February 2018 Archives
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - What does a piranha in small pool have in common with a trained killer? That would be just two of the top performing Nittany Lions for Penn State assistant athletics director for performance enhancement, Dwight Galt.
With just two workout sessions remaining, Galt met with members of the media following an open max out session in the Lasch Building weight room for a winter conditioning update.
"We've always had great winters but I think this one kind of takes the place of the best one we've had so far," Galt said. "It's our fifth one here so it's been really good. They are a motivated group right now."
For Galt the key to the standout winter has been in consistency, with the Nittany Lions putting forth maximum effort and determination in every session.
As Galt noted, unlike some programs, Penn State balances an aggressive strength power program in conjunction with a very aggressive movement program. Of the 30 workouts the Nittany Lions have already completed that means 15 have been strength and 15 have been running workouts.
"The running workouts obviously take a lot out of you in Holuba," Galt said. "They've done a great job bouncing back every day and getting a hard lift in and getting hard run in."
Check out a few more takeaways from Galt's media session.
When asked who's sticking out in winter conditioning, the trained killer was Nittany Lion wide receiver with the piranha in the small pool being safety Lamont Wade.
As Galt noted, former Nittany Lion wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton left his legacy with Johnson.
"He has done a great job. He's one of our top, top guys," Galt said.
Galt also named offensive lineman Will Fries, tight end Danny Dalton and safety John Petrishen in his top at the moment.
"One guy that has been really good but has just been dinged his entire career is John Petrishen," Galt said. "John Petrishen has really paid his dues. He has had a number of situations, knocking on wood, and he has been healthy and he's doing a great job."
Making the move from high school senior to Nittany Lion freshman in just a few weeks' time is no easy transition. With six mid-year enrollees joining the roster at the start of the spring semester, Galt is pleased with the progress the group has made so far.
"We came in here and we tested them out thoroughly," Galt said. "After we did that we just started cranking and they joined right in with the group right away. They've definitely all earned respect. It's really a great group of guys."
One of the Guys
Among the mid-year enrollees is five star Nittany Lion Micah Parsons. As Galt was quick to point out though, when Parsons arrived it was as if the stars were gone, as he quickly earned the respect of his teammates though a humble approach to his work ethic.
"He can run, he can jump, he's strong, he's powerful," Galt said. "He has all of the ingredients that we would expect from him that we saw on his film. I think the thing that everybody is really pleased with is that Micah just has a great attitude. He's really one of the guys."
Sanders Steps Up
For Galt, the biggest area of improvement he has seen from Nittany Lion running back Miles Sanders is in his leadership. Among a truly deep group of running backs in the program, Galt noted the staff is just as secure in what he can do on the field as they are in what he can do off the field too.
"The running back culture has always been one of our best positions culture-wise," Galt said. "They work hard they do what they are supposed to do. They care. They're good leaders."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State senior associate athletic director and senior woman administrator Charmelle Green, Black History Month means sharing unique stories that inspire others.
When it comes to inspiration though, there's perhaps no better story to share than Green's.
A student-athlete, coach and administrator, it's these experiences that have shaped both a successful career and a drive to give back to those who gave so much to her along the way.
"I get inspired by those who really worked hard to beat the odds," Green said. "I get inspired by those who said I can do it, I can be the one. I get inspired when Black History Month comes around because I know that we're going to be filled with all of these stories that remind me of the challenges people have faced and overcome to create the opportunities for me as a senior associate athletics director at Penn State."
An All-American student-athlete, Green spent four years on the softball team at the University of Utah.
"Utah was a place where diversity wasn't very prevalent," Green said. "I didn't see a lot of diversity, so often times I felt alone."
As the only black student-athlete at Utah, often times Green felt a majority of the challenges she faced were different from those her teammates were confronted with. That hardly slowed her stride, as Green proud looks back on her experiences at Utah, even drawing from the challenges she overcame with the help of her head coach and teammates.
"Jo Evans was a huge part of my life," Green said. "She was a coach who got me, who understood that my experience at the University of Utah might be very different than my teammates' experience. I was the only black student-athlete on the team and she embraced that. She allowed me to be who I was."
With the guidance of a head coach who instilled both confidence and perseverance, Evans helped create an environment where everyone could thrive, including Green.
It's that sense of empowerment that led Green to a career in coaching, serving as an assistant softball coach at Notre Dame from 2001-05.
"Having a tremendous experience and being coached by Jo Evans and others who inspired me every single day, who brought out the best in me - I wanted to do the same for others," Green said. "Coaching was a natural gravitation for me because I knew that I could make an impact and I wanted to do for others what Jo did for me. I wanted to inspire, I wanted to bring out the best in others."
Surrounded by the leadership of familiar faces like Sandy Barbour and Kevin White at Notre Dame, Green decided it was time for something bigger.
"I got to see them interact with others, I got to be around them when they were making critical decisions for the athletics department at the university," Green said. "So I went to Sandy Barbour and I said you know what, I want to get into athletics administration."
Passionate about the opportunity to impact a greater group of individuals outside of the student-athletes on her team, Green spent six years as part of Notre Dame's athletic administration overseeing the student development program.
In 2011, Green decided to accept an opportunity at a place she had always considered a legacy program.
"Penn State always valued athletics and academics, all the things that I believe are so important to a student-athlete's experience," Green said. "It had everything that I was looking for and Penn State has everything that I always thought Penn State would be."
As Penn State navigated tumultuous times shortly after Green's arrival, she never wavered in her decision to continue to make a greater impact.
"I had the opportunity to go other places and say this could be really tough," Green said. "When I saw all the people come together to say, hey let's make Penn State better, let's be the ones who change the story, I wanted to be a part of it. I didn't want to run, I wanted to be right in it. Knee deep, right in it. I wanted to roll up the sleeves."
That's just what she did.
By August 2014, Penn State appointed Sandy Barbour as director of athletics, presenting an opportunity for Green to join a leadership team that she always looked forward to.
"Sandy Barbour as the director of athletics at Penn State and having the opportunity to be a part of her leadership team is a dream come true," Green said.
Under the mentorship of Barbour, Green has only expended her responsibilities, nowing including oversight of the Intercollegiate Athletics Student Welfare and Development unit among sport administrator responsibilities and oversight of the Intercollegiate Sport Performance unit.
"Everything within my job description is everything that I love to do," Green said. "It has provided me with the opportunity to impact a student-athletes life every single day. The health and well-being of our student-athletes is most important to us and is something that's incredibly important to Sandy as she was thinking about the restructure of the organization. It's something I value tremendously. I take a great deal of pride in making sure that we are getting better every single day."
For Green, the greatest area of improvement has come in the development of life skills programing for student-athletes as well expanding Penn State's staffing and resources in sport science.
Most inspiring though, has been watching her team come together to work toward one common goal, enhancing the student-athlete experience.
"My team is inspired, they work hard and they want to be great," Green said. "To see them communicate and work together through challenges and problems, seeing those areas get better within the sport performance team, seeing those areas of expertise and those disciplines change for the better is something I am really proud of. Most importantly, it is that they're working together to impact the lives of our student-athletes."
Beyond her staff though, it's making a difference among student-athletes that Green finds the most pride in.
"I'd say most gratifying to me is when I get the opportunity to sit down with our student-athletes who are departing," Green said. "When student-athletes tell me that this has been the greatest experience of their life. When they say that they couldn't imagine spending their undergraduate career's someplace else, that Penn State provided them everything they needed to be incredibly successful while they were here. To leave this place with the confidence that they need, that's what makes me most proud."
To view all of the Black History Month content from the entire month please click here.
By Jeff Sattora,
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.- Penn State guard Teniya Page likes Indianapolis and the Big Ten Tournament. The junior dropped a Penn State Big Ten Tournament record 35 points when the Lady Lions took the court here in 2017.
She broke that record Wednesday night.
Page scored 13 of her career-high 38 points in an 18-5 second quarter run to help the Lady Lions push past the Illinois Fighting Illini, 83-57, in the first round of the Big Ten tournament Wednesday night in Indianapolis. The 38 points tied for fifth all-time in a single game in Lady Lion history.
For Page, her success was simple.
"Just make shots and get to my spots," she said on her success. "Have confidence in shooting the ball."
"It's win or go home," she added on the excitement of the conference tournament setting. "I think everyone's competitive spirit is really high. For me personally, knowing it's win or go home I think I'm a little more focused.
That focus paid off, as she finished 14-for-24 on the night, including 4-for-8 behind the arc.
"She's a highly competitive kid, and I think when you get into this environment and this tournament she's going to play at her best," head coach Coquese Washington said on her star guard. "She's really talented and it's awesome to have that.
"Any time, any moment, any game, she can get into a rhythm and she's really hard to stop and hard to defend," she added.
Despite the hot half from Page, the Lady Lions still had work to do after halftime, as they held just a 33-27 lead going into the break. For Penn State, it was about keeping momentum.
"Just doing the things you know how to do," guard Amari Carter said on keeping momentum after the halftime break. "Coming out playing the passing lanes, being aggressive, denying the ball. Making them frustrated and have to make tough shots."
"We just came out with intensity out of the half," she added. "They hit a three to end the half and we were only up six. So just honing in on defense and letting the offense come."
Luckily for Penn State, the offense did come, especially for Page. She kept putting the ball in the hoop as she scored eight of the team's first nine points to start the third, finishing with 15 points in the quarter to go along with her 19 in the first half.
"I pretty much keep everything the same," she said on coming out after halftime. "Take the shots that are given to me, don't force anything and keep shooting."
Even with the offensive scoring, one big key to gaining and keeping momentum, and the team's win, was effort on the defensive end. The Lady Lions held Illinois scoreless for 7:18 in the second quarter, and held the Illini without a field goal for the final 3:10 of the third quarter to give Penn State a 58-43 lead heading into the final frame and help seal the game.
"I thought we did a better job of trying to contest shots going from man to zone and forcing them to try and beat us from the outside," Washington said. "I also thought we did a good job from the second quarter on in rebounding and not giving them second chance points."
As high-scoring as Page was the first three quarters, she scored just four points in the fourth, and it was her teammates that helped close the game.
"It's important for other teams to prepare," Washington said on the importance of the team finishing strong as a group. "You've gotta be aware of Jaida Travacsio-Green, you've gotta be aware of Teniya, Amari Carter, you've gotta be aware of our post play."
"When you've gotta be aware of three or four or five other people, it just opens up the way for Teniya to lead the charge"
Looking ahead, Penn State will need a strong team performance if they look to continue this tournament run. The team will have a quick turnaround and take on the Michigan Wolverines Thursday night. While there is a challenge ahead, the group is enjoying the ride.
"We have a great conference tournament," Washington said. "It's a festive atmosphere. I'm excited to be a part of it, our team is excited to be a part of it and hopefully we can continue to advance throughout the tournament."
By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Three years into her time with Penn State women's basketball, Amari Carter is making the most of her time in the Blue and White. She waited, rested, and watched as she missed both her senior high school and college freshman seasons with ACL tears, but now, in her second year as a full-time starter, she is continuing to make a mark on the Big Ten.
One of the premier defenders in the league, Carter totaled 78 steals in the regular season for an average of 2.6 steals per game. Both of those averages are good for second in the conference.
Carter's defense helped propel her to a second-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches, a recognition she does not take lightly.
"It's just a nod from the other coaches and different people around the conference recognizing the work you put in," Carter said.
Head coach Coquese Washington has seen Carter improve and grow stronger over the year, citing the road Carter has had to battle back from in order to garner the recognition she deserves.
"Amari had to recover from two consecutive ACL injuries, missed two years, spent a lot of time in the training room. To finally get back close to the form she was at before those injuries, I'm really happy for her that she was able to get that accomplishment and recognition," Washington said.
Defense is an area of Carter's game that the coaching staff has stressed since the beginning of the season, sensing her court anticipation and ability to step into passing lanes to create havoc in the fast break. Her speed is a factor as well, making her one of the most dangerous perimeter defenders in the conference.
"It's one of the things we challenged her to be better at this year. We wanted her to be a two-way player and impact the game on both ends of the court. Over the course of the season, she really picked that up," Washington said.
While many players thrive mostly on the offensive end, wanting to focus on scoring and flashy offensive moves, Carter prides herself in her defense and ability to give opposing coaches headaches.
"I definitely improved in that area, and it's fun. It's fun getting steals and getting into the passing lane, being like a safety in the back of the zone. I can get my hands to the ball so we can get out and run," Carter said.
Carter is joined on the All-Big Ten list by junior guard Teniya Page, who picked up her third All-Big Ten honor and second first team recognition. Like Carter in the past, Page has had to overcome injury this year, meaning much of her award can be attributed to her mental strength as well as her abilities on the court.
"Teniya broke her ankle in August, it was a long road back and she didn't play the season 100 percent, still isn't 100 percent. I think it's a testament to her mental work because it was a lot of mental work she had to do this year to get back to the form where she was a first team player," Washington said. "I'm thrilled for both of them [Page and Carter], just because of what they've had to overcome."
The Lady Lions have a chance to extend their season this week at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. Penn State has a potential to play five games in five days if they are to advance all the way to the championship game.
By Briana Zuccarelli, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- After helping build the hockey program at her high school, senior Bella Sutton knew she wanted an opportunity to have that same impact again.
"With Penn State being a newer program," said Sutton. "I really wanted to be a part of something bigger and leave the program better than it was when I joined it."
Sutton began playing hockey when she was three years old on the lake in her backyard. Now, she is leading the 2017-2018 Penn State team as captain. She was voted captain by the team at the end of last year's season.
