March 2017 Archives
By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
This year's 11-1 Penn State squad has already proven to be a
team to be remembered, but last game the team added another line to its storied
season thus far.
On Wednesday against Drexel, Madison Carter (102) became yet another player in Penn State's history to be granted admission into the career 100-point club, as she tallied five points off three goals and two assists. She joins Katie O'Donnell (125) as the second Nittany Lion this season to reach the plateau and now is one of three players on the team who have achieved the mark (O'Donnell and Steph Lazo). Lazo (188) has the likely opportunity to become the 12th person to ever don the Blue and White and crack 200 points.
"To hit that mark is a credit to her and how hard she's been working and how hard the team has rallied around her," head coach Missy Doherty said on Carter's accomplishment. "I think it comes from great team play and the ability to assert yourself, and it's nice to see on the team we have different players stepping up and doing that every year."
The three, comprising of one sophomore, a junior and a senior, showcase and represent Penn State's solid mix of age throughout the roster while also showing that regardless of the age, players of all sorts have big-time experience and have contributed immensely on the field.
Each game has presented its own unique set of challenges, and with that constant pressure from tough competition as they go down the backstretch of the season, Doherty believes it will make her team that much more ready to show up when it matters most.
"We've had a lot of really tough games this year and every game there's been different scenarios we can learn from," Doherty said. "It's nice to see when the game is on the line and your leaders step up. You get big plays from different people each game, so we never really know who's going to pull away, but we certainly have the people that can make big plays in big-time."
Penn State will need as many big plays as it can get down the latter part of the schedule since the final five games present collisions with some of the best programs in lacrosse.
Still on the slate are three top-20 teams in the country, including No. 1 Maryland in the regular season's penultimate game. Also in the way stands Big Ten foes in Michigan and Ohio State, with the Buckeyes having the Nittany Lions number in two of the last three regular season contests.
While it's a challenging road that lies ahead, Penn State welcomes the challenge as they plan to use it as fuel and preparation for the postseason that stands ahead.
"I think any time you go into postseason you want to make sure you have a great road to it, and you know I think our last five games kind of reflect our entire season," Doherty said. "We have a good mix of games of great, tough teams to play, so it's a great way to get ready for postseason with the teams we have left on our schedule."
With that same mindset of taking each game as a chance to better yourself, Doherty and her Nittany Lions plan to run through the gauntlet that remains at full force in order to make the most out of each one. Looking at the schedule, it appears the final five games should present plenty of opportunities do just that
"It's just continuing to grow and get better, and taking each lesson we learn from each game we're playing in order to build on the last one," Doherty said. "We've learned a lot of things about our team as the season's progressed, and we're looking to get better on Saturday."
Penn State will take on the visiting Ohio State Buckeyes at the Penn State Lacrosse Field this Saturday, April 1 at 1 p.m.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After defeating Cleveland State last weekend, senior captain Nick Aponte gave some perspective to the season the Nittany Lions have had so far. For Aponte, despite a perfect 9-0 to start to the year, the Nittany Lions will look at Big Ten play as a blank slate, an opportunity to continue to fight for wins and learn from past adversity.
Senior defenseman Peter Triolo said Tuesday afternoon that through all four campaigns he has been a part of, the Nittany Lions have traditionally separated the nonconference schedule from league games in hopes of getting mentally fresh before facing difficult opponents in the Big Ten.
"It's definitely interesting with this season and the success that we've been having," Triolo said. "Looking at this Big Ten slate, every team is going to be a competitive game, so that's why as a senior class, we sat down yesterday and throughout the weekend to talk about it. We wanted to make it very clear that these next few games coming up are the most important games of our season."
Triolo said the senior class spoke to the rest of the team and emphasized that now is the time to stick to the system and continue working hard day in and day out, both in and out of practice, so the Nittany Lions can focus on winning games.
"We had a team meeting on Monday, just to clean the slate and talk about things that we want to improve on and talk about the potential that we have coming in with the Big Ten games," Triolo said.
Despite improvements the defense can make in the coming weeks, Triolo said the majority of the team's success would come when every member of the team is trying their hardest but most importantly, enjoying the game. For Triolo, if Penn State is passionate on the field, the level of competition increases, making the Nittany Lions very dangerous against any competitor.
Triolo also emphasized that since the freshmen haven't played a Big Ten game yet, it's up to the leadership to make sure the rookies settle into conference games quickly, continuing to possess the poise they've had all season.
"I hope they're going to have a lot of confidence," head coach Jeff Tambroni said of his team's mindset going into this weekend. "I think the game plan was to set our guys up week in and week out both home and on the road, with opportunities. We felt like if we could day in and day out compete against each other, that preparation regardless of result was going to get us prepared for the Big Ten."
Tambroni praised the leadership on the team for hosting their fellow teammates on Monday for the team meeting to emphasize what the second half of the season means for the Nittany Lions before they open against Ohio State Sunday. He also stressed that in order to remain aggressive among other outstanding teams, Penn State will have to remain both physically capable of high-octane games while continuing to make smart plays all over the field."We feel very fortunate to be in the position that we're in right now in terms of our record, but I think that our guys have worked very hard and are very excited for the conference play that remains," Tambroni said. "I think the key is that they realize there's still a lot of work to be done but on the other side, I think confidence is high based on what they've been able to accomplish thus far."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Week two of Penn State spring practice is nearly complete, with the Nittany Lions steadily approaching the midpoint of the five-week spring season. With each passing practice, continue moving position by position with the Penn State staff for insight on a few Nittany Lion top performers.
In the third release, catch up with Nittany Lion wide receivers coach Josh Gattis for a closer look at Penn State's intriguing group of wide receivers.
With standout Chris Godwin electing for forgo a final season of eligibility with the Nittany Lions to declare for the NFL Draft, Penn State will only reload, equipped with an already exciting group at a wide receiver position that's stacked with potential.
As head coach James Franklin noted during his spring press conference, last year's ideal situation brought exciting depth, with consistency, confidence and anticipation all around from starters through the third team.
With veterans in DaeSean Hamilton, DeAndre Thompkins and Saeed Blacknall returning, Penn State also saw flashes from returners Juwan Johnson and Irvin Charles. Both Johnson and Charles played in all 14 games, with Charles' game changing 80-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter of the thrilling overtime win against Minnesota.
"We're practicing like a different team right now, just to be able to carry the confidence from last year over to this year, guys are playing faster," Gattis said. "It's year two in our offensive system, it's year two in our defensive system under Coach Pry and guys are playing with so much more confidence, we look like a really, really competitive team, our depth across the board is even."
Gattis also noted that Johnson has the potential to be making some key plays for the Nittany Lions come September, making him the top performer pick."We've had a great start to spring practice, the guys are developing, but specifically I think Juwan Johnson is having an unbelievable spring camp," Gattis said. "He has really improved a lot, and when you talk about most improved players on the team, he's one of those guys who comes to mind."
Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team is looking to be the 2017 national champion.
Before that goal can be realized, the Nittany Lions need to secure a top-two finish at the NCAA Regionals on Saturday to earn a spot to compete for a national championship.
The team will compete in the Gainesville Regional against No. 3 Florida, No. 10 Georgia, No. 15 Missouri, No. 30 New Hampshire and No. 35 North Carolina.
"We were ecstatic [when we found our regional," sophomore Sabrina Garcia said. "Not only is it somewhere warm, but it's going to be a very good match-up."
Penn State is ranked No. 33 out of 35 teams in the NCAA Regionals, but they're not letting the rankings affect the performances.
"The girls are very excited to be going to Florida, so that was a great start, and overall, we just try to focus on our routines and what we can control, not who we're competing against," interim co-head coach Kera Molinaro said.
"They're just focusing on their performance and putting together 24 routines," agreed interim co-head coach Josh Nilson.
Two weeks ago, the Nittany Lions tied for sixth-place at the 2017 Big Ten Women's Gymnastics Championships with a score of 195.200. The team is only hoping to get better from then. As the team gets prepared for the weekend, they are working on the little things in order to place first or second at regionals.
"We have been doing the same things we have been doing all season," Garcia said. "We've just been working out details and getting the extra quarter-tenth on each event."
Garcia has competed in regionals before, so she will know the ins and outs of the event. For others, it will be an entirely different experience. Freshman Kristen Politz has been a standout this season competing in the all-around for Penn State. Even though this will be her first time at the NCAA Regional, the team and coaches know that she will succeed.
"We're actually really excited about one of our freshman this week, Kristen Politz," interim co-head coach Molinaro said. "She's going to be a adding a little bit of difficulty into her floor routine, which is very exciting. She's been working all year, and it's finally ready to go in. We're looking to her to have an awesome meet as well as all the returners. I think they're ready and know what to expect."
No one knows how Penn State will do this weekend, but the gymnasts are confident in their ability to rise to the top when it matters most.
"I think we have a good chance to do some really great things there," senior Emma Sibson said. "We haven't fully put everything together, like we haven't had our best performance yet. I'm just super confident. We're known for doing it when it counts, and it counts this weekend, so we're just riding on that - that we're going to make it to nationals."
By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - For Penn State senior Dominic DiFulvio, flying doesn't just constitute twisting and turning in the air on vault or pulling off a perfect landing on rings. Flying is something he's always had an interest in and from an early age wanted to pursue as a career.
"I always wanted to fly, so I just kept with that when I was a kid," DiFulvio said. "When I got here, I figured why not do something I always loved as a kid. [Gymnastics] definitely kindred that aspect of my life."
DiFulvio took a step towards making that dream a reality when he interned with the Penn State Vertical Lift Research Center of Excellence last year. He had the opportunity to work with some experts in the field including Dr. Jose Palacios, someone who has been active in the Penn State community for some time now.
"I talked to Dr. Palacios about doing an internship with him because I wanted to get some experience under my belt before I left here," DiFulvio said. "I worked with him a lot with blade coatings. We did the process of icing and de-icing and how the coatings affect the ice and how it sheds off the blade. We did a bunch of accelerometer tests and we just did a ton of stuff. It's kind of crazy like I can't even think about all the stuff we did."
DiFulvio undoubtedly received recognition for the quality of his work, as some of the work he did during his internship was sent to NASA scientists.
In terms of his mentor, Dr. Palacios, they share a special bond: both are/have been members of the Penn State gymnastics team during their time at University Park. Jose was on the team from 2000-03, competing on the 2000 NCAA championship team as well as helping Penn State win its first Big Ten gymnastics championship in 2003, his senior season.
Despite the connection, DiFulvio said Palacios didn't focus too much on talking about gymnastics, rather focusing on trying to prepare DiFulvio for the job market and the career field, something DiFulvio was very grateful for.
"We sometimes talked about gymnastics, it was more that he is a pretty busy man so I tried to stay pretty on task when I was with him," DiFulvio said. "He was always very helpful when it came to asking about any advice about grad school or future jobs or just anything that we were doing.
As far as grad school is concerned, it's something DiFulvio definitely wants to pursue, but not until he has a couple years of experience in the field under his belt.
"I have a few interviews that I'm trying to get done before I leave here, and I'm hoping to end up down in the Virginia area," DiFulvio said. "I'm looking to go to grad school after I join the industry for a little bit, do two to five years and then come back [to school]. I'm looking for the space side of aerospace, so I'd like to do stability and dynamics control, spacecraft and space vehicles. That's the goal of what I want to get to."
Looking ahead to his career, DiFulvio understands the significance of his time with Dr. Palacios and how it better prepared him for opportunities in the field.
"[The internship] is something that I value very highly," DiFulvio said. "He taught me a lot of things that I didn't know and I wouldn't have known had I not done that with him. All the experiences that I have gotten here with leadership and with teamwork is definitely going to carry over into the working world."
While perhaps not being the most vocal leader towards DiFulvio, Palacios did most of his teaching through his work, demonstrating the ins and outs of crafting space vehicles and other technical aspects to DiFulvio without really being too overbearing.
"It was a 'lead by example' kind of thing," DiFulvio said. "He just worked his butt off every single day and I just aspire to be more like him."
DiFulvio will graduate this spring with a degree in aerospace engineering.
By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK - Catcher Alex Malinsky has missed the majority of the 2017 season following a preseason injury. During one of the team's practices, the senior took a ball off of the face and was immediately rushed to the hospital.
When practice finished, head coach Rob Cooper and his team went straight to the hospital to see how he was doing. Knowing he would have to have multiple surgeries on his face and dental work, the catcher asked Cooper what he thought was the only thing that mattered at the time.
"We went to the hospital and a bunch of guys came in asking him how he was doing and his response was, 'Hey how did practice end up? How did we finish up?' Cooper said. "That's just who he is."
Now healed from his injury, Malinsky has been able to play a few innings off the bench so far this season. On Wednesday evening, Cooper decided to start Malinsky behind the plate against Cornell.
"I wanted to get him back in there," Cooper said. "He's been working to get back in there. He looks good. We wanted to keep [Ryan] Sloniger in the lineup, so we DH-ed him and this was a good way to keep him off his feet and keep [Willie] Burger at first and Alex [Malinsky] did a great job."
After sustaining the injury in January, Malinsky had to go through surgeries to repair all the damage the ball had done to his face and mouth. Once recovered, Malinsky knew he had to start conditioning and get back into baseball shape since he fell behind his teammates. As Malinsky noted, it was a few weeks ago that he knew he was ready to go full speed again.
"It felt great. It felt great," Malinsky said. "I can't wait to get back out there."
Although the Nittany Lions took an early 1-0 lead in the first off of an RBI single by Jordan Bowersox, the team looked to add some insurance runs.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Braxton Giaveodoni singled through the left side to lead off the inning. After a single by Ryan Sloniger and an error on Christian Helsel's bunt loaded the bases, Malinsky stepped up to the plate.
"It's a team at bat," Malinsky said. "I was just trying to drive the ball. Worst comes to worst, if I drive the ball it could become a sac fly, so we will take the runs. I was just trying to get runs across."
Malinsky took the third pitch of his at bat down the left field line bringing home both Sloniger and Giavedoni to take a 3-0 lead. Logan Goodnight followed with a sac fly to left field to knock in Helsel who was tagging at third.
In the bottom of the sixth, Malinsky tacked on another double on the night with a shot down the right field line.
Even though the catcher was 2-3 with two RBIs and two doubles entering the seventh, he did not stop there. This time, Malinsky had runners on second and third with one out. After going ahead 2-0 in the count, Cornell pitcher John Natoli fought back to make the count full. Malinsky sent the payoff pitch into shallow centerfield for an RBI single to extend the Penn State lead 6-2.
After his single, Malinsky then stole second for the second time in his career, finishing with a career-high three hits, two doubles and three RBIs.
"I'm just so happy," Cooper said. "When I saw him get hit, you know he's a fifth-year senior this is it, I'm thinking the guy who deserves to finish out his senior year playing baseball more than anybody is him."
Helping Malinsky to the 8-2 victory over Cornell were Bowersox and Helsel at the plate and Schuyler Bates' strong outing on the mound. Bowersox went 2-3 with an RBI and two runs scored, while Helsel went 3-4 with three RBIs and one run scored.
Bates pitched a career-high five innings of two-hit baseball. The junior gave up two walks and struck out three of the 19 batters he faced in his first career start.
"The defense was unbelievable," Bates said. "It's amazing to be able to pitch behind that. I give most of the credit to them because they made so many unbelievable plays behind me."
After splitting the series against Columbia and a rainout on Tuesday, the Nittany Lions will enter Big Ten play with an 8-2 victory over Cornell.
"This win is huge before Big Ten play," Malinsky said. "Get everybody out there, get some confidence going in and we are just going to keep being us. We are going to attack every day and attack Michigan this weekend."
Penn State will travel to Ann Arbor on Friday at 4 p.m. to start a three-game series against Michigan to open the conference slate.
By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After what seemed like an eternity on the road, the Penn State softball squad finally returns to Beard Field this weekend. The team played its first 30 games away from the friendly confines of State College, but now gets a chance to open up their home turf against Indiana beginning on Friday.
"We're so excited and at the same time, I worry about us being so excited that by the fifth inning, our adrenaline crashes. We've done that in the past, but to be at home in front of our fans, it's going to be amazing," said head coach Amanda Lehotak.
The Lions have only been the "home team" eight times this season, meaning even though they have been playing away from Beard Field, they have started the game on defense. According to Lehotak, there is a big difference in strategy and feel of the game when opening up on defense instead of at bat.
"Statistically, if you're the home team, the winning percentage is much higher. When you're the visitor, you feel like the underdog. If you're the home team, I feel like you can ease into it a little bit. You can see how they're going to throw you and how they are going to attack you," said Lehotak.
There is a mental part of the game associated with being the home team as well.
"It's a completely different mindset and kind of out of our comfort zone since we've had so many games where we're not in that position. But, it's a weekend where we can take care of business," added Lehotak.
The keys to the weekend series against the Indiana Hoosiers are the same as all season, according to Lehotak. Her team must rely on the starting pitching relaxing and finding a groove, and the defense needs to limit runs being scored in bunches. Of course, timely hitting is a key factor, something the team is still working on.
The players themselves can't wait for Friday to arrive.
"I'm very excited. Everybody always talks about how it's the best part playing at home, and I'm just very excited," said freshman bright spot Madey Smith.
The excitement coming home is even higher due to the stakes, as the game with the Hoosiers will open home Big Ten play Friday, Saturday and Sunday, at 6pm, 3pm and 1pm, respectively. The Nittany Lions come into the conference home opener at 12-18 on the year, while Indiana is 16-16.
Fairly evenly matched with their Big Ten opponent, the Nittany Lions are primed to make a splash this week, and can do that in front of an army of supporters.
By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Most success of teams is measured by their performances and placing at meets and competitions, but rarely anyone ever thinks of all the behind the scenes work that contributes to this success.
Penn State track and field's Director of Operations Coordinator, Laura Loht, is the person who makes sure all the details most don't think about are all taken care of before, during, and after traveling to meets.
"My job when we go on the road is literally get the team from point A, which is the indoor track, to point B, wherever we go," said Loht. "Bus trips are way easier than when we fly. It's somewhat a challenge when you're checking in 60-80 people with small pole vaulters carrying their poles and javelins in oversize at an airport that is packed on a Wednesday or Sunday morning."
"Getting home with traveling like a big team like that, we're rarely traveling out of State College. We're most likely bussing to Pittsburgh or Baltimore, which can be tough especially when you're coming home and you're getting to Baltimore at 9:30 at night and have to get everyone on the bus and positive," Loht said. "Even though we're getting home at 1 a.m., making sure they get to class the next day."
Loht is a former Nittany Lion, where she earned All-American honors three times and still holds the javelin school record. Having all this track and field experience makes Loht's perfect for the role in operations.
"We just get there early and try to make sure everyone is staying relatively positive and whatnot. If we're going somewhere that's warm, I usually take tents along. When we get there, I have to make sure that we coolers and fluids, so waters and Gatorades," said Loht, who also makes sure she has extra supplies incase any athletes forget something back home.
Loht is the one of charge of creating the itineraries for the team and coaches, where she goes into greater detail about the travel information, meet schedule and dress code. She even includes some hydration tips from athletic trainer, Michael Gay, to make sure the athletes are staying hydrated as they travel to compete in warmer weather.
"Trust me during outdoors because we live in central PA, and it was snowing two weeks ago, we chase warm weather. They go from training in 30-degree weather to Arizona State where there's 70-degree weather," said Loht.
"It's a change, so our training staff does an awesome job of preparing the kids and telling them what they need to be doing as far as fueling their bodies in order for them to have the best day they can have when they step on the line or into the field."
Athletic trainer Michael Gay is heavily involved with the behind the scenes work as athletes prepare to do their best on meet day.
"Meet day is event preparation and then pre and post-event recovery. Depending on the day, a kid might have a time trial at the beginning of the day then there's some recovery time and then they have to compete again. That can involve maybe getting time for a meal in between or a hydration status or a soft tissue massage, so it's a lot about managing the between," said Gay.
With the different events that make up a track team, they all have different areas they must focus on to recover. Distance runners usually are more energy-based and require a lot of refueling and rehydration. Throwers use their max-effort upper body while sprinters create more damage from fast running.
"When a kid races, they create a lot of damage when they run. The whole idea is to try to manage that inflammation, manage the soft tissue, so they can give you maximize effort later. It's different for each kid," said Gay.
Most importantly, communication within the team, coaches, and staff is what makes the team run smoothly and successfully during competition weekends.
"A lot of it is communication. If something comes up, it changes the complexion of the meet. All of sudden a kid struggles in a 100 or something comes up, someone will have replaced them if they have other events. We have to stay on top of it and communicate with everybody and coordinate with all the athletes and coaches," said Gay.
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On the fifth day of Penn State Football spring practice, the Nittany Lions hosted their first media availability. Head coach James Franklin, safety Marcus Allen and running back Saquon Barkley all took time for a question and answer session following practice at the Lasch Football Building.
A Little More on The Captains -
Penn State named senior Jason Cabinda and juniors Trace McSorley and Nick Scott 2017 team captains following a vote from coaches and teammates. As Franklin noted, typically there's a pre-spring ball vote as well as a training camp vote, with the team this year opting to name captains the trio captains on March 22 with all three coming in with a high number of votes. That might not be all when it comes to captains though.
"I think as you guys know, I would like, we didn't do it last year but I would like to have two on offense, two on defense and two on special teams, so that still gives us an opportunity between now and two weeks into camp for somebody else to kind of step up as well," Franklin said. "So we be in a situation where we have two on each side of the ball."
Monroe Maturing -
With an opening at safety due to the graduation of Malik Golden, Ayron Monroe is among a group competing for the spot, and his coaches and teammates are taking notice.
"Ayron's been really good, he's so much more mature and so much more confident in what we do and how we do things," Franklin said.
Allen has also taken note, also taking on some added responsibility to help guide Monroe in a few areas outside the practice field.
"I try to guide him on off the field things, just to be that guy inside the film room to get extra film, extra work and just have him under my wing," Allen said. "As far as his athleticism, it's crazy, he's very good, he's a freak."
Scott Doing His Thing -
Franklin also noted that in the safety battle, Scott has had just about as good of an offseason as anyone on the team. For Allen, Scott's success is a result of a commitment to the little things.
"He's always in there getting extra work, he's with me 24/7 even if I'm not in there, he's in there by himself," Allen said. "He's an athlete, he can run, he can jump out of the gym, he's very elusive as far as when he as the ball in his hands and Nick's just doing his thing right now."
Saquon Barkley Adding More Leadership
While already emerging as a leader, spring practice has only given Barkley more of an opportunity to refine leadership skills and work toward mentoring others.
"Coach JoeMo just kind of told us that the great teams have players that are able to coach other players are and players who are willing to be coached," Barkley said. "So I just try to take the knowledge that I have from the two years I have been playing and not only from myself, but kind guys who have experience and especially people coming from defense to offense or people who are going through their first spring ball and try to give them advice and try to teach them what to do on this play or the little things you can do to take a negative and make it a positive."
Competition at Running Back -
Having the ability to take time to fill more of a coach-like role, Barkley noted that all of the running backs are currently competing at a high level.
