February 2018 Archives
Penn State welcomed THON's Four Diamonds families through the doors of the Lasch Football building for a fun-filled afternoon of games and ice cream.
"It's awesome to be able to bring a smile to a kid," former Nittany Lion Nate Stupar said. "The feeling around this building today was so amazing with these kids, high energy. The environment was awesome. For them to be able to see the facility, what we did when we were here playing football, it was really fun."
Several staff members and a few former Nittany Lions in NFL cheerfully greeted the families in the locker room before breaking to explore.
Stupar (New Orleans Saints) joined Anthony Zettel (Detroit Lions), Jesse James
(Pittsburgh Steelers) and Super Bowl Champion Stefen Wisniewski (Philadelphia Eagles) for the afternoon, taking time to sign autographs before a group picture.
"This is what Penn State's all about," James said. "There's not a better time to be in Happy Valley than during THON. I'm happy they invited me to come back and be involved."
Check in with Wisniewski for a quick look at a few of his thoughts following the Super Bowl victory.
By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State stretches its unbeaten streak to four games after a series sweep of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) this weekend. Following a 4-1 victory Friday night, the Nittany Lions put together another solid performance on Saturday afternoon with a 2-0 victory.
"I thought we played well from the get-go," head coach Jeff Kampersal said after the 2-0 win. "We started a lot faster today than yesterday."
After being shutout in the first period of game one, Penn State came out firing in game two, scoring a goal on 14 shots in the opening frame. Sophomore forward Abby Welch put the Blue and White on the board, scoring her second goal of the season with five minutes left in the frame.
Freshman Natalie Heising did her part on offense this weekend, as well. The Minnesota native scored the team's first two goals Friday night after Penn State fell behind by a goal early in the first period. She gave the team a much-needed spark.
"I just try to get pucks to the net," Heising said. "It doesn't have to be pretty but I just try getting pucks to the net and getting rebounds and taking shots. We had 39 shots and four goals so I'd say that's pretty good."
Heising, who is the team's leader in goals (14) and total points (23), scored one more on Saturday, as she extended the Nittany Lions' lead to two with 7:27 remaining in the game. Her three-goal weekend gives her fourteen on the season, which ranks sixth overall in the College Hockey America Conference.
Heising wasn't the only Penn Stater to shine this weekend. Senior goalie Hannah Ehresmann did her job in keeping RIT out of the scoring column.
"Defensively we didn't give up a lot of shots, but we did give up a few grade A opportunities," Kampersal said. "The times that we did break down, Hannah (Ehresmann) was there to shut the door, like she has been all season."
Ehresmann stopped a combined 33 shots against RIT this weekend and even registered her second shutout of the year in the second game of the series.
"I was seeing the puck really well and my defense helped me out a lot," Ehresmann said. "They made shots easier for me to see which made the game simpler for me overall."
Kampersal spoke highly about the performance of his goaltender, who improved her record to 7-8-9 on the year.
"When all else fails and they got a breakaway, Hannah came up big with a save" Kampersal said. "She's been big for us all year."
Thanks to the great play of Heising and Ehresmann, the Blue and White push their record to 8-13-11 overall on the season, and 4-6-7 in the College Hockey America Conference.
Looking ahead, the Nittany Lions will host Lindenwood University at the Pegula Ice Arena in the regular season finale before beginning the conference tournament. Penn State last played Lindenwood on the road in January which resulted in a series split. Puck drop is Friday evening at 2 p.m.
By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Penn State put on an excellent display of offensive efficiency in a four-set win against Sacred Heart (25-15, 27-29, 25-21, 25-18) at Rec Hall to move to 2-0 in EIVA play.
The win Friday night ended a two-game skid against the Pioneers. Throughout the week, the Nittany Lions mentioned there would be some extra motivation after one of those losses last season was a sweep at home.
"We mentioned it once during the huddle before first serve, but it wasn't like it'd be our focus," setter Luke Braswell said. "Playing with revenge only lasts for about the first five points and then after that you're just playing volleyball."
Braswell finished the match with five digs and 42 assists, as a masterful facilitator of Penn State's offense that hit .370 as a team for the match.
Friday night also saw Penn State's star right side hitter Calvin Mende return to the court after missing several weeks with a sprained right ankle.
Mende was understandably a bit rusty offensively early on in the match, but he began to find his groove beginning in the third set. He finished with 12 of his 14 kills for the match (.440 hitting percentage) in sets three and four. Mende picked up seemingly right where he left off, particularly effective in the back row too, where he tallied a team-high eight digs.
"Basically, the whole week was shaking off rust, getting my jump back, getting my swing back and trying to get as many reps as possible for this," Mende said. "At practice the speed is a little different, but as the game wore on, I just kind of got in a rhythm."
Having Mende back on the right side allowed Jalen Penrose to move back to the second middle blocker spot and add another big arm up front. Penrose did not have his best offensive outing in his first match back at middle blocker, but he did add four aces from behind the service line.
Aidan Albrecht and Matt McLaren led the way for Penn State offensively. Albrecht finished with 14 kills (.308 hitting percentage), while McLaren posted 13 kills (.435 hitting percentage). They also combined for three service aces.
Penn State had nine team service aces for the match. While the Nittany Lions did commit 11 service errors in the lone set it lost, they regularly forced Sacred Heart out of system, preventing the Pioneers from running their offense.
"I think our serving really won the match for us," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "They could not get any type of offensive rhythm going. They were so aware of our block that we had some easier balls to play. It was a lot more good than bad."
Penn State's offensive balance was off the charts as well, with Albrecht, Mende and McLaren all totaling at least 13 kills.
"It makes it easier for me, obviously, when I have a lot of guys who can put balls away," Braswell said. "Four of the five hitters hit over .300, which is insane. It is really nice for me to be able to set and watch these guys put it away."
Penn State will be right back at it Saturday afternoon, taking on the Harvard Crimson in Rec Hall's south gym at 4 p.m. to cap off the weekend.
By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "I went to THON my freshman year and just kind of fell in love with it," said Tess Kearns.
That moment was the start of something special for the Penn State track and field student-athlete.
Kearns is the now head THON chair for the Student-Athlete Advisory Board, SAAB, and she has been involved with the organization since coming here as a freshman.
"My freshman year, I came in and really wanted to be a part of SAAB. It was definitely something that was very attractive to me. So, then they gave me the role of planning our first ever lip-sync battle three years ago. All of the money ended up going to THON. I just kind of threw myself right into it," Kearns said.
Kearns knew she wanted to follow in her older sister's footsteps. Her sister was the head THON chair for the club cross country team here at Penn State.
"My sister went here, and she was really involved with THON. She was on the club cross country team and she was their head THON chair, so I was always hearing her talk about it," Kearns said.
But Kearns has a more emotional reason for being a part of this organization. Kearns said she hasn't been affected by childhood cancer, but she has been affected by cancer itself.
"I've never been personally affected by childhood cancer but growing up my dad did have cancer when he was 33. Not childhood cancer, but he was still pretty young. Cancer has always had a place in my heart, I just always want to help as much as I can," she said.
Kearns found herself shadowing Angela Widlacki, who was the head THON chair for SAAB last year. Now, Kearns is the head chair for SAAB and works alongside co-chair and football player Charlie Shuman. Kearns and Shuman are in charge of organization all the THON fundraising efforts for SAAB.
"We do the lip-sync battle, a pie in the face contest, our annual auction. So, a bunch of teams donate stuff and we auction it off online. I think this year we made almost $5,500 on it. We did an assassin game this year, we did a bake sale, and a lot of small fundraisers through athletics," Kearns said. "We sold programs in the fall at the football games, and we did some sustainability stuff with the Penn State Tailgate Ambassadors, so kind of dabbled in a little bit of everything."
Although juggling both track and field and being the head chair for THON on SAAB can be time consuming, Kearns expresses how much Shuman and her collaborate to make sure the job gets done.
"I can tag team with him. So, when one of us can't do something, the other one picks up the slack," Kearns said. "It works well. We make it work. It's time consuming, but it's worth it." He's done so much this year. I wouldn't be able to do what I do without Charlie."
Kearns is also in charge of leading Athlete Hour, which is a special hour that kids at THON get to come interact with athletes.
"Every year on Saturday we rent out the Tennis Center or the IM building, and we set up booths with fun simple games. The kids come over from the Bryce Jordan Center and we play around and have fun," Kearns said. "They love it. There's a DJ and people are dancing and playing games. They get to interact with athletes which is really fun for them."
Seeing the kids play with all of the athletes is one of Kearns's favorite parts about THON. She also loves how this organization brings so many people together for one goal.
"Within athletics, it's such a big organization. We are all going at different speeds all year round but when THON does come around and we get 18 teams up on stage for pep rally, all fighting for one cause and we get 22 teams at Athlete Hour to dance around with the kids. To see that sense of community and love and that you are all fighting for one single goal, is just amazing," Kearns said.
That community and love will be felt throughout Happy Valley this weekend, and Kearns will be a big part of it.
By Briana Zuccarelli, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa- After a one-goal loss in their season opener against the Towson Tigers, the Penn State Nittany Lions women's lacrosse team learned the key parts of their game they need to work on heading into the remainder of the season.
were a lot of question marks that we are continuing to fill," head coach Missy
Doherty said. "We graduated half of our starting lineup and most of that was on
the defensive end. A lot of that requires experience playing in some tough
games, dealing with different situations that come about. We had to go through
those during the Towson game."
Due to the changes in the game day schedule requirements, the Nittany Lions were unable to play a game before February 9th and had to jump right into playing a ranked Towson. Doherty explained how this change shifted the teams schedule and didn't give them the opportunity to put a scrimmage in.
"Obviously anytime you're going into a season with a younger team, you want to have that experience," Doherty said, on how an exhibition game could have helped her team. "That being said, we had a lot of learning lessons in our first game."
With losing half of their starting lineup, mostly on the defensive end, the Nittany Lions had to start some young players who have never played in a collegiate game before the matchup last Saturday. Doherty explained that they played around with the lineup during the game in order to find their best defensive unit and will continue working on finding it.
"We were starting a young goalkeeper and starting a new round of defense," said Doherty. "As the game started to progress and we kept going through the game, we kept getting better and better; started to make some defensive stops, started making some big goals and we fought the entire game. We almost scraped our way back to tying it up there in the end, so I like to see the fight."
As the team prepares for the upcoming matchup against Lehigh in Saturday, February 17th, junior Madison Carter expressed that the team is taking the loss as a learning lesson to help the team bounce back.
"As a team I think we can do a better job at taking care of the ball," Cater said. "We kind of had a lot of turnovers. So being confident with the ball and what we're doing on the field. We need to execute all over the field from every single person on the field to people that come off the bench; we need to work together."
While some Nittany Lions are still gaining experience on the field, the game Saturday will provide a familiar opponent for the Penn State program. The Nittany Lions are 25-0 all-time against Lehigh, including wins three straight years.
Carter and senior Katie O'Donnell combined for nine goals in last year's win over the Mountain Hawks, and the team will look to repeat that performance.
No matter what the final outcome is on Saturday, Penn State is ready to gain experience, keep improving, and see where this season takes them.
By Brian McLaughlin, Student Staff Writer GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSTIY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State softball team opened its 2018 campaign last week on a trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama. Though they dropped the two games they played, one to the Alabama Crimson Tide and the other to the Virginia Tech Hokies, and the remaining three games of the road trip were cancelled due to inclement weather, the team still took away positives from the trip.
The team returned to State College following the road trip and had their preseason media day, here are some takeaways.
"Opening weekend was disappointing only in the fact that they had more rain in three days than they've had in 32 years according to their local news," Lehotak said.
"In the softball we did play I really liked what I saw, loved the attitude and the energy from our team. The attitude we brought was great and makes me really excited for this year," Lehotak said. "We still have 54 games left, it's about getting better every weekend and not about winning a national championship opening weekend."
2. Solid pitching kept it close against Virginia Tech
Jessica Cummings started both games for the Nittany Lions and went seven and a third innings total surrendering five earned runs and eight total on the weekend. The Virginia Tech game saw her hold the Hokies scoreless in six of the game's seven innings.
Cummings was stellar for us against Virginia Tech. She got really big for us at
a few different moments," Lehotak said. "She had a great weekend overall and
really kept Alabama off balance. For her mental stability to stay calm and to
come back after the tough loss to Alabama and pitch well against Virginia tech
shows where she is at mentally."
3. Dr. Ohlson making an impact with the team
This August Penn State athletics welcomed Dr. Carl Ohlson as its assistant athletic director for performance psychology services. Ohlson has been especially instrumental for the softball program, while also working with all the other teams within the athletic department. His main objective with the program is developing and executing innovative strategies to maximize the athletic performance and general well-being of Penn State's 800 student-athletes.
"Dr. Ohlson does a great job at doing team work and individual work. Right before we left he actually asked all of us what our greatest fear was going into the first game." sophomore Destiny Weber said. "By recognizing and addressing our fear we realized it really wasn't a fear and we could go forward confidently and try to get a W."
"His ability to touch the coaching staff and bring everyone together on the same language and the same page is huge," Lehotak said. "His ability to give us a common language has been instrumental for us and other teams as well."
4. Preparing for Big Ten/ACC Challenge
"We had a really good fight against Virginia Tech in the second game and are excited to play them again this weekend," Lehotak said.
Outside of a Virginia Tech rematch, the Nittany Lions will also take on the Duke Blue Devils in their program's inaugural season, in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Blue Devils finished 2-3 in their first weekend of play, while Virginia Tech is 3-2 on the young season.
5. Doesn't matter, get better
Penn State is coming into this year with the attitude that no matter what happens on the field the goal is to improve every time they are on the diamond. They feel this is the best way to have success and the best attitude throughout the long season.
"It is a lot of fun to play for Penn State and we take a lot of pride wearing Penn State across our chest. When you put on the blue and white uniform, it is easy to focus in on what we need to do because we know what we are playing for," Weber said. "We focus on getting better each day and each game, which will come with taking things one pitch at a time."
The Nittany Lions will look to use that attitude for not only success this weekend, but in weeks to come.
By Brian McLaughlin, Student Staff Writer GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Lady Lions enter a rare week off from play and the opportunity to have some fun off the court this weekend with Penn State's 46-hour long dance-marathon THON looming, this Friday to Sunday in the Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State's campus.
THON, which is student-run and raises money to fight childhood cancer, has what is called "athlete hour" every year in which student-athletes get to energize the crowd with performances on stage. Because THON falls during the basketball season, the Lady Lions are not always able to participate, but the last few years the schedule has fallen perfectly and allowed the team to participate in this life-altering event.
"The energy that THON brings to the building is incredible and thankfully we're not on the road this year," head coach Coquese Washington said. "Our kids get to experience this and be a part of athlete hour and be a part of the whole weekend. I know they are excited to participate and just feel the energy of the whole weekend."
In 2017 the Lady Lions showed off their moves in front of a packed Bryce Jordan Center, highlighted by solo moves by then freshman Siyeh Frazier. Sarah McMurtry also showed off, with the worm dance move in front of her teammates.
"All the students of different backgrounds I think is what got me going so much," Frazier said. "Regardless of race or what was going on today we were able to all come together and celebrate and do something great for a great cause. I'm not really an outgoing person and I wouldn't do that on a regular basis so I guess I was so into it that it just happened with all the people around and the energy it just happened."
A huge part of THON is the community it creates between the students as Frazier explained. Washington believes that is one of the best parts for her team.
"THON is an unbelievable experience. I think one of the strength of the Penn State community and one of the things that makes Penn State so unique is its commitment to community service, commitment to giving back and commitment to connecting others. THON is just an extremely vibrant example of that commitment and for our students to be a part of that and experience it on such a big scale is really meaningful for them," Washington said. "It's things like THON in your college life that when you reflect 10 years later those are the moments you go back to, things like getting to dance at THON. Those are the memories and experiences that make being a college athlete and being a college student at Penn State so special."
The Lady Lions will once again have the chance to dance during the athlete hour, but don't have any concrete plans yet, or at least none they will divulge.
"We've talked about this year's a little bit but we do have some stuff we are getting ready, but nothing huge yet," Frazier said.
"We don't have a ton of time to plan it like some other teams, but hopefully we can bring energy and excitement to the stage," sophomore guard Amari Carter said. "Last year the gymnastics team was so good, they were doing flips and other crazy stuff."
Don't expect that much out of the Lady Lions however, Carter has a much different style.
"No way I don't flip, or skip or really anything. The only time I'm in the air is straight up like for a rebound. Only normal vertical jumps for me," Carter said.
"Nobody on our team surprised me with their dance moves, they are a bunch of hams. You turn that camera and music on and the Lady Lions will start that dance party for you. They have an affinity for being engaged and involved in THON," Washington added.
While the dance moves are a fun part of the weekend, the team knows it's all for a bigger cause.
"I've been fortunate enough at times to be here during THON and when you look out and see thousands of people dancing and having a good time and bringing attention and awareness to a cause it gives you chills," she added. "To know you are part of a community of students that find this important and keep the dream living on is really impressive."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When Penn State sophomore Tony Carr subbed out of the game with 1:27 left on the clock, an energized Bryce Jordan Center crowd stood up to roar.
With the Nittany Lions inches from completing their second series sweep against Ohio State in the Patrick Chambers era, it's a moment Carr will never forget.
In front of nearly 11,000 clad in white, Carr powered Penn State past No. 8/9 Ohio State for a 79-56 victory. It's the fourth straight for Penn State, moving the Nittany Lions to 19-9 on the year and 9-6 in conference play.
"Life is all about memories and moments like that," Carr said following his fourth 30-point performance of the season. "I just want to cherish it."
Long before hordes of students stormed the court in a postgame frenzy, the buzz in the BJC was clearly palpable. Penn State students poured into their seats as early as an hour before the first whistle, quickly spilling into every available overflow section.
Even Chambers noticed. Something special was about to go down.
Trailing 4-2 early in the game, Penn State wasted little time getting fired up, using a 15-2 run capped off by Carr's second triple of the night to jump ahead by as many as 11, 17-6.
The Nittany Lions then widened their advantage to as many as 14, holding Ohio State's Keita Bates-Diop without a single point until the clock ticked down to the 7:45 mark in the first half.
The Buckeyes managed to trim the deficit to nine, 25-16, but Penn State confidently answered with a 7-0 run punctuated by back-to-back triples from Carr and junior Josh Reaves.
"It was important to keep our confidence that way," Chambers said. "We talked about one possession. Don't think about the end result, don't think about when the buzzer's going to go off. Think about the next possession. Take care of the possession that's in front of us and that's all you can control."
The Nittany Lions would not be derailed, using a 13-2 run spanning nearly four minutes to close out the first half with a 24-point lead, 45-21.
It was Carr who sent the crowd into pure pandemonium, snatching the ball from mid-air off a Reaves baseline heave before crashing to the ground in between a pair of fallen Buckeyes to see the ball fall through the hoop for the and-1. He nailed the free throw attempt with one second left on the clock.
THE FEED. THE FINISH. 😱@jreaves23 looks like @McSorley_IX out there with the pass, and @PennStateMBB's @Tone10Carr beats the buzzer for a #BTNStandout Presented by @Discover. pic.twitter.com/U1h8iSCWSO-- Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 16, 2018
"We go over that play sometimes but it never ends like that," Carr said. "That was crazy. I heard coach yell so I knew Josh was going to throw it, but everything just worked out perfectly that play."