"I am so thankful that they chose me to help lead them," she shared. "Especially with this transition year. Being able to lead and help build the other leaders that are on this has been really cool for me. I may wear the "C", but the team is filled with leaders and it's been really helpful because I learn from them as much as I hope they learn from me."
Not only does she act as a captain on the ice (having her best season yet with 17 points), but also in the classroom. She has been a member of the CHA All-Academic Team for the past three years, was awarded the CHA Student-Athlete of the Year in 2014-15, and was named a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and AHCA All-American Scholar last year.
Sutton explained that balancing school and hockey can be hard because the team misses a lot of Friday classes when in season. This requires her to find time to schedule outside meetings with teachers and figure out when she can squeeze in her labs for biology.
"Honestly, it is really cool to see that they honor academics because there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes for us," explained Sutton. "I am just honored to have that recognition added on because to me, just coming here, school is very important so that is just an added bonus."
Being able to manage all of these things has not gone unnoticed by her coaches and teammates. Teammate and roommate, Brooke Madsen, has had the opportunity to get to know Sutton more outside of the ice arena.
"It's been great playing alongside someone like her," Madsen said. "She's just an overall great team player. She holds us accountable not only on the ice, but in the weight room as well. She's a great player in the offensive zone. Overall she is a great kid."
Head coach Jeff Kampersal had nothing but praise for the team captain and could not be more thankful for helping him with this transition in his first year at Penn State this season.
"I told her that she'll be graduating as captain and leaving Penn State hockey with a new culture that her and her senior teammates have set," said Kampersal. "She helped me learn what Penn State was like, how things worked here and more. She was really there when I needed her."
When asked to describe Sutton in three words, Madsen said "caring, enthusiastic, and spunky". While Kampersal described her to be the mature leader of the team that all the girls feel comfortable around. As Sutton prepares for her final games during the CHA Tournament, she has reflected on things she learned from her time being a Penn Stater.
"Yes, hockey means the world to me," Sutton said with a smile on her face. "But the relationship I've built with these girls along the way, that is going to mean so much more to me after my years here are done."
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After sweeping No. 8 Minnesota for the first time in program history, No. 18 Penn State men's hockey will once again host the Gophers in the opening quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament.
The Nittany Lions beat the Gophers decisively both nights last weekend, securing home ice for a best-of-three series to kick off the postseason. Headed into the weekend, Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky and his team are preparing for a Minnesota squad that will likely return to Hockey Valley a better team than the first time around.
"Once the puck drops, the puck drops," Gadowsky said. "All that stuff to me is thrown out the window. Whether we did sweep them for the first time and feel good, or got swept and we're going to Minnesota, it's still two wins to get to the next round and that's really how we look at it."
Week in and week out, a point of emphasis for Gadowsky has been in the importance of all four lines playing their best hockey at the same time. While it's a struggle the coaching staff has looked to address all season, the problem has seemingly solved itself at the best possible time.
All lines were involved throughout the weekend, with each producing at least one goal while on the ice. All three defensive pairings also added multiple assists, even chipping in a goal of their own.
"[It's] very safe to say that over the course of a weekend we probably achieved the most consistent play both offensively and defensively," Gadowsky said. "From all four lines and all three defensive pairs."
The third line in particular exceeded expectations, contributing half of the Nittany Lions goal scoring during the series.
Sophomore forward Liam Folkes, freshman center Evan Barratt and freshman forward Alex Limoges all scored Friday night, with Limoges adding two more goals Saturday. Folkes and Limoges also each added an assist apiece during game two.
"We've definitely been controlling the puck quite often in the offensive zone and taking care of the team as best we can," Barratt said. "It's good to see the puck go in the net, finally. I know we've been working all year to be where we're at now and it's the right time for it to start clicking."
Although Barratt and Limoges have been important skaters for the Blue and White all season, the freshmen are starting to gain their confidence at just the right time.
With the pair finally starting to see the results of their hard work on the scoresheet, Barratt and Limoges have learned to enjoy the journey and have fun along the way.
"When we see each other doing well and we're having a lot of fun on the ice, it's fun to come to the rink and when you're winning it makes it that much more fun," Barratt said. "For him and I, it's just laughing together on the bench or going out for our 30 seconds and doing our job. We love having fun out there and it definitely builds confidence for both of us."
Opposite of his younger line mates, Folkes has experience in the in the Big Ten Championship from last season.
When looking at the dynamic of the third line, Gadowsky noted that it wasn't exactly the plan headed into the season. Looking at offseason training though, Gadowsky saw Folkes' attention to detail and movement off the puck as the main reason to have him lead the line.
"He does everything right," Barratt said. "He takes care of the team in the defensive zone, he gets pucks in and he wins battles. You see what he's doing and you want to do just as well as he can, so it definitely is nice having an older guy on our line."
In playoff mode since traveling to Michigan State, Penn State has been mentally preparing for round two with the Gophers.
"They're Minnesota, I don't care when you face them, they are going to be an excellent team period," Gadowsky said. "That doesn't change, so we're not looking at it any differently."
By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com
student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State fell at Nebraska in Sunday's regular season finale to finish the year 19-12 and 9-9 in Big Ten play. Penn State's 19 victories and nine Big Ten wins are the most under head coach Patrick Chambers and the Nittany Lions are hardly finished.
The Big Ten Tournament begins Thursday, March 1 with the No. 7 seed Nittany Lions taking on No. 10 Northwestern at 6:30 p.m. inside New York's Madison Square Garden. The matchup marks the highest Big Ten Tournament seed Penn State has earned since Chambers took the helm in 2011.
"I don't want [Sunday's] defeat to diminish what this group has done," Chambers said. "To win 19 games and to go 9-9 [in the Big Ten], we've accomplished a lot. We're getting there and we still have a lot to play for and we can still get a heck of a lot better."
Penn State certainly faced its fair share of adversity down the stretch, but the regular season is over and there are still plenty of opportunities to seize with a fresh slate in the postseason.
The Nittany Lions aren't exactly out of the NCAA Tournament discussion just yet. Of course, winning the Big Ten Tournament would ensure an automatic berth, an at-large nod isn't out of reach.
Just look back to the 2010-11 season. Penn State's all-time leading scorer, Talor Battle, led Penn State to a 16-13 regular season record, but the Nittany Lions rattled off three straight to reach the conference tournament championship. Although they didn't beat Ohio State in the title game, the selection committee gave Penn State an at-large bid and a 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
With a deep run in New York, Penn State could make its way into the NCAA Tournament, even without the conference title.
"I'm crazy enough to think we've got an outside shot," Chambers said.
Without looking too far ahead, Penn State will turn all its attention toward the Wildcats. Penn State split its regular season series with Northwestern, as both teams won on their home floors.
At 15-16 on the year and 6-12 in conference play, Northwestern lost its last six consecutive games, closing out the regular season with a 77-70 loss at Iowa.
For Chambers, rebounding will be a key factor in the matchup, especially if the Nittany Lions are without leading rebounder Mike Watkins. In Penn State's loss to Northwestern earlier this season, the Nittany Lions were outrebounded 32-25.
Sophomore forward Lamar Stevens has feasted on the Northwestern defense this year though. He shot 20-for-30 from the field and scored 43 points in the two combined games against the Wildcats. His 30-point effort in the home victory against Northwestern set a career high, marking his first career 30-point game.
As for Penn State's most consistent scorer, sophomore guard Tony Carr, he didn't put up his usual scoring numbers in the regular season meetings. In two games, Carr shot a combined 7-for-23 from the field, with 12 points coming as his highest offensive point total across both outings.
However, Carr is coming off a strong offensive performance in which he scored 27 points at Nebraska to become the first Penn State sophomore to reach the 1,000 points career milestone.
That's not even factoring in the command and leadership he has on the court, something Chambers has seen grow and develop throughout the season.
Carr finished the year as the Big Ten's leading scorer, averaging 20.1 points per game. On Monday afternoon he earned All-Big Ten first team honors by both the league's head coaches and the media, making him the first Nittany Lion sophomore first team selection since Battle in 2008-09.
"I think what [Carr's] done for this team over the entire Big Ten season is pretty incredible and pretty consistent," Chambers said. "That's what you look at with your big time players, consistency, and he's done that and he's led us to victories."
Carr was one of four total Nittany Lions to earn All-Big Ten accolades as Stevens and Watkins picked up honorable mention selections. Josh Reaves was also tabbed to the Big Ten All-Defensive team.
As much as Penn State needs its best players to shine on the big stage, Chambers said the team also needs the Penn State faithful in the New York area and beyond to provide a home-court advantage at the Big Ten Tournament for the Nittany Lions.
"I hope all Penn Staters come out. Usually we have a good crowd when we go to [Madison Square Garden] and it's a good time too," Chambers said. "Put the kids to bed or get a babysitter, have a little dinner and a glass of wine and come right to Penn State basketball at 6:30. Sounds like a great night to me. If we could have a home-court advantage that would really help us out."
By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Sunday marked a cause for celebration at the Bryce Jordan Center, as over 500 breast cancer survivors and their families were honored at halftime as part of Penn State's annual Play4Kay Pink Zone game.
It wasn't quite a storybook ending on the court, as the Lady Lions fell, 89-64, to the No. 14 Ohio State Buckeyes, but the experience was still something to appreciate for the Lady Lions in their final regular season game.
"It was really cool to be in this atmosphere," sophomore Jaida Travascio-Green said. "Last season, I didn't get to play in this game, so this was my first Pink Zone game. My family is here, friends are here, there's just a ton of survivors. Playing for someone outside ourselves was a great thing to be a part of."
Penn State's partnership with the Pennsylvania Pink Zone, now in it's 12th year, has seen serious growth that has impacted head coach Coquese Washington and the players in a very special way.
Travascio-Green had a day to remember for the Lady Lions, as she was able to hit her shots early and fuel the Lady Lion offense. She finished with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.
"This was a big game, in terms of adrenaline and one of those things. My teammates found me when I was open and I'm glad I was able to hit them," Travascio-Green said.
Her teammate, junior guard Teniya Page, reached a milestone as well, scoring 19 points on the day to move into 13th on the all-time Lady Lions scoring list (1,525 points). She passed Vicki Link, who had 1,514 points in her career from 1984-87.
The Lady Lions were met with another prolific scorer, as Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell led all scorers with 22 points. Mitchell became the Big Ten's all-time leading scorer in men's or women's basketball earlier this season.
"[Mitchell] is just a really good all-around player, she can do it all," Travascio-Green said. "She's faster than any other player I've ever played against, and it's a team effort to guard her. It's just so hard to stop her because she's so good all around and just great at so many things."
Ohio State's defense came to play as well, holding the Lady Lions to just under 38 percent shooting on the day.
"Ohio State did a really good job trying to contest shots," Washington said. "They just tried to make us work offensively. I thought we had some opportunities as well early in the first quarter that we didn't take advantage of. If we can do that, maybe we'd get off to a little bit better start."
The Buckeyes clinched the outright Big Ten championship and will be the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament. Penn State draws the No. 11 seed and will take on No. 14 Illinois in the first round of the tournament on Wednesday in Indianapolis.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State women's basketball pinked out the Bryce Jordan Center Sunday, locked in on finding the cure for breast cancer. In its 12th annual Play4Kay game benefitting Pink Zone, the Nittany Lions hosted 530 survivors for an afternoon filled with celebration.
"I am really pleased with what we do on this day to honor survivors, honor the families that are supporting their loved ones that are going through this and making this day a day they can remember outside of what happens on the court from a basketball standpoint," Penn State head coach Coquese Washington said. "Just knowing that there is a community of people who care and there's a community of people who are working to help make survivors lives better, to make their treatment better and working to find a cure."
From survivors to previvors and those working tirelessly behind the scenes to bring life to such a special event, take a deeper look at some of the storylines from a day dedicated to hope and perseverance.
Checking in with Penn
State's Pink Zone Survivors
Penn State's 530 survivors arrived by bus, entering through a dedicated entrance following registration. At registration, each survivor was given a light up bracelet to shine brightly during halftime recognizing a total number of years each individual is cancer free. Spanning all ages, each survivor has their own story and their own way of inspiring others.
Meet Pink Zone
Coordinator Roberta Hardin
Having once come to the Play4Kay benefitting Pink Zone as a survivor, Roberta Hardin is now helping to pull the event together. As the Pink Zone Survivor Coordinator, Hardin has worked behind the scenes organizing the special day. Hear Hardin's story below.
Pink Zone Previvor Arlene
At the age of 18, Arlene Williams tested positive for a BRCA breast cancer gene mutation that had already made a significant impact on her family. With Williams' mother thankfully a breast cancer survivor, with family history in mind she made the decision to have a prophylactic mastectomy to eliminate her risk. Hear Williams' story below.
Sarah and Lisa McMurtry
Breast cancer touches the lives so many, including the McMurtry family. For Lady Lion senior Sarah McMurtry, each Play4Kay game benefitting Pink Zone means so much more than hoops. Joined by her mother Lisa, a breast cancer survivor, they recap the day.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Playing its second game in a span of three days, No. 12 Penn State women's lacrosse capped off a 2-0 week with a 16-11 win against No. 17 Cornell Saturday. Despite some less than favorable weather conditions, the Nittany Lions were hardly phased, moving to 3-1 on the year.
With the first three weeks of the season now complete, head coach Missy Doherty sees progress, but like any coach, there's always room to grow.