"Everyone is trying to show Coach Huff and show Coach Franklin that they can be that guy so everyone is pushing each other," Barkley said. "Mark [Allen] might rip off a 20-yard run and two or three plays later Andre [Robinson] and Miles [Sanders] and JT [Johnathan Thomas] and all those guys - the room is so competitive. The love that we have each other is just so impressive to see how we go from being brothers and best friends to when we're on the field, we're trying to make sure this guy doesn't get this extra rep or something like that."
From the group, Barkley noted he has seen Robinson take on a good feel for the inside zone with shifty speed from Allen and explosive play from Sanders, with Thomas working through the transition from defense to offense.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Tuesday afternoon, Penn State men's hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky concluded the Nittany Lion 2016-17 season with his final press conference of the year.
Gadowsky started off addressing the team's most recent news: defenseman Vince Pedrie's departure after signing with the New York Rangers.
"It's something that we expect is going to happen more and more, and Vince, he's been a great player for us, and a great person and representative for our program and our university," Gadowsky said. "He's a really good guy. I really enjoyed having him and really I wish the very best for him."
Gadowsky knew Pedrie signing was a possibility after the Nittany Lions concluded their season, but also noted such dynamic players like Pedrie don't just leave the team simply to sign a contract, they leave when there's a high possibility they're headed to the NHL.
Despite a loss in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and one win shy of the Frozen Four, Gadowsky said there is much for the team the be proud of. Among those items, Penn State's first No. 1 ranking and bringing home the Big Ten Championship, just to name a few.
Referring to Penn State's staff long-term checklist, Gadowsky noted proudly that this team was capable of taking great strides toward those goals this year, checking many accomplishments off the list.
"There's not very many anymore, which is nice to say," Gadowsky said. "This experience has made us hungry to want to learn more and get better."
For Gadowsky, the 2016-17 season has been a year where he has learned more about coaching than ever before, and that experience in itself is extremely valuable to the success of the team in the future.
So what's next for the Nittany Lions?
Across the next weeks, the coaching staff will meet with each player individually and then meet as a staff to evaluate the program itself and start prepping for next year's campaign.
"That's what I'm really looking forward to," Gadowsky said. "We already have a number of things we know we have to improve on and that's exciting. Physically, we're a little bit tired but I can't tell you how much we want to get back to improving and I know we can."
As for the departing senior class, forward Ricky DeRosa said he'd like the legacy of the class of 2017 to be that of a group of guys who were hard workers until the very end, and great representatives of Penn State off the ice. Reflecting, DeRosa had some fitting words to end the season, explaining why this particular team has been so special."I'd say it's the people in the locker room," DeRosa said. "You had the younger guys pushing the older guys, the older guys kind of leading the way with the different leadership styles that have been instilled is us over the last three, four years here. Then you throw in Coach Gadowsky and the other coaches in the mix and it's a recipe for success."
By Jack Milewski, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State has played with resiliency and resolve all season long amidst injuries and adversity. They have gutted out wins and relied on nearly everyone in the lineup to provide a spark. On Tuesday night, the Nittany Lions did just that, against the number one team in the nation.
The Nittany Lions downed the Buckeyes in a five set instant classic that showed the potential of the team's young talent, coupled with the experience of the upperclassmen. In what was one of, if not the finest performance from Penn State on the season, the Nittany Lions rode wave of momentum after wave of momentum to their biggest victory of the season thus far.
"I think this match was one going into it that we thought we would need a concerted sustained focus throughout if we were going to win," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "I think everyone outside of our locker room looked at this and thought Ohio State would take care of business. We're really proud of these guys."
With numerous standout performances, Chris Nugent totaled 19 kills hitting .515, while Nathan Smith dished out 39 assists, 10 digs and four blocks. Aidan Albrecht added 14 kills, seven digs and a pair of blocks. However, the performance that was probably the most instrumental in Penn State's victory isn't one that shows up in a column on the stat sheet, and not produced by just one individual.
"I think our passers were our unsung heroes in this contest," Pavlik said. "Anytime you can hold a team like this to around a service ace per game, you're doing something really well."
"We knew that we would have to pass well throughout the entire game," Nugent added. "Save for a couple of missed opportunities, I thought we had one of our better games in that department."
The seven service aces that Ohio State recorded were their third lowest total in a match this season and their lowest all season in a match that lasted four sets of longer. Not only were the Penn State Nittany Lions on the ball with their passing, but their defensive effort as a whole also stood out.
"We just stuck together, that was the bottom line," Nugent said. "Everyone was communicating well and quite honestly I think a lot of the times it comes down to energy and we just had great energy all night."
The energy was palpable in Rec Hall Tuesday night, as is usually the case when the best team in the nation comes to town. Penn State energized the fans right out of the gate with a tremendous first set, taking the lead early and never looking back. Set two went the way of the visitors, but set three was right back to the Nittany Lions, who seemed to never waver under the spotlight.
"We certainly had our bumps at the beginning of the match," Smith said. "That comes with playing with a lineup that you haven't seen in a match yet, but once the third set rolled around we felt like we found a nice rhythm."
Penn State is hoping the rhythm continues into the second half of EIVA play as the Nittany Lions currently sit atop the standings. Penn State will host NJIT and Princeton in Rec Hall this upcoming Friday and Saturday, marking the first conference matches the team will have played since February 25th.
"This is certainly a shot in the arm for us," Jalen Penrose said. "Anytime you can take down the best team in the nation it's a nice feeling. We just have to stay focused because we have two good opponents coming into our gym this weekend."At the end of the day, this is a feel good match for us," Pavlik said. "It's a great win, but it doesn't move us up in any standings. We will see how the team responds but were hoping that we can use it as a springboard match for the last three weekends of the season."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Week two of Penn State spring practice is already underway with four of 14 practices already in the books. Throughout the next four weeks, go position by position with the Penn State staff highlighting top performers leading up to the annual Blue-White game at Beaver Stadium.
In the second release, catch up with Penn State run game coordinator and defensive line coach Sean Spencer for a closer look at the Nittany Lion defensive line.
No stranger to departures along the defensive line, Spencer will look to replace a pair of defensive ends with departures from senior Evan Schwan and Garrett Sickels, who opted for forgo his final year of eligibility to declare for the NFL Draft. That's not an unfamiliar scenario for the Nittany Lions, as jut as early as 2015, Penn State also saw as many as four defensive lineman NFL hopefuls leaving openings behind. For Spencer though, Penn State's task not rebuilding, but rather reloading.
Penn State has a variety of options when it comes to reloading too, and among top performers right now, Spencer first mentioned defensive end Shareef Miller.
"It started in winter workouts and he's becoming a leader in that room and running to the ball, doing things and working hard," Spencer said. "He's a big effort guy and he has always been that way since he's been here and he has really taken his game up to the next level."
One of 27 freshmen to appear in 2016, Miller played in 14 games, tallying 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks, including his first career in his collegiate debut against Kent State.
Spencer also noted that defensive end Shaka Toney has also shown a lot in the pass rush game, with defensive tackle Curtis Cothran coming in as pleasant surprise on the inside.
"Very, very natural pass rusher," Spencer said, referring to Toney. "Of course we like to get at the quarterbacks so having a guy like that who can be that explosive off the edge, I think is really helpful for us right now."Cothran played in 10 games, making eight starts for the Nittany Lions in 2016, totaling 4.5 tackles for loss, highlighted by a career-high five tackles in the Big Ten Championship game, including a key stop on Wisconsin's first drive of the third quarter to force a field goal that the Badgers missed. The rest is history.
By Jack Milewski, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Nittany Lions will embark on yet another busy week in their 2017 season, set to take on Ohio State, NJIT and Princeton all within the next five days. Penn State has dealt with adversity in terms of injury and illness all season long, but the team still sits in a solid position heading into the second half of EIVA play.
"We like where we're at," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "We sit a game ahead of both NJIT and Princeton, so these next couple games are going to be very big."
Penn State fell to both Lewis and Loyola Chicago this past weekend, but there were still lots of positives during the weekend, most notably the fact that the Nittany Lions never looked like a team that had given up on the games.
"We loved the response from our guys in both games," Pavlik said. "Obviously it's not the results that we wanted, but we fought in both games and were right there."
"We know that Ohio State is a good team and we are excited for the challenge," Pavlik said. "It is always a good opportunity to see where we stack up against one of the top programs in the nation."
Penn State and Ohio State are set for a Tuesday, March 28 matchup with first serve set for 7 p.m. at Rec Hall.
By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With Big Ten play looming, Penn State is coming off a somewhat disappointing four-game weekend series split with Columbia, but that hasn't changed the confidence in the Nittany Lions locker room.
"We stay positive," pitcher Taylor Lehman said. "We would've liked to take all four games this weekend, but you just got to learn from what we could've done better and take it to next week."
Lehman had an encouraging weekend himself coming out of the bullpen, appearing in two games and not allowing a run in three innings. He notched five strikeouts as well.
Head coach Rob Cooper said overall he was happy with the team's pitching performance over the weekend but mentioned the offense needs to put more competitive at-bats together heading into Penn State's first Big Ten series at Michigan starting this Friday.
"I know that this team can do it, but I think what we have right now are a lot of guys that are pressing from a mental standpoint and a confidence standpoint," Cooper said.
One player Cooper sees getting hot soon is senior Nick Riotto. Riotto was fourth on the team last season with a .307 batting average, but so far this year he's hitting just .157.
"This is a guy that I think has a chance to play professional baseball," Cooper said. "He just cares so much and wants to win so much that he's trying like crazy to almost make up for lost time, but he's starting to relax."
Riotto has been at the forefront of helping newcomers like freshman Braxton Giavedoni adjust to the college level. He's been pegged as the offensive leader of the team, and Cooper believes he'll find his groove soon and the offense will follow behind him.
As for Giavedoni, he's impressed coaches with his work ethic and steady improvement since day one. He's started 18 of Penn State's 22 games and has produced a .275 batting average in 2017, good for fourth highest on the team.
"I just kept my confidence up and kept working and found my way," Giavedoni said. "In TCU I got one hit, got my confidence up, and from there I've just been rolling. Once I got that first hit off a really good arm at TCU, then I just thought I could do it off anyone."
Giavedoni feeds off confidence. If he continues to believe he can thrive at this level, he'll be a force in the middle of the Nittany Lions lineup during the Big Ten stretch.
"Braxton's been a pleasant surprise, Cooper said. "It's not that we didn't think he could play at this level, but you're excited that a true freshman can come in and want to be in the moment and want to play and make the most of those opportunities."
Amidst the start to the season, Cooper said he sees no reason to panic.
The Nittany Lions haven't even started the Big Ten season yet, which is by far the most crucial stretch of the year. Penn State has almost a week to improve and flush the last two weeks out, putting them in the past. Two home midweek contests against Binghamton Tuesday night and Bucknell Wednesday night give the Lions an opportunity to right the ship before conference play begins.
"Every goal that our team wants to accomplish we can still accomplish," Cooper said. "We can make the NCAA Tournament. We can make the Big Ten Tournament. We can win the Big Ten Championship. All those things are possible for us to do."
PARK, Pa. - With week one of Penn State spring practices complete, the Nittany
Lions are well underway in spring game preparations. Throughout the next four
weeks, go position by position with the Penn State staff highlighting top performers
who are exceeding expectations.
In the first release, catch up with Penn State special teams coordinator and running backs coach Charles Huff for a closer look at the Nittany Lion running backs.
"The entire group is really doing a good job, coming out every day, playing fast working hard, pushing each other," Huff said. "Obviously there are some guys who have played so it makes it a little bit easier for them to do it again."
For Huff, he keyed in first, on Mark Allen, a veteran member of a deep running back unit that dazzled Nittany Lion fans with explosive quickness and bigtime plays all year long. With everyone returning, the level of competition in practice has only elevated with each passing practice.
"Whenever you can compete in practice, it makes the games a lot easier and right now we have that," Huff said. "We have a lot more depth, guys who have more experience, they've played a year, some guys played a lot, some guys played a little bit and some guys who have played a lot are talking to the younger guys and it makes practice a lot more competitive and it makes them feel like, I've got to come out here every day and be on my 'a' game to keep up and meet the expectation."
A centerpiece of the dynamic unit, Huff noted that All-American, Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Saquon Barkley has also continued to develop as a leader on the squad, looking toward his junior season come fall.
Reach Arielle @email@example.com or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
CINCINNATI, Ohio - When head coach Guy Gadowsky assumed responsibilities as Penn State hockey's head coach, he didn't arrive with a timeline for program milestones and accomplishments in mind. Rather, Gadowsky and his staff have a checklist, having decided to focus first, on forging a foundation built on the principles of work ethic and commitment.
On Sunday night, third-seeded Penn State's 2016-17 season officially came to a close in the NCAA regional finals, as top-seeded Denver emerged with 6-3 decision.
Regardless of the bitter end, there's no denying that the 2016-17 season saw plenty of list-checking worthy moments that filled loyal fans with a palpable sense of pride, leaving enough excitement to pique even the interest of the most skeptical critics.
First there was the program's rise to a No. 1 national ranking, which came January 16th following a pair of wins against Michigan State. Next, a thrilling marathon run through the Big Ten Tournament, culminating in the program's first conference title, a feat that Gadowsky noted postgame, he and the staff didn't think possible so soon.
Just days later, the Nittany Lions earned their first NCAA Tournament berth in program history, making a striking debut with a record-setting 10-3 win against Union before arriving in the regional finals, facing Penn State's toughest test all year long.
"This season can be a very important one," Gadowsky said. "I don't think anyone will forget this season, it was magical."
The Pioneers opened the scoring with a goal 3:17 into the first period before widening the advantage to two, sending a laser through traffic and past Penn State goaltender Peyton Jones at the 7:19 mark.
Nikita Pavlychev's shorthanded goal shaved the deficit to one as the freshmen dished to Ricky DeRosa, who sent it right back just in time for a finish. At 2:02 in the second period, it was fellow freshman Denis Smirnov who scored to tie the game, 2-2, striking up the pulse of the Nittany Lion fans in the stands at U.S. Bank Arena.
Penn State couldn't find its rhythm to settle into though as Denver scored again to recapture the two-goal lead before adding a power-play goal with 1:18 left in second period, stretching the gap to three, 5-2.
"I don't think we were necessarily us, but you have to give them a lot of credit for making us not us," Gadowsky said.
Although facing a daunting deficit, as DeRosa noted postgame, there was no panic on the bench headed toward the final period of play.
"We have a saying, don't panic just manage," DeRosa said. "We posted five goals in the third period yesterday so that was the mindset in the locker room, just chip away at it."
Penn State did make every attempt to do just that, as James Gobetz fired a shot from up near the blue line to for his first goal of the year to bring the Nittany Lions back within two, 5-3, at 12:40 in the third period.
The Nittany Lions wouldn't pull any closer though as Denver continued to stifle the offense, turning away a variety of seemingly promising opportunities with Pioneer goalie Tanner Jaillet finishing with 24 saves. Denver added an empty net goal late in the frame to make it 6-3 before the final blare of the horn.
As the scoreboard illuminated with zeros, Penn State retired to the locker room with the sting of the season-ending loss setting in.
"I believe it was Nikita Pavlychev who said thank you on behalf of the freshmen, and James Robinson thanked everyone else," Gobetz said. "Everyone was pretty emotional, kind of consoling each other. I mean, we are brothers. It is obviously a tough loss, but we will bounce back and we are thankful for the seniors for sure."
In early March, Penn State honored a group of five seniors on senior night at Pegula Ice Arena. A group of Nittany Lions who committed to a program in its early beginnings, unknowing of the future or what to expect, they proudly helped shaped an already special legacy from the moment they said yes to Hockey Valley. Seeing everything from the first game in Pegula Ice Arena to their last game, which came in Penn State's first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, it's a journey that features unprecedented achievement.
"The seniors have really taught me a lot," Gobetz said. "I think we have a lot of freshmen here, and we are all very thankful for what they have done. Without them, we would not be here, that is for sure. They built this program and we thanked them in the locker room after the game and obviously, we could not be more thankful for them."
Strengthened by the 2016-17 seniors and for all those who have come before and for those who are still yet to come, the future for Penn State hockey is undoubtedly bright.
Among the blazing outlook, Penn State returns 11 from its standout group of freshmen, including Smirnov, who netted the second period equalizer, setting a single-season Penn State freshman record with his 19th goal of the season, breaking Andrew Sturtz's record (18) from last year."We'll remember this team forever, but at the same time, I hope the guys that are returning use it as motivation," Gadowsky said. "We didn't match up great today. I don't think we were us and I hope we get another shot at a Denver. I'm proud of what happened this year, but we use it as motivation. We learned a lot this year, as a program, as coaches, and as individuals as well. It's tough right now, but we'll definitely use is as motivation."
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the first time in program history, Penn State men's lacrosse has gone undefeated in its nonconference schedule. Nine games down and the Nittany Lions have come out on top in all contests, with Saturday afternoon's 15-8 win against Cleveland State adding to the tally.
The Nittany Lions got off to a strong start, earning three goals in the first three minutes of the game. The talented trio on attack featuring freshman Mac O'Keefe, sophomore Grant Ament, and senior Nick Aponte, had a goal each in the scoring bout.
"I thought their focus coming out here today and the way they prepared in warm ups was dead on," head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "I thought we did a nice job of just getting prepared out here for all the right reasons."
Tambroni said one of the team's goals was to be prepared to compete from the starting whistle, and felt the team was able to perform when asked. However, he noted Penn State does need to work on developing more consistency before next weekend's Big Ten games.
"I thought there were just so many ebbs and flows emotionally," Tambroni said. "I thought we didn't hold our ground for longer stretches of time, which was a little disappointing, but it's something to build on. At the end of the day if you can just win a game and move on before you get into Big Ten, you've got to just take it."
Among the strong start for the Nittany Lions, for Tambroni, the highlight of the game was seeing players come off the bench and contribute.
"I think those guys, I mean everybody on the team just works so hard and I think these guys have to sit on the bench and on game day watch the others take those reps and get those opportunities," Tambroni said. "You can sense a genuine sense, a very authentic sense of appreciation when they make a play."
Two Nittany Lions able to add to the momentum on attack Saturday afternoon were freshman Conor Smith, who netted the 14th goal of the game, only his fourth of the season, as well as sophomore Jimmy Nowoswiat, netting his first goal of the season in the fourth quarter.
Tambroni also highlighted sophomore goaltender Trevor Scollins for making some great saves after he entered the game in the final 10 minutes of play.
"I think just the overall camaraderie in the locker room, that morale, that just really helps," Tambroni said. "It was nice that those other guys could give us at least a comfortable lead to get those other guys in there. I thought they did a great job when they were in there."
After their final nonconference game before heading into Big Ten action, the Nittany Lions are confident looking toward next weekend's tough matchup against Ohio State.
For Aponte, the Nittany Lions see their schedule as almost two separate seasons, divided in half between nonconference and Big Ten games. Looking at the schedule this way gives the team more perspective, as well as a clean mindset heading into league play."We start off 0-0 in the Big Ten, we have a lot of competition there that we're really excited about," Aponte said. "We have to start just like preseason, just get on it and see how far it takes us."
By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After Columbia's Shane Adams ripped an RBI double in the third inning of game two on Saturday afternoon to stretch the lead to 5-1, it seemed as if the Lions may cruise to sweep the afternoon doubleheader against Penn State.
With still no outs in the inning, starting pitcher Cole Bartels was pulled for Dakota Forsyth, who struck out two of the next three hitters and escaped the inning without surrendering a run.
Forsyth remained in the game for another three innings and turned in his best relief performance of the season, striking out a career-high eight batters without allowing a hit. The only player to reach base against Forsyth was Joe Engel via a sixth inning walk.
"I was just trying to work ahead of the batters," Forsyth said. "Usually I fall behind and I'm always trying to get back into the count, but today I was just free out there going 0-1, 0-1 as much as I could. It was fun."
For head coach Rob Cooper, the difference was simply that Forsyth stayed within himself.
"That's the way Dakota has pitched his entire career here," Cooper said. "He's a competitor, and I always feel good when he has the baseball."
Forsyth recorded the win in game two and improved his 2017 record to a team-best 3-0. He now owns a 4.50 ERA and has struck out 20 batters in 20 innings on the hill this year.
While Forsyth quelled the hot Columbia bats, the Penn State offense perked up. The Nittany Lions scored four runs in the third inning to tie the game at five, then added another three in the fourth and two more in the fifth to open up a 10-5 lead.
Sophomore Ryan Sloniger opened the gates with a leadoff triple in the third and scored on a Joe Weisenseel RBI fielder's choice.
"I made some adjustments," Sloniger said. "I got up taller in my stance to be able to get my momentum It's felt a lot more comfortable the more and more swings I've gotten with it, so I feel really good right now."
Penn State pushed runs across in a variety of ways after that.
Three came from fielder's choices, one came from a throwing error, two came from RBI singles, and two came from walks with the bases loaded. The Nittany Lions worked five walks against reliever Ben Wereski in the third and fourth innings combined.
Conlin Hughes led the surge with three hits in the game. He also walked once, scored a run and recorded an RBI. Sloniger, Willie Burger and Jordan Bowersox also recorded multi-hit games.
"[I have] a lot of confidence in Conlin," Cooper said. "I just feel like he gives us competitive at-bats, so right now while you've got a team that overall is struggling, we're trying to get him up as much as possible."
Columbia pushed across one more run in the ninth inning, but Penn State held on for the 10-6 victory to take a 2-1 lead in the four-game series.
The Nittany Lions dropped the first game of the Saturday doubleheader 4-2. Justin Hagenman ended up with the loss on the mound, but it was one of his most effective outings of the season.
Hagenman pitched 7.1 innings and allowed just one earned run on eight hits. He recorded nine strikeouts and threw 71 of his 96 pitches for strikes, but errors and other mistakes costed him and the Nittany Lions the game.
"He was great. He gave us a great outing," Cooper said. "We self-inflicted those three runs early. We didn't do anything to help ourselves there and they took advantage of it. When you give teams enough free baseball they're going to take advantage of it."
Offensively, Burger smacked a 400-foot double to the deepest part of the ballpark in the fourth inning. Braxton Giavedoni then tripled to score Burger, and Nick Riotto hit a sacrifice fly later in the inning to score Giavedoni and give Penn State a 2-0 lead.
Columbia fought back with three runs in the fifth inning and held the lead the rest of the game.
The Nittany Lions had the best chance to mount a comeback in the seventh inning, but they failed to plate a run with runners on second and third with one out.
Cooper said he was proud of his team for bouncing back in the second game after a winnable first game.
"Eighteen innings is a lot of innings of baseball," Cooper said. "Our
guys found a way to battle back, especially being down in that second game."
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
CINCINNATI, Ohio - Third-seeded Penn State skated confidently into the NCAA regional finals, putting on a dominant performance in a 10-3 win against second-seeded Union Saturday.
From program records to shorthanded goals, the Nittany Lions highlighted their first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history with a five-goal third period to stun the Dutchmen in a run away victory.
Both Penn State and Union set the pace from the start with a flurry of scoring in the first period. Freshman Brandon Biro etched his name into Penn State hockey history scoring the first NCAA Tournament goal in program history off an assist from sophomore Chase Berger. Union quickly answered just a little over a minute later to even the score.
