March 2018 Archives
Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After Wednesday's loss to Cornell, Penn State head coach Rob Cooper was quick to point out his team didn't bring the effort and passion to the field Penn State is accustomed to.
"We have to decide if [respecting the game and our uniform] is something that we want to do and we can," Cooper said after the game.
Following a day off Thursday, Penn State rebounded Friday with a passionate effort against Purdue featuring Nittany Lion fielders diving for anything near them, batters fighting for every pitch and pitchers digging deep to give it all they had.
Friday's battle ended in a narrow 3-2 victory for Purdue, but Cooper was nevertheless proud to see his team fight again.
"I was not pleased with our team after Wednesday's competitive level," Cooper said. "I'm 180 degrees the other way [tonight]. "I thought our guys fought like crazy. I thought our guys played with great energy. I thought they competed, I thought they fought. I'm proud of this team's effort today, and if we can learn from that I think we're going to be in a good spot moving forward."
Junior starting pitcher Justin Hagenman turned in a gritty performance on the mound for the Nittany Lions. Hagenman notched season highs in innings pitched (seven), pitches (104), and strikeouts (nine). He surrendered just five hits and one earned run in the game.
Hagenman hasn't been able to pitch that deep into games this season so far, but he fought through the fatigue and put together one of his finest starts of the season Friday. Even when his offense wasn't giving him any run support, Hagenman battled to keep Penn State within striking distance.
"You know there are going to be days when you get all the run support and days when you get no runs until late in the game, but it's just your job to do all you can do to keep your team in the game until you hand the ball off," Hagenman said. "It doesn't really change the way I go about it."
Cooper said Hagenman's statistics this year and last don't reflect how good of a pitcher he really is.
Last season Hagenman received less than two runs of support in eight of his 14 starts and three or less in 11 of 14 starts. Despite leading the team in innings pitched (80.1) and placing second in strikeouts (75), Hagenman recorded just one win in 2017.
"He's a tough kid, competitive kid," Cooper said. "I thought he took a huge step today because even in the seventh inning his [velocity] was good and his stuff was sharp, and that's the mark of an ace."
On the offensive and defensive ends, sophomore Joe Weisenseel also exemplified what it means to be a Penn State athlete during the weekend series against Purdue.
In the seventh inning of game one with a runner on third, Weisenseel ripped a ground ball off the pitcher's foot and the ball sprayed to the second baseman for what seemed to be an easy, lucky out. However, Weisenseel shot out of the batters' box and slid head first into first base to beat the throw and drive in Penn State's first run of the game.
"Every time [Weisenseel] has been healthy since he's been here, he hasn't had a whole lot of fear," Cooper said. "He's not a physical kid, so he has to play with that mindset. He's able to have success at this level because of that."
Weisenseel kept his foot on the pedal for Saturday's second game and his contagious energy spread throughout the dugout.
Junior Shea Sbranti ran about 100 yards combined on two foul ball plays--sprinting backward with his hat falling off both times, Sbranti bolted toward the dugout and laid out for the two pop ups. He was unable to reel in either of the fly balls, but Cooper praised his and others' efforts during the doubleheader.
Both Weisenseel and freshman Curtis Robison made diving plays that seemed impossible to make off the bat to save runs.
Penn State ended up dropping all three games to Purdue over the weekend--two in close fashion that could've gone either way. The bats and arms haven't quite clicked at the same time yet this season, but a confident mindset is necessary for success. Penn State seems to have found it again.
"Sitting here right now I don't think we're going to be like this the entire year," Cooper said. "There's a lot of season left. There's a lot of Big Ten play left. There's nothing else you can do except put your head down, keep working, stay positive, and try to pull the good out of what we did today and improve on it."
Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following a dominant win against Cleveland State, Penn State men's lacrosse will face perhaps its biggest test of the season so far, opening up conference play on the road at Ohio State.
Although Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni and his staff are preparing for the Buckeyes like they would for any other team, he noted it's hard to ignore the fact that something is different when it comes to the team's mentality heading into the game.