Penn State went 5-for-10 from 3-point range in the first half, with Ohio State headed into the locker room at 0-for-7.
"Everybody really contributed to really slowing down Ohio State," Chamber said. "I've seen them score in bunches and the game is over like that. For us to really draw that line in the sand and really defend and guard those guys is big for our confidence."
The Nittany Lions held the Buckeyes to a season-low 56 points, keeping Bates-Diop to 10 points and Jae'Sean Tate to six.
The mark in the sand went from a line to a trench as The Nittany Lions quickly bolstered the lead to as many as 30 out of the break. Penn State would only strengthen its defensive grip, wihtout letting the lead dip below 16 for the remainder of the second half.
"When the pieces come together it's fun to be a part of, it's fun to watch," Chambers said.
There's no denying Penn State has endured its fair share of challenges throughout the year, but for Chambers, Thursday marks one more step.
"Early in the season we took some hits," Chambers said. "We learned from failure. We really did. We learned from those setbacks on how to respond to those situations, on how to respond to adversity. You can see it in our guys' body language and in our faces. They were just so determined tonight not to let them back in it in the second half."
By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Nittany Lions prepare to host Buffalo Sunday, the seniors are also ready for their final dual meet in a Penn State singlet at Rec Hall.
Ahead of a special ceremony planned to honor the eight Nittany Lion wrestlers set to depart the program, Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson took just a moment to reflect on the group.
"This has been a special class," Sanderson said. "These guys have had a lot of success in their career but it's a little strange because senior day is the national tournament really. Hopefully Saturday night is the last match and that's kind of our mindset, but at the same time you have to take a second and reflect, and we are very grateful for the seniors and their leadership and the example they've set."
For Sanderson, the real time to reflect comes roughly a month after the season at the team's end of the year banquet following the NCAA national championship. When asked about a few individuals in the class though, Sanderson spoke to imprint the Nittany Lions would leave behind when the time arrives.
Two-time NCAA champion Zain Retherford is among the eight Nittany Lion wrestling seniors.
"Zain's brought everything," Sanderson said. "He has been a great example, he's a tenacious competitor, consistent. Every day he has been in here he's giving us his best and he does the same thing in the classroom. Socially he has been a great leader. Very rarely do you have all those things align in a leader and we've been fortunate the last five years to have Zain in the program. He's been a special one."
For Retherford, it isn't just the success he will remember when his Penn State career comes to a close in mid-March.
"(I'll remember) the relationships I've made with the team, my teammates, with my coaches here and outside of that, with the student body too," Retherford said. "The time I've had here, the experiences, the places we've gotten to travel, I'll just remember all the experiences. I think that will be the biggest thing."
Throughout his career, Retherford has lost just three matches and enters the weekend three pins away from eclipsing the Penn State career falls record. During his time at Penn State, the three-time All-American has always been keen on keeping his focus locked in on the task at hand, taking things one day at a time.
"If you look too far ahead or focus too much on the past results and things that have happened, you don't really compete as well," Retherford said. "I think that's just something I've learned about myself. I compete my best when I'm focusing on the next task at hand. That's what is true to me, so I'm just going to focus on what's ahead."
For someone like junior Nick Nevills, he's learned so much from his senior teammate, but perhaps the most from his work ethic.
"I've never been around somebody that has ever worked this hard and somebody who has pushed himself to a different level," Nevills said. "It's laser-like focus, it's almost unreal. It seems like when it's time to focus, he's a robot, where he can just tune everything out except for what he's doing in the moment. It's pretty cool, but he can also just switch it right back to relaxing and having fun the second we're done with practice. He can put a huge smile on his face and make anyone else on the team laugh."
Penn State will also celebrate the contributions of Matt McCutcheon within its senior group. Although he hasn't been on the mat much this season, his impact and legacy is greater than what the fans might see from the outside looking in.
"Matt has been one of my all-time favorite people in the program," Sanderson said. "He's just a great leader and everybody trusts him. He's a great competitor - this year he's just banged up. Just a great individual, a kid that you would trust with anything and an honest kid. I don't know if there's a better compliment than that, he's an honest, hardworking kid. He means enough to us that he has been with us everywhere and will be through the remainder of the year."
Both McCutcheon and Retherford will join fellow seniors Jered Cortez, Corey Keener, Carson Kuhn, Devon Van Cura, Ethan Wissler and Kenny Yanovich in Rec Hall for one last time, Sunday at 2 p.m.
Sanderson noted whoever starts at 197 pounds Sunday will most likely get the nod to represent the Nittany Lions in the postseason. Both Anthony Cassar and Shakur Rasheed have battled for impressive wins this season, leaving Sanderson with a tough decision that he's yet to make.
By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State is off to a 1-0 start in EIVA play following a road win at Saint Francis last weekend. The Nittany Lions will be back home at Rec Hall this weekend for an EIVA home-opening series against Sacred Heart and Harvard.
For Penn State, Sacred Heart is particularly an enticing matchup, considering the outcomes of its two matches last season against the Pioneers. Although Penn State won the EIVA, Sacred Heart defeated the Nittany Lions both times they met last season.
"It should grab our attention and hold our respect for them," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "They've worked really hard to get where they are as a program. Our guys certainly shouldn't underestimate them coming in because they are a team that can be dangerous and they proved it to us last year."
Prior to the season-opener, Penn State made it a team goal to finish undefeated in the EIVA this year. While Sacred Heart provides perhaps some extra motivation after the results of last year's two matches, Penn State acknowledges every EIVA opponent as a challenge.
"We've been the top team in this conference, so we've always had that target on our backs but what we try to do every match, as a whole, is just look at every EIVA match as the same," middle blocker Kevin Gear said.
With right side Calvin Mende still out, Matt McLaren has continued to step up for the Nittany Lions. At Saint Francis, he finished with 12 kills and three service aces in the three set sweep. While McLaren's production has continued to increase throughout the last few games, his coaches and teammates have not been surprised by his emergence this season.
"You've heard the phrase from every coach to 'practice like you play,'" Pavlik said. "What you see out there with [McLaren] on Fridays and Saturdays, we see Monday through Thursday. There's no difference."
McLaren's teammates only echoed the words of Pavlik.
"We've kind of been looking at [McLaren] these last couple of weeks as the standard because he's one of those guys that everything he does in practice, you see him do in the match," Gear said. "There's no doubt in our mind what we're going to get from him. Every single time he's going to do what he needs to do."
Jalen Penrose also noted how McLaren has been both a terrific offensive option on the court this season, and a teammate who leads by example.
"He has brought everything," Penrose said. "If you watch the matches, you can see that he has this tenacious effort where it is everything or nothing and to him it's always everything. I love it, and it really helps fire us up a lot."
Similar to his teammate, both McLaren and Gear are two of the more quiet leaders on the team. Preferring to lead by example, both have been two of the most consistent Nittany Lions on the team this season.
"I bring what I can to the table every day," Gear said. "I'm not that talkative but I like to feel that through my actions I come in and do the work that my teammates need me to do and keep everybody on track."Penn State will lean on the leadership of McLaren and Gear once again this weekend, kicking things off with Sacred Heart Friday at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall. Penn State closes out the weekend against Harvard at 4 p.m. in Rec Hall's south gym.
Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After three consecutive high-scoring meets, the Nittany Lions are making significant strides as they reach midseason. Most recently, Penn State faced Ohio State, posting the team's highest score of the season with a 196.025, in addition to tallying its second-highest score of the season on the floor exercise (49.075).
"Ohio state was a turning point for our program," head coach Sarah Brown said. "I thought we handled ourselves very well under pressure, and in a really loud and energetic environment that will be similar to postseason. I think what we've been trying to do is practice like we compete and compete like we practice. So I think it's a balance between coming into the gym and trying to create pressure situations where we can try to simulate the meet, but then when we get to the meet my number one goal is to make it feel like practice, so trying to control those nerves and make sure we don't feel an extra amount of pressure, that we just do what we do well and we've continued to be more calm in competitions as the season goes on."
One Nittany Lion that remained calm and competed at a high level was junior Sabrina Garcia on the floor exercise, posting a 9.875 to tie for first with teammate Briannah Tsang and two Buckeyes in the event.
"I definitely think we've gained confidence, become more consistent and hit more routines, and with that confidence I think we'll continue to go up," Garcia said. "With each meet and each practice between the meets we're focusing on the details, so we're focusing on sticking the landings, hitting the handstands, and working on the little things that will improve our scores."
In addition to her impressive floor score, Garcia nabbed a career-best score of 9.925 for her first balance beam title of the season.
and as I was going through the routine, I was just saying my
words, doing what I do in practice, and I went up there with complete
confidence in myself and my capabilities in my routine," Garcia said. "Once I
finished, it was almost relieving that I was finished and I knew what I was
Junior Mason Hosek also contributed to the Nittany Lions' team beam season-best score of 49.050 by tying for third with a 9.800.
biggest improvement all together on
the beam is just with in our
mentality," Hosek said. "We kind of changed our mentality from trying to hit a
beam routine and hoping we'd make it, to knowing we're going to hit it, and
showing the judges what we can do. We're going to continue to hit and show
everyone what we got, and finish off the season strong."
Brown found that the best way to coach the gymnasts into perfecting their routines was emphasizing character and attitude first and foremost while competing.
"Each week we sit down and talk with our sports psychologist and kind of pick a theme for each week," Brown said. "I feel like every theme that we've had and every meeting we've had has kind of been working toward this point, where we're finally trusting each other and the system, because we're starting to see those results week in and week out."
Penn State is looking ahead to a two-week home slate, which is always a positive for the team, whose confidence shines through in Rec Hall. As the season progresses, the Nittany Lions can also look ahead with hope as the regional qualifying scores for championship meets will be released in the coming weeks.
"I want to have a good showing this week and next week," Brown said. "Then it's going to be about pacing ourselves after that, because we're on the road for four weeks in a row and that is going to get challenging, but that's what we've been preparing for. In terms of the way the RQS comes together, having those road scores late in the season should be great for our team."
Garcia and Hosek have faith in not only their own progress, but the progress of their teammates, specifically those who are younger and new to the program.
"I think it comes with relying on our training, having trust in each other and
our coaches, and continuing to go into each meet with the mentality that we got
this and we have the capability to be great," Garcia said.
"As a team, we've been getting significantly more confident each meet," Hosek said. "Even with the small mistakes we're having each week, it's like we're showing a progression all the way through the end of the meet every week. So travelling and coming back home now, I just feel like this is an uphill battle but we're going to keep rising, I'm extremely excited, I think there's nothing but great things to come of this team and I can't wait to see where we go."
On top of perfecting their routines and team spirit, the gymnasts emphasize the importance of staying grounded and level-headed, no matter the competition they face.
"All the teams we're going against are obviously a competition each time, so there's no team we're going into knowing we're better or expecting to win, we go in with the same attitude each meet," Hosek said. "But I think that coming home is really nice after being away for a little bit, and building our confidence back at home is really nice before we go away for four weeks again, so it'll be really nice to start us on a drive where we're going up."
"The underclassmen have their footing pretty well now, we're into the mid part of the season, and I think the best advice I have is just to get into treatment as much as you can, resting on our days off, but besides that I think that we're doing all that we can in and out of the gym," Hosek said.
No. 28 Penn State returns home to Happy Valley to host Cornell and Penn in a tri-meet format. The meet is slated for a 4 p.m. start at Rec Hall on Feb. 17.
By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Every February, thousands of Penn State students and members of the community gather at the Bryce Jordan Center for one of the biggest weekends of the year.
Penn State's THON takes center stage Friday, as more than 700 students will dance for 46 hours straight to raise money for childhood cancer treatment and research.
One of those dancers is Penn State field hockey's own Delani Higgins, who will dance on behalf of the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) along with four other Penn State student-athletes from the same organization.
For Higgins, dancing has been her goal for a while, dating all the way back to her high school days in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania.
"I've always wanted to dance in THON," Higgins said. "My high school had a mini-THON and I danced every year in that. I've always gone to athlete hour here as well with my team, which was a really cool way to be a part of THON."
Higgins has learned a lot from former Nittany Lion Carly Celkos, her teammate on the field hockey team who graduated last year. Celkos represented SAAB as a dancer in THON 2017, and she has been a source of guidance for Higgins as the senior prepares for a big weekend.
"Carly told me to get involved with my committee, rules and regulations, and that helped me figure out that I really wanted to dance," Higgins said. "I told Liz Johnson (Student-Athlete Welfare and Development Director) that I wanted to dance and I did whatever I had to do to make it happen. I raised enough money and now here I am."
Higgins and Celkos have also been texting back and forth, with the former dancer giving some key advice to Higgins about THON and the week leading up to it.
"[Celkos] told me to stay hydrated, especially in the days before dancing and then making sure I have the right shoes and get enough sleep so that I can make it through the full 46," Higgins said. "She said to stay in the moment and have fun because it's such a special event. I can't think about what I'm feeling, only who I'm dancing for."
While the whole 46 hours will be packed with dancing, making friends and interacting with the THON children, Higgins is looking forward to a few specific events.
the pep rally and the final four hours are what I'm most excited for," Higgins
said. "For the pep rally, being part of my team and having them support me is
going to be really cool. The final four is always amazing, getting to hear from
all the families that have been effected by this disease and helped by THON.
It's really emotional and a remarkable moment."
Penn State SAAB has two THON families, one of which is very close to Higgins and the field hockey team. The team's athletic trainer, Renee Messina, has a daughter who battled pediatric cancer. Both Renee, Isabella and the entire Messina family have been a huge part of the Penn State field hockey family over the years.
"I'm very close with the Messina's and not just because they're our Four Diamonds family," Higgins said. "Renee took me through my ACL recovery and all that went into that so we really bonded through those experiences. Being able to dance for that family and represent that family is a huge honor for me."
Higgins also views THON as a chance to represent Penn State athletics, something she is used to doing as a student-athlete but looks forward to doing so in a less conventional way."You always see these athletes being so strong on the field and representing athletics just shows that we're involved in so much more than just sports," Higgins said. "We really are a part of this community."
By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State baseball gets underway in 2018 Friday afternoon. The Nittany Lions travel to Elon, North Carolina for a three-game series as part of a 12-game stretch away from Happy Valley.
Opening a new season with a fresh slate, Penn State will have to find a few replacements due to graduation. Among the departures, the Nittany Lions will look to fill roles held by starters Nick Riotto and Christian Helsel. Penn State's top starting pitcher, Sal Biasi, will also need replaced as he signed with the Kansas City Royals after being drafted in the 11th round of the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Junior pitcher Justin Hagenman is poised to take Biasi's spot as the ace on this year's staff. Hagenman has been in the team's top three starters in his first two years and has the skills and experience to lead the rotation this year.
Penn State does return its top five hitters from last year in terms of batting average. Sophomore Mason Nadeau and junior Jordan Bowersox return as above-.300 hitters, figuring to be an effective duo at the top of the lineup this year.
Earlier this week, head coach Rob Cooper, Hagenman and junior catcher Ryan Sloniger took the podium for spring media day. Here are five takeaways from the session headed into opening weekend.
Forgetting the Past
Cooper made it clear from the beginning of his press conference that he and the team were not happy with last year's performance, noting things will be different this season.
"As a team we did not have a year that we feel is acceptable for Penn State baseball," Cooper said. "Over the course of the last 10 months we've done a lot of thinking about it and looking back on it, the truth is as a coaching staff we didn't do a good enough job for these guys."
Cooper said he doesn't want to dwell on past mistakes but focus on what the team can do better this year. With a team more committed than ever, Cooper's excited to see how the closeness translates to wins.
"I'm really excited for what these guys have put forth this fall," Cooper said. "I'm excited about our coaching staff. I'm excited about the effort that we've all put in together and I think everybody's going to be real excited to see what kind of team we can put out there this year."
Manual of Excellence
Last year, the Nittany Lions decided to seek out a way to change the team's culture for the better.
A group of Nittany Lions led by Hagenman and Sloniger soon decided to put together what Cooper called a "manual of excellence." The manual examines what it means to be a Penn State student athlete and what the team can expects from each individual.
The manual also focuses on four pillars: leadership, toughness, competing and selflessness. Together, Hagenman, Sloniger and the rest of the team leaders presented the manual to the entire team.
"We realized that we needed a change in everything that we do and we thought of four things that could really change how we do things," Hagenmen said. "From that, we put those in the manual and introduced them to the rest of the team."
Throughout spring practices, the team has also substituted one practice a week for a culture workshop to talk about the four pillars and bring a strong, centralized culture back to the locker room. For Cooper, building a strong team culture can turn a team around quicker than any drill.
"The culture and the competitiveness I think is so much more important than [drills], so we just decided we're going to make this a priority," Cooper said.
Starting Rotation Announced
Cooper also revealed the weekend's starting rotation this week. Hagenman, as expected, will start Friday's season opener, senior lefty Taylor Lehman will start Saturday and sophomore Dante Biasi, Sal's younger brother, will get the nod Sunday.
Hagenman led the team in innings pitched last season with 80.1. He started 14 games for the Nittany Lions and finished with a 5.49 ERA.
Lehman worked primarily out of the bullpen last season. He started just three games on the mound but led the team in total appearances with 26.
Lehman struck out 35 in just 32 innings and also tallied one save during the 2017 season. With Biasi gone, Penn State will rely on Lehman for more starts and more innings this season.
The younger of the Biasi's, Dante, will be making his first career start Sunday, having sat out last year with an injury.
In 2016, Biasi was drafted in the 22nd round of the MLB Entry Draft by the Chicago Cubs but chose to pursue an education and a collegiate career at Penn State.
The starting rotation could certainly change from week to week but this lineup gives fans an idea of what to expect early in the year. Both Cooper and Hagenman also raved about how deep the pitching staff is this year, with Cooper adding it's the deepest h has been a part of.
For Hagenman, it's the freshmen who are impressing him so far, with the potential to contribute early.
"[The freshmen pitchers] are right on the same level as anyone else," Hagenman said. "They're pushing us as much as we're pushing them. Every spot is open and they're going after them and I think all the pitchers are going to contribute right away as freshmen."
Penn State also has a pair of multi-sport student-athletes on the roster in Mac Hippenhammer and Matt McCutcheon. Hippenhammer is listed as both an infielder and outfielder while McCutcheon will be part of the catcher's rotation.
McCutcheon could potentially be part of the rotation behind the plate with Sloniger and junior college transfer, Shea Sbranti. Although Hippenhammer wasn't involved in fall workouts, he has made an impression on the veterans in his short time with the team.
"He brings a fun energy to our team and I think that's made an impact on us," Sloniger said. "We didn't have him all fall for any practices, so for him to come in, he's jumped in like he hasn't missed a beat."
For Cooper, Hippenhammer has been a positive influence in the clubhouse so far, while also exceeding expectations.
"The thing about Mac is he has a real love to compete, whether it's on the football field or on the baseball field," Cooper said. "He's really worked hard to make an impact in a short period of time. I'm kind of blown away with his progress."
The Wait is Over
After eight long months away from the diamond, both the Nittany Lions and coaches are beaming with excitement to get back on the field and compete against someone other than themselves.
"As awesome as it is to compete against your team it definitely is something to get that first weekend started and compete against somebody else," Hagenman said. "Pushing each other in inter-squads, it really gets you ready for the season."
While the offseason was extremely beneficial in terms of changing the culture and refocusing on how the team can improve, Sloniger is itching for Friday.
