January 2018 Archives
By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK - The Nittany Lions fell twice to Syracuse this weekend losing 3-2 on Friday and 2-1 on Saturday, both in overtime.
Megan Quinn found the back of the net for the winner in the series opener, and Savannah Rennie converted on a breakaway chance to seal the victory in the second matchup.
"Our kids played hard and it's disheartening too lose twice in that way. We put ourselves in position to get in to overtime and we played with a lot of heart and played hard," head coach Jeff Kampersal said. "We didn't generate enough chances, we had flurries at times in overtime and we made some nice plays but made a bad read. But we have to learn how to win."
Hannah Ehresmann was a force in the net all weekend for the Nittany Lions notching 35 and 32 saves in each game respectively.
"She's (Ehresmann) played great all year from day one to know and she is the primary reason we are able to stay in these games and be one of the better teams in the country defensively," Kampersal said.
The second game of the series was Penn State's Skate for the Cure game, drawing the third-largest crowd in the history of women's ice hockey at Pegula Ice Arena with 1,387 fans in attendance.
"That (crowd) was amazing. Hopefully they come back because we do have a good group and we will get better and it will be a better product for them to watch," Kampersal said.
On the ice Penn State's special teams dominated on Saturday, not allowing one goal on five power play opportunities for the Orange. The Nittany Lions were able to score on one power play chance of their own, but only went 1-for-6 on the day.
"I just try to tell them stay in lanes because they are a talented group." Kampersal said. "It was a weird kind of game but we stepped up in those occasions, but we can't put ourselves in them in the first place."
The season has been full of close matchups for Penn State including now 12 games going to overtime. In Kampersal's first season at the helm of the program, the team is still trying to get over the hump in these close games.
"We have had eight ties and I think three losses and an overtime win, and just catching a break and getting a positive feeling going," Kampersal said. We go to Robert Morris which is a tough task, we looked tired and that trip to Lindenwood was a tough epic task for us. Our kids looked like they were running on empty and we've got to figure out a way to stay in shape and get some rest."
By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's gymnastics team showed up for the hometown crowd on Saturday afternoon as it defeated the Army Black Knights, 407.6-384.1. Penn State returned to Rec Hall for the first of its four home meets in 2018, and the backing of the Blue and White fandom proved vital to the success of the gymnasts.
"I had a team, I had a family behind me," freshman Alex Frack said. "I never really had been apart of something like this. In high school, it's not a school sport so you never really had this big backing so honestly that was incredible, a great feeling."
Returning to the confines of Rec Hall proved to be not only an essential asset to the team's overall victory, but also a momentous occasion for Frack. As a freshman, he experienced the all-encompassing emotional and supportive presence of the entire Nittany Lion community.
Frack proved to be a consistent factor throughout Penn State's routing of Army. He placed in the top three of all of his events: the pommel horse, parallel bars and high bar.
"He did a nice job," head coach Randy Jepson said. "Alex is a pretty savvy competitor. He wasn't perfect on horse but didn't give a break up and he had a solid set there. Parallel bars, flat through, a little sloppy but got it done. On high bar, came through again there so it is good to see."
"I mean last week I went out and I performed decent, better than I thought for my first meet and you know I kind of tried to do the same thing," Frack said. "I had the good positive mindset last week and I tried to keep that momentum going into this week and I really think that it paid off."
While Frack's 13.7 on the high bar gave him a first-place finish and his highest score of the day, it also gave him the Blue and White's applause. When he stuck his landing off of an already clean and consistent routine, the entire gym erupted in favor of the underclassmen.
"Honestly, it's not like anything I have ever experienced," Frack said. "JO [Junior Olympics] is a whole different game than this. This is a lot of people, a lot of fans, you know, you have a bunch of people behind your back cheering you on. It's not really like that in JO so this experience was unlike anything I ever had. You know, I got a new team, a new family and I am really looking forward to the future."
While Frack was warmly welcomed by the hometown crowd for the first time, senior Greg Tamargo highly anticipated the excitement of competition and the welcoming cheers found within the walls of Rec Hall after sustaining an injury that sidelined him for the entirety of the 2017 slate.
"It feels great," Tamargo said. "I haven't competed here in now two years...I am glad I was able to kind of start it off right for the team. I hope we can move forward from here and the whole team can just take it as a kind of a positive...and use this as confidence going forward when we go against other teams."
Tamargo's homecoming was nothing short of successful as his performance earned him an award honoring him as the most outstanding athlete of the meet.
"Greg Tamargo did a great job," Jepson said. "He struggled a little bit last year and it was a struggle for him all season long and he wasn't able to get in the competitive squad. He came through today with a great meet and much sharper than he was last week so that was huge."
Tamargo performed solid still rings and vault routines to earn himself two individual titles on the day, while he came in first for Penn State and second overall for his floor routine.
"Individually for me coming back, it's always tough coming back from an injury in general so it was more just getting back in the swing of things you know getting back to doing full routines," Tamargo said. "You know just getting myself to the point...where I can make the nerves go away and do routine and routine over and over again to the point of where it becomes natural and by the time I get out here it is natural. I don't really have to worry it doesn't matter how big the crowd is, how many people are here, who's here watching just come out here and do what I do best."
As Penn State continues to pursue an undefeated schedule, the Nittany Lions will welcome the Fighting Illini to Rec Hall next Saturday at 4 p.m. for their first Big Ten showing of the season.
"The bright side is we've got a great Illinois team coming in and they are going to challenge us right to the end so we are going to have to be pretty prepared mentally," Jepson said.
For more information on Nittany Lion men's gymnastics, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on the various social media platforms.
By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In Penn State wrestling's return to Rec Hall after months on the road, the Nittany Lions started out in a hole. Down 6-0 early after forfeiting the first bout of the night, Penn State responded with one of its best performances of the season. Capturing a 43-6 win, the Nittany Lions overcame an unfortunate start and an aggressive Purdue team that seemingly challenged Penn State throughout the evening.
"I think the guys wrestled well," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. "You have to be ready for Purdue because they're tough when they come in and they wrestle hard. I think our guys wrestled well. We felt terrible about forfeiting at 125, we just didn't have a choice."
With Penn State trailing 6-3 following a hard-fought win for Corey Keener at 133 pounds, Nick Lee took to the mat donning the Penn State singlet in Rec Hall for the first time. The true freshman didn't disappoint the more than 6,500 fans in the stands with a 14-4 major decision against Nate Limmex at 141 pounds.
Hardly dealing with even the slightest bit of nerves, the crowd at Rec Hall was just like Lee had visualized.
"It was a wrestling match, just like any wrestling match," Lee said. "But, it's special because I think the fan base that comes to Rec Hall is special. It's just nothing like I've ever experienced before. It was definitely a lot of fun."
Penn State notched bonus points in seven bouts, but despite the lopsided score, it wasn't as easy of battle for the Nittany Lions. While Penn State didn't allow any takedowns, there were plenty of scrambles and the Nittany Lions always seemed to come away with two points following the frenzy.
"I think our guys just fought for it in those positions," Sanderson said. "They were tough positions and they were in on our legs and it looked like we were beat, but these guys battled through it. It was great to see Corey (Keener) do that. Obviously Nick (Lee) did it in a couple situations. Even (Nick) Nevills, he was in a tight spot there, having been warned for stalling."
The dual's top showdown featured a top 15 matchup between second-ranked Mark Hall and 12th-ranked Dylan Lydy. After a slow first period, Hall led 2-1 before a late second period takedown set him ahead 5-1. Energized by the late takedown in the second, Hall dominated the third period on his way to an 11-3 major decision victory.
While Penn State battled, the Nittany Lions also collected four pins, including one from Shakur Rasheed at 197 pounds. After taking the mat to a thunderous roar from the crowd, Rasheed continued his dominant stretch and turned to another cradle, his signature move, at the 1:55 mark.
Normally someone to zone out the crowd, Rasheed noted the volume from the stands only gave him more energy.
When asked about his cradle though, Rasheed said he often works on it with his head coach, ultimately giving him the confidence to continue to rely on the move during matches.
"He has got a pretty darn good cradle, as you can tell," Sanderson said. "But I think why it works is because he has a lot of other opportunities to turn as well. He's really strong with tilts and really good at scrambling so he just has a lot of different angles he's coming at you with."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State men's basketball, there's still plenty of hoops to be played. With Monday's unfavorable result now well in the past, the Nittany Lions have had time to rest up and recover ahead of Saturday's mid-afternoon road game at Northwestern.
Embarking on its first road trip since a close 4-point loss at Indiana 10 days ago, the Nittany Lions will play three of their next four games away from Happy Valley. Despite splitting back-to-back overtime games since the trip to Bloomington, the subsequent ups and downs are all part of the process for Penn State head coach Chambers.
"I know nobody wants to hear about the process but it's getting a little bit more consistent, it's growing up a little bit more each game, each possession, each set back," Chambers said.
"Watching film, breaking it down, getting back to work today, getting back to practice, these guys are going to come in with great energy."
Energy is exactly the way to define the last time Penn State and Northwestern met, with the Nittany Lions sending an enthusiastic crowd at the Bryce Jordan Center home buzzing from a 78-63 win against the Wildcats.
That victory also kicked off a blazing scoring stretch for sophomore Lamar Stevens, who totaled a career-high 30 points in the victory. In the month of January alone, Stevens is averaging nearly 21 points per game, shooting 57.1 percent from the field.
Although Chambers noted Stevens was a bit on the mend this week, he mentioned the staff would opt to be smart about his practice schedule leading up to gameday.
Penn State will hardly have the luxury of rinse and repeat game plan though, as Chambers noted Northwestern has made some significant changes to what the Nittany Lions will see come Saturday at Allstate Arena.
"Northwestern has changed the way they play," Chambers said. "They're playing zone now. They played some one-three-one, some zone, some two-two-one, so since our game they had played all man-to-man all year long, since that game, they have completely changed, offensively, they style of play."
As Chambers also noted, Penn State has seen success against zone this year, pointing to a 77-73 win on the road at Iowa in the conference opener in early December.
Penn State never trailed in the victory against the Hawkeyes, with double-digit scoring from different Nittany Lions, led by a 22-point performance from Stevens.
Including the win against the Wildcats Penn State is 2-2 in its last games, all part of some necessary adversity in the overall growing process. Among those games, two were decided by four points or less. If tough times don't last and tough people do though, that's exactly what the Nittany Lions are embracing headed into a road-heavy January finale.
"I just think we need to go through the tough times to be able to come out on the other side," Chambers said. "We're still in control of our destiny. We control it still. There's plenty of basketball left and we believe that we're in great position. We're in every game."
For Chambers and the team, it's clear success is well within reach, but the learning lessons are meant for the Nittany Lions to endure together.
"We're close. We're right there. We're growing, we're learning, we're right there, we're right where we need to be," Chambers said. "We just need to get guys healthy and we have to punch through."
By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Only 3.8 seconds remained on the clock and the Lady Lions trailed No. 25 Rutgers, 67-66, with the ball in their possession and an inbounds play coming up. For head coach Coquese Washington, there was only one person who she wanted to have the ball and make a play in the final moments: junior point guard Teniya Page.
"She'd been having a great game, so we wanted to put the ball in her hands and let her make a play," Washington said.
This drew the ire of Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer, who was frustrated with both the call and the fact that her player had committed such a critical foul with so little time remaining. Stringer was assessed a technical foul, meaning Page would shoot two more free throws in addition to the three from the original foul.
"I told myself at the beginning of the play that I just needed to make one free throw. When they told me I had five, I wasn't really worried," Page said.
Page knocked down four of her five foul shots to give the Lady Lions a 70-67 lead.
Rutgers had a chance to tie the game, but a desperation heave fell just short, giving Penn State its first win of the season against a ranked team, and back-to-back wins in conference play for the first time.
"I was a little upset that they got that shot off," Washington said postgame. "Teniya actually tried to miss that last free throw, but that's the kind of night she had."
Page finished with 34 points on 12-of-19 shooting in 38 minutes of action. It's Page's highest scoring output of the season, passing her totals of 27 points on two separate occasions.
Jaida Travascio-Green had a strong night as well, finishing with 15 points. It was a resilient night for her, as she started 0-of-6 from beyond the arc but made three of her final four attempts from three, including two clutch shots in the fourth quarter from the top of the key.
"They always tell me to call for the ball when I'm open, so I called for the ball," Travascio-Green said. "I don't think I really knew what the score was, I just knew that we needed to make shots."
The Lady Lions never lost their composure and, despite a Rutgers comeback spurred by an 8-0 run to give them a lead with a minute to play, they were still able to execute down the stretch with a key layup from Amari Carter and an offensive rebound from Travascio-Green, which set up the final possession and Page's heroics.
"The thing that we talk about every day is that no lead is safe," Washington said. "We just know that the game is really long, and you just have to keep playing and understand that teams are going to go on runs, the ball isn't going to bounce your way. I think that because we've had so many close games, we had a lot of poise in those moments. We weren't really nervous or anything like that. It was really neat to see us be able to execute when we needed to."
The Lady Lions will try to extend their winning streak to three games next Tuesday night when the Illinois Fighting Illini come to town. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. from the Bryce Jordan Center.
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a new season quickly approaching, Penn State men's lacrosse is ready to build upon the success it found last year.
From key returners to a packed and exciting 2018 schedule, there's plenty to be excited about as the Nittany Lions are merely days from getting back to competing. As with any offseason, there's still plenty of changes, with Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni making staffing additions now charged as a unit with finding ways to replace some veteran production lost due to graduation departures.