"I think as a coach you're really never exactly where you want to be," Doherty said. "You're looking at progress and you're looking to see if the things you're implementing are coming around. We did a great job clearing the ball today. We had a lot of patience and did a great job as a team brining the ball down the field which is something we've been really working on, so that's great. We're just going to keep building and fine tuning and seeing where it takes us."
Facing a 4-0 deficit early in the first half, Doherty opted to sub in freshman Lucy Lowe in net for the Nittany Lions.
"I felt like we were a little down in momentum and Lucy [Lowe] and Madison [Cunningham] both do a really good job so we figured we'd put Lucy in to see if she could give us a spark and she certainly did," Doherty said.
Lowe proved just the spark the Nittany Lions needed as senior Katie O'Donnell quickly ignited the Penn State offense with her first of a career-high six goals to open a 4-0 scoring streak to tie the score. With fewer than two minutes remaining on the clock, the Big Red looked to halt that momentum with a goal, but Penn State was just getting started.
Quickly regrouping, junior Madison Carter won the draw control and raced down the field to bury her second goal of the afternoon. Penn State took its first lead of the day with 24 seconds on the clock as O'Donnell scored on the free position, adding one more 16 seconds later to send the Nittany Lions to the locker room leading 7-5 at halftime.
"I think that momentum swing was huge moving forward into the game," O'Donnell said. "It took us a little while to get started and then when we ended the first half like that, we could go into halftime with confidence like, 'okay, guys we're good, we got it.' I think it was a great momentum swing coming down and attacking hard, which we needed to do the whole beginning of the first half."
Penn State would not relinquish its lead for the rest of the game, but it didn't exactly come easy for the Nittany Lions. Cornell came within one goal of tying the score twice, but each time Penn State had an answer.
After back-to-back Big Red goals with 10:48 left in the game, Penn State called a timeout to regroup. It was veterans O'Donnell and Carter who came through out of the break, opening another 4-0 scoring run to lift the Nittany Lions to the win.
"It was just good to see them operate at full pace," Doherty said. "Madison Carter and Katie O'Donnell just had some great plays. Around them too, people are really coming along. There's a lot of players really gaining some valuable experience in these early games. It's good to see us getting better and better."
As new faces settle into their roles in the early part of the season, it's an encouraging step in the right direction for Penn State's upperclassmen.
"As a senior it's so awesome to see them come on the field with confidence like that," O'Donnell said. "I think it's only going to keep improving as the year goes on. It's only our fourth game so I'm so excited to see what they are going to have for the rest of the season."
Perhaps nobody proved more pivotal in gaining the valuable experience than Lowe, who earned her first collegiate win in goal, making eight saves for the Nittany Lions.
"Lucy was great. Some of the interceptions she had were momentous and gave us great momentum for the game," Doherty said. "She came up with some huge kick saves that I don't even know if everyone could appreciate if they were sitting far from the field. She really gave us a spark to kind of turn that game around."
Lowe would hardly take credit for her standout performance, giving it back to the improving Nittany Lion defense.
"I give a lot of credit to my defense, they were coming up with a lot of good interceptions and ground balls," Lowe said. "I give so much credit to them. The communication what huge and I think they also helped just bring the spark to the defense and keep the game going."
By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Rec Hall was teeming with activity on Saturday, where the women's gymnastics team celebrated not only the final home meet of the regular season, but also the annual senior day, all in addition to the season's second double dual of the season with the men's squad. The No. 28 Penn State women's gymnastics team welcomed the No. 18 George Washington Colonials, and the men's squad faced off to Minnesota.
Penn State had a week of wins to live up to as the team was coming off a first-place score of 195.325 in a tri-meet against Cornell and Penn last weekend.
Extra pressure was surely riding on Briannah Tsang, the team's lone active senior, on her senior day. However, Tsang has proven time and time again that she works beautifully under pressure--and Saturday was no different.
Tsang and her Nittany Lion teammates started the day off strong on vault.
"I definitely have to give it to our coaching," head coach Sarah Brown said. "Rob Drass handles our vaulting and each week he comes in and does the best he can between finding the balance between big vaults and landings. I thought we did a much better job controlling our landings. We also were able to debut another 1.5 from Lauren Bridgens, so to have two vaults in the lineup that start from a 10 is incredible. I just can't say enough about their composure, being that we only have five athletes competing, we really didn't' have room for error, and they handled themselves like pros tonight."
Bridgens also tied a personal record she achieved earlier this month, nabbing another 9.925 on the uneven bars. She was quickly followed with a matched score and flawless performance by junior Sabrina Garcia in the same event. The Nittany Lions took a win on bars with a 49.325, with Penn State gymnasts securing the top two spots and a tie for third.
"I think the greatest thing is that we had way more sticks, way more energy after each person's turn," Garcia said. "We took everything one at a time, and that was the main difference between this and the last meet. I think we did really well."
"I followed a really strong bar lineup with Sabrina and Lauren," Tsang said, who tied for third in the event. "So, I just wanted to go out there and have fun, too."
Several unfortunate falls showed for some difficulty on the beam, where the Nittany Lions scored 48.350. However, Tsang's high 9.900 contributed to the scoring immensely, earning her yet another accomplishment on her senior day.
In light of her senior day, it only seemed fitting that Tsang would anchor the lineup on the team's final event. The gymnast landed a tied for career-best 9.950 on the floor to tie for first with George Washington's Camille Drouin-Allaire, with fellow Nittany Lion Garcia snagging the spot just below. The gymnasts gathered together after the conclusion of the event for an emotional celebratory hug with Tsang at the center.
"We started the meet so strong on vault and carried that into bars," Brown said. "We're still struggling to find our confidence on beam, so we had some mistakes there that we've seen throughout the year. I think since we've seen those mistakes before, we knew that we could finish the meet strong on floor, and it was amazing to send out our senior with a team best both on vault and floor."
Tsang was awarded the All-Around title with a total score of 39.600, a career-best score. Other placing Nittany Lions included Bridgens and Garcia.
"Bri has had an amazing career, and she showed that tonight," Brown said. "What could be better than a career best at senior night at home? It just shows that she's not done yet, she still has more in her, and she continues to be an amazing leader for our program."
In addition to Tsang, Penn State women's gymnastics program honored senior managers Chanen Raygoza, Kira Schmoke, and Oni Timothy.
"There was a lot thrown in with the double dual and last regular season home meet," Brown said. "I don't think we allowed ourselves to really think of it as the last meet here in Rec Hall, just knowing we're going to host regionals, but I would be lying if I said I didn't get a little nostalgic thinking of this being my first season here in Rec. I just attribute everything to the athletes and the amount of buy-in that they have given me."
Despite a close loss to George Washington, the Nittany Lions had much to be proud of with a season-best all-around score and multiple individual records for their athletes.
"The energy and having so many people for the double dual was super exciting, it's so much fun competing alongside the guys," Tsang said. "It was definitely exciting. I just wanted to go out there and enjoy every single moment, because there's really nothing like competing in Rec Hall."
The Nittany Lions will begin their slate of away meets for the remainder of their regular season in Pittsburgh on Sunday, March 4, where they will face Pittsburgh and West Virginia.
By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Don't look now, but No. 18 Penn State men's hockey did it again. After defeating No. 8 Minnesota 5-1 Friday night, the Nittany Lions got the best of the Golden Gophers again Saturday, this time by a 5-2 score to complete the program's first series sweep against Minnesota.
Sophomore goalie Peyton Jones did his part in helping the Blue and White close out their regular season with a victory. Coming off a game Friday night where he only faced a total of 15 shots, Jones came up big in game two of the series, making 38 saves in what was a very busy night for him.
"I thought I played well," Jones said. "But the team played great in front of me and I was just there when they needed me."
Although Jones made some incredible saves, including 17 in the third period, he wasn't the only Penn State goalie who received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd at Pegula Ice Arena Saturday night. Senior goaltender Matt Erlichman entered the game to a loud cheer from the crowd and that long tribute was exactly how he would finish off his senior weekend.
Erlichman, a walk-on from Penn State's club hockey team, skated onto the ice with 1:07 remaining in what will most certainly be a game he will never forget. The Pennsylvania native not only played in his first home game for Penn State, but registered the first save of his collegiate career.
"It was awesome," Jones said when asked about Erlichman getting a warm welcome from the home faithful. "He deserves everything he got tonight. He works so hard on and off the ice."
"I'm really happy that he got in here at Pegula Ice Arena," Gadowsky said. "It's a special experience to play here and I'm really happy he got that opportunity."
On the other end of the ice, the Blue and White were lead offensively by freshman forward Alex Limoges, who got Penn State off to a much-needed fast start when he found the back of the net just 3:36 into the game.
"They (Minnesota) came out firing and were a better team than us early," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "When Limoges scored the first goal, we breathed so much easier. I thought that (goal) let us get into our game-plan and we weren't so nervous. We knew they came out strong, but when we went up 1-0 it gave us some confidence."
Limoges scored another goal two minutes and 37 seconds into the third period to extend the Nittany Lions lead to three. The Virginia native stretched his consecutive goal streak to a career high three games after a personal best two goal, one assist night.
Limgoes credited his confident play as of late to his increased sense of comfort with the team, having finally made the adjustment to college hockey.
"At the start of the season I was somewhat intimidated," Limoges said. "College is a step up. These guys are bigger, stronger and faster. I've had the same line mates from then to now and we've developed a lot of chemistry in practice. When one of us gets a chance, we're all rewarded. It doesn't matter who scores."Looking ahead, the Nittany Lions will host their first home postseason event in program history as the Golden Gophers once again visit Hockey Valley. This time, it's to kick off the Big Ten Championship tournament. The best-of-three series between No. 4 seeded Penn State and No. 5 seeded Minnesota will begin Friday night.
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's lacrosse dropped a tough 12-9 loss to Robert Morris on a chilly day at Panzer Stadium. Despite the loss, the Nittany Lions will have plenty to think about heading into a four-game road stretch.
"From start to finish we just didn't look very sharp," Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "We just have to straighten a lot of stuff out about ourselves and not worry about anything other than just how we can get better tomorrow than we were today."
Although the Nittany Lions showed glimpses of triumph with some strong individual performances, the offense still struggled to find answers to the tough Colonials defensive unit.
The Blue and White managed 20 shots on goal, but Robert Morris goalie Alex Heger made 11 saves. Heger also came up with a number of clutch saves in the second half that helped give his team momentum heading into the end of the game.
"I thought we lacked confidence a lot offensively today," Tambroni said. "We just have to do a better job of collaborating offensively."
Tambroni noted postgame he wants to work on sharing the ball amongst the team. It was evident in Saturday's game that when the Nittany Lions held onto the ball for too long it resulted in missed scoring opportunities.
Although six different Nittany Lions netted goals, sophomore attackman Mac O'Keefe was held without a goal. Last season when the two teams met, O'Keefe scored seven goals.
While the coaching staff anticipates defenses paying more attention to O'Keefe after his record-breaking season, the difference in his productivity has changed. Tambroni was quick to mention though, that it's up to the whole offense to step up and create goal scoring opportunities, not just O'Keefe.
"If everyone just does a little bit of their part, they'll force the defense to think a little bit more about everyone out there," Tambroni said. "Right now, we are very limited because we are limiting ourselves. I think once the ball starts moving around and flowing more so than it was today, then you can get a defense sliding around. If they want to stay and face-guard Mac [O'Keefe] or not slide from him then other people are going to have opportunities."
As a main point of emphasis in the season so far has been trying to find depth in the roster, the coaching staff still has a lot of question marks after Saturday's loss. However, the game has also given them some new things to think about.
By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the midst of "We Are" chants and the chaotic double-dual atmosphere, the Penn State men's gymnastics team maintained its cool throughout a close bout and an even narrower finish. Although the Penn State Nittany Lions fell to the Minnesota Golden Gophers 404.350 to 402.400, the Nittany Lions contested their adversity through strong performances on vault and rings.
"I know at this point in the season you want your team to really come out and fight with some spirit," head coach Randy Jepson said.
With injuries plaguing the rotation, Jepson looked for a team effort to compete against a solid Minnesota squad.
With junior Joshua Smith leading the charge, the Nittany Lions laid out clean routines and electric landings when their number was called on vault.
"Going into vault I felt pretty confident," Smith said. "We did a lot of numbers in the gym. The hard work comes from the gym so once you go in you already have the confidence of just doing the vault so there was really no nervousness, just doing it for the team."
Smith's 14.600 tied Minnesota's Shane Wiskus for the first best score on vault and second best score of the entire meet.
"It is a humbling experience," Smith said. "I mean I don't want to brag or anything like that. I want to stay humble cause it is always the work that we have to continue on to Big Ten and NCAAs but it did feel good to accomplish that."
Freshman Brennan Pantazis and sophomore Brayden Borromeo followed in Smith's footsteps as they laid out commanding performances on vault to bring the Blue and White faithful into a Nittany Lion roar.
"We were just cleaner," Jepson said. "Minnesota is very good on vault and they struggled today. They did harder vaults than we did and we were a little cleaner in our landings and it was good to see Josh come through with a pretty solid vault as well as a stick by I think it was Borromeo stuck his vault. That was huge right at a pivotal time so those are the kind of performances we are looking to see."
Pantazis notched third place on vault with a 14.550 showing, while Borromeo came in fifth on a solid 14.300 performance.
Similarly to Smith, junior Chris Sands' performance on rings helped motivate the Blue and White forward as they battled through a tightly matched meet.
"Chris has been getting better all the time and he's been getting to be a better competitor," Jepson said. "We've had some good tests this year in terms of close contests and Chris has performed well in all of those. That's what you want to see from a guy who is a junior at this point and be able to really go in and knock out routines when your team needs it."