"I can't wait. I'm ready to get going," Sloniger said. "We go against each other a lot starting in the fall. I'm ready to see someone in a new jersey and a new face. We've put last year behind us, but it's also something for us returning guys that it's a motivating thing for us to come back and have a good year this year."
By Brian McLaughlin,
Student Staff Writer GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State opened the fourth quarter on a 11-to-0 run against Northwestern and never looked back, topping the Wildcats 67-59 Wednesday night in the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Lady Lions struggled with turnovers in the second and third quarters, allowing Northwestern to open up a lead as large as 13 late in the third quarter. After four consecutive turnovers for Northwestern to start the final frame, Penn State took advantage and brought the energy.
"I think as a group we were lackadaisical to start the game and it took us a while to realize we were down and I think everybody's mentality changed," junior guard Teniya Page said. "It shouldn't be like that, we should come out ready to play but we have to change our mentality and be a little more aggressive on the defensive end."
Both teams struggled out of the gate to find rhythm offensively, with the Wildcats scoring just seven first quarter points. For the Lady lions it was the second and third quarter where they could not get going, shooting just 31 percent from the field in the second quarter and 33 percent in the third.
"We had a lot of turnovers in the second and third quarters with 17 on the game and in those first three quarters we were turning the ball over a lot. They were also live turnovers which can sometimes be deflating. We didn't really respond to turning the ball over," head coach Coquese Washington said. "In the fourth quarter we were better defensively and didn't turn the ball over. We talked in the timeout about having a lot more energy in the fourth quarter especially in the defensive end."
Defensively the game changed when Washington switched her team's defense to a man-to-man style and applying a lot more pressure. Amari Carter and Siyeh Frazier each snagged multiple passes from Northwestern to get easy layups. The start to the fourth quarter was able to give the Lady Lions the push they needed to finish the game.
"Positive plays generally can give you a lot of an emotional push, and when you can string two or three positive plays together it really works," Washington said.
The entire team struggled throughout the game from the field, but all of a sudden everyone was making huge plays in the fourth quarter.
"We were also getting some key contributions from a number of people. Amari Carter made some plays, De'Janae (Boykin) made some plays in the fourth quarter, Siyeh was all over the place defensively and Jaida Travascio-Green a big three late in the game," Washington said. "Teniya of course got to the free throw line and made some plays. So a big positive was it wasn't just one person we got huge contributions from lots of people on the floor. That makes it a lot harder for the defense to key in on one person."
Page led the Lady Lions with 22 points, and also contributed with three steals on the defensive end. That defense is an area that Washington believes is extremely underrated in Page's game.
Penn State will get the next week off before travelling to Nebraska next week in their final Big Ten road matchup of the season.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since Penn State's stunning buzzer-beater victory on the road at Ohio State in late January, there's no doubting the Nittany Lions have perhaps the most momentum they've had all season. With wins in four of its next five games Penn State has won its last three straight, returning home to the Bryce Jordan Center fresh off a road win at Illinois.
The Illinois win moved Penn State to 8-5 in conference play, good for sixth in the standings, also marking the most league wins for the program since the 2010-11 season.
Now set to meet Ohio State Thursday in an 8 p.m. tipoff, Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers is calling for white out conditions.
"To be able to win the way we did just shows the growth of the program and the talent and buy in of the program," Chambers said. "Really, if that doesn't get you excited to come Thursday night - 8 p.m., whiteout. We need everybody to show these guys support because they play a fun style."
Increased bench production has been a point of emphasis for Chambers throughout the season. With foul trouble nagging at the Nittany Lions, Chambers was pleased with what he saw from the bench against the Illini.
"I was super excited for our bench guys, Nazeer [Bostick], Johnny [John Harrar] and Jamari [Wheeler] and Julian [Moore]," Chambers said. "They were fantastic to hold down the fort while we were in foul trouble there. I thought they gave us great, great minutes and I let them know that during the game and I let them know that after the game."
Bostick finished one point shy of a Big Ten career-high mark with seven points against the Illini. Wheeler, who currently ranks second in the Big Ten with 42 steals on the year, also dished out three assists in addition to a pair of steals.
All About Us
Headed into a final regular season matchup against Ohio State, Chambers noted the focus still remains on the Nittany Lions.
"It's really about us and what we can control, what we do, what our principles are, what our foundation is and what our mental conditioning says and states," Chambers said. "It's really about us again, to keep taking steps and getting better."
That step-by-step approach to getting better has been a staple of Penn State's continued development throughout the season and something the Nittany Lions have started to see coming together.
"That's a massive marginal gain at the end of it," Chambers said. "That means you're getting five or 10 and 20 percent better every time you step on the floor or in film sessions. That's the goal with the team right now. Stay present, stay right here, get a little bit better, get that one percent better and then God willing, get ready to compete against Ohio State."
Speaking of Ohio State ...
Penn State's win against the Buckeyes earlier this season was one to remember for sure as the Nittany Lions knocked off then-No. 13 Ohio State for a victory against its highest ranked opponent on the road since 2009.
It was Carr's three at the buzzer the secured the win, as the Nittany Lions shot a school record 78.6 percent from the 3-point line. Marking its best performance of the year, Penn State went 11-for-14 from behind the arc and 5-for-5 in the second half.
As Chambers noted though, the Nittany Lions aren't exactly going into Thursday banking on another record-setting night from 3-point range.
"I would say if we can defend and rebound like we did in the second half at Illinois, holding them to 16 points, that was be pretty good," Chambers said. "It goes back to our foundation, our identity and who we are. If the shots aren't falling, well now we have to rely on our defense and our rebounding. If we can defend and rebound and get out in transition, well now you're getting easy baskets and you might not need 11 three's. Now you just need good quality shots."
A Bit on Bates-Diop
Chambers called Ohio State's Keita Bates-Diop one of the best in the Big Ten and the Nittany Lions will have to contend with his ability to make clutch plays when called upon.
Just 10 days ago Bates-Diop reached the 1,100 career points mark following a 35-point outing against Illinois. Heading into the matchup he's currently ranked second in the conference with
11 double-doubles on the year. Ranked first in the Big Ten averaging 19.9 points per game, he's also ranked first in the conference and 15th nationally averaging 7.52 defensive boards per game.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - One of Penn State's most impactful weekends on campus has nearly arrived. As more than 700 students take to the floor at the Bryce Jordan Center, Penn State football's Charlie Shuman and Nick Scott will be among the passionate individuals dancing for the cure.
Both Shuman and Scott will dance for the cure for childhood cancer of course, as the annual 46-hour dance marathon kicks off Friday evening. Shuman will dance on behalf of the Penn State Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) for the second consecutive year, while Scott will dance for the first time, representing the student leaders organization.
While football pairs the two as teammates, it's the desire to support families
impacted by childhood cancer that's uniting their cause.
As SAAB's treasurer this year, Shuman had the feeling he would be selected to dance again. It was only cemented when a few dancer spots came open.
For Scott, football experiences sparked his interest, but he chose to go outside of what he calls his "athlete bubble" to do more.
"I think throughout my career I've done a lot through the football program for the community and I wanted to make sure that I left my footprint somewhere other than the football field and influence people other than using my jersey to do so," Scott said.
Scott took to social media to help raise funds for his organization to earn dancer spots. He started a Facebook page to spread awareness for his cause.
First introduced to THON during his freshman year, Scott was part of the football pep rally routine and made his first visit to the Penn State Children's Hospital in Hershey with the team.
"I got to see what the kids go through on a day-to-day basis and that was really tough for me since the first time I visited Hershey my freshman year," Scott said. "I knew I always wanted to help out people who are struggling, especially kids. I've always wanted to take it a step further and do more outside of the football team."
Last year Scott joined his girlfriend on the floor as a member of her pass list, which gave him a bit more of an idea of what to expect. His pass list this year features Johnathan Thomas, who he'll lean on when fatigue begins to take its toll.
On the floor for the entire 46 hours though, is Shuman, who Scott won't have to spend too much time looking for when it comes to finding his 6-foot-8-inch teammate for a boost of motivation.
"The first thing he told me was not to expect him to give me any piggy back rides, which is fair," Scott said with a smile. "I understand he's dancing too."
Shuman knew he wanted to do it all again from the moment he finished THON 2017 - even though he didn't exactly remember the final moment.
"I was my normal self until right up to the end," Shuman said. "It was really important to read the dancer mail. I had a letter from a kid I know from back home who suffers from cancer so being able to read that, I was like okay, if he can do this every single day, I can do this. One more hour of my life is nothing compared to the battle he has for the rest of his life."
Shuman's biggest piece of advice for Scott though, is simply to remain positive.
"Charlie's a pretty positive guy so if I get down I'll start to feed off of him a little bit and vice versa," Scott said.
While Shuman can offer tips to Scott and his SAAB teammates ahead of time, it's the type of adventure where preparation comes better through experience.
"You kind of have to experience it for yourself," Shuman said. "I can give everyone as many tips as I want, but everyone is going to react to staying up for 46 hours differently."
Come Friday, the two will actually be on different teams for the weekend, with Scott on the purple team and Shuman on the orange team.
Shuman's thoughts on the matter?
"We're going with 'compete in everything you do' throughout the weekend for sure," Shuman said.
There's no sneak peek when it comes to this year's THON pep rally dance from Shuman or Scott, which debuts Saturday night.
"They're working really hard," Scott said. "I've been a little bit involved, just making sure they're staying on the right track answering any questions they have and what to expect. I think these guys have a real shot."
In the spirit of THON weekend, check out the 2017 THON pep rally dance below.
By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As sophomore gymnast Sam Zakutney returns from his slate representing Canada at Canada Elite in early February, sophomore Stephen Nedoroscik and freshman Brennan Pantazis will get their turn to represent the Blue and White and United States gymnastics this weekend, as they travel to Las Vegas, Nevada to compete against other elite Americans in the coveted Winter Cup.
"We've been training really hard and are ready to rock it out at Winter Cup," Nedoroscik said.
After he secured a spot to compete in last year's United States Championships, Nedoroscik signed and sealed his first opportunity to prove his pommel horse dominance at the 2018 Winter Cup.
"Well it's pretty huge because there is only two of us going out this weekend," Nedoroscik said.
Nedoroscik's roommate and travel companion, rookie Pantazis, will be competing in the all-around. As a new edition to the Nittany Lions this year, Pantazis impressed and qualified for this upcoming meet through his dynamic all-around performance during the first meet of the 2018 campaign.
"Brennan...qualified through...West Point Open this year," head coach Randy Jepson said. "They take the top three all-arounders from each meet around the country. Five different meets and he qualified in."
Just as Zakutney returned to the birth place of his gymnastic dreams in Canada, Pantazis' gymnastics career will come full circle as he intertwines his Penn State training with his Silver State gymnastic roots in Nevada.
The two impressive and mature underclassmen have a number of daunting tasks ahead of them as they compete amongst the most elite gymnasts in the country and as they look to fill the shoes of past Nittany Lion gymnasts who have had the honor to compete in such a highly coveted event. Last year, Penn State's Leroy Clarke, Dominic DiFulvio, Michael Burns and Favian Valdez represented the Blue and White at the Winter Cup.
"It's all the best guys in the country, it's not just the best guys in college," Jepson said. "So, you have the guys who have competed at the World Championships for the USA this past fall. Those are our best guys so you get a good measuring stick to where you are with the best."
As the 2018 Winter Olympics forge ahead, Nedoroscik and Pantazis will get their own taste of Olympian company as they compete against the likes of 2016 Summer Olympians Sam Mikulak and Alex Naddour.
"They will be ready to go," Jepson said on his student-athletes. "Gymnastics is one of those things where you are in a field of some really good guys, but you really compete against yourself."
Since the Winter Cup is a two-day competition, the young gymnasts only have one day to impress in order to qualify for the second day of competition; their performances on Thursday will determine their access to Saturday's events. The stakes continue to grow as a second day of competition will help their qualifying chances for other national competitions and events down the road.
"If you qualify for the second day you automatically qualify for the US Championships so you don't have to go through that qualification process again for another meet," Jepson said. "So, it's nice to be able to do that but it's challenging there is fewer spots this year than there have been in the past. The national team is smaller now by a little bit and so that means you know that those spots are really very coveted."
The goals are set high for the Nittany Lions.
"My goal is to win," Nedoroscki said. "Realistically, just to place enough to get podium."
As the entire Penn State men's gymnastics team continues to train and build upon their victory against the Ohio State Buckeyes last weekend, two Nittany Lions will look to carry that momentum into another high stakes competition across the country.
"I was really happy with the mental approach from our guys," Jepson said. "They were really fierce and tough. We've been talking about being poised and they showed that's just kind of part of who they are now."
By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 16 Penn State will travel to East Lansing, Michigan for its final regular season road series of the year in a crucial matchup against Michigan State.
Penn State is coming off a bye week that couldn't have come at a better time. Following a physical series with top-ranked Notre Dame nine days ago, the Nittany Lions capitalized on some extra time off this past week, getting a head start in preparing for their upcoming series with the Spartans.
"We worked really hard during the week," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "Friday was a really good day in the weight room and on the ice for us. The rest was both well earned and well needed."
For the Nittany Lions, the week off allowed for both added practice and some extra recovery before jumping back into competition.
"We're looking forward to another good week this week," Gadowsky said. "There are four really big games left in the conference and we hope this break helps."
Senior defensemen Trevor Hamilton noted the Nittany Lions took full advantage of the bye week.
"It's a huge advantage for us right now," Hamilton said. "We're going through some struggles with everyone getting sick and injured, so it's definitely nice to relax and just take care of some maintenance things."
Hamilton, who grew up not far from East Lansing in Grosse Pointe Farms, is looking forward to the opportunity to return home and play in front of his friends and family.
"It's always fun going back to Michigan," Hamilton said. "My family usually can't come out here to watch me play, so it's nice to be able to go see them. I'm really excited."
Hamilton has seen success against Michigan State this year, having scored a game-tying goal with :34 seconds remaining in the final game of the series at Pegula Ice Arena in late November. He also added an assist in game one the night before.
Penn State took the first game of the Michigan State series, 7-2, tying a season-high mark for goals. Despite the earlier success against the Spartans, Penn State isn't taking anything for granted headed down the stretch of the regular season.
"No game is easy in the Big Ten," Hamilton said. "This year it has been one of the best conferences in hockey. We realize what's at hand here with the last four regular season games."
Gadowsky noted a point of emphasis for the team this weekend is getting shots on net. Penn State's ability to create chances was evident against Notre Dame, as the Nittany Lions rattled off a combined 108 shots over the course of the weekend."We were able to generate consistent chances on offense for most of the periods of that weekend and that's something we'd love to see going forward," Gadowsky said. "Obviously we played a great goaltender, but if we play that way and get those chances, we feel good about what can happen. "
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State women's soccer has always been at the forefront of the fight to cure childhood cancer through its THON involvement.
From raising awareness throughout the season to participating in the annual SAAB lip sync battle and the THON pep rally, those are just a few ways the Nittany Lions have opted to get involved.
This year, the team is stepping it up a notch.
Penn State women's soccer will represent two of the five Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) student-athletes participating as dancers during THON weekend, which kicks off Friday at the Bryce Jordan Center. Senior Megan Schafer and junior Sarafina Valenti will be on their feet for 46 hours straight dancing for a cure.
Each year, SAAB selects student-athletes to represent their organization, with Schafer and Valenti among five dancers this year.
Schafer, as she did on the soccer field all year, will serve as the veteran in the group alongside second year SAAB dancer Charlie Shuman (football). She danced in THON last year and has been giving Valenti and her fellow first time SAAB dancers some advice leading up to the weekend.
"Everyone says you don't truly understand THON until you're actually a part of it and that's absolutely true," Schafer said.
One of the main reasons Schafer got involved in THON in the first place was because of her young cousin, Mary. Mary was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago and Schafer got to witness first-hand the impact it can have on families.
Thankfully, Mary is cancer-free today, but that won't stop Schafer from continuing to fight for a cure.
Some might say standing for 46 hours with no sleep is insane, but Schafer can't wait to get back inside the Bryce Jordan Center for round two. She said immediately after THON last year, even though she developed some serious "cankles," she wished she could go right back.
"When I told my trainer I was dancing again she called me crazy but clearly I'm crazy and passionate enough about THON that I want to do it again," Schafer said.
Schafer said her favorite parts of dancing in THON were the pep rally and learning the line dance. She said even though it was an exhausting experience, there was nothing she'd rather do on any given weekend.
"When you start to get tired and your feet start to hurt you just put it into perspective and realize that you can do this because people are going through a lot more than you are that weekend," Schafer said.
Valenti will be dancing at THON for the first time this year. She spent more 30 hours at the BJC last year, but she said she loved the energy so much she couldn't wait to get more involved. That's when she decided to dance with her teammate.
"This year I wanted to make a bigger impact and get down on the floor to really experience what THON is all about," Valenti said.
Valenti said she's excited to dance for SAAB's THON families, the Messina's and the Buckley's, who the team has only grown closer with over the last few years.
Valenti said she expects to be prepared physically because of the tough spring workouts the team has already started. She said being a student-athlete will help her immensely with the physical fitness needed to complete a 46-hour dance marathon.
Schafer has also offered Valenti some friendly advice as THON weekend approaches, to enjoy the experience and don't take it for granted.
For the two teammates, it will be a weekend they will never forget.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State men's lacrosse head coach Jeff Tambroni, the symbol of a great team comes down to winning the battles between the 30-yard lines. Come Saturday afternoon, the Nittany Lions bounced back from a disappointing season-opener with a 15-8 win against Hobart.
Following last weekend's overtime loss to Villanova, there was perhaps nobody more disappointed than Nittany Lion sophomore faceoff specialist Gerard Arceri.
"He felt horrible after last week's game and it wasn't on him, but he holds himself to such a higher standard," Tambroni said.
This week, Arceri spent time in practice keying in on communication with his wings, focusing on helping the defense by giving his team more opportunities for possession.
"In practice we do this drill where instead of the wings, traditionally in the game where they're so far out, we kind of bring the wings in and they give me a lot of pressure when I pull out the ball and they do a good job of boxing each other out so I think we really improved from last game on that," Arceri said. "It's something to be pretty excited about I'd say."
For Arceri and the Nittany Lions, the excitement didn't come easy, as Hobrt erased a 3-goal Penn State lead to tie the score, 4-4, at the end of the first quarter. At the faceoff x, Arceri was also just 2-for-8.
By halftime, the Nittany Lions were trailing by one, 7-6, as senior Ryan Keenan broke up 3-0 Hobart scoring streak with a wraparound goal off a feed from junior Nick Spillane with seven seconds remaining in the second quarter.
It was all Penn State out of the break, as the Nittany Lions put away back-to-back goals from junior Matt Donnelly and Spillane early in the third quarter to pull ahead, 8-7, igniting the offense.
The Nittany Lions saw Arceri win all five faceoff attempts in the third quarter as Penn State dominated possession.
"When I'm dealing with that adversity and stuff like that, I just try to stay true to my ability and I think that worked out for me," Arceri said.
Arceri also gave credit of course to his wings, who dialed up the toughness in the second half.
"We talked about in the second half trying to keep the wings off of me and just letting me go one-on-one with the other faceoff guy so I could direct the ball wherever I need to," Arceri said.
For Tambroni, it made all the difference.
