athletics]. Also, competing on the road, there's normally less pressure than when you compete at home because no one knows you when you're on the road."
Even with less stress, Thompson knew that if the team wanted better results for the first away meet of the season, they had to change their preparation and practice for this week.
"Normally, we train two days, take a day off, train two days and travel, but we have a lack of depth at the moment and we're going to have four gymnasts compete in the all-around this weekend," coach Thompson said. "We decided that we're going to train [Thursday], give them [Friday] completely off and we'll travel on Saturday so they have two days completely off from gymnastics to get rested up."
The main focus during these practices is to clean up the vault landings and work on bars, but it's always important to look for perfection on beam and floor exercise, too.
"Every meet, unless you score 20 perfect 10's or a 200, there's always room for improvement," coach Thompson said. "This weekend, we will have every routine, every score that we counted last weekend, except one beam person, so we should be able to do as well as we did last Saturday and hopefully we can eliminate the mistakes."
This Sunday will also feature a different format, as the Huskers will host Penn State in a "Tumble & Rumble" event, where both women's gymnastics and wrestling will be competing simultaneously at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
"Obviously, the more you compete, the more experience you get," coach Thompson said. "Last year we had seven freshmen so half the team had no experience at the beginning of the season. This year, we have three freshmen. Only one is competing this weekend, so she's going to contribute to three of the 24 routines, so 90 percent of the routines are coming from upperclassmen. We're very confident in where they are right now and our expectations are high for them this weekend."
By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It may be a new year, but Penn State swimming and diving is in full swing as they prepare to enter the final stretch of their season. After a short break, the teams are back in action this weekend as they host Yale and Rutgers at McCoy Natatorium.
Here are five things you need to know on the program heading into 2017:
1. National and Big Ten Leaders
Shane Ryan continues to be a leader in the Big Ten in his first season back following competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics. He was named the Big Ten Swimmer of the Week on November 23, his fourth time receiving that honor this season, and the sixth of his career.
Ryan ranks in the top 10 in the Big Ten in all three of his individual events: the 100-yard backstroke (4th), 100-yard freestyle (7th) and 50-yard (6th). He is also in the top 10 nationally for those events and is the only swimmer in the nation to rank in the top 10 in all three.
Freshman Kaelan Freund has been having a breakout season and was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week on November 23. He boasts the twelfth-best time in the Big Ten in the 100 and 200 breaststroke.
For the women, three swimmers rank in the top 10 of their individual events. Katie Saloky (50 free), Ally McHugh (400 IM) and Katelyn Sowinski (200 fly) are all ranked eighth in the conference in their respective events. Additionally, Casey Francis (mile) and Niki Price (200 backstroke) both earned NCAA B-cut times.
2. Nittany Lions Hosting
Back-to-Back Home Meets
After being on the road for all but one of their meets in the fall semester, Penn State will be back in McCoy Natatorium for the next three weekends.
They take on Yale and Rutgers this weekend on both Friday and Saturday. The Nittany Lions will then face the Navy Midshipmen on January 21 followed by two days of the Diving Invitational on January 28 and 29.
"It's just a really good way to start off the home stretch here," said head coach Tim Murphy. "Being at home is always nice, there will be some energy in the air, and we haven't raced in awhile. We're going to get some stern tests with Yale and Rutgers and so we're looking forward to it. It's time to wake up and see where we're at and really push the gas pedal down and start really racing."
Several promotions highlight the final meets of the season. Saturday, January 21 against Navy will be Military Appreciation Day. The meet will also highlight Penn State's Ability Athletics program. The intermission breaks will feature an ability athletics exhibition race as well as the second annual Great Penn State Duck Toss.
For the Duck Toss, fans will throw rubber ducks into the pool during the second intermission. The goal is to try to get their duck into hoops placed throughout the water. The toss will feature lots of prize opportunities.
4. Senior Day
As the end of the regular season looms closer, Penn State will be honoring 12 seniors on senior day January 21 against Navy. Since arriving on campus, this group has gone through countless hours of training and travelling together, and above all, has shown commitment and leadership to the team.
"The seniors always play an important role in what you're doing because of their experience, because of their maturity," Murphy said. "They all have played a role in contributing to Penn State swimming and diving, who we are and who we want to be and we've got a short time left with them so we're going to enjoy that and we're looking forward to it."
5. Championships Right Around the
With the end of the competition season comes the start of championship season. The Big Ten Championships will be held at Purdue University from February 15-18. Following Big Tens is the NCAA Championships on March 16-18 in Indianapolis.
Both meets require swimmers to qualify in advance, so Murphy is looking to new and old swimmers to reach those times.
"I'd like everyone to have a big meet," Murphy said. "Some of the girls have been there before, so getting back there, qualifying for individual events is something that you want to see. But really, we want to see some new ladies and new guys make those qualifying standards or be on relays."
By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the second semester begins, so does the second wave of conference play for the Nittany Lions. The team travels to Syracuse this weekend after a stretch of four games over the break against some of the top programs in the country outside the CHA.
"Any opportunity, you take it as a chance to grow," head coach Josh Brandwene said. "We want to keep getting better every day. Turning the page and getting towards conference play, we've gotten better in so many aspects of the game this year. We're excited for the next steps."
"Especially in the middle of the season, you want to keep yourself moving at a high speed and I think that's what playing higher-skilled non-conference teams really helps us do," senior Laura Bowman said.
The Lions certainly hope to build off their non-conference experience as they take on a new mentality with every game meaning so much more in terms of the CHA standings. The Nittany Lions currently sit in third-place, one point behind second-place Syracuse.
Speaking of Syracuse, the return to conference play represents a return to familiarity in more ways than one. Freshman Abby Welch has three older sisters who play or have played college hockey, and one of those sisters, Madison, is currently a sophomore goaltender for Syracuse. Welch is one of two players from New York, along with senior Kelly Seward.
One area the coaching staff has stressed since the beginning of the year has been special teams, and the Nittany Lions have certainly had their success in those areas throughout the first half of the season.
"The hard work that this team puts into special teams, both power play and penalty kill, is something that they are consistently getting rewarded for," Brandwene said. "Right now, we've got the top power play in conference and our [penalty kill] is ranked number two. Those are things we still have to keep working at, but we want to keep growing and being successful in those areas."
"We have emphasized that we need to pay attention to the little things," freshman Katie McMillan said. "Paying attention in the D-zone, sticks up when the puck goes to the point, celebrating a blocked shot, just stuff like that. I think the girls are excited for the second half of the season, especially going into the big conference stretch here in the next couple of weeks."
Offensive numbers have also been up this season in comparison to years past, but the coaching staff attributes that to the dedication and determination of the athletes.
"We've got a room full of hard-working athletes," Brandwene said. "They're incredibly coachable and when you add the skill, talent, and hard work together, that's when you get those kind of results on the offensive side of the scoreboard."
This time of year represents a chance for some of the younger players to reflect on their experience in the program thus far.
For McMillan, her first semester at Penn State has been a journey she won't forget with some relationships on which she can always fall back.
"I think that this team is the closest team I've ever been a part of, especially these seniors. I look up to each of them so much and I'm really playing the second half of this season for them because they deserve it."
By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion Challenge this Saturday will be the first home meet of the indoor season for the track team, but it'll also be assistant coach Lucais MacKay's first meet coaching here at Penn State.
"It's been awesome. Coming into town and buying my first home, feeling really embraced by the whole community, taking my dog to the park and going to the football games, it really feels like a community. I like that a lot," said MacKay.
"It feels like a traditional college town and everyone is behind the athletic department. If you go out to Wegman's or anywhere in your gear, you usually get stopped and that's nice. I really like that feeling."
The atmosphere of the Penn State track team is one of MacKay's favorite parts of coaching here.
"Having this indoor facility and having the team all under one roof, getting to see the jumpers and the distance kids and the rest of the event groups work on a regular basis I think is really good for the cohesion of the team," said MacKay. "The fall was fast, quick and a lot of things happened. Coming in new, getting to know my athletes can sometimes be difficult, but everything has been really positive."