Sands toped the rings podium at 14.200 alongside Penn State gymnasts Noah Roberson and Greg Tamargo. Redshirt junior Roberson placed second, while senior Tamargo came in third.
"Going into rings, that's one of the events we've always been strong on," Sands said. "Penn State is pretty much known for its ring's lineup and since Greg went before me being second up you still have to put in the work and so it was another day in the office in that sense."
As the calendar flips to March, the Penn State men's gymnastics team will take its competitive spirit on the road as they face the Iowa Hawkeyes and Arizona State Sun Devils in back-to-back weeks. The Nittany Lions will be back in Rec Hall for their home finale on March 17 against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
"We have to keep up the drills," Smith said. "We have to keep everyone healthy as well. That was a factor for us in the beginning and it still kind of is right now but once we get everyone healthy and continue to do the drills we definitely have it coming up in the Big Ten and NCAAs."
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 Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just last weekend, Penn State THON raised over $10 million in support of pediatric cancer research and treatment.
On Sunday, the Lady Lions will do their part in the fight against cancer, honoring breast cancer survivors in the team's annual Play4Kay Day.
Play4Kay is a national event across women's basketball intended to raise money for breast cancer awareness, first started in 2004 by the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. Yow was the head women's basketball coach at North Carolina State for 44 years, and lost her battle with breast cancer in 2009.
Fans and players alike will be dressed in pink for Sunday's game, as the team will wear its alternate pink jerseys. For head coach Coquese Washington, it presents an opportunity for the Lady Lions to be a presence in the community and be a part of a special cause.
"We look at this game again as something where we celebrate the survivors, we celebrate the families who supported the survivors through chemotherapy and treatment," Washington said. "Really it's just a big ol' party at the BJC. We just want the atmosphere and the celebration to be reflective of the energy that the survivors carry. That's what we try to do, and typically it's a great day."
The Play4Kay game, formerly known as the Pink Zone game, is one of the most well-attended games of the year, as fans of the Blue and White are eager to show their support for the survivors and their families.
"The popularity of this game has everything to do with this cause that is really important, and particularly important to women," Washington said. "Many people have been touched by cancer in some way, and this game has really grown because it's about much more than winning and losing. Here at Penn State, it's an opportunity for us to celebrate survivors that have fought through this disease. It's one of those things where we can draw inspiration from the survivors."
Washington was one of the main voices in bringing Play4Kay to Penn State in its early days, understanding the impact it could have on the young women on the team and in the community. She is amazed at the way this charity movement has grown and hopes it continues to move forward in the future.
"I've helped with the incorporation of our Pink Zone and the Pennsylvania Pink Zone," Washington said. "We've just outgrown our office and we saw this as something we could do on the side. It's such a tremendous event and it took a lot of time and planning, so we got a board of directors and a fantastic group of volunteers to run everything. Susan Woodring, our executive director, is fantastic at what she does."
For some Lady Lions, breast cancer has touched close to home. Junior forward Jaylen Williams is very familiar with the disease and what its recovery process entails, as both her grandmother and aunt are breast cancer survivors. Her aunt beat breast cancer just recently.
"I was so little when my grandmother had cancer and I don't really remember it, but now that my aunt went through it and I was around for it and understood the relevance, things like the Play4Kay game mean a lot," Williams said. "Our culture, the culture of every team really, is how it's always bigger than us. THON and the Play4Kay games are just some events that make us realize this is bigger than the game. It means a lot for so many people, and it's awesome that we can make an impact in the way that we do."
Williams understands the sense of unity that's going to be inside the arena as well, as players, fans and coaches can bond and celebrate over conquering cancer, an incredible accomplishment in every way.
"I look at the game as a big community. We're all wearing pink, we're all supporting a good cause and here for a good reason. A lot of people in the arena will have known somebody or even they themselves that has had breast cancer. It's awesome to see how many people are in support of us," Williams said.
For Washington, the game presents a unique opportunity for the players, as they can truly feel like they are playing for someone else.
"It effects a number of players who have someone close to them that's been effected," Washington said. "Moms, aunts and loved ones who've overcame this disease and fought through. This Sunday is an opportunity for them to go out and play for somebody other than themselves, and that's why this team really looks forward to this game."
The Lady Lions play host to Ohio State. Tip off is set for 12 p.m.
By Brian McLaughlin, Student Staff Writer GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSTIY PARK, Pa. - It was a tale of two games for the Nittany Lions' offense this weekend, unable to convert numerous opportunities in the series opener against Lindenwood on Friday, while pouring on six goals Saturday afternoon.
On Friday night the Nittany Lions seemingly dominated Lindenwood on the stat sheet, outshooting the Lions 43-12, but never found the back of the net in a 1-0 loss.
Junior goaltender Jolene deBruyn was able to make some clutch saves for Lindenwood, while under constant attack from Penn State. Lindenwood captain Britannia Gillanders produced the only goal for the Lions in the first period.
"We didn't execute, we lacked vision and we didn't work smart. That kills us, we had 43 shots on goal, and we have to put one of those in," head coach Jeff Kampersal said. "We had plenty of backdoor tap-ins that we couldn't lift the puck. It is really frustrating to lose that game."
Following the first period for Penn State, freshman goaltender Chantal Burke made her third career appearance in the Blue and White, replacing senior goalie Hannah Ehresmann. Burke did not allow a goal throughout the rest of the game, stopping seven shots over the final two periods.
In the third period the Nittany Lions outshot Lindenwood 20-4 but could not find a way to tie the game. Katie Rankin dominated in the faceoff circle for Penn State giving them ample opportunities to get on the board, winning 11 of 14 face-offs she took.
With Friday's result Lindenwood drew within one point of the Nittany Lions in the CHA standings but Penn State answered in a vengeance Saturday dominating the Lions to a 6-0 win.
Natalie Heising led the way for Penn State with a hat-trick, recording one goal in each period. She now has 17 goals on the season and eight in the last five games.
Heising struck early in the first period for a power play goal past starting goalie for Lindenwood, Lauren Hennessy. Thanks to the early power play the Nittany Lions were able to get nine shots in the first 10 minutes on Hennessey, making just her second appearance of the year for Lindenwood.
"Sometimes it's just hockey where we get the bounces. Today they didn't start their number one goaltender so I think they just made the decision to give her a rest to get her prepared for Thursday," Kampersal said. "So that definitely helped but at the same time we threw a cumulative of 85 shots and attempted over a hundred so we are getting the puck on net. We tried to do a better job today of doing simple better, making eight foot passes instead of 80-foot passes, coming out together as a group."
Heising kept things rolling for the Nittany Lions early in the second period with another goal with lots of traffic in front of the net.
Penn State kept the scoring going with eight minutes remaining in the second period with Amanda McLeod's first goal of the year on a scrum in front of the net.
A 5-on-3 for Penn State with 17 minutes left in the third period left the door open for Heising's third goal of the night to complete the trifecta. It was her 17th of the season and eighth in the last five games.
Just moments later Penn State converted again, still on the power play, with Sophie Slattery notching her fifth goal of the year. The Nittany Lions finished three power play goals on the day while killing off six penalties of their own.
"The power play which was frustrating yesterday was really clicking, and to see them score on a 5-on-3 and again right after on the 5-on-4 was really satisfying," Kampersal said. "That's what good teams do is take advantage of those opportunities."
Penn State was not finished yet however, as Meike Meilleur found the back of the net on a wrist shot to finish the scoring at 6-0.
Ehreshman was also outstanding in the net for Nittany Lions posting a shutout in her final regular season game as a Nittany Lion.
"This is an awesome day for the seniors to get this win on their senior day," Kampersal said. "I told them when they reflect back on their time at Penn State whether it's five or 75 years later they can remember today fondly and be proud of what they have done for this program and accomplished."
The Nittany Lions will have another matchup with Lindenwood this Thursday in the opener of the conference tournament, which will be their fifth matchup this season.
By: Briana Zuccarelli, GoPSUsports.comStudent Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- As senior week comes to an end, Aly Hardy has a lot of emotions going through her head. The senior forward started playing hockey when she was six years old when she saw a flyer about hockey sign-ups.
"I looked at my parents and said 'I want to try hockey'," said Hardy. "I am sure they were a little hesitant at first, but they let me try it and I never looked back. I fell in love with it, it's hard not to."
On Friday evening of the final home series, the team held its annual banquet to recognize the players on their accomplishments, especially the senior class. Hardy and the rest of the senior class will also be recognized during the senior game on Saturday, February 24th at 2 p.m. Hardy said her time at Penn State has flown by and it has become her second home.
"Knowing that this is my last year and now last week to play for Penn State in regular season is scary, crazy, sad, humbling, I don't even know how to describe it," the senior said. "Although it is very emotional knowing it is senior week, I know I will be able to look at myself in the mirror and say 'I've done it.'"
Hardy explained that playing for the Nittany Lions has been nothing short of a dream. When she had first started playing, she set a goal to play Division I hockey and she did just that. Now that her time in Happy Valley is winding down, she praised not only the athletic department at Penn State, but also the academics in what got her here.
"Having the opportunity to graduate with a Penn State degree is an honor alone," said Hardy. "It sets you up for so many more opportunities in the future. It was an easy decision, and one of the best decisions."
The Saturday matchup against Lindenwood will mark the last home game for the senior class. Friday night the Nittany Lions suffered a 1-0 loss and will look to end their last game with a win for not only the team as a whole, but the seniors.
"Having it be my last home weekend does give me a little more motivation going into the series," said Hardy heading into the weekend. "It will be nice to end on a high not in Pegula."
Through her time at Penn State, she was able to make endless memories in Pegula, yet her favorite memory was off the ice. Hardy recalled coming back from a road series and a 5-hour bus ride. The team had just gotten back in time to see the final quarter of the Ohio State football game in 2016.
"I just remember throwing our bags inside the door at Pegula and sprinting over to the game," she said with a smile. "We made it just in time to see us come back and beat Ohio State. That was one of the best memories and feelings. I think I lost my voice for the entire week we were screaming so much."
"Anyone that knows Aly would know she is a really funny person," said Rydland. "I have so many memories with her. It's just the little things with her, she makes everything fun. Being able to be her teammate has been awesome for me and she's definitely going to be missed."
Head coach Jeff Kampersal explained that these seniors definitely "bleed blue and white" and he only hopes that they could have a great experience. Coach had nothing but praise for Hardy and the type of person she has been to him from the first time he showed up to campus this past year.
"For me personally, when I came in and was transitioning she helped me out a lot," said Kampersal. "She is someone that I trust and can talk to about certain situations. I find her very mature, smart, and an advice giver."
As Hardy prepares for her final game in Pegula, she hopes to leave her legacy on and off the ice at Penn State, and those who have interacted with her have no doubt she will.
By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The George Mason Patriots upended No. 7 Penn State in Rec Hall in straight sets Friday night, handing the Nittany Lions their first loss in EIVA play.
"I think that's one of those matches where you just tip your hat to George Mason," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "You go into the locker room, you talk about it, shower off and come back ready to be better tomorrow."
It seemed no matter what Penn State did, George Mason had an answer. The Patriots not only posted eight blocks as a team for the match, but were also excellent in the serve-receive game, frequently able to run their offense comfortably.
Much of that was due to Penn State's inability to put pressure on George Mason's defense with its serving, an area where it particularly excelled last weekend. Penn State also turned in its lowest hitting percentage, held below .100 for the first time this year.
"I thought Mason served and passed better than we did," Pavlik said. I thought our physicality was nonexistent. There were stretches where we were just on our heels and [George] Mason took advantage of it with their offense or their serving. We just didn't put enough pressure on them and a lot that you just have to tip your hat to them."
George Mason was also terrific behind the service line, recording seven service aces. As a result, Penn State had a more difficult time than its opponent passing the ball in serve-receive, which prevented the Nittany Lions from settling into any consistent offensive rhythm.
"They didn't do anything at the net that surprised us," Pavlik said. What slowed us down offensively was the fact that we were running our offense from about 12-13 feet off the net with Luke [Braswell] on the move. It made us pretty predictable."
The Nittany Lions played out of system often throughout the match and had trouble establishing their middles. Kevin Gear finished with six kills and hit .500 to highlight the night.
That made things difficult for Penn State's pin hitters to get going, as the patriots held Calvin Mende to just seven kills. Matt McLaren, who has arguably been the hottest offensive player on the team as of late, had just five kills for the match.
"They were serving pretty tough," setter Luke Braswell said. "What we try to do is serve hard and get them to not pass well so they're off the net and we can block better. They did that to us today. When they have their block formed they're pretty good blockers. That was part of their game plan and they did it pretty well."
Pavlik rotated some different Nittany Lions into the lineup later on in the match in an attempt to provide some spark. In the third set, Jason Donorovich and Lee Smith replaced starters Jalen Penrose and Aidan Albrecht.
"In practice, this week [Donorovich] blocked just about everything that was thrown at him and at that time we were looking to see if we could start to slow them down," Pavlik said. We wanted to get Lee in there to pass and block. I'm not sure that it paid off as much as we hoped it would."
While Penn State's goal to finish undefeated in EIVA play is no longer attainable, the Nittany Lions still remain tied for first place in the conference with plenty of volleyball to be played this season.
"Maybe this is something we needed because now we know we're not the top dog anymore," Gear said. "Now we can't expect anything. We just need to go and take what we need to take back. I have faith in our team that we're going to be able to come back and be a different team the next time we see these guys."