"You'd like to think every week the focus of your preparation is exactly the same but there is definitely a sharper focus this week," Tambroni said. "When you go to school at a place like Penn State, or any school in the Big Ten and you see a school like Ohio State or Michigan it is an institutional rival, not just in football or basketball, it's an institutional rival. Everyone at [Penn State], whether you play a sport or not, in some way shape or form has a beef with [other Big Ten schools] but you also share a certain respect."
The goal of practice this week is simple. Stay hungry. While it has been easy for the Nittany Lions to lose focus after winning a few games, Penn State wants to make sure it can stay consistent moving forward.
Coming off two commanding wins, Tambroni hopes Penn State can stretch the momentum right into Saturday's game in Columbus.
"At this point in the season, having gone through the nonconference schedule, I am hopeful that as our guys reflect back, they've learned [from those games] and that momentum built from the last two wins against Fairfield and Cleveland State will push us and put us in a position to work harder to achieve more success," Tambroni said. "Versus earlier in the year, we'd win games and the following week at practice instead of remaining hungry and humble in our approach, I felt we became a little complacent at times."
Fixing the issue of complacency is a team affair, involving everyone from coaches to individuals and staff members. This week, the coaching staff took several opinions from around the team into consideration and decided to change up practice. Although the changes were nothing major, Tambroni hopes the shakeup will establish a new mental outlook throughout the week.
The other part of the solution is execution. If this hard-working group continues to have the right perspective and focus, the coaching staff is confident that success is imminent.
"These kinds of decisions can't just be lectures from our coaches to our players and it can't just be our players talking to one another. There has to be a plan and there has to be an action item," Tambroni said. "I think we've taken a little bit of this responsibility for what has happened in the past, but now it's the onus and accountability for the way we would like to be in the future. Part of it is planning, part of it is execution but I think our guys are doing a really good job with it."
In addition to working out some internal kinks, the Nittany Lions will also have to prepare for a tough, veteran Buckeye defensive unit.
While the Blue and White offense has been finding the back of the net fairly easily over the past couple games, scoring 33 goals in the last two games, finding opportunities against Ohio State will be a challenge. The Nittany Lions are confident though, that if they stick to their game plan and their own identity, their shots will find a way to the back of the cage.
"[Ohio State] is tough on both ends, but in the defensive end they're an extremely stout team," Tambroni said. "They play very well together so I think it's just a matter of making sure our guys believe in us and believe in what they can do."
While watching film and studying the opponent is critical, Tambroni wants to make sure the Nittany Lions don't get lost in concentrating too much on what the Buckeyes are doing.
After Saturday's win, Tambroni noted postgame the team only ran one set play throughout four quarters and felt the offensive play more less predictable and more fluent as a result. This week, the Nittany Lions will be going in with that same strategy, letting chances come organically instead of trying to force them.
"You don't want to paralyze your offense or any player in the offensive end by over-analyzing what [Ohio State does]," Tambroni said. "If you over-analyze what they do, now you're thinking a little too much instead of playing instinctively and that's one of the best things our guys do best. When they can play with great instincts and just read and react to what's going on in front of them, in real time, they're going to make some mistakes but they make a lot more plays."
Penn State and Ohio State get underway at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 31st in Ohio Stadium.
NEW YORK - Huddled up during Penn State's first NIT team practice, Nittany Lion head coach Patrick Chambers said one thing to his team - New York.
In moments when his team looked worn down or lacked focus, he'd bring the team in once again and return to the same message - New York.
In front of the largest NIT Championship game crowd inside Madison Square Garden since 2005, nearly 12,000 fans saw Penn State capture its second NIT title and its first since 2009.
As the chaotic scene on the court calmed, Chambers ascended the bright blue ladder and carefully snipped the second-to-last piece of a dangling net hanging loosely from the hoop, and with a clenched fist, raised his arm high into the air.
Next up the ladder was senior Shep Garner, who freed the remainder of the net to roars from crowd chanting "thank you Shep" over and over as he hoisted it high into the air.
"I think we've proven to a lot of people across the country that Penn State basketball is here to stay. It's not just a steppingstone, it's a destination," Chambers said to a room full of media members tucked inside a media room centered within the maze of the MSG underbelly.
While the final score illuminated on the video screen read 82-66, Penn State's final climb of the 2018 season wasn't easy. The Nittany Lions were slow to start, with Utah firing up early from 3-point range.