"I'm really excited for these kids," he added. "They went through the transition of losing a coach and there's a fair bit of upperclassmen and some good underclassmen that are developing. I'm excited for them to put on the jersey, compete at home and get a mark that counts. They practice for three to four months before you actually get to say 'yes this one counts.' I'm excited for that and excited to see how they compete. Going through mock scenarios is always nice, but getting an opportunity to line up and get your name called and have it count and the comradery that comes out of that."
MacKay's first fall preseason here was a transition that the throwers adjusted to well.
"I think getting to know the athletes, getting to know their training and laying down a foundation of technique was the most important thing that we accomplished (in the fall preseason). So now, kind of putting those things under fire and seeing how they hold up in competition and seeing if we need to alleviate any performance anxieties or any of those little mental things that creep up," said MacKay. "We train a lot, so getting good feedback from the fall and clocking in good hours and doing the good technical practices is setting us up for some success here in January. I'm looking forward to lacing up and seeing if that works."
Senior thrower Michael Shuey said MacKay always came prepared and ready to challenge them at practice.
"Everything had a common goal that we were doing. Everything made sense. He's really smart in how he prepares practices for us and writes everything down," said Shuey. "He's a mad scientist when it comes to track, so there's no doubt that we're all ready for this year."
Junior thrower Obeng Marfo said the fall consisted of different training than previous falls have, but she's ready to see how that all plays out this Saturday.
"I'm excited to do well because we've been training really hard in the fall season," said Marfo. "With a new coach, we've learned a lot of different things, so I'm pretty excited to showcase the things I've learned in the fall season. I hope the things we've done will help show results in the meet. I'm really excited for this season."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Fresh off of a win against Michigan State, Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers is thrilled to get back to practice, even wishing for a midweek outing to keep the momentum alive.
For Chambers though, seeing the little things come together against the Spartans has only revealed another layer of potential, as Chambers believes the Nittany Lions still have more to give.
Although without a midweek game, Penn State will not spend time basking in the success of its first win against Michigan State since 2011, as the Nittany Lions will look to remain focused on Saturday's task.
"I think what I see in practice is a team that is not relaxed, a team that's not content or complacent, thinking oh we won a big game, we've finally arrived and we've figured it out," Chambers said.
Looking to continue the focus, Chambers noted he'll still look for the Nittany Lions to refine habits, work on executing in end of game situations and of course, continue cleaning up the little things.
Talking About Practice
Chambers noted that he called off practice early this week due to such a high level of intensity, something he couldn't quite remember the last time he saw from his team.
Junior Payton Banks noted that short, hard practices are now frequent as the energy continues to rise, recalling the one Chambers called short.
"That practice specifically, the competition level was just at a really high level and he kind of just wanted to end it there," Banks said. "He saw it getting a little bit sloppy and he didn't want to ruin it at the end so he kind of just cut it short."
For Banks, that level of competition is growing in consistency, something he says is a big difference between this year and years past, crediting the incoming freshmen for bringing the added energy.
With practices formatted to be short in duration and tough in intensity, that has left a 30-minute window that Chambers now utilizes for a post-practice film session. As Banks says, it allows the Nittany Lions to focus on the positives, keeping the most recent practice fresh in the mind.
"When we do that on a daily basis, you can see improvement and I feel like that's the biggest thing for a lot of guys, you need to see what's getting better and what's working," Banks said.
Speaking of energy, fans were treated to a show from Josh Reaves, who put on an impressive Palestra performance that wasn't necessarily reflected in his postgame stat line. Reaves, who accounted for three of Penn State's six dunks against the Spartans, proved to be a spark from the moment he stepped on to the court. His ability to elevate the Nittany Lion energy on the court to a new level, is something Chambers is happy to have back, after an injury sidelined Reaves for the first five games of the season.
"We're 8-4 in our last 12, we're doing some really good things because you have healthy bodies, you have healthy guys - I'm going to knock on wood, and he's that guy in every day practice who is going to be feisty and bring the energy and the juice," Chambers said.
Looking at Minnesota
For Chambers, a combination of athleticism, speed, length and skill are all key components of a surging Minnesota team that earlier this week entered the Top 25 for the first time since 2013.
At 15-3 on the year and 3-2 in conference play, the Golden Gophers knocked off Purdue on the road in overtime before defeating Northwestern and Ohio State. Bookending the three-game winning streak, Minnesota's two conference losses have both come against Michigan State, most recently with a 65-47 loss on the road in East Lansing Wednesday night.
"They have a really good top seven or eight guys that are able to compete in the Big Ten and Richard [Pitino] has done a really good job," Chambers said.
The Golden Gophers currently rank among the best in the nation in shot blocking, averaging 6.6 blocks per game, which ranks sixth nationally and first in the Big Ten. Redshirt junior Reggie Lynch is atop the league standings and eighth nationally, blocking a little more than three shots per game on the year.
Tipoff between the Nittany Lions and the Golden Gophers is set for noon at the Bryce Jordan Center with live coverage on ESPNU.
Chambers on the Big Ten
Top to bottom, Chambers said that this year the Big Ten is pretty amazing, especially related to current standings early on in the season.
"It's crazy," Chamber said. "Top to bottom, it's pretty amazing this league this year, how strong it is and how difficult it is to get wins because on any given night if you're not bringing your best you're going to lose."
More from Chambers on the Big Ten picture below.
By Tom Shively, GoPSUSports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - The calendar has turned to 2017, and that means the Nittany Lions are finally ready to start their regular season. They open up this weekend at the West Point Open, an event they have won 18 times in 25 trips, and they appear locked in and cohesive as final adjustments are underway.
The Nittany Lions have won the event three straight times under head coach Randy Jepson, who liked to keep his message concise heading into the season-opening meet. He emphasized consistency and health as two of the major keys this weekend in order for the team to have success.
"Number one, you've got to walk in healthy and walk out healthy," Jepson said. "Number two, you want to be solid and consistent that first meet so you can get some momentum heading into the rest of the season. I think we're prepared to do that."
Despite the recent successes at West Point, this team has taken a one-step-at-a-time mentality, trying to build a solid foundation for the rest of the season.
"Every season is different and every meet is different," Jepson said. "These guys are prepared to do a good job getting started here. The nice thing is that we will be facing a couple solid teams in Nebraska and the eastern teams here as well. Arizona State is going to be out there so it'll be a little different flavor than it is usually, and our guys are excited about that."
Along with Nebraska and Arizona State, the West Point Open will host Temple, Navy, and Springfield College, as well as Army, the team putting on the event.
"We don't face any Big Ten teams for a couple weeks here still, so we won't get a real test for where we are with the rest of the conference until later," Jepson said. "But this will certainly give us some momentum heading into those meets."
The rotation order has been set for the meet and has the Nittany Lions starting on the high bar and having a second-rotation bye. They will then compete in the floor exercise and pommel horse before a second and final bye. The team finishes up on still rings, vault and parallel bars in that order.
Five Penn State freshmen will be appearing in their first career meet and we can already expect to see some big things from them based on the impact they have had since arriving on campus this past summer.
"I'm looking forward to seeing our freshmen and seeing how they perform as a team," Jepson said. "Those guys haven't been on a team mix before because they competed as individuals all through their career until they get to college. So watching them step into a meet where their teammates are counting on them, it's a little extra weight on their shoulders to know that they have to carry their load and I'm looking to see how they respond to that."
The Nittany Lions were picked to finish fourth out of seven Big Ten teams in the preseason poll, something Jepson casually pushed aside as something to which nobody on the team feels the need to react.
"I don't care about it at all. We don't worry about that. We've been ranked down so far many times, he said. "One year we were ranked sixth and we were national champions. You've got to do the job every day and the last day is when it counts, so we want to aim for that last day."
Perhaps a similar story could be unfolding for this year's squad, all starting this weekend in New York.
By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's Nick Nevills did not exactly get the start to his career he would have liked, but the sophomore now is back on track. Nevills, who was out with two injuries, experienced the first setback during his redshirt season in 2014-15, before another one kept him sidelined for most of last year.
"It was hard to have to go from wrestling everyday with everyone to not being able to even be in the room for a while," Nevills said. "It was really tough, but just knowing what I wanted and just trying to stay as clear on my goals and the things I want to do while I'm here at Penn State and after Penn State, what I want to accomplish, and never lose sight of my goals."
Having overcome the injuries with an offseason to recover, Nevills has not lost sight of those goals in the slightest, as it would take a lot to keep him out of the lineup.