"We were kind of on our heels to start off the game," Biro said. "Berger made a great play on the wall and it just kind of happened to go off my stick and in. I think it was pretty good for us to just get our feet going there and to get a little bit of momentum."
Penn State looked to jump ahead again with a Berger goal off the feed from sophomore Andrew Sturtz. Even quicker than before though, the Dutchmen quieted the largely Nittany Lion contingent in the stands at U.S. Bank Arena with yet another equalizer a mere 24 seconds later.
Freshman Kris Myllari opened the second period with a rocket from near the blue line to give Penn State its third lead of the game. Union was on the rebound once again though, capitalizing of the first penalty of the night, as the Dutchmen's Spencer Foo zigzagged his second goal of the night past freshman Peyton Jones on the power play to tie the score, 3-3. Jones finished solid in the net for the Nittany Lions without surrendering another goal for the rest of the night, tallying 22 saves.
The Nittany Lions responded with Berger's second goal of the night, which was confirmed after a brief review, before senior Dylan Richard added a goal off of a Myllari rebound to give Penn State its largest lead of the night, 5-3, headed into the final period of play.
"The two-goal lead was really important because every time we had one, they came back," Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "Every time we scored and they came back we said, this time we have to get the next one and we didn't until then."
Penn State came out firing in the third period, as freshman Nate Sucese fired a shot off a David Goodwin rebound to send the Nittany Lions ahead 6-3 just 1:10 into the third period.
"Going into the third we knew we just wanted to play Penn State hockey like we have all year," Sucese said. "Being up two goals there and being lucky enough to go up three goals was huge. I think we really got rolling there after that sixth one. It was a blast."
In retrospect, rolling, is perhaps an understatement as Penn State poured on another four goals in the third period to cruise into the NCAA regional finals.
By the 14:58 mark in the third period, sophomore Vince Pedrie's shorthanded goal was simply icing on the cake before Sucese's second goal of the game set both a program and NCAA Tournament record for the most goals scored in a single game. The 10-goal tally breaks an NCAA record for a first time tournament team originally set in 1990.
In a balanced offensive showing, a total of eight different Nittany Lions combined for the record-setting 10 goals on 33 shots.
"Every line was going, it wasn't just one big line or one big guy," Berger said. "I think the strength of our team is how deep we are and I'd love to see that keep going, everybody producing."
For Gadowsky, Penn State's offensive surge wasn't anything he hasn't expect from his Nittany Lions all year long.
"I think they were just finishing," Gadowsky said. "A couple of those shots hit the post and went in rather than hitting the post and going out. They just finished. We've had guys who have been goal scorers all season and they certainly showed that tonight."
For both the Nittany Lions and Gadowsky though, the success of the offense wasn't without a tremendous defensive effort, powered by swift adjustments to shut down a particularly potent Union offense.
"I think the more we play in the offensive zone, we don't have to play defense, so our d-men are winning battles in the corner, transitioning up to forwards and we were able to keep it down low in there tonight and the more we play in their end," Berger said. "Like I said, that's all the defense because they're getting the pucks out of our end."
As joyful as a statement win against a seasoned NCAA Tournament team is though, among a brief moment to savor the victory, it's well known that there's still work to be done. Penn State is now tasked with shifting the momentum toward top-seeded Denver, in a regional finals matchup set for Sunday, March 26 at 6 p.m. on ESPNU."It's very special," Goodwin said. "It's something I've dreamt about, to be honest. I don't know, it will feel a lot better with a win against Denver tomorrow."
By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Saturday marked the final meet at Rec Hall for six Penn State seniors, and they made every moment count in a 420.4 - 414.0 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes to close out the regular season.
It was the highest total score put up by the Nittany Lions this season, and it came with significant contributions from several members of the senior class. Dominic DiFulvio and Leroy Clarke Jr. put together quality performances, combining for three individual titles (Clarke tied with Stephen Nedoroscik on pommel horse), bringing their home career to a fitting end.
"It was very fitting that [the seniors] did a great job," Clarke Jr. said. "Me personally, I've been here for five years, so I feel like it was imperative for me to go out with a bang. With that in mind, I didn't put any extra pressure on myself. I just did what I had been doing in practice and all season."
For a class that has done so much for Penn State over the last four years, Saturday's dominating performance served as a curtain call of sorts. Clarke Jr., a two-time All-American, and DiFulvio, the team captain, deserved this performance as much as anyone on the team.
"I'm just so happy for them, they really did a great job," head coach Randy Jepson said. "The team really rallied around them. That's one of the things I told the guys before we went out. I said 'these guys have really worked hard all their time here, and the rest of you need to put it in now for them.' We wanted to send them out with a really hard-fought victory and they did that."
The Nittany Lions came out firing right at the beginning of the meet, much differently than last week. Against Michigan, they got off to a slow start with a couple of falls on pommel horse but against Iowa, they put together their best pommel horse effort of the season and paired it with a well-rounded performance on floor exercise to take a comfortable lead after the first two rotations.
The highlight of the floor routines was Chris Sands' performance, as he hit almost all of his runs and gave a huge fist pump as he finished the routine. He was all smiles walking back to the rest of the team, a picture representative of the entire afternoon for the home team.
"They were just much more relaxed," Jepson said. "We know they were ready to do the stuff and pommel horse was much better. They just competed with a little less intensity today in terms of thought process, and I think that was good. It's about going out and doing what you do every day, and they're enjoying it."
The Nittany Lions needed this performance, as Big Ten and NCAA championship meets loom in the upcoming weeks and they wanted a momentum boost.
"It's the last regular season meet, and it helps us in terms of doing well at the Big Ten and national championships," Clarke said. "We hope to do great on our last meet too."
After the meet, the six seniors and their families were honored by Penn State in a short ceremony followed by a tribute video. The team and the coaching staff gathered around the seniors as the video went through the careers of the seniors and capped off a great afternoon.
"For me, I felt like I was going through it for a second time," Clarke Jr. said. "I'm a redshirt senior and I kind of went through the same thing last year. I think it's a great feeling. Part of me is just ready to move on to the next chapter of my life but part of me feels that it's kind of crazy to think that I'm never going to compete again out here on the competition floor."
Clarke Jr. and the rest of the seniors have a chance to really put together a special end to their careers as they will begin the postseason with the Big Ten Championship meet in two weeks.
CINCINNATI, Ohio - Third-seeded Penn State (24-11-2) and second-seeded Union (25-9-3) are set to meet in the first round of NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional action Saturday, March 25 at 4:30 p.m. in U.S. Bank Arena. The matchup between the Big Ten Champion Nittany Lions and the Dutchmen will stream live on ESPN3.
As Penn State preps for its first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, catch up with Nittany Lion assistant coach Keith Fisher for a closer look at Union before puck drop.
By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State was leading Columbia 2-0 in the top of the fifth inning Friday evening. Starting pitcher Sal Biasi was throwing a one-hitter with eight strikeouts when Columbia's hottest hitter, Randell Kanemaru, stepped up to the plate.
Biasi's pitch count was nearing 100 pitches, so Penn State head coach Rob Cooper knew that his ace would be pitching his final inning. With two outs and runners on first and second, Kanemaru sent a ball over the wall in deep left field to take the lead 3-2. Although the Nittany Lion lead was gone, Biasi came right at the next hitter to record the final out of the inning.
"Overall I thought our body language was pretty good," Cooper said. "I give Sal Biasi a lot of credit. He's such a competitive guy. In the past, I think that's something that would've set him off a little bit and gotten him out of control a little bit pitching wise, and he came back and got the next guy out. I think Sal gave up two hits and that's one. He pitched well, but that's baseball."
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Joe Weisenseel was due to lead off the inning followed by the top of the lineup. Weisenseel worked a walk on four straight pitches to get a runner on first base.
"I have been used to leading off in high school," Weisenseel said. "So, I knew just trying to be myself and get on was going to be big, and that was going to boost the inning for us."
The true freshman started the trend of finding a way to get on base for each of the batters in the Nittany Lion offense. Conlin Hughes then doubled, Nick Riotto walked, Willie Burger doubled, Jordan Bowersox singled, Braxton Giavedoni doubled, Keith Leavitt walked, Christian Helsel reached on a throwing error, Ryan Sloniger singled and Weisenseel topped it off with another single.
As the Penn State offense batted around through the entire lineup, each of the hitters crossed the plate in just the fifth inning except for Weisenseel, who was thrown out at home. The power inning accumulated nine runs giving Penn State a comfortable 11-4 lead.
Weisenseel finished the night going 3-3 with a walk in his first career multi-hit game.
"It felt really good to get that one under my belt," Weisenseel said. "At one point I knew it was going to come. I just have to stay confident in myself and a couple days off in the middle of the week was kind of good for me to regroup mentally and then get back at it today."
"What you saw today from Joey is what we saw in the fall," Cooper said. "He was one of our best hitters in the fall even as a freshman. You're asking a guy as a true freshman to play a premium position like shortstop. That's hard. When you're not competing at the level that you feel like you can, guys need to learn how to handle that pressure they are putting on themselves."
Although Weisenseel kicked off the rally inning, Burger was the man who sparked the offense to knock in runs. In the third inning with two runners on base, Burger drove in both runs on a single to right field. In the fifth, his offense relied on the sophomore again to bring in another run.
With runners on first and second, Burger drove the ball to deep left-centerfield to bring in his third RBI of the game and tie the game at three. From there, the rest of the Nittany Lions followed in his footsteps knocking in eight more runs.
"I want to be in those situations," Burger said. "The last couple games I have been trying to do way too much, so I just tried to simplify things today. I'm proud of my at bats and I hope to be able to keep it going moving forward. Just have to slow the game down and let my ability show itself."
After relying heavily on Hughes' and Bowersox's offensive consistency so far this season, Cooper said it was nice to have more bats come alive in the starting lineup.
"I know this team can hit," Cooper said. "We've got good players. We just have had the majority of them struggle at the exact same time. Then you have guys that mentally it starts bothering them because they all want to do well. Hopefully that's the kind of game that can get those guys out of it. One of the things we said in the locker room afterward was that all of us need to stop trying to do way more than what we can do. We all have to do a better job of it, coaches as well. It comes from the right spot because they all want to do well, but you have to be able to slow it down."
Although this win was a big one for a previously struggling Nittany Lion offense, Penn Sate knows that tomorrow brings a brand new game.
"You got to feel good heading into the other games after hitting like we did tonight," Burger said. "But you have to stay competitive. It's baseball. What you do tonight means nothing tomorrow, so we have to wake up and show up here ready to win game one."Penn State will host a doubleheader against Columbia starting at 1 p.m. Saturday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
CINCINNATI, Ohio - Just a day before Penn State hockey's NCAA Tournament debut, the Nittany Lions took to the ice for the first time at U.S. Bank Arena. Following practice, head coach Guy Gadowsky and Nittany Lions David Goodwin, Andrew Sturtz and Peyton Jones all took time to meet with members of the media.
Check out a few top takeaways from the press conference.
They Deserve It
As Gadowsky mentioned earlier this week, Penn State is well aware of how difficult it is to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, and with the achievement, the Nittany Lions will carve out some time to enjoy the moment, among a business as usual approach.
"They deserve everything," Gadowsky said. "To win back-to-back double-overtime games after playing on a Thursday, they absolutely deserve it. The university is extremely supportive and excited. It has been a blast, and I do not want it to end."
As the thrill of Penn State's first Big Ten title in program history continues to remain fresh on the minds of the Nittany Lions, the challenge of channeling the same momentum in a relatively short turnaround is one the staff isn't taking lightly. Having played just more than 240 minutes in a 52-hour stretch, both mental and physical recovery has been at the forefront of NCAA Tournament preparations this week.
"Over the past week, we did a good job of getting our bodies back to normal with our athletic trainer, trying to get back in shape for this weekend," Andrew Sturtz said. "We did a good job with that and over the course of the weekend, we're trying to keep the team light like last weekend at Big Ten's and not take too much of the outside pressure into the locker room. We're just going to have fun with it and play a good game tomorrow night."
He Said It
Union head coach Rick Bennett had some high praise for the surging Nittany Lion squad earlier this afternoon, noting Penn State's growth as a program has been impressive to watch from afar. Although the series record shows the Nittany Lions behind 0-4-0, each of the last two most recent outings during the 2013 season were separated by just one goal.
"We've had the chance to play them four times and each time that we've played them the games have gotten better and better," Bennett said. "I think that's all due to head coach Guy Gadowsky, his staff and the players they have in the program. Gadowsky plays a different style and he has carried that style from Alaska to Princeton and to Penn State. It's been really impressive to watch from a distance, but now the distance has gotten very close and tomorrow it's going to be right in front of us."
For Goodwin, who was a freshman on the squad in the most recent series against the Dutchmen, Penn State has come along way since 2013.
"Specifically this team, is probably a little deeper than we were back then and we definitely play more consistently than we did that year," Goodwin said.
Gadowsky noted that there hasn't been a team the Nittany Lions could compare Union to when taking a closer look at Penn State's first NCAA Tournament opponent.
"I think they present some unique challenges because they have two scorers that are in the top four of the nation, and they play on different lines," Gadowsky said. "I do not think there is any team this year that I can remember having a situation like that."
Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo are leading a potent Union offense that features a variety of scoring options. Together, Vecchione and Foo have combined for 122 points and 53 goals, the most of any duo among the 16-team NCAA Tournament field this year.
Aside from the Vecchione and Foo though, the Dutchmen also present some familiarity for the Nittany Lion staff in terms of program culture.
"They have a tremendous work ethic, they always have," Gadowsky said. "Now they add two top scorers in the nation. We know that they can beat you in a number of ways. We very much respect the way they play. I do not think we can compare them to anyone we have played this year."
Third-seeded Penn State and second-seeded Union officially get underway Saturday, March 25 at 4:30 p.m. in U.S Bank Arena. The matchup will stream live on ESPN3.
Roar Zone Growth
As Gadowsky also noted, with Penn State hockey's growth, it's student section has also grown tremendously.
"They have been phenomenal from day one," Gadowsky said. "I love college hockey and the student sections are a big part of that. There are some great ones not only in our league but across the nation. I don't mean any disrespect to any of others, but the Roar Zone is the best I have ever seen. As we have improved, so have they. They are unbelievable now."
A proud piece of the Nittany Lion family, the Roar Zone doesn't just keep to Pegula though, often hitting the road to join Penn State on the road.
"We believe that they're top notch and feel fortunate to play in an arena that has fans with that much passion and energy for us, win or lose," Goodwin said. "We've also been fortunate that they travel with us as well. I wouldn't be surprised if we see some of them in Cincinnati this weekend."
Reach Arielle at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent
By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Bel Air, Md., a small community 30 miles outside of Baltimore, may not be the same as its sunny and millionaire-mansion-filled California counterpart, but it does have several things going for it. For one, it was named one of the "Top 100 Best Small Towns" back in 2015, but it also sits in the hotbed of lacrosse country and is called home to three Nittany Lions in Maggie Gallagher, Sarah Piazza and Abby Smucker.
The three grew up playing lacrosse together in the area and eventually all attended C. Milton Wright High School. There they joined forces and together went to three semifinals appearances in as many state tournaments. Piazza and Smucker, both one year Gallagher's elder, also were starters in 2010 when the team made its way to the state championship game.
Combined, the three served five years of captainship for their high school squad and amassed 10 all-county selections. Each were ranked high on recruiter's wish lists for their own individual merits, and each decided to go to the best possible place for themselves, but in the end it just so happened that they all ended up deciding the best place to play was for Penn State.
"I feel like we all just took our own path with that and then it all just kind of worked out," Piazza said about the recruiting process. "We'd have some people at home that we'd also get that next chapter with, so it kind of made it more special."
Piazza and Smucker made the jump to Division I in 2014 and were joined a year later by Gallagher after she wrapped up her senior high school season. The girls said those early years of making the switch to college helped them out dramatically in both an on and off the field setting. Having others with them that they already knew helped make the big, and sometimes intimidating, first impression of Happy Valley a little smaller.
"Off the field we had a little bit of home that came with us to State College right away," Smucker said about the ease of the transition. "And then on the field as well. We knew each other's tendencies so it kind of made that transition into college lacrosse kind of a little easier."
That on the field chemistry can be seen every game day as the three have meshed together on the field. When together, Piazza holds down the fort as a defender while Gallagher and Smucker work the midfield.
Together on the attack, the two midfielders have shown how effective their harmony can be. Both have started every game played this season and have racked up a total of 29 points off 19 goals and 10 assists. Gallagher's 18 and Smucker's 11 are good for fourth and sixth on the team.
"I think it definitely translates on the field, especially now that I'm back on the offensive end where Maggie is too," Smucker said. "We've definitely been seeing each other very well both on and off with her rolling on the crease and me up top."
But the group's bond goes far beyond what they can do each time they pick up their sticks. Over the years, lacrosse has brought them closer than just being teammates; they've become family.
"It's just like a family, which is what I think kind of drew us all to Penn State in the first place is that it just had such a family atmosphere," Piazza said. "We were close in high school, but I think just spending these last four years together made us even closer like I said on and off the field," Smucker continued. "We've grown together, and like Sarah said before, we're kind of like a family now," Smucker said.
With Piazza and Smucker both seniors, soon the group's saga will come to an end. Until then, the three still have the rest of the season to make the most of what they can, and cap off their years together in the best way possible. But, even without a story book ending, the three say the journey has been great and that they are proud of what they have been able to do with their unique opportunity.
"We've just been given such a great opportunity here at Penn State to play lacrosse together and like making the most of it and having fun together," Gallagher said.
CINCINNATI, Ohio - Set to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, the Nittany Lions boarded the bus in Happy Valley Thursday afternoon before hopping on a charter plane headed for Cincinnati.
Touching down around 5:30 p.m., the Nittany Lions dropped their bags and headed to dinner, feasting at a Brazilian steakhouse.
A second bus also left Happy Valley Thursday afternoon, filled with equipment and headed directly to U.S. Bank Arena. Traveling the nearly 430 miles by bus, the Nittany Lion equipment bus pulled into the arena late at night to get started unloading and prepping the locker room for Friday's practice.
Friday's schedule picks up in the afternoon with press conferences, practice and some behind-the-scenes video shoots.
By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coquese Washington stresses the same thing every season, no matter how old her players are, no matter how much experience they have, no matter what: play your best basketball in March.
"When you look at our last ten games, we [have played very well]," Washington said. "I thought we continued to grow over the course of the season. As disappointing as this loss is right now, when you look at the totality of our season, this team has accomplished a lot."
After missing the postseason the last two years, the goal for Penn State this year was to get back into playing meaningful March basketball, which is exactly what it did.
"I'm really proud of how this program has grown over the course of one year," Washington said. "Where we were last year as compared to where we are now, there's no way I am going to sit here and bemoan the way this program has grown within the past twelve months."
With a young team this year, any postseason experience was a step in the right direction moving forward. Sophomore guard Teniya Page, who had a stellar sophomore season to follow up a record-breaking freshman campaign, says the team learned a lot about when it comes time to survive and advance.
"I think we learned that it's hard after the regular season. It's hard once it comes to win or go home," Page said. "Every team plays hard because it's potentially their last game. I think that's what I personally learned and I think as a young team that's what we learned."
In the game, Page became the ninth Lady Lion to reach 600 points in a single season, ending the year with 618. Her 23 points on the night gave her double-digits for the 16th straight game as well and 1,107 points for her career, good for No. 31 on the all-time Lady Lion list.
As the team heads into the offseason, there's a lot they learned this year that they can carry over into the 2017-2018 season. And as long as the Lady Lions continue to grow, the sky is the limit.
"I'm really proud of what this team accomplished this year, especially with our team being so young. I think our future is really bright especially with the players we have returning," Washington said. "Like Teniya [Page] said, the team learned a lot about what postseason play means, what it's going to feel like and how you have to perform during the season, to perform better at this point in the season. I'm really proud of the kids."
The Lady Lions finish the year with a 21-11 record, including a 9-7 record in Big Ten play. Penn State thrived at the Bryce Jordan Center this season, finishing 16-2 at home with the only losses coming in the Big Ten opener versus Indiana and this WNIT loss to the Hokies.
By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "You don't really think about it," said head track and field coach John Gondak about the transition from indoor to outdoor season. "You just come in and you get your work done."
The Nittany Lion track and field team finished up their indoor season two weeks ago with the NCAA Indoor Championships and have been transitioning into outdoor season since. The team will be traveling to Arizona this upcoming weekend for their first outdoor meet of the season.
Although Penn State's outdoor track has been undergoing renovations since the fall, the transition to outdoor hasn't affected the team.
"We haven't really been on the outdoor track much through the fall because of the construction and so far this winter because of the weather. The weather looking on the calendar it looks like we have 60 degree days ahead of us so hopefully we'll be able to transition out there pretty soon, but we just do the best you can practicing inside," said Gondak. "When we get out to Arizona this weekend, we'll go out and compete and try to teach the student athletes to be the best competitor they can be under any situation and just let them compete and do the best they can do."
The outdoor season is an exciting changeover for the team. The season adds more events and gives injured athletes and athletes out of eligibility a chance to come back into action.
"We have a couple new events that come into play as we move outdoors, so it'll be exciting to see our athletes compete in those events and kind of get a baseline of where they are. The other thing as we move into outdoors is we have a handful of athletes that were either redshirted during the indoor season or that were out of eligibility," said Gondak. "We have two fifth year seniors that will come back into play outdoors that are both very talented, so I'm eager to see them get back on the track and compete after having not done so during indoor season for us in uniform."
The 400-meter hurdles are one of the events that will be added to the mix during outdoor. Junior hurdler Rachael DeCecco is ready to compete in her main event.
"The transition is a really exciting time especially as a 400-hurdler. We've been kind of on our backburners for the indoor season, not really doing our event, so we're pumped up and ready to start running the event that we came here to do," said DeCecco. "It'll be a little bit of a hard transition since we haven't been able to run outside yet, we've been working out just indoors so we haven't been able to do much of 400 hurdling, but our first meet will set a good tone for where we are in the season and know what we have to work on."
The Nittany Lions had successful indoor seasons on both the men's and women's sides and are looking forward to what they'll be able to accomplish this outdoor season.
"After coming off such a strong indoor season as a team, I think everyone's really excited to get started with outdoors," said junior captain Megan McCloskey. "It was a good few weeks, kind of a transition period and rest for everyone. Our people coming back from nationals are getting their feet back under them and everyone who just attended Big Tens is just ready to go this weekend and start off the season strong."
Coach Gondak has some starting goals this outdoor season, but wants to get a few meets underway before determining all the team can achieve this year.
"I usually like to get a few weeks into the season to really sit down and put some goals on paper. I like to see where everybody's fitness is and what they're all doing," he said. "We bring a variety of new events into the mix when you move to the outdoor season, so I want to see how our team competes over the next couple of weeks then we'll start to formulate some goals of what we think we can do as we head toward championship time."
The Nittany Lions will be in action for their first outdoor meet of the season this Friday and Saturday March 24th and 25th in Tempe, AZ at the PAC12-BIG10 Challenge.