Trailing 20-14 in the first quarter, the Utes were shooting 57 percent from behind the arc, at 4-for-7 with three treys from Sedrick Barefield.
It was a prime opportunity for Penn State to deliver its signature knock-out punch. Just 17 seconds later, Lamar Stevens drained a 3-pointer before denying Utah on the other end. Josh Reaves quickly finished with a bucket to pull Penn State within one, 20-19. The Nittany Lions weren't done, using a 7-0 run capped off by yet another Reaves slam with a second left on the clock, closing out the first quarter on top, 21-20.
Stevens' triple was his first of four, as the sophomore finished 4-for-5 from 3-point range with a team-high 28 points earning NIT Most Outstanding Player honors.
When asked about his performance from the 3-point line though, Stevens made reference to "Space Jam" of course.
"Tone [Tony Carr] gave me his special stuff before the game and I think I was able to really translate that to game and I had open shots and I was able to knock them down. It's just a joke," Stevens said with a laugh. "He can really shoot and he was like, I'm going to give you my stuff before the game and I guess it worked."
Before the end of the first quarter Stevens joined Carr as just the second sophomore in program history to reach the 1,000 career points plateau.
"It means the world to me," Stevens said when reflecting on the milestone. "A lot of people said that the success we had in high school wouldn't translate to college. We worked really hard to prove everybody wrong. Being able to win a championship after high school, it's hard to do. Being able to do this in college, it's amazing."
Perhaps it wasn't really any secret stuff from Carr and instead, confidence.
"I have the utmost confidence in Lamar to shoot those shots," Carr said. "He put in so much work this offseason. He got some good looks and thankfully they fell and it led us to the win."
It's confidence too that willed freshman John Harrar to a career performance with seven points and 12 rebounds, grabbing 10 boards in the first half alone.
"I think just the amount of confidence I had going into tonight's game was way more than I ever had," Harrar said. "I felt like I was back in high school. The timing of the game was slowing down a lot for me."
With Mike Watkins out with an injury, Harrar knew he had some big shoes to fill, but he was ready.
"With the managers, I try to work out so I'm prepared for the moment," Harrar said. "Early in the year, they are saying stay ready, stay ready and I did my best staying ready for this moment and for the Big Ten Tournament and that run we made there too."
When asked to sum up the year though, he and teammate Josh Reaves had the same reply.
"That sums it up. I'm just grateful, happy," Reaves said. "I feel so blessed to be given the opportunity to come here. I always said it when I was getting recruited, I want to be on the team that changes everything. I feel like we've done that. It just feels so surreal."
The team that changes everything doesn't happen without Garner, the heart and soul of a Nittany Lion team that closed out the year with its second-highest wins total in program history at 26-13 overall.
For Garner, it all started with belief.
"I believed in coach," Garner said. "I believed in what he was building here and I knew that at the end it would be all worth it. As you can see, all the lumps that we took early in my career, it's all worth it because we won a championship at the end and that's what everyone wants to do."
Garner's last climb as a Nittany Lion was up the ladder to collect the last tangible piece of Penn State's commanding NIT run. With every step, memories flooded his mind. From the first time he arrived in Happy Valley to every up and down along the way.
"It all makes sense now," Garner said. "We did something special. This is a special group and I'll never forget what we did."
It's the whole though that's greater than the sum of its parts and as Penn State prepares to turn the page, there's perhaps never a better time to join the climb.
"I think it's a springboard for us, to win 26 games, to cut down some nets, that means winning," Chambers said. "You're winning, you're finding success and that helps everything out. That helps ticket sales. That helps recruiting. We have created a lot of excitement but it's definitely a validation of how hard the staff has worked and the risk and the trailblazing that a lot of these players took to say yes to us."
By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Although Emily Hudgins, a freshman infielder for Penn State from Wadsworth, Illinois has yet to make an appearance for the Blue and White due to injury, the decision to attend Penn State was simple- with everything adding up to the perfect place for her college experience.
"The academics, you can't really get much better than this, the facilities are amazing, the coaches are great, everything is just great," Hudgins said.
Hudgins is a secondary education major at University Park, having been impacted greatly by a psychology teacher in high school. She hopes one day to have a similar impact on students as a teacher herself.