Navy Exhibition Game
Come Saturday in Holuba Hall, the Nittany Lions will see their first action against Navy, hosting the Midshipmen in their first of two exhibition games. While Penn State is still trying to find its chemistry and solidify roles, this weekend is all about taking risks.
"This year we are still trying out a lot of different combinations in the offensive and defensive end," Tambroni said. "[We are] hoping to stabilize some systems offensively and defensively and trying some different things. [We're] going to take some chances as coaches and hopefully our guys are going to take some chances as players to find out who we really are."
Although Penn State is looking to take risks, the Nittany Lions also want to make sure their combinations and systems are solid on both sides of the field before the official season opener arrives. For Tambroni and the team, Navy will prove as a true early test of Penn State's ability.
"The scoreboard will matter to a certain degree, we want to find out if we can defend a very good offense, find out if we can score," Tambroni said.
Last season, senior attacker Nick Aponte was chosen as the team's lone captain, but this year the coaching staff took a different approach to the makeup of the leadership. Leading this year's team will be senior midfielders Ryan Keenan, Tanner Peck, Tripp Traynor as well as redshirt junior defenseman Mike Aronow.
Although Tambroni himself has never coached a team with four captains, he is confident the added leadership is the right change for where the program is headed.
"This year it's just a different benefit, all four are reflected in different ways and I think they all bring something different to the table," Tambroni said.
With more captains playing on both sides on the ball, Tambroni noted the leadership helping to build better relationships among members of the team on the field as well as off the field with different personalities.
Relying on Underclassmen
The Nittany Lions graduated several seniors on both ends of the field that played a key role in the team's overall success. While no one could replace what the special group contributed for the culture of the program, Tambroni and his staff are looking for younger Nittany Lions to step up and follow the strong legacy that was left behind for them.
"The freshman, we're hoping that they have a chance to adapt and learn through their first year," Tambroni said. "Sophomores and juniors, they've had that opportunity, were looking for some of those guys to really step into those rules and step up their opportunities to compete and play through both practices and games."
Tambroni stressed the importance of Nittany Lions like sophomore 2017 Inside Lacrosse All-America honorable mention faceoff man Gerard Arceri and sophomore 2017 USILA All-America honorable mention attacker Mac O'Keefe. Both made an impact in their first season in the blue and white, now returning with the expectation of a bit more responsibility in year two.
For O'Keefe in particular, he's coming off a stellar rookie campaign, which saw him set a program record dating back to 1957 with 51 goals for the most in a single season in Penn State history."I'm confident with the leadership of our seniors and with the development of our sophomores and juniors," Tambroni said. "The combination of that is going to help us with the graduation we left off from last year."
By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State wrestling head coach Cael Sanderson is always looking for those who give the team the best opportunity to find success and ultimately win a national championship. Last weekend, Sanderson introduced a new wrestler to the lineup.
Nick Lee, a freshman from Evansville, Indiana, made his Penn State dual debut with wins against Sal Profaci of Michigan and then-No. 20 Javier Gasca of Michigan State.
"I thought Nick did great," Sanderson said. "He's just consistent and that's what he does. He just brings a lot of energy with him and enthusiasm which is great for the team."
Lee went 4-1 at the Southern Scuffle just a few weeks ago, with his success as an unattached wrestler propelling him into the starting lineup, a similar path to that of NCAA national champion Mark Hall just a year ago.
"I would say it's a source of motivation that someone has done it before and has been through it before," Lee said. "(Mark) is kind of a source of experience that I can tap a little bit just to help me out."
The true freshman, who was homeschooled in his final year of high school, didn't visit Rec Hall until last year, but says it's an unparalleled experience in college wrestling.
really paid attention to Penn State wrestling before I committed here," Lee
said. "But, the first time I came to a dual here it was something else. It was
a big surprise to me. I had actually been to a few college duals, but nothing
like at Rec Hall. It's really a fantastic atmosphere and is probably the best
fans I've ever seen."
While Lee gears up for his first performance in front of a Rec Hall crowd, he's ready to feel the energy that the fans provide, having visualized himself out there on the mat for a while.
"Just a lot of energy," Lee said. "A lot of people that wrestle in Rec Hall will tell you it's a lot of energy. Luckily for us, it's positive energy. Energy is energy I think though, so it'll be a little loud but I'm pretty excited."
The Nittany Lions also recently introduced a new member to the team. Carson Kuhn, a transfer from the now defunct Boise State wrestling program has joined the roster, now looking to compete at 125 pounds.
The journey wasn't easy for Kuhn, who had to graduate from Boise State before applying to a graduate program at Penn State before he could join the squad. Kuhn, who is in his final year of eligibility has had a tough career spotted with injuries, but is looking forward to facing the top wrestlers in the nation at 125 pounds.
"It'll be exciting," Kuhn said. "I know that I'm at that level, I know I am because I've wrestled at that level for a long time. I wrestled at the U.S. Open a few times, at senior level tournaments, internationally and I've beaten top-ranked opponents before so I know that I'm at that level we just have to get the right training program and the right plan to compete my best."
When first contacted by Sanderson, Kuhn saw the name of his feature head coach at the bottom of the message and thought nothing but one thing - awesome. Kuhn, who is 25-years-old with a wife and baby girl, now enjoys being around all of his younger teammates in the room at Penn State.
"I'm kind of over the nerves of wrestling," Kuhn said. "I've done this for a long time so I'm just kind of excited. Obviously I want to set an example, but there is not much of an example to be set because everyone sets an example here. Everybody's on task and doing great. I am 25, I'm married and I have a baby girl so I'm kind of a little bit older, but it's fun to just jump in with these younger wrestlers."
The Nittany Lions are back in action on Friday night, hosting Purdue in Rec Hall at 7 p.m. before heading to Maryland to round out the weekend with a Sunday outing against the Terps at 4 p.m. Sunday."Our focus is on Purdue now," Sanderson said. "Purdue has tough kids, they wrestle hard. I think the last time they were here every match was a dog fight. They were ready to go and motivated so we've got to be ready to compete because they can be hard."
By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State is 2-0 to start the 2018 volleyball season, with victories coming against Mount Olive and Alderson Broaddus last weekend at home.
This week, a much more daunting pair of games lies ahead, as head coach Mark Pavlik and company will be in Los Angeles, California to take on UCLA Thursday night and USC Saturday afternoon.
With two matches already under their belts, the Nittany Lions have a lot to be excited about looking toward the road trip, but a few things they'll need to get sorted to find continued success.
The Nittany Lions came out a bit flat to open their season and subsequently dropped their opening set to Mount Olive, but that was the only set they would lose the entire weekend.
They were lights out offensively, combining to hit higher than .500 as a team during the two matches. Despite it being early in the season, Penn State did not appear to have much rust on this end of the court.
"The fact that we hit .500 last weekend tells me we didn't hit a ton of balls out of bounds," Pavlik said. "Most of our hitting errors were the result of their block, which I like."
Pavlik attributed much of the offensive success over the weekend to the play of setter and team captain Luke Braswell, who combined for 69 assists in the two games, also earning EIVA Player of the Week honors.
"I think Luke did a good job of putting the ball in spots where the hitters need it," Pavlik said. "It didn't look like we were trying to find our way offensively, so that was encouraging to me."
One of the areas of concern, however, was from behind the service line, where the Nittany Lions combined for 27 service errors in their first two matches. Although, most of these errors came in the first set of both matches, Pavlik felt the Nittany Lions settled down nicely following the opening set of both contests.
"I think the areas of concern are the first two games of both matches that it takes a while for us to get in a serving rhythm," Pavlik said. "I've got to find a way to make sure as the year goes on that we're in our serving rhythm when that first game starts."
Pavlik also believes this weekend will be a big test for Penn State's blocking, with a distinct advantage in size and athleticism in the opening two matches of the season.
The biggest question he will have going into this weekend is how long can they play clean fundamental volleyball against two outstanding teams, especially when looking closer at the upcoming opponents.
UCLA will enter Thursday's match as the second-ranked team in the country and will have an advantage on its home court at Pauley Pavilion.
The Bruins are arguably the top serving team in the nation, ranking second nationally with 2.47 aces per set. Like Penn State, they have also started the season strong offensively, ranking sixth in hitting percentage.
"They're going to execute, execute, execute and when you don't execute, they're going to take advantage of that and they'll score points," Pavlik said.
UCLA is led by two-time All-American outside hitter Jake Arnitz and middle blocker Daenan Gyimah, who reportedly can touch more than 12 feet.
"He is more than a handful to even slow down," Pavlik said. "Their outsides also do some really good things with the ball. They'll play really good volleyball and just wait for you to break down and once they get that crack they're going to score."
USC, on the other hand, is currently the 12th-ranked team in the country despite being one of the younger squads in Division I volleyball.
Pavlik's early focus on the Trojans will be to limit freshman middle Sam Lewis, who is hitting a remarkable .625 from the floor to open the season.
"They're going to figure out how to be good volleyball players," Pavlik said. "[Head coach] Jeff Nygaard will have them ready to compete and they're just going to get better and better throughout the year. It will be an interesting matchup Saturday morning."
Both teams will provide a tough early season test for Penn State, which will prove to be an early indicator of where it stands as a team before heading into conference play."Winning is the world's greatest anesthetic - nothing is wrong when you win and that's as far from the truth as everything is wrong when you lose," Pavlik said. "Every weekend is a test. How well we prepare for them is really the question that we have."
By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - True freshman Terrance Laird captured the 60-meter dash title at the Nittany Lion Challenge over the weekend, his first collegiate track meet ever.
Laird started off the indoor season strong with a time of 6.80, claiming first place in his first time ever in the Nittany Lion Blue and White. Laird is used to being on top, though. He currently has a meet record in the PIAA Track & Field Championships, where he ran a time of 21.02 in the 200-meter dash last year during the outdoor season.
The funny thing is, Laird started his track career by being cut from the high school baseball team. Quickly deciding that he should run track, finding out it was definitely the right choice of sport for him.
"I didn't want to a job, so in high school I just chose to play a sport. I tried out for the baseball team, but got cut," Laird said. "So, then I just started running track."
Laird began his track career as a sprinter just by his natural thought of him believing that he was quick. Little did he know, he'd end up being the fastest runner in the state of Pennsylvania just a few years later.
"I thought I was pretty fast, so sprinting was the area and group I was interested in," Laird said. "It really worked out."
Boy, did it work out. Laird was no doubt a great runner in high school, but running in college is a completely different dynamic. Laird is currently a Rehabilitation and Human Services (RHS) major at Penn State. He knew that academics was also a big part of choosing where he wanted to run. Penn State was the easy choice for him when he was deciding where to compete at the next level.
"Penn State is close to home," Laird said. "Coaching wise, it really felt like a team here, like a real team. There isn't any separation between anyone. It was somewhere I wanted to be and academically, it's all here. So, it was really a package deal."
Although being at Penn State has proved to be a good choice for Laird, he still has a long way to go for this season and the rest of his time here.
"From here, I am just going to keep listening to coach and what he tells me to do and what I have to work on. Just keep putting forth all my effort at practice and staying as healthy as possible," he said. "I want to keep getting better. I want to show up when it's time to show up like when we are at big meets or conferences, just show up and compete to the best of my ability. As long as I keep putting in effort at practices, the better I am going to be throughout the season, which will hopefully transfer to other meets and my Big Ten performance."
Assistant sprints, hurdles, and relays coach, Erin Tucker, believed that Laird had a great performance for his first collegiate meet. Although great races are good to have, it doesn't mean the work stops here. Tucker knows there are things Laird needs to work on in order to continuing progressing throughout the season.
"I want him to just stay the course, progress, and getting better. It's a process, obviously. He's a very eager guy and we have some things we need to fix with his start and some things we need to fix with his running mechanics in general," Tucker said. "As long as we continue to stay the course, and keep working on the little things, I think we will have some better performances down the road."
By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Pressure mounts and excitement is at a peak as the Penn State women's gymnastics team packs the busses to head to University of Maryland for its first away meet of the 2018 season. The Nittany Lions are slated for six meets on the road, kicking off with an intra-conference competitor.
The competition will not only be the first Penn State away meet for the freshmen gymnasts, but also for head coach Sarah Brown, who is in her first year with the program. The team, who holds a 1-1 (0-1 Big Ten) record thus far, shows little to no signs of nerves after a close loss to Nebraska last weekend, and the strong relationship that the squad has formed is evident.
"I think we're all just really excited about getting on the bus together as a group," Brown said. "Travel trips just have a way of bringing a team together, which is always fun."
The team will depart from State College at 3 pm on Thursday, and will kick off their arrival in Maryland with a team meal, followed by a short team meeting at the hotel, which Brown says will allow for bonding while also re-focusing the squad's attention on the next day meet.
"Throughout the day Friday, we'll do a couple things in the hotel to make sure we're staying focused but not sitting in our rooms and just thinking about the competition, because we're not competing until 7 pm so it definitely makes for a long day," Brown said. "You want to have some events and things that will break up their mental thoughts, so they're not sitting there festering about the meet all the time."
Brown, who has previous head coaching experience at Eastern Michigan University, practices a balance of discipline and preparedness, while also making sure the team's connectivity and bond is on point.
"I think my philosophy kind of has stayed the same in that I want the kids to enjoy being on the bus together, relax, turn movies on, do homework, listen to music, and just be comfortable," Brown said. "It really is whatever is going to get these girls in the best mood possible. Getting up and having breakfast together on Friday morning I think will be nice, and then a couple of team activities just to make sure we're staying focused."