Penn State has an experienced team and a very close group, who will make the attempt to bounce back from the loss much more manageable. Despite the unfavorable result of Friday night's match, the Nittany Lions remain optimistic.
"There are plenty of ups and downs through the season with the intent of becoming better," Pavlik said. "You've got to get good at turning the page. Tonight Mason did it much better than we did and that's okay. I think we can still be pretty good."
"We've got to throw it away. Tomorrow is a new match for us. We just need to come back tomorrow ready to play," Braswell said.
Penn State will look to bounce back Saturday night, taking on Charleston (W.Va.) at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall's south gym.
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After defeating No. 8 Minnesota in a dominating 5-1 win, No. 18 Penn State gained a much-needed confidence boost. With the postseason right around the corner, it's an optimal time for the Nittany Lions to heat up.
"I think that was probably the most complete game that we've played this year both offensively and defensively," Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said.
Forward James Robinson opened the scoring early in the first period, ending a scoring drought for the Nittany Lion leader. He was also quick to note postgame how good it felt to finally put one between the pipes.
Robinson's efforts showed up on the scoreboard seemingly right from puck drop, evident in his aggressive skating as he battled for pucks.
"Jimmy was a catalyst right from the first shift," Gadowsky said. "I also thought his two line mates were equally productive throughout the game."
Alongside linemates Sam Sternschein and Nikita Pavlychev, it was Sternchein who added an assist on a dramatic late third period goal scored by fellow freshman Evan Barratt.
Just out of the penalty box, Barratt laid a huge hit in the Gophers' defensive zone, setting the stage to get the puck back before launching it into the back of the net. Although Barratt has been an offensive option throughout the season, the Nittany Lions will look for a performance like this to give him some extra confidence heading into the postseason.
"To have success against such a great team I'm sure [will be] a really good confidence booster," Gadowsky said.
Barratt wasn't the only one of his linemates to get pucks past the Minnesota goalies, with forwards Liam Folkes and Alex Limoges also scoring in Penn State's 3-goal third period.
Through all the line changes the coaching staff has experimented with this season, the second line has remained mostly untouched. Due to Gadowsky's confidence in the line, he was hardly surprised to see their success come to fruition Friday night.
"That line was great," Gadowsky said. "It's really nice to see them rewarded with all three of them getting goals."
Headed into the weekend, Penn State opted to shift its attitude toward postseason-mode for the last few weeks in preparation for a strong finish.
"The conversation a few weeks ago was that this is playoffs, this is crunch time," Robinson said. "With it being where it is now, it's obviously amplified a little bit more."
With the mindset yielding consistency, the Nittany Lions achieved what they set out to accomplish, but it's not over yet. One game still remains in the regular season and the Nittany Lions aren't changing a thing when it comes to mindset.
"We played probably what I thought was our best game of the year," Robinson said, "So, same mindset tomorrow."
Penn State and Minnesota wrap up the regular season Saturday, Feb. 24 with a 7 p.m. puck drop inside Pegula Ice Arena.
Briana Zuccarelli, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The #12 Penn State Nittany Lions returned to Panzer Stadium on Wednesday for their home opener against the Duquesne Dukes, earning a 19-8 victory for the Nittany Lions. The win came off a 14-13 victory at Lehigh this past weekend and the team was excited to be finally playing on home turf.
"I'm super pumped to be home again at our home stadium," said senior Katie O'Donnell. "Being on the road is sometimes tough, but we always make it work. There is nothing better than coming down here for game day and having our family and friends in the bleachers."
In the games against Towson and Lehigh, where the team went 1-1, the Nittany Lions experienced a one-point difference in the final score. Heading into the game against Duquesne, the team was looking to play quicker and get a lead from the start to keep the team confidence high throughout the game.
The Nittany Lions did just that as they started the game off hot with a 6-0 lead against the Dukes. Freshman Sophia Triandafils tallied three goals in the first nine minutes of play in the first half. This marked her first hat trick of her career. Alongside Triandafils, Katie O'Donnell and Maria Auth added to the early lead.
"I think they did a really good job of playing faster today," said head coach Missy Doherty after the win. "We wanted to challenge our speed and really use our aggressiveness right from the beginning and they did do just that. It was good to see them step up and really build up momentum going into Saturday."
With a young team, the coaching staff has been working to find the perfect mix for their starting lineup and after this 19-8 win, they believe they may have found that group. With the large point gap, Doherty was able to get some player some early season playing time.
"We were really excited to get some more looks at our younger player," Doherty said. "We have a lot of talented people on the roster and it's hard to get everyone in on a gamely basis. Being able to shift some people around and see people in different positions and test people out in a game setting was huge."
In the mix of new faces this season are freshmen Quinn Nicolai and Triandafils. Nicolai scored another goal in the team's victory yesterday, marking her fourth of her career. While Triandafils recorded four goals alone for the Nittany Lions in their win against the Dukes. She expressed what it felt like to score her career-high goals at her first home game.
"It was really awesome," said the freshman midfielder. "Having our first two games away was kind of challenging for us because we were on the road. It is always more fun playing at your home stadium. It was really great energy all throughout the team: on the field or even on the sidelines."
As the team prepares for their weekend matchup at home on Saturday, they will continue to make the important decisions they need in order to come out successful against Cornell.
"Coach is really stressing getting ourselves better and improving on ourselves," said O'Donnell. "We need to focus on us before we can start focusing on the other teams. Every single day at practice we need to improve, whether it's in transition or our offense or defense. That's day in and day out what we will be focusing on in practice."
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off a dominant win against Stony Brook last week, Penn State men's lacrosse is focusing on learning from both its success and mistakes heading toward Robert Morris.
Faceoff man Gerard Arceri played a key role in the win, going 20-for-27 on the draw, picking up 16 ground balls. The New York native was named Big Ten Specialist of the week and selected to the USILA Team of the Week.
"We're really fortunate and lucky enough to have a skilled player in Gerard Arceri," senior captain and midfielder Tripp Traynor said. "He's a hard worker too and it makes our other wing players' jobs a lot easier."
Before the season, Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni noted that during his first year on the team, Arceri struggled with finding and maintaining his confidence on the field. With a year complete, he took the summer to train and work on his skill at the faceoff x. In year two, Arceri is seeing his work pay off, with the Nittany Lions able to capitalize on the increase in possessions.
While the staff is pleased with Arceri's confidence, they are quick to remind him and the team, there is still a lot of lacrosse left in the season.
"Whereas we are excited about the confidence that [Arceri] should have accumulated based on last game, I think we're quick to remind our entire group including [Arceri] that none of those statistics on Monday carry over and we have to go back to work," Tambroni said.
Moving forward, Tambroni wants to make sure the offense and defense are creating balance, both doing their part to generate opportunities for success in their own respective zones.
"We just can't live and die at that point for the rest of the season," Tambroni said. "I think last year that was one of the problems. I think we were so dependent upon [Arceri] through the course of the first 10 games that once we started going fifty-fifty or losing some of those faceoffs, we struggled."
While Tambroni was happy the positives from last weekend, he also mentioned a few areas of improvement. One point of emphasis in particular, is finding depth on the roster.
The Nittany Lions present a menacing starting lineup on both attack and defense that can cause problems for many teams. Beyond their starters though, there are a lot of question marks on both sides of the ball at an early point in the season.
The challenge for Tambroni and his staff is motivating the rest of the team to step up and make meaningful contributions.
"Inevitably, every student-athlete wants to play, everybody wants to contribute on game day because they work so hard," Tambroni said. "The onus falls on Jeff Tambroni. It's my job to make sure there's a grander purpose than coming in here and playing. There's got to be a reason why these guys come here."
Although the message starts with the coaching staff, it is then on the team to uphold it in the locker room and on the field.
Headed into its fourth matchup of the year, Tambroni hopes this is a point of significance that Penn State can buy into.
"We have to provide that purpose and perspective that it's more about being a part of something bigger than yourself, about the preparation over four years and about being great teammates." Tambroni said. "If these guys can encapsulate that perspective, it makes it a little bit easier."
This Saturday's home game against Robert Morris will mark the end of a four-game home stretch for the Nittany Lions before they play the next four games on the road.
"I think every game we have just tried to learn something about us," Tambroni said. "If we can continue to strengthen the depth pace, continue to stay realistic at both ends of the field and know what's going on at the faceoff x, then I think we'll have a pretty good handle on where we are at least in this first four game stretch."
By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's volleyball will be back at Rec Hall again this weekend for a weekend series against George Mason Friday night, followed by Charleston (West Virginia) Saturday evening.
The Nittany Lions are 3-0 to start EIVA league play, coming off two impressive victories against Sacred Heart and Harvard. Looking back on the weekend, head coach Mark Pavlik thought his team's physicality from behind the service line against the Crimson propelled them to arguably its best game of the season so far
"We were so physical with our serving this past week," Pavlik said. "If we can keep that physicality growing with consistency of hitting it on the court, it will really help us moving forward."
Senior middle blocker Jalen Penrose arguably the most powerful server on the team and his eight service aces in the two matches this weekend proved why. However, Matt McLaren was also dynamic behind the service line this weekend, chipping in six aces of his own.
Penn State received an immense boost with right side hitter, Calvin Mende, returning to the lineup after missing several weeks with an injury. His return gave setter Luke Braswell another big arm to go to up front. It also magnified the depth Penn State has enjoyed up front this season.
"With Cal [Mende] back and us firing on all cylinders, it just shows that our team has a lot of depth and that we have a bunch of unique guys that can come in and play any spot they're told to play," Braswell said.
Braswell has been in full control of Penn State's offense recently, as the second-year starter has evolved as a setter, brining valuable leadership to the court this year.
"He is developing a better and better feel for how the game goes and where he should go with the ball at certain times," Pavlik said. "He understands where [his hitters] are on the court. He's doing a very good job as an analytical setter."
Mende is not a typical right side hitter in the sense that he is a 7-foot lefty, so there is a distinct way the ball has to be set for him. Over the last couple of years, he and Braswell have begun to master the timing to the point where even Mende's absence should not disrupt the chemistry they've developed.
"With him, the ball can't be too fast or too low, so it has to be fast enough where the other team's blockers can't get out to the pin and close out on him. But also slow enough for him where he has enough options," Braswell said.
Pavlik has also been impressed with the improvement Braswell has made from last year to this year with the shape of his sets.
"As you play more, you learn the different heights that go to certain places and then you get the back row involved," Pavlik said. "And now it goes from almost a single dimensional point to two dimensions to three dimensions. I think that's where he's really started to understand his game."
A year makes a huge difference from a mental standpoint of the game though and this area is where Braswell believes he has made the most substantial jump in his game from last season.
"It's more just mental and figuring out the team, as well as what it takes as a team to win," Braswell said. "The setting is something I practice every day so it's something I feel okay with, but figuring out how to be the guy everyone looks to, especially because volleyball is a very up and down type of sport where you have your highs and lows, has been big for me."
By Brian McLaughlin, Student Staff Writer GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lady Lions are a guard heavy team this season, but one of their strongest post players and leading rebounder, De'Janae Boykin, has provided great balance on the floor.
Boykin has been a great addition to Penn State since transferring from perennial power, the University of Connecticut (UCONN). She has always been a top player on the court but finds great inspiration from her brother Joshua off the court. Joshua has been legally blind since birth but has always been a great presence for De'Janae.
"Growing up we've always gone to school together; we've always just been that brother-sister duo no matter what. So him just doing his thing, and knowing he has this disability, I know he is still striving because that's what everybody else is doing because he wants to be treated like everybody else," Boykin said. "Just seeing him doing that has helped me be able to come here and play basketball and be a leader for him."
Boykin has been a true leader this season for the Lady Lions, averaging 8.2 rebounds per game. She also adds 6.1 points per contest. While just a sophomore in eligibility Boykin has added a veteran presence to the team even though she is still getting into the speed of college basketball.
"De'Janae is really still learning the college game and has not played significant minutes for almost three years before this season despite her immense talent," head coach Coquese Washington said. "She didn't play her freshman year at UCONN then had to sit out part of last season because she transferred here then got hurt and couldn't play the full season. She is still growing and improving every day just like the rest of this young team."
Boykin's journey has not been exactly ordinary for her path to Penn State, and one of the biggest aspects to her transfer to Penn State was to be closer to her family.
"My family comes as much as possible to watch me play. I am from Maryland so just like three hours away isn't that bad," Boykin said. "He (Joshua) doesn't always come up because he doesn't really like basketball and can't really focus in that well on it."
While it is difficult to take in a game for Joshua, advances in technology have helped him watch his sister play.
"He has these binoculars that really help him focus in on the games and get to see some action," Boykin said. "He also has glasses that help him see every day and help his vision a lot but the binoculars really help him pick up basketball and the speed of the game."
Boykin is extremely proud of her brother and knows he is on the path to success. She sees how hard he works and knows it gives her no excuse. Something that drives her mentally in her games. While she misses being with him in school every day, they will always have a special bond.
As is the case with most students in college, Joshua has been able to make his passion a potential future career.
"He plays video games 24/7. He goes to school every day (he is in college now) comes back home and plays video games all day and every day. He even creates games on the computer and things like that so he is really into it and seems really good at it. He is definitely going to try to make a career of it," Boykin said.
As Boykin's sophomore season is beginning to wind down she hopes her family can make it to a few more games, including any postseason opportunities the Lady Lions might have. She will continue to strive to adjust to the college game and emerge as a strong scoring threat in the post as well as her rebounding prowess. As her game evolves, the inspiration from her brother will always be the driving force in her play.