Since arriving on campus, Hudgins has proven herself to her teammates off the field by taking care of the little things in practice making an impact on everyone in the program.
"Emily is phenomenal. Just an awesome teammate and awesome person. Unfortunately, she's been out for the year due to an injury which has been kind of devastating for our team. I applaud her on how she's handled it mentally, how she's been engaged," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "There's very few things she can do right now, but those few things she can do, she never takes a rep off and is always asking to work on the little things."
Every summer when the Penn State freshmen arrive on campus, it is the job of the upperclassmen to take the freshmen in and bond into a team. The groups always form differently, and some players connect closely with certain teammates.
Hudgins provides further praise of the upperclassmen, adding that they have been instrumental in making the transition to college so easy.
"The upperclassmen have been great coming in. They were all super welcoming and told us exactly what we need to do and answering questions before we even had then," Hudgins said.
It is hard to watch games being out with an injury, but Hudgins believes she brings a lot of work ethic to the club, something she sees in many of the upperclassmen.
"Tori Dubois (Is someone I look up to). She works really hard every day and is a fierce competitor," Hudgins said.
Other players see the work ethic from Hudgins but also see an extreme attention to detail especially every day during practice.
"When we are at practice the coaches watch the big picture and see how everything is going, but if you had something little you are working on and want someone to watch for it Emily is the person to ask," sophomore Delaney Elling said. "For example, working on leads and leaving early she is the person to ask to watch that. Emily is like the coach from a player standpoint, she is the player-coach of the team."
Coach Lehotak sees similar strengths for Hudgins and appreciates all she does for the team in practice. When many players can lose focus on the team when injured Hudgins has thrown herself even farther into it.
"She is a great teammate and observes the game. Emily is a rare athlete where she loves the game so much she will do anything to be a part of it and just a great kid," Lehotak said.
After splitting a doubleheader on Wednesday with Robert Morris, Penn State will head to Rutgers for its first road Big Ten matchup of the season. The team hopes to translate some of their recent home success to the road, having struggled away from Beard field so far this year.
"This time of year it's kind of easy to prepare for compared to going into a tournament with five different teams. My staff and I have been watching film, and we play Rutgers every year relatively well," Lehotak said. "For us it's still going to be about Penn State, where we have to make sure we don't beat ourselves which I feel like has been the thorn in our sides. If we can take care of business do what we do well, we feel positive going into this weekend."
By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For most households, family dinners are spent around the dining room table, but for sophomore men's gymnast Brayden Borromeo, dinners were spent at the local YMCA where his family grew to love gymnastics together.
"It really gave us a lot of together time," Brayden's mother, Renee Borromeo, said. "We didn't very often get all of us sitting around the dinner table together in our house but we would often have together at the gym or at restaurants."
Before the Borromeos found their second family at Penn State, they created their close-knit nuclear family in Littlestown, Pennsylvania as each of the four Borromeo children found themselves spending time together and training in preparation for the next gymnastics event.
At the head of the family stands Renee and Nino Borromeo; two established professionals in the physical therapy field. Renee is an associate teaching professor at Mont Alto, and the program head for all of the Physical Therapy programs in Penn State's commonwealth, while her husband, Nino, is a practicing physical therapist.
"It really was helpful to have them there to be able to diagnose injuries and to help with recovery and just be there all the time for me," Brayden's older brother and former Penn State gymnast, Josh Borromeo, said on how his parents helped his own gymnastics career.
Aside from their ability to help their children through injuries, the two parents also immersed themselves in the gymnastics community in their own way. Renee coached, while Nino was the president of the Gymnastics Parents Association at the previously mentioned YMCA.
"Gymnastics was really one of the core activities that my family was involved in," Josh said. "My mother coached, my father was president of the gymnastics parents' organization growing up when we were younger, so I mean a lot of our vacations, a lot of our family friends, were involved with gymnastics."
Josh, the oldest of the four Borromeo children, first began gymnastics when he was five-years-old.
"One day Josh, the oldest, came home from school with a little flyer that said it's an after-school program and they would bus the kids from the school to the YMCA for once a week an hour of gymnastics and would bus them back and that started it," Renee said. "Next thing you know, he's going three days a week then we're going five days then we ended up being seven days a week."