By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When Madey Smith stepped foot on campus in the fall, she had no idea what she was about to be thrown into. A four-year letter winner at Warren Hills Regional High School in New Jersey, Smith came in highly touted but struggled in offseason workouts with the team.
"Coming in the fall, I struggled with our workouts, our conditioning, and everything so I think I've had a lot of mental progress from the fall to now," Smith said. "It's definitely helped me from the fall when I was struggling to now which I can get past and work through easier situations especially in the game or something like that."
After initially being surprised by Smith's struggles in August, head coach Amanda Lehotak has seen Smith make big strides since then.
"Smith came in and it's not a secret that she was not ready in the fall, we were kind of like 'what happened to you over the summer?'" Lehotak said. "But I give that kid 100% credit because she zoned it in and she has worked her tail off."
That perseverance is exactly why Lehotak felt ready to give Smith her first starting nod this past weekend in the George Washington Capital Classic. Smith's first career start also turned in to her first complete game, in which she had a career-high eight strikeouts and only gave up three hits.
"She has kind of been asking for the ball like and we were like 'you're not ready in practice, you need to do this, this and this' and every time we would give her a checklist she would hit it," Lehotak said. "So it was finally our time to be like 'okay, we have no more excuses on the coaching end to not give it to you.'"
Lehotak and company were pleasantly surprised with Smith's outing against GW, and so was Smith. She's been learning under veteran pitchers Marley Laubach and Maddie Seifert and has picked up one very important lesson from them: always compete.
"They've taught me to compete every inning and to never give up and just keep working as hard as you can because you're going to get your opportunity and that's exactly what happened [for me]," Smith said.
Now that the opportunity has presented itself to Smith, it's her top priority to hold on to it, something that Lehotak preaches to her players.
"We always talk about in life when you get an opportunity you better keep it and she kept it," Lehotak said. "As of right now she's arguably our ace going into the weekend, so it'll be interesting to see how she handles Michigan at Michigan."
Lehotak called Smith her hardest thrower on staff and, given that she's a freshman, when Smith is called upon in a game, she isn't overthinking or overanalyzing the moment--it's just "get on the mound and compete."
"The greatest thing about freshmen is they can kind of bring the sense of being fearless because they don't know any better," Lehotak said. "And then she's very different because she's our hardest thrower so the ball kind of gets on you quickly. She has probably the best rise ball on staff and right now her curve ball is pretty amazing."
Smith ended up at Penn State at her high school coach's insistence when the recruiting process began. During her first visit, she immediately thought it was "awesome," but didn't want to commit right away, especially since the coaches hadn't seen her play yet.
"As the fall went on, the coaches came and saw me so then I went and revisited Penn State to see if it was actually going to be my school," Smith said. "I went back and fell in love with it and I knew I was going to get a great education and I wanted to help the softball program, so it was a perfect fit."
As the Nittany Lions start the conference portion of the season this weekend in Ann Arbor, Smith is keeping a positive outlook moving forward. With assistant coach Sarah Sigrest, Laubach, and Seifert there to help her along the way, Smith is ready to go in the Big Ten.
"I'm just trying to keep calm going into the games and just having a good mindset and knowing that I can do it and knowing that my team has my back and just being confident always," Smith said.
Penn State will play three games against the No. 19 Wolverines this weekend with the first pitch of game one set for Friday at 4 p.m.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's lacrosse is off to its best start in program history, opening the season at 8-0. Ahead of a home matchup against Cleveland State, catch up with head coach Jeff Tambroni has reflects on the historic start to the season, and what's ahead in this week's media notebook.
With an unblemished record in 2017, the Nittany Lions have a lot to be proud of, from the performance of new faces on offense to the veteran leadership holding down the defense. Tambroni is pleased with his team's ability to secure wins under pressure to perform, but knows his team will only face new tests in the coming weeks.
Despite close halftime scores in recent outings, the Nittany Lions have been able to earn wins against opponents who battled more than expected.
"We've had some wins by a larger margin, Cornell was double digits, some of these other games have been three, four, five goals," Tambroni said. "In the last couple of weeks with Furman and Harvard and now Fairfield, one and two goal wins, I don't care who your competition is, this provides great training for our guys and mental toughness and resilience."
Among the last few challenging games, Tambroni has been able to see the team really focused at the task at hand come halftime, rally around their confidence despite close scores.
"I think with this success over the past couple of weeks and being able to, at times, play well but not for longer stretches - not for stretches we feel we're capable of, yet still find a way to win, that stuff it really important," Tambroni said. "If you can reflect back on that, week in and week out, different ways to win games, I think you'll remain confident or remain poised when it starts to get tight."
Saturday marks Penn State's annual spring Alumni, Family and Friends Weekend. Penn State will host familiar faces spanning decades ago to even the most recent graduating class. For Tambroni, his favorite part about seeing alumni come back and visit is how connected they all remain to the program, and the leadership they provide to his current players.
"I think everyone that's a part of Penn State understands the passion and loyalty that goes along with being part of this community, and Penn State lacrosse is no different," Tambroni said. "We've got plenty of history, but I think in the last couple of years the momentum of the alumni group has really made a significant impact on our guys."
Tambroni said he's expecting a large group of alumni to return this weekend and looking forward to having them on the sidelines again.
"We're looking forward to welcoming them back with open arms," Tambroni said.
Looking Ahead to Big Ten Play
After the Nittany Lions meet Cleveland State, their next opponent will be a familiar one, Ohio State. To date, the Buckeyes are also undefeated so far this season. Penn State and Ohio State are two of three Big Ten teams without a loss this season, as Rutgers is also currently undefeated headed into the weekend. The Nittany Lions will face the Scarlet Knights in late April.
"I think we recognize the success of our conference, but at this point just have so much to think about both in house with our own team in terms of improvements needed, and the development required and with our opponents, that we just haven't dug into why they've had the success they've had so far," Tambroni said. "We recognize the apparent record of Rutgers and know Ohio State, had a chance to watch their game against Denver."
Although focusing on the development of his own team at this time, Tambroni is not shocked that the Big Ten is growing into a highly competitive lacrosse conference."It's been no surprise, we kind of had a feeling in the last couple years that the Big Ten was going to be one of the premier conferences," Tambroni said. "It's been exciting to watch the growth of the entire group really all at once this year."
By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There comes that bittersweet point in every season that it's time to say goodbye to the student-athletes who have meant so much to a program during their careers. Come Saturday, it will be that time for six Penn State men's gymnastics seniors, as they compete at Rec Hall for the final time in their careers.
Leroy Clarke Jr., Franz Card, Dominic DiFulvio, Joseph Boyle, Christian McSwain and Jeremy Munn will all take the home floor for one last ride against the Iowa Hawkeyes before moving on to bigger and better things.
This weekend gives the guys a chance to look back on their years as Nittany Lions, many of them appreciating all Penn State has done for them in their time here.
"I will miss the people the most," Clarke Jr. said. "Without the people I've met on my journey here, it wouldn't be as special as it has been. I've had some of my best memories and lessons learned from the people I have met through this university and I look forward to building on the relationships that I've started here."
"I'd definitely say [my favorite part of Penn State] was the brotherhood," Munn said. "Going up and the pressure builds, and then you hit your set and turn to the bench and your team is there cheering loud for you and is just as pumped for you."
The guys also shared some of their favorite memories from Penn State, many including the Big Ten championship won by the team in 2015 but many more about the camaraderie and relationships built up by these young men as they journeyed through the roller coaster of college life.
"Mine would have to be my first time competing at Rec Hall," Card said. "I competed on high bar for the team and it was just a great feeling immersing myself in the brotherhood after and kind of being more a part of the team."
"Being in front of the home crowd and being able to hear everyone cheering and being in front of our friends and family," DiFulvio said. "It's an amazing opportunity to be able to have, and you don't get to have that every day."
"My favorite memory gymnastics wise was when we won Big Tens at home," McSwain said. "My favorite memory school wise was the 2017 THON pep rally. I am really going to miss the friendship and brotherhood of this team."
Maybe not as vocal as in years past, the Nittany Lion seniors still found a way to be heard during competition, including a plethora of awards and honors such as earning the aforementioned Big Ten title two years ago. Clarke Jr. is the most recent to rack up an award, earning the National Gymnast of the Week honor just last week.
"Every group is tough, they're all just special in their own way," head coach Randy Jepson said. "This group was a little more soft-spoken, but they were so together and they did everything asked of them. That's why they improved and got so much better."
This final home meet serves as one last chance for the seniors to put on a show in front of the home fans while building momentum for the postseason, and they are certainly relishing the opportunity to do so.
"It's definitely an important note heading into postseason," DiFulvio said. "That's something that we really want to do."
"It's definitely a personal goal of mine to finish strong and have a good memory of my time here as a Penn State gymnast," Card said.
"It's always a lot better to end on a good note and it's a lot more fun when you can nail your set and go back to the bench with your head held high," Munn added.
One thing these Nittany Lions will not miss is the course load, as Boyle is looking forward to finally being done with organic chemistry (although he will miss the school spirit and sense of community).
As far as future plans go, the paths for these guys go through many different areas. Card and Munn both hope to continue their gymnastics careers and head to the University Games this summer in Chinese Taipei.
Whether or not this is the end for each individual senior, it's been one heck of a ride.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's no surprise that many Penn State men's hockey fans will remember freshman forward Liam Folkes' game-winning goal in the Big Ten Championship game for years to come, but the goal wasn't just luck. Rather, it was the culmination of months of hard work, culminating in a moment that will have Folkes' name etched into Penn State hockey history forever.
Head coach Guy Gadowsky spoke highly of Folkes' performance from the championship game, but added that Folkes was able to produce the game-winning goal because he was playing alongside two phenomenal linemates in freshman Brandon Biro and senior Dylan Richard.
Gadowsky specifically credited Richard's ability to back check during that final play and cause the turnover, which allowed Biro to get possession and pass it down the ice to Folkes.
"Playing with both of them is pretty easy," Biro said. "They move the puck well, they're fast players, so I was just trying to keep up with those two guys."
Biro said he saw Folkes wide open on a breakaway, and praised Folkes' ability to put the puck away and end the double-overtime game. Folkes said his game-winning goal was special not only for his teammates that he's worked alongside all season, but also for the familiar faces he had in the stands cheering him on.
"I had a lot of family there, a lot of friends, so that was just amazing to share that with them," Folkes said.
Prior to his history-making play, Folkes was determined to earn his spot in the lineup and make necessary changes in order to maintain a threatening presence on the ice.
"I think just keeping my foot on the gas pedal," Folkes said. "At times I felt like I was coasting when I eventually got into the lineup, but I figured out II had to keep my feet moving and to be fast to add to my game so I just kept working at that this weekend."
The Nittany Lions have played 37 games so far this season and Folkes has played in 25 of them. With six goals and six assists, his role on the team has been a game-changer since day one. Of Folkes' six goals, three have been game-winners, which is good for second on the team, only one goal behind freshman forward Denis Smirnov.
Two other familiar names also have three game-winning goals each, freshman forward Andrew Sturtz and sophomore defenseman Vince Pedrie.
When it comes to his contributions off the ice, head coach Guy Gadowsky has said before that Folkes is a hard worker in practice, and that culminates in him creating vital opportunities for the Nittany Lions, not just in the Big Ten Championship game. Folkes certainly earned the opportunity to play in the Championship game.
Folkes was reflective when talking about his game-winning goal, but also said there's more to come from this team."The feeling right now is pretty high," Folkes said. "But we know we have to get back to business and take on Union on Saturday."
By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lady Lions have successfully made it to the Sweet Sixteen of the 2017 WNIT after wins against Ohio and Fordham last weekend. As they prepare to take on Virginia Tech in the third round on Thursday, the team can still hold organized workouts.
"The practice is huge," said head coach Coquese Washington. "Especially when you look at Jaida [Travascio-Green] who got injured late in the season, so she missed a good two and a half weeks of practice with that high ankle sprain. So her being able to have this time to get back into the flow of things and work on some things and learn some things, [it's really beneficial]."
Travascio-Green has seen the court in 29 games this season, starting in 14 of them. As a true freshman, Travascio-Green has never been in this situation before, but the experience of playing in the postseason has already been different than the regular season for her.
"I think it's a good experience because of the 'lose and you're done' mentality," Travascio-Green said. "Every game is worth something and during the season, it's so long that you forget what you're working towards in the end, but in this, it's you lose and you're done for the season so the game are more high stakes."
Washington agrees that playing in these types of games adds to the experience and knowledge that her players have. And with a young team (nine of the 13-woman roster are either sophomores or freshmen), this tournament run will only help them moving forward.
"Just playing in this environment is great," Washington said. "This group, we only played one game in the Big Ten Tournament, so being able to continue to play in the WNIT and play in that kind of pressure where you've got to win to advance, those experiences are invaluable for our younger kids."
Travascio-Green has been joined by her fellow freshman Siyeh Frazier as a contributor on the court over the past few games. Frazier played a career-high 18 minutes in the first round matchup against Ohio and scored a career-high 10 points.
"Siyeh's been playing really good in practice for a few weeks," Washington said. "Getting the opportunity for some extra minutes in the WNIT has kind of given her more confidence because now she can see that work paying off and it's showing on game day."
Aside from the three seniors on the team, no one on the current team has every played in the postseason at Penn State. So, as redshirt Amari Carter said, these games have allowed the team to "get comfortable with what you're supposed to do in these situations."
"I think the experience from this tournament will help us going into next season and get into the postseason next year," Carter said.
The Lady Lions will face the Virginia Tech Hokies on Thursday at the Bryce Jordan Center. Tip is set for 7 p.m.
By Jack Milewski, GoPSUSports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Fifth year seniors in sports are unique in many ways. The experience they provide from years on the team both on and off the court are invaluable to everyone involved on the team. For Penn State men's volleyball, Matt Callaway is that type of Nittany Lion.
Callaway started his Penn State career with a bit of adversity, battling injuries through his first couple of seasons on the team. Still, he made steady progress, rising to the challenges and finding ways to excel in his sophomore season.
"My freshman year was tough because of those injuries," Callaway said. "I think that the year after that I started to really grow and I was lucky to play with one of the best players in the world in Aaron Russell for a couple of years, that really helped as well. It's hard to sum up the journey in a couple of sentences but it has certainly been an amazing one."
Head coach Mark Pavlik has also noted Callaway's growth. Pavlik says the fifth-year middle has worked extremely hard to gain more power on his swings and that through all of his time playing at Penn State, he has become one of the smartest players on the team. What Pavlik says he has noticed most about Callaway this season is his continued improvement in blocking.
"I think his blocking has been the best it ever has this season," Pavlik said. "That might be the toughest thing to be excellent at as a middle, but Matt has continued to improve and his footwork is better than ever this season."
In a season of so much adversity for the Nittany Lions, the middles have been steady and healthy all season long. Kevin Gear and Callaway have been the main contributors in the middle, providing stability all season long for a team that has had to weather ups and downs.
"It's definitely tough as a middle, I wont lie about that," Callaway said. "As a middle, you have to split time and I am lucky to do that with another great middle in Kevin. At the same time, you wish you could do more, especially with all the injuries we have had this season, but we know we just have to continue to do our jobs."
As much as the growth on the court has been a major part of Callaway's career at Penn State, it is his growth as a leader that is equally as impressive. For Pavlik, he has certainly seen Callaway take on an added role, calling him a him a further extension of the team.
"I think Matt is a great leader," Pavlik said. "He is certainly a mix of a vocal leader as well as a leader by example. This is his second season as captain and even between the two of those, you have seen a good amount of growth from him."
Last season, Callaway was captain along with fellow middle Matt Seifert. Seifert, who graduated last spring, took on many of the leadership roles, and as Callaway says, last year was a good learning experience.
"I really let Seif lead more and tried to look at what he did that made him such a good captain," Callaway said. "For me it was both about helping my team as a captain and learning how I could be a better one at the same time. It has certainly helped this season because there have been a lot of tough moments and we have all had to battle through them. I've tried to be as vocal as I can in certain situations when I feel like I can help the team."
In his final season at Penn State, Callaway will cross off another "last" on his list this upcoming weekend when the team heads to Lewis and Loyola Chicago. Both schools are located roughly an hour away from Callaway's hometown, Wheaton, Illinois, making this the last road trip home for the senior.
"It's always fun to go home and play there," Callaway said. "I know a lot of guys on the teams we will play, just from high school and club. It's fun to compete against them and also it's always nice to see family."
The road trip has added meaning for Callaway, but is still big for the Nittany Lions. The Nittany Lions are currently slated No. 13 in the AVCA rankings, looking to continue their stretch of successful nononference play. Both matches at Lewis and Loyola are set for 7 p.m. ET.
By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student feature writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions relied heavily on their pitching staff Tuesday evening to defeat the Bucknell Bison and pick up the team's 13th-straight win against an in-state opponent since 2014.
Although Penn State has mostly started pitchers Sal Biasi, Justin Hagenman and Taylor Lehman, this season, head coach Rob Cooper decided to give the ball to redshirt freshman Eric Mock to start Tuesday night's game.
Entering the game, Mock had made four appearances in relief in the 2017 season. In those appearances, Mock totaled 8.1 innings giving up four hits and two runs with six strikeouts. With one of the lowest ERAs on the team (2.16), Mock started the game on the mound for the first time in his career.
"He earned the starting spot," Cooper said. "He has been pitching well, we didn't use him against Delaware, so he was fresh and we are trying to build his pitch count up a little bit. He deserved it. He has been working really, really hard and he's pitched well every time he's touched the ball."
Switching from the reliever role to a starting pitcher did not impact his performance as the redshirt freshman dominated the Bison lineup. Mock pitched four innings of scoreless baseball allowing just one hit. He also struck out five batters while giving up just one walk.
prefer starting," Mock said. "You get to get in a routine and I was able to
kind of plan out what I wanted to do in order to make my arm feel as good as
possible. Due to my injury, I have had to take more time warming up, getting my
arm hotter and it's a lot easier to do when I'm not being called on and having
to go into the game in two minutes."
Without knowing Mock's history, one may have wondered why a pitcher who was mowing down Bucknell's offense would have been taken out of the game after just 44 pitches. However, just one year ago, the dominate right-hander had an injury that caused him to redshirt during his first season. Now, as he is working his way back into baseball, the Penn State coaching staff does not want to take any risks on him hurting his arm.
"We weren't going to let him get anywhere past 50 pitches and he finished at 43," Cooper said. "So we said that was a good job for him."
"I was kind of upset with Coach because I wanted to throw a few more innings or so because I felt great," Mock said. "But he said he needed me for the weekend. We have four games coming up this weekend, so I'm trying to stay healthy."
Even though a pitcher can hold the opposing offense to just one hit, a team still needs to put runs on the board to get a win. Penn State has constantly turned to sophomore Conlin Hughes this season to give his offense a spark any time it's needed.
The Penn State offense recorded six hits Tuesday evening, three of them belonging to Hughes. The second baseman went 3-for-4 with a double, triple and two runs scored to help Penn State outscore Bucknell by just one run.
"I definitely feel more pressure to provide for my team," Hughes said. "I feel like I need to get something started so I can get some momentum going for my team because right now we are struggling at the plate as a whole, so you just have that feeling of stepping up and teaching younger guys even though I'm still young, so I am still learning as well."
He may still be young, but Hughes has been performing like a veteran in the 2017 season. So far, the sophomore has hit .314 with seven RBIs, two home runs and 14 runs scored.
"He's learned how to play the college game," Cooper said. "I think last year he just got really overwhelmed and his confidence took a hit. He works extremely hard, he cares, he's sticking to his approach and so now everyone's starting to see the type player we really feel like he can be. I'm just glad he's on our team."
After the Bison tied the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, Penn State failed to push a run across the plate forcing the game into extra innings. Nick Distasio escaped runners on first and second in the top of the 10th inning to bring up the top of the lineup for the Nittany Lion offense.
Hughes started the inning with a single to right field to get the momentum going for his team. Braxton Giavedoni was then hit by a pitch putting runners on first and second for Willie Burger. Burger grounded the ball back to the pitcher who made a throwing error to first base. Hughes, at second, was running a full speed and when he saw the ball escape the first baseman, he ran home celebrating.
"It's great to be the winning run," Hughes said. "I immediately started fist pumping and yelling at Willie. It was awesome. I love walking off."
"I'm just really proud of our guys," Cooper said. "I'm proud of the way they fought and competed. You know, I didn't think we played exceptionally well, but we pitched great. But, our guys competed, we didn't do a very good job of that this past weekend against Delaware, so that was a great change for our guys to do that. You know, we have a lot of stuff to get better at, but I'm glad our guys fought and found a way to win."With weather cancelling Wednesday's West Virginia matchup, Penn State will now host Columbia in a three-day series beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Spring football at Penn State has nearly arrived in Happy Valley. Just a day before the Big Ten Champion Nittany Lions officially kick off spring football practice, Penn State head coach James Franklin met with members of the media for a press conference to preview the upcoming spring season.
Spring practice officially opens Wednesday, March 23, leading up the the annual Blue-White game Saturday, April 22, which is slated for a 3 p.m. start in Beaver Stadium.
Check out a few takeaways from the press conference.
Making Strides in Winter Training
Franklin led off his press conference noting that as an entire unit, the Nittany Lions were extremely productive in the winter training period, all led by assistant athletic director for performance enhancement, Dwight Galt and his staff. Franklin mentioned that a number of the Nittany Lion strength categories have seen an increase in performance numbers.
"I know Coach Galt went through a lot of this stuff with you guys the other day in the weight room, but it's been impressive," Franklin said. "I think we're one of the bigger, stronger, faster teams right now that I've ever been around, not just at Penn State but in my 23 years doing this."
Galt recently met with members of the media to recap the winter conditioning period and give updates on a few Nittany Lions who were making solid progress.
More from the Max Out Day media session HERE.
Outside of the physical attributes of growing bigger, faster and stronger, Franklin also highlighted that part of the success of the morning workout all comes down to developing intangibles like grit and mental toughness.
"A lot of these kids were playing video games and when the video games started to beat them, they hit the reset button," Franklin said. "So teaching guys how to compete, I think is a big part of what we do, and that's what the morning workouts are all about. I'm proud of that. I think we got a lot of really good work done."
What's Happening at Center
It's been a big discussion among the coaching staff and it's changed a few times, but Franklin noted that as the Nittany Lions look to fill the role held by graduating center Brian Gaia, the key is to get as many guys with starting experience on the field.
Franklin detailed that Connor McGovern will fill the role moving forward with Zach Simpson also an option, as both have practice experience and could potentially slide in with an easier transition to ensure practice stays organized. McGovern, who played in all 13 games, made nine starts at right guard for the Nittany Lions. Redshirt Michal Menet and early enrollee Mike Miranda could also be options rotating in as well. Although too early to tell, Franklin noted that as the spring season gets underway he and the staff will have to see how things play out on the field before making any final decision.
"Typically your centers and guards need to be interchangeable and your tackles usually are just a different body type, you know, different type of athlete," Franklin said. "I think Coach Limegrover has done a really good job. We have been forced in our past to be interchangeable just based on numbers, where now we're doing it just to make sure that we can kind of get the best five on the field or the best two-deep, best ten in the two-deep situation."