By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK - After ending the season with an 18-37 record and a 5.96 combined ERA last year, the Nittany Lions knew they needed better pitching in order to find success in 2018. Last weekend, the pitching staff proved just how hard it worked in the offseason, posting a combined 3.00 ERA to lead the team to a series sweep.
lot of those guys have really matured and taken a lot of responsibility for
their development as well," Penn State head coach Rob Cooper said. "I think [pitching
coach Josh] Newman has done an unbelievable job in his first year getting them
to really buy in and believe that he has their backs. And he does, so that's a
huge thing and a huge difference for us."
Last season, the Nittany Lions relied heavily on starting pitcher Sal Biasi, who went 5-5 with a 3.48 ERA. After Biasi was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 11th round of the 2017 MLB Draft, the Nittany Lions are looking to junior starter Justin Hagenman to lead the pitching staff.
"I've been through it a lot," Hagenman said. "I've started every game since I've been here, luckily. It helps that the routine is there. I know exactly what I'm going to do on home and away games, like what time I have to get ready. So, some of that stuff I can tell to the other guys."
Hagenman pitched a team-high 80 1/3 innings in 2017 recording 75 strikeouts, but his 1-11 record and 5.49 ERA did not reflect the hard work he put in on the mound. After being named the team's opening day starter against Elon last Friday, Hagenman recorded his first win of the season, allowing just four hits through five innings with seven strikeouts.
"I felt good," Hagenman said. "It was the first start of the year so adrenaline is pretty high to start. You get a little tired quicker. It was definitely good to get back out there."
"[Getting Hagenman a win] was very nice," Penn State outfielder Braxton Giavedoni said. "I mean last year he worked very hard. His numbers just didn't really show for it, but we couldn't really put runs up when he was pitching. I'm glad he got the win."
Prior to the weekend series at Elon, Cooper named his opening weekend starters as Hagenman, Taylor Lehman and Dante Biasi. Lehman followed the tone Hagenman set the night before, allowing just one run on three hits through five innings.
That was before it was time to turn to Sal's younger brother, Dante, for his first career start Sunday.
Dante missed the entire 2017 season due to injury, but started the 2018 season hot, carrying a no hitter into the fifth inning of his collegiate debut. The sophomore ended his afternoon after allowing two runs through 4 1/3 innings.
"You hope for the best with their first start back just because you never want them to baby anything but it's big to get the first one out of the way because your confidence is just boosted up from there," Hagenman said. "It didn't look like he missed a beat. It was definitely the preparation that he put in throughout the past couple months or year that helped him for sure. He was definitely prepared."
Although Hagenman was expected to return as the team's top pitcher, the rest of the starting positions were up for grabs. Redshirt sophomore Eric Mock was battling for a starting position, but about a week before the season started he was told he would be working out of the bullpen. Although it wasn't his first choice, he proved last weekend he has improved greatly since last year.
In 2017, Mock went 0-6 with a 7.75 ERA in eight starts and 15 total appearances. Mock worked hard over the offseason to not just improve physically, but mentally too, in order to find success in 2018.
"First and foremost, I focused on the physical side," Mock said. "I wanted to get stronger, I wanted to put on some weight to have more fuel for the entire season. Mentally, last year I hit some mental blocks at times, whether it be you have a bad game and your confidence gets down a little bit or whatever it may be. It was my first year last year. There was a big learning curve. I knew different things mentally that I needed to work on to have more success this year and hopefully they're paying off."
Mock made two appearances against Elon recording one-inning and three-inning saves. Although he already has two saves under his belt, Cooper said he does not want to use the term "closer" when referring to his reliever.
"We brought him in the seventh inning because the question we had as a staff was, 'If this was the ninth inning right now, who would we use?' Eric Mock," Cooper said. "I don't want to save a guy like Eric Mock for the ninth inning and a lead if we don't ever get to the ninth inning with a lead. He and everybody else on the mound did a great job this weekend."
Even with a great start to the 2018 season on the mound, Cooper thinks there's still much more in store for his pitching staff than what fans saw in the first three games.
"From a pitching standpoint we were great this weekend for sure, but there are some guys that didn't get in this weekend that are going to be impact guys for us whether it's Myles Gayman or Kyle Virbitsky or Bailey Dees and many others like Tucker Triebold. These are guys that I know can help us. It's nice to have some depth."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was hardly the senior night that any of the Nittany Lions would have planned. Despite a slower than anticipated start, Penn State would not go quietly in front of yet another passionate crowd at the Bryce Jordan Center Wednesday night.
"There's going to be some positives taken from this," Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers said. "We'll grow from this and we'll get better from it. That's what I told them in there."
In the first meeting between the two teams this year, there are plenty of things the Nittany Lion can be proud of. Forcing one of the nation's best turnover teams (9.24 per game) to 12 turnovers. Michigan was just 2-4 on the year when committing more turnovers than its opponent.
For Chambers though, it was Penn State's ability to respond to adversity, that had him most pleased.
"I thought our guys competed," Chambers said. "I thought they played hard. To come out and take the lead, we finished off the first half really well."
Michigan came out with an early advantage before the Nittany Lions responded to tighten the score. The once frenzied crowd quieted though as Mike Watkins hit the floor and shortly departed for the training room.
"He makes big plays for us on both ends," Chambers said. "He's a ferocious rebounder, and obviously, there's a trust level with those starting five."
Entering in place of Watkins, senior Julian Moore scored six points in a six minute stretch to bring the Nittany Lions within one, 16-15.
Michigan quickly found its stride from the 3-point line though, knocking down three triples to build the advantage as high as 13, 30-17, before a Tony Carr trey trimmed the gap to 10, 30-20.
Lamar Stevens followed with six straight for the Nittany Lions to send Penn State into the break down 34-26 at halftime.
Inside the locker room, Chambers' message was clear, better defense and more opportunities to put pressure on the paint.
"At halftime, we knew we didn't play well so we talked about our adjustments," Chambers said.
Penn State came out firing in the second half, using a timely triple from Stevens to pull Penn State within five before Carr followed with another to make it a four-point game, 38-34.
With 16:21 remaining, Penn State widened its 8-0 run after a Stevens block resulted in a Carr and-1 on the other end to give the Nittany Lions their first lead since the early in the first half.
Penn State quickly made it a 13-2 run over a 5:05 stretch holding Michigan scoreless for 4:39 in the process, all while widening the advantage to 41-39.
As the Wolverines adjusted and the Nittany Lions started to feel the fatigue of a February schedule most recently featuring Ohio State and sixth-ranked Purdue just a few day prior, Michigan took control from the perimeter.
"Our whole thing was high hands and just don't let them shoot them," Chambers said. "Don't let them get them off, obviously they got 21 off. It's something we can work on, something to grow as we come back to practice because Nebraska takes a ton of threes too."
With senior day gone, the Nittany Lions have just one more test to end the regular season. Headed to Nebraska Sunday, there's still time to find that one percent better the Nittany Lions are working toward.
By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior Briannah Tsang is a force to be reckoned with. A true asset on the team, the gymnast holds countless personal titles and has brought skill and leadership to the Nittany Lions. The only active senior on the team, Tsang continues to make great strides in her final season as a collegiate athlete, as well as contributing her expertise to her teammates. This weekend, it is Tsang's turn to be celebrated for Penn State's annual senior day meet.
"She brings great competitive leadership, but also great vocal leadership in the gym," head coach Sarah Brown said. "She's been here obviously four years and seen a variety of different coaching styles and a number of different athletes come through the program, so she's very level-headed and I think she has the ability to see things big picture, which I very much appreciate. I think it's nice to have somebody who's got a calm head like that leading our team."
While her teammates and coaches will agree that Tsang is a kind and determined athlete, they'll also say she wasn't always the robust leader she has developed into.
"I think she's become a stronger vocal leader this year," Brown said. "She knows exactly when an athlete or teammate needs something, and she's always there helping them out. I imagine there is a little bit of pressure on her, she had an incredible year as a junior, so there's heightened expectations going into her senior year."
Being the lone active member of her class on the squad, Tsang has had to take on a role that she wasn't quite familiar with, guiding her younger teammates as the season has progressed.
"I definitely feel like I have to be more vocal this year," Tsang said. "I'm usually the one leading by example, so I guess there's just more pressure to be more vocal and lead the team in the direction that I hope to see them go moving forward."
In her four years with Penn State gymnastics, Tsang reflects on times where she admired and took advice from other seniors before her. Now, over halfway through her final season, she is making sure to soak in every moment with the team.
"I always looked up to all the seniors," Tsang said. "When I was a freshman, we had this whole senior class, and looking back, they would tell me that I need to enjoy all the memories because they go by so fast."
Her freshman year, Tsang was named 2015 Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Year, becoming the fourth Penn State gymnast to earn at least a share of the title. Outside of her accomplishments, Tsang reflects on memories with the team present and past as her senior day approaches with the spotlight on her.
"There was a meet my sophomore year that stood out to me, the alumni meet," Tsang said. "There were so many people there who came back, and everyone in the bar lineup stuck their dismount. There was this increasing excitement as we went through all the routines, and it really stood out to me."
The entire women's gymnastics program had to adjust as a new coaching staff took over in 2017, a big change for Tsang specifically as she prepared for her final year. Fortunately, the change has led to an exciting final season.
"Coming into this year, I didn't really know what to expect, because it kind of felt like I was a freshman again," Tsang said. "But our relationship has really grown throughout the season. It's been exciting, I love it."
"It's been great getting to know her," Brown said. "She and I have gotten a lot closer as the competitive season has started, because I'm able to rely on her for some insight as far as what's going on with the team. I think she's incredible level-headed, so she's not too quick to judge or make really strong statements either way, she just likes to take her time and see both sides of the situation before she makes any judgments. We have a really good working relationship, we're at a point right now where I trust her ability, and I think she trusts me, so if there's a practice where we need to take It a little bit lighter, or a practice where we need to push it a little bit more, she completely understands what the staff wants out of her. She's been able to pace herself really well throughout the season."
Originally from Vancouver, Tsang also competes internationally for Canada's gymnastics team. She posted an eighth-place showing in the all-around at the 2014 Canadian National Championships, winning vault crown and placing eighth on the uneven bars. The year before in 2013, she was the champion on vault in the Elite Canada competition. Competing for two prestigious teams certainly keeps the senior busy.
"Being that she competed internationally this summer, I think her body saw a little bit more pounding than what we would have normally seen had she taken a break in the summer," Brown said. "So, it has been really important that we communicate well and make sure she's able to withstand the rigorous season week in and week out, especially considering that she competes all-around all the time."
Before her senior year, Tsang had earned 41 career event titles. But Tsang proved that her best days were ahead of her, and not at all behind.
"She has really started to shine on beam," Brown said. "She's become a consistent 9.9 or 9.85 competitor for us on beam, and I would say that she's probably the one that we feel the most confident with in that position. She's improved her bar dismount a ton, and she continues to shine on bars and floor as well. She anchors three out of four of our lineups, so she is definitely somebody that we can rely on and trust, and I hope that her senior year has been everything that she wants it to be."
Against Michigan in early February, Tsang won the vault (9.850), floor exercise (9.925), and the all-around (39.475) - all with season-best scores. In addition to her three titles, Tsang tied for second on the balance beam (9.850) and she tied for fifth on the uneven bars (9.850). That same week, Tsang finished second on beam against Ohio State, tying with another season-best 9.900. In a tri-meet against Penn and Cornell most recently, Tsang posted a 9.835 on vault to win the event. Following a Big Ten Co-Gymnast of the Week title earlier this season, Tsang was also honored as a Big Ten Gymnast of the Week for the second consecutive year.
"The first five or six meets she did incredible, and won the all-around a few times in a row," Brown said. "She had a fall this past weekend, and I think that needs to happen at some point. You can't expect someone to be perfect all the time, so having that little mistake on beam may have been the break that she needed and help her re-focus going into her senior night."
Tsang says it always comes down to one thing, and that's her love for the sport itself.
"Just being able to compete is amazing," Tsang said. "I came in as a freshman being afraid to compete, but now I love it and I live for it. Also, I think bars have improved for me. I came in here not really wanting to do bars, but Dallas [Becerra] has made me love it."
With four meets left in the regular season, reality is settling in for Tsang.
"I'm looking forward to enjoying every moment while it lasts."
Penn State will host George Washington in a double dual meet with the men on Saturday, Feb. 24. The meet is slated for a 4 pm start time in Rec Hall.
By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off the Big Ten/ACC Challenge last weekend in North Carolina, Penn State will now travel to Jacksonville, Florida to compete in the JU Tournament.
For two Nittany Lion coaches, the Jacksonville University tournament will not only serve as an important five game weekend for a Penn State team looking to gain early season momentum, but also a trip down memory lane.
Head coach Amanda Lehotak and assistant coach Sarah Sigrest were both involved in Jacksonville's softball program for years before coming to Penn State, and the duo was instrumental in the team's sudden success.
Lehotak, who served as the program's head coach for five years and was awarded the Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year in 2011 after leading the Dolphins to their first ever NCAA tournament appearance, is always grateful for the chance she was given when she was hired to be head coach after serving just one season as the team's assistant coach.
"I had a boss when I was the assistant at Jacksonville who believed in my passion for the game, and he gave me an opportunity," Lehotak mentioned.
"I will always be appreciative of Jacksonville because they gave me my first opportunity, so in a weird way it's almost like going home," Lehotak said. "I'm always fortunate to have that as part of my history. I love Jacksonville University and I still talk to a lot of people there. It's great to be able to go back and remember where you came from."