"Last week, we just kind of lost focus in the second half and just played, we didn't execute, we just played," Tambroni said. "Today I thought for 60 minutes, we didn't win them all, certainly didn't win our fair share in the first half, but I thought we stayed the course and tried to at least execute a game plan and I thought today was just a much better start to finish job by those wing guys. They made a big difference, that's a unit. I know Gerard gets a lot of credit for what he does but I thought today, those guys battled when the ball was on the ground and kept it alive."
Penn State capitalized on the increase in offensive possessions, scoring four goals in the third quarter. The Nittany Lions kept momentum alive in the fourth quarter to widen the scoring streak to a 9-1 advantage that spanned the second half. Arceri also went 5-6 in faceoffs in the third quarter to finish 16-for-24 on the day.
"Bouncing off last week, the third quarter we had a bunch of goals and then the fourth quarter, we just fell off," Mac O'Keefe said. "We just wanted to stay together and not fall off like we did last week, it was something we focused on."
The Nittany Lions had little trouble executing a strong finish, as O'Keefe added three goals in the fourth quarter to conclude the day with a team-high five goals.
"Our message to our guys was lets reflect back," Tambroni said. "Remember what happened when we were coming out of the huddle and to use that experience to fuel a more cerebral second half. A more cerebral fourth quarter. Today I thought they played with a much better mindset, they were much more aware how the game was going situationally and took advantage of the situations that were available."
By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The top-ranked Nittany Lions downed the Iowa Hawkeyes in front of a record crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center Saturday night with a 28-13 win.
An NCAA indoor wrestling record 15,998 fans watched Penn State battle and use timely pins for another big win. The crowd also marks a school record for the largest athletic event attendance in a non-Beaver Stadium event at Penn State.
"We started out a little slow," Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson said. "A few guys rallied and ended up wrestling really well at the end. It was a tough team and every match is a big match and at this time of the year it was good to see guys step up."
With the match tied at six, top-ranked Zain Retherford faced off with No. 2 Brandon Sorensen at 149 pounds. Retherford controlled most of the match, needing only two takedowns, an escape and 3:14 of riding time to beat Sorensen, 6-2, giving Penn State its first lead of the night, 9-6. Retherford is now 5-0 against Sorensen, who only has 14 career losses.
After Penn State lost two straight bouts, trailing the dual 13-9, Mark Hall set out to regain the lead for his team. With an early takedown, Hall unleashed the cradle on Iowa's Joe Gunther and collected the pin at the 1:00 mark to give Penn State a lead it would never relent.
While Hall didn't feel any pressure to get a pin, he always wants to contribute the most he can for his team.
"Every dual meet it's my objective to get a pin," Hall said. "Every match that's the most team points you can get for your squad. It's definitely not a pressure thing, it's more just going out and doing what I'm good at. Getting to the positions I'm good at and if I'm in a position I'm not good at then I need to get somewhere where I am good."
Hall set the Nittany Lions ahead 15-13 before Bo Nickal extended the Nittany Lion lead with six more points of his own. Nickal also turned to the cradle to finish off Mitch Bowman. After Hall needed only 60 seconds for his pin, Nickal needed only 50 seconds to register his 13th pin of the season.
Shakur Rasheed got the nod for the Nittany Lions at 197 pounds and once again impressed with an 11-2 win against seventh-ranked Cash Wilcke. Two takedowns in both the first and third periods helped Rasheed to the major decision.
The Nittany Lions remain in tight competition when it comes to 197 pounds with both Rasheed and Anthony Cassar continuing to impress when called upon.
"The competition is good," Sanderson said. "I wish we had that at every weight. Both Anthony and Shak [Shakur Rasheed] are wrestling great. We're proud of both of them and we love both of them and I think the team feels the same way about both of them."
In a bit of postmatch fun, Sanderson turned the mic over to Rasheed to clarify some pronunciations. While many fans know of Rasheed as Shak, Sanderson also has another nickname for the junior.
"He used to call me sugar," Rasheed said. "He [Sanderson] was the first one to call me that, I don't even know how he got that. But, I thought of it as Sugar Ray so it's cool."
At 285 pounds Nick Nevills closed out the night with a hard-fought victory over third-ranked Sam Stoll, 3-2. Following a 15-10 loss against Ohio State's top-ranked Kyle Snyder last weekend, Nevills is happy to get the big win.
"Last week, for me, everyone was super excited, but I was bummed," Nevills said. "I felt like I was in that match but I think it has given me confidence. I wrestled well there, I wrestled well against Rutgers and this match I got the win. There are a lot of things I can work on, I don't normally let people get away from me as quickly as this guy did tonight. It's just something to take back into the room on Monday and get back to work."
Penn State closes out the regular season at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18th hosting Buffalo in Rec Hall.
By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - If one were to travel north beyond the United State's border they would not only find a country rife with beautiful landscapes of mountains and lakes, a myriad of different languages and maple syrup, but also the hometowns of two Penn State gymnasts.
Sophomore and all-around competitor Sam Zakutney hails from Ottawa, Ontario, while junior and all-around gymnast Wyatt Tyndall calls Saskatoon, Saskatchewan home. Although the two Nittany Lions live 1821 miles (2932 km) and 32 hours apart, they still share the bond of one country, one maple leaf, and one red and white flag.
"Coming here my freshman year I didn't know anybody so when we were recruiting Sam I knew Sam from where I'm from," Tyndall said. "We're pretty far apart but we've seen each other before, been on the same team. We've been at nationals at Elite Canada before so I got to know him a little bit...We always relate back. We always make jokes about maple syrup and things like that and it's fun that way for sure."
While the two teammates and native Canadians bond over their childhood roots, they also find unity through their ability to represent the sport they love in both Penn State Blue and White and Canadian Red and White.
"It is interesting to note that a lot of the other schools have started to look at Canada as a viable option for some prospects," head coach Randy Jepson said. "We were out in front of that a little bit because people wanted a good engineering degree for the most part and be able to do gymnastics...So that is kind of the draw here you can't lose education or gymnastics."
"It brings a little bit to the team and Penn State has always been an international team," Tyndall said. "Randy recruited around the world for a long time now so I think that helped my opportunity here and I think that is a big part of why I am here. I mean I am proud of being Canadian but it is fun learning to live in another country too."
Since the Nittany Lions had off the first weekend of February, Zakutney and Jepson took the opportunity to travel north for Elite Canada. Elite Canada is equivalent to America's Winter Cup, which will host sophomore Stephen Nedoroscik and freshman Brennan Pantazis later this month.
"I've been competing in it since I was 11 years old," Zakutney said of Elite Canada. "But I guess this one is pretty important considering these World Championships are the first ones where you can qualify a team to the Olympics possibly so that is kind of a dream of mine but I am kind of just going to make it a reality some day."
Zakutney returned to the country, city and meet where he first laid the path for his gymnastic pursuits and dreams. As a senior competitor, the future Nittany Lion placed fourth with an all-around 75.134 score. Club Gymnika's Rene Cournoyer topped the podium at 80.800.
"Sam did a nice job at Elite Canada," Jepson said. "He finished fourth all-around and he showed he is right in the thick of it for Team Canada which is great...He has a good chance to represent Canada at the World Championships next fall so this is a part of that process and he showed well for that."
Although Tyndall stayed in State College to rest and maintain his health for the remainder of the season, both Nittany Lions are expected to compete for Canada during the country's national championships in May and throughout training camp in the summer.
"We wanted to save him a little bit and he had the opportunity last year to go as well," Jepson said. "He'll probably go to the Canadian Championships this summer, but you know it's tough to have all the meets in a row and have a good weekend there and be able to come back and really perform."
Beyond the opportunity to compete for Olympic berths and national recognitions, the two gymnasts forged a friendship through the dedication of gymnastics and the pride of a country.
"Getting to know him [Zakutney] a lot more here was cool," Tyndall said. "He had a connection here; I think that helped why he came here and we've come closer for sure obviously."
Their evolved bond not only tightens the threads of the pride, honor and legacy woven throughout the storied histories of their school and country, but it also transcends the meaning of gymnastic and sport.
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 Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State assistant coaches Matt Lindsay and Keith Fisher have been an integral part of the Nittany Lion hockey team since the very beginning, making an obvious impact on the program along the way.
From on-ice responsibilities to the Nittany Lion recruiting operation, the pair of Penn State assistants have a big part in not only day-to-day operations, but the future of the team.
Both Fisher and Lindsay coached together in Princeton alongside head coach Guy Gadowsky, where they helped lead the Tigers to two NCAA Tournament appearances in 2008 and 2009 as well as the 2008 ECAC and Ivy League Championships.
With the trio working together for close to 12 seasons, when Gadowsky was offered the job in Hockey Valley, it was a no-brainer when it came to filling his staff.
"It was a very easy decision for [Fisher and I] when [Gadowsky] was presented the opportunity [at Penn State] and invited us along," Lindsay said. "I don't think I spent more than a minute or two thinking about it, I was 100 percent coming to Penn State to join him."
Lindsay and Keith post an impressive combined 35 years of college and junior hockey coaching experience and have been developing their chemistry together since 2007.
Both enjoy sharing all the responsibilities that come with being an assistant among themselves, both on and off the ice.
"We're kind of the jack of all trades," Fisher said. "I like how we spread responsibilities around the team, we all take part in everything."
While the college hockey season features competition from October through March, recruiting is a year round affair. With the three coaches the only permitted recruiters and Gadowsky spending significant time with the team, that means much of the recruiting is on the assistants.
Entailing long hours of traveling and communicating with recruits, both Fisher and Lindsay balance recruiting efforts alongside their team-specific responsibilities. With the talent pool for hockey players continuing to expand into more untraditional areas across the country like California and Florida, recruiting has only become increasingly more difficult on the logistical side, but it has also has yielded big rewards.
In addition to recruiting within the United States, the door is also open worldwide, spanning Europe and Canada. Penn State has already successfully recruited Nittany Lions internationally from Canada to England, Russia and even Finland.
"Even now in college hockey, it has become a much more popular spot for Europeans for development," Lindsay said. "You really are casting a really wide net."
Aside from scouring a vast set of potential locations on the recruiting trail, perhaps the most important thing for Fisher and Lindsay is finding prospective recruits who fit into the program's culture.
"Some of its knowing how we play and knowing what we value and it's not necessarily always easy to see," Lindsay said. "We do a lot of homework in terms of talking to their coach and other coaches in leagues that play against them to put together a general framework of what those kids are all about."
While it takes a special kind of individual to be a Nittany Lion, Lindsay and Fisher have been able to put together strong recruiting classes year after year that have been instrumental in Penn State's success on the ice.
One unique piece to Penn State and college hockey though, is the potential of an early departure to the NHL.
While a priority is to certainly prepare Nittany Lions for their possible professional careers after Penn State, the staff also has to think about planning ahead to fill positions that could be left open rather unexpectedly.
"That can be a little more difficult from a program standpoint because at the end of the day those decisions don't happen until the spring time and you know when everyone is graduating so you can plan a recruiting class out in that regard," Lindsay said. "With the free agent stuff, especially that can open up some holes you weren't anticipating early on."
Despite the multiple challenges that face these two assistant coaches and the staff as a whole, Penn State has still found a way to continue raising the bar when it comes to program success.
For both Lindsay and Fisher though, they refuse any of the credit for the program's success, rather placing it all on the Nittany Lions who committed here when the program was in some of its earliest stages.
"The special thing about it is, the group of seniors we have now committed here on blueprints," Fisher said. "They had no idea what the Pegula Ice Arena was going to be like and now we can bring recruits to experience it."
Without Fisher and Lindsay, Penn State men's hockey would look very different from what it looks like today. While they have been a key piece when it comes to the past of the program, they continue to shape the future.
"It's been really fun to see the evolution of the program and where we were at five or six years ago and where we are now," Lindsay said. "I think it's excited to try to look ahead and what can we do moving forward to take things a step further."
By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK - Being a student-athlete isn't easy. Often days begin before the sun rises for early-morning lifts followed by a few hours of classes. Once class is over, student-athletes head straight to practice before finishing the evening doing schoolwork during their study hall time.
If that isn't difficult enough, imagine using whatever free time that's left over to practice and condition for a second sport at Penn State. For freshman wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer and senior wrestler Matt McCutcheon, this is a reality.
"Especially for being a division I athlete, I think it's extremely tough [to balance multiple sports]," outfielder Jordan Bowersox said. "They're missing a lot of what we do because their main focus is football or wrestling, whatever it is. It's extremely tough. I can't imagine any free time they have, which they probably don't. For me, I'm busy all the time and I only play one sport. I can't even imagine what it's like for them."
Hippenhammer joined the Penn State baseball roster at the beginning of the spring semester after the conclusion of the 2017 football season.
McCutcheon, the 197-pound wrestler from Apollo, Pennsylvania played baseball and wrestled while growing up, but stopped playing baseball after his sophomore year of high school to solely focus on wrestling. Now as a senior in college, McCutcheon is returning to the diamond as a catcher. With returning starter Ryan Sloniger and transfer Shea Sbranti listed as the only other catchers on the roster, McCutcheon could easily see some time behind the plate.
Being a dual athlete means having to work equally as hard at two separate sports. With McCutcheon also in the middle of wrestling season, his schedules are slightly overlapping. After he completes a day of wrestling practice, workouts and classes, McCutcheon texts Sloniger, who seems to be taking the newly-acquired catcher under his wing, to meet to go through baseball workouts and drills to better prepare him for the upcoming baseball season.
"That obviously makes for long days for him because we have study hours and everything that we have to go to after practice," Sloniger said. "We'll come in [to practice] for a couple hours after everything else, after he's done with his wrestling practice and I'm done with my lifting and baseball practice. I could not imagine juggling two sports."
"[Mc]Cutch[eon]'s first responsibility here is wrestling. Mac's first responsibility is football, but both of them are valued members of our program," Cooper said. "Being a student-athlete is hard if you play one sport, but playing two sports and balancing that and then also being really good students like both Mac and Matt are, then you know you're talking about some people who are really going to have to balance their time and have to sacrifice a lot."
Sacrificing time is not the only challenge these multi-sport athletes will have to face. The team has already completed an entire fall season where all of the returning Nittany Lions met and got to know all of the newcomers.
At this time of the year, the team is starting to build a chemistry with all its new members. For both Hippenhammer and McCutcheon, it's not as simple. With their other sports causing them to be dedicated to another team throughout the fall season, they have to work harder at getting to know and establish relationships with their new teammates in their spare time.
"I haven't really seen him [Hippenhammer] much, he's not in my individual group or anything so I haven't gotten to know him too well," Bowersox said. "Matt, he's a good guy. He's always bringing stories over from wrestling that helps us out with the mental game. He's an awesome guy. They are both awesome guys. I am excited to get to know them better."
It may be difficult to balance both sports, but both Hippenhammer and McCutcheon seem to be up for the challenge. The athleticism that will be brought to the team in these two student-athletes can only be an advantage for the Nittany Lions.
Plus, Cooper has stressed that this year the team is focusing on building a better mindset, values and culture for this program and he thinks having athletes from two other very successful programs can only help his team this season.
"They both come from really great cultures on our campus," Cooper said. "The culture that coach Franklin's building there in football, the way they handle things, the way they compete on a day in and day out basis and obviously the culture that Cael Sanderson and the wrestling program has. Having those two guys who can really add to [the culture of this program] and can really talk from an experience of having to be successful at the highest level, that really brings a lot of value to our team."
By Briana Zuccarelli, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- From the time she was able to walk, senior Irene Kiroplis' father had her in a pair of ice skates.
"I started playing hockey when I was five years old," the current Penn State senior, Kiroplis said. "My dad and I would go to the local community rink and I would sit on the ice until I could stand up and then we'd try again the next day."
"That's kind of what started my journey with Penn State," Kiroplis explained. "My first impression was that this place is incredible and it's huge. It's a new school with an old fashion feel, which made me think of my old town Georgetown."
Coming from Ontario, Canada, Kiroplis had to learn quickly how to adjust to living in a different country while playing a Division 1 sport and balancing schoolwork. To many this would be difficult, but a mature Kiroplis was not challenged by it. Instead, she did what she had to do and became a leader to the other international students.
"I'm sure she (Kiroplis) can attest to this, but being international students, we have to do a lot of stuff outside the rink when it comes to sorting different paperwork," said freshman Katie Rankin, who is also from Ontario. "She's been really helpful in that sense. She's really made this transition smooth for me."
Kiroplis said that the transition to Penn State wasn't easy because she didn't understand all the documentations that needed to get done. On top of that, she had no clue what a grade point average (GPA) was and had to learn quickly how the American grading system worked.
"I've really been trying to help the younger girls understand what they need to do it terms of visas and documents, that I didn't quite understand," said Kiroplis. "I also helped explain to them what a GPA was, what professors to take, what courses to enroll in. Basically, taught them how Penn State works, that way they have a head start and don't need to spend two or three years figuring it out."
Head coach Jeff Kampersal talked highly about the mature senior and explained that many of the players look to her as a role model. Behind the scenes, Kiroplis has done more than the coaching staff knows about and that is something they recognize.
"Irene had done a good job of walking the walk and taking advantage of the great opportunities at Penn State," said Kampersal. "She is a caretaker and I know our team feels comfortable going to her to have some fun and to ask academic questions."
With that fun personality of Kiroplis, comes the annual Canadian Thanksgiving. When Kiroplis joined the team her freshman year, she was the only player from Canada and found it hard to celebrate her country's holidays especially without her family. Each year since, Kiroplis has put together a little something for her Canadian teammates to remind them of home.
"For the past three years, I've put on a Canadian Thanksgiving for me and my Canadian teammates," Kiroplis said. "I would bring them a home cooked meal into the dorms where they don't really get that with Pollock chicken and weird vegetables. It makes them feel a little more comfortable and a little less homesick."
Fellow Canadian, Rankin, recalled the great memories she shares with Kiroplis since the first time she got here. Rankin explained that the personality Kiroplis has makes her feel comfortable to be around her and gives her that little piece of home she's missing.
"She has such a kind soul," said Rankin. "I think just being in her presence and hanging out with her, makes it easier for us to feel at home here. It's nice to have that other international student, who's a senior, that we can all look up to."
By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
PARK, Pa. - Ava Verdeflor did not grow up like the rest of her Penn State
teammates. After spending the first three years of her life in the Phillipines,
Verdeflor and her family moved to the United States, where the bulk of the now-freshman's
gymnastics career would take off. Despite the move at a young age, she would
often return to the Philippines, where the dual-citizen would compete in
gymnastics for both of the countries she called home.
For Verdeflor,who lived in Allen, Texas for the majority of her life, balancing a gymnastics career in two countries can be a challenge, but is also rewarding.
"There's a significant difference between the gymnastics program in the Philippines and the U.S.," Verdeflor said. "Girls here can get scholarships out of this and go to college out of this, but in the Philippines, you do it just because you want to."
Ava truly loved the sport growing up, but admits she didn't expect to be competing internationally and for the Philippines. All of her siblings were talented gymnasts, but Ava truly excelled. When it came time to send them to college, the tuition cost to fund three athletes of the same family was too high, so her siblings sought out other sports, while gymnastics was Ava's sole focus. It was her parents' idea for her to go onto the Philippines national team.
My parents put a lot of effort into me succeeding in the sport," Verdeflor said on the encouragement they provided. "I truly wouldn't be where I am today without them. All of my accomplishments are theirs as much as mine."