After a strong start on bars where the Nittany Lions posted a 49.325, Penn State saw unusually slightly less success as they placed almost a full point lower than Nebraska on beam, their second to last event. The team looks forward to a change of rotation this Friday, where the balance beam will cap off the meet.
"It's going to be a little bit different for us, but I think we're looking forward to it because we do start on bars, which is a strong event for us," Brown said. "I think we'll be able to carry that energy and momentum into an event like vault, which does take a little bit more energy. I think last week we were a little high after the bar event because we did so well, and when we got to beam it was kind of hard to manage where all that adrenaline and energy was."
Junior Mason Hosek has had a few seasons of travel under her belt, and looks ahead with confidence in her team. After nailing a solid 9.800 on the beam last week, she believes there is nowhere to go but up.
"Being a junior on the team, kind of knowing how the road works, I think the best thing that we have going into this meet is that we have been preparing ending on beam," Hosek said. "That's going to be the make or break of this meet due to the way of rotation, but I also think going on the road is a good opportunity for us to show our strengths. I think our team is a really good team on the road, and is well adapted to any equipment or place we're at, so I think that's going to be a really great time for us. I'm really excited for the freshmen to travel for the first time."
Kourtney Chinnery is a new face on the squad, but says she does not feel any nerves before hitting the road.
"As a freshman, I'm really excited for traveling for the first time with the team. I've really gotten the chance to get to know the girls and spend time with them and they've truly become family to me. I'm not nervous, I'm really excited and I feel like we're really prepared."
Chinnery is additionally excited to showcase her skills in a new event for the freshman. Last week, she performed solely on vault, nabbing an impressive 9.850.
"I'm really excited to show off my new floor routine, I've been working really hard on it," Chinnery said. "I'm just going to go out there with a go get it mindset, I'm going to have confidence and faith in everything I've been doing. I trust God, and I trust the process that we've been going through. I'm just excited to be part of the success of this team this year."
By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After starting the new year with two consecutive home weekends at Pegula Ice Arena, No. 12 Penn State will travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan for an in-conference series with No. 20 Michigan.
Coming off a series split against No. 6 Ohio State, Penn State's 5-1 loss Saturday night snapped an 11-game unbeaten streak.
"For the first time in 12 games we came up a little flat, but that's going to happen in a long season," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "Not too much to think about it but we do have to focus now on getting back very quickly to what made us successful in the past."
Despite snapping what was the second longest winning streak in program history, Gadowsky emphasized the need to move forward as a team.
"Hopefully we learned a lesson Saturday," Gadowsky said. "You can't win them all, It's a matter of how quickly you can regroup to be who you are to play your best and we'll see if we can do that."
Junior forward Andrew Sturtz, who tallied a goal and an
assist in last weekend's series versus the Buckeyes, talked about bouncing back
as a team.
"We're just trying to get back to the way we were playing Friday night and the last 10 games before that," Sturtz said. "We want to erase the short term memory of Saturday night and just get back to playing our game."
As the Nittany Lions look to turn the page on both their unbeaten streak and less than ideal finish to the Ohio State series, all eyes are set on the Wolverines.
No. 20 Michigan, coming off a series sweep against No. 13 Minnesota on the road, has found some momentum.
"What they did last weekend was very impressive," Sturtz added. "Not a lot of teams can go into that building and beat them twice."
Sturtz was exactly right.
In fact, since the formation of the Big Ten Conference for hockey in 2014, Michigan is the only team to sweep Minnesota as a visitor at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
Penn State currently sits third in the Big Ten standings with Michigan close behind in fourth.
Gadowsky echoed the words of his one of his top scorers.
"They're (Michigan) playing extremely well," Gadowsky said. "Every team in this league, there's not a lot of discrepancy between any two teams in the league and it's going to come down to a lot of the intangibles and we have to be ready to have those intangibles on our side."
The two teams last met in late October when Penn State hosted Michigan at Pegula Ice Arena. The hard fought and physical series resulted in a split, with Penn State earning a victory in the first contest on a game-winning overtime goal by sophomore forward Blake Gober before losing 5-2 the next night.
This series will present a different challenge for the Nittany Lions, as they must travel to Yost Ice Arena - one that has presented problems for Penn State in the past.
"In my opinion, it's the hardest arena to play in," Andrew Sturtz said. "Their crowd gets on us and gets on us early. This weekend has been marked down on my calendar all year and I look forward to trying to steal a couple of games there."
Gadowsky is also well aware of the challenges the road presents.
"It's tough to win games on the road," Gadowsky said. "We know it's not easy but I think the guys are hungry to prove that we can do it."Penn State and Michigan will lace up the skates for the weekend series beginning Friday at 8 p.m.
By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Any team that finds success in basketball cannot rely on just its guards or forwards to get the job done in every facet of the game.
The Penn State Lady Lions are a guard heavy team this season, with a lot of the team's strength lying in speed and shooting from the perimeter. With different contributions inside and some lineup changes from head coach Coquese Washington, the team is hoping to maximize their strengths while maintaining balance on the floor.
"It's really important and we talk about floor spacing and balancing the floor, and I think when we do that it's easier for us to see each other and find the open person," Washington said. "It forces the defense to make decisions with who to guard and who to leave open.
Coming off a week where the Lady Lions went 1-1, suffering a loss to the high scoring Minnesota Golden Gophers, while beating Wisconsin who remains winless in the Big Ten.
It was a tale of two games for the Lady Lions, who struggled from behind the arc against Minnesota, shooting only 6-of-23 from distance. They rebounded nicely against the Badgers connecting on 12 3-pointers.
"Nothing in terms of preparation was different between those two games. Against Minnesota the ball didn't fall and against Wisconsin it did. That's all there is too it," Washington said.
Against Wisconsin, sophomore guard Amari Carter had a particularly effective outing, finishing with 21 points, 15 of which came from three.
"Just taking my time on my shot has really helped me. And, taking the easy shot and the open shot," Carter said. "I think Jaida (Travascio-Green) did a really good job last game of stretching the defense and knocking down threes. People always shade to her because she is such a dynamic shooter, leaving lots of space for me to shoot."
In both matchups last week, Washington tweaked her lineup to feature four guards with just one forward, moving De'Janae Boykin to the center position.
"Against both Minnesota and Wisconsin, the opponents style of play kind of necessitated that we go to a smaller and quicker lineup to matchup with them," Washington said. "It's even more important that we have that flow and balance when we have that small lineup on the floor."
This puts some pressure on the lone forward in the game for the Lady Lions to control the paint and collect rebounds. Both Boykin and Jaylen Williams have been forces in the paint so far this season and have their own effect on the offense especially creating shots for their teammates.
"We have a pretty fast-paced team, so when I can run the floor [the defense] get worried about me inside getting an easy layup and it opens up other shot opportunities in transition for our our guards," Williams said.
With the lineup change Washington hopes she can continue to get her team to play at a quick pace and take advantage of their strong guard play.
"It's one of those things where we bring speed to that position with a fourth guard and it gives us a ball handler at that position," Washington said. "It just gives us more weapons and opportunities out on the floor."
This is still quite the adjustment for the team, where it becomes even more vital for each player to crash the boards. However, when this lineup is clicking the effect is obvious with a high pace game and lots of open shots for Carter, Travascio-Green, and Teniya Page. This does mean even more responsibilities inside for the likes of Williams, Boykin, Sam Breen and Alisia Smith.
"When there's just one forward on the court it's a little more difficult at times but it means you ave to work harder," Williams said. "I just feel like we have to be more of a presence since there is only one forward in there."
"I've always been a big defensive presence so I feel that I need to be strong on defense and bring that to the table to make up for not being able to shoot as well from [3-point range] offensively," she added. "I do my part on defense they do their part on offense and we work together."
What Washington is trying to accomplish is define her team's style of play with the slight twist to the starting five. It is vital however that there remains a balanced force between the forwards and guards as they play off one another. Each player brings a different skill set to the table. Putting all the skills together can be difficult, but the outcome is a quality basketball team.
By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Penn State men's gymnastic team prepares for its first home meet of the 2018 campaign against Army West Point, the gymnasts who unite through the threads of the Blue and White will be experiencing different emotions and milestones as they compete within the walls of Rec Hall on Saturday night.
For the first time, freshman gymnasts like Brennan Pantazis will find themselves thrust into the encouraging arms of Penn State's hometown crowd as they compete within and for the legacy of Rec Hall.
"Really exciting," Pantazis said on his thoughts heading into the meet. "I mean it was exciting enough at an away competition so I can't imagine the energy being competing at home."
Even before stepping within the confines of Rec Hall, Pantazis has found himself within the spotlight of Penn State and the Big Ten's athletic community. After finishing first in the individual floor and parallel bars events last weekend, Pantazis secured Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors.
"He competes better than he is trained and he had a really rough summer and fall, he really did and so I thought that he was capable of doing what he did," head coach Randy Jepson said. "It was great just to see the old Brennan back, that was awesome."
Pantazis hopes to continue to build off of his initial success against familiar foe, Army.
"Just remaining confident in my abilities and trusting the training I've been doing in the gym," Pantazis said. "That's what I did at this competition and I just want to do the same thing and try to polish some things up."
While Pantazis and the other underclassmen will have a series of firsts this Saturday, senior Colin Coates, will compete on the pommel horse for his last home opener as a Nittany Lion.
"I'm really excited to have a first, last meet in Rec Hall and especially after the first meet we had away," Coates said. "Ready to knock it out and do great things this season."
"You know the opportunities are few and far between for our seniors," Jepson said. "They only have four left and that's it and you know you can count on them to put in a great meet every time they go out cause there's just very few opportunities to get at home but it is just great to be back home."
Although the freshmen and seniors will find new and different meanings in the men's gymnastics home opener, each competing Nittany Lion hopes to continue to build off of their performances seen in last weekend's West Point Open.
Sophomore and national pommel horse champion, Stephen Nedoroscik continued to impress as he earned a victory and career high 15.000 on his specialty, while junior Michael Burns conquered the high bar and his competition for a third-straight title at the West Point Open. Sophomore Sam Zakutney also continued to prove the strength of Penn State men's gymnastics younger core of athletes as he notched a Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honor for his victories in the team finals on vault, parallel bars and the all-around.
"Well I was pleased to see that they translated what we trained into a competitive setting so we hit about 86 percent our last intrasquad and they held pace with that and got a little bit better and in the first meet of the season that was great," Jepson said. "I was really pleased to see that translated and they are off and running and doing well."
Coming off of a dominant performance, the Blue and White faithful should expect Jepson's team to continue to roll through their first bout at Rec Hall as they face Army for the second-straight week and the 16th-straight home opener against the Black Knights of Army West Point.
"Rec Hall is always great," Jepson said. "They have friends and family coming in, that kind of thing but you know like I said you always want to defend the home turf and the nice thing for us is that we will be able to we had a sizable cushion on Army."
For more information on Nittany Lion men's gymnastics, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on the various social media platforms.
By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A changing of the guard has struck the Penn State men's soccer program at the highest level. As esteemed head coach Bob Warming stepped down in pursuit of retirement this offseason, the Penn State program searched for another reputable figure to continue the legacy of the Blue and White.
A 27-year coaching veteran has graciously accepted the honor to fill Warming's shoes and to find his own path of player development, success and legacy to lead within the confines of Jeffrey Field and the tradition of Penn State Athletics.
His name is Jeff Cook.
"When you look at coaching positions across this country, whether if that's collegiate or professional, I do believe this is one of the best coaching positions in the United States and I am very proud of the title," head coach Cook said.
Before accepting the offer, Cook played and coached across the nation's pitch. Most notably, Cook led Dartmouth University to five Ivy League Championships and seven NCAA appearances throughout his 12-year tenure as head coach. Most recently, Cook haled as an assistant coach to the Bethlehem Steel FC, a Philadelphia Union United Soccer League affiliate, while also head coaching the under-19 Union Academy team.
"I think simply put it is a pleasure for me to be here after more than 25 years in soccer coaching," Cook said. "The chance to represent Penn State University, this incredible institution, it was an opportunity I am delighted to have the chance to accept...The potential of men's soccer specifically is just a fantastic chance for me to take the next step in my career and I cannot wait to get working with our student-athletes and get to know more about this very special place."
Cook has been instrumental in the development of young male soccer players from across the board and ages. He coaches a high-tempo, fast style of play with a foundation geared in the importance of an athlete's physical and mental growth.
"I really believe the biggest change in the last five-year window for example would be in my mind the psychology side," Cook said. "There are relationships in the why of why you play [that] are just as important as the tactics. That's something you can't replicate...so in a day-to-day basis you want well-organized practices that target specific skill development or team organization but at the same time if the players don't want to play for each other and for the program then all of that stuff is kind of negated."
As both an assistant and head coach, Cook is well versed in all facets of coaching, especially preparing for matches, creating and perfecting training sessions, analyzing scouting reports and video, and optimizing player potential and development.
Cook hopes to bring his coaching expertise to Jeffrey Field with a strong emphasis on a team-first mentality and a reliance on current players that have been in the program, like Dani Marks, Aaron Molloy and Brandon Hackenberg.
"Everything we do here with the Penn State men's soccer program is going to be centered around the idea of a team concept so how we play and possession of the ball," Cook said. "We'll have a lot of combination play, a lot of ball movement rather than kind of relying on two extremely talented players that might carry the game so to speak. We'll be a team centered group."
Cook also wants to hit the ground running immediately to help the juniors and seniors achieve their optimal road to success before their imminent departures as graduated student-athletes.