"I'll wrestle until my body falls apart if I have to - which would be painful," Nevills said. "I can't see myself stop wrestling, especially anytime soon, it would take an asteroid falling out of the sky to hit me to stop me from trying to come back."
So far Nevills is off to a meteoric start this year, with a 10-0 record, including a 6-0 mark in dual meets with four pins and one technical fall. Just this past weekend Nevills topped a pair of Top 15 opponents, defeating eighth-ranked Michael Kroells from Minnesota before pinning Nebraska's No. 15 Collin Jensen.
The road to becoming one of five unbeaten Nittany Lions this year hasn't been an easy task though.
"Its gone okay so far," Nevills said. "I've wrestled a couple top-ranked people and have gotten some wins. This past weekend was just nice to get back into it after that long break. It was a decent weekend but I feel like I can wrestle better and I think I have wrestled better in the past, which is a good thing that I don't feel like I wrestled my best and still got it done. I think the season so far has gone pretty well for me and I've really enjoyed it so far."
Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson likes what he has seen so far from Nevills this year.
"I think he's getting better every match," Sanderson said. "I think his confidence is improving. I think he has won some matches by being tough on top and he has won some matches by his confidence on the bottom. He knew what he was doing on Sunday when he let the guy cradle him, which is not usually a good game plan, but then he kind of broke through - that's something you see him do in here all the time."
Before Penn State's Big Ten opening duals last week, the Nittany Lions had nearly a month off from competition after not being able to make it to the Reno Tournament of Champions due to weather. That didn't stop Nevills from staying focused.
"I went home and wrestled with my high school team and my brother, who is here, was back with me, wrestling at my high school and my youngest brother is very, very big, about 6 feet 4 and a half inches," Nevills said. "He wrestles and he is pretty good so I had two good partners there and my coaches back home."
While Nevills has his goals clearly in sight, like a true competitor, he still sees areas for improvement.
"My ultimate goal is to win, and to go out there and not just try to sneak by with wins," Nevills said. "I want to go out there and see how good I can get each time I wrestle, to try to be my best every time and I think if I do that then I'll win. There are some good guys in our weight class that I still haven't wrestled yet, and I'm looking forward to wrestling and just really getting to see really how good I can get. I don't feel like I'm anywhere near that point yet."
Penn State's Big Ten schedule hits Rec Hall for the firs time this weekend, when the Nittany Lions host Rutgers Friday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. with live coverage slated for BTN.
More from Sanderson on the weekend matchup below.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a new year well underway, a new semester filled with Penn State Athletics events is beginning to pick up. Among a few programs opening a new season in the heart of winter, Penn State men's volleyball opened 2017 last weekend with a road-split at the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge in Columbus, Ohio.
Ranked No. 14 in the latest release of the AVCA DI-II Men's Coaches Poll, the Nittany Lions dropped a 3-0 decision to second-ranked UCLA in the season opener, before rebounding with a close five-set win against USC.
As Penn State preps for another weekend on the road at No. 15 Ball State and Fort Wayne, take a look at five things you need to know before the Nittany Lions return to Rec Hall the following weekend to welcome Loyola (Chicago) Thursday, Jan. 19 and Lewis Friday, Jan. 20. First serve for both matches is set for 7 p.m.
1. Braswell Emerges
Penn State redshirt freshman setter Luke Braswell has stepped up to lead the Nittany Lion offense, replacing four-time All-EIVA selection Taylor Hammond who departed last season following graduation. Settling into the new role as the leader of the offensive, Braswell dished out 27 assists in his collegiate debut against UCLA, adding three aces one dig and one block. Against the Trojans, he directed the team to a .371 hitting efficiency, tallying 62 assists to go along with nine digs, three blocks, three kills and two aces.
"I think there were a little bit of nerves in the first match against UCLA both on his part and [Cal] Mende's part and the passers parts, but once everything settled down Luke just looked like a old veteran trying to do what we had asked him to do and followed the game plan really well," Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik said.
2. New Faces on the Court
Along with Braswell, a total of three Nittany Lions made their collegiate debuts during the opening weekend, including redshirt freshman Cal Mende. Mende powered the Penn State offense in the win against USC with a team-high 25 kills on .525 hitting, adding five blocks and four digs, overcoming a slow start in Friday's matchup against the Bruins.
"He came back and looked to be a little better against USC and as the match wore on, his confidence just grew exponentially and all of the sudden at the end of that match he was taking some big time swings, I think Cal Mende has the potential to become a monster on the right side for us," Pavlik said.
3. Veteran Leaders
Senior Chris Nugent and fifth-year redshirt senior Matt Callaway have returned for their final season in the Blue and White, with both veterans leading the way with championship experience throughout the years. Nugent, who earned All-America honorable mention honors last year had double figure kills in both matches last weekend, including 22 kills against USC. Callaway tied for first on the team with five blocks against the Trojans. For Pavlik though, their experience and leadership is just as important as the on court contributions.
"The leadership has been outstanding," Pavlik said. "Nugent has become more a more vocal leader and Callaway has really just thrown himself into his fifth year," Pavlik said. "Matt has also put up some of the best numbers he has ever put up in the fall for us and we're looking for that to continue."
Last year, Penn State's 2016 season came to a close earlier than anticipated. This year, Pavlik noted that the approach to success in 2017 will begin with a commitment to getting better each day in the the training gym.
"One of the other things I think they have to understand is how does this team compete, what's their personality going to be like, how do you take the strengths that they have and make it all work, and the training gym is the lab where all of that happens and I like what we've seen so far from this group from top to bottom," Pavlik said.
5. Previewing the EIVA
With each passing year the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) has only grown stronger. With a variety of challenges awaiting the Nittany Lions in just about every conference match, that's something that has Pavlik very pleased with how the league has come along and how it will prepare the Nittany Lions for a chance at the NCAA Tournament.
"I think there's a certain pride that our guys have that says we've got to be ready for our conference matches because that's the road to the NCAA's for us," Pavlik said.
The Nittany Lions will begin conference play Friday, Feb. 3, hosting Saint Francis (Pa.), before hitting the road for a three-game stretch, which also wraps up on the road against the Red Flash Friday, Feb. 14.More from Pavlik on the EIVA below.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following Friday night's loss at Ohio State, the Nittany Lions had to regroup before Saturday's second game of the series. The Nittany Lions, who stuck to their guns, came home to Happy Valley with a split, victorious in Saturday's outing.
Despite more than 30 days off from competition, having last laced up for a matchup against Michigan Dec. 2, 2016, head coach Guy Gadowsky took positives from the pair of road performances.
"Normally we get back on the 26th and play on the 28th [of December], so I actually liked it, but we did have an extra week off," Gadowsky said.
Gadowsky noted that a split on the road against another highly ranked Big Ten team is a good jumping off point for the second half of the season, one that will challenge the Nittany Lions with nine additional road games looming.
He also emphasized that although the result Friday night was a loss, the Nittany Lions played better in that game than they did on Saturday.
"We did have rust, things just weren't clicking," Gadowsky said of Friday's game. "I think we actually probably played better on Friday than we did on Saturday. I think we were pressing because we knew we didn't quite have it and we had to press a little harder and we made some mistakes with the puck that cost us on the other end."
The Nittany Lions were unable to put up any points Friday night, but thanks to freshman forward Brandon Biro the team got on the board first on Saturday. Biro found the back of the net during the second period, while senior forward David Goodwin and junior defenseman Trevor Hamilton earned the assists.
The line of Goodwin, Biro and sophomore forward Chase Berger kept the offensive momentum pulsing even later in the game, a performance Gadowsky said didn't go unnoticed. Berger netted the fourth and final goal for the Nittany Lions, assisted by freshman forward Denis Smirnov and Biro, who tallied his first career multi-point game.
"I just try to do everything I can to help the team win," Biro said. "I guess that night I was just fortunate to get on the scoreboard a couple times. I just try to do the right things whenever I'm on the ice and good things will happen."
The Nittany Lions scored four times in their 4-2 victory against the Buckeyes Saturday, but Gadowsky also noted that freshman goaltender Peyton Jones and junior defenseman Erik Autio have made countless contributions to the team's consistency on the defensive end.
Autio, who often flies under the radar, scored the second goal of the night for Penn State on Saturday, his second of the season.