"Coming from WOGA (World Olympics Gymnastics Academy in Texas), the coaches are strict," Verdeflor said on training in both countries. "Over in the Philippines, it was kind of a free for all, the coaches offer more suggestions. It was weird having that drastic change from always listening and being told what to do, and being told I can do whatever I want. It kind of helped me. At WOGA, my coach Natasha raised me. She was what I needed when I was younger, telling me what to do, she helped me develop my gymnastics, and that's why my technique and my form is the way it is. Cecile (in the Phillipines) was the coach I could talk to and go to when I needed advice. I was extremely close with both of them, but there's a different need in each side."
Since her qualification, Verdeflor has travelled to the Philippines to compete twice, with her mother as her companion. She competes individually as an international gymnast, and has competed in the 2015 World Gymnastics Championships in Scotland.
"My international experience was really fun, especially being able to compete in China, Uzbekistan, and Scotland," Verdeflor said. "But I went there as an individual, not with a team, so I was by myself most of the time. I didn't go with my coaches from club since they had other gymnasts on the U.S. team. The experience helped me grow a lot. It was a lot of fun but very nerve-wracking on an international stage knowing that so many people were watching--like people from the Philippines. Apparently, I had a fan base, I didn't even know I had a fan base! I was in the news and newspapers, and it was a little weird for me, because in the U.S. I'm just a level ten gymnast, but over there I'm THE gymnast."
Verdeflor credits her unique skills and attention to precision to her international competition experience.
"After competing internationally, I know the importance of cleanliness. Every single detail in elite--if you flex your foot just barely, that's a tenth of a point off," she said. "So, I try to look at the details, and how I present myself, like smiling at the judges and showing that you enjoy what you're doing."
While she knows the imprortance of cleanliness, Penn State head coach Sarah Brown has also noticed a creativity.
"What I've noticed first and foremost about Ava is her creativity. If you even watch down to the way that she does her makeup, she's an artist," Brown said. "Anytime she writes something, it's in the most beautiful penmanship, anytime she decorates something, it's extravagant. She is incredibly artistic, so I think that's the most unique characteristic that she brings to this team and I learn about more the more I get to know her."
Her success, cleanliness, and creativity would eventually lead to a commitment to compete as a Nittany Lion.
When it was time to commit to a college career her sophomore year, Verdeflor's talents allowed her to seek Penn State as an option to continue her gymnastics career --with a slight push from fellow Texas gymnast, close friend, and Nittany Lion Tess McCracken.
Ava and Tess had grown up together, and knew each other since they were six and seven years old. Both level tens at same time. The two competed together for years, but got much closer during high school.
"Getting to compete with your best friend is amazing," McCracken said. "I committed to Penn State as a sophomore, and she was competing with the Philippine team. When she started looking at colleges, I knew that Penn State had a spot and was interested in her."
McCracken emphasized that she wanted her friend to make the best decision for herself, but also not to pick Penn State strictly because of her encouragement. Fortunately, Ava ended up falling in love with the Nittany Lion atmosphere on her own. Ava even coincidentally took over her friend's exact dorm room her freshman year.
"The education was huge," Verdeflor said on what brought her to Happy Valley. "Penn State has such a reputation for education. I actually wasn't looking at Penn State at first until Tess told me that the coaches were interested in me, and when I came and had a visit here I fell in love with the place, and that means a lot because I hate the cold. My friends always saw me at a city school as opposed to a college town, but now that I'm here, I can't imagine myself anywhere else. I've connected so much with the coaches and the team, I just love it here."
While the excitement of committing was there, just prior to graduating high school, Verdeflor faced the most heartbreaking point of her career when she tore her ACL twice, back-to-back within a year of each other.
"I was devastated, but I knew I could come out of it stronger," Verdeflor said. "I knew something would have to happen eventually in my career, I can't go through my entire career without getting injured. I thought I'd come back my senior year and showcase what I had, but I had that taken away from me too. But I came out of that stronger too, and now I'm here at Penn State. Getting that exhibition spot and competing for the first time in over two years for Penn State, something I'd been dreaming about for three years since I committed, it was such a relief."
Althoguh she had recent injuries, coach Brown saw potential in Verdeflor immediately, despite getting to know her later than some of the other freshmen. Since Verdeflor didn't participate in the traditional summer bridge program that most freshman student-athletes do prior to their season starting, Brown got to experience Ava's talents more recently.
"She and I had spoken on the phone and met many times before, but she got here and we weren't exactly sure where she'd make a contribution," Brown said. "She had been battling some injuries and we wanted to make sure that we got her healthy first and foremost. It is 100% apparent that she has beautiful lines on bars and beam in particular, and I think that she's proven in the last few competitions that she's very consistent. This past weekend she followed a fall, which I think is huge for a freshman to step up on the very first event and hit a routine after someone fell, so I'm becoming more and more reliant on her and looking forward to a very bright future."
Verdeflor is excited for her bright future, but also knows she still has a freshman year to go.
"For the rest of my freshman year, I want to continue contributing to the rest of the team," Verdeflor said. "I want to help on and off of the competition floor. I've been training beam also, and I'm hoping to go out there and do well."
By Briana Zuccarelli, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Penn State Nittany Lions will start the 2018 season coming off back-to-back Final Four appearances and ranking fourth in the IWLCA Preseason Coaches Poll.
The team will kick off its season at Towson on Saturday, February 10th, and they are looking forward to what this season holds for them.
The Strong Schedule
The Nittany Lions will face another strong schedule with 17 regular season contests, including eight home games and six conference games.
"I think it is going to be another exciting season," said Doherty. "Our schedule is super strong again, which I think is important being ready to compete in NCAA. We need to go as hard as we can in our regular season games."
Seven of their games are against opponents who reached the second-round of last year's NCAA Tournament. Two of the team's most challenging games will be against the Princeton Tigers, who the Nittany Lions defeated during the NCAA quarterfinals last season, and the 2017 national champions, Maryland.
The Team Leadership
With six starters graduating in 2017, the Nittany Lions were looking to fill big roles coming into this season. With this came the 11 freshman who now complete the missing holes for the Penn State team.
"They are amazing captains," said Doherty. "But, I really think in any great team you have more than just the captains being leaders. We look for anybody who is stepping into those starting lineup roles to serve as a leader in some capacity."
Some of the names coach Doherty mentioned were sophomore Maria Auth and junior Lucy Haubold. Both girls saw the field in the 2017 NCAA semifinals against Maryland, giving them the big game experience needed in the upcoming season.
"Those leadership roles are emerging
from many different people," said Doherty. "That's what makes the game fun and
hopefully it will lead to some success"
With great success, comes an even better atmosphere and this is just what the Nittany Lions wanted.
Coach explained the importance of the atmosphere and leadership these girls provide. She said it allows the coaches to stay on their toes with what they can push the athletes to do, how they can get even better, and how they can continue to promote leadership amongst their players.
"With this, when we get to game day they can take over themselves and they aren't looking over to the sidelines for the next play or the next option," she added.
After graduating key starters on the defense, the Nittany Lions had to figure out who would be taking over those defensive positions.
"We have some experience that we are going to have to work out through preseason," Doherty said. "These first couple of games when it comes to working on the defensive end because we graduated a lot of defenders."
The younger players on the defense
will look to Brisolari and O'Donnell to lead them and teach them the skills
they need to be a successful defense like in years past. Defender Lucy Haubold
mentioned that the defensive side worked hard during the offseason to form the
connections and relationships needed to become one unit.
"From an attacking standpoint, I'm going against these girls every day," said Auth. "They may be young, but as a unit they're really starting to come together."
On offense, junior Madison Carter will once again lead the attack alongside Gallagher and Auth. Coach Doherty explained that the offense has improved tremendously and has a lot of different weapons coming in.
"Madison Carter is playing the best she has ever played," said Doherty. "Maria (Auth) is another one who is playing this way. To build on that we have Delaney Muldoon back from an injury."
Carter finished the 2017 season with 70 goals, which put her at tenth in the nation. Carter was also named a 2017 IWLCA Second-Team All-American. While Auth, had a total of eight goals in the NCAA tournament and a career-high of four during the matchup against Princeton.
With a strong group full of experience and skill, the Nittany Lions are ready to get this season started.
Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a memorable finish last weekend to beat Ohio State, the top-ranked Nittany Lions look to bring the same focus and mentality into a second straight top 10 showdown against Iowa this weekend at the Bryce Jordan Center.
"I thought our effort was great last week but you can always wrestle better," Sanderson said. "I thought we had a good effort out of all of our guys but this is a big match - BJC, Iowa always has a great team and they're an intense team. They're coming in here to wrestle great so we've got to be ready. I think our team was relaxed last week and we are relaxed this week as well but we'll find out Saturday night."
Turning the Page to
The Nittany Lions have now shifted their focus to the Iowa Hawkeyes (11-2) in another highly anticipated matchup. For Penn State, moving onto the next opponent shouldn't be a problem, but it will need to make the most of its opportunities.
"They knew the schedule long before these matches come up," Sanderson said. "Ohio State's a big match, Iowa is a big match and they've known that and then Buffalo and we're into the Big Ten Tournament. You only get one chance at each match so you want to make the most of it."
For senior Zain Retherford, Penn State's mentality is key to its success both on the mat and when it comes to the bigger picture.
"I think we went into last weekend really not having anything to lose so I think carrying that forward and always being reminded that we want to win anything that we go into," Retherford said. "We're competitors and at the end of the day I'm happy with how we compete and how we approach the sport and how we approach life that way. That's the bigger picture, always keeping that in the back of your mind but still going out to win."
While Shakur Rasheed and Anthony Cassar continue to dazzle fans on the mat, Sanderson says it will once again be a match day as to who gets the start.
Carson Kuhn made his Penn State debut against one of the country's best, Nathan Tomasello. Although Kuhn was on the losing end of an intense battle, the senior was excited to make his Rec Hall debut.
"I've wrestled on a lot of cool stages, but nothing like Rec Hall," Kuhn said. "It's completely different. I think the fans are very educated, you can tell through the way that they react to the calls that the refs make to the moves that wrestlers are doing. It's just awesome to have that many people, with that much support, with knowledge about the sport."
Bo Nickal and Myles Martin met at 184 pounds and Nickal capped off a 10-2 major decision with two near fall points with just two seconds left, adding a crucial bonus point for Penn State.
"I just saw him lying on his belly," Nickal said. "Our coaches teach us to wrestle seven minutes so that's what I was focused on doing. I didn't really know that I was going to get the bonus point until I looked up at the scoreboard, but I was happy I was able to do that for the team."
On Monday USA Wrestling announced Rec Hall would be the second host site in the inaugural Final X series. The event will kick off Saturday June 16 at 6 p.m., helping decide the 2018 U.S. Freestyle Senior World Team rosters for both the men's and women's teams.
"I think the reason we have that is because of our fan base," Sanderson said. "They want to put the event somewhere that they know it's going to be successful. We have some great guys, some Nittany Lion Wrestling Club guys and some college kids that will be competitive but the main reason is because of our fans and our support so hats off to them. They're the ones that got that event placed here, but we're excited about it."
The other two events will take place June 9 and June 23. The locations and details will be announced at a later time.
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Focusing on the positives from the season opener, Penn State men's lacrosse is ready to bounce back and take on Hobart this weekend.
Putting away 16 goals last weekend, there's plenty to be optimistic about, but The Nittany Lions were in an interesting position playing without a key veteran piece of their attack, missing an injured Grant Ament.
"With losing that big piece of our offense it was just important to really keep the confidence in the offensive group," senior captain Tanner Peck said. "We can do it, we have to work together as a six man unit and it's not just going to be one guy."
Bolstered by its senior leadership, the Nittany Lions made the most of a limited amount of practice time with their shifted lineup, with Penn State's off practice day typically falling on Thursday.
It was junior midfielder Nick Spillane who was called on to fill the missing piece of the lineup, playing alongside starters sophomore Mac O'Keefe and junior Matt Donnelly.
"Nicky has done a great job in his role over the past couple years as a midfielder and we have played him [at attack] in various situations over the last year," Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "He was the next best option for us."
As the next best option, it was a no-brainer for Tambroni and his staff when it came to who had the experience and the skill needed to get the job done.
"It wasn't like you were just replacing anyone, you were replacing our top goal scorer and we needed someone down there who could manage that with a little bit more maturity, manage the ball and complement Matt Donnelly and Mac O'Keefe," Tambroni said. "With the experience that Nicky has given us over the past few years, he was the clear cut and easy choice down there."
Although the jump from midfield to attack can be challenging for some, as Tambroni noted, Spillane has experience at the position, having also played there his whole high school career.
The New York native was actually recruited to Penn State as an attackman, but when the team had an overabundance at the position and needed middies, Spillane was more than willing to switch positions to help the team and see more time on the field. Now back on attack, Spillane does have to make some adjustments to get in the mindset of his new but old position.
"My role changed a little bit," Spillane said. "I would say I have to carry the ball a little bit more and be more of a presence consistently in our offense, which is ultimately the biggest difference between attack and midfield."
Spillane did just that Saturday, making his presence known to the defense, coming up with four shots on goal along with two goals to help to spark momentum.
Headed into this week's game, Spillane will be tested again against a difficult opponent in Hobart. The Blue and White registered a 21-15 win over the Statesmen last season, but Spillane noted they haven't played Hobart as well as they would have liked to in recent years.
Coming off a season-opening loss, the Nittany Lions will be going into the game looking to earn their first win in 2018.
"Coming off an opening week loss is pretty difficult and I've never experienced that as an upperclassman," Spillane said. "Hobart is a tough team they're going to come ready to play."
By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State track and field assistant coach Fritz Spence has been surrounded by the sport of track and field his entire life. It is a sport that has given him much more than just a chance to compete, it has given him life.
Coming from the Bahamas, Spence started competing in track and field at a young age. So young, he doesn't even remember exactly how old he was.
"I've run track for as long as I could remember," Spence said. "I've been running and jumping. In the Bahamas they pick up track because it's a relatively easy sport to pick up as far as it doesn't cost a lot of money to run track, so a lot of the kids will do track and field. Over the years, I got better at becoming a jumper. When I graduated high school, I joined a local track club in the Bahamas and we would travel to the U.S. to compete at different universities."
A love for the sport started at such an early age allowed him to dream of becoming a coach someday, with a goal to pass that love on to others.
His dream has come true, now an assistant track and field coach at Penn State leading the jumpers and multi-event athletes for the last 12 years.
"To be honest, I wanted to be a coach all of my life," Spence said. "I enjoy doing track and field. Even as a young kid, I would always kind of be directing the younger athletes, my younger friends, what to do and how to do so. I always had a passion for coaching."
Coaching comes with a lot of responsibility but it also comes with a lot of gratification. For Spence, it's seeing his athletes become successful in life that's the most rewarding aspect.
"The most rewarding part of being a coach is to get athletes to perform a high level but also is to see athletes graduating," Spence said. "It's rewarding to see them coming in as a 17, 18-year-old and they graduate as a 22-year-old and get a good, decent job, and come back 3-5 years later and share their experience."
Even though coaching has proved to be rewarding from the beginning, it became even more important after he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2008. Spence was diagnosed almost 10 years ago on February 28, 2008. That was the first of his two battles with cancer during his time at Penn State.
"During my treatment, I would come back to the track and just hang out," Spence said. "Just being in the environment with my student athletes, they gave me motivation to push through. I remember asking the head coach at the time if I get permission from my doctor will I be allowed to come to meets, just to be in that environment. I got permission and even through the whole process, I've been in and around track and field. I think that's my lifeline. It gives me motivation to continue to push through it."
In remission after his second fight, Spence wanted to find a way to give back to the place that gave him so much during his hardest moments. Starting in 2013, the athletes and coaches at Penn State host an annual walk-a-thon called "Fit for Fritz" to raise money for the American Hope Lodge, the place where coach Spence stayed during his treatment.
"Fit for Fritz is an event we started about five years ago. Now, it has grown so much over the years. This year, we raised over $17,000 for the American Hope Lodge Society in Hershey, Pennsylvania. All the money goes directly to the Hope Lodge because that was a place that I stayed at during both of my treatments. It was a place where you get to live pretty much for free," Spence said.
"After I got healthy, I thought about giving back along with student-athletes who have been motivated and excited to give back and do community service. We continue to do that every year, and I continue to give back to Hope Lodge and help people that is in my positon today."
Senior high jumper, Megan McCloskey was the head coordinator of the Fit for Fritz event this year and has been an athlete for coach Spence the past four years.
"It's been very special getting to work with coach Spence over the last four years, not only in track & field but with Fit for Fritz as well," she said. "He's definitely a tough coach but all with the intention of helping us get the most out of ourselves and helping us realize our full potential. He reminds us after every meet that these days are special and we need to cherish every moment we have with our teammates and in competition because you never realize how quickly it goes or that one day you won't have it anymore. His appreciation for life and competition is something that I'll always be grateful for."
Whether a young child in the Bahamas, a cancer patient getting treatment, or a coach in Happy Valley, Spence has always had an appreciation for both life and competition, and he has nothing stopping him now.
Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK - No. 9 Penn State is 5-2, on the year, set to begin EIVA play this weekend with a match on the road at Saint Francis Saturday night. The Nittany Lions were the league champions last season, but the Red Flash finished just one game behind them.
Due to injuries, Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik has had to lean on other Nittany Lions for offensive production. Stepping up has been redshirt junior outside hitter, Matt McLaren, who is currently the third leading hitter for the Nittany Lions.
Last weekend, Ball State took Penn State all the way to five sets, while Fort Wayne provided a challenging four-set match the next day. After the match Saturday, McLaren said this Penn State team is mentally tougher than the Nittany Lion teams he has played for in the past.
"I think a big thing we've been focusing on this year is getting better at learning," McLaren said. "Being better at learning not just the skills, but learning how pressure affects our team and how we can deal with that in better ways on the court."
Over the last year, McLaren noted the team has also had several sessions with sports psychologists to sharpen everyone's mental aspects of the game and so far, it has paid dividends.
Pavlik agreed, pointing out that there is something to be said for this group of individuals having experienced many different types of situations on the court throughout their careers.
"There's a confidence that starts to build and a comfort level that starts to build," Pavlik said. "I think we're in the process of learning and embracing what our personality has become and I kind of like it. We're a little bit more resilient than we were in the past and I tend to agree with [McLaren]."
McLaren also pointed to this year's team returning the majority of its key contributors from last year, meaning another year with the same guys has brought them closer together, allowing them to learn more about playing together.
Following the departure of senior outside hitter Chris Nugent, McLaren has also seen an increased role quickly ascending to one of Penn State's most reliable offensive options.
At certain points during last Saturday's game, Pavlik got the sense that McLaren was in full control.
"You just got the sense that he was going to put us on his back," Pavlik said. "I really like the way that he's starting to let the game come to him. I think he's getting more and more comfortable with his ability to do what he does in his own way."
"My confidence has grown and I think it's because of the team that's around me," McLaren said. "I think I've been developing just by just practicing and doing the same stuff I did last year, while looking up to other guys to figure out what to do and make sure I'm doing all the right things."
As much as McLaren has blossomed into a primary offensive option for Penn State, he thinks his biggest area of improvement has been in his passing.
"I'm getting a lot more quality reps this year," McLaren said. "It's always been a focus for me, but this year it's a huge focus because that's the player that I think the team needs me to be."
McLaren and the Nittany Lions set a goal in the offseason to go undefeated in the EIVA this year and come Saturday at Saint Francis, Penn State will meet its first obstacle in the quest to achieve that feat.