"We need to look forward and the older players really offered their support and their commitment to really embrace this new direction, while we go forward," Cook said. "I want the Penn State fans and the soccer fans to know that this for me is that we want to be good now and it's not going to be easy and we aren't going to make any promises about what we will do next season, results wise, but my commitment to the older players especially is that we are going to try to be successful as soon as possible."
As a new face leads the Penn State men's soccer core with goals towards immense achievement and success, the Blue and White faithful should expect the same dedication to tradition, greatness and victory seen every season between the goal posts of Jeffrey Field.
"We want to be prepared and as successful as we can be next fall," Cook said. "It starts immediately."
For more information on Nittany Lion men's soccer, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on the various social media platforms.
By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Penn State collected its second consecutive win to start its 2018 season, defeating the Alderson-Broaddus Battlers in straight sets (25-20, 25-9, 25-15) in Rec Hall's south gym Saturday evening.
The Nittany Lions did not play under their usual circumstances, as they took the floor in south gym for the first time this year.
"It's not out of the ordinary for us to play there," middle blocker Jalen Penrose said. "It is a hard gym to play in but that's our home gym and we're used to it, so it wasn't that hard for us really."
"There's a different kind of atmosphere down there with the stands holding a lot less," right side hitter Calvin Mende said. "We have to bring our own energy since it can get pretty quiet in there, so we need to be able to pick each other up."
Saturday night's match was the second consecutive one for Penn State against a much smaller school, but the Nittany Lions were once again tested in the opening set.
"I think that something we're going to focus on in our next couple of games is just coming out with the same high intensity and not waiting for the whole set to pick up our intensity level," Mende said.
The opening set was in a lot of ways homogeneous to Penn State's performance in set one of Friday night's match. Eight service errors were committed on Friday night's opening set, while the Nittany Lions missed a nearly identical seven serves on Saturday.
"When you can't put service pressure on a team, their offense amends games," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "Hopefully by the time May rolls around we'll cut down on our service errors, but we just can't give the ball to teams that we want to beat late in the season."
While there is room for improvement behind the service line, Penn State was incredibly efficient offensively in its first two sets. Friday night against Mount Olive, the Nittany Lions hit just under .500 as a team and then followed that up with a .527 hitting percentage Saturday night.
"In practice we talk all the time about hitting the court offensively," Pavlik said. "We had six hitting errors the entire match and they had six-and-a-half blocks, so all of our hitting errors were a result of their block. We want to make sure we keep hitting the court that way."
While this efficiency may be partly the result of two matches against much less physically imposing teams than Penn State, Pavlik was very pleased with the way his team played offensively in the opening weekend.
Mende and Aidan Albrecht led the way for Penn State with eight kills each, while middle blockers Kevin Gear and Penrose chipped in six kills and five kills, respectively. For the second night in a row, Penrose looked quite comfortable playing a position he had no experience with prior to this season.
"It's a great confidence boost, but the guys around me are a lot of the backbone to my success," Penrose said. "Our passers were pretty good today too so I was able to run the middle a lot."
"It's nice to see how he's developed after kind of getting thrown in there in the fall," Gear said. "He's accepted that and he's been able to do pretty well. He's getting better and better, so it's fun to see."
Penn State also saw several Nittany Lions off the bench enter the match after building big leads in both the second and third sets. Frank Melvin recorded a kill on his lone swing of the match, while Jason Donorovich added two kills out of the middle. Lee Smith also saw his first action since an injury last season.
"It's always fun to see because we see what they're capable of every day in practice," Gear said. "Those guys are good players, so it's nice to see them get rewarded whenever they go in."
The competition level will continue to rise next weekend as the Nittany Lions travel to Los Angeles, California to take on third-ranked UCLA next Thursday and USC Saturday.
"The team's that we're going to be facing are probably more physical than what we played this week," Penrose said. "We're pretty good at what we do too, so I think we just stick to the game plan and just have confidence in what we do. We can bring it to them just as well as they can bring it to us."
Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The stands of Rec Hall were a sea of pink as the No. 17 Nittany Lions hosted the preseason No. 9 Nebraska Cornhuskers in honor of their Flip for the Cure breast cancer awareness and alumni night competition. The gymnasts donned "throwback" black-and-pink leotards, in the spirit of the Penn State's original colors, as well as in support of breast cancer survivors and battlers.
Coming off of a 194.275-192.900 victory over then-No. 35 Eastern Michigan to open the season, the Nittany Lions felt confident.
The Cornhuskers took on the bars to start, while the Nittany Lions set up at the vault. Penn State started off strong, with freshman Kourtney Chinnery, junior Sabrina Garcia, and senior Briannah Tsang leading the scoring to tally a 49.075 on vault for the squad--but Nebraska was a force to be reckoned with, outscoring Penn State just barely with a 49.325.
"We knew going in that we were going to have a fight," Tsang said. "It was great to see everyone hit and stick, and unfortunately we had some mistakes, but this is how we learn and move forward."
The Huskers proved to be tough competition with a clean 49.325 score on the vault, but Penn State took the cake for claiming a 49.325 on the bars when the squads swapped events. Freshman Alissa Bonsall and Tsang tied for a first place spot on the event, and the Nittany Lions were able to wrap up the rotation with a lead at 98.400-97.700.
"In regards to our all arounders, last weekend, Bri was steady, and Lauren [Bridgens] was right there with her, and tonight Alissa was fantastic on bars, and Bri was even stronger in the all around," head coach Sarah Brown said. "For our freshmen to be competing in the all-around week in and week out is tough so we need to pace them and pay close attention to how they're responding each week, but overall I'm very very proud of both of them."
The Nittany Lions took on the beam for their next rotation, where a few unfortunate falls brought the squad's scoring down. Despite a combination of 9.8000 scores from both junior Mason Hosek and Tsang's notorious skills on the beam to help Penn State's tally, the Nittany Lions fell short of the Huskers's score of 49.050.
"I think if we find a way to keep our energy up throughout the meet we could be better on the last two events," Bonsall said. "But we have a great team and great cheering so it was nice to have them along with us."
Nebraska claimed a close victory to wrap up the meet, nabbing a 195.550-195.050 win. Penn State gymnasts Bonsall, Bridgens, and Tsang managed to snag three of the five all-around titles.
"I thought tonight was a really good night for our team," Brown said. "We were definitely more confident here in Rec hall than we were last week. I thought we started the week really strong. One of the things I want to keep working on is our stamina throughout the rest of the competition."
The Nittany Lions look ahead with hope as they kick off their away season and travel to Maryland next weekend to continue competition.
"One of my favorite things to do is to break things down as soon as the meet is over, and figure out what I want to do for the next meet," Brown said. "It's going to be interesting because at Maryland we'll actually finish the competition on balance beam, which is the event that we struggled on tonight, so we're going to practice finishing the meet on balance beam instead of on floor."
The Nittany Lions will hit the road for their meet against Maryland on Friday, January 19.
By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions opened up their indoor season this Saturday as they hosted the Nittany Lion Challenge at their very own Ashenfelter III Indoor Track. This season opener came with both personal records and school records, proving that the team's training this winter has paid off.
Senior Greta Lindsley ran a 4-second personal record in the mile today, showing that her hard work over the winter break was something to be proud of.
"I ended the cross country season I think in the best shape I've been in since I've been at Penn State, so I made sure to have a strong, quick recovery and then get back on the track and working hard," Lindsley said. "The crucial part was training over winter break. It's hard to train alone and in the cold, but I always made it my priority over break, so I think that helped a lot."
Although coming out the first meet of the season and running a personal best is an accomplishment, Lindsley knows that her training does not end here.
"Coming in and PRing in the first me was definitely exciting for me, showing them my hard work has been paying off. Starting off with a PR, I think means that I don't think I'm in peak shape yet, so I think I have a couple more seconds to knock off," Lindsley said. "The goal is just to keep getting stronger and to keep doing the little things, like sleeping, eating, stretching and being committed to being the faster runner I can be."
Along with Lindsley, senior Rachael DeCecco also ran her personal best today. Running a 56.48 in the 400-meter dash, DeCecco beat her best time of 57.28. Even though the 400 isn't her main event, she knows this PR will only confirm that her 600-meter will also improve.
"It's a good start to the season and it'll just get the momentum going for the rest of the season," DeCecco said. "It's kind of cool because the 400 isn't my event, and I PR'ed in it so it'll now translate to my main event the 600. So, hopefully I'll get a PR out of that soon."
DeCecco is also excited to see how this PR will help improve her role as a leg in the 4x4-meter relay. Her split being lower will keep the Nittany Lions on track for a great showing in the Big Ten come championship season.
"PRing in the 400 will hopefully also translate to the 4x4 relay with running a faster split. If I can maintain a leg on the 4x4, and if all of us can split 55's, it'll add up to a total time of 3:40," DeCecco said. "Coach Tucker said to us that those are all really good splits to have to get us in a good spot in the Big Ten, so hopefully that'll translate to a lot of big points at the Big Ten meet in the future."
This first meet not only included some personal bests, it also had two school recording-breaking performances on the men's side. Senior jumper Bryce Williams and junior thrower David Lucas both captured a school record title on this indoor season opener.
"Breaking a school record feels great. I have really been working hard for it. I've just been thinking about it and training for it pretty much since the end of the last track season," Williams said. "It feels good, but I'm not going to be satisfied from here, it's like a stepping stone to keep working and improve to help my team."
"I'm ecstatic about it. I wasn't really sure what was going to happen coming into today," Lucas added. "We haven't throw a regular weight yet in practice, we've thrown 35 pounds but on a longer chain, so it goes further. So, I really didn't have too many expectations coming into this. I just went out and on my first throw, went out and broken the record. I'm very excited about it, really just starting and make my mark in indoors."
These performances only act as a starting point, though. These men are prepared to continue their hard training in order to have an even better performance come late February in the Big Ten Championship meet.
"It's definitely a confidence booster. It's something to be proud of, but it's still early in the season. Just because I jumped this doesn't mean I'll be jumping that at the end of the season, I still have to continue to work hard in practice from here," Williams said.
"I was talking to some guys afterwards and a really cool piece of advice I was given was that I'm not going to try to get too caught up in trying to throw over 70 feet every meet from here on out. I want to try to focus on training, trusting my training. Some meets I'm going to have to train through to try to build and culminate through Big Tens," Lucas said. "I think it's an awesome start and I'm really excited to be over 70 feet moving forward, we are going to keep focused, keep practicing and step up and preform at Big Tens."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's basketball saw some much-needed toughness on display Friday evening. In its first overtime game of the season, sophomore Tony Carr had nine of Penn State's 11 points in extra time, including a deciding jumper to guide the Nittany Lions a 76-74 win against Nebraska.
On what would be considered an off night for Carr, he finished with 17 points and eight assists. Carr's heroics though, came at perhaps just the right time, as he struggled for most of the evening before nailing his first two-point shot from the field with fewer than two minutes remaining in overtime.
Seated in the media room postgame after recording his 100th win at the helm of the program, it was his team's ability to breakthrough and finish that Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers led off with.
"We were talking about toughness, getting over this hump or breaking through and being physical," Chambers said. "I feel Nebraska is one of the toughest teams in this league. One of the more physical teams in this league, and I felt like we were a little bit tougher today."
Penn State had Nebraska right where it needed at halftime, entering the locker room leading 33-24, holding the Huskers below 30 percent shooting from both the field and the 3-point line.
With a new starting lineup featuring true freshman Jamari Wheeler, things were seemingly sailing along smoothly.
"It's great to have him out there starting with us now," Carr said reflecting on Wheeler's performance. "He makes everybody better, mainly me. Helping me get easier shots, getting me off the ball. His changing of the tempo of the game is great for everybody."
Trailing only by one in the opening half, 15-14, sophomore Lamar Stevens connected on a triple before Wheeler stripped the ball for a steal to set Stevens up for a breakaway slam in between a Husker free throw to spark a 14-8 stretch that carried the Nittany Lions to halftime.
"I feel like when Lamar has three-point shot's falling, he is unstoppable because he's bigger and stronger than most guards are supposed to be," Carr said. "When his threes are falling, it's kind of like pick your poison."
Stevens closed out yet another consistent performance, totaling 26 points and seven rebounds for his third consecutive 20-plus scoring outing.
Watkins was equally as consistent, scoring 20 points and grabbing 15 boards for his fourth straight double-double. Watkins is the first Nittany Lion since Geary Claxton in 2007-08 to record four consecutive double-doubles (Lehigh, 12/31/07, Northwestern, 1/2/08, Illinois, 1/6/08, Minnesota, 1/12/08).
With roughly six minutes remaining in regulation and Penn State up by nine, 59-50, Nebraska moved to a one-three-one, opening up on a 10-2 scoring streak across the next three minutes to arrive within one.
Mike Watkins answered with a pair of free throws but Nebraska went 3-for-4 from the charity stripe to tie the score at 63-63. Penn State couldn't pull ahead for good as a late Husker jumper forced overtime.
"We have to give Tim [Miles] credit," Chambers said. "He is a really good coach. That took a lot of guts, with six minutes to go that is not your staple defense and he did it for the next six and five for the next eleven or twelve minutes."
Cue Carr in the overtime period, as his coaches and teammates continued to give him the confidence to keep going for it.
"When you're telling a kid that, he tends not to think about what's happening as a negative, he tends to think, alright, these guys really support me, I'm going to go get the next one," Chambers said. "He hits a big three, he hits a couple of floaters, it's big time."
It's all part of the game for Carr, who noted that even though is last game winner might not have gone in, it's this one that matters.