A Difficult Nittany Lion to Replace
Another impactful senior who will not return due to graduation is linebacker Brandon Bell, who's departure will open a large spot for the Nittany Lions when it comes to experience and play-making ability.
"He always kind of found a way to defeat the block, to get his hands on a ball and to make an interception," Franklin said of Bell. "He was a natural playmaker. That's why he was so successful for so many years here. And that production, you know, that production, that play making is always difficult to replace."
Reflecting on the season, the next man up mentality certainly nothing new for the Nittany Lions and as Franklin noted, it often gave the staff a chance to build some depth at the position with different guys seeing live reps in game.
"Fortunately we do feel like we've got a pretty good two-deep, and within some areas even a three-deep on defense and with some exciting players coming in," Franklin said.
With a starting point in mind, there's certainly no doubting the experience returners like Koa Farmer, Manny Bowen and Jason Cabinda bring to the field. An All-Big Ten Third team selection by the league's coaches, Cabinda brings both skill and leadership to the position with eight or more tackles in eight of nine games he played in 2016.
Franklin outlined a few spring objectives, noting that this year he'll return to the basics, beginning with maximum effort from every member of the program 100 percent of the time. Stemming from the morning workings, maintaining a high level of competition is also an objective, along with the more technical aspect of offensive ball security and defensive ball disruption.
Discipline is also an objective, which encompasses broad areas of the program, but as Franklin pointed out, also spans the little things, like preparation, making it to class and arriving to appointments on time.
"I believe that if we can do a better job in that area and have 10 percent less - what I would describe as drama, having to get on a guy about missing a class and calling his parents and spending time doing that, as coaches and players, if we can spend our time developing them as students and developing them as players and developing them as men and not babysitting, it's going to make all of us more efficient with our time, Franklin said.
A few Nittany Lions are set for position moves heading into the spring season. Franklin noted that Johnathan Thomas will make the move from linebacker to running back and Jarvis Miller will move from safety to linebacker. Josh McPhearson, who played in six games during the 2016 season, will also move from wide receiver to running back, ideally as a return specialist.
"We are really hoping Josh can factor in and compete as a kick returner, as a punt returner," Franklin said. "He's a dynamic guy when he gets the ball in his hands so we're going to give him an opportunity there."
Thomas played in five games during the 2016 season while Miller played in all 14 games seeing action primarily on special teams having moved to linebacker after the Minnesota game.
Reach Arielle at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's hockey is headed to its first NCAA Tournament, set to meet Union in the opening game of the Midwest Regional Saturday, March 25 at at 4:30 p.m. in Cincinnati, Ohio. In preparation for the historic event, Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky met with members of the media to preview the upcoming trip to U.S. Bank Arena.
Check out a few updates from the afternoon media session.
Enjoying the Moment
Gadowsky noted that as much of a business trip as the NCAA Tournament will be, the Nittany Lions will still take some time to savor the opportunity.
"I will tell you that it is really hard to get there, we know that, and we're going to enjoy it," Gadowsky said. "It's a business trip but we're going to enjoy it because we know how hard it is to get there."
For Gadowsky, the key to keeping the balance between business and enjoyment all comes down to easing the mindset into different ends of the spectrum.
"So today was a little light and lighthearted, but we're getting to work on Wednesday and I think that's what you have to do," Gadowsky said. "They are very tired right now and we have to let them rest and enjoy it, but then we're getting back to it."
An MVP Of The Weekend
Fresh off the program's first conference tournament title, the Nittany Lions emerged from the three-day event, that concluded with back-to-back marathon outings in double overtime wins against top-seeded Minnesota (4-3) and Wisconsin (2-1), with yet another opportunity to make history.
Since earning the program's first NCAA berth on Sunday, the Nittany Lions have hit the ice baths to soothe sore bodies. Still in awe of his team's ability to play essentially more than four games in the short stretch, Gadowsky noted that credit is due to Nittany Lion performance enhancement coach Cam Davidson.
"Cam Davidson was an MVP of that weekend for sure," Gadowsky said. "So we have a ton of faith in him, I know he'll have them ready to go by the weekend."
Making an Impact
By this point in the season, it's easy to see how much of an impact Penn State's newest Nittany Lions have had this season, as Gadowsky pointed to key weekend contributions from Liam Folkes, Brandon Biro and Peyton Jones. Gadowsky also reiterated his point from earlier this season, that the team isn't looking at the newcomers like freshmen anymore.
"They've exceeded all of our expectations and again, I think just the upperclassmen have really taken them in and made them feel comfortable," Gadowsky said. "Obviously there are no freshmen now and because of that I give a lot of credit to the upperclassmen, to make them, bring them along so quickly."
Foundation in Work
Ethic and Commitment
Since arriving on campus, Gadowsky and his staff set out with the top priority to construct a solid foundation the program could continue to build on as it develops. Within the foundation are principles of work ethic and commitment, two things that Gadowsky noted have been embedded in the program since day one - and not just day one of the 2016-17 season.
"That's something that has been started for five years, it's nothing that just comes around this year," Godowsky said. "So the work ethic that you see, especially in a double overtime game is a result of that, not anything that the coaching staff has done this week or this year."
Quick Thoughts on Union
With familiarity with the program, Gadowsky noted that what he's most impressed with when it comes to Union is their work ethic and grit.
"The coaching staff has done a really tremendous job bringing in really quality, hard working players," Gadowsky said. "So now that they are getting so many high-end scorers, that's what making them extremely dangerous."
Making their fifth appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last eight seasons, the No. 2 seed Dutchmen are coming off of a 4-1 loss to Cornell in ECAC semifinals last weekend, which snapped a seven-game win streak.
Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo are atop the team standings in scoring with Vecchione earning ECAC Hockey Player of the Year honors as Union's all-time leading scorer.Reach Arielle at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent
Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was a decision between dance and gymnastics for senior Nicole Medvitz.
At the age of six, she had to make a choice that would shape her future. But 15 years later, she doesn't regret her decision at all.
"I started [gymnastics] when I was about four years old, just taking regular classes," senior Medvitz said. "Then, when I was six, I was asked to join pre-team, and it just started from there. I remember the day that I got asked to join pre-team because I had to choose between dance and gymnastics. I choose gymnastics and I'm really glad that I did."
Medvitz's high school gymnastics career was nothing short of prolific. She won three straight Junior Olympic National Championships on the balance beam in 2011, 2012 and 2013, won the New Jersey State Championship in the all-around in 2011 and 2012, and was named the 2010-11 New Jersey Gymnast of the Year.
When she was looking at colleges where she could continue to develop her high-level gymnastics skills, she knew that Penn State was the exact place she was looking for.
"I chose Penn State because when I visited, I just loved the atmosphere, the campus, and the amount of Penn State pride everyone has here," Medvitz said. "I could really tell that it was an amazing school and I love the team. I chose it my junior year after looking at a bunch of different colleges, mostly Big Ten colleges, and a couple of other ones. It just felt like the school that fit me the most and the combination of athletics and academics was perfect."
Medvitz's time at Penn State was been one for the record books and after every single season, she only continues to get better.
During her freshman year, Medvitz competed in all 14 of the team's meets, including the NCAA Regional Championships and at the NCAA Championships. During the Big Ten Championships, she notched her career-best of 9.850 on uneven bars.
Throughout sophomore year, Medvitz continued to contribute solid routines on the uneven bars and balance beam, but during her junior year, she took her performances to a whole new level. On March 12, 2016, at the Big Five Qualifier, Medvitz earned a score of 9.975 on the balance beam, which is tied for the fifth-highest score in program history.
"I always say to her, 'You have ice in your veins,' because it doesn't matter who she comes after, what the circumstance is, she just attacks her routines," interim co-head coach Kera Molinaro said. "She also has the flexibility aspect and the unique beam skills, so that separates her from a lot of other people."
In her final season, Medvitz has continued to perform at the highest level. She has won seven balance beam titles this season, including five in Big Ten matchups.
"She has grown a lot," co-head coach Molinaro said. "She has blossomed into such a confident gymnast. She's always been an awesome beam worker, but this year, she's just on a new level where she just smiles before her beam routine, and I know she's going to go up and hit it how she does in practice every day."
For Medvitz, there is nothing better than getting on the beam and performing a great routine.
"[Getting off the beam], it's just the feeling of excitement," Medvitz said. "The ultimate excitement you could possibly get."
The balance beam may be the most challenging event for some gymnasts with its mere width of four inches, nonetheless Medvitz never stumbles when she's up there.
"It's imperative actually [to have a good anchor]," Molinaro said. "You need a beam anchor that you know can handle any situation and someone that can just close out the event for you regardless of what happened in front of her. She's been a rock for us all year."
With the NCAA Regionals and Championships approaching, Medvitz's season is coming to an end, but sports will always be a part of her life.
"I'm hoping to work in the sports industry because sports is my passion and something I really love," Medvitz said.
The Paramus, NJ native is planning to use the experience that she gained at her summer internship with Nike to pursue her dream.
"That was a ton of fun," Medvitz said. "I really love the company and I learned so much about what it takes to work in such a large industry. Everyone there really loves sports, too. I was also able to explore Oregon a lot, so that was very different from the East Coast, but it was a lot of fun."
Even with only a few more competitions left, Medvitz is hoping to use her time to be the best teammate and leader she can possibly be.
"She's really come out of her shell the last two years," Molinaro said. "She gives her teammates really good advice and she speaks up a lot. She's always happy, has a great attitude, and you can count on her to bring excitement in the gym. She's just an even keel; she doesn't get super high or super low. She is a solid, consistent individual."
The most important lesson Medvitz has for any gymnast is to "enjoy every moment," and that is exactly what she will be doing for the rest of the season.
"I'm just really glad that I get to represent such a great school and I just have so much pride for this school," Medvitz said. "Being able to leave a legacy is really something that means a lot to me, and I'm hoping that we pave the way for the future so that Penn State gymnastics continues to get better."
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On Sunday afternoon at Letterman's Sports Bar and Gastro Pub, more than 150 fans packed into the largest room of the restaurant to watch the Penn State men's hockey team learn their fate as part of the NCAA Tournament selection show watch party. The room was filled with community members, the Roar Zone and many more who came out to support the Nittany Lions.
"It's really cool, it was a great turnout," said sophomore defenseman Vince Pedrie. "I can't believe this many people came and it shows the pride we have here in Hockey Valley and what a great fan base to play in front of."
The Nittany Lions, just hours before on Saturday night, secured their first Big Ten Championship, thanks to a 2-1 double overtime win against Wisconsin. Many players were still in awe of what they had accomplished the night before.
"It hasn't [sunk in yet]," Pedrie said. "I was talking to my parents after the game and I couldn't even put it into words, I just kept saying it was incredible. Back-to-back double overtime games, you couldn't have scripted it any better, it really hasn't sunk in yet."
Penn State learned during the selection show it would be heading to Cincinnati for the first round of the NCAA Tournament, facing Union (N.Y.) Saturday in its first appearance in the event in program history. For head coach Guy Gadowsky, Penn State's hard work is paying off with the selection to the tournament.
"It means that we're going in the right direction," Gadowsky said. "It means that this is a great university, that we have a great athletic department and so much support. I tell you what, if I could go back and be a college hockey player this is exactly where I would go."
Gadowsky also gave a shout out to Nittany Lions strength and conditioning coach, Cam Davidson, for preparing his team so well for the grueling games they've had to play over the last few days, and knows his team will be ready come Saturday.
"I'm actually in awe of how they were able to skate at all in the first period let alone in the fifth period," Gadowsky said. "Just a tremendous job."
Gadowsky and company are preparing for yet another challenging game ahead of them against a team they haven't faced before, but Gadowsky is confident in his team's ability to come together and fight for a win."You've got to have great goaltending, you have to have great chemistry, you have to have a tremendous work ethic, you have to have great support and a little bit of luck," Gadowsky said. "We'll see if it goes our way."
By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- It's the time of year where the only thing on the mind of college basketball players around the country is 'survive and advance'. On Sunday the Lady Lions did just that when they beat the Fordham Rams 70-51 in the second round of the WNIT.
After another slow start kept them scoreless for the first three minutes, a situation almost identical to their first round game against Ohio, the Lady Lions closed out the first quarter on a 17-2 run, and never looked back.
"You can't always control whether or not the ball goes in the basket and I thought early on we got some good shots, they just didn't fall," said head coach Coquese Washington. "So our defense was good the first quarter and once we got a few baskets to fall, our defense stayed pretty high and allowed us to get out to a lead that first quarter."
The change in momentum came thanks to a lockdown defensive scheme that held the Rams to just four points in the first frame.
"I think it started with the defense, we got a couple of steals and then we were able to get in transition so I could kind of feel that we were starting to get momentum that way," said sophomore Teniya Page. "We were doing a good job of boxing out and running, so I think it was the defense."
Back-to-back steals from Amari Carter and Sierra Moore put the Lady Lions on the board to jumpstart a 12-0 run to put the Lady Lions up big. Carter ended the contest with a game-high four steals to go along with 15 points.
"I just take what the defense gives me," Carter said. "How they're playing us, whether they're going to double the screens or trap the screens or whatever they want to do. It just depends on how they play us [and that's how I play my game]."
Carter is playing in her first season for Penn State after redshirting last year because of a torn ACL she suffered in the first game.
Washington says that having Carter on the floor now is the difference maker from where the team was a year ago, when the Lady Lions missed the postseason after finishing below .500.
"There's no question one of the differences in the success of this team, and where we are at this point this year versus last year, is Amari Carter's presence," Washington said. "She's a dynamic player and having her on the court just makes us a better team. She gives us more options, she's so fantastic with handling the ball, finding teammates, and giving people easy plays."
Penn State will hope that Carter can continue her dominant play as the team will be without redshirt junior Lindsey Spann as it continues its postseason run, who will be out for the remainder of the year with an injury. Spann was averaging 10.5 points per game in 22.9 minutes per game.
The Lady Lions advance to the Sweet 16 of the WNIT for the first time since the team won it all in the inaugural WNIT in 1998 and will host Virginia Tech at the Bryce Jordan Center on Thursday. Tip is set for 7 p.m.
DETROIT - As the puck dropped for the first period of the Big Ten Championship game Saturday night, Penn State men's hockey freshman goaltender Peyton Jones stared down the ice, knowing he was only one game away from helping secure Penn State's first conference title. Little did he know that Penn State would go on to defeat Wisconsin, 2-1, in yet another a nail-biting 2-1 double overtime victory.
Despite playing all 93:33 minutes in net in the double overtime victory against Minnesota the night before, Jones felt fresh heading into the Championship game.
"I just take it one second at a time," Jones said. "It's tough, it's a mental battle but I just take it one second at a time, keep telling myself to stay focused and keep locked on the puck and just go from there."
Saturday night's contest was challenging, and the Badgers fired everything they had at Jones, hoping to trip him up. However, Jones was ready, and kept a keen eye on the Badgers offense.
After a first period goal Saturday night from freshman forward Liam Folkes, Jones took a deep breath, knowing his offense was doing its job, so he could do his. During the first period, Wisconsin challenged Jones several times, forcing him to make a few close saves to keep the Badgers off the board. With 40 seconds left to play, Jones made his seventh save of the period, securing the Nittany Lions a 1-0 lead heading into intermission.
During the second period, both teams were unable to score, but that didn't mean the Badgers didn't test Jones' focus. With eight saves during the second period, Jones once again outsmarted Badgers. As the clock ticked down on the period, Jones denied a couple of the Badgers' offense men at the doorstep, coming in clutch to keep Penn State up by one.
The Badgers tied it up at a goal each during the third period, forcing the game into overtime. As the game continued, and looked as if it would head to overtime, Jones kept a level eye on the task at hand, making 17 saves during the third period.
"For me, last night and tonight especially, I felt like as we got into the third period and the first overtime I was heating up," Jones said. "I felt really good, I was making a lot of saves, the glove saves were going right into my pocket, shots to my chest I was keeping in and shots to my stick I putting into the corners, so I felt really good."
From the other end of the ice in double overtime, Jones had a straight shot of Folkes' second, and game winning, goal of the night. Folkes was able to end the game with 6:43 left in the double overtime, thanks to a great feed from freshman forward Brandon Biro that gave him a breakaway. Jones saw the set up and execution, but wasn't able to wrap his head around that the Nittany Lions had won.
"To be honest, I was shocked," Jones said of his reaction to Folkes' goal. "I threw my hands in the air and I didn't know what to do. That was probably the most shocked and just hit with excitement I've been in a while. It was awesome, it's a feeling I can't describe."
Jones was named Most Outstanding Player during the postgame awards presentation, after securing 51 shots on Saturday night, but Jones said he couldn't take the credit for taking down the Badgers.
"I don't think I won a hockey game for my team," Jones said. "To be honest, I made a ton of saves but I couldn't make those saves without those guys on the team. The defensemen, they're tremendous, every one of them blocking shots, keeping pucks out of the zone, forwards taking hits to get pucks out of the zone, I couldn't have done what I did tonight without them."
Jones spoke of how the team celebrated the first conference championship for the program, saying it was nice to just take in the moment."A lot of fun, everyone's fired up," Jones said. "Everyone's very happy and I'm happy with this team. There's a lot of heart, a lot of character in that locker room and you can tell. Ten periods of hockey in 24 hours isn't easy."
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
ST. LOUIS - It was a perfect night for Penn State wrestling in nearly every sense of the term perfection, as the Nittany Lions powered to a jaw-dropping 5-0 mark in the 2017 NCAA Championship Finals, only adding on to a previously clinched seventh NCAA title in program history.
With NCAA crowns in six of the last seven seasons including the last two in a row, Penn State brought the 19,657 fans at the Scottrade Center to the edge of their seats and on to their feet in an emotional outing that saw five Nittany Lion finalists earn NCAA championship titles.
Penn State's five NCAA national champions marks just the third time that a DI team has seen five individuals earn NCAA titles, and the first since Oklahoma State did so in 2005.
Having already secured the team title in the earlier session Saturday afternoon, Penn State bolstered its score to a Nittany Lion record-setting 146.5 points, finishing well ahead of second-place Ohio State (110) and third-place Oklahoma State (103).
Among the Nittany Lion national champions, All-Americans Bo Nickal (184), Jason Nolf (157) and Zain Retherford (149) combined for a total of 82.5 points, which would have placed the trio sixth overall in the final team standings.
Penn State also made history with All-Americans, true freshman Mark Hall (174) and redshirt freshman Vincenzo Joseph (165) earning their first titles to become the first freshmen NCAA champions in program history.
Top-seeded Retherford opened Penn State's stunning streak with an 18-2 technical fall at the 6:42 mark against Missouri's No. 3 Lavion Mayes. Unphased by an early Mayes takedown, Retherford built a 6-2 lead with more than two minutes of riding time by the end of the second period before breaking open the scoring in the third period to earn his second consecutive NCAA title as well as both 2017 NCAA Championships Most Outstanding Wrestler and Most Dominant Wrestler honors.
Fellow No. 1 seed Nolf followed with a 14-6 major decision against Missouri's No. 3 Joey Lavallee, using a tricky late takedown to take control of a 6-1 lead heading into the third period. There was no stopping Nolf in the final frame though, as he rolled to his first career NCAA title.
It was third-seeded Joseph (165) who then set deciding tone for the Nittany Lions, pinning Illinois' top-seeded two-time NCAA champion Isaiah Martinez in a matchup that will likely be imprinted in the minds of the Nittany Lion faithful long after tonight. Heading into the third period with 1:05 in riding time and tied at 5-5, Joseph proved calm under pressure, confidently turning Martinez for the fall at 5:25 to send Nittany Lions at the Scottrade Center into a frenzy.
"I was confident going in," Joseph said. "Even after I gave up that first takedown I was, like, they went to review it. I went back, talked to my coaches. First thing I said to them was: I'm scoring soon. I could feel it starting to open up, and I knew I was going to get to my attack soon. Get an opportunity there."
In a rematch of the Big Ten Championship Finals, Hall used a late takedown with fewer than 25 seconds on the clock to defeat Ohio State's No. 3 Bo Jordan to become the second freshman NCAA national champion.
"It's a tough tournament," Hall said. "I've wrestled a lot of places. This is one of the tougher places. There are a lot of people out there. I've wrestled around the world, different people, different countries and the important thing, just have fun. I told myself over and over as soon as the negative thought came into my mind, I replaced it with Jesus loves you, NCAA champion, over and over."
In yet another highly anticipated matchup, No. 2 Nickal (184) battled top-seeded Gabe Dean from Cornell. Keeping it close throughout, Nickal worked from behind with a takedown in the second period, which was challenged but confirmed with :41 left in the frame. Arriving back within one, 4-3 off the escape, Nickal held on for the close victory.
Bonus points and records aside though, long before the streak of five consecutive finals wins and the pure dominance across the last three days, the Nittany Lions have been putting in some serious work, and there's no better place than Happy Valley to train for greatness on a daily basis. As Nickal says, excellence breeds excellence.
"That's what we're doing at Penn State," Nickal said. "So each and every group that we get is top notch. A kid not only as a wrestler but as a person, and I feel that really is what's going to make the difference over the long run. I mean, there's a lot of talent out there but at Penn State, we get the right kinds of people and kids with character. That shows. You see kids coming in like Nick Suriano, Mark Hall, Vincenzo [Joseph], kids coming in, winning at the highest levels."
Training together among a wealth of talent at both the collegiate and international, professional level, the progress is all part of a legacy the Nittany Lions add on to every day, developing closer as true family unit.
"It's competitive," Hall said, reflecting on the atmosphere inside the Penn State wrestling room. "We have days where I might not get a takedown. We have days where some of our best guys are struggling. And it's just because we're all so good. We're so good out here, but when we're in the room it's like you're just another guy. There's no favoritism. We're all one."
For head coach Cael Sanderson, who has now guided the Nittany Lions to six NCAA Championships in eight years at the helm of the program, this one is special.
"I'm still kind of like it's just crazy because usually you have somebody lose or something doesn't go right, and as a competitor your heart is always with the kid that doesn't reach his goal," Sanderson said.
There were no somber moments for the Nittany Lions Saturday night. Instead, there was euphoria and celebration, but most importantly, gratitude.
"I mean our guys are pretty good, as you can see," Nolf said." We've got five guys in the finals back to back to back to back to back. So those guys are definitely some of the toughest guys I get to wrestle. We get to learn each other's - how we wrestle. We're continuously evolving because we're competitive and we want to keep getting better and better and we all just help each other do that."
Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - The outcome wasn't always a certainty, but the Penn State men's gymnastics team was able to outlast Michigan at Rec Hall, winning 409.2-405.3. The Nittany Lions struggled in the early going, but they were able to find their groove in the end and pull out their first Big Ten home win.
Penn State dug themselves a hole early, as the Nittany Lions had two slips in the pommel horse, their very first event.
"We really struggled on pommel horse, which is unfortunate because we are really good there," head coach Randy Jepson said. "We hoped to get some distance on Michigan and that didn't happen."