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sparked by an overwhelming feeling of inspiration to help others, Penn State men's golfer Connor Raeman is ready to take the floor at THON 2018.
With his mother working in hospitals his whole life, Raeman is constantly surrounded by childhood cancer and its harsh reality, having always felt there was more he could do to help.
"I've met a lot of families that have lost someone due to childhood cancer," Raeman said. "Anyone affected by cancer, whether they're kids or not, it's not their decision and they didn't do anything wrong, they're just unfairly punished. I thought it was important to give our whole school and the athletic department my personal 110 percent effort to help them."
That is exactly what the junior will be doing the weekend of February 16th at the Bryce Jordan Center. Raeman was chosen along with four other student-athletes to dance in the 46-hour dance marathon through the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB).
When the New York native stepped on campus three years ago, he didn't even know what THON was, but quickly got involved through SAAB during his freshman year when he learned about the organization's part in the fight against childhood cancer.
"I just thought it was a really awesome cause and a good way to get involved in school," Raeman said. "I thought it was the best way to make a difference and meet a lot of new people."
Although Raeman got involved in THON to help in the fight against pediatric cancer, he has stayed and continued to get so involved because of the incredible THON families he has met along the way.
"The families are always just the most amazing people and if you met them on the street you would never know they were going through all this hardship," Raeman said. "When you talk to them they're the happiest, sweetest, most optimistic people in the world."
Raeman's most recent inspiration all started with a broken light in his apartment. When a repairman came to fix the light, he noticed Raeman's THON items on the counter. After talking with the repairman and finding out the father's son was a THON child, it put Raeman's decision to dance in perspective, reminding him of who he was doing it all for.
"I just really want to help [those affected by childhood cancer] out," Raeman said. "They're in this terrible position and it's just not fair. I feel like I really needed to help these people."
With Raeman still in the middle of the golf season, he has continued to attend early morning lifting sessions. Although he won't be able to attend the team work out on the Friday THON starts, he knows his coach and teammates will understand.
In preparation for the dance marathon, Raeman revealed he isn't doing anything outside of his normal routine, except trying to go to a sleep a little earlier than usual and incorporating more cardio into his workouts. Being a student-athlete, he feels his competitive attitude will help to give him an advantage throughout the weekend.
"I definitely think having a little bit more of a competitive mentality might kick in toward the last two hours and knowing how to finish something that's tough whether it's a sports event or the fact that your feet hurt and you're tired but you can't sit down," Raeman said.
In the past, Raeman has performed in athlete
hour pep rally during THON with other members of the men's golf team and plans
to do the same this year.
While they haven't finished in the top three
historically, with stiff competition from other Nittany Lion teams, Raeman is
feeling confident his team can pull out a win this year.
"I think the golf team is a sleeper this year," Raeman said. "I think we have a chance, we have a vision, we just have to put together a couple more steps. I think we might take it home this year."
By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State softball will travel to Gulf Shores, Alabama to compete in the Sand Dollar Classic to open its season this weekend. The Nittany Lions will play five games over the course of the three-day tournament, including doubleheaders on both Friday and Saturday.
One of the weekend's games is against No. 15 Ole Miss, which comes with an increased sense of importance for one Nittany Lion. Sophomore catcher Kennedy Legg will not only be playing in her first weekend for the Blue and White, but she will be doing so against her former team.
Legg, who committed to play for the Rebels coming out of high school in Keller, Texas, made the decision to transfer to Penn State after her freshman year.
"I visited the (Penn State) campus before I committed to Ole Miss, so when I decided I was going to transfer, my first thought was Penn State," Legg said. "I talked to coach Tek here and it seemed like a great fit."
Legg credited her Nittany Lion teammates for making the difficult process of transferring schools considerably easier for her.
"When I got back on campus and met all the girls, I just fell in love," Legg added.
Head coach Amanda Lehotak noticed how well Legg has fit into Penn State's program.
"Kennedy's done a great job," Lehotak said. "Transferring is a really hard thing to do if you've never done it."
"I've never seen someone come in and fit in so well right away," she added. "The team took her in as one of their own."
As a freshman at Ole Miss, Legg hit .286 over 12 games despite being used mainly as a pinch hitter and pinch runner. She now has the golden opportunity of getting to defeat her old team.
"Part of me wants to prove them wrong," Legg said. "Either way, win or lose, I'm happy with the choice I made."
The pre-med major looks for an increased role on a Penn State team that is welcoming eight other newcomers to the program this year. With a full season of experience in the Southeastern conference under her belt, she hopes to provide leadership for a rather young squad.
"I feel like I can bring a sense of leadership to the team," Legg said.
"She fits exactly what we expect out of an athlete academically, athletically, and in the community," Lehotak said. "She's provided a tremendous boost to our moral, our team, and our culture."
Lehotak will look for Legg, along with the team's seven other underclassman, to fill the holes left by losing five starters from last season. That new group has made an immediate impact.
"The dynamic has been awesome," Lehotak said. "At this point in the year, we feel like they have always been with us. All the kids who have come in have shown great work ethic."
Penn State will open the season vs. No. 11 Alabama Friday at 12 p.m. followed by a matchup with Virginia Tech later in the day. The Nittany Lions will square off against Ole Miss and Legg's former teammates Saturday at 1 p.m. in their third game of the regular season.
By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With just five games left in Big Ten play, the Penn State Lady Lions may be hitting their stride at the right time after playing one of their most complete games of the season on Super Bowl Sunday against Michigan State.
The Spartans entered the matchup tied with the Lady Lions in the Big Ten standings but constant pressure from Penn State caused 20 Michigan State turnovers. This allowed Penn state to get out and run in transition and play at the quick pace they much prefer over a slower half-court game.
"We work a lot in practice on scoring in the first six seconds once we get a rebound or steal so I think that really showed against Michigan State," sophomore guard Jaida Travascio-Green said. "We do try to get up and down and we do get a lot of steals so then our guards try to get out and get wide and we have a lot of options from there."
The defense clearly came to play against the Spartans as a half-court trap flustered the visitors providing plenty of opportunities for steals and deflections. On the year, there have been a variety of players for the Lady Lions to make an impact on the defensive side, and head coach Coquese Washington says they all bring something different to the table.
"Siyeh (Frazier) uses her speed and quickness to do a good job pressuring on ball. Amari (Carter) uses her athleticism and length to get into passing lanes, jumping gaps and getting steals kind of off the ball. Teniya (Page) is a really good off the ball defender too, she is more likely to pick up a charge or reach in and get a steal or deflection off the big so they all impact the game in their own way," Washington said. "Amari and Teniya are really good rebounding guards, against Michigan State they both had five or six rebounds apiece. I think they've had games where they've had eight or nine boards. When you have guards that can get in and attack the boards like that, it can be huge for us."
The depth on the defensive side has given Washington quite the arsenal defensively this season and has allowed to switch defenses at will. She also tries to adjust based on how she thinks they can limit other team's strengths.
"It mostly comes down to what I think we can do successfully. So you can watch a team play, like you can watch Michigan State play Minnesota, and Minnesota may have had some success on defense but can you do the same thing with your team and your personnel," Washington said. "So we have some things to work on and try to figure out which one of our defense which will be best to utilize against our next opponent."
Frazier specifically was all over the court against Michigan State, tying a season high in points with 14 and adding two steals. She was often a part of the traps that forced the turnovers with point guard Amari Carter.
"I'm not really big so I use my length on the defensive side and I have really long arms. Just getting in passing lanes, making the person on offense takes tough shots," Carter said. "Then you have Siyeh with the speed and quick hands. She is a great defender. We all just try to be disruptive on the defensive end as much as we can."
Frazier knows she brings a lot to the team defensively but just tries to play whatever role is asked of her. She has played anywhere from the point-guard to the forward position this year and has been in and out of the starting lineup due to injuries early in the season for teammates such as Teniya Page.
"I just try to maintain a versatile mindset, like sometimes coach wants me at the four position when we go small, or maybe sometimes I will be bringing the ball up. I just try to stay versatile and be able to fill any role to help my team win," Frazier said.
With just five games remaining in regular season Big Ten play, the Lady Lions are hoping to be able to maintain this momentum moving forward, with each game providing a different challenge.
"The one thing about the Big Ten is it's not a one size fits all conference, there are so many different mentalities and so many different approaches because we have really good post players like for Michigan State. We are going to play Iowa and Gustafson is having an MVP caliber year," Washington said. "You play Ohio State and Kelsey Mitchell is almost unguardable so every team kind of has different aspects which makes them tough. So it's hard to go into our conference and say we are just going to do one thing and that's going to guard every team in our conference well. You have to be able to switch things up because there is so much variety and styles in the Big Ten."
While styles change, Travascio-Green's mindset remains the same with what she thinks the team needs to do defensively.
The high defensive pressure can lead to offense as well, as Penn State outscored the Spartans 14-3 on fast break points Sunday, and nobody knows this better than Amari Carter who operates the offense from the point-guard position.
"Defense leads to offense so speeding up the other teams and making them make tough passes leads to us getting out on the break and then just coming back down and getting another steal and keep that cycle going is fun."
The fun is starting to pick up for the Lady Lions, but Washington really wants to see her team pick up a big road win before the regular season can come to a close. If they are to get that road win the defensive pressure and dictating pace will likely play a huge part. The Lady Lions know what has to be done to get that win.
"I think we've pretty much figured out what we want to do and I think we've known what we want to do for a while," Carter said. "It's just executing it and doing it consistently is a big thing for us as we get closer to postseason play."
Throughout the entire month of February, Penn State Athletics is proudly sharing the stories of its student-athletes and coaches who have helped shape Nittany Lion history.
Promoted to assistant coach after serving as volunteer assistant for two years, baseball's Andre Bulter is in his third season with the Nittany Lions. Giving back to his Philadelphia roots, Butler started a tee ball league in West Philadelphia called the "Jackie Robinson West Philly League" for boys and girls ages eight and under.
In the first of a multi-part video series, Butler talks everything from t-ball to Black History Month and what it means to him. View more here.
By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Redshirt junior Noah Roberson doesn't only exert impressive amounts of concentration and balance on the still rings, but also in the classroom as he pursues a double major in biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering within the Schreyers Honors College. As the Penn State men's gymnastic team enters this semester with 13 out of their 21 gymnasts on the dean's list, Roberson leads the precedence for educational excellence as he continues to maintain a 4.0 GPA.
"So even coming to college it is just putting all of the effort I can into every aspect of life whether gymnastics, school and it's turned out well for me so far," Roberson said on his path to success.
Since Roberson joined the Nittany Lions in 2015, his academic accomplishments have been honored across a number of platforms. Roberson's awards range from Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, Academic All-Big Ten, First Team CGA All-America Scholar-Athlete to the prestigious Elite 90 Award. In both the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Roberson notched three of the four awards listed.
"As a student he is like 99.9%, he's killing it... He hasn't gotten anything less than an A yet," head coach Randy Jepson said. "There isn't anything he hasn't done academically that he can do better."
Even before joining the Blue and White, Roberson had high academic standards as he graduated from Willamsville South High School in Willamsville, New York with another perfect 4.0 GPA.
"I like to credit to my parents and my upbringing really," Roberson said. "It's always been like this for us...my parents really pushed me and my siblings to be the best we could be in everything we do."
Jepson views Roberson's academic dedication and childhood foundation as a vital factor to his gymnastic career as a still ring specialist.
"He is a bright guy, he gets what we are talking about when we are training and the changes he needs to make," Jepson said. "A good example of that is this summer he struggled at the end of routines for the past two years in terms of fitness. He just didn't quite have a strong enough handstand at the end and he came back much stronger this summer. He made the changes he needed to get better and you know he has been able to put in some really good rings for us so far this year."
Roberson's classroom achievements not only improve his personal gymnastics career, but also helps elevate the standard of Penn State men's gymnastics as he offers academic advice and knowledge to the other student-athletes on the squad, especially sophomore biomedical engineering major Sam Zakutney.
"He always gives me pointers about all of the different classes I am planning on taking and giving me tips on who are good professors and what not and how to properly study for exams," Zakutney said. "Yeah he's a real help, real mentor."
While Roberson embraces his current student-athlete role, he looks to the future to pursue a career that bolsters his education, but also his love for gymnastics. Last summer he applied his experiences to his first internship, an opportunity with Delphi.
"It's really different honestly," Roberson said on his internship experience. "It's nothing like school. It's the real world. It gives you a taste of it. It gives me connections, it helps me network, really learn...I really think that has helped me moving on."
While this summer he has an opportunity to work with prosthetics at Stryker, a medical devices and equipment manufacturing company. He hopes this internship will also call upon his gymnastics background and interests.
"Stryker is a company I really would like to work for coming out of school as well," Roberson said. "I have always been interested in biomechanics. Cleary with gymnastics everything we do is strength, injury related, so I will be working with prosthetics with them and specifically the foot and ankle team which is awesome."
Roberson's dedication to hard work has motivated a path that intersects at the pinnacle of his interests: gymnastics, engineering, and Penn State.
"I am really looking forward to just getting more real world experience getting engineering knowledge and kind of helping to better the world which is why I became an engineer in the first place," Roberson said.
The discipline of gymnastics, the rigorousness of a double major education and the dedication of a student-athlete's life proved to be the formula for Roberson's success as a Nittany Lion and a future engineer.
"It is going to open up doors coming out of here where as much as I love gymnastics, gymnastics can't really do [that] and it's going to give me a platform to really reach any goal I have," Roberson said.
By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's strength all year has been team speed, and the Lady Lions used it to their advantage once again in a 74-59 win on Sunday over Michigan State.
The Lady Lions were able to control the pace of play in the first half and used a quick tempo to outscore the Spartans 14-3 on fast break points.
"We definitely wanted to use our speed to our advantage. Either size was going to win or speed was going to win and coming into the game we talked that we weren't going to out-size them," head coach Coquese Washington said. "They are bigger than us so we had to out run them. I thought the team did a great job executing that part of the game plan."
Jaida Travascio-Green got Penn State going in the first quarter, running the break when she went on a solo 10-0 run which included two transition three-pointers.
The hot start continued when Siyeh Frazier helped force back-to-back turnovers and finished on the other end for breakaway layups.
"She (Siyeh) is kind of an X-Factor. She has tremendous speed and tremendous quickness. She can get out in transition and she knows how to finish. She also gets us some extra possessions with those plays and, in a number of different ways, especially when she is rebounding and gets us deflections," Washington said. "She doesn't always get the steal but sometimes she makes the ball handler make an errant pass. Or she will get a deflection and someone else ends up with the steal. She is a great compliment to Teniya [Page] and Amari [Carter] on defense. All three of them are different types of defenders so she is a great compliment to those two."
Frazier finished with 14 points which tied er career-high and are the most in a Big Ten game for the sophomore, most of which came on strong drives to the hoop.
"Being aggressive towards the basket is what's best for me, and not being passive just works in my game," Frazier said.
Along with Frazier, sophomore point guard Amari Carter had a large impact on dictating the pace and creating turnovers. Carter scored 14 points, had six assists and perhaps most impactful had five steals.
"I think being active on the defensive end helps us get out and get on the run and get those easy points for Siyeh," Carter said. "So active hands and getting in passing lanes, making them make bad passes and take tough shots then getting rebounds and getting out [on the break] definitely helps us."
Defensive pressure has been an emphasis for the Lady Lions all season, but have at times struggled to open games and play at their pace. Washington however, was pleased with how her team started against Michigan State.
"I thought our defensive effort, especially to start the game was exactly what it needed to be. Michigan State's strength is their post play and they are aggressive trying to get it to their post so we knew we had to work really hard to keep them out of rhythm," Washington said. "That work on the defensive end led to some transition opportunities for us. In particular, in the first half we were able to get going and get some confidence there."
By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In front of the third largest crowd in Pegula Ice Arena history, No. 17 Penn State and No. 2 Notre Dame battled for 65 minutes until the Fighting Irish eventually prevailed victorious in a shootout.
After falling behind by two goals just eight minutes into the first period, the Blue and White fought back with two unanswered goals, including one in the opening minutes of a\ strong second period.
Sophomore forward Liam Folkes, who tied the game two minutes into the second period with his 10th goal of the season, talked about playing from behind early in the game.
"Last night we were up 2-0 and they came back and won, so we were positive about it," Folkes said. "We felt like we could come back just like they did last night."
Head coach Guy Gadowsky was also pleased with how his squad approached the early deficit.
"I was really happy with how the team responded to being down 2-0 early," Gadowsky said.
The Nittany Lion comeback to tie the score was fueled by both aggressiveness and a quick-trigger offense. Coming off a game Friday night in which it had 51 shots, Penn State tallied 57 shots Saturday night against Notre Dam goaltender Cale Morris, including 20 in the second period. The 57 shots tied a season high, as Penn State shot the puck early and often.
"We're on the right track," Folkes said. "I think we outplayed them for sure."
Despite outshooting the second ranked team in the country by 23 shots, Penn State was simply unable to deliver the knockout blow, largely due to the great play of Morris in net. He stopped a penalty shot by Andrew Sturtz with just 1:36 left in overtime and made all three saves in shootouts, doing his part in keeping Notre Dame in the game and Penn State out of the goal column.
"Cale [Morris] had an unbelievable weekend," Folkes said. "He stole two games from us."
Gadowsky was also complimentary of Morris, who allowed only a combined five goals on 106 shots by Penn State this weekend.
"Give him a ton of credit," Gadowsky said. "He played great again."
Penn State's sophomore goalie Peyton Jones, who has been a part of some great battles with Morris in the past, talked postgame about playing against another great goalie.
"He's a tremendous goaltender," Jones said. "I played him when I was in Midgets and I played against him in the USHL. We battled it out in game five of the series playoffs in the USHL league. He's a great goalie."
Although Jones saw Notre Dame build a quick two-goal lead while his counterpart across the ice continued to make save after save, with no quit.
For Jones, that no-quit attitude all stems from the importance of having a short memory at his position and the ability to bounce back from adversity.
"If you dwell on the goals you give up, it will only lead to worse things ahead," Jones said. "It's definitely not easy to look at the score and see you're down 2-0, but that's a part of being a goalie."
That mindset helped Jones stop 32 shots, matching a great performance from Morris throughout the game.
Jones made some incredible saves down the stretch for Penn State, stopping the first two shooters for Notre Dame in shootouts before the senior defensemen Jordan Gross scored the game-winner.
Penn State has a bye week coming up, but looking ahead, they will travel to East Lansing, Michigan for a series with the Spartans starting February 16.
By Will Desautelle, GoPSUSports.com
student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State upended No. 15 Fort Wayne Saturday afternoon in the Rec Hall south gym to close out its nonconference portion of the schedule.
It was a match that saw Fort Wayne push Penn State to its limit, but the Nittany Lions rallied from behind in a critical third-set victory to shift the momentum and close out the match a set later.
Amid some serving some miscues Saturday, it wasn't enough to prevent Penn State from coming away with a victory.
"I thought late in game two and into game three we started to match their intensity and I thought we started to execute our game pretty well," head coach Mark Pavlik said.
For the second night in a row though, Penn State showed some tremendous grit, particularly in sets one and three. The Nittany Lions trailed late in both of these frames but battled all the way back to win in extra points behind some tough blocking and defense.
"The teams in the past I've been on at Penn State haven't quite had the mental toughness that we've had and I think it just shows a lot about this team and how fast we can learn," outside hitter Matt McLaren said.