Despite leaving JU with a school record 137 wins, Lehotak owes some of her success to Sigrest, who was her star pitcher from 2009-2012. The Alabama native was a four-year starter on the mound and left JU as the program's all-time leader in six categories, including wins, strikeouts, and innings pitched.
"We helped turn the program around there and Coach (Sigrest) was a big part of that," Lehotak said.
Sigrest, who Penn State hired in August of 2015 to work with the team's pitchers and to assist with recruiting, talked about returning to her alma mater.
"It's nostalgic to be back on that field," Sigrest said. "Obviously I'm not playing, but it's still cool to see it, even on a different side of things."
As for the 2018 Nittany Lions, both Sigrest and Lehotak are moving forward and looking ahead despite the lack of victories early in the year.
"I'm really excited for this tournament," Sigrest said. "It's a really big tournament for us because we need to win. JU always plays us really tough and they're a lot like us in a lot of ways. It should be a fun and exciting weekend."
Lehotak echoed the optimistic message of the former Atlantic Conference Pitcher of the Year and drew positives from the Blue and White's play last weekend.
"I like our fight, I like our focus, and I really like us,"
Lehotak said. "I know the wins are not showing the progression, but we are
progressing and I like where we're at."
"Our offense finally showed up and we put up some really good numbers," Lehotak added. "Obviously if you look at how many runners we left on base, we're not doing a great job of getting them in right now, but we will. We've improved immensely from week one, both defensively and offensively."
Penn State will look to turn its fortunes around as they play the University of Central Florida (UCF) Friday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. to kickoff the JU tournament.
By Briana Zuccarelli, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Senior Hannah Ehresmann exemplifies what it means to take advantage of every opportunity that Penn State has to offer.
This past Friday through Sunday, Penn State held its annual Dance Marathon, THON. THON is a 46 hour no sitting no sleeping dance marathon and has over 16,500 volunteers each year to raise money for the fight against childhood cancer. One of the crowd favorites of THON is the Saturday night Pep Rally. The Pep Rally gives sports teams the opportunity to come up with funny, creative dance routines in hopes to be crowned the champion of that year's contest.
"I've definitely been looking forward to dancing at THON this year," said Ehresmann last week prior to the big weekend. "We've been able to perform three out of the four years that I've played for Penn State. This year definitely should be interesting and we've thrown a little curve ball in there by using some of our equipment."
The team took the stage shortly after 7:30 p.m. on Saturday after their 2-0 win against RIT. The team did a remix from the movie Pitch Perfect and had the spectators laughing in enjoyment. Ehresmann explained the importance of the team being involved throughout the community and what it means to the team.
"We had THON game earlier this year and it was always a privilege to play in and see the support of the fans," Ehresmann said. "We love it as a team and I know the fans love it. It's so fun to see how excited the little girls and boys are to see us and be with us to see our personalities; they love getting pictures."
Ehresmann shared that being able to see the improvement of kids during their post-game skates is always fun because she has seen some of the same people since her first time on the ice at Penn State. Head coach Jeff Kampersal shared the love the team has for the post-game skates.
"I think our kids are an awesome group and I know they do a lot in the community," Kampersal said. "I personally am a huge fan of the skates and the players genuinely love to do it and love to be involved."
Ehresmann has also noticed a lot of improvement with herself over her time here at Penn State. She first began to play hockey when she was in second or third grade, where she first found out her love of playing goalie.
"I was the only girl on my team at the time, so they didn't make me play goalie," said Ehresmann. "But on my last game, I asked if I could play it and ever since then I have been in love with it. I think all my experiences and all the people I met while being here really shaped who I am. I've changed a lot over the four years and I've definitely learned a lot of life lessons."
During her time playing for Penn State, Ehresmann has made 1,916 saves. Not only does she make an impact on the ice, but she also has been a CHA All-Academic team member for the past three years. She is an accounting major at Penn State and says it is just something that her family has always done.
"I chose accounting because it has been within my family and we have a family accounting firm back in Minnesota," said Ehresmann. "It's kind of what my family does; My brother is an accountant and so are my cousins. My grandpa started the firm 40 years ago and it's just what we all do."
Coach Kampersal emphasized the time Ehresmann puts in to be the best she can be, whether taking a million shots or possessing the right amount of confidence to help her succeed. The younger goalies on the team, like freshman Chantal Burke, look up to Ehresmann and recognize the type of person she is on and off the ice.
"Hannah has one of the strongest work ethics I've seen," said Burke. "It pushes me to work that much harder to get better so I can be at that same level. She had a very high level of focus and you can see it through her confidence on the ice."
When off the ice, Ehresmann can be found filling her teammates up on various foods before or after practice. Burke explains that Ehresmann will come into practice with baked goods for the team like banana bread or an assortment of cookies.
"She's so sweet," Burke said. "Her treats are delicious and everyone just loves to dig in."
This act of kindness is something that teammate will miss about Ehresmann and a part of the fun legacy she wishes to leave upon leaving Penn State. She says she hopes the younger girls see what she does on and off the ice and take it all in.
"I think it matters for goalies to stay level headed," Ehresmann said. "I hope they noticed throughout the year that you just need to compete for every puck and never give up. Even if you're having an off day, you need to mentally restart and get back to it. I want for them to enjoy it all because it goes by really fast."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's the final week of the regular season and Penn State's last home outing has arrived at a point in time where there's hardly room for error. Even with the program's best record under head coach Patrick Chambers already locked up, the Nittany Lions still have plenty on the line.
Preparations for a mid-week Big Ten matchup against Michigan (22-7, 11-5) begin Tuesday as the Nittany Lions used Monday to refocus following their first loss in four games.
Prior to Wednesday's first whistle though, Penn State will take time to pay tribute to its seniors. In a class comprised of two, it's Penn State's 2018 seniors who paved the way for what can easily be described as a tangible buzz swirling through Happy Valley at the mere mention of men's hoops.
To understand their unique impact, look no further than where it all started.
Penn State opened the 2014-15 season with a 61-48 win against Morgan State. The box score listed 7,402 as the official attendance. The loudest voice in the Bryce Jordan Center that night was not Chambers, it was Kim Garner. Seated in section 107, Garner watched her son Shep make his collegiate debut with a 14-point performance against the Bears, second only to Nittany Lion leading scorer D.J. Newbill.
Garner was the first freshman to start a season opener since Trey Lewis in 2011.
Fast forward to January 27, 2018, when Penn State topped Rutgers 60-43 in front of the largest BJC hoops crowd since 2011. The voice from section 107 was arguably still the loudest.
It's not a hostile kind of voice though, instead the exact opposite, one of encouragement and often including a confident "We Are."
"You can't replace Ms. Garner," junior Josh Reaves said. "She's a voice you're always going to hear regardless of where you are. The energy she brings from the crowd alone, it just travels. I know she's got my back, even from the crowd."
Upon asking any Nittany Lion freshman why they chose to come to Penn State, the answer is always the same. Family.
Just ask Reaves, who noted he could feel the love from the Penn State coaching staff all the way from Fairfax, Virginia during his recruitment process.
"When I was playing with Team Takeover in AAU, I always heard about Shep Garner, Shep Garner, he's committed to Penn State. He can do this, he can do that." Reaves said. "I'd never seen him, I'd never watched him play and I'd never met him, but as soon as I came here for a game I watched him play and I was like, he lived up to the hype."
Garner finished his freshman season ranked second on the team and scoring and assists. As a sophomore, he came one triple shy of a Penn State record, shooting 8-for-12 from 3-point range with a career-high 30 points in a win against Boston College, which Chambers immediately notes as his best career outing.
By his junior year, he eclipsed 1,000-point mark in perhaps the most perfect of settings, knocking off Michigan State in front of a packed hometown crowd at the historic Palestra.
On the strength of a standout senior campaign, he has continued to climb the all-time career scoring record, recently cracking the top 10.
"He's been through a lot and he had many other options other than Penn State but he chose Penn State," Chambers said. "He too could have left in this world that we live in. He did not. He believed in what we were doing. He wanted to see this thing through. What a great example he is for the rest of our team and the guys who are coming in. That's a guy who I am always going to refer to, to say hey, this is what this guy did."
In mid-November 2015, Penn State announced the signing of its highest-ranked recruiting class in program history featuring Roman Catholic standouts Lamar Stevens, Tony Carr and Nazeer Bostick. All three from the same high school as three-time All-Catholic, all-state selection Shep Garner.
When Chambers is asked about recruiting success in Philadelphia though, there's the Garner's.
"If DJ [Newbill] opened the door, Shep threw that thing wide open," Chambers said.
Chambers certainly doesn't stop at Shep though, giving credit back to the one person responsible for shaping exactly the attitude you'd want in a Nittany Lion. Kim Garner.
"She helped recruit these kids," Chambers said. "That's what it is, the families, the players, all coming from the same area, from the same school. You can't deny that. What a special family."
At every pregame training table, Chambers picks a member of the program to lead the team in prayer. His most frequent selection, is Julian Moore.
Much like Garner, Moore, or "reverend Moore" as he's sometimes called by his teammates, has also seen it all. Maybe even a bit more for the fifth-year senior too, considering his freshman year was cut short by injury in 2013-14.
"The players respond to him and his message and his words," Chambers said. "It's just unbelievable. Regardless of how many minutes he has played, how many points he has played, he's going to leave a legacy with this program. One of a guy who is loyal, committed and who played his role to the best of his ability."
For Reaves, there's Garner's leadership, but there's nobody on the team more inspiring than Moore.
Among selecting all the best passages and quotes for the team prayer, it's Moore who knows just how to approach certain teammates when certain situations arise.
"I love him to death and I'll always have Julian's back no matter what," Reaves said. "As far as a leader, he knows what he's doing. He's trying to help out the other bigs and get with them to improve and you're seeing that each and every night."
Not one to focus on the headlines, Moore is making the most of seeing his final season out, averaging nearly 13 minutes per game across the last nine outings. In 14 minutes at No. 6 Purdue, Moore scored a Big Ten season-high six points.
Upon summer graduation prior to the 2017-18 season, the opportunity to pursue another program was certainly something he could have considered
had a chance to leave too," Chambers said. He's a throwback. He stayed. He
gutted this thing out."
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the last regular season series of the year quickly approaching, Penn State men's hockey is looking to end on a positive note. With the goal to finish strong in mind, the Nittany Lions will also take time to honor their four seniors.
"All four of them have exhibited tremendous character," Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "I think they all have a great deal of pride in Penn State University because of the road they took to get here."
In a pregame ceremony, Penn State will honor captain and forward James Robinson, assistant captain and defenseman Erik Autio, defenseman Trevor Hamilton and goaltender Matt Erlichman.
While each Nittany Lion has a unique journey leading up to their final regular season series in Pegula Ice Arena, they all started in different places.
For Robinson, he didn't even have to step foot on campus to know Penn State was the place for him.
"I knew that I didn't have to come down and see [Penn State] just from talking to my junior coaches and my conversations with Gadz [Gadowsky] and [Keith] Fisher," Robinson said. "I knew, but it surpassed all expectations."
After his freshman year, things took an unexpected turn. During his sophomore season, Robinson skated one shift before suffering a season-ending injury. Ahead of his junior year, he was voted to wear the "A" for his leadership qualities exhibited off the ice.
"That is the accomplishment I've been the most proud of in my hockey career," Robinson said. "Not having to play every weekend gave me the opportunity to be the best teammate possible and I tried to build my relationships with every single guy in that locker room. I think that's a big piece of why they trusted me in being a captain the next year."
Throughout his four years in Hockey Valley, there's one not-too-obvious game that sticks out in Robinson's head when it comes to his favorite memory. On Halloween during his freshman year, the Nittany Lions played Bentley and overcame a two-goal deficit, tying the game in the last minute of play.
"I honestly think that's the loudest I've ever heard that rink and we've had some big games against some of the Big Ten teams" Robinson said. "To have that moment against Bentley stand out is pretty special and I'll never forget that."
Autio took a long route to a new country as a freshman. Beyond simply moving to North America to attend an American university, the Finland native had to make many other adjustments on his own.
The adversity in his path didn't stop him from rising up through the team to become a dominant defenseman, as well as captain during his final year.
"He had so many adjustments and he was the only one," Gadowsky said. "To see him grow from a quiet freshman to a confident leader is my favorite part."
Part of a special group who came to the program when it was up and coming, the seniors put in serious work long before the Big Ten Championship title to establish themselves.
The journey of course, formed an unbreakable bond between senior teammates Autio and Robinson.
"I still remember being a freshman and how much he helped me out back then and how much we loved it in the dorms and moving on from then," Autio said. "We've seen the team grow a lot together and it's been really special to me."
While it may have took a little longer for Hamilton arrive in Happy Valley, it proved to be a beneficial move for both he and the team. Arriving with two years of eligibility, he made an impact from the start.
"I have to admit he's really exceeded my expectations on the ice," Gadowsky said. "The way he was such an immediate, positive part of this program was something that I didn't expect but I'm really happy to see. We wouldn't be close to the program that we are without him."
Hamilton has been a threat both offensively and defensively during his senior stand, scoring four goals to go along with 21 assists.
The Michigan native's skill isn't the only impact he has made on the team, as he will also leave behind his presence in the locker room and on the ice as a leader.
"Trevor on the ice is obviously a huge piece of our team," Robinson said. "We are just very fortunate to have him for the two seasons that we did and I am very happy that we did."Erlichman's journey might be the most unusual, as the Pennsylvania native came to Penn State to play club hockey, but by his senior year achieved more than he could have ever hoped for.