Nonetheless, the Nittany Lions showed resiliency when they needed it, finishing pommel horse with the top two scores, posted by Leroy Clarke and Colin Coates.
The strong momentum continued as Penn State, despite trailing after three events, began to find stride later in the meet.
"One of the things we've been teaching this squad is learning how to put your foot on your opponent," Jepson said. "The last three events, they really did that. They came through and we only had one hit that we missed in the last three events. Especially on high bar, and we had three great sticks to wrap that up. Great finish."
One event that stood out in the turnaround was the rings, as the Nittany Lions tallied the top three scores in the event from Dominic DiFulvio, Clarke, and Chris Sands. DiFulvio won the event, finishing with a 14.400 score and one of the most consistent performances he had put together all season.
"That was a big stepping stone since that's the event we were down by a point or two," DiFulvio said. "We needed to get a big rings score and that was big. We're going to just keep that momentum throughout the rest of the year."
Freshman Sam Zakutney put in another strong performance as well, winning two events. Zakutney tallied a 14.200 on parallel bars and a 14.300 on floor exercise. Zakutney has been hitting on all his routines at home in the last few meets, as this performance backs up an all-around title that he earned last time in Rec Hall against Ohio State.
Saturday wasn't just about the competition, as the 2007 national championship team was in attendance to witness the victory and celebrate the 10th anniversary of their achievement.
"We've been told plenty of stories that happened with their team, so it was really cool to see Matt Cohen and those guys," DiFulvio said. "It's really inspirational. Those guys went through a lot during their season that they won that championship. To have them being here to cheer us on is huge for us. I was able to speak to Matt Cohen a little bit, and it was really awesome to do that."
Interacting with the national championship team allowed the current Penn State gymnasts to pick up some positive advice going into the final few weeks of the season.
"[Cohen] said always keep your head up and always stay humble," DiFulvio said. "I've kind of had that mentality, so hearing him say that, it's really nice to hear since that's the mentality I've been having."
DiFulvio and the rest of the Lions certainly kept their heads up this afternoon, and they look to carry the momentum through the rest of the year. They host Iowa next weekend in the final meet of the regular season before heading to the Big Ten and NCAA championships.
By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Behind Penn State's three-headed monster on the attack; Madison Carter, Steph Lazo and Katie O'Donnell, the Nittany Lions were a force to be reckoned with as the trio showed up in full force against Rutgers in an 18-7 victory.
Each of the three tallied a hat trick (Carter - 4 goals, O'Donnell - 4, Lazo - 3), making it the third time this season three Nittany Lions have recorded a hat trick in the same game. The other two instances occurred on the road at Duquesne (Lazo - 5 goals, Carter - 4, Auth - 3) and in the opening week, when the trio did the accomplishment almost twice over (Carter - 6 goals, Lazo - 5, O'Donnell - 5).
Combined, the three tallied 18 points off of 11 goals and seven assists. The three played a major factor in the team's offensive output, having a hand in 14 of the team's 18 goals.
"That's what you want to count on in these games especially going into Big Ten is your leaders really need to step up and thankfully they did that today," head coach Missy Doherty said on the three's leadership and play.
While the group as a whole left a big mark on the game, individually each one brings something unique to the table.
Carter, while leading the team in goals both against Rutgers and on the season, dominated the draw control and gave the Nittany Lions a huge advantage in the battle for possession. Her wheels and killer instinct on the field played a huge factor as on multiple occasions she simply outran everyone else in play, scoring momentum shifting breakaway goals.
Lazo acts as the efficient point guard, where every successful offensive possession runs through her. Not only did she contribute with her stick with Saturday's three goals, but she cut through the defense to make open lanes and found the ball to teammates with precision even when they were barely open. She was able to use her keen vision and passing to help teammates light up the board a whopping six times against Rutgers, raising her yearly assist total to 26.
Last, but not least, O'Donnell is one of the squad's reliable attacker who can hit from long range and seems to always find an open spot near the net. She also has been a fire starter for the program as a main catalyst in many of the team's scoring runs. With her four goals Saturday, the junior now has now tallied 115 points with 104 goals, and has recorded multi-goal games 23 times over the past two seasons.
Coach Doherty says a good deal of the team's offensive success came from both finishing shots and the chemistry the attackers shared, opening up the door for the team's playmakers.
"[The attackers] worked the ball really well, I thought down the stretch we had some more legs really going hard to the cage," she said. "Once we got our cutting and our rhythm going they did a good job at using all the attackers, not just one or two."
Lazo and Carter said postgame that they are glad to be producing for their team and that it's nice to see everyone contributing.
"You always want to come out and do your best, and the fact that the three of us are producing good numbers, it's always nice to want to consistently do that for your team," Lazo said. "I think we want to make our coach proud and make our team proud."
But the girls still remain humble as their own "biggest critics," and know that their success only goes as far as the rest of their teammates around them.
"Everyone on our attack is a threat and we always hone in on that so it's really good to get everyone involved and get the ball moving," Carter said.
Penn State now heads on the road for a three-game stretch. Up next is Princeton on Tuesday, March 21, at 2 p.m.
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
ST. LOUIS - Penn State's Nick Nevills highlighted session five with a fifth-place finish in the NCAA DI Wrestling Championships, adding on to an All-America finish in his first-career tournament appearance.
Although marking his first time competing on the mats on the biggest stage, Nevills has been a regular at the annual event since seventh grade.
While some families prefer sunny beaches or theme parks, the NCAA Wrestling Championships is the annual family vacation spot for the Nevills. Along with brothers Zach, A.J. and Seth, mom Kerri and dad Wayne, the Nevills' made their first trip to the NCAA Wrestling Championships in 2010 in Omaha, Nebraska.
Flash forward a few years as Nick Nevills was poised to settle his collegiate choice, eventually completing a standout high school career at Clovis high school with four straight California state titles among a plethora of honors and accolades.
Having attended a camp at another Big Ten school, Nevills and his mom rented a car and drove to Penn State for a visit. A Clovis, California native, Nevills picked Penn State, with older brother Zach already on the roster at Stanford.
As Kerri and Wayne recall, it was Zach who started the Nevills family wrestling tradition and Nick, who followed close behind along the same wrestling path. Younger brother A.J. will soon join the Nittany Lion roster with Seth still in high school, having recently become the fifth wrestler to win titles after his first three seasons at Clovis.
Since arriving at Penn State though, Nick Nevills' path hasn't been without a few road blocks along the way. Having never really experienced an injury, Nevills stepped up to overcome the unfamiliar. At full strength to start the season, Nevills put together a 12-2 regular season dual record with a 7-2 mark in conference action this year. Nevills also went 4-1 to finish third at the Big Ten Championships (285), tallying three pins along the way.
On Thursday, Nevills was set to make a different kind of trip to the NCAA Wrestling Championships. By Saturday afternoon, in a rematch of his earlier quarterfinal bout, Nevills rallied to defeat Duke's No. 4 Jacob Kasper for a 4-3 sudden victory and a fifth-place finish in session five. At 5-2 in his first NCAA Tournament, Nevills closed out the season at 25-8 overall with seven pins, as one of six All-America honorees in the lineup this year.
"I'm just glad I was able to go out there and get the win and wrestle hard," Nevills said. "He took me down right at the end of the first period and I just knew from that point I was going to have to wrestle a little bit harder and pick up the pace and that's what I did and it got me the win."
Taking just a brief moment to reflect, the 2017 NCAA Championships have already been an experience he'll take so much from moving forward.
"It's exciting, a really good experience and I have a lot to take away from this," Nevills said. "I have a lot to build on through the next year and just really looking forward to the offseason growth that I have because I can get better in every area and that's an exciting factor. I don't think I'm anywhere near my potential or my ceiling so that's a really good feeling and I'm really looking forward to working with the coaches and the guys on the team."
Surrounded by the endless support of his family, Nevills also got to watch oldest brother Zach (184), make his first NCAA Championships debut in his final season with the Cardinal.
"It was awesome getting to see him wrestle and getting to see him do something that he's always wanted to do and getting to see my brothers and family in the stands when I walked out and they were just out there supporting me, texting me and telling me they loved me and they were praying for me," Nevills said. "It was just awesome to be able to compete in front of them."
Another piece of the Nevills family trip to the NCAA Wrestling Championships is friendly competition, or "Master of the Universe," which originated from the first trip to Omaha. A fantasy-style draft from the NCAA Championships field, the highly anticipated tradition has some pretty extensive rules that have evolved over time, but all in good fun. Encompassing the entire family as well as close friends, the winner emerges with a trophy, even engraved with family names on the bottom.
While not participating in the annual family tradition this year, Nick has won once, but according to Kerri, Nick's name has an asterisk next to it on the trophy due to an illegal trade. It's still under review.
Session five action also saw the Nittany Lions clinch the the NCAA national championship team title, marking Penn State's sixth national championship crown in the last seven years and second consecutive.
In the grand finale of the three-day event, Penn State's five finalists will square off for individual NCAA national titles beginning at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
"I'm really looking forward to watching all five of our guys in the finals," Nevills said. "I think all five of them have a really good chance of winning and I'm just really excited to watch and I'm super proud of this team.
By Jack Milewski, GoPSUSports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Chris Nugent returned to the lineup and Penn State men's volleyball didn't skip a beat. The Nittany Lions downed Cal Baptist in four sets to secure their 13th win of the season, improving to 2-1 in the nonconference slate.
Once again, Penn State showed its balance, as four Nittany Lions recorded double digit kills. Nugent led the group with 16, Calvin Mende chipped in 13, while Aiden Albrecht added 11 and Kevin Gear recorded 10.
"I though tonight we were tested in two ways, coming back from two nights off and getting [Nugent] back in the lineup," Pavlik said. "I thought it would have been easy for us in games three four to just roll over, but we kept fighting and pushing and got the result we wanted."
Sidelined for more than three weeks, Nugent returned to the court at Rec Hall with a bang. Facing their fair share of adversity during the midpoint of the season, Penn State has opted to instead, rise to the occasion, embracing a next man up mentality.
"For us it is just about being in a rhythm and I thought we were there all night," setter Luke Braswell said. "I thought all of our hitters did a great job and because of that we were able to get a good amount of looks."
Not only did Nugent have an impressive performance in his return, but Gear continued to make an impact in the middle, recording a match high .500 hitting percentage to go along with four blocks. Gear has been an absolute force the past two weeks, not only defensively at the net, but also offensively in the middle. With the added attack support, Penn State has been able to push past opponents in different ways the last couple of matches.
The Nittany Lions showcased what Pavlik has been talking about all season long, their ability to bounce back from adversity and win tight sets. The first set, third set and fourth set were decided by two points and the Nittany Lions took two of three from Cal Baptist to win the match.
"We kept battling and when their servers got hot, we didn't buckle," Nugent said. "It was a solid match for us and especially when the match got close, I think we played some of our better volleyball."
The Nittany Lions will take on Lewis and Loyola Chicago next time out, hitting the road to begin its final stretch of nonconference action. Penn State faced both teams earlier in the season, beating Loyola in five before dropping a five setter the next night to Lewis. Both matches are set to begin at 7 p.m. ET."Both teams are playing well and I fully expect hostile arenas," Pavlik said. "We played them tough at our place and now we have to get on the plane and go to see them so it should be a fun one."
By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
In the first postseason game for Penn State in three years,
the Lady Lions stayed alive by beating the visiting Ohio Bobcats, 74-65, in the
first round of the WNIT.
The Lady Lions were a little bit slow out of the gate, trailing 9-0 through just under three whole minutes of action. Head coach Coquese Washington realized the need for things to change and called a vital timeout.
"Really I said 'okay, now we've gotta get back,'" Washington said to her squad in the huddle. "'We've had a few minutes to get our legs up under us, to get a feel for how they're playing, now we've gotta adjust and we've gotta start executing and doing the things that we've practiced,' and we started to do that."
Penn State responded by knocking down the 10 of the next 12 buckets, including two consecutive three-pointers by Teniya Page and Jaida Travascio-Green to start the second quarter. With the surge, the Blue and White took the 22-15 lead, a lead they would not lost for the rest of the game.
A big part of the Lady Lions success was generated by a defensive switch from man to zone. From that point on, Penn State was able to close the inside of the perimeter and force the Bobcats to have to shoot from outside. On a normal night, this would play right into the hands of Ohio, who nationwide have hit the ninth most three-pointers (282) on the sixth most attempts (939). But on this night, the Lady Lions were able to contain them to just 3-21 shooting from behind the arc in the first three quarters of play.
"I thought maybe one or two of them I didn't love, but I mean we're one of the top ten three-point shooting teams in the country, so you've got to shoot them to make them. And we shot em, and unfortunately we didn't make them tonight," Bobcats head coach Bob Boldon said.
Penn State capitalized on their opponent's woes and took off, with the bench play providing the fuel. Led by Sierra Moore and Siyeh Frazier, the Lady Lions continued to coast throughout the majority of the game. By the game's end, the Blue and White would outscore the visitors 28-6 with their reserves.
The senior, Moore, finished just short of her 21-point career high with a season-high 20 points. She also collected six rebounds and two assists, making her first postseason game one to remember.
"I'm not surprised for Sierra," Washington said. "She plays hard every night, she's explosive, she's energetic and I knew she would come out and work really hard tonight to have a big game."
The freshman, Frazier, also made splashes as she chalked up her first double-digit outing as a collegiate student-athlete. Her 10 points made her one of four Lady Lions to do so on the night, and her performance sparked a wave of energy over the whole team as she wore her passion on her sleeve.
"She's been practicing really well," Washington said about Frazier. "She's got fresh energetic legs, gets out in transition for us. She got a couple of offensive rebounds that were big for us. It's good to see her progressing and being able to play with a lot of confidence at this point of the season."
Among other contributors, Amari Carter and Teniya Page joined Moore and Frazier in scoring double digits, while Page also recorded a career-high nine rebounds. The only teammate to top her in that department was Kaliyah Mitchell, who grabbed 10 boards and added eight points.
With everyone having a hand in the victory, the performance showed how versatile Penn State can be. In order to make a deep run in the tournament, it will take an all-around effort like that from everyone on the roster.
"We're a really unselfish team so whatever is working that night is what we go to, so if we have a different kind of matchup, that's what we go to," Moore said. "We have a lot of strengths on the team, and everyone can do a specific thing, so whenever it's their time to shine and do their role that they're good at, then that's what we're gonna do."
With the win, Penn State moves onto the second round where it will face the Fordham Rams. The game will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 19 at the Bryce Jordan Center.
DETROIT - Fourth-seeded Penn State men's hockey locked up its spot in the Big Ten Championship game with thrilling 4-3 double overtime win against top-seeded Minnesota. Now set to meet the Badgers for the second time in a three-month span, the Nittany Lions will square off against Wisconsin in the title game set for 8 p.m. ET at Joe Louis Arena. Follow along for in-game updates and exclusive content.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
DETROIT - After a dominant 4-1 victory over Michigan Thursday night, Penn State men's hockey defeated Minnesota in a double overtime thriller, 4-3, securing a spot in the Big Ten Championship finals.
"I thought everybody played great, really hard," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "Very, very happy to be playing here tomorrow. It was a big win for the program, not only for the Big Ten but also I believe it solidified going to the NCAA Tournament."
Right from puck drop, the Nittany Lions were off and running with Penn State looking to advance to the finals on Saturday night.
With a fitting 18:55 left in the first period, freshman forward Nikita Pavlychev netted the first goal of the night for the Nittany Lions off a rebound. Pavlychev was able to use his reach and grab the puck, before tossing it into a gaping net.
The Nittany Lions used the momentum from Pavlychev's goal to their advantage. Despite Minnesota's two goals during the first period, that didn't slow down the Nittany Lions. Penn State eagerly approached every offensive opportunity, quickly determining the play and getting shots on net. Penn State fired 11 times at the net during the first period.
Penn State started out strong once again during the second period. Sophomore forward Andrew Sturtz took the puck into Minnesota's zone and shot it on net where the rebound found the stick of sophomore forward Chase Berger. Berger was able to bring the puck around the back of the net and fire a backhanded shot just seconds later, with sophomore Alec Marsh credited for the goal that followed since the puck hit off his elbow. Minnesota's defense didn't see it coming, since they were still focused on Sturtz's presence near the crease.
The Nittany Lions skated out on the ice for the third period with determination in their eyes. That fighting spirit paid off, as senior forward Dylan Richard secured the Nittany Lions' third goal of the night, his ninth of the season, off a great pass from Sturtz only a minute into the period. Tied 3-3 at the end of regulation, the game headed to overtime.
"I thought they felt very confident," Gadowsky said of his team's mindset heading into the overtime period. "I thought we played a very good game, had a ton of chances. The guys just felt we didn't have to change anything, we just had to, as Erik Autio said at the end of the game, play Penn State hockey."
During the first overtime period, freshman goaltender Peyton Jones made a phenomenal glove save that made the crowd gasp in awe. It was a textbook definition of a beautiful save. Jones made 37 saves on the night.
"It was fantastic," Gadowsky said of Jones' performance. "I think a lot of guys on the bench, when he made that glove-save, a lot of guys said 'hey, it's ours now,' so that was huge."
After 80 minutes of play, both teams still looked fresh despite the lengthy outing. For all the marbles, it was junior defenseman Erik Autio who ended the game, giving the Nittany Lions the victory and the status of moving on to the finals. More than halfway through the second overtime, Autio caught a pass from freshman forward Denis Smirnov and found the back of the net, cheers erupting from the Penn State bench.
"It's a pretty good feeling," Autio said. "Celebrating with the guys after a game like that, it's just unbelievable."
The Nittany Lions will spend the important hours between games letting their bodies recover and getting back into the mindset of game preparation."We're excited," Autio said. "It's the Championship game."
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
ST. LOUIS - As the NCAA Wrestling Championships roll along, with each session comes a greater level of intensity as the stakes continue to rise, making each point critical in the team race.
Carrying its momentum into the evening session, top-ranked Penn State claimed wins in five consecutive semifinal matches, using a dominant showing to clinch an even tighter grip on the total team standings.
Dazzling the 18,344 fans packed inside the Scottrade Center Friday night, Penn State continued to dial up the bonus points advancing a total of five Nittany Lions to the finals for the the fourth time in the last six years (2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017).
Three-time All-American Zain Retherford (149) opened the streak pinning Iowa's No. 5 Brandon Sorensen.
"I felt like I had a secure lock and I had his chin," Retherford said. "There is a position where you're either getting back points or lacking for the fall, and I adjusted and as soon as I adjusted I felt -- I heard the ref say, 30 seconds, and I was like I think I have enough time to do it."
Having already beaten Sorensen on the road at Iowa in the regular season, the two also met in the 2016 NCAA finals, both matches that Retherford re-watched in the hotel before heading into tonight's semifinal matchup.
"I felt way too emotionally drained during the season when we first wrestled," Retherford said. "Last year in the finals I wrestled free, like I like to wrestle and I think I had more fun that way."
Next up, two-time All-American Jason Nolf (157) took down Nebraska's No. 4 Tyler Berger, using a strong third period to capture a 15-3 major decision. All-American Vincenzo Joseph (165) followed with a close 5-4 win off of a late takedown against Michigan's No. 2 Logan Massa.
Penn State's momentum only continued to surge as true freshman All-American Mark Hall (174) rallied late to upset Arizona State's previously undefeated No. 1 Zahid Valencia. Tied at 1-1, Valencia looked to move ahead and capitalize on a takedown as Hall's headgear slipped down his face. With the challenge wiping away the takedown, Hall was awarded the penalty point. A stall point and an escape pulled Valencia closer before Hall finished off the thrilling 4-3 decision with a late takedown.
The Nittany Lions wrapped up a truly dominant showing in the semifinals with two-time All-American Bo Nickal (184), who pinned Iowa's No. 3 Sammy Brooks at the 1:01 mark for his third fall of the weekend.
There's no doubt that bonus points have been the key factor separating the Nittany Lions from the rest of the team contenders all weekend long.
"It's definitely something that we stress to the team, just going out there and using all seven minutes that we have and just score as many points as you possibly can," Nickal said. "So that's something that we try to do and that our coaches definitely let us know how important that is. It really makes a difference in the team race."
For Nickal though, that's simply who the Nittany Lions are as individuals, and led by head coach Cael Sanderson, Penn State's all-out approach to every single opponent is focused on rising to the occasion, leaving everything on the mat at any given time.
"All we have to do is wrestle seven minutes," Hall said. "We don't dictate what the ref says. We don't dictate the things going on around us. The only thing we can control is how we're going to compete, and at the end of the day, that's what got us five in the finals."
For Penn State, the result has been big time bonus points, with 28.0 in NCAA Tournament action alone, including four majors, eight techs and six pins.
As individual as it seems though, the Nittany Lions are just as committed to each other as a team, keeping things light, loose and ultimately just having fun.
"I think there are a lot of ways to describe fun, but we enjoy what we're doing," Sanderson said. "They love wrestling. Just because there's a big match on the line, that doesn't mean anything changes. You either love it or you don't, so we just try to enjoy what we're doing, and at the same time prepare these guys to be successful because that's what is the most fun."
In addition to Penn State's five Nittany Lions competing in the finals Saturday night, Nick Nevills will continue in the consolation semifinals, which begins Saturday at 11 a.m. ET on ESPNU. Saturday evening's finals will begin at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
NCAA Championships Standings - (Finalists/Consolation
1 - PENN STATE - 121.0 (5/1)
2. - Ohio State - 89.5 (2/4)
3. - Oklahoma State - 86.0 (1/6)
4. - Missouri - 81.5 (3/2)
5. - Iowa - 74.0 (1/4)
149: #1 Zain Retherford, Jr. - Finals Round (All-American)
Retherford vs. #3 Lavion Mayes, Missouri
Jason Nolf, So. - Finals Round (All-American)
Nolf vs. #3 Joey Lavallee, Missouri
Vincenzo Joseph, Fr. - Finals Round (All-American)
Joseph vs. #1 Isaiah Martinez, Illinois
Mark Hall, Fr. - Finals Round (All-American)
Hall vs. #3 Bo Jordan, Ohio State
184: #2 Bo
Nickal, So. - Finals Round (All-American)
Nickal vs. #1 Gabe Dean, Cornell
285: #5 Nick Nevills, So. - Fifth round consolation
By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the best program start in nearly three decades, the Nittany Lions went into Spring Break with a 5-0 record and a seemingly endless source of momentum.
Although they would be spending most of the break on campus, Penn State entered week-long academic hiatus with a perfect record and with a chance to clear their minds and focus on the three games on its slate.
The first two games were solid victories for the Blue and White, extending their record to a superb 7-0. But like all good things, they must come to an end, and the Nittany Lions suffered their first loss of the season in the final game before the student body returned to campus again for classes, falling to No. 10 Colorado 16-11.
Even though the spotless record may be gone, head coach Missy Doherty says she finds value even every game, including the team's loss.
"I really think we've taken a lot of learning lessons from every game," Doherty said. "I think after a loss you start overthinking everything so we're trying our best to figure out what's been sort of consistent issues and just improving our intensity defensively for 60 minutes. The other team's going to come at us harder throughout the game so we have to be ready to match their intensity."