"First of all with Erik Autio specifically, that goal was a culmination of more than 20,000 shots in our shooting room," Gadowsky said. "This kid works extremely hard and right from day one he identified he wanted to improve his shot."
Gadowsky concluded his praise of Autio noting the young Finn's ability to break the puck out of the zone is on par with any other defenseman in the Big Ten.
Jones, who saw time between the pipes both Friday and Saturday, now has a .919 save percentage. Jones made 18 saves Friday, totaling an impressive 24 Saturday.
For sophomore forward Andrew Sturtz, the type of weekend split involving a team's ability to come back from an earlier loss, is something truly huge, especially in terms of perseverance under pressure.
"For us to battle the adversity and then even late in the game to go and take two penalties and give up two goals and battle our way to the end to get the win, I think that shows what kind of team and what kind of character we have in that dressing room right now," Sturtz said.The Nittany Lions are eager to keep their momentum rolling, set to host Michigan State in back-to-back outings Friday and Saturday evening at Pegula Ice Arena.
ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - At this time last year, Jaida Travascio-Green was enjoying all that comes with being a second semester high school senior. She was preparing for her impending prom, graduation and, after that, the trip to Happy Valley to begin her collegiate basketball career.
In the seven months since she left Downers Grove North High School in Lisle, Illinois, Travascio-Green has gone from bench player to one of the starting five for the Lady Lions. It was a quick transition from high school to college for Travascio-Green, but one that she took in stride.
"It was kind of a forced quick adjustment, but it was a quick adjustment, and everyone was really helpful with it," she said. "They make it so easy for you to adjust in school, and even basketball-wise, both my teammates and coaches made it so easy to adjust."
The promotion to starter came on January 3rd when the Lady Lions faced Iowa, after Travascio-Green had had a strong showing at the start of the season, which didn't go unnoticed by her coaches.
"It was an adjustment we had to make for the betterment of the team," said assistant coach Tamika Jeter. "Jaida gets her shot off really quick, she's giving us a lot of production and she works really hard and I think that was a great move for our team as far as production."
Travascio-Green boasts a .410 field goal percentage on the season and averages 16.5 minutes and 6.1 points per game. Jeter credits her in-game success to the hard work she puts in at practice day in and day out.
"I think Jaida, once she gets something, she gets very comfortable, and she can roll with it, so she's very mentally tough," Jeter said. "The other part of Jaida that I really like is she pushes through. When Coach [Coquese] Washington is taking them through some tough practices, I've seen that kid, when there's no more gas in the tank, find two more drops of gas, and that's what you want to see in your student athletes."
It's that time put in during practice that has helped Travascio-Green get used to playing at the faster pace of college basketball.
As Travascio-Green continues to get the nod from Washington as a starter, she reuses to let it get to her head or change her preparation from game to game.
"I don't try to let it change my mindset at all. I just think that Coquese trusts me to execute my role and whether that means starting the game or whether that means coming into the game later on, it doesn't really matter. I'm glad that she trusts me enough to start me," Travascio-Green said.
"That's what I like the most about Jaida is her toughness in the situations Coach Washington has put her in," Jeter said. "The environment has been very tough, [coach] gets on her a lot, but she's responded and I think that's what's most impressive about Jaida."
Travascio-Green and the Lady Lions will continue their Big Ten slate when they face No. 3 Maryland on Wednesday night in College Park. Tip is set for 6:30 p.m.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's hockey is back in action in 2017, fresh off of a weekend Big Ten split on the road at Ohio State. The Nittany Lions moved to No. 4 this week in both releases of the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls.
Penn State returns home this weekend, set to welcome Michigan State for a pair of matchups Friday, Jan. 13 and Saturday, Jan. 14 at home in Pegula Ice Arena.
Catch up with Nittany Lions head coach Guy Gadowsky and freshman Brandon Biro as the two recap last weekend's Buckeye split, while also looking ahead to this weekend's action at home.Guy Gadowsky
PHILADELPHIA - To Penn State freshman Lamar Stevens, it felt like home. For Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers, it was a magical experience. Inside Penn's historic Palestra on a snowy afternoon in the heart of Philadelphia, Penn State men's basketball (10-7, 2-2) knocked off Michigan State (11-6, 3-1), 72-63 to earn its first win against the Spartans since 2011, and the first of the Chambers era.
Even 22-year Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo noted that despite a loss, Saturday's electric Big Ten outing in a building that first opened its doors in 1927, would be a memory-making experience he'll cherish anyway.
Having regrouped and reset from a tough loss on the road at Michigan a mere three days earlier, the Nittany Lions roamed the halls of the Palestra yesterday, with a few even climbing the famous "Rocky steps" at the entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art this morning.
With a 2017 roster featuring six Philadelphia natives and Chambers himself calling the City of Brotherly Love home, the Nittany Lions put on a Saturday afternoon show packed with toughness and all things true to a gritty Penn State basketball squad, in front of a sold-out crowd of nearly 9,000 fans, clad in mostly Blue and White.
"These kids will never forget this experience as long as they live and it was nice to come out on top for sure," Chambers said.
The Philly flavor was plentiful from the start as Mike Watkins came off the bench to slam home the first of six dunks on the day, sparking a streak that he finished off with a pair of layups following a Payton Banks block. Just the beginning of what was to come, Penn State was already leading by six, 12-6 at the first media timeout.
Michigan State came storming back, trimming the deficit to as few as two twice. With the Nittany Lions up by two, 16-14, it was another dunk, this time by Julian Moore, that struck the spark. Moore's dunk opened up an 11-2 streak, which featured a pair of layups from Moore and Tony Carr before a block from Josh Reaves and Bank's first triple of the day ignited the crowd.
took its first double digit lead of the day following another triple from
Banks, who just a year ago helped the Nittany Lions to a 17-point comeback win
against Drexel in the Palestra with a then-career high 20 points.
Although the Spartans narrowed the gap to five with a little more than two minutes to play in the opening frame, 37-32, back-to-back buckets from Stevens followed by a trey from Carr sent the Nittany Lions into the locker room leading by 12, 44-32.
Penn State shot 60 percent from the field in the first half and 50 percent from behind the arc, on the strength of five of its "Philly 6" Nittany Lions, who accounted for 34-of-44 first-half points.
Reaves, who had been relatively quiet during the opening half, came out of the break with an emphatic slam, the first of three second-half dunks.
Following the hot start in the second half, the Nittany Lions fell into a bit of a slump, as the Spartans cut the advantage to five, before Stevens put an end to a nearly 3-minute Penn State scoring drought with a jumper to make it 54-57.
Michigan State arrived within five once more, just before Reaves slammed home two more dunks in between a single Spartan free throw, sending the Nittany Lions ahead by eight, with MSU only threatening once more.
Finishing with six points, a team-high six assists, four blocks, two steals and two blocks, Reaves' energy was nearly palpable to fans throughout afternoon, as well as imperative to his teammates.
"Josh only had six points," questioned Carr at the postgame press conference glancing up from his stat sheet. "That definitely didn't determine the outcome of the game, he just does so much all over the court, he's constantly talking, he's the best defender on the team, he just kind of makes up for everybody's mistakes, so it's constant effort and energy," Carr said.
Chambers only echoed Carr and Stevens.
"Six assists, two blocks two steals, man they were huge, they were really big plays and he wasn't scoring so it's a credit to him," Chambers said.
Although a seemingly perfect ending to a homecoming for a majority of the roster, it didn't come without diligent preparation and a business-like approach.
Earlier this week, it was Chambers who noted that he'd certainly be addressing the possibility of homecoming emotions posing a challenge to his young Nittany Lions. Three of those Nittany Lions (Nazeer Bostick, Carr and Stevens) had seemingly just visited the Palestra not even a year ago as the trio led Roman Catholic to a Philadelphia Catholic League title last March.
Led by Chambers though, he instilled in his team that regardless of who might be filling the stands and no matter what the distractions might be, the Nittany Lions would approach the Spartan matchup with the mindset to play for the guys to the left and to the right, with toughness.
"Coach did a great job handling our emotions, telling us to focus on the game and just look around at the locker room and focus on each other, your teammates and your brothers," Stevens said. "Coach did a really great job, we followed what he did and we focused on each other and our brothers and it was successful."