Due to his outstanding performance with the club team and attitude with other staff members, Erlichman was able to walk-on to the varsity team and become a backup goaltender.
"We didn't plan on doing this but because of the guy he is, we decided to go this route with him," Gadowsky said. "He has been extremely important to our team, he's quite a guy."
Erlichman's energy and positivity has not gone unnoticed by his teammates and coaches, proving a key piece of impact on the team.
"He's as much a part of the team as Jones or Funkey or anyone else for that matter," Robinson said. "He brings a work ethic in the weight room and in practice. He brings an energy in the dressing room we need and we're happy he's part of [the team]."
Even though the series will be an emotional one for the entire quartet, Penn State doesn't plan on letting the senior night festivities impact its performance.
Not to be overlooked though, the Nittany Lions will face a tough opponent in Minnesota this weekend.
While the Gophers and the Nittany Lions have both improved in different areas since the last meeting in mid-October, Robinson is confident his team will be ready for a competitive weekend.
"They're a good team but we're a good team and we can't wait to match up against them," Robinson said. "It's going to be a fun weekend."
By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team always knows a competition weekend will be busy in and out of Rec Hall. With that said, this past weekend had a little extra buzz as it was also THON weekend on Penn State's campus.
THON, a 46-hour student-run dance marathon took place Friday to Sunday, but before the team could head over to the marathon, they had to finish a competition.
No. 28 Penn State (195.325) defeated Cornell (192.400) and Penn (192.200) in its first tri-meet of the season on Saturday, nabbing reputable scores across the board.
"Tonight was a good night for us," head coach Sarah Brown said after the win. "We started out strong, we only had five up on vault and I thought we had a really strong rotation there."
The team placed a 48.375 on the beam lineup, an ongoing battle for the Nittany Lions, who ended up leading the scoring in that rotation.
"We've struggled in that 1-2 position, but I thought Peyton [Schuller] and Lauren [Bridgens] did a really great job," Brown said. "Unfortunately, we didn't finish as strong as we would have liked on that event. Moving to floor, I thought our energy was good and again the scores were great so if we can stay in bounds I think we're going to be a really complete team moving forward later on in the season."
The Nittany Lions saw success from multiple gymnasts all afternoon. Along with Bridgens on beam, Peyton Schuller tied for fifth with a 9.700. On the uneven bars, sophomore Tess McCracken tied a career-best outing to tie for sixth with Briannah Tsang with a 9.800.
"I think we really came together as a team, especially at certain parts in the meet where everybody had each other's backs," Schuller said. "There was lots of energy at the end when we needed it."
Bridgens was a start of the night for Penn State, winning the all-around title. In addition to the all-around, Bridgens won three event titles.
"Lauren was awesome tonight, I'm super proud of her. She continues to be steady," Brown said. "As a coaching staff, we've gotten to know her a little bit better and recognize how she competes well, so the most important thing for her first is having fun and doing what she does well, and when we let her loose, she's a star, so we couldn't be more proud of her."
After the win, the Nittany Lions made their way over to the Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State's campus to put together a fun routine for this year's pep rally performed by student-athletes at THON, which has become a traditional part of the dance marathon.
"It's an honor to be here, and it's important to be able to do something for the community and for people that are less fortunate than us and to do anything we can," Schuller said.
For many of the athletes, like McCracken, it was also their first THON experience, a typically memorable one for many Penn State students.
"It's great being a part of something that's bigger than us, dancing for the kids and being out there doing something that's good for the world and not just for us," McCracken said.
"We just had a quick team meeting after the competition," Brown said. "We can say what we want about the competition, but at the end of the day, there are bigger and larger events out there in the world, and an opportunity for them to dance is huge to help out pediatric cancer, and we're honored to be a part of it and I hope that it's something we're going to continue to be part of in the future."
After a busy weekend for the athletes and coming off of a bin win, the Nittany Lions look ahead to cap off the season strong.
"I keep saying details, details, details, but I feel like at this point, we want to make sure that we're actually practicing what we preach, so I think at practice we need to be a little more intense," Brown said. "I know the girls have a lot going on, they've been practicing for THON, and it's been a really heavy exam week, but we're getting to the point where we really need to zone in on those details in practice so that we can expect them in competition and not just hope that they happen."
This week will consist of three to four practices for the gymnasts, where they will prepare for their last home meet of the regular season, followed by a long slate of meets on the road.
"On Monday I'll get an idea of how the athletes' bodies are feeling and how they've been maintaining throughout the season," Brown said. "I want to make sure that we're continuing to stay healthy and making smart decisions, but we're going to have to be a little more intense in practice if we're going to see it translate in competition."
"I'm looking forward to going in and fixing what we didn't do well this week," McCracken said. "Also, just to keep grinding and really get back to where we started and what our goals were in the beginning and re-focus on that.
Penn State will host No. 18 George Washington for its final home meet of the regular season, which will be a combined double dual with the men's team. The meet is slated for Feb. 24 at 4 p.m. at Rec Hall.
Throughout the entire month of February, Penn State Athletics is proudly sharing the stories of its student-athletes and coaches who have shaped Nittany Lion history.
A Nittany Lion record holder, Gene Harris served as team captain his senior season, lettering from 1960-62. During the 1961-62 season, Harris scored a record 46 points on December 27th against Holy Cross in the Quaker City Tournament.
"The early sixties were a time of transition on college campuses and sports," Harris said. "There weren't that many African American players in any of the sports."
Drawn to Penn State by way of an athletic scholarship, Harris immediately found campus to be a friendly environment as he fondly looks back at his time in Happy Valley.
In the second of a multi-part video series, hear from Harris as he recounts his experience.
Click here for more Black History Month coverage.
By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State didn't only honor its eight senior wrestlers before the match, it put on a show. It was a show that those in attendance won't forget.
Penn State topped Buffalo 55-0 with seven pins to finish off its third straight perfect season. The 55-point shutout win sets a school record, while the seven pins tie another program record, both dating back to a 54-0 win against Millersville in 1983.
For the Nittany Lions wrestling on the mat in Rec Hall for the final time, the goal was the same as always, stay focused and earn bonus points. That goal was no different for senior Zain Retherford, who added to a Penn State pinning streak just the way he has done in 51 other career instances.
"It was awesome as always," Retherford said. "I tried to be myself out there, like always. I tried not to really change up what I do even though it was the last one. I'm just grateful for another opportunity to wrestle out there."
On his way off the mat for the final time in Rec, Retherford slapped the mat as a goodbye to Rec Hall and to the fans.
"It was something that I wanted to do," Retherford said. It was something I visualized last night. It was a way to say thanks to the fans and Rec Hall."
Rec Hall is a special place to Retherford, who loves the unique environment.
"No matter who the opponent is, it's always fun to wrestle in this crowd, in this environment," Retherford said. "I like the Bryce Jordan Center too, but I think this place is special. It has that tradition and this place is packed and it's very intimate, so I like it a lot. It's my favorite place to wrestle."
Among the flurry of pins, one stood out. If you blinked you might've missed Bo Nickal pin Brett Perry at 184 pounds in just 11 seconds. The quick pin is the second fastest in Penn State history, tying a David Taylor 11-second fall in 2014. Penn State took 25 bonus points in its final bout of the season.
"I think it's just kind of who you are," Sanderson said. "I think these guys are going to wrestle for bonus points regardless of the match and it just so happened that they were able to score a lot today. I think it just has to be something you value and something you look for all the time. It's not a deal where you think 'well we're at the nationals so let me try to get bonus points for my team' If you don't have that mentality early you're probably not going to have that mentality late."
With a week off before the Big Ten Championships up next, Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson decided to give Shakur Rasheed the start at 197 pounds, as he pinned Joe Ariola in just 1:57. Postmatch, Sanderson confirmed Rasheed as the favorite to represent Penn State in the postseason at 197 pounds."We're very comfortable and believe in both of them," Sanderson said. "We're just leaning toward Shak right now. Sending him out today, that's what we said would be the indicator of who we are going to send to the Big Ten Tournament and right now that's the plan."
By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State improved to 3-0 in EIVA play with a dominant win against the Harvard Crimson in Rec Hall's south gym.
For Penn State, the story Saturday afternoon was its prowess behind the service line, along with a stifling defense that limited Harvard to a meager .115 team hitting percentage.
Erratic serving has at times been a point of emphasis for Penn State, but Saturday the Nittany Lions posted nine service aces to Harvard's two, while committing just 15 service errors, a number well below their season average.
"Our serving was what won the match again for us tonight," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "The physicality of our serving really knocked them off the net. It can just wear people down."
Jalen Penrose has been known throughout his career to possess a rocket arm and it was on full display during the match. After tallying three service aces against Sacred Heart Friday night, he followed up with four aces and 10 kills against the Crimson Saturday.
"It's like getting beat by a baseball bat," Pavlik said. "You just keep absorbing those punches and sooner or later the physicality just wears people down especially when you don't see it in your own gym."
Penn State was frequently able to force Harvard out of system, which allowed the Nittany Lions to take a substantial amount of pressure off its defense. The Nittany Lions went on to record nine blocks in the match, holding Harvard's leading hitter, Erik Johnsson, to just seven kills and a .115 hitting percentage.
"We served them well, kept them off the net and they couldn't run their fast offense," setter Luke Braswell said. "It just had to be high balls everywhere, and then our middles could get there and close blocks."
Friday night, Penn State's offensive efficiency was the story of the match against Sacred Heart. While Saturday's offensive performance against Harvard was a bit overshadowed by the Nittany Lions' serving and defense, they still saw Matt McLaren, Calvin Mende and Kevin Gear all hit higher than .300 for the match.
McLaren led the way with 11 kills, while Mende and Gear had six kills and five kills, respectively. Through these two matches this weekend, Mende's offensive value has been quite apparent.
"With Cal [Mende] being back now, blockers will cheat towards him, which leaves our middles and pin hitters open to get more attempts with less blockers in front of them," Braswell said. "It makes the other team worry more about him and less about the others and we've had success that way."
Penn State's preseason goal of finishing undefeated in the league is off to the start it's hoping for. However, in a league that has improved significantly this year, the Nittany Lions still have a long road ahead.
"We need to just keep making steps forward," McLaren said. "Our goal is not to win just the first three, our goal is to win all of them. We need to keep working at practice, keep getting better every day and taking steps forward to reach our goal."
By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the roars from THON echoed alongside silently falling snow, Penn State men's lacrosse remained focused, dominating Stony Brook,15-8, Saturday. Playing outside for the first time during the regular season, the Nittany Lions relied on strong performances from juniors Kevin Hill and Kevin Fox to spark the win.
"It was fun," Hill said. "Just going out here with the guys and playing outside - defending our own turf is always what we are trying to do so it was a lot of fun. A little snowstorm, but it was fun playing in it for sure."
Penn State quickly made a statement, finding the back of the net three times within 63 seconds of the game's starting whistle. Both Hill and Fox were crucial offensive weapons in creating those opportunities.
Off of sophomore Gerard Arceri's face off win, Fox shot a dagger into the back of the net within the first 10 seconds of play. As Fox replaced sophomore Nick Cardile in this weekend's matchup, he stepped up to cement his first goal of the 2018 slate, setting the tone for the game.
"I thought Kevin played really well today," head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "I thought he played with a lot of energy. Kevin was our starter earlier in the year and then kind of got bumped out but he came back today."
Sophomore Mac O'Keefe's dime to the upper right corner came almost immediately after to put the Nittany Lions up 2-0.
In similar fashion to his teammates, Hill made quick work of the Seawolves' defense, notching the third goal for Penn State with 13:57 still remaining in the first quarter.
"I thought Kevin was probably our main focus on the offensive end," Tambroni said. "He seemed to be the guy with the most confidence, the most conviction. He wanted to be the guy taking over in the offensive end and I think he got off to a good start."
Hill maintained his momentum throughout the entirety of play, even as the snow began to pick up. With three seconds left in the first half, Hill dashed up the field to put another dent in Stony Brook's game plan. Penn State went into the intermission leading 8-4.
"It was very critical we came out here today just trying to keep it simple. Really, that was the game plan," Hill said. "We came out with a lot of energy today. We played a good Stony Brook team so we just wanted to come out fast as best we could."
Scoring his ninth goal of the season and fourth of the day, Hill helped motivate his teammates to push beyond the weather and the Seawolves in the second half.
"You know coming out of the second half we talked to our guys about being a little more confident with the ball in the stick," Tambroni said. "He seemed like he was demanding the ball. He really wanted it in his stick. I think he really pushed us into the second half with that goal he had in the third quarter. I think Kevin was a guy that just continues to be very poised and very level-headed and had another nice game today."
Beyond Hill and Fox, the Blue and White rallied around their faceoff unit, led by the dynamic efforts of Arceri. Arceri went 20-for-27 from the faceoff x and found the net for the first time this season.
"That was a big emphasis the whole week, the faceoff unit, I think we did a good job today," Hill said.
Having proved pivotal last week, Tambroni was again pleased with the Nittany Lion faceoff unit.
"I thought our faceoff unit in general was just crucial throughout the entire day," Tambroni said. "I think Stony Brook did well on both ends of the field but we just dominated possessions and when things started to slip away, Gerard did a great job in that third and fourth quarter of bringing it back it back."
Arceri's dominance also played a major hand in the string of goals the Nittany Lions rattled off in the first quarter.
"Not only was he getting
possessions, but they were involved in probably four goals today," Tambroni
said. "They made us feel a lot better than we should have felt throughout the
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 5-6-7 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 afternoon 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.