The reflection does not last too long, however, Doherty says. After the squad realizes where there is room for improvement, their mindset shifts to the next opponent on the challenging road still lies ahead.
"All of our games are so difficult. We have a pretty tough schedule so you really have to be ready for the next game regardless of what just happened, so I think we've really felt that with the teams that we're playing. You don't really have time to think about anything else other than the team you're playing," Doherty said.
That opponent this time happens to be the Rutgers Scarlett Knights.
Rutgers marks the start of the Nittany Lions' Big Ten schedule, one that Doherty says is no cake walk but still a welcome challenge they look forward to each year.
"I think it's one of the toughest conferences in the country," Doherty said. "Every year there's different rivals for different reasons. Opening up with Rutgers, we want to make sure we're representing Penn State well in the Big Ten. Lacrosse is fairly new to the conference and we think it's a very exciting sport so we're ready to get it started."
The Scarlett Knights present an interesting challenge for the Lady Lions. While they appear towards the middle of the pack or bottom end in most team statistics in the conference, they boast an adequate amount of depth in order to compete with anyone. On their five wins during the season, a different player has scored the game-winner in each contest and are the only team to do so.
"They work really hard the whole game. They have a bunch of different offensive threats," Doherty said. I want to make sure we play good team defense and put our shots away. It was the focus for us after the Colorado game to make sure we sink a couple more of our shots and overall just play better Penn State lacrosse."
This weekend's contest will also mark the end of a three-game home stand. Soon after, a three-game road trip will test the Nittany Lions as they aim to get back on track to the perfect play that started they started the season with.
Penn State will takes on Rutgers on Saturday, March 18 at 1:00 p.m. sharp in Holuba Hall.
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
ST. LOUIS - Following last night's second session, Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson called the upcoming quarterfinals one of the best rounds in the sport of wrestling. Come Friday morning, the Nittany Lions rose to the challenge, blazing through the quarterfinals with a 5-2 mark, finishing session III at 7-2.
Behind big time bonus points, the Nittany Lions stretched its lead in the team standings to 74.0 with Ohio State (59.0) and Iowa (58.0) tightly slotted in spots two and three. Penn State registered 7.5 bonus points in session III to bring its NCAA Championships total to 23.0.
Performing just as consistently as they have in the earlier rounds, Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf and Bo Nickal highlighted the day with a pair of pins and a tech fall to earn a trio of All-America honors.
Retherford built an early lead with a pair of takedowns in the first 30 seconds of the opening period against South Dakota State's Alex Kocer, rolling to the 18-2 tech fall at the 5:13 mark to earn his third-career All-America honor.
"I would have liked to get a pin out there but he's a tough opponent," Retherford said. "I'm just scoring as much as I can, doing what I can for the team and I'm happy."
Nolf and Nickal picked up a pair of pins in the quarterfinals to earn their second-career All-America nod. Nolf pinned Rider's B.J. Clagon at the 4:06 mark, while Nickal capitalized on a cradle pin Nebraska's No. 7 TJ Dudley at the 4:33 mark.
Penn State also saw a pair of freshman earn All-American distinction in addition to a spot in tonight's semifinals.
Following a tough 4-2 sudden victory loss in the finals at the Big Ten Championships two weeks ago in Bloomington, Indiana, true freshman Mark Hall has kept his silver medal open on his desk every day. For Hall, it's motivation.
In Friday's quarterfinals, Hall came out firing, building a 9-0 lead before finishing off Virginia Tech's No. 4 Zach Epperly with a 10-2 major.
"I blew the match wide open to begin with but there's still some improving I can do, keep scoring, getting off bottom after takedowns and things like that," Hall said.
Along with earning the All-America honor, much like the silver medal, Hall remains focused on the ultimate goal, which now means semifinals, but ultimately extends to Saturday night.
"Those things are what I'm looking at and I just want to wrestle as hard as I can for seven minutes and keep going," Hall said.
Along with Hall, redshirt freshman Vincenzo Joseph earned his first-career All-America honor, putting on a gritty performance, battling to a dramatic 6-5 win in front of the hometown crowd against Missouri's No. 6 Daniel Lewis.
Trailing 5-4 with less than 10 seconds remaining, Joseph used a clutch takedown to secure the thrilling win.
"The more tired I got, I knew that he was more tired than I was so I was confident that if I got to my late attack I'd score," Joseph said.
With an all or nothing mentality, Joseph fought from behind as Lewis jumped out to a 2-0 advantage before building 2:22 in riding time heading into the second period.
"I was tired, he was tired but I knew I had to get it," Joseph said. "It's a big deal for our team to send a lot of guys to the semis so I had to make sure that I got the job done."
All five Nittany Lions will move on to tonight's semifinal round, set to begin at 8 p.m. ET live on ESPN. Matt McCutcheon, Nick Nevills and Jimmy Gulibon will all compete in the fourth round consolations, needing just one more win for All-America honors.
141: Jimmy Gulibon, Sr. - Fourth round consolation
Zain Retherford, Jr. - Semifinal Round (All-American)
Retherford vs. #5 Brandon Sorensen, Iowa
Jason Nolf, So. - Semifinal Round (All-American)
Nolf vs. #4 Tyler Berger, Nebraska
Vincenzo Joseph, Fr. - Semifinal Round (All-American)
Joseph vs. vs. #2 Logan Massa, Michigan
Mark Hall, Fr. - Semifinal Round (All-American)
Hall vs. #1 Zahid Valencia, Arizona State
184: #2 Bo
Nickal, So. - Semifinal Round (All-American)
Nickal vs. #3 Sammy Brooks, Iowa
197: #5 Matt McCutcheon, Jr. - Fourth round consolation
285: #5 Nick Nevills, So. - Fourth round consolation
By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Saturday will be a special day at Rec Hall, as members of Penn State's 2007 National Championship team will be on hand to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their achievement. That year was the most recent of 12 NCAA Championships brought home by the Nittany Lions, the highest mark in the nation.
The championship meet was held at Rec Hall that year, meaning the Nittany Lions were able to win a title on their home floor, something they accomplished only one other time.
Head coach Randy Jepson held the same position in 2007, winning one of his three national championships in his time at the helm of Penn State. To him, the 2007 team holds a special place among his best squads.
"I think back right before the meet in Rec Hall, sitting back in the women's volleyball locker room having confidence in my guys and knowing in about three hours we were going to be national champions," Jepson said.
A brunch will be held before the meet, allowing all the team members to get together and catch up on how far each has come in the decade since they hoisted the trophy. The coaching staff will share some stories as well.
One impact the 2007 team has also done since their championship run is help bolster the Penn State program, paving the way for younger athletes to come to Happy Valley. They, along with the 2000 and 2004 championship teams, returned the glory to Penn State gymnastics, allowing for some more big time talent to come here.
Four Nittany Lions earned All-American awards that season, headlined by Tommy Ramos, the Puerto Rican who was an All-American in every year at Penn State. He was joined by Vladi Klurman, Casey Sandy, and Nick Virbitsky. Sandy was the anchor of the pommel horse team, which was ranked No. 1 throughout the season.
A notable name who has come through the program since then is Trevor Howard, who won an NCAA title in 2013 on the floor exercise in his freshman season. Howard would go on to have a very successful career as a Nittany Lion, and is currently training to hopefully compete in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
As far as the current team is concerned, seeing the 2007 team and understanding the victories that they had could go a long way in helping this team make a run at a national championship. Seeing that success can play out in the way that it did that year and seeing those guys in person right in front of them could certainly help these young Nittany Lions understand he magnitude of what they are competing for.
For the freshmen especially, who haven't yet had a chance to be around the program for an entire season and have not had any NCAA postseason experience, this could give them an opportunity to talk to some of the guys that made the run and understand what it takes to win in the postseason.
Nonetheless, a stellar weekend lineup is in store for the team, capped off with the meet against Michigan. The meet is set to start at 3 p.m. at Rec Hall and is one of the two remaining Penn State home meets.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's Max Out Day in Happy Valley as Nittany Lion assistant athletic director for Performance Enhancement Dwight Galt met with members of the media to review the winter training session. Check out what you missed from the media session.
Flip through the photo gallery to check out images from all the action, as Penn State wrapped up its winter training.
By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The year has seen its fair share of ups and downs, but the Lady Lions aim to end the season on a high-note with a bid to the Women's National Invitational Tournament.
Head Coquese Washington and her squad will be prepared to take on Ohio at the Bryce Jordan Center this Friday at 7 p.m. This marks the first time in postseason play for the Penn State since 2014, where the Lady Lions made it to the third round of the NCAA tournament.
This year's WNIT berth is the first for Penn State since 2010 and the third in program history. The Blue and White won the inaugural event back in 1998 and now boast a 4-1 record in tournament play. The Lady Lions will be just one of six teams competing that have won it all before, joining Missouri State (2005), Wyoming (2007), Oklahoma State (2012), Drexel (2013) and South Dakota (2016).
In the first round, Penn State has the task of trying to tame the visiting Ohio Bobcats. As one of five teams representing the Mid-American Conference, the Bobcats put up a 22-9 record while going 12-6 in conference play. During the regular season, Ohio split its games against Big Ten competition, defeating Illinois but falling to Michigan.
A key matchup in this contest to watch for is the high scoring guard play between the Penn State's Teniya Page and Ohio's Quiera Lampkins. Just 0.2 points per game separates these two in the national rankings, where Page sits 20th in the country with the exact same number of points per game, meanwhile Lampkins trails slightly behind at No. 24 in the nation with 19.8.
The Lady Lions will have to be careful with how they handle the ball against the Bobcats, as they hold the NCAA's 18th best turnover margin at a plus-5.9 clip. Penn State will hope the home atmosphere can counter that production, posting a 14-1 record at home. Ohio has found most of its woes when away from Athens, Ohio, going a combined 8-7 when away or at a neutral location.
If Penn State is able to pick up the win Friday night and advance, a matchup awaits with the winner of Georgetown (17-12, 9-9 Big East) or Fordham (21-11, 11-5 Atlantic 10).
Each team presents its own challenge and could prove to be an interesting adversary in the second round.
On one hand, Fordham has a very stingy defense. The Rams are the 16th best in the country at defending teams beyond the arc, limiting opponents to just 27.6 percent from deep. They also make sure teams have to earn their points, only allowing teams to score an average of 56.0 points per game, good for the No. 20 spot nationally. That should be a solid test for the Lady Lions offense that owns a top-50 offense with 73.3 points per game.
On the other hand, the Hoyas of Georgetown beat their opponents by creating opportunities while limiting the same for their foes. The Big East team ranks in the top 50 in the country in offensive rebounds per game (15 orpg, 29th), steals per game (9.7 spg, 47th) and turnover margin (+4.24, 34th). Don't expect them to cough the ball up either, as Georgetown commits the ninth fewest turnovers nationwide with just 370 over the year.
Penn State has played each in the last two seasons. The Hoyas bested the Lady Lions this year, 68-54, in the San Juan Shootout, while the Blue and White took out Fordham, 79-75, last season at home.
In the Lady Lions' only other WNIT appearances, they were a first round out (2010) and won it all (1998). It's a small sample size, but if the trend continues, this weekend's matchups could determine Penn State's postseason destiny.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Based on the rankings for collegiate women's gymnastics teams, there may have been doubts on how Penn State would perform at the Big Five Qualifier this past weekend. However, the NIttany Lions team ignored the outside noise, put all their effort into each routine, and finished third with a score of 195.450.
Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Based on the rankings for collegiate women's gymnastics teams, there may have been doubts on how Penn State would perform at the Big Five Qualifier this past weekend. However, the NIttany Lions team ignored the outside noise, put all their effort into each routine, and finished third with a score of 195.450.
With a top-three finish, the Nittany Lions will begin their quest for the Big Ten title during the evening session of the Big Ten Championships at Piscataway, NJ on Saturday.
"The [Big Ten Qualifier] is a big confidence booster for them," interim co-head coach Josh Nilson said. "We were not supposed to make the evening session. We had a bit of a rocky start on uneven bars, but they pulled it together, came through in a big way on balance beam, and just kept the momentum going. Going from not supposed to be in the evening session to 'making it', it's a huge confidence booster for them."
Coming off its fifth-highest score of the season, the Nittany Lions learned what they had to focus on to capture the conference title - the small details.
"The last couple of weeks, we have been focusing on our level," said Nilson. "We are going to continue focusing on the team and really talking to them about the little things. Focusing on the small details is really what [we've been] working on all week, and fortunately, we're up to full strength in all of our lineups, so really, it's all about us and the small things this weekend."
For junior Briannah Tsang, the Big Ten Championships will be nothing new for her. She knows what's on the line and knows how to handle the pressure from all the different teams. Nonetheless, she understands that there could always be room for improvements.
"We're all just trying to fix the minor details and hope we can gain little half-tenths here and there," Tsang said.
Tsang has been working all season long for this weekend and is prepared to do her best.
"The upperclassmen, they're extremely motivated," Nilson said. "They're pushing the younger athletes. The upperclassmen want to perform at their very best and they're pushing the entire team. The leadership on this team has come together and they're pushing really hard. They want to surprise people this weekend."
After the Big Five Qualifier, four Nittany Lions earned All-Big Ten honors. Tsang and sophomore Sabrina Garcia received First Team All-Big Ten honors. Senior Nicole Medvitz and freshman Kristen Politz got mentions for the Second Team All-Big Ten.
Even though this is Politz's first time competing in the championship, the coaches know that she is as good as any of the other gymnasts.
"Kristen understands her gymnastics and she trusts herself," Nilson said. "When we talk to her, we just simplify it for her. We make it something that she has done her whole life and I think we'll be focused on her performance, which is something we've worked on really for the last few weeks; focusing on the controllable."
Tsang hopes to use her leadership and experience to help the freshmen, and she's ready to tell the world what Penn State gymnastics is all about.
"I hope that we can bring the freshmen in there, make sure they have a lot of fun, and just do what we normally do," Tsang said. "We're going to carry the momentum from the weekend and keep the ball rolling. We're all really excited for Big Ten's and showing everyone what we can do."
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
ST. LOUIS - Penn State wrestling continued its momentum into the evening session Thursday night, closing out the second session of the 2017 NCAA Wrestling Championships with a 7-1 mark to move to 15-1 overall in the event.
Championships Standings after Session II - (Quarterfinal Participants)
1 - PENN STATE - 30.5 (7)
2. - Ohio State - 26.0 (5)
3. - Oklahoma State - 25.5 (7)
4. - Iowa - 24.5 (6)
5. - Missouri - 20.0 (5)
"I think overall guys are wrestling well, they're having a good time," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said.
Bonus points continued to be the key component for the Nittany Lions, who scored bonus points on 10 of 15 total wins across the first day of action at the Scottrade Center.
Junior Zain Retherford opened up the bonus point scoring for the Nittany Lions in the second session, downing Princeton's No. 16 Jordan Laster with a 16-0 technical fall at the 5:43 mark.
Sophomore Jason Nolf quickly followed with another tech fall, taking down Bucknell's No. 16 Victor Lopez. Leading by just one, 4-3, heading into the second period, Nolf broke open the score in the final two periods, cruising to a 24-9 technical fall at the 7:00 mark with 2:50 in riding time.
"That's the way it's kind of got to be sometimes because guys will just hold on to your elbows and try to slow you down but ultimately it doesn't work because they get really tired and that's why I train to get a lot of takedowns just because sometimes that back points aren't there, even though I got a set," Nolf said. "You just have to be in good condition to get a bunch of takedowns if you have to because you know the other guy is going to be tired."
In just his second NCAA Championships matchup, Mark Hall put on a dominant showing, posting a 16-0 technical fall at the 2:20 mark against Navy's Jadaen Bernstein. Having earned the tough decision in the opening round, Hall took control early in the second round and never looked back.
"I think you need a warm up match and being in an environment like this again, it's a little different than what I'm used to and just to go out and have fun, that was the biggest thing, having fun," Hall said.
Sanderson was also pleased from what he saw from the true freshman
"He did a nice job," Sanderson said. "He did a nice job transitioning from tilt to turn to turn tilt and when you're scoring four points, it gets up there quick."
Bo Nickal highlighted the second round with Penn State's second fall of the day, pinning Binghamton's No. 15 Steven Schneider at the 5:33 mark.
"I've seen Nolf do that move 1,000 times so I was thinking I'm going to push on his head, he's going to reach up and I'm going to put him on his back," Nickal said.
It's been all about consistency for Retherford, Nolf and Nickal in day one of the three-day event, as the trio combined for five tech falls and a pin in the first day of action.
"All three of them wrestled great, all three of them scored bonus points in the six matches that they wrestled, but there are big matches tomorrow," Sanderson said. "These points are very small compared to the points that are awarded the next two days."
Penn State now shifts its focus to the upcoming quarterfinals, advancing a total of seven wrestlers, with Vincenzo Joseph, Matt McCutcheon and Nick Nevills also earning wins the second round.
"It gets tough," Sanderson said. "It's going to get more difficult tomorrow, a lot of big matches, quarterfinals - that's one of the best rounds in the sport of wrestling so it will be a lot of fun."
Keeping things light and fun is signature to the Penn State style, as Nolf noted that opportunity all comes down to gratitude.
"I think just being grateful for the opportunity and being excited and blessed that we get to share this experience together as teammates and with our coaches and everything," Nolf said. "So it should be a lot of fun."
Penn State remains atop the team standings (30.5) with Ohio State (26.0) and Oklahoma State (25.5) close behind in the top three.
The Nittany Lions return to action Friday, March 17 opening session III action at 11 a.m. ET at the Scottrade Center. All action will broadcast live on ESPNU.
141: Jimmy Gulibon, Sr. - Wrestlebacks
Gulibon vs. vs. Timmy Box, Northern Colorado
Zain Retherford, Jr. - Quarterfinal Round
Retherford vs. Alex Kocer, South Dakota State
Jason Nolf, So. - Quarterfinal Round
Nolf vs. vs. B.J. Clagon, Rider
Vincenzo Joseph, Fr. - Quarterfinal Round
Joseph vs. vs. #6 Daniel Lewis, Missouri
Mark Hall, Fr. - Quarterfinal Round
Hall vs. #4 Zach Epperly, Virginia Tech
184: #2 Bo
Nickal, So. - Quarterfinal Round
Nickal vs. #7 TJ Dudley, Nebraska
Matt McCutcheon, Jr. - Quarterfinal Round
McCutcheon vs. #4 Jared Haught, Virginia Tech
Nick Nevills, So. - Quarterfinal Round
Nevills vs. #4 Jacob Kasper, Duke
Reach Arielle at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lasch Football Building and Holuba Hall were bustling this afternoon as 11 Nittany Lions participated in Penn State's 2017 Pro Day.
The annual event features both mental and physical testing, designed to give representatives from a variety of NFL teams a closer look at the Nittany Lions, all in anticipation for the 2017 NFL Draft slated for Thursday, April 27 through Saturday, April 29 in Philadelphia.
Today's itinerary kicked off with Wonderlic testing to start the morning. Other items for the day included meetings and interviews with scouts and NFL personnel as well as height, weight, hand and arm measurements.
On the physical side of things, testing included a 225-pound bench as well as broad and vertical jumps. Agility testing featured the 40-yard dash, shuttle and the L cone drill among individual workouts.
Catch up with a few of the Nittany Lions following their Pro Day performances for updates on the day as well as look at some preparation leading up to the highly anticipated day.
Chris Godwin, wide receiver
Coming off a standout performance at the NFL Combine, Godwin noted that the success in Indianapolis provided some momentum headed into Pro Day.
"It gave me a lot of confidence because there was that validation that I could really play with the best guys in the country," Godwin said, looking back on his combine experience. "My numbers really stood up to all of theirs so it gave me a lot of confidence moving forward."
Godwin also relied on teammates and coaches for mental and physical preparation, having declared for the draft just after the Rose Bowl.
"They really helped me, whether it was on the field getting me ready to perform as far as routes or in the classroom just what to expect," Godwin said.
Evan Schwan, defensive end
After earning a spot in the starting lineup, Schwan completed his senior senior on a high note, earning All-Big Ten third team honors by the conference coaches and media. Immediately following the Rose Bowl, Schwan and Brian Gaia headed to Tampa, Florida to begin a grueling training session leading up to pro day.
"Training with some NFL vets was really cool, kind of getting their opinion on everything, what to do, what not to do, preparing for the next level," Schwan said. "It was a lot of hard work. A lot of days waking up really early, trying to get to bed as early as possible, trying to get as much sleep, a lot of hard work and some of the hardest workouts I've ever done and I feel like that paid off today."
Brian Gaia, offensive line
Along with training with Schwan, Brian Gaia also relied on the support of the Nittany Lion coaching staff for Pro Day preparations.
"I think I hit my numbers, got what I wanted to and everything," Gaia said. "I think coach Limegrover and all the other coaches do a really good job making sure we have the football stuff down and then the running stuff we learn as we go."
Brandon Bell, linebacker
Brandon Bell also hit the Sunshine State for his Pro Day preparation, channeling months of hard work into just single day of work.
"I feel like it went well, I definitely accomplished what I wanted to, I put in a lot of work from the last few months into one day so it felt good," Bell said.
Garrett Sickels, defensive end
Also coming off an appearance at the NFL Combine, Sickels utilized pro day as an opportunity to regroup from the experience, capitalizing on a second look. Along with Godwin, Sickels opted to forgo his final year of eligibility with Penn State to enter the NFL Draft.
"During the Combine I just felt I wasn't myself and didn't perform the way I wanted to," Sickels said. "Leading up to today I just needed to relax and do everything I was taught, and I was able to do that."
Malik Golden, safety
Concluding his final season in the Blue and White, Golden took things from each position coach throughout his time as Nittany Lion in preparation for his Pro Day debut.
"It was a lot of nerves, I didn't really sleep that well last night, but I'm happy with the results," Golden said. "You always feel like you can do better but I'm proud of where I stand right now."
Nyeem Wartman-White, linebacker
After an injury sidelined Wartman-White for the remaining 11 games of the season, Wartman-White said that the best part of pro day might simply be participating.
"I was supposed to do the drills 55 to 75 percent and I think I did them around there, maybe higher," Wartman-White said.
Tyler Yazujian, long snapper
Earning back-to-back CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in his final two seasons for the Nittany Lions, Yazujian completed his career as Penn State's long snapper from 2014 through 2016 before making his pro day debut.
"Today went well," Yazujian said. "It was exciting to see all the seniors out here putting in all the work they've been doing the past couple months and putting on a show."
For Yazujian, Pro Day preparations meant getting leaner, stronger and faster along in addition to his usual snapping responsibilities.
"I was happy with my athletic tests," Yazujian said. "I showed I could move a little bit for a snapper. And then I snapped pretty well, so I'm pretty happy overall with today."
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
ST. LOUIS - Top-seeded Penn State wrestling got right to work in the opening session of the 2017 NCAA Wrestling Championships. The Nittany Lions wrestled to a solid 8-0 start in first round matches, wasting no time tallying up the bonus points with four tech falls and a pin.
"You want to come out there and fire on all cylinders and treat it like any other match," sophomore Bo Nickal said. "That's how we treat every match, just go out there and start off strong, finish strong."