"There's going to be nights like that when your shot isn't falling and defense is keying on you," Carr said. "You just have to keep attacking and keep taking those shots. I've been working so hard, and I'm going to keep taking them as the season goes on."
By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State defeated the Mount Olive Trojans in its first match of the season Friday night at Rec Hall, overcoming a first set loss to win in four sets (23-25, 25-19, 25-12, 25-14).
Head coach Mark Pavlik was impressed with the energy and confidence that the Trojans played with to start off the match, but the Nittany Lions did themselves no favors by committing eight service errors, which was the difference.
"We gave them 14 points, so they only had to score 11," Pavlik said. "Throughout my career we've seen this scenario happen where decided underdogs come in, but they are senior laden, and they've been here before. There was no real intimidation factor for them. The tighter it got the more they loosened up."
Penn State made key adjustments from that point, making a concerted effort to establish their two middles in Jalen Penrose and Kevin Gear. Penrose finished with 10 kills (.615 hitting percentage), two blocks, and four aces in his first career match as a middle blocker. Gear, on the other hand, was steady with eight kills (.462 hitting percentage) and three blocks.
"We passed well throughout the whole game, which allowed us to run the middle and make them commit on us a lot," Penrose said. "That opened it up for the pins to do what they do best and just swing away."
Penrose, a redshirt senior, was moved to middle blocker this season after spending his first four years in the program as a right side, looking remarkably comfortable for someone who has never played a match at that position.
"It's not an easy adjustment but having these guys behind me and having faith in me has been the backbone of my success," Penrose said. "There is not really any one thing that I like more about it than opposite, but it's my role and I'm just going to control what I can control and do the best I can."
Penrose's efficiency in the middle paved the way for sophomore right side hitter Calvin Mende, who finished with 15 kills and hit .667 for the match.
"Having the middles have such a dominant performance in the first game made their middles commit to ours earlier in the next set, which gave us one on one opportunities and just made it a lot simpler for us the rest of the way," Mende said.
Mende also commented on Penrose's performance in the middle and was impressed with the way he played in his debut.
"Off his first swing of the game, I don't know if I've seen someone hit that hard in a while," Mende said. "You see the immense potential there is and when he capitalizes on it, our whole team just gets filled with energy. To see him swing like that and serve like that is something that he really brings to the table."
"He was plus nine for the match," Pavlik said. "That's what we need from the guys on the court. Score more points for the guys wearing the same uniform you are and you're going to be pretty good. I think we were able to use the strengths that Jalen brings to the court and use them in more advantageous situations."
Outside of Penrose and Gear, one of the other critical differences in Penn State's turnaround after set one was the service line. After committing eight errors in the opening frame, the Nittany Lions served aggressively and were much cleaner from behind the line, compiling eight aces in the final three sets.
"We just got in a rhythm, starting doing our routines back there and doing what we do in practice," Mende said. "In the first set we had some jitters but after that we just settled into it."
"I don't think there was any type of panic or doubt, we just knew at some point we were going to start to roll," Pavlik said. "We kept the ball on the court more starting in game two and all of the sudden our size and athleticism started to work for us."
For Pavlik, his team still has a long way to go, despite taking a lot of positives from Friday night's opener. The good news though, is that they have time to get there.
The Nittany Lions will be back at Rec Hall on Saturday night for a match against Alderson-Broaddus at 7 p.m.
By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 13 Penn State defeated No. 6 Ohio State, 5-2, in front of a packed Pegula Ice Arena to extend their unbeaten streak to 11 games.
In a game where the Buckeyes outshot the Nittany Lions by 11, it was sophomore goaltender Peyton Jones who was the difference maker.
Jones recorded a season high 45 saves and played a crucial role in Penn State snapping Ohio State's six game win streak.
"If we didn't have Peyton (Jones) it could've been a long night for us," Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "This was a really big win but it doesn't happen without Peyton."
Jones stopped 20 shots in the second period, setting a career high for saves in a single period.
"Peyton Jones was just tremendous," Gadowsky said. "He made ridiculous saves and he made a lot of them. I can't say enough about him."
With his stellar performance, Jones improves his record to 12-5-2 on the season.
"I just go out there and do everything I can to stop the puck," Jones said.
Jones wasn't the only Nittany Lion to play perhaps his best hockey of the season Friday night. Freshman forward Evan Barratt gave the Nittany Lions a spark offensively, scoring two goals to go along with an assist.
Barratt tallied both his sixth and seventh goals of the season to set a career high mark with three points.
Barratt credited his performance to his teammates, noting he's finding confidence within the program.
"As a freshman, you definitely get more comfortable as the year goes on," Barratt said. "Playing with these guys for a couple weeks now has helped me with my confidence a lot."
For Gadowsky, he has noticed Barratt's growing confidence throughout the season.
"As he gets more games under his belt, you can he see he is getting more comfortable," Gadowsky said. He certainly looks more comfortable not only with the puck, but also in the faceoff circle, and that's been a big jump for him."
Like Barratt, the Nittany Lions seem to be catching fire at the right time. Penn State is now tied for second place in the Big Ten with their win against Ohio State.
With another game in the series still remaining, Gadowsky and the team are well aware that there's no time to exhale.
"It took us a while, but we got back to our roots," Gadowsky said. "We can't take (success) for granted, and we need to continue to work really hard."
For Jones, the result of that hard work is finally coming together as a unit.
"With six freshmen coming in all while losing some guys from last year who were the leaders of this program, it was tough," Jones said. "But we've had other guys step up and fill the holes, and we got on a roll."
Penn State looks to complete the series sweep against Ohio State Saturday night at 7p.m. in Pegula Ice Arena.
By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's officially indoor track season for the Nittany Lions as they head into their first meet of the season this weekend. Although it's only the beginning, the women's track and field team is looking to accomplish big things this season.
The women's team is reigning Indoor Big Ten Champions, as they won the conference last season at the Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio. The women are looking for nothing less than a repeat of that this year.
"This season I think the ultimate goal for our team is to go defend our Indoor Big Ten Championship. I think that we have a really good chance to do that this year with the people that are returning from last year and also our incoming freshman class," senior pole vaulter Hannah Mulhern said.
Although winning the indoor championship meet last year was great, the women say that winning the Indoor Big Ten again would be even sweeter if they did so alongside the men's team.
"It would be even more special if we did it on the same day as the boys because it was really cool that they won outdoors (Big Tens) and we won indoors (Big Tens). It'd be better if we all did it on the same day, I think that would be a major team goal," senior high jumper Megan McCloskey said.
Winning the Indoor Big Ten Championship is the ultimate goal for the women's team this year, but so is maintaining a great team atmosphere as the seniors prepare for their last indoor season.
"As a team, we're going to try to obviously go after the Big Ten Championship, we'd love to do that indoors and outdoors and at the same time as the boys would be awesome. I think just creating a really good team atmosphere this season. We have a lot of great talent and it would just be great to bring us all together and have really great team unity," senior sprinter Rachael DeCecco.
This indoor season, the women are traveling more than they are used to, and earlier on than usual. They travel to Clemson next weekend for their second meet of the season as the compete at the Clemson Invitational. The women say traveling this early will only benefit them more going into championship season in late February.
"I definitely think it's going to benefit us. I think it's exciting to get on the road early in the season. The benefits of that is really understanding what it feels like to travel and to not be at our home facility. We are pretty lucky to have a lot of meets at our home track, so it's good to get used to being at other tracks," McCloskey said. "The most important part is to get out of our comfort zones, so when Big Tens rolls around we will already know what it's like to be at away meets."
"I think that traveling a little bit more is really going to help us out. It really helps for us to get experience on the road early," Mulhern added. "I know in the past we haven't traveled as much, and our coaches think that may have affected us at the Big Ten Championship, so they're trying to get us out and traveling a little to get exposed to different facilities and competing against different people."
The Nittany Lions will also travel to the Spire Institute, where Big Tens are held, earlier in the season to get a feel of the environment there.
"Going to Spire for a meet will be great because that's where Big Tens is held, so we get a feel for the track meet atmosphere and to prepare a couple weeks before Big Tens," DeCecco said.
Even though clinching the Big Ten title is the main intention of the women this season, for the seniors, so is making it memorable.
"With it being my last season, you never know what the season is going to hold for you. I definitely just want to make this last season one to remember with my teammates," Mulhern said.
By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a stellar new coach, a Big Ten Freshman of the Week, and a win to knock out their first win of the season, the Nittany Lions have reason to feel confident as they prepare for their upcoming meet against Nebraska, the first meet of their Big Ten slate.
This past weekend marked newly-hired Penn State head coach Sarah Brown's first meet of the season with the gymnasts. However, the former Mizzou gymnast and Eastern Michigan head coach has been hard at work with the team since she first stepped foot in State College last May. As the Nittany Lions gear up to take on the Huskers in Rec Hall this Saturday to kick off the Big Ten competition, Brown feels ready to get the home season going.
"My goal when I got here was really to understand the girls' personalities," Brown said. "I really feel like we've spent the last eight months doing that. I definitely know that I'm doing things differently than they have been done in the past, and so getting that trust and buy-in has been huge, and we're all moving at the same pace and the same direction now."
Despite falling to Nebraska last season on the road, the combination of a new coaching staff, some new faces on the team, and a first meet win leaves Brown feeling confident.
"The first meet was a really solid starting point for us. We had some mistakes early on in the line ups, but I was proud of how well we recovered," Brown said. "Now we know we can make the routines, and moving forward we're focusing in on the little details and making sure we're looking at each routine piece by piece."
Most recently, new face Lauren Bridgens was honored Big Ten Freshman of the Week after contributing largely to the squad's 194.275-192.900 win over Eastern Michigan last weekend.
"It's really exciting for the program that we're already being recognized on that level," Brown said. "It's a starting point, I know if you ask Lauren she knows she has more in her, so I think she's proud of the accomplishment, I'm very proud of her, and I know she's going to continue to get better as the season goes on."
The freshman from Maryland agreed that the team can only go up from here.
""Now's the time to start focusing on the smaller details," Bridgens said. "I think for our first meet we were focused on getting out there and knowing what it's like to compete together."
Senior Brianna Tsang, a familiar face and renowned Nittany Lion gymnast, looks forward to what's to come after a winning all-around score of 39.050 with freshmen teammate Bridgens.
"I thought we had a really good team dynamic already going into the season," Tsang said. "Having the first meet was super exciting, we didn't get the chance to have a full intrasquad in Rec hall before this, and the freshmen did really well with that."
In addition to kicking off the Big Ten slate, this weekend's meet will be titled Throwback Alumni Night, where the team will welcome gymnastics alumni back to the floor. In addition, the meet will be combined with the Flip for the Cure competition, which focuses on honoring those who have survived and are battling breast cancer.
The gymnasts will don new black and pink leotards, marked in the school's original colors, complete with a throwback logo. Following the meet will be an alumni reception, where coach Brown and some of the athletes are excited to converse with and get to know the alumni one-on-one.
"This weekend is huge for me, because it's an opportunity for the alumni to be here and be part of the program again," Brown said. "It's very important to me that the athletes recognize who came before them and how everything was paved before we got here, so we owe these alumni so much and we're so thankful that they're willing to come back."
No. 17 Penn State opens Big Ten action on Jan. 13 at 4 p.m. in Rec Hall.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State basketball is back in a bit of a familiar place, preparing to return home from a bitter road loss to regroup. Although pleased with the progress and the high points along the way, it's clear to Nittany Lion head coach Patrick Chambers that it's once again, time to respond.
"It's a new day, we've got to get better today," Chambers said. "We were a little out of sync and that's okay. We'll watch film, we'll come back to work, get in practice with those different lineups that we now have and try to get those lineups better."
On the heels of its third Big Ten loss by six points or less, Chambers hasn't lost sight of the path, opting to take small steps forward instead of casting focus too far ahead.
"I always feel like we're right there and then we always get a little shot of adversity and then you've got to punch right back, you've got to come back and handle it, make your tweaks and adjustments," Chambers said. "We are thisclose to being able to handle the next obstacle, the next adversity and getting on a run. I really believe that."
Since resuming conference play, the Nittany Lions bounced back from a road loss at Maryland with a defining 78-63 win against Northwestern last weekend in front of an energized crowd at the Bryce Jordan Center. Looking to build off the momentum, the Nittany Lions entered a notoriously hostile environment on the road Tuesday night at Indiana, falling short in a comeback attempt.
"Our offense did not look anything like it did on Friday," Chambers said reflecting on the loss to the Hoosiers. "We need to play more consistent on the road and if we can bottle up that energy and that effort that we played with last Friday night, we'll find success."
Road-woes aside, for Chambers it all comes back to a familiar phrase - mental conditioning. It's all encompassing too, from desire and energy to discipline and focus, it's something that Chambers has yet to consistently see from the Nittany Lions.
"It's fighting through when you're tired, it's fighting through when you're not shooting well, it's fighting through when the team's going on a run," Chambers said. "It's fighting through, handling obstacles and adversity and sticking together, especially on the road when their fans are going crazy. That's when you've got to fight and stick together the most."
There's still nearly 10 days before Penn State heads back on the road, providing back-to-back opportunities for the Nittany Lions to get back on track in front of a growing home crowd. With students returning to their usual spots in the stands led by the Legion of Blue, there's plenty to look forward to.
"The Legion of Blue has been awesome," Chambers said. "I've actually gotten to know them really well and that's been a great relationship for me. When they get here and when the students come it's awesome and we have a great atmosphere."
In Penn State's last Bryce Jordan Center outing, the Nittany Lions were confident in the win against the Wildcats, powered by a career-high 30-point outing from sophomore Lamar Stevens. With at least 20 points in the last two games, consistency from Stevens is key for the Nittany Lions.