McLaren also had the hot hand on the outside for Penn State, finishing with 13 kills and two service aces. With the departure of last season's leading outside hitter, Chris Nugent, McLaren has taken on a much larger role and has blossomed into a terrific offensive option for the Nittany Lions this season.
"It's nice because he's reliable," Clemens said. "You can always bet on him to pass the ball, get a good swing on it, or give you a second contact if needed. It's nice to have someone like that on the court."
In sparking momentum, Pavlik made numerous adjustments throughout the match. One of those adjustments came in inserting outside hitter Lee Smith into the lineup in set number two for Aidan Albrecht, who was hitting just .143 in the match and struggled with his passing. Smith, who has not seen much time this season coming off an injury, finished with four kills and hit .500 for the match.
"We've got some depth on the team," Pavlik said. "Every one of these guys will tell you that competition exists at their positions. Lee came off the bench and settled down our passing and I think from then on he really helped funnel the energy and intensity into the group."
For Lee, the process of getting back to 100 percent hasn't exactly been easy, but one he's approaching with a day-by-day mindset.
"It was a struggle in the fall to get back to playing and then from there, it was kind of just day by day to build my confidence and my skills," Smith said. "I'm still not where I want to be exactly so each day I'm just taking it day by day and getting better."
Pavlik also interestingly decided to use both of his liberos, alternating both Royce Clemens and Declan Pierce each point beginning in set three.
"Royce's strength is passing the ball - that's what we needed and he gave us that," Pavlik said. "Declan's been digging some hard-hit balls in practice and it gives us an opportunity to really measure and take a look at the depth we have."
The action-packed third set victory propelled the Nittany Lions to a dominant victory in the fourth set to seal the deal. Their blocking really began to take control of the match at that point, as they finished with 13 blocks as a team and held Fort Wayne to a .048 hitting percentage in the final set.
"We were just finally executing," Smith said. "They run that fast tempo ball from pin to pin, so once we started to figure it out, we were pretty much shutting them down."
Jalen Penrose also had another big night from the right side, adding a team-high 15 kills (.333 hitting percentage) and five blocks. Penn State's middles, Kevin Gear (.500 hitting percentage) and Jason Donorovich, (.412 hitting percentage) combined for 21 kills and 11 blocks in a huge performance.
"Kevin is just a steady head. You can always count on him to really play his game," Smith said. "And then Jason at the end was really great to see him stepping into that second middle slot and really just showing what he can do."
Penn State improves to to 5-2 on the year with the win, set to begin EIVA play with a road trip to Saint Francis next Saturday. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Making for a dramatic season-opener, Penn State men's lacrosse forced overtime but ultimately fell short to Villanova. Despite the final score on the scoreboard, the Nittany Lions have lots of positives to build upon headed into week two.
"I thought we did a nice job early," Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "I thought we battled in the middle portion and the second and third quarter. I was really proud of what we did going into that fourth quarter."
Captain Ryan Keenan had a record day, scoring a career-high five goals to go along with two assists. The senior midfielder is already showing promising signs of being a main contributor offensively, but for Tambroni this isn't anything he didn't expect.
"It didn't surprise me because that young man is as much of a competitor as anyone I've ever coached," Tambroni said. "He takes a lot of chances out there and today it really payed off for him."
Tambroni also noted during a pregame dinner with the team last night, Keenan wore his heart on his sleeve and made it clear to everyone how special he felt to be able to play with all of his teammates.
"He stood up in front of the team and said a few heartfelt words to his team about what it meant to be a part of this team and he followed it up today with an unbelievable performance," Tambroni said.
In the eyes of Keenan, the unbelievable performance was simply doing what he had to do to help his team. Hardly focusing on his own accolades, the New York native made humbly plays his best and does whatever is asked of him.
"I see myself as a role player on offense, just part of the unit out there," Keenan said. "I do what the coaches ask, if they want me to play defense [or] if they want me to play wings, I just play hard compete and that's really it."
Alongside his career-day, Keenan also wore Penn State's No. 16 jersey for the first time in the regular season, continuing a Penn State men's lacrosse tradition.
In honor of Penn State goalie Connor Darcey's tragic passing in 2015, the program has made it a yearly tradition to pass down the No. 16 jersey in his honor.
Last year it was redshirt senior Matt Sexton who had the honor of wearing No. 16, who then passed it onto Keenan for the 2018 season.
"He's a competitor, there's a reason why he wears No. 16," Tambroni said. "He is so symbolic of Connor Darcey and the way he used to compete as a goalie."
Although Keenan's regular season game wearing the special jersey didn't have quite the anticipated outcome, he'll continue to honor Darcey's legacy as the year progresses.
"First day wearing No. 16 is just an honor and I wanted to go out there, compete and honor Connor's spirit," Keenan said. "That's really all I wanted to do."
Considering the outcome as a team, Penn State's season opener was one filled with shifts in momentum giving an opportunity for both positives and negatives to learn from moving forward. While there is still plenty of lacrosse left to play this season, Tambroni is looking for the Nittany Lions to move on quickly, preparing for next weekend's outing against his alma mater, Hobart."We have a really resilient team and a team I really love to be around," Tambroni said. "I think they were a little bit uncharacteristic in certain areas today and Villanova took advantage of it."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the week leading up to Saturday night's mammoth Big Ten matchup against Ohio State, Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson made expectations clear from the start.
In what Sanderson described postmatch as a strange week, with an injury keeping NCAA national champion Jason Nolf out of the lineup, everyone's absolute best was the only option. From start to finish, there was simply no doubting the Nittany Lions had accepted the challenge, with an energized full-capacity crowd adding perhaps a little bit of Rec Hall magic.
"These guys knew they were going to have to step it up and we were going to have to have a big match or two like [Anthony] Cassar," Sanderson said. "Everyone in the Ohio State lineup is really good so they're tough at every weight class."
Well before Cassar brought fans to their feet in a stunning upset of Ohio State's top-ranked undefeated Kollin Moore, the electricity in the atmosphere had already been ignited.
We'll come back to Cassar.
Making his debut for the Nittany Lions at 125 pounds, Penn State's Carson Kuhn ignighted a deafening roar early, unleashing a pair of first period takedowns against Ohio State's NCAA national champion Nathan Tomasello. While Tomasello emerged with the major decision to put the Buckeyes on the board first, Kuhn's potential was particularly inspiring to Sanderson and the staff.
"Even throwing Carson Kuhn out there the first match he's had in two years, he looked good," Sanderson said. "We knew he was going to get tired, especially in that we threw him out there in his first match in that atmosphere. It's going to take a toll an anybody. I thought he wrestled well and showed some of his potential."
While Sanderson noted Kuhn could have opted to travel to an open tournament at Edinboro, he chose to instead remain in Happy Valley.
"He could have gone and got some matches some other way in his preparation but he wanted to wrestle and I think that takes a lot of courage and kind of shows you what kind of kid he is," Sanderson said.
Penn State quickly saw its deficit expand, as a quieted crowd saw the Nittany Lions enter the intermission trailing 15-5 with Bo Pipher's loss at 157 pounds following a pair of close loses by decision for Corey Keener and Nick Lee at 133 pounds and 141 pounds, respectively.
Top-ranked Zain Retherford however, highlighted in between Lee and Pipher with a 20-4 technical fall with 3:19 in riding time. Taken down by Ohio State's No. 7 Ke-Shawn Hayes to start, Retherford calmly regrouped to close out a dominant effort.
"It kind of caught me off guard," Retherford said of Hayes' early takedowns. "Especially the second one, I was kind of putting my head down for a second after the first takedown like okay, I just got taken down. The second one, he got me when I wasn't really present at the moment. So when I went out of bounds I was just thinking alright, whatever happens is irrelevant I just have to be present for the rest of this period on and that's what happened."
No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph re-energized the Nittany Lions with a 12-3 major decision with nearly two minutes in riding time against Te'Shan Campbell. Although securing some crucial bonus points, it wasn't about the point scoring for Joseph, who moved the Nittany Lions within, 15-9.
"It didn't really have to do with the team score," Joseph said. "I'm going to go out and try and score as many points as I can every time. I thought I wrestled pretty well today. I was trying to push the pace and just wrestle my style."
In back-to-back matchups featuring wrestlers all in the top three, Penn State came out on top with No. 2 Mark Hall earning a 6-4 decision against No. 3 Bo Jordan with 1:40 in riding time. It was No. 1 Bo Nickal though who moved Penn State ahead, 16-15, securing a 10-2 major decision with 2:40 seconds in riding time against No. 2 Myles Martin, helped out by a late turn for two near fall points in the last two seconds of the bout.
Rec Hall nearly erupted shortly after as unranked Cassar topped Moore to give the Penn State comeback just enough momentum.
"Once I got out there I just felt very present and calm," Cassar said. "Once I got the first takedown I knew that he wasn't getting on my legs and if I wanted to score I could."
In a match he had visualized since he arrived on campus three years ago and the culmination of both ups and downs, Cassar jumped to his feet and waved his arms to send the already screaming crowd into a full on frenzy.
"I ran out there and just in my head, I tried to stay present and do my best and I knew that if I did that, that's all the fans wanted and all the team wanted and it turned out in my favor," Cassar said. "I felt like I gave my best in that match."
At 285 pounds, Nick Nevills scored early with a takedown against Ohio State's top-ranked Kyle Snyder, falling by decision to finalize a 19-18 win for the Nittany Lions and at least a share of the 2018 Big Ten dual meet championship title.
Even as Hall lifted the trophy high into the air to a cheering crowd still in their seats and on their feet, for Sanderson, today was already on its way and it's time to get back to work.
By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State knocked off the Ball State Cardinals in a back and forth five-set thriller at Rec Hall Friday night.
It was a gritty win for the Nittany Lions after a comfortable advantage slipped away in set four. Penn State then scored seven points in a row in the final set to take control.
"That's kind of the classic example of the men's volleyball world as it is," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "Every team has big strong boys that hit the ball really hard and over the course of the match we forced them off the net more for our defense to handle things more easily and our transition offense to have a much better time at scoring."
The service line was a bit of an issue for Penn State, as the Nittany Lions committed 23 errors, but Pavlik found several bright spots in this part of the game.
"We had 10 aces and almost a one to two ace to error ratio - I'll take that," Pavlik said. "I think in spurts we served the ball better than we have all year long."
One of the more intriguing storylines of the evening was Pavlik's decision to move Jalen Penrose back over to right side for the injured Calvin Mende. Pavlik mentioned last week that he would not consider moving Penrose, who switched to middle blocker this season.
"We needed to put balls away and I think our offense spread out a bit," Pavlik said. "They've got to respect the fact that we can put balls away at both antennas."
The reason for moving Penrose to middle this season in the first place was mainly due to Penrose's inconsistencies throughout his time at right side but tonight, the move paid off.
Penrose finished with a match-high 16 kills adding six service aces, including two clutch aces in the fifth set.
"It was a little foreign to me at first. It took me about the entire week of practice to get comfortable again, but I'm glad I did again," Penrose said.
With Penrose moving back over to right side, Jason Donorovich made his first start of the season at one of the middle spots, finishing with five kills and three blocks.
"It was a lot of fun. We practiced like that all week, so I'm comfortable with the guys," Donorovich said. "I'm always ready to go. That's where my mindset is. I always want to be out there with the guys so I was excited."
Another unsung hero of Friday night's match was Kevin Gear, Penn State's other middle blocker. Gear finished with a team-high six blocks and played a critical role in limiting Ball State's star middle blocker, Matt Walsh to just eight kills in five sets.
"When Kevin got his first block we knew right then that he had control," setter Luke Braswell said. "When he shows up and takes that ownership on the court, it's awesome."
Braswell was outstanding all night with 44 assists for the match, looking every bit the part of a veteran leader when Penn State rebounded after its loss in the fourth set.
"We realized that even though we blew a pretty big lead in the fourth set, it was a new game and we knew that we had them before so we could do it again," Braswell said. "Everyone on the court was just calm."
Penn State improved to 4-2 with the win and will have one more nonconference match before diving into EIVA play. The Nittany Lions will take on No. 15 Fort Wayne Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Rec Hall south gym, looking to cap a strong finish to their nonconference slate.
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No.17 Penn State men's hockey battled in game one of the series, but in the end it was No. 2 ranked Notre Dame emerging victorious. Although the Nittany Lions ultimately lost the outing, they showed promising signs of improvement down the stretch.
"Other than the result, it was a great night," Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "Excellent team, phenomenal atmosphere and I just feel really bad that we couldn't pull this one out."
The Nittany Lions started out strong, with the first line working together to put three pucks in the back of the net. Junior assistant captain Chase Berger scored two goals, one in both the first and second periods, both assisted by junior Andrew Sturtz.
Continuing to experiment with line changes, junior Alec Marsh joined the first line on the left wing. It was Marsh who was able to score the first goal of the game, assisted by Berger and Sturtz, to get the momentum flowing and the crowd going.
"I really like the mentality that [Marsh] has had since Christmas," Gadowsky said. "He came back and you can see it in practice, there's a couple things he has to do to be effective and he [has done those things]."
During pregame warmups, Marsh was one of the first Nittany Lions on the ice and one of the last off. The New Jersey native aggressively skated for the duration of the game, won pucks and got back to help on defense. Not only has the coaching staff noticed Marsh's efforts, but also his fellow teammates.
"Marsh is great," Berger said. "He's really hard on the forecheck and I think Andrew [Sturtz] and I both love when he keeps his feet moving, gets the puck behind the defense and keeps it simple."
Not only did the first line's success show on the scoreboard, but also in the faceoff circle with Berger and Sturtz combining for 15 wins on the draw. Sturtz led the way earning an impressive 6-2 mark on the night with both of the faceoffs he took in the first period resulting in goals.
Gadowsky pointed out while it isn't completely out of the ordinary to have a forward like Sturtz take a faceoff like he has done before, it was also a strategic move.
"I've had some success against Jake Evans in the faceoff circle in Notre Dame," Sturtz said. "We were going out for the draw and [Berger] said let's try a switch and it worked right off the bat there."
Penn State now preps for a quick turnaround, set to host Notre Dame in game two of the series in a late afternoon matchup with the focus on playing a full 60 minutes against a consistent team.
"What matters is we have a tremendous opportunity tomorrow," Gadowsky said. "We have to forget this quickly and just prepare to play our best game more consistently."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's basketball returns home from a heavy road stretch to host Iowa Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center.
It's been two months to the day since the last time the Nittany Lions and the Hawkeyes met with Penn State opening the early part of the Big Ten schedule with a 77-73 win on the road in Iowa City.
Following a mid-week Big Ten road loss at Michigan State, Penn State's Tony Carr met with members of the media for an update ahead of the first of two consecutive home outings, with Maryland set to visit Wednesday, Feb. 7 for a 6:30 p.m. tip.
From the Spartans to budding confidence and belief, it's the Friday hoops five to kick off another stacked Penn State weekend in Happy Valley.
Home Sweet Home
On the heels of its largest home crowd since 2011, Penn State has settled into some home court advantage this year. On the season, 11 of Penn State's 15 total wins have come at home, with the Nittany Lions owning an 11-3 mark in the Bryce Jordan Center.
With seven games left in the regular season, including four at home, Penn State already has the most home wins since the 2010-11 season when the Nittany Lions went 13-5.
Penn State led by as many as 12, but came up short after the Spartans used a second-half surge to clip a two-game Nittany Lion winning streak.
"They made shots," Carr said. "We were dealing with some foul trouble, some guys were out for an extended period of time but they made a great run that we couldn't withstand that led them to a win."
Although the Spartans were ultimately boosted by a 52-point second half, Penn State will have to find a way to halt a big second half Saturday. Iowa enters the matchup having scored at least 50 points or more in the final frame five times this year, including each of the last two games - most notably with a 57-point second half in its most recent win against Minnesota.
The Hardest Days
Earlier this week, Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers noted that the hardest days are January to February. Much like he said prior to the trip to East Lansing, things can still go a lot of different directions for the Nittany Lions. If there's anything from his pre-Michigan State presser though, it's that staying present and making small steps toward getting better have to be the focus down the stretch.
"I think our 'why' is to keep getting better, to be the best team that we can be by the end of the year," Chambers said. "These kids came here and they took a chance on us and they wanted to come here together to do something special."
Chambers also noted early this week that there's a clear belief among the Nittany Lions when it comes to truly believing in one another on any given night. It's something Carr has also seen develop since he arrived on campus for his freshman year last season.
"I've definitely seen the belief develop," Carr said. "We all go through the trials and tribulations together and we all know what it feels like to be down and we know what it feels like to be up and we know what it takes to win these games now. Coach is just on us every day about being consistent and having that same energy and effort and hopefully that leads us to winning games."
Finishing it Out
With seven games remaining in the regular season, Carr noted the mentality right now is right where it needs to be, knowing that the ability to compete with anybody no matter the location is engrained in the mindset.
To close it though, for Carr, it's going to take some mental toughness.
"I would say, we just have to be mentally strong," Carr said. "We go on the road and we're here and some night shots might not be falling, some nights the whistle may be against us. We just have to stay mentally strong through it all. The crowds get loud on the road, teams make runs, so I would just say that mental part of it."
By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Last Sunday against the Purdue Boilermakers Jaida Travascio-Green notched her 100th career 3-point shot at Penn State, becoming just the 16th Lady Lion ever to reach that mark.
Travascio-Green is still just a sophomore and has been a threat all over the court this season for Penn State, and this milestone is just one representation of her hard work.
"It's definitely a big deal especially because I knew coming in I was going to be shooting threes, but to make my 100th and to think about that as 300 points is kind of insane," Travascio-Green said. "It was a big deal. I'm excited to go up from here, I'm only a sophomore so I'm excited to see what happens with the rest of this season and then moving forward in my career."
It is not just the three that has been falling this year for Travascio-Green, as she added many weapons to her game and honed other skills in the offseason.
"This summer I worked a lot on my ball handling, working on my pull-up and getting to the basket. I think I've made more twos this year than I attempted all of last year at this point and I think I hit that point pretty early on in the season," Travascio-Green said. "That makes it easier to get my shot off [from 3-point range] because they can't just run out at me because I can go past them. Just adding in another facet of my game helps me get more opportunities."
Travascio-Green has added a dribble drive to her game, and has also gotten to the free-throw line at a higher rate. Early in non-conference play, leading-scorer Teniya Page was out with injury and it was Travascio-Green stepping up on the offensive end scoring as many as 31 points in a game.
While Travascio-Green has added more skills, she is still most dangerous from outside the arc.
"She's worked pretty hard along with her position coach. They've put a lot of time in before and after practice just working on her form and on her footwork and things of that nature," head coach Coquese Washington said. "I think the results show that when she gets in the game she shoots with a lot of confidence and her teammates have a lot of confidence in her."
But as every shooter knows, not every game is a cake-walk with open looks from the top of the key. There have been games where Travascio-Green doesn't hit with her usual frequency.
"For any shooter there are just days when it's not falling, there are days when it just rattles in and out and touches every part of the rim, but just won't go in. A big thing for me is I try not to think about my shot too much, when I do start to think about it my coaches get in my ear and tell me I have to miss 25 threes before I can stop shooting," Travascio-Green said. "So I try to think about that and think there's no way I can miss 25 threes in a row or even 15 in a row. So just keeping the mentality that if you're a shooter you've just got to keep shooting and they will fall eventually."
The short memory mentality has served her well, and is a mature mindset for a true sophomore. The young Lady Lions have all had to grow up fast in Big Ten play and play with confidence, but it may be more important for the shooter to have it than any other position.