From there, the Borromeos became a gymnastics family as Renee and Nino's two daughters, Maiata and Eliza, and their youngest son, Brayden, followed in Josh's footsteps.
"We just were in the gym all the time, every weekend," Renee said. "There were sometimes four different meets in four different places and with all four kids going."
"We all had something we could connect upon," Brayden said. "It really brought us a lot closer because we were all in the gym all the time and you could always look over and see what your brothers and sisters were doing during gymnastics...We always strived to be better than each other because we wanted everyone to be the best that they could be."
Their childhood competitive gymnastic careers sent them across the country from Georgia all the way to Oregon.
"Car rides, plane trips, we did those things and it became apart of our family vacation structure and we just spent a lot of time together," Renee said.
The Borromeos pursued their love for gymnastics, athletics, achievement, and each other to the doorsteps of Rec Hall and Penn State.
"Really there was no question in anyone's minds where they were going to go to school and it was through the connection and just visiting the campuses and getting a feel for the culture that we really really started to love it," Renee said on Penn State.
Although Maiata and Eliza chose to diverge from their gymnastics background upon admission to Penn State, they found ways to unite their family's shared work ethic and athleticism.
While pursuing an arts and architecture degree, Maiata involved herself with Penn State's competitive ballroom dance team. She is now an established interior designer in New York.
As a current senior at Penn State, Eliza will be graduating as an ambassador for Changing Health, Attitudes and Actions to Recreate Girls (CHAARG), with a kinesiology degree. She plans to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy after graduation.
"What you need in gymnastics is that kind of high level of motivation," Renee said. "You fall a thousand times before you ever get it right and to set the goal and work hard for a long time to achieve it. It takes that kind of a personality and I think it builds that kind of personality too. I can see they are all successful as young adults...you know it kind of still permeates their lives that goal setting and the long-term goals and being able to figure out the steps that it takes to get there."
Before the two sisters made their way to Happy Valley as students, the Borromeos first joined the Penn State and men's gymnastics community when Josh joined the team in 2005. In the tradition of head coach Randy Jepson and the Penn State's gymnastics program, Josh fully embodied the role of student-athlete as he majored in mechanical engineering and specialized in still rings.
"The gymnastics team, my gosh, talk about Randy Jepson," Renee said. "Wow. The coach I would pick out of every coach in the country. He is such a good coach such a good molder of men, but really, he is more concerned about these kids as people than as gymnasts...the priorities are in the right place and its just been so so good on all levels. I can't say enough about that."
"The Penn State guys were my heroes and so that's where I really wanted to go in middle school and high school," Josh said.
Randy and Josh worked together to help secure a national championship in 2007 and created an opportunity for Josh to captain the 2008 squad.
That 2007 championship was not only a pivotal moment for Jepson, the Penn State men's gymnastic team and Josh, but also Brayden, a young and inspiring gymnast.
"It's been funny to watch Josh when he was on the team and see his little brother, Brayden," Jepson said. "He would be doing mushroom and you know a little tiny kid working on stuff and I just knew he would develop and be a solid guy.
"I really felt like I was apart of the team and I was giving them everything that I could," Brayden said. "Being apart of that really just made me fall in the love with the sport and fall in love with Penn State."
For Brayden, seeing his older siblings succeed only motivated him further.
"I just want to make everyone proud," Brayden said. "Everyone who has come before me has made my parents so proud so I just want to keep that tradition going."
"What I wanted for Brayden was just to have an experience like I had at Penn State," Josh said. "I wanted him to have that same experience bonding with his teammates and really kind of cultivating this family atmosphere. That's something that I've tried to make sure he recognizes that is more special than any other championship you could win. It's what I cherished most about being a Penn State athlete."
"I'm here for the team," Brayden added. "I'm here to do what I need to do to make this team better and if that's putting on three routines a week, I'll do that. If it's being the biggest cheerleader to get my team going, I'll do that. Everything is about the team here and that's what I love about it."
While Brayden is in Happy Valley doing everything he can for his Penn State teammates, his first team- his family, will always be a driving force for him, and the sport of gymnastics helped to bring them all together.
By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State returns to the road for trips to Sacred Heart and Harvard Friday and Saturday after an off weekend. While the