"When he's fresh, he's in stances, he's doing a good job," Chambers said. "I'd like to see him rebound a little bit more but just the mental conditioning. It's that aspect of the game when he's hitting that 34-35-minute mark, he's got to really punch through for us."
The Nittany Lions host Nebraska Friday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center. At 12-6 on the year, the Huskers are 3-2 in the Big Ten coming off of a 63-59 win against Wisconsin on Tuesday.
By Tom Shively,
GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's been nearly two months since the Penn State men's and women's swimming and diving teams last took to the pool in a competitive event, and the Nittany Lions are eager to get back into the water.
Their first meet of the new year comes this Saturday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. against Navy and North Carolina. While these two schools aren't part of the Big Ten, they give the Nittany Lions a much-needed boost in terms of getting back into competition form and heading into the home stretch of the season.
More than anything, this weekend provides a chance for Penn State to return to consistent competition, back to the form they developed all preseason and through the first half of competition.
"We want to make sure that we're right back on the pre-meet routine that we have," head coach Tim Murphy said. "Warming up and cooling down, getting ourselves individually prepared to compete, we want to make sure that we have that aspect down. It's not something that you want to make up as you go, it has to be consistent. I think we're in a good spot with that."
With only a few weeks left until the Big Ten championships (six for the men, five for the women), and the NCAA championships less than three months away, training becomes more focused as the athletes are starting increased training regimens specific to their events, meaning less time together as a team.
"Their training is probably going to get a little bit more specified now that we're coming into the final part of the season," Murphy said. "We established a pretty strong routine in the fall, and now it's important to stay with that. We've got separate training groups depending on the events, and within that there are some individuals that need to be treated a little differently. Most of that is in respect to the volume of work that you're doing. How much rest you're going to get is also critical."
Although training is now becoming more individualized, which means there may be less time for team camaraderie than earlier in the season, the team is doing all it can to make sure the bond between the coaches and athletes stays tight.
The men and women both took a trip down to Naples, Florida in December for workouts and some bonding time, something Murphy viewed as invaluable for the team's chemistry.
"We reminded them before we went down that this was probably a time that we would spend more time together in that week than we would in the rest of the semester because of our schedules. We have three different group practices and at the same time individual class conflicts," Murphy said.
Murphy could sense that his team was coming together and enjoying themselves on the trip, simply by the way they carried themselves and acted around each other. He also noted how that can translate to success back up north.
"Usually you can tell the pulse of your team when you're riding on the bus to practice, especially in the morning. Down in Florida, they just had a nice energy around them and I saw them bring that back to the deck of the pool. I think they're pretty aware of the window of opportunity."
With such a large group of athletes, communication is essential to the team's success, not only from athletes to athletes, but also involving the coaches. Murphy relies heavily on his seniors and captains to keep tabs on what is going on around the program and make sure that he stays up to date on it all.
"Our captains play an important role in communicating with the team, and especially with the coaches. We want to make sure we're addressing concerns and issues, and the individual idiosyncrasies that prepare us for Big Tens," Murphy said.
This weekend's meet coincides with the start of the spring semester, meaning the Nittany Lions are adjusting to their new class schedules as well as resuming their training and preparing for the upcoming competition.
"The men's and women's sides did very well in the classroom, which is something we're proud of," Murphy said. "We just had a team meeting yesterday to remind them what's important. From an academic standpoint, we want to make sure they're meeting with professors and down at the Morgan Center so they've mapped out their academic calendars."
With the academic and athletic sides both back up and running now, the Nittany Lions can focus on coming back strong from their hiatus. They're up to the challenge, and this weekend's meet is sure to be a benchmark for what this team is truly capable of.
"We didn't compete in December from both an academic standpoint and a training standpoint," Murphy said. "Coming off a midseason meet, we rested them a little bit, didn't really taper them. We haven't competed in a while, so the opportunity to bang heads with Navy and UNC on both the men's and women's sides will be a good wake-up call. Now we're just looking to find a rhythm from our scheduling standpoint, back to the training. We want to get into a good rhythm in the pool, the weight room, and continue to work on that team culture aspect."
The meet is set to begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's volleyball returns to the hardwood Friday evening to kick off its 2018 campaign. Head coach Mark Pavlik enters his 23rd year at the helm with 542 career wins as Penn State returns from a 2017 season where it captured the EIVA regular season and tournament titles for a berth to NCAA Championships.
Pavlik returns the large majority of his team's production from a year ago, looking to build on a successful 2017 campaign.
Take a look at five 2018 storylines before heading to Rec Hall to catch the Nittany Lions open the season this weekend.
Replacing Nugent and
Penn State loses just two major contributors from last season's team in outside hitter Chris Nugent and middle blocker Matt Callaway. Nugent, a three-year starter, was the team's top outside hitter and was excellent both behind the service line and on defense. Callaway, on the other hand, was a reliable blocker up front and one of the key veteran leaders of last year's team.
"We're hopeful that Aidan Albrecht, after the second half of the season he had last year, steps up and continues the run that he had," Pavlik said. "Along with Aidan, you've got Matt McLaren, who's in his fourth year. We've got Lee Smith who's coming back from the injury, who looks like he hasn't left. We've got some experience back there. I think it's just going to take a little time for the chemistry to roll around."
When it comes to Callaway, the Nittany Lions will also look to lean heavily on redshirt senior middle blocker, Kevin Gear, who had a strong second half of the season last year.
The Nittany Lions return almost all of their key contributors from last season, including All-EIVA honorable mention setter Luke Braswell. Braswell has a chance to be the top setter in the league this season.
Despite losing Nugent, there will be no shortage of reliable pin hitters for Penn State this season. Albrecht was a second team All-EIVA performer last season and Smith could be a potential breakout player for the Nittany Lions, with Pavlik impressed with the progress he has made following his recovery.
"Lee [Smith] before the injury and right now is probably our best pin blocker and one of our top passers. We'll see where his jump is when we get into the real live stuff, but everything we see in practice leads us to believe he's right there," Pavlik said.
Then there is first team All-EIVA right side hitter Calvin Mende, who could be in for a huge year. A 6-foot-11 inch lefty, Mende is a matchup nightmare on the right side for opposing outside hitters.
Looking toward leadership on the team, Pavlik noted that Albrecht, Smith, and Braswell will serve as team the captains, who will be called upon to lead a relatively youthful group.
"Our strength lies with our youth and our numbers lie with our youth, first, second, and third year guys, but our fourth and fifth year guys understand what's at stake," Pavlik said. "They are feeling that athletic mortality and I think that's what has jumped up their leadership abilities."
Penrose to Middle
One of the more interesting storylines leading up to this season is redshirt senior Jalen Penrose, who will be primarily used as a middle blocker this season rather than a right side, where he has played his entire career so far at Penn State.
Penrose is arguably the most powerful hitter on the roster and was one of the most dangerous servers last season for the Nittany Lions. It was inconsistency though that kept him from seeing a larger role on the court.
For Pavlik, he refers to Penrose as his new "middle attacker," as the staff hopes that making this switch will help Penrose play to his best strengths this year.
"We can get him the ball in maybe some better situations than he was used to at the opposite position," Pavlik said. "With [Calvin Mende] at opposite, I think we're in pretty good shape back there. With Jalen, trying to figure out a way to get his arm in the game, throughout the fall and certainly through the last week, I think we're seeing some progress made by Jalen in the middle."
Pavlik also acknowledged that his lack of experience at the position at times will not allow him to do certain things from that spot on the court. At the same time, however, his physicality and athleticism could make him a real difference maker in the middle.
Only time will tell how effective this move will be, but regardless it will be one of the more interesting things to pay attention to this season.
West Coast Trip
Following opening weekend at home, Penn State will travel to Los Angeles, California in the second weekend of the season for the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge and take on No. 3 UCLA on USC.
Matching up against some of the top national talent, the trip will be a great indicator of where Penn State is early on in the season, also serving as a valuable early season experience given that UCLA is hosting the NCAA Championships this year.
"[UCLA] returns just about everybody and they're always a handful to play certainly at their place," Pavlik said. "USC has started off pretty well this year and we're going to get a chance to see them again."
Around the EIVA
Penn State has traditionally been the dominant team in the EIVA, but the league continues to get stronger each year, which will only make things more challenging for the Nittany Lions going forward.
"There is such a feeling of pride I have for the effort that the coaches have put in the EIVA," Pavlik said. "Are they going to make it tougher on us? Absolutely, but I think that's going to make us better and for years that's what we've needed. With what Princeton is doing, what Saint Francis is doing, George Mason - and NJIT having a brand new facility over there, I am just really excited about this league right now."
By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions took home the Southern Scuffle championship for the seventh time in their last seven tries to ring in the new year last week. While remaining on the road, Penn State is poised to continue its success on the mat as the Big Ten dual slate heats up.
In addition to a team title, six Nittany Lions were crowned champions in their weight classes at the Scuffle as well as one runner up.
One of the biggest tournament surprises came from Penn State's Shakur Rasheed. Rasheed cradled his way to the title at 197 pounds in just 46 seconds. Rasheed finished the tournament with three pins, all of which came in under a minute and two majors, which earned him the tournament's most outstanding wrestler honor.
"It was fun," Rasheed said. "The team had fun, we did really well."
After wrestling for the Nittany Lions at 165 pounds in the past, Rasheed is feeling much more comfortable at 197 pounds.
"You can't really compare it," Rasheed said. "Put videos together and watch it and it shows. Now I'm feeling light on my feet. I could give it my all and not look at it like wow that was not me out there. It's pretty cool going up in weight and being able to dance around out there and have fun."
For the junior, dancing around in the spotlight isn't anything he's afraid of.
"It's been a long ride," Rasheed said. "I've been getting hurt a lot so every time I get a chance to get out on the mat I just want to enjoy it. I don't ever want to look back like I should've done this differently. Now that I'm healthy I just want to live it up, I don't even get nervous that much anymore before matches. I'm just thinking this is about to be awesome. I'm getting out there and I'm going to put on a show. I love to entertain. I just love to be out in the spotlight and doing what I do best."
With the Nittany Lions hitting the road to visit Michigan and Michigan State this weekend head coach Cael Sanderson has a decision to make at 197 pounds between three wrestlers in Matt McCutcheon, Anthony Cassar and Rasheed, all who have been ranked at 197 pounds at some point this season via Intermat.
"All three of those guys are great and they're all All-American contenders," Sanderson said. "We've got to figure that weight class out as we move forward, but that's something we'll work on. We want them to establish who our guy is, but we'll let them do that as we press along here. We're confident in all three of those guys, we really are."
Sanderson also noted that all three will travel with the team this weekend.
He also has another decision to make at 141 pounds. After Jered Cortez exited the Southern Scuffle due to a medical forfeit, the Nittany Lions could potentially see a new starter at 141 pounds this weekend.
"We have a couple guys that we're looking at, at that weight class," Sanderson said. "Certainly, just like from the beginning of the season, we want to put our best team out there and if that ends up being Nick (Lee) we'll see. We've got a tough decision to make there."
As the Nittany Lions prepare to return to the Big Ten slate, there's no doubting the intensity is dialing up as Penn State still has Ohio State and Iowa to look toward. With some of the top teams in the country on the horizon the Nittany Lions are excited for the challenge ahead.
By Tom Shively,
GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Lady Lions are a very young team, one of the few teams in college basketball with no seniors on the roster. Youth is something oftentimes overlooked in college athletics, but the Lady Lions have shown that this is a team that still has some room to grow.
Wednesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center was one of those nights of realization, as the Lady Lions went up against the high-powered offensive attack of Minnesota. The Golden Gophers average 85.9 points per game, good for 11th in the nation, and they showed their offensive prowess in a 91-71 victory.
The Gophers led by as many as 19 in the first half and controlled the pace of the game, as Penn State played catch-up the entire night. However, the Lady Lions stayed true to their offensive game plan even when they were down, a sign of belief in themselves and trust in the system they had in place.
Junior guard Teniya Page, who led the Lady Lions in scoring with 21 points, persistently got to the basket and made shots, not letting the score affect the way she played.
"I just play the game and take what the game gives me," Page said. "I don't necessarily change anything as the game goes on. We don't change our attack or approach when we're down."
Page finished 8-for-15 from the field, including 3-for-6 from three.
It's the tenth time this season that Page has finished in double figures, and the 64th time of her career. It's also her sixth 20-point outing of the season and 26th of her career. The 21 points were enough to put her in the top 20 on the Penn State all-time scoring list (1,312 points, No. 19 all-time), as she passed both Helen Darling and Kathy Drysdale tonight.
Another bright spot for the Lady Lions was the defense, as they forced 16 Minnesota turnovers, leading to 25 points.
Defense and rebounding (Minnesota outrebounded Penn State 43-30) have been points of emphasis all season for Penn State head coach Coquese Washington. The Lady Lions haven't quite figured out a consistent formula to succeed night in and night out, which leads to disparities like tonight in which the team did some things really well but couldn't execute in other areas.
"We struggle with consistency. That's the thing that's kind have been a thorn in our side," Washington said. "Individually and collectively, players are struggling to find that groove and it rubs off on the whole team. We just have to continue to work on creating a high level of consistency from game to game."
The Lady Lions have a chance to get back on track Sunday at Wisconsin. Tip-off from Madison will be at 2 p.m. Then, Penn State returns home for two tilts against Rutgers and Illinois next week before a stretch of four out of five games on the road
By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As Penn State University opens it doors to students and faculty for the spring semester, the Penn State men's gymnastics team continues its training for the first meet of the 2018 slate. Since last summer, head coach Randy Jepson and his team of 21 have been preparing for this weekend's Army West Point Open and the challenges beyond.