"I think she has learned this year that you have to have a short memory as a shooter and you can't let a couple of misses deter you from taking the next one," Washington said. "As she's become more prolific in her ability she's drawn a lot more attention so there are times she will say 'I didn't think i was open.' I just tell her, 'well that's as open as you're going to get.' When you shoot the ball as well as she does, you're not going to be completely wide open and they're not going to leave you alone. I think she's learned even to be more aggressive when getting that extra attention."
That attention and defensive focus from opponents has been a theme on Travascio-Green. When she is feeling it from deep, it becomes tough to even breath when on offense. She has shown potential to score in bunches and in a multitude of ways adding a third weapon for the Lady Lion offense alongside starting backcourt mates Page and Amari Carter.
Without one senior on the roster, this trio will only grow stronger both individually, and as a unit. When defenses are forced to deny Travascio-Green the ball on the perimeter, it opens lanes for Carter and Page to drive. Three complete offensive weapons is the goal for Washington's offense, and with the additions to Travascio-Green's game this is not a that tall of a task.
"I think the attention is only going to grow as she also grows as a player. She's a player who plays with a lot of pride in being out there on the court," Washington said. "She will continue to add to her game, this year she's working more off her dribble, and she's adding her pull-up jumper into her game a little more. So I think she's working those ancillary skills into her game a little more that go with a tremendous three-point shooter."
As her team grows around her on the court, Travascio-Green's 3-point shooting has been a highlight of this season, and her scoring prowess is only going to skyrocket in the years to come.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Amidst a packed home weekend in Happy Valley, there's perhaps no more of an intriguing matchup than what's on deck at Rec Hall Saturday night. With the possibility of top 15 matchups against ranked wrestlers in seven of 10 bouts, it's the second-ranked Nittany Lions against the top-ranked Buckeyes.
"Ohio State has a really great team so it's a great opportunity for us to wrestle and we get to wrestle in front of our home crowd," Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson said. "You shouldn't have to motivate your team too much for a big match like this. We'll see what happens."
From rematches to highly anticipated meetings there's no doubting Penn State is set for a big time Big Ten clash.
Take just a few steps inside the room at the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex though and it's just another day.
It was Wednesday when Sanderson and a few Nittany Lions met with a slightly larger than usual mob of media members ahead of Saturday's meeting between two of only three remaining undefeated teams in the nation.
Upon entering the room, Sanderson greeted the group with a smile, as music played in background with really no palpable sense of stress in the air, even at mention of the anticipated 40th consecutive sell-out slated for Rec Hall Saturday.
"I think this team, pretty much everywhere we go we have a great crowd and they're ready to wrestle," Sanderson said. "Last week at Rutgers, they had the biggest crowd ever and the kids game out to scrap. I think it's nothing new and it's a big match but we'll have another big match next week against Iowa and then we have one more home dual and we get ready to roll. There's going to be big matches this year, next year, so we'll be ready."
With a pair of lineups packed with NCAA champions and All-Americans, even last week it was Sanderson who said the bigger the matchup, the better his Nittany Lions are going be on the mat.
"I like it, I think big matches are fun," sophomore Vincenzo Joseph said. "It's the reason why we're doing it. We wrestle to beat the best guys and I think that's one thing we're going to get to do this weekend."
Ranked No. 1 at 165 pounds and 15-0 on the year, Joseph could potentially meet two-time NCAA qualifier Te'Shan Campbell, currently ranked No. 14 after joining the Buckeyes from Pittsburgh, where he competed from 2015-17. Although the two met in the title bout at the Keystone Classic last November, the two Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania natives go back a bit further.
"Senior year, junior year of high school we probably worked out about three days a week together," Joseph said.
Regardless of rankings and potential matchups, if there's one thing Sanderson and his staff have been talking about lately, it's not getting lost in the moment.
"I think our coaches do a good job just talking to us every day and helping us realize that if you let yourself get lost in the moment then things can go a direction you don't want it to go, so everybody does a good job talking to one another and being in the moment and not thinking that my teammates will get the job done if I don't - then things aren't going to work out, and everybody just wants to do their job," junior Nick Nevills said. "I just think that as long as we focus and keep doing what we're doing, that shouldn't be a problem."
Keeping the focus on what's happening internally on a day-to-day basis is exactly what the Nittany Lions are keyed into, leaving almost all emotions aside.
"I think the only emotion for us really, is we want to focus on having fun," true freshman Nick Lee said. "That's kind of the attitude going into every dual and we just want to be our best every match. If you focus on one match or the other too much then you're going to overlook guys or overlook certain matches."
Although the expectation for every Nittany Lion in the lineup to be at their best each time is always there, it's hard to pass by the importance this week, with top-ranked NCAA champion Jason Nolf out of the lineup at 157 pounds due to an injury. As Sanderson noted though, whoever steps in won't need any extra motivation to rise to the challenge.
"I think our kids who aren't starting, they're are in that arena almost every match," Sanderson said. "Whoever it will be has been here a few years at least, so it's not like it's a new thing. You get a choice what you focus on and they'll have that choice. We have some scrappy kids."
By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Junior Maddie Holmberg has been very familiar with the sport of track and field for years. Holmberg has been competing ever since her dad and neighbor started a track club through her local YMCA.
"It was really just something fun that I was able to do with my friends during the summer time. There, I found my love for racing and competing," Holmberg said. "It is really great to see that since then the size of the club has grown dramatically. I am very thankful for that program and my dad for introducing my favorite sport to me at a young age."
One of the main reasons Holmberg chose to come to Penn State was because of coach Fritz Spence, the assistant track and field coach in jumps and multi-events. Holmberg said that he possessed many similar qualities to her high school coaches and felt very comfortable with the team chemistry here. Along with that, Holmberg also chose Penn State because her father was a student-athlete here, the excellent balance between athletics and academics, and it's close to home.
"I knew I wanted to commit immediately after my official visit. I always tell recruits that Penn State is the full package and that it sells itself," said Holmberg.
Although Holmberg has been familiar with competing in the sport for many years, her experience competing in the pentathlon has just began. During her recruitment process, many coaches felt that her versatility in hurdles, long jump and sprinting would make her a very successful multi-event athlete.
"I was not very familiar with the event prior to college. I cannot say that the event came naturally to me," Holmberg said. "I went through some growing pains with injury and frustration at times, but ultimately with hard work and coach Spence's faith in me, I was able to trust the process and see my hard work start to pay off."
The pentathlon is an athletic event that comprises of five different events for each competitor: 60-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and 800-meter race. For Holmberg, her favorite events are the ones that come most natural to her.
"I really like hurdles and long jump because those are the events most familiar to me. In those areas, I am expected to score the most points," Holmberg said. "However, over the years I have really learned to love shot put as well. While there is a lot more technique involved than most might think, it allows me to use my explosiveness and aggression."
Although those events are ones that Holmberg favors, there are many difficult aspects to being a pentathlete. Even though there are times she struggles, she loves the event for its all-around mental and physical component.
"Most people probably think the physical training or the 800 would be the hardest part of the pent. While that part definitely isn't easy, I would have say the mental side of things is the most difficult. Training for multiple events with different techniques requires a lot of focus and dedication," she said.
"It is important to build mental toughness during the meet. This allows you to put the previous event behind you and focus your energy on the next event. Staying level-headed and maintaining composure throughout the rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions is challenging. This is why I love the pentathlon, it pushes me not just physically, but also mentally to be the best all-around athlete that I can be," Holmberg added.
Holmberg most recently broke the 4000-point barrier at the Penn State National Open. Breaking this barrier (4,133) puts Holmberg at No. 3 in the NCAA in the pentathlon. Although breaking this barrier is a very impressive mark, Holmberg knows the hard work doesn't stop here.
"It is really satisfying to see my hard work pay off this season. I am so thankful for my motivational training group and coach Spence who help me to push my limits in practice," Holmberg said. "I still have many areas that I can improve, but I am very happy to look at how far I have come. I look forward to continuing to push that personal best in order to earn my team as many points as possible at the Big Ten Championship."
By Briana Zuccarelli,student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- From medical school to a full time career in Los Angeles, California, the seven Nittany Lion swimming and diving seniors are ready for life after Penn State.
"We have three graduating from the business school and already have jobs, two of them on their way to medical school and two of them in the IST (information, science and technology) field," Penn State head coach Tim Murphy said.
With a combined grade point average of about a 3.40, the Nittany Lion seniors have big plans once their Blue and White careers are complete and graduation is upon them.
For senior swimmer Emily Harris, the marketing major has accepted a job with M&T Bank in management development. She will begin in mid-summer and is looking forward to starting something new in the working world.
"It'll be a huge change," Harris said. "Especially no longer having swimming but I'm definitely looking forward to the next chapter."
McKayla Mawn, a senior diver majoring in biology, has recently been accepted into multiple medical schools but still hasn't decided where the next step in her education will take place.
For Mawn, her decision to pursue medical school all comes from her family.
"My mom is a doctor so it was always in the back of my head," Mawn said. "My sister got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was younger and going through that whole process made me realize that being a doctor would be really cool."
For one Nittany Lion senior in particular, her post-Penn State plans involve picking up her things for a cross country move to Los Angeles.
"I have a job lined up working for a consulting company," Pennsylvania native, Tommie Dillione said. "It's going to be a big step for me and I know swimming has helped me along the way. It set me up for post-college life and I know I'll be ready for it when it comes time."
With Penn State's final home meet approaching, the seniors are filled with mixed emotions when thinking about their last laps in the McCoy Natatorium.
Senior diver, Connor Scanlon who will be working for Northwestern Mutual upon graduating, said it will be great to be done, but also emotional.
"It has been an amazing experience," Scanlon said. "There are definitely a lot of emotions and hard work going into this. As a freshman it felt like it was going to be forever, but it snuck up on me so fast."
For Hannah Harper, she could not be more thankful for her time as a Penn State swimmer, hoping to leave behind a positive legacy.
"The legacy I want to leave is to uplift my teammates and to make them feel super confident in what they are doing," Harper said. "I want to be a positive role model and set a standard for what Penn State swimming is about."
Senior Ryan O'Neill, who competed at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials his sophomore year, is looking forward to coming back and watching his teammates in years to come. With a smile on his face, O'Neill said he wants to be remembered as some who works hard in the pool.
"I would like to have my name on the board," O'Neill said. "So everyone can actually see that I left a mark."
Holding back both emotions and tears, senior Niki Price expressed the sadness she feels describing the end of an era, awaiting her acceptance into graduate school at Penn State.
"Something that is really important to me is having fun with the sport," Price said. "That's something that I want to leave with the whole team because the atmosphere and performance will always be better."
For coach Murphy, he has faith in his seniors and the rest of the team heading into the meet on Friday, also explaining the importance and emotions that come with senior day.
"They've put a lot of time, flat-out dedication and discipline to doing this," Murphy said. "I'm going to enjoy any time I have left with them. I think the underclassman can look up at them and say 'you know what they helped me along the way.'"
By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Rec Hall has erupted in cheers over the clean routines and stuck landings of a 5'4" freshman from Nazareth, Pennsylvania many times this season. And, as the new Nittany Lion gymnast takes Rec Hall by storm, he continues to focus on the bigger picture of team, brotherhood and Penn State as a whole.
That new gymnast is Alex Frack, and he is making the most of his Penn State opportunity.
"Alex just really embraces this atmosphere and he doesn't want to let anybody down and he's done a great job," head coach Randy Jepson said.
"He is kind of those guys who just loves the competitive atmosphere," sophomore Sam Zakutney said.
Although a new addition to the Nittany Lion squad, Frack has already made a lasting impact and cemented pivotal relationships within the walls of Penn State's Rec Hall.
"I think the whole team atmosphere has really helped him," Jepson said. "He's a real big team guy."
Not even a month into the official season, Frack cemented a Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor with his home showing against Army West Point.
"He was struggling a little bit in the summer and leading up to our first meet he looked a little bit off...but he really did his job and he did it well," Zakutney said. "I'm pretty proud of him."
In his first home appearance donning the Blue and White, Frack placed in the top three for pommel horse and parallel bars, while climbing the podium for his first high bar victory of the season. He improved upon each of his scores from the previous meet at the West Point Open.
"We knew Alex had talent," Jepson said. "I've been pleased to see him compete really well that's something that sometimes you have to learn. He's competing better than when I saw him in the junior level so I'm really pleased about that."
Two of his three performances during the home opener turned up the crowd's volume and left Frack pumping his fists.
"He's one of the guys that is going to go up first or second on any event and that really sets a tone for the team so he has done a really good job of doing that for us," Jepson said.
Although not as dominating against the Fighting Illini, he maintained a consistent showing for the home crowd as he finished third for Penn State and fourth overall in parallel bars.
"I mean, I have been pretty consistent so far, but I think I need to put more pressure on myself in the gym when it comes to practicing for a competition environment and I think that will help me compete better as well," Frack said.
"There are certain areas of routines that he can clean up and as he does that the scores will improve, but you know he has been hitting a lot of routines for us and that's tough," Jepson said.
As Frack continues working hard in the gym, the young gymnast also looks to the upperclassmen as mentors and for advice on balancing the student-athlete schedule. With a high standard of education rife throughout the men's gymnastics team, Frack has an immense weight of excellence on his shoulders in competition and classroom. Thirteen of the 21 gymnasts last semester made Penn State's Dean's List.
"Honestly all the upperclassmen, even sophomores, juniors and seniors, have all helped just as much equally," Frack said. "They have all been pretty accounting."
He also cites pommel horse specialist, senior Colin Coates, as a role model who motivated his transition onto the team.
"My mentor specifically is Colin Coates," Frack said. "He's been a great help. He's helped with some classes, some work, just anything I could pretty much ask for."
Coates success on the pommel horse and mentorship also aims to help Frack evolve his reach as a gymnast and reach his all-around pursuits.
"Honestly, my goal is to do all-arounds," Frack said. "I mean I'm not quite there yet, I still have a lot to do on vault and rings and even a little more on floor, but all-around is definitely a great goal."
As a freshman, Frack has high expectations of his future plans while representing the Blue and White.
"Maybe a team captain eventually looking even further into the future but hopefully some big things," Frack said of his goals.
As Penn State is looking at a road bout against conference counterpart Ohio State, on Feb. 9, Frack embraces his role as a Nittany Lion in hopes of bolstering his brotherhood of gymnasts, tackling his personal goals down the stretch and balancing what it means to be a representative of Penn State student athletics.
"I mean the momentum has just kept going this week," Frack said. "We have a lot to learn and a lot to grow on and I am looking forward to the rest of the season."
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 Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State will now turn its attention toward Ball State and Fort Wayne, after coming off of a sweep at the hands of Ohio State on the road last Sunday. Although returning home from the road to Rec Hall, the Nittany Lions will once again be without their big left-handed right side hitter in Calvin Mende.
Mende's presence at the net was particularly missed against the Buckeyes, which forced Penn State to play out of system frequently with an Ohio State lineup full of powerful servers.
"Ohio State kept us in pass," Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik said. "They're the best serving team in the country and they wear you away. They can mentally wear your passers down and all of the sudden your offense is starting from the middle of the court and deeper. That makes their defense and block so much easier to control you."
Being rested and at full strength did not help Penn State in matching up with arguably the top team in the nation, but Pavlik emphasized his team's transition offense will be one of the main focal points for improvement over the next few weeks.
"We know how to create good opportunities offensively but next we need to find out how do we execute them, how do we put it away and actually score points [in transition]," Pavlik said.
Without Mende, the Nittany Lions decided to move their top outside hitter, Aidan Albrecht over to right side. Pavlik mentioned that this lineup may not be the one they stick with entirely while Mende recovers, but Albrecht does have some experience playing from the right side.
"Aidan is one of those guys that can be utilized anywhere," Pavlik said. "He's blocked middle for us, he has hit left side and passed, he has hit right side, we've considered throwing him in at libero in his career - he's one of those guys I think we can count on to give us a level of quality any place we put him."
For Albrecht, when opportunities present themselves in different areas, he's happy to step in wherever the team needs him.
"My whole time I've played outside, opposite and middle, so I'm used to every position," Albrecht said. "It would have been a little better if we had a little more time but during the season you don't always have the opportunity to have that time and those reps but I was comfortable to do whatever the team needs."
Albrecht's numbers against Ohio State were not overly gaudy but Pavlik remains confident that he can be a factor from the right side or wherever else they put him on the court.
"Aidan was the guy that was putting balls away for us early and then they kind of gave him a little bit more attention. I think he did okay there," Pavlik said. "The issue was that we needed more kills from everybody and we weren't able to get that."
Albrecht may be the top option to compensate for Mende's loss on the right side, but he acknowledged that they have a difficult task at hand in replacing the big lefty.
"It's tough when you lose a player like [Mende], especially, but we can play a little better than we did," Albrecht said. "I think we can focus on our first contacts and especially passing. If we can fix our transition a little bit then it will help out a lot."
The Nittany Lions return to Rec Hall this
weekend after a two-week stretch on the road. They'll look to get back on track
and keep improving before entering EIVA play next week.
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For men's lacrosse redshirt junior Mike Aronow, his road back to the field following a season-ending injury last year has been both long and frustrating, but worth it.
Watching his team's success from the sideline last year, Aronow has now gained a different kind of perspective on the game he loves as well as what it means to be a good teammate.
"Now that I sat out, I realized what matters the most is my teammates and just being fully engaged in everything I'm doing," Aronow said. "Whether it's in practice and being in a live drill or being on the sideline and talking to my teammates about the drill."
Being given the opportunity to step back from playing, the defenseman was able to become a support system and a resource for his teammates off the field.
When it came time for the team to vote for captains, it seemed clear who one of the best choices was to lead the program into the 2018 season.
"You would think that people vote for the best player on the field or someone who has a presence on the field and the fact that people voted for me when I wasn't playing at all, it means a lot to me," Aronow said. "It showed me I'm not only a leader on the field but I can also be there for people off the field when they need me."
Overcoming an injury not only made Aronow a better teammate, but has also given him a new outlook on his final two seasons as a Nittany Lion. Now, the New York native is ready to make the most out of the 2018 campaign, appreciating every second of his time on the field along the way.
"Being captain I hope that I can bring an edge every day, where people say 'wow he's going really hard, he's living in the moment, he's not taking anything for granted.'" Aronow said.
However, getting back into the swing of things hasn't come without its challenges. Following two surgeries, Aronow was ready to go in August but was then out again until October with a broken thumb.
After the long road of recovery and physical rehab, Aronow has had to work harder than his teammates to get back to where he was before the injury. Even more difficult than the physical struggle though, has been the mental adjustment.
"It was really hard at first, I think it's more of a mental battle rather than physical," Aronow said. "The hardest part was actually keeping a positive mindset and just getting my confidence back."
With two scrimmages under his belt, both Aronow and Tambroni feel the worst of the mental conditioning is behind them, with only room for improvement from here on out.
"That memory of him being on the sideline has actually helped him in my opinion," head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "I think he goes about his business day in and day out without taking it for granted."
Heading into the start of the regular season, the Nittany Lions will face a tough opponent in Villanova. Among the leaders of the Penn State defense, Aronow and the Nittany Lions will have to maintain focus."[Villanova] is going to go directly to the goal if you give them an opening," Tambroni said. "If you take a step back or lose focus in either end of the field they really do a nice job of taking advantage and can score quickly."
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