Every Nittany Lion to see the court grabbed at least one rebound, led by nine from Watkins and six apiece from Carr and Stevens
"We got stops and we got rebounds, and that's one heck of a rebounding team and we won the rebounding battle," Chambers said.
For Izzo, it was Penn State's toughness that impressed him, as the Nittany Lions shot 46 percent from the field, the highest of any of Michigan State's Big Ten opponents this year.
Fittingly, three Philly natives led the Nittany Lions with double figure scoring. Stevens led the way with 18 points while Carr finished with 14 including two triples. Watkins and Banks (a California native), added 11 points each, with Banks also knocking down a pair of 3-pointers.
Now its back to the Bryce Jordan Center for the Nittany Lions, with a week off to prep for Minnesota. Penn State hosts the Golden Gophers Saturday, Jan. 14 at noon in the BJC.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Big Ten slate continues to
roll along, Penn State is set to host its first conference opponent at the
historic Palestra, squaring off against Michigan State Saturday afternoon.
While the Nittany Lions are regular contenders inside the storied building, the Spartans will make their first trip to the Palestra since 1966, and their first under the direction of 22-year head coach Tom Izzo.
It's no surprise Penn State is such a frequent visitor to the City of Brotherly Love, with a total of six Nittany Lions on the roster calling the Philadelphia area home, along with head coach Patrick Chambers, who calls Delaware County home.
For the Nittany Lions, a homecoming trip is no different than any other business trip this year, as Penn State remains focused on the task at hand rather than the excitement of family and friends.
"We're focused on Michigan State, we want to get a win, that's the bottom line," junior Shep Garner said. "We're going to come home and get a win, try to defend them [Michigan State] the best way we can, keep them off the offensive glass the best way we can, and come out of the Palestra with a win."
On the emotional side, Chambers did acknowledge the potential challenge regarding keeping his young Nittany Lions focused on what's happening "in between the lines." Not all emotion is bad emotion for Chambers though.
"Sometimes good emotion, it's okay to have," Chambers said. "You want that energy, you want that fire, I want them to be excited. I put the schedule together for a reason, so we could make memories last for a lifetime and we're definitely doing that but I want to put them on a stage that we're hopefully soon to get to and we'll be ready for it when that arrives."
It won't be the first time that a few Nittany Lion freshmen have hit the court at the Palestra though, as Nazeer Bostick, Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens all helped Roman Catholic to a Philadelphia Catholic League title less than a year ago in March 2016.
"It's crazy," Stevens said, reflecting on the atmosphere inside a building that first opened its doors in 1927. "It doesn't fit that many people, but you can feel kind of every body, it's a special place to play and I'm excited to go back and play with Penn State and hopefully we can come out with a win."
Past Palestra Performances and
Penn State is 3-2 in its last five games with a total of five Nittany Lions averaging double figures. Stevens and junior Payton Banks are both pacing the unit, with Stevens averaging 13.0 ppg and Banks just behind at 12.8 ppg.
Stevens also happens to be coming off a strong performance on the road at Michigan, narrowly missing a double-double with a team-high 16 points in addition to nine rebounds, despite foul trouble late in the game.
"He played with some toughness," Chambers said. "He played with some fearlessness, did some really good things, he shot out of a cannon the first four minutes, he was our scoring."
teammates have also taken note of the physical, confident demeanor, which has
him also second on the team in rebounding, with nearly six boards per game on
"As he said, his main job, his main focus is just go out there and play hard and be physical, rebound, and he does it to the best of his abilities," Garner said. "He was in foul trouble a little bit last night but I don't have a problem with that at all, he goes out there and does his job and that's all you can ask from him."
Although not a Philadelphia native, Banks, is also no stranger to the Palestra. Banks was instrumental in Penn State's 17-point comeback victory against Drexel December 19, 2015 at the Palestra.
One of three double-figure scorers along with Garner, Banks led the way with a then-career high 20 points, with 16 points in the second half alone. Banks went 7-for-16 from the field and 5-for-5 from the free throw line, adding six rebounds in Penn State's most recent Palestra appearance.
On The Hunt
Looking back on Penn State's midweek Big Ten road trip to Michigan, Chambers is quick to focus on just the positives despite a close 72-69 loss after the Nittany Lions were up by as many as 14 in the second half. He hasn't seen those positives all together in one consistent stretch just yet though.
"I'm on the hunt for this great team that's within this locker room and we're going to find it and it's going to come out," Chambers said. "I think you saw a great glimpse of that great basketball against Michigan, the talent really appeared. The togetherness, the connectivity, when it's rolling, man does it look good, especially on the defensive end."
The Nittany Lions will also be on the hunt for their third consecutive win when playing at the Palestra and their first victory against the Spartans since the Big Ten Tournament in 2011.
Tip time against Michigan State is set for 1 p.m. with live coverage on ESPN.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A new year has arrived, which means
a few Penn State Athletics programs are ready to kick off a fresh season in the
Blue and White. Ready to return to action, Penn State's first program to open
its 2017 season at home in Happy Valley this weekend is the Nittany Lion women's
Ranked within the top 25 of the women's National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches (NACGC) preseason poll, No. 23 Penn State has elected to begin a new year with a quad meet, welcoming Bowling Green, BYU and Temple to Rec Hall for the first of five home meets this season.
Ahead of the first home season-opener this weekend, take a look at five things you need to know before heading out to Rec Hall Saturday afternoon. Penn State gets underway in the quad meet beginning at 4 p.m.
1. Senior Leaders
Among a host of returners in 2017, sixth-year head coach Jeff Thompson noted that he'll rely on his group of four seniors to take on the leadership roles for the team this year.
Highlighting the group is Emma Sibson, one of Penn State's top vaulters and floor workers her first two seasons, who had to miss the duration of the 2016 season with an injury. Nicole Medvitz will also return to anchor the team on the balance beam for another season, while also leading off the uneven bars team. Both Sibson and Medvitz competed in the 2014 NCAA national championships.
2. Another Year of Experience
Speaking of returners, the 2017 Nittany Lion roster features a total of 13 returners, which includes a group of four then-newcomers who also made appearances in 11 of 12 team outings last year.
"Any time you have all of your team back, you're going to be better than the year before," Thompson said. "We're also going to be better because this year we have kids back in the lineup who were injured last year or kids who maybe had a surgery who are now returning back to play."
Within the group of returners, junior All-Big Ten First Team honoree Briannah Tsang returns following a 2016 season which featured an appearance at the NCAA championships after tying for fourth on the floor exercise in the NCAA regionals. Tsang is one of two Nittany Lions to receive recognition on the Big Ten's Gymnasts to Watch this year.
3. Leadership Committee
New this year, Thompson and the Nittany Lions have established a leadership committee for the 2017 season, which is comprised of a representative from each class.
"We have one member of each class, so there's a senior, a junior, a sophomore and a freshman that are our leadership committee and they help make or make the decisions around conditioning, practice times, community service," Thompson said.
The Nittany Lion leadership committee also provided a few tweaks to the offseason training schedule, which has already yielded positive results. Leading up to the opener, Thompson noted that the Nittany Lions hit 27 of 28 routines in the Thanksgiving inter-squad, hitting every routine by the Christmas inter-squad.
4. "Pink Meet" Highlights Home Dates
Among a total of five home dates in Rec Hall this season, all on Saturday's at 4 p.m., Penn State will once again host its annual "Pink Meet" against Michigan State Saturday, Feb. 4, with both teams set to wear pink to support an important cause.
"The pink meet is something near and dear to their hearts, just about everyone on our team has a family member who has been touched by cancer, or breast cancer, so anything they can do to give back to not only the community, but women in general - they're so excited about it and it's one of their most favorite meets of the year," Thompson said.
5. Looking Ahead to the B1G Opener
Following this weekend's opener, the Nittany Lions will hit the road, traveling to Nebraska to take on the Huskers in their Big Ten conference opener. This year will also feature a little different format as the Huskers will host Penn State in a "Tumble & Rumble" event, which features both gymnastics and wrestling simultaneously at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Set to return to action following nearly a month off from competition, Penn State wrestling hits the road to kick off its Big Ten slate. The first week of conference competition features a pair of Big Ten road duals, beginning with No. 12 Minnesota Friday and Nebraska Sunday.