"It starts at the beginning of summer and it is all just a domino effect so I know how it goes," sophomore pommel horse participant Stephen Nedoroscik said heading into the year. "I've been ready for this season since the beginning of last summer."
The national pommel horse champion, Nedoroscik, returns to the team alongside fellow All-American Sam Zakutney. While returning sophomores and captain Benjamin Cooperman will headline this Nittany Lion team, Jepson foresees a completely different team dawning the Blue and White from last year's squad that finished with a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten championships and included six gymnasts who individually qualified for the NCAA Finals.
Here's five things to look for as the season gets underway.
1. New Year, New Look
With the graduation of last year's captain Leroy Clarke Jr. and all-around competitor Dominic DiFulvio in the rearview mirror, plus an onslaught of early season illnesses and injuries, the Nittany Lions will be turning to new faces to make a meaningful impact throughout competition.
"This years been a lot about dodging some of the issues we've had," Jepson said. "We had a really tough fall with a lot of guys hurt and so that's good and bad and it's allowed us to build some depth on people and get guys ready that weren't necessarily right in the mix...We are going to have to be very smart about what we do and how we do it and the other nice thing is that when the guys do get healthier and they get back in we will be a little bit stronger because of that."
2. Team-First Mentality
As unforeseeable challenges fell in the wake of the new season, every gymnast continues to see success through the efforts of the team instead of sole power performances.
"I just try to really make sure the guys put the team forward first and foremost over themselves and being one unit is going to help us work together as best possible," senior Benjamin Cooperman said.
"We don't exactly aim for a huge start value but we tend to be very clean with our lines and such," Nedoroscik added.
"I think we are off in a good position to get started with the people we have ready and that's exciting," Jepson said.
3. Consistency is Key
Instead of relying on star-studded performances, Jepson expects a consistent team effort across all events. He highlighted the team's past success on the pommel horse, but also looks forward to the possibilities of being a formidable ring team.
"We just had a practice competition on Friday," Jepson said. "They did a really good job in terms of how they hit really consistent which is what I am looking for. We don't have horses to really knock out huge scores this year so we have to hit as a team and be consistent."
4. Captain Says
At the conclusion of last season Cooperman was elected, through the team's uniting decision, to the lead of the 2018 squad. As the experienced senior suits up for his last season competing for the Blue and White, the only thing he can focus on is the team's chemistry that will hopefully motivate their season and championship goals.
"I think for us it is really just staying with each other and being confident and having that trust in one another," Cooperman said. "We had a great intrasquad the other day in practice and the energy was great and the team culture is really outstanding right now and that's kind of what is going to take us to that next level being able to confide in one another and be there for each other to get the job done."
5. Excellence in Education
Aside from their hopes for this season, the Penn State men's gymnastics team continues to impress in and out of competition. Their excellence in the classroom transgresses to their meets and events.
"I am going for electrical engineering and as one of the many engineers on the team we all strive to get that really good GPA and that helps us be disciplined in and out of the gym," Nedoroscik said.
Out of last semester's 21 student athletes, 13 of the gymnasts made Dean's List, while pursuing a number of engineering and pre-med majors.
The Nittany Lions will head to New York this weekend as they look to take on the teams representing at the West Point Open.
"The guys are excited to get out and show what they have worked all year for and get a real test in front of judges and see where they are at," Jepson said.
For more information on Nittany Lion men's gymnastics, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on the various social media platforms.
By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It has been a goal all season of Penn State head coach Coquese Washington to play the game at a high pace offensively and take advantage of fast break opportunities.
Wednesday night the Lady Lions will take on a team with a similar style of play in the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who love to run the floor and shoot 3-pointers.
"I hope it's a high scoring game, they are a team that likes to get up and down the court," Washington said. "They have four guards that can shoot the ball with tremendous range and can stretch the floor and open up driving lanes."
In a matchup that is likely to feature star guards on either side, both teams will battle for control of the game.
"I am just going to try to stay in the flow of the game, rebound so we can run," point guard Teniya Page said. "We can defend well as well as run so we just have to stay confident and we will stay right with them."
Coach Washington also believes that while shootouts can be fun, those games are won and lost on the defensive end.
"Somebody's got to get stops. So I think the team that gets the most stops has a good chance," Washington said.
While the focus on defense gets ramped up prior to potential high scoring contests, Penn State spends a lot of time working on running its break trying to give a young team more experience.
Guards primarily handle the ball in transition and Penn State has had an advantage quite a bit this year led by Page and Amari Carter. Both can push the ball up the floor and distribute as well as create their own shots.
"When (Amari) has the ball in her hands and is pushing tempo that bodes well for our team," Washington said. "We will talk about both her and Teniya running the floor and ways for them to control the pace."
The two Penn State captains both are very comfortable with the ball in their hands, and use their instincts to make the right reads.
"I have been playing basketball for a long time and I think for a lot of people those reads come naturally," Page said. "It's almost instinctive and we practice up and down a lot so it's almost second hand nature when it comes to making the right decision."
Both Carter and Page average over 15 points-per-game as well as multiple assists per contest. Feeding their teammates on the break is a big aspect of a successful transition game.
"Our bigs are another element running the floor. Everybody has to run," Washington said. "It's all about everybody getting on that horse and running at full speed."
Page is one of the few players on the Lady Lions with a lot of experience as she is now in her third year in the starting lineup as a junior. Penn State does not have on senior on its entire roster, so Page has had to use that experience to lead her team on the court.
"When I have the ball on the break I have to make the right decisions and decide when to run or not." Page said. "As a leader I am usually one of the ones who can feel the flow of the game and adjust our pace during the game."
One of the things Washington wants to work on most only comes with more practice, and that is decision making. The more comfortable the players are, the easier those decisions become.
"It's about chemistry and all about reads when running the break. The more comfortable making those reads the more effective we are, so as long as we keep working at it the more we will improve."
Washington understands moving forward how important playing at the right pace is and how this can give her team an edge. She knows not everyone will want to play quickly against her team, so her players have to be the aggressors.
"You have to be committed and disciplined and not allow the other team to set the tempo or set the pace. There are some games where we are good at that," Washington said. "That's something we've got to get better at. With a young team they have a tendency to want to go out and feel the game out, so we have to try to go out and impact the game right from the beginning."
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After an exciting and successful weekend, Penn State men's hockey returns to Pegula Ice Arena looking to extend its 10-game unbeaten streak this weekend.
For the No. 13 Nittany Lions, the matchup brings yet another exciting opportunity to build on growing momentum, taking on one of the top-ranked teams in the country in No. 6 Ohio State.
"Friday certainly is exciting, a top team in the nation coming to our barn is just a great opportunity," Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "They're playing really well and we're playing well so it should be a high quality, intense hockey game."
The two teams last met in Columbus when the Blue and White took the series in dramatic fashion. It was junior Andrew Sturtz who scored the game-tying goal with merely moments left on the clock in the third period of game one. The Nittany Lions then went on snag the extra point with a shootout win, along with three points the next night in a 4-0 victory.
Even with the impressive early December outings, Penn State is in no way preparing any differently because of how the last series ended.
"It's going to be another hard game and another hard weekend for us," freshman Evan Barratt said. "We know we played them hard and got two wins against them earlier in the year and now it's a whole new weekend. We don't look at that, we look at what's coming up here."
Ohio State is working on a streak of their own, completing three sweeps against the last three teams they have faced, including both Michigan State and Minnesota, two teams the Nittany Lions have split with in their first meetings of the season.
Not surprisingly though, Penn State is sticking to its program philosophy, focusing on improving internally to emerge successful during this upcoming series.
"We know they are a really good team, we've seen them play well against a lot of other good teams," senior captain Erik Autio said. "But I think we're still focused on our game and that's how we'll beat them this weekend."
Heading into the back stretch of the season, things can heat up quickly with the potential for postseason approaching.
Penn State currently sits just below Ohio State in Big Ten rankings at No. 3, with Notre Dame leading the conference. Although Penn State has made a point to note they don't pay much attention to any sort of rankings, it is well-known just how important the outcome of this series can be once March rolls around.
"The nature of the Big Ten and playing Big Ten teams, there's just something about it, there's a different energy in the crowd and there's a different energy on the ice - don't know why, but there just is," senior captain James Robinson said. "Let alone Ohio State, they're a team we like to beat and a team I don't like to get beaten by, so I'm sure it's going to be an amped up weekend."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State hockey fans, Saturday night seemed like an awfully familiar ending. Meeting Wisconsin for the first time since last year's historic Big Ten Championship victory, the Nittany Lions once again came through with the win.
Much like the last time out though, it was sophomore forward Liam Folkes who secured the outcome.
Under different circumstances of course, for Folkes there wasn't much to it and for Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky, it's easy - he's just a clutch kid.
Before even arriving at the shootout, Penn State had to weather its share of adversity. From playing without its top defenseman to a game-winning overtime goal that would eventually be called off, the feeling of familiarity extended further than Folkes in the final minutes of the night.
"I think that locker room prides itself on being a mentally tough team and I think they showed it," Gadowsky said. "That's a tough thing to do. We had to regroup a few times and obviously thinking that the game was over, or overtime was over, with three-and-a-half minutes to go, having to come back and play hard - I do, I give them a lot of credit."
Penn State encountered its first challenge of the night after senior defenseman Trevor Hamilton was sent off for a five-minute major and a game misconduct fewer than 20 seconds in.
Despite the less than ideal start, the Nittany Lions fought off the Wisconsin power play, quickly answering with none other than Folkes, who slipped the puck past Wisconsin's Kyle Hayton on the Penn State power play for his seventh goal of the season.
It was Gadowsky who did not leave the podium postgame without giving credit to Penn State's five defensemen who stepped up in Hamilton's absence.
"All five of them especially, that's a big effort, especially so early," Gadowsky said. "It's not like they just did it for a period, basically it was 59-and-a-half minutes. Huge effort. All of them were put in positions that they aren't normally used too. All played with new people. I think you have to give them a lot of credit."
Although the Badgers answered to tie the score, freshman forward Sam Sternschein netted the go-ahead, as the puck pinged the crossbar before going in to give Penn State the advantage.
Less than a minute into the third period, junior forward Andrew Sturtz slid the puck past Hayton just far enough for junior forward Chase Berger to finish it off to give the Nittany Lions the 3-1 lead.
Penn State maintained composure as the Badgers cut it to one with 16:17 left in regulation, but found itself headed to overtime after Wisconsin placed the equalizer past the shoulder of sophomore goalie Peyton Jones with 1:52 remaining in the third period.
The Nittany Lions came just short of ending it in overtime as Penn State's game-winner was waved off, forcing the shootout with the 3-3 tie going in the books to extend a now 10-game unbeaten streak.
It was Folkes of course who was called upon to secure the extra point. Gadowsky of course, noted postgame that the memory of last year's ending against the Badgers was on his mind.
"There's a couple of reasons, but that's one of them," Gadowsky said with a smile. "The biggest reason is he's clutch. It wasn't just Wisconsin, he would have gone no matter who we were playing, but that's part of it."
For Folkes though, recreating his heroics wasn't top of mind as he took to the ice.
"I wanted to shoot it but then I went down, faked the shot and he never bit," Folkes said. "Then obviously, I went around him and it worked out."
Seated alongside Folkes in the postgame media room was Sturtz, who found no reason for lasting disappointment in the disallowed overtime goal.
"It's obviously tough, but good teams find a way to win and that's what we did here tonight," Sturtz said. "I think we're making a lot of strides in becoming a good team and I think it's happening at the right time."
For Gadowsky, it was Penn State's ability to navigate the challenges that has him taking the most from week one back from a nearly month-long break.
"I think it was a really gutsy tie," Gadowsky said. "Obviously they came back, so it could have been a win but I'm happy with the point, especially how it started."
PARK, Pa. - Penn State sophomore Lamar
Stevens said it's his head coaches' favorite word - respond.
That's exactly what the Nittany Lions did Friday evening, bouncing back from a tough road loss at Maryland just days earlier with energy and enthusiasm.
"Sometimes after a loss like that, where you're winning for 36 minutes and you come up short, it can fracture a young team, and that's something we talked about for two days, about toughness, about will and about just taking little steps," Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers said. "We don't have to take a big, giant step. That's not how this works. Take small steps and continue to fight and compete on every possession."
Dialed in from Wednesday film session to the first whistle on Friday, Chambers had a good feeling heading into the matchup.
"You have to have a short memory when you're playing this game and that's something our team is really developing," Stevens said. "We got back to work the next day and worked even harder and for the next two days, we worked hard, so I think it was able to really show tonight."
Although leading early, Penn State found itself with a one-point advantage, 7-6, before a bucket from Stevens and a steal and score on a breakaway from freshman Jamari Wheeler sparked some momentum. Wheeler then forced a Wildcat turnover to send the Nittany Lions into the first break leading by five, 11-6.
"Jamari is just an unbelievable leader and energy guy, juice guy, competitive fire, I can't say enough about what he does for our team," Chambers said. "He's a selfless teammate and he wants to play great."
Wheeler came off the bench to dish out a season-high five assists, leading the team with three steals.
Penn State grew its advantage as high as 16 before closing out the first half with a seven-point lead, 41-34, despite a late Northwestern triple at the buzzer.