The "start off strong, finish strong mentality" is exactly what the Nittany Lions embraced as senior Jimmy Gulibon opened session I for the Nittany Lions with a bang. The 2015 All-American raced out to an 18-3 tech fall with 3:26 in riding time against Michigan State's Javier Gasca at 141. Gulibon went up 5-0 in the first period and never looked back.
"All I have to say is Jimmy Gulibon," redshirt freshman Vincenzo Joseph said. "He's awesome, he's a national title contender and he has been every year he has wrestled."
At 149, top-seeded junior Zain Retherford took the same approach, building a 4-0 lead in the opening frame before rolling to an 18-2 tech fall at 4:55 against Arizona State's Joshua Maruca.
Sophomore Jason Nolf, ranked No. 1 at 157 quickly followed with a 22-7 tech fall at the 7:00 mark against NC State's Thomas Bullard to give the Nittany Lions a trio of tech falls in consecutive matches for 4.5 bonus points right from the start.
Second-seeded Nickal later added to the bonus point total with a dominating 15-0 technical fall at the 3:20 mark against Northwestern's Mitch Silga at 184. With a takedown in the first minute of action, Nickal never relinquished control, registering Penn State's fourth tech fall of the afternoon.
"It felt good, I got a takedown, got on top," Nickal said. "I have to work on my turns a little bit, I don't usually get to work the turns because I'm getting a lot of takedowns and stuff like that, so I was glad that I got to go out there and work a little bit on top and score some bonus points for my team."
Fifth-seeded Matt McCutcheon punctuated the first session with Penn State's first fall of the event, pinning Purdue's Christian Brunner at the 1:53 mark.
"I just got in a little scramble when I was in on a shot and held on a little bit too long and I ended up catching both his shoulders on the mat," McCutcheon said. "I'm just happy to do it."
In total, Penn State registered 8.0 bonus points to rise to the top spot in the team standings at the end of the first session (16.0), leading second place Oklahoma State by one (15.0) and third place Ohio State by two (14.0).
NCAA Championships Standings after
Session I - (Round Two Participants)
1 - PENN STATE - 16.0 (8)
2 - Oklahoma State - 15.0 (9)
3 - Ohio State - 14.0 (7)
4- Iowa - 12.0 (7)
Lehigh - 12.0 (5)
Missouri - 12.0 (6)
Three other Nittany Lions made their NCAA Championships debuts, with true freshman Mark Hall (174), redshirt freshman Vincenzo Joseph (165) and sophomore Nick Nevills (285) all posting first round wins.
Joseph, a No. 3 seed, earned a 5-1 decision against Stanford's Keaton Subjeck. At 0-0 headed into the second period, used a pair of late takedowns in the next two periods for the win.
"I was a little nervous going into the match, first national championship, and I was kind of feeling a little weight on me, but he's a tricky wrestler, he's a tough guy so I was trying to avoid exposing myself in bad positions and that's probably why the score was a little lower that I would have liked it," Joseph said.
In front of 18,157 at the Scottrade Center, Joseph felt no pressure from the packed crowd, relying on experiences from the season to maintain focus.
"I think the matches that we wrestled this year really helped me, the Bryce Jordan Center, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Iowa - those matches they really filled the crowd and it's loud the whole time and it really gets you ready for an environment like this," Joseph said.
Hall, the No. 5 seed at 174, took down South Dakota State's David Kocer in an 8-2 decision before third-seeded Nick Nevills rounded out the opening session with a 4-2 decision against Lehigh's Doug Vollaro.
Nevills used a late third-period push with :40 on the the clock to send Penn State into tonight's second session with a perfect 8-0 mark.
"I was just trying to get my feet moving and didn't really move them well enough early on in the the match and you could see that he didn't get as tired as I would have liked him to," Nevills said. "But I still got him tired enough where I could get in on that shot and get in that position and just able to finish and get that takedown there."
It's all about momentum now as Penn State preps for session II, which kicks off at 7 p.m. ET in the Scottrade Center, broadcasting live on ESPN.
"It's very exciting, we're doing it for the team so we've just got to score as many bonus points as we can and I think we did a good job of that so far and we've got to keep the momentum going," McCutcheon said.
Jimmy Gulibon, Sr. - Second Round
Gulibon vs. vs. #4 Matt Kolodzik, Princeton
149: #1 Zain Retherford, Jr. -
Retherford vs. No. 16 Jordan Laster, Princeton
157: #1 Jason Nolf, So. - Second Round
Nolf vs. #16 Victor Lopez, Bucknell
165: #3 Vincenzo Joseph, Fr. -
Joseph vs. #14 Branson Ashworth, Wyoming
174: #5 Mark Hall, Fr. - Second Round
Hall vs. Jadaen Bernstein, Navy
184: #2 Bo Nickal, So. - Second Round
Nickal vs. #15 Steven Schneider, Binghamton
197: #5 Matt McCutcheon, Jr. -
McCutcheon vs. #12 Frank Mattiace, Penn
285: #5 Nick Nevills, So. - Second Round
Nevills vs. #12 William Miller, Edinboro
By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lady Lions are headed back to the postseason for the first time since the 2013-2014 season. That year, veteran players Peyton Whitted and Kaliyah Mitchell were freshmen and saw time on the court in the NCAA tournament on a team that superstar Maggie Lucas led to the Sweet 16.
Now leaders themselves, Whitted, Mitchell, Lindsey Spann, who did not play and redshirted in 2013-14, and Sierra Moore, who was in Happy Valley but sat out that season due to NCAA transfer rules, are ready to put what they learned in that postseason run to try and make another.
"My freshman year showed me that when you work hard it pays off and you're able to keep playing," Mitchell said. "Looking at the [2013-14] seniors, it was what they wanted to do, just keep playing as long as possible. It was something that they worked towards, so I think now that I am in their shoes, it's helped me this season and let me know what I want to work towards."
Penn State will face Ohio in the first round of the WNIT on Friday at the Bryce Jordan Center. After missing out on postseason play the last two years, Whitted is excited to extend this season.
"We're just happy to play some more. It's going to be really competitive. Ohio's a really competitive team so we're just looking to survive and advance," Whitted said. "It means a lot that we get to play past the Big Ten Tournament. That's exciting and I'm excited to keep playing. I want to play as long as I can while I'm here."
The four veterans have experienced the highs and lows of playing college basketball over the past four years. They went from contenders in the Sweet 16 to a 6-24 record the next season, before building the program back up to a team that is on the verge of the program's 27th 20-win season. Despite the adversity they've faced, there's nothing they would have wanted to change.
"I learned a lot being on a great team and then being on a struggling team and now to bring us back to the success that we had my freshman year," Whitted said after Senior Day this year. "It's just a great life lesson because not everything is going to go perfect in your life so it's just about how you respond. I'm very appreciative for everything that's happened and I don't regret any of it because I've learned a lot from it."
Added Mitchell: "Honestly, being in that moment is really tough because a lot of things were going on. The season wasn't going right, my game wasn't at its best, so going through that also helps you at times like this to remember what you went through and how you don't want to go through that again."
Head coach Coquese Washington is confident in her veteran players' ability to continue to lead the team. Both Whitted and Mitchell are team captains this year, and Washington agrees that their prior postseason experience will only help them in this year's tournament.
"I think it'll be a really good experience for them, something for them to draw on," Washington said. "Now it's their turn to lead the charge and they've done a fantastic job this season, as I've said all along, of providing good leadership for us and helping us lead this young team back to postseason play so I know they'll be up for the challenge."
Year in and year out, Washington preaches that she wants her players to play their best basketball in March. And with her team finally doing just that, she says there's a good vibe around the BJC.
"You work hard during the regular season to be in a position to continue the season and continue to practice, continue to work on growing and building on a foundation, and it's a lot of fun, it's a lot of excitement and there's a good buzz in the gym," Washington said.
The first round of the WNIT tips at 7 p.m. on Friday in the BJC.
By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Playing a college sport on the opposite side of the country with no family close by can be difficult for a student-athlete. But for one Nittany Lion, the opportunity to return home and receive a hero's welcome last week allowed her journey to come full circle.
Sam Shanahan is a native of Seattle, Washington, where the Penn State softball team played in the Husky Classic last Friday. With a large softball alumni base in Washington, the alumni committee, including president of the Seattle alumni chapter Chrysty Laske, and vice president Elizabeth King, greeted the team with a warm welcome to say the least. The girls had personalized signs waiting for them upon their arrival, and were able to enjoy plenty of experiences that the area had to offer during their visit. In addition, the alumni presented the team with a sizeable donation.
"It was the coolest experience ever. It had been my dream ever since I committed to Penn State to play against the University of Washington just because I live less than a mile from the stadium. So, being there in front of my family and friends was a dream come true," said Shanahan.
The team didn't just play softball in Seattle; the trip was about much more. On the first off-day, the squad headed on a duck tour of the Emerald City with alumni, followed by a family dinner at the Shanahan's house.
On the second off day, the girls had a golden opportunity: a day in the famed space needle, followed by an alumni networking meet-and-greet event with alums working and living in the area. The trip was not only designed to make the team better off the field, it also utilized Penn State's massive reach to try and help the team with their future careers as well.
"[The Seattle chapter] made us feel at home. They gave us an evening in the space needle... It was pretty phenomenal to have that love and support... It's something the girls will never forget," said head coach Amanda Lehotak.
As for the games themselves, there was such a home-field advantage for the Blue & White that it felt like they were playing at Beard Field, not 2,500 plus miles away.
"It was probably the first time all season that we felt like we had a home crowd because so many of the Penn Staters came out," said Lehotak.
As for Shanahan, she enjoyed playing in front of familiar faces.
"At first, I was a little nervous. My brother has never seen me play before so I'd better do well! But once the game actually started, it was very calm and I was just very excited to be able to play."
Shanahan's mother and grandparents have seen her play at Penn State, but the rest of her family has not seen her play in person, until this past week.
"It's a far trip [to State College] and it's expensive," Shanahan said. "Plus, all of my brothers and sisters are either in college or working, so it's very hard for them to get time off. But to have them all there was very nice."
The Lions split their two games in the tournament, beating South Dakota but falling to the host Huskies. Looking ahead, the Nittany Lions get set to take part in the George Washington Capital Classic this weekend, with two games apiece against both Niagara and George Washington.
Win or lose, Shanahan and her teammates will be riding high after a productive trip both on the field and off.
By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student
UNIVERSITY PARK - After a week of playing baseball in 70-degree weather on the road in California, the Nittany Lions will be playing in the Northeast for the first time this season.
Prior to the Nittany Lion spring break trip, Penn State head coach Rob Cooper said that these long road trips generally result in team bonding off the field.
The Nittany Lions did just that.
"Going into it I felt like we had a team that was pretty close," Cooper said. "But you saw them interact with each other on the road, you saw them hang out together, you saw them do things together, you saw them handle wins together and you saw them handle a loss together and try to bring each other up. These are all things you get to see in a short period of time when you play that many games and you go somewhere and it's just you. I was really proud of the guys and I thought they did come together. From a camaraderie standpoint, I thought it was really good."
"My favorite part was probably going in the hot tub," sophomore Jordan Bowersox said. "After we would get a win pretty much the whole team would go down to the hot tub and hang out and relax a little bit."
On top of spending time together at the hotels, on busses, at meals and even in the hot tub, the Nittany Lions found other ways to make the trip fun off the field.
Assistant coach Andre Butler and head student manager Jack Davenport faced off in a one-on-one pickup basketball game outside the team hotel. As the two went head-to-head, the rest of the team lined the sidelines to cheer them on. For junior Nick Distasio, this matchup was his favorite part of the trip off the field.
Following trips to Texas, North Carolina and California to start the season, the Nittany Lions have finally returned to the Northeast. Penn State was scheduled to have its home-opening series Thursday and Friday, but due to inclement weather, the Nittany Lions will now be waiting until next week to play in front of its Happy Valley crowd.
Starting Saturday, the Nittany Lions will play nine games in nine days. Penn State will start the nine-game stretch in Delaware on Saturday and Sunday and finish with six games at home. For Bowersox and Distasio, playing seven games in eight days over spring break has helped them prepare for this upcoming stretch of games.
The cancellation of Thursday and Friday's games gives Penn State a full week of rest from last week's trip to California and the upcoming nine-game stretch. Although some may think a week of rest would be purely beneficial, Cooper would rather be playing.
"We got back at 6:30 Sunday night and we gave the guys Monday off," Cooper said. "We were going to practice Tuesday and Wednesday and originally play Thursday and Friday. From a rest standpoint, I think it's the opposite of beneficial. The way we are doing things, we ned to get back out there and play. I think our guys can learn from that and try to keep this momentum going."
The biggest transition from the beginning of the season until now is not the amount of travel, but the adjustment to the weather. Playing in the south and the west has allowed the Nittany Lions to experience summer-like weather conditions in the first few weeks of the season, however the predicted weather in Delaware is in the mid-40 degrees.
"Pitching in cold weather is not my favorite thing to do, but I am sure for everyone else it's the same," Distasio said. "You just got to do what you got to do. You have to suck it up and compete regardless of the weather or where we are playing. I definitely have to stretch a little bit more, but it's more about the mental side of it. You have to prepare yourself to throw in cold weather.
Although the Nittany Lions were excited to finally play at Medlar Field this week, waiting until next week is only building the anticipation for the players even more.
"Spring break is really cool because you get to be with the guys for a week and a half with no school and only worrying about baseball," Distasio said. "But staying around home is a lot nicer because we get to play at our home field and in front of Cooperstown. I'll give a shout out to them for coming out supporting us every time no matter what the weather is. So, it's really fun to come out and play in front of a home crowd."
"I am most looking forward to coming back home and playing in front of our fans, especially Cooperstown," Bowersox said. "They are a great student section. I can't wait."
By Jack Milewski, GoPSUSports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Associate head coach Colin McMillan describes his relationship with head coach Mark Pavlik as that of "an old married couple." Pavlik also likens the two of them to "a couple of old ladies." Either way you describe it, McMillan has served as a key component to the Penn State men's volleyball team for 10 years now.
McMillan was recruited by Penn State, but spent his collegiate career at Ohio State, helping the Buckeyes to an NCAA runner up finish in 2000. A standout middle at Ohio State, he won a gold medal at the World University Games in Beijing with Team USA in 2001. Playing overseas from 2000-05, he was also the starting middle for the Besiktas Volleyball Club in Turkey.
With a variety of experiences playing at both the collegiate and pro level, it only made McMillan an intriguing prospect for Penn State when the assistant coaching position opened up.
"I knew Colin as a player and really respected what he did on the court," Pavlik said. "When he put his application in for the coaching position we really liked what he brought to the table in terms of all his experience. He had played under various coaches who used different styles so he was familiar with a lot of different volleyball. Knowing Colin and seeing his resume, I just kind of knew that he was the guy."
McMillan says that he started his coaching career with little coaching experience but believes that he was selected based on the fact that he could provide a wealth of knowledge.
"I knew that I didn't have as much coaching experience as some of the other candidates," McMillan said. "But I had a good relationship with Coach Pav and he saw something in me. I was very honored when I figured out I was selected."
McMillan began his tenure at Penn State as an assistant coach. He was tasked with coaching the blockers on the team as well as working with the middle hitters on offense as well. As a four time All-MIVA selection at middle blocker, McMillan was the perfect piece to anchor that aspect of Penn State's coaching staff. In his time at Penn State, he felt himself grow as a coach, but also personally as well.
"In my time here I have gone from more of a player who was coaching kids to an actual coach as I have progressed in my career," McMillan said. "I have gotten married and had two kids during my time at Penn State. I absolutely love the area and love the community, the whole Penn State athletics community feels like a family to me and that's what I like the most about it."
Through the 10 years that he has been part of the program, McMillan has been with many All-Americans, current international stars and even a national championship team. He has coached alongside Pavlik through all of those seasons and truly believes that as their relationship has grown, so to has their ability to coach together.
"When I started it was still more of a player coach relationship between the two of us," McMillan said. "I was young and Pav had been here already for a good chunk of time so I was always listening to him and taking that in. Now as I've matured and grown and our relationship has a well, it is entirely different. We bounce ideas off of each other and coordinate on a lot of things. We even bicker sometimes but were like the old married couple and we make up right after."
Pavlik sees a similar dynamic between the two colleagues, adding that McMillan, along with the other coach on staff, Ryan Walthall, are equals in terms of pull.
"We are all tugging on that preverbal rope just as much as the other person," Pavlik said. "I like to think that when we come into this office, we are all equal, each person's voice is respected just as much as the next and we use each other to help better the team. It's really fun to be able to come in to work with Colin and Ryan every single day."
For all the success that McMillan has had at Penn State it's also come in the form of guiding teams to nine EIVA championships as well as a national title during his time in Happy Valley. For McMillan, the most enjoyable part of his entire experience might not include a match at all though. Rather for him, it is what happens when the lights don't shine the brightest that sticks out the most.
"The most fulfilling part of coaching for me has to be seeing that success in practice," McMillan said. "It's that sense when you can tell a player has figured it out or when you really start to feel a team gel that is probably the best part about this job. Then when you see the hard work come to fruition during the matches, that's just the bonus."
In August 2016, McMillan was promoted to associate head coach for the Nittany Lions, putting him at a very close second in command to Pavlik. For all his time at Penn State, Pavlik says that it is very much a deserved promotion.
"It basically means that Colin can step in and take over for me if it is ever needed," Pavlik said. "He can do that and it would be a seamless transition. He has earned that right and he has been a phenomenal coach for the past 10 years. What makes him so good is that he understands what he doesn't know and I think that is the best trait a coach can have because if you are willing to learn, then you will be all the better for it."
Likewise, for McMillan, he expressed his gratitude in moving from assistant to associate head coach but also highlighted that it is not only an honor, but also another opportunity to learn and grow as a coach.
"I want to continue to progress with my coaching," McMillan said. "I could certainly do that as an assistant coach, but there are certain responsibilities as an associate head coach that are unique to the job. It's all part of the learning process for me and to be able to continue that with out having to leave Penn State is really nice."
Though he has been around numerous Penn State teams, McMillan noted that this year, his first as the associate head coach, has been unique. The Nittany Lions currently sit at No. 13 in the national rankings and have made great strides since the beginning of the season. However recently they have been plagued by sickness and injury, both which have created unexpected situations for the team. Still, despite the adversity, Penn State has maintained its status as one of the teams to beat in collegiate volleyball.
"I don't know if I've ever seen a team with as much turnover in the lineup as the one we have had this season," McMillan said. "Just because of everything that has happened we have had to make lineup changes and put people in different positions like something I haven't seen before. But even though it's been hard, I think that if we can get everyone healthy, our team will be better off for it because now everyone on the team is battled tested and has been on the court in big situations and that makes for a dangerous team come playoff time."Penn State is still in the midst of an out of conference schedule before resuming the second half of their EIVA play. The Nittany Lions are currently sitting a half game ahead of Sacred Heart in the conference standings with six games left to play. Penn State is back on the court Friday night against Cal Baptist with first serve at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall.
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
ST. LOUIS - On the eve of the opening session of the 2017 NCAA Wrestling Championships, Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson and Nittany Lion Zain Retherford joined select wrestlers and head coaches from the field for a media session at the Scottrade Center.
With question and answer segments in two different press conferences, both Sanderson and Retherford fielded questions from a packed room of media members.
Check out the top four takeaways from the sessions below.
To Win This Tournament You've Got to
Penn State is poised to enter the NCAA Championships hungry to win it all, having stressed earlier this week that despite what happened at the Big Ten Championships, adjustments will be made and mindsets will be right come Thursday.
"I don't think we wrestled terribly at the Big Ten," Sanderson said. "We had a couple of guys who could have won a match or two that they didn't. But we won some tough matches also. So it's not that we didn't wrestle well, we just got beat. Ohio State wrestled great. And to win this tournament you've got to wrestle great. That's the way it should be. It's a national tournament. You want to be national champions, you've got to wrestle great the weekend of the national championships."
Suriano Sidelined for NCAA
Just a few minutes before the press conferences, Penn State announced that true freshman Nick Suriano would not be able to compete in this year's NCAA Championships due to an injury. Suriano, who sustained the injury at Oklahoma State in the NWCA Dual Championship, earned an at-large bid after an injury default in the first round of the Big Ten Championships two weeks ago.
"We were trying to give him as much time as possible," Sanderson said. "It was going to be a day-before type of decision and we were trying to get him to a point where he would be competitive enough to compete and to protect himself and I don't feel like he's in that position so he's not going to wrestle."
We would like to announce at this time that FR 125-pounder Nick Suriano will not be able to compete in this year's NCAA Championships.— pennstateWREST (@pennstateWREST) March 15, 2017
Although sidelined, Suriano has the full support of his teammates and coaches, who all noted that there's no place he'd rather be than competing this weekend, especially with the signature competitive drive fans have seen all season from the true freshman.
"You get hurt," Sanderson said. "Injuries happen. Life happens, but life is good. Life is good. Nick has a lot to be grateful for. And he has three years to terrorize college wrestling and international wrestling after that. It is what it is. He got injured. It happens and life goes on."
Out of Adversity Comes Opportunity
With Suriano unable to compete, Sanderson also noted that it's the perfect time for the rest of Penn State's eight NCAA qualifiers to step up and find ways to tally up the bonus points.
The Nittany Lions have plenty of options when it comes to bonus point potential, most notably in top-seeded Nittany Lions Jason Nolf (157) and Retherford (149). Retherford, who captured the NCAA crown last year is 23-0 on the year with 16 pins, three tech falls and a major. Nolf, who finished as an NCAA finalist last year, is 22-0 on the year with 13 pins, six tech falls and one major. Both also highlighted the Big Ten Championships with a pair of individual titles.
In 2015, Retherford was on the sidelines with the Nittany Lions at the Scottrade Center for the NCAA Championships. Redshirting the season 2015 after a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championships in 2014 at 141, Retherford went on to win the title in 2016 at 149. Now back in St. Louis, this time he'll have the opportunity to earn yet another championship, brining with him a few new things when it comes to style.
"You have to keep growing and learning," Retherford said. "So I guess everywhere I've been trying to add new things, trying new things and matches if I can. And I guess that's the way I've grown and mentally as well, being a little more patient. Being patient but still scoring at the same time."
By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following a second-place finish for Penn State wrestling at the Big Ten Tournament, the Nittany Lions have a chance at redemption on the grand stage, the NCAA Tournament.
Just two weeks ago Penn State had three wrestlers make it to the finals, but this weekend the Nittany Lions are seeking more, having taken the last two weeks to prepare for the upcoming three-day event.
"We didn't win the Big Ten, but we didn't come back and panic," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. "We just got beat. Our guys for the most part wrestled well. But, this is the time. If the team wants to win it's real simple, we just have to go score more points than the next team, there really isn't any secret to it."
For Sanderson, sometimes the Big Ten Tournament is one of the best ways to prepare for a national championship run.
"A lot of times the Big Ten Tournament is the best preparation," Sanderson said. "If you train correctly and you have the right mindset that's great preparation for what we're heading into now.