Ahead of the trip, Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson and junior All-American national champion Zain Retherford joined the Penn State Coaches Show to give fans a quick look ahead in anticipation of the long awaited upcoming road duals.
Check out a few highlights from the pair of live radio segments.
Unexpected Time Off
Inclement weather forced the Nittany Lions to cancel their trip to Reno, Nevada for the Reno Tournament of Champions, originally set for Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. Although an unfortunate event that Sanderson said he has never experienced in his coaching career, he's confident the extra time off won't have a negative impact come Friday.
"It's a little tricky, you want to compete and it's a lot easier to gauge where you are when you're competing but these guys go long periods of time without competing for freestyle so they're used to that," Sanderson said. "They'll be ready to go, we have two great tests this weekend."
Looking at the Minnesota Lineup
Sanderson noted that the Golden Gophers have talent at every weight class, but the challenge of opening with such a tough conference opponent is something the Nittany Lions are certainly looking forward to, especially early on in the season.
"I think Minnesota is a real good team, I think people just thought maybe they were down because of last year, but they had a great group of recruits redshirting and some very strong kids still in the program like [Brett] Pfarr and other guys throughout the lineup," Sanderson said.
Minnesota's Pfarr will matchup with Penn State junior Matt McCutcheon, who has been working to perfect the move to 197. Pfarr is currently ranked No. 2 at 197, while McCutcheon is ranked No. 13 at 8-0 on the year.
"McCutcheon just has to do what he does well, he has wrestled very well at 197, I think he feels a lot better, he's stronger, his health has been better," Sanderson said. "Really it's just a big weekend for him. I'm looking forward to seeing where Matt is with these top guys. He has beaten some good guys but these are title contender type of guys, so a big weekend for McCutcheon for these guys, no doubt about it."
Looking Past Minnesota
Following the Golden Gophers, Sunday brings another upcoming potential highlight matchup, pairing Penn State's Bo Nickal and Nebraska's TJ Dudley. Nickal is currently ranked No. 2 at 8-0 on the year, while Dudley is ranked No. 3 at 184. Nickal is also coming off of a dominant showing in Penn State's 46-0 win against Binghamton, downing No. 13 Steve Schneider in an 18-7 major in front of another one of Rec Hall's signature sold out crowds.
"Dudley's a tough kid and he's obviously very strong, has the ability to score a lot of points and Bo's just going to be Bo," Sanderson said. "He's going to go do what he does and especially since it's the first time they'll meet. It's a good opportunity to Bo to wrestle, you're talking about a returning NCAA finalist from last year at that weight class and a great opportunity for Bo."
A B1G Conference
Since 2007, a Big Ten team has won the NCAA DI team national championship in each year. Largely paced by the Nittany Lions' five titles in the last six years, the Big Ten conference has become established in the national spotlight.
"It's gotten tough up and down the conference and obviously it's a positive and its something where kids want to wrestle in the Big Ten conference," Sanderson said.
Along with Retherford and Nickal, add in Jason Nolf (157) and the Nittany Lion trio is a nearly unstoppable group when it comes to bonus points. At a combined 26-0 on the year led by Retherford and Nolf's 9-0 marks, the three have accounted for 21 pins, four tech falls and one major.
"It's fun, my goal is to do my best and if pinning is my best then - I know that Nolf and Bo are the same exact way so it's a lot of fun competing that way," Retherford said.
Retherford also took some time to share a little piece of his pre-competition routine. First up, is a little bit of a work out to enter weigh in warm, but then after that, less is more for Retherford.
"Some guys are different, they can drink a chocolate milk or eat a sandwich or something, I feel all bloated if I do that when I try to wrestle, so less is more I'll have some Gatorade or something, maybe an apple and then I'm pretty good," Retherford said.
Right after the 125 bout, Retherford pairs up with Nolf for another warmup session.
"We just kind of grab each other behind the scenes and just get each other's heart rates up and ready to go, sweating a little bit and then jump right out there," Retherford said.
Someone who had just as stellar of a true freshman season as what Nittany Lion Nick Suriano is already putting together, Retherford has been impressed with the poise of the newcomer.
"You never have to worry about him not being ready for a match," Retherford said. "He's always ready to go and he's just loving every second of it, I see great things out of him."
Suriano, one of six starters heading into the Big Ten opener unbeaten on the year, will get his first experience with conference competition. At 8-0 this season and ranked No. 4 at 125, Suriano will match up against Minnesota's Ethan Lizak, who is ranked No. 6, coming off of a standout performance at the Southern Scuffle.
Friday's match time is set for 8 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion before the Nittany Lions meet the Huskers for a 3 p.m. match in Lincoln.
By Maria Canales,
GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Any fan who has ever experienced game day at Pegula Ice Arena is familiar with the opening hype video, the blue lights that shine on the ice when the Nittany Lions are introduced and the goal horn when Penn State scores.
When the game day festivities are in full swing, there are a few obvious, and even a few not so obvious traditions that have become relatively new staples for the men's hockey program.
The Roar Zone
It's no secret that head coach Guy Gadowsky loves The Roar Zone. He proudly states that the best student section in the country cheers for the Nittany Lions. How did the more than 1,000-seat student section come to be?
It all started with a few friends a few years back when the Pegula Ice Arena facility was just breaking ground, at a time when the Nittany Lions still played in the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.
Kyle Hoke, The Roar Zone's first president, was a freshman during the 2012-13 season, and was able to witness the first games the Nittany Lions played as a Division I program. He purchased the student season ticket package that season, but come sophomore year, he wanted to become more involved in the program.
"At the involvement fair I found the Hockey Management Association table and talked to the members who were there," Hoke said. "I went to the initial meeting and didn't know anyone, but knew that with my love of hockey this was the club I needed to be in. A few meetings in to the semester I volunteered with Nick Panos and Jesse Carnegie to run and organize the new student section called The Roar Zone."
For the next two years, The Roar Zone was managed under the umbrella of the Hockey Management Association, or HMA, another student organization that helps with game day operations and promotions at Pegula Ice Arena.
Hoke said that throughout those two seasons there was a core group of about 10 fans who were consistently seating in the front, right on the glass during every game. He said most people brought their own signs, and most added to the creativity by coming up with game chants.
"After the [2014-15] season wrapped up, a few of us got together and decided now that we were established, becoming our own student organization would be beneficial to our growth and involvement," Hoke said.
Hoke put together all the necessary paperwork, including drafting a club constitution and waited through most of the summer before he got the confirmation that The Roar Zone would be its own club the following year.
Although Hoke may have been the organization's leader, he is quick to affirm that the success of the student section is based on the collective contributions of many students, all because they've bonded over their love of hockey and the Nittany Lions.
"I had Nick and Jesse to work with originally, then Sam Watson and Chris Godissart after them," Hoke said. "These guys loved hockey and loved Penn State, so as a leader they were perfect to work with. I also got to see how Eric Bress handled himself as the president of HMA, which was a huge benefit."
One of Hoke's favorite college experiences revolves around the creation of one of The Roar Zone's most famous signs. Prior to Penn State's matchup against Wisconsin Feb. 6, 2015, the student section unraveled a banner that read, "Tonight We Feast on Badger." It instantly became a huge success.
Hoke gave Sam Watson, the current vice president of The Roar Zone, the credit for initiating and seeing that project through. Since then, The Roar Zone also created a banner to welcome Notre Dame last season, which too was a success.
In addition, The Roar Zone has become notorious for their chants and being loud at almost every point during a game.
For the many that stand in the bleachers for games, The Roar Zone has created memories and friendship, defining their college experience.
"It's not just a student section," Hoke said. "It's 1,000 friends and hockey lovers that for those few hours put aside their NHL loyalties and bond together to support our school."
Hoke finished by explaining his college experience would not be the same if it weren't for The Roar Zone and the people he met along the way.
"I was so incredibly lucky to accomplish what I did [as President], and couldn't have done it without the people who surrounded me," Hoke said. "The Roar Zone has the most passionate student fans in the country and just like the team, there has nowhere to go but up."
Without a doubt the one song that gets The Roar Zone bouncing up and down and ready for puck drop is "Timber," an upbeat pop song that frequently plays throughout the arena. At some point during the 2013-14 season the song started playing in Pegula and has continued to be played throughout the season.