The Nittany Lions though, shot a blazing 71 percent from the floor in the first half, led by 16 points from Stevens and 11 from Mike Watkins, marking the best shooting clip in a half in 11 seasons.
"Breaking down the film from last year, I thought we were a little too stagnant on the offensive end and we made sure that wasn't going to happen," Chambers said. "We had great movement, great flow. I think Lamar [Stevens] did a great job of picking and choosing his spots. I think his teammates did a really good job of finding him."
Stevens continued to roll out of the half, opening the second frame with an alley-oop slam before a pair of Watkins free throws.
The Nittany Lions quickly fell into a three-minute scoring drought as the Wildcats chipped away at the advantage. Northwestern narrowed the gap to as few as three, 47-44, helped out by back-to-back 3-pointers with 15:08 left to play.
It was a 9-0 Nittany Lion run though that Northwestern head coach Chris Collins called the backbreaker.
Penn State's scoring streak featured a pair of Stevens dunks, capped off by a Tony Carr free throw to send the advantage back into double figures.
"Again, that 'r' word, responding with adversity," Chambers said. "Some of these kids have never truly faced adversity. Adversity is losing that game in the last four minutes at Maryland. How are you going to respond? They responded great. They cut it to three, I saw positive body language. Maryland at four minutes, I didn't see positive body language when they tied it up. This was a 3-point game, a one possession game and I saw them play with a little chip on their shoulder and that's what we're going to need now for the rest of the season."
The Wildcats answered with two consecutive treys once again but the Nittany Lions wouldn't let Northwestern any closer than six- responding to each challenge to close out the win, improving to 2-2 in conference play.
"Responding to him, it's responding to all the adversity," Stevens said when asked about his head coaches' thoughts on the word. "I think we're really starting to take shape and I think it's a credit to our leaders, Josh [Reaves] and Shep [Garner], because they control the locker room, they really help the young guys, and we're young, so they help us too, so credit to them."
Stevens would hardly take any credit for his career performance, registering his first 30-point performance, shooting 14-for-19 from the field.
Watkins also put on another consistent display with 18 points and 17 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season. Watkins stuffed his stat sheet with four blocks, shooting an impressive 5-for-6 from the field and 8-for-11 from the free throw line, also a career mark from the charity stripe.
By Tom Shively,
GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While most students had the past few weeks off for winter break, Penn State's women's basketball was hard at work. By the time classes start again, the Lady Lions will have played six games over the break, including their first four of the Big Ten season.
The team's first two opponents weren't exactly Christmas gifts, as the Lady Lions drew then-No. 19 Michigan and then-No. 14 Maryland. Yet, despite not quite being able to pull off the upsets, those games certainly provided insight into what the team needs to build on in the future.
"It definitely sets the tone," head coach Coquese Washington said. "To start off with two of the best teams in the conference, it gives us a measuring stick for how we need to improve going forward."
With the coming of 2018, the Lady Lions look to have turned over a new leaf as well, picking up their first conference win over Indiana. With the team finally healthy, Washington views this next stretch of games as a potential turning point in terms of building up team chemistry.
"We've had a lot of people in and out of the lineup with injuries, and we're not where we wanted to be when the season started," Washington said. "We've had everybody back for about two weeks now. I wish we had that training camp right now, but we'll make it work."
One of the bright spots so far for the Lady Lions has been freshman forward Alisia Smith, who picked up her first career double-double in the Dec. 20 game at American with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Smith is averaging 4.6 points and 3.6 rebounds on the year, and has appeared to take that next step towards understanding college basketball and thriving in this environment.
"It's getting easier to play, and everything is starting to slow down now. I'm starting to get a better feel of how it is on defense, especially in man-to-man because the girls are really fast," Smith said "Coach always told me that starting in January, things are going to get slower. It's all just starting to make sense now."
Smith credits a lot of her development to junior Jaylen Williams, who plays a similar role on the team to Smith and has the maturity to draw off of to help Smith transition to the college game.
"She plays more than me so she has that experience. I just looked for her to help me be comfortable and things like that," Smith said.
The American game wasn't the only notable one for Smith over the holidays, as the trip to Michigan allowed the Lansing native to return home and play in front of her family.
The game reminded her of her younger days playing basketball with her support network in attendance, as well as giving her time to reflect on the influences she had in her life that led to her playing college basketball.
"I would credit my dad for everything, without him I wouldn't really be playing basketball. He taught me all the fundamentals and keys to basketball and how to get better," she said. "I had a lot of family come out to support me that day and it was a lot like a high school game where I just felt comfortable."
That game, as well as the two following home games, provided a window into the challenges facing Smith in the Big Ten, but she's not one to shy away from a great opportunity.
"I'm expecting a lot of players that are stronger and more physical, but I'm just looking forward to be able to see how it is going up against those players," Smith said. "It's very important to mentally prepare for what the opponents have to offer going against me."
"The game is starting to slow down for her, she has that ability to get to the foul line and make free throws. She's getting tough inside on defense as well and starting to get some tough boards," Washington said "She's fast in the full-court and the half court. Her speed in the post is something we really value. There's just so many things that you're going to see night in and night out. For her to be at that comfort level playing in Big Ten competition, she's coming along."
Smith and the Lady Lions hit the road again on Saturday to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Tip-off is set for 4:30 p.m.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just a few days separate Penn State women's gymnastics from returning to action its season opener, which kicks off Saturday, Jan. 6 in Rec Hall.
"It's been really exciting, we've been working really hard since I took over in May and since the girls have been back on campus since August," head coach Sarah Brown said. "Each step of the way, they continue to buy in and we continue to push a little bit harder each month. Since we've been back from Christmas break, December 27th, we hit the ground running and I feel like we're going to be ready right at the right time. I'm really looking forward to the first meet of the year."
For the first time since the 2016 campaign, the Nittany Lions will open the year with back-to-back home events. With the staff dialing up the pressure in practice ahead of the opener, Brown is confident Penn State will be ready to go when the moment arrives.
Saturday's home opener also features an opportunity for fans to pick up a schedule poster as well as meet the team for autographs. Before heading out to Rec Hall, check out five things to know ahead of Brown's first season at the helm of the Nittany Lions.
Since arriving on campus in May, a top priority of Brown's was getting to know the Nittany Lions on a deeper level. Together, they've done everything from team bonding activities to community service and team meals. Providing key opportunities to get eachother, for Brown, heading out on the road will also provide a few additional occasions to grow closer as a team once the season gets underway.
"They're just a fun group of girls," Brown said. "They really care about this university, they care about their sport and they work really hard. It's been fun getting to know them in the gym, but also outside of the gym. We've taken part in some community service events like Toys for Tots and since we've been back from break, we did fun things like an Escape Room and meals at my house and I feel like I've had an opportunity to get to know them outside of the gym."
Back at Home
Excitement is high when it comes to returning to Rec Hall. The Nittany Lions will host Eastern Michigan in a nonconference opener before jumping right into Big Ten action with Nebraska up next. With the return looming, returning to competition has been the total focus as the days tick closer to meet day. Penn State will have the opportunity to test out the new atmosphere, hosting one practice in Rec Hall before the opener arrives.
"We've just been working so hard for this moment," Brown said. "Ever since we started this year and we've had squad 54 together, we've known that it's come down to this weekend. We're really looking forward to kicking the year off strong. I think we're going to do well and I also think we're going to continue to build as the season continues. We're going to continue to build depth at each event and I think the girls are going to be ready at the right time.
Looking at the Big Ten
For Brown, there's no surprises when it comes to the Big Ten, with the Huskers slated for week two, opening up a four-meet swing of all Big Ten opponents. With a total of seven conference teams ranked with the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches/Women (NACGC/W) Preseason Coaches' Poll, Brown is well aware of the strength of the conference.
"It's a strong conference, I think anything can happen and I think it's a long season so we're looking forward to starting off consistent and strong and then continuing to build on that, but also maintaining that level of consistency as we head into the Big Ten Championships in March," Brown said.
Among leadership across the team, Brown was quick to point to lone senior Briannah Tsang as one of the team's most consistent leaders headed into the season. Tsang, who placed 11th in the women's artistic gymnastics all-around final at the World University Games, returns having earned first team All-Big Ten honors in 2016 and 2017.
"She's just a work horse for us in the gym and she's also really good at connecting with the athletes on a one-on-one level, so I've been really impressed with that," Brown said.
Brown also noted though that she and the staff isn't striving for a one leader only type of atmosphere, instead opting to encourage each individual to try and be a leader in their own way.
An NCAA Regional Site
Looking way ahead, Penn State is one of six NCAA regional sites, which ultimately lead to the NCAA Championships. Only the top 36 teams in the final Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) standings will advance to the NCAA Regionals, which kick off on April 7 in Happy Valley. Penn State is one of six NCAA Regional sites.
"It's definitely on our minds," Brown said. "It's something we talk about quite frequently, we're very excited for that. We know that we have to do our job throughout the season in order to be a high seed at that regional and we want to be able to do well throughout the season so we can peak at that time."
By Andy Kuros, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's not often a player is unanimously voted to be a team captain after hardly seeing the ice the season before.
This was the case for Penn State forward James Robinson, who saw his sophomore season cut short after he suffered a season-ending injury in the season opener.
"I'm not going to lie, it was tough," Robinson said.
After a productive freshman campaign where he appeared in 32 games registering eight points with a plus-three rating, the setback represented a huge blow to not only Robinson, but the team.
Although he faced obstacles and hardships throughout his recovery, Robinson was determined to bounce back, crediting numerous others for helping him overcome his injury and allowing him to make a comeback.
"I had great support from the school and all my teammates, which made it a lot easier," Robinson said.
Despite the loss of his sophomore season, Robinson was still voted by teammates to serve as a Nittany Lion alternate captain as a junior. The selection of course, was a testament to his incredible work ethic and resiliency.
Fellow teammate and forward Andrew Sturtz, who was a freshman at the time, praised Robinson for the way he dealt with his injury.
"When he got sidelined, we saw how good of a leader he was," Sturtz said. "He handled himself very well and his attitude never changed. That says a lot about him as a player and a person."
For Sturtz, it was the way Robinson rebounded from injury that proved to his teammates the type of leadership qualities he has.
Following a solid season his junior year, Robinson once again got picked by his teammates to lead the team, this time as a Penn State hockey captain.
"It's an incredible honor and I'm extremely humbled," Robinson stated.
Now a senior with his injury in the rear-view mirror, Robinson is stronger than ever. He has already matched a career high in assists and is on his way to setting a new personal best in goals scored.
Robinson notched three goals in a 7-5 win over Mercyhurst earlier this year, marking just the fifth hat trick in school history.
Despite having his best season yet, his contributions to the team on game day go far beyond the stat sheet.
Head Coach Guy Gadowsky talked about a few of the intangibles Robinson brings to the ice.
"He's our identity," Gadowsky said. "The way he plays is how we want the rest of our team to play. His attributes suit our team perfectly."
Gadowsky pointed to Robinson's hard-nosed and physical play as the epitome of Penn State hockey.
"He crashes the net and forechecks extremely hard," Gadowsky said. "He wants to set an example for the rest of the team."
"I just want to demonstrate what Penn State hockey is all about." Robinson said.
Sturtz, who has played with Robinson for three years and has been his line mate for the majority of this season, raved about skating alongside him.
"He's a great guy to play with," Sturtz said. "He loves to go to the front of the net and play with a hard-nosed style."
When asked about how he best contributes throughout games, Robinson mentioned his tough-minded play.
"I like to think my work ethic gives guys confidence and energy," Robinson said.
Even with his great performance of late, Robinson may be an even better leader and role model.
The fourth-year Nittany Lion takes pride in his role as captain, making it a point to do whatever he can to help the team.
"I want to be a good teammate," Robinson said. "I try to build relationships with everyone. I'm not overly vocal, but instead I like to lead by example."
Robinson, better known as "Jimmy Pucks," by his teammates and coaches is honored to lead the team.
"Being captain is very important to me, especially for such a great program like Penn State," Robinson said.
For Gadowsky, he has nothing but respect for Robinson's leadership style.
"I really respect how Jimmy leads," Gadowsky said. "When he talks, people listen to what he has to say. He's a very good team representative."
For Sturtz, his leadership extends in other areas outside the ice.
"He does a great job leading in the classroom, weight room and of course on the ice," Sturtz said.
Robinson's leadership was on display in Penn State's 5-2 win over Robert Morris, in Penn State's final series before a nearly month-long break.
Following a questionable call that didn't go Penn State's way, Robinson calmly took initiative in trying to get an explanation from the referees.
"I was looking to get clarification on the call. I wanted to relay the call to the team," Robinson explained. "An open line of communication with the referees is important."
For Gadowsky, Robinson's methods for handling himself with officials is key.
"He does a really good job in communicating with referees," Gadowsky said. "I have received multiple compliments from referees about his great conduct and leadership. Robinson is very well respected by coaches and referees."
Robinson's leadership is of course paramount, providing a veteran presence for what is a bit of a younger team. With less than five seniors on the roster, Penn State must rely on its underclassman, making Robinson's reliability and guidance toward younger Nittany Lions crucial.
"His leadership is really important for us because we only have four seniors," Gadowsky said. "He knows the in's and out's of the team and shows the younger guys how to play the game the right way."
With a strong-willed nature and a trustworthy voice of guidance, Robinson's resilient character doesn't even tell the whole story.
Every good team needs an even better leader. A leader who is reliable and hardworking, inspires confidence in his teammates and is well respected both in the locker room and on the ice.
For Penn State, it has all it needs in its senior captain and the Nittany Lions are without a doubt they are lucky to have him.
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