Mike Williamson, then a freshman defenseman, decided that since the song was played so much, he would keep track of the number of plays on his Twitter account. It quickly turned into what is now known as the "#TimberCount," as it appears on various social media platforms.
"I started keeping track because the song was played so much," Williamson said. "I just thought it would be fun."
For the past three seasons, Williamson and fans alike have been keeping track of the tune via Twitter. It has grown in popularity, with fans and student-athletes alike even using the hash tag at other arenas if they happen to play the song. It's a song fans have embraced and instantly reminds supporters of their Nittany Lions.
Last season alone, the song was played more than 70 times. Now a student coach for the hockey program, Williamson is still actively keeping track of how many times the popular tune plays at Pegula Ice Arena.
count has come a long way," Williamson said. "I hope it continues even after
If you were in Pegula Ice Arena for a game between the fall of 2013 and the spring of 2016, chances are you saw someone dressed as the superhero "Thor" in the student section. The student, Gary Engelthaler, proudly wore the costume nearly every game during his time at Penn State. He said he picked that specific superhero because he wanted a character known for being loud, and he felt Thor would be fun for other people, and the team, to see.
Engelthaler, who was born with Spina Bifidia, had to miss a year of school to have three surgeries. During that time, head coach Guy Gadowsky and the Nittany Lions reached out to Engelthaler, sending him well wishes, a care package and a card signed by the team.
"I didn't even tell them that I was having surgeries so it caught me completely off guard," Engelthaler said. "During that year I visited as many games as I could and was always welcomed back with open arms."
While recovering from his surgeries Engelthaler, a native of Long Island, was living at home. During that time, Gadowsky reached out to Engelthaler to see if he wanted to visit the team after their game at Madison Square Garden, Jan. 30, 2016.
"We went to surprise the team and I gave coach [Thor's] hammer as a gift," Engelthaler said. "He decided from then on it would go to the player who fought the hardest every night."
Since then, it has become a tradition the team honors after every game.
"Coach Gadowsky is one of the greatest people I know and has always been great to all the students," Engelthaler said. "For something I did to make any positive impact on the program is an honor."
By: Jeff Sattora, GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Penn State Lady Lions used a 17-0 run over an eight-minute stretch in the third quarter to springboard to a 71-58 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes in Big Ten play at the Bryce Jordan Center Tuesday night.
A back-and-fourth first half saw the Hawkeyes jump out to an early 18-13 lead after one, but Penn State answered to take a 32-31 advantage into intermission.
Coming out of the halftime break Iowa put the first two points on the board, but that is when the Lady Lions responded with their big run. A Kaliyah Mitchell foul line jumper gave Penn State the lead back and Jaida Travascio-Green knocked down back-to-back 3's for the second time on the night to help jump-start the 17-0 run, giving the home team a 49-33 lead they would hold for the rest of the night.
While the offense was humming for the Lady Lions during that stretch, the defense looked just as good, holding Iowa 0-9 from the field and scoreless over 8:35 minutes of game action to turn the tide of the game.
"We talked at halftime that we needed to do a better job in transition. I thought that in the first half they got too many easy baskets because our rotations, communication and transitions weren't as good as they needed to be," head coach Coquese Washington said on the big third quarter. "We kind of turned that around and locked it up in the second half, especially the third quarter. I thought Jaylen Williams played very well in terms of being aggressive, forcing the paint and rebounding the ball in the third quarter. Those two things combined I think helped us to go on a bit of a run."
"We just pushed the ball in transition. That was one of the things we wanted to focus on coming into the game and also throughout the other games we had this season. Getting out and getting out fast and try and put pressure back on the defense and we did that well," added freshman guard Amari Carter, who filled the stat sheet with 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists on the night.
While the big third quarter run opened up the game, that lead did not put the Hawkeyes away, as they responded with a 7-2 run of their own to close the quarter.
Heading into the fourth, Washington had a message for her squad.
"In conference play, in the Big Ten, you know everyone is going to play for 40 minutes. No one is going to hang their head and stop playing suddenly because they're down 12 or 14 or 15 points," she said. "There was a lot of basketball left in the game so we knew they would keep fighting and they'd attempt to come back, so the fourth quarter we just had to hunker down and get some stops and pay attention to our defensive rotations and our defensive assignments."
On the offensive side of the ball, along with Carter it was another freshman, Travascio-Green, who led the way.
While it was the guard's first time on the floor for the opening tip in the Blue and White, she didn't hesitate to contribute, knocking down a team-high five 3-pointers and a team-high 16 points in 24 minutes.
"It was the same attitude throughout the game as I've had the other games," the freshman said on her starting mindset. "I just wanted to step up as best as I can since my teammates and my coach put me in that position."
"It's just an added weapon and she brings length on the defensive end of the floor. I just thought we'd mix it up and give her a shot," Washington added on making the move to start the freshman. "She's practicing well and playing well. I thought it would help to have her energy and her shooting out there on the floor at the beginning of the game."
Travascio-Green and her teammates showed energy throughout the game vs. the Hawkeyes Tuesday night, and they will look to keep that momentum going when they travel to Purdue for a weekend contest this Saturday at 2:00 p.m.
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
PASADENA, Calif. - It was a record setting day for the Nittany Lions in the 103rd Rose Bowl, which by any means might signal a triumphant victory. Rather, the year came to a close in a heartbreaking end to a thrilling season that not many could have seemingly predicated.
Among all the records and even the final result on one of college football's grandest stages though, it's ultimately the journey and the story of a commitment to the process and perseverance that will live on long after the trip back to Happy Valley.
The real story starts with a group of seniors, some of them in their fifth year at Penn State, who all made their collegiate commitment at a time when Penn State was dealing with some of its most tumulus years in program history.
Unwavering in their commitment, the small, yet impactful group built the foundation for a tremendous season which featured eye-opening upsets, dramatic comebacks and winning streaks, culminating in a Big Ten Championship title. Like any season season, there were of course tough losses and costly injuries at times along the way, nothing the Nittany Lions took time to dwell on though.
"The thing I'm probably emotional about more than anything is this is the last time that this 2017 football team will be together," Franklin said, surrounded by running back Saquon Barkley and safety Malik Golden at the postgame press conference, just outside the Rose Bowl stadium.
For both Franklin and Barkley and even among those in locker room, losing a class as special as the one in 2016, is what hurts the most, as the reality of Penn State's first loss since September 24th begins to set in.
"Because Malik and his other seniors have been through so much in this program, and me specifically, and Penn State, will be indebted to you for a very long time," Franklin said. "So, thank you, Malik."
The 103rd Rose Bowl had it all, from a 13-point Penn State deficit in the first quarter, to the Nittany Lions' triumphant third quarter, which featured touchdowns on four straight offensive snaps.
Reeling from the sluggish start, Penn State rose to the occasion, as the Nittany Lion offensive line paved a perfect path for Barkley to shoot right through the middle for a 24-yard touchdown run. Although USC answered back, with each Trojan score, Penn State continued to draw up a response, arriving just a touchdown shy of tying the score off of an 11-yard Mike Gesicki touchdown grab, before a missed USC field goal sent both teams to the locker room for halftime.
"Yeah, we hate first halves," Franklin said. "We hate them. We said we were going to use the second half game plan in the first half. I really didn't feel like it was our normal problem in first halves, we just turned the ball over."
Penn State came alive in the third quarter, forcing the Trojans to a three-and-out to open the frame before Barkley was back at it again, leaving fans speechless with an incredible 79-yard touchdown run filled with dramatic cuts to give the Nittany Lions the lead, 28-27.
"The O-line blocked it perfectly and got me one-on-one with a guy and I was able to make him miss," Barkley said. "I was just satisfied to get in the end zone, because I feel like we started to turn it over early in that game."
The sparks continued to fly as a diving Godwin grabbed a 72-yard pass from quarterback Trace McSorley from a bobbling pass on the next Penn State offensive snap.
Next up it was senior Brandon Bell, who just a few days ago noted that in his final senior season, the legacy he'd like to leave behind is one based on the fact that the circumstances never mattered when his came to an unwavering commitment to Penn State.
Plucking a tip from Christian Campbell, Bell took off with the interception for a 24-yard return, setting up McSorley for the 3-yard touchdown - a run that took a mere five seconds to set a Rose Bowl record.
Penn State and USC would trade touchdowns again in the third quarter before the Nittany Lion momentum came to a screeching halt in the fourth quarter.
After a Rose Bowl record 28 points in the third quarter, the Trojan's answered with back-to-back touchdowns in the fourth quarter. A late Penn State turnover saw USC follow with a deciding 46-yard field goal in the last second to win the game.
As red and green confetti sprayed into the stands, the Nittany Lions stood motionless for just a moment before heading into the locker room for the final time this season.
Finishing with a single-game Penn State bowl record nine catches and 187 yards, Godwin's 72-yard touchdown catch from McSorley marks the third-highest scoring pass in Rose Bowl history.
"Obviously its nice to have the idea that I had a pretty decent game but at the end of the day all I'm really worried about is the team success," Godwin said. "I just feel so bad for not only these seniors but for the rest of the guys because we put so much into this, it's been a great season and a great ride and I'm just disappointed I couldn't make the play when it counted for my team."
The feeling was mutual for Barkley, who finished with 306 all-purpose yards (194 rushing, 55 receiving, 57 kick return), as his 79-yard rushing touchdown ranks as the seventh-longest in Rose Bowl history and the second-longest scoring run in program history.
As Franklin noted in his postgame press conference though, it's not that statistics that matter.
Rather, it's the foundation built by a group of young men who refused to let adversity and uncertainty define their journey.
Just like Bell, for Golden, it's the intangibles of his commitment that he'd like to be remembered for after a season featuring Penn State's first Rose Bowl appearance since the 2008 season.
"I probably won't go down as the best Penn State player and I've come to terms with that, but as long as I will go down as one of the most loyal players, I'll be fine with that. Me and the group of guys who came here in 2012 and stayed here through it all."
"We have to get this feeling and use this pit
this pit you have in your stomach, this emotion, this pain, and use that in
your motivation when you get into next year into winter workouts, when we get
into spring ball, knowing how this feels at this point and never wanting to get
back to this feeling again." McSorley said.
Rose Bowl Media Central I Travel Day I Disneyland Day I Defensive Media Availability I Lawry's Beef Bowl I Offensive Media Availability I Rose Bowl Media Day I Rose Bowl Head Coaches Press Conference I Penn State Rose Bowl Pep Rally Photo Gallery
LOS ANGELES - The 103rd Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual has nearly arrived, as Penn State Football is set for its 47th bowl game appearance in program history, squaring off against USC in "The Granddaddy of Them All."
The fifth-ranked Nittany Lions and the No. 9 Trojans will finally meet on the field at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California Monday at 5 p.m. ET, with live coverage on ESPN.
Penn State's Rose Bowl matchup is nothing short of a marquee matchup, featuring a pair of surging programs with a rich tradition and storied histories. Making their fourth trip to the Rose Bowl, the Nittany Lions and the Trojans first met in the historic event in 1923, in Penn State's first ever bowl game appearance.
USC owns a slim 5-4 advantage in the all-time series, which includes a total of five previous neutral site meetings, including the 1923 and 2009 Rose Bowl games.
In what will be the fourth bowl game meeting between the two teams, the Trojans will become Penn State's most common bowl opponent.
Since touching down in sunny Los Angeles on Monday, the Nittany Lions have soaked in every moment of an exciting and festive week. Penn State held three practices at the StubHub center in nearby Carson, before a final walk through Sunday afternoon.
Penn State also continued its yearly tradition at the conclusion of the final Rose Bowl practice, carrying Nittany Lion seniors off of the practice field with help from selected teammates and staff members.
Outside of business, the Nittany Lions also took some time for a little fun, traveling to Disneyland for a day, enjoying a meal at Lawry's in the beef bowl, taking in a comedy show and even a little bowling on New Year's Eve.
With fun and final preparations complete, it's time for the Nittany Lions to key in on gameday. A bucket list item for head coach James Franklin and a childhood dream for many on the team, the wait is nearly over.
"This is a game that everybody you talk to talks about how special it is and how unique it is," Franklin said. "I think if you have a bucket list as a coach, this is one of the things that you want to do during your career. Obviously, we're blessed to be here."
The Nittany Lions and the Trojans have seemingly similar paths to the Rose Bowl game this season. Most notably, Penn State turned a 2-2 start into a nine-game winning streak for an 11-2 regular season record that featured a dramatic comeback victory against Wisconsin for the Big Ten Championship. Conversely, USC opened the season 1-3 before closing out the regular season on an eight-game winning streak at 9-3 in the regular season with a second place finish in the Pac-12 South Division.
"I don't know if you could have written a better script for the Rose Bowl with USC and Penn State coming together, how our seasons went, how we kind of both took off at the end of the season and our fan bases and all those types of things," Franklin said. "So it should be pretty exciting."
What To Watch For -
1. The Nittany Lions have proven on multiple occasions this season that they're no stranger to a nail-biting second half comeback. Outscoring opponents 298-105 in the second half, Penn state has also outscored its opponents 121-14 in the fourth quarter across the last eight games. As Franklin noted a few times this week though, it's still a top priority for the Nittany Lions to get out to a strong start. Penn State's high-scoring offense will need to spark early and it's defense will need to come through with key stops to help the Nittany Lions avoid another situation like the 28-14 halftime deficit in the Big Ten Championship win against Wisconsin.
2. The dynamic duo featuring Nittany Lion quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley is back for another performance on the field as the two playmakers have been centerpieces of the Penn State offense this year. Penn State is one of just 18 FBS teams with a 3,000-yard passer and a 1,000-yard rusher. In his first season as the starting signal caller, McSorley set the Penn State season passing yards record with 3,360. Barkley, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year enters the Monday matchup with 1,302 yards rushing, which ranks 10th in program history.
3. Franklin noted near the end of the week that a top matchup he's eyeing is between veteran center Brian Gaia and USC All-Pac-12 second team defensive tackle Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, who stands 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 320 pounds.
"He has been very disruptive," Franklin said of Tu'ikolovatu. "That's going to be a challenge for us. Brian's our senior starter, a captain, does a great job getting us lined up. He's not the biggest guy in the world. He's big enough to get the job done, but that's going to be a challenge for him."
1. Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold earned the starting job in the Trojan's fourth game of the season, helping USC to its current eight-game winning streak. The 2016 Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year has thrown for 2,633 yards with 26 touchdowns, tossing multiple touchdown passes in each of the last eight games. Darnold has also completed 213 of 313 total pass attempts on the year.
"I think you've got to try to get to this guy a little bit," Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry said. "But they've done a nice job. He doesn't hold the ball. He's smart enough that he's not going to be careless with it. He doesn't make poor choices. We're going to try to have him do that."
2. Trojan junior do-it-all cornerback-wide receiver-return Adoree Jackson is a highlight of the USC team, who has the ability to come through a wide variety of big plays. The 2016 Jim Thorpe Award winner earned numerous honors this season, as he stands as the USC career record holder for kickoff return yardage (2,045 and returns (75).
"He's definitely a game changer," McSorley said. "A guy of his capability, any time you throw the ball near him, he can maybe a play. He's a big-play guy, so you have to be aware of the type of player he is and where he is at all times, knowing how he plays guys and how he can play in certain different coverages and not being away from him, but respecting the type of player that he is."
3. Led by Tu'ikolovatu, the Trojan defensive line is big, physical and strong having had to rebuild this year after loosing all five starters from the 2015 season. Defensive end Porter Gustin leads the team with 12.0 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Gustin highlighted the season with a game-high nine tackles in the early season meeting against Alabama.
The Final Word -
In a team meeting Franklin asked every single member of the meeting to stand if they had ever been a part of a 12-win season in college football at any point in their career. Only three or four people stood up. Come Monday, the Nittany Lions will have another opportunity to add a milestone to an already impressive list this season.
"I think they're special seasons," Franklin said. "I've been a part of 11-win seasons. I've never been a part of a 12-win season. To me, that's a different threshold. You have 12-win seasons, and there's only a handful of teams in the country that are going to do that. That's special."
Should the Nittany Lions defeat the Trojans, Penn State will etch its first 12-win season into the record book since 1994, a milestone reached by just three other teams in the entire history of the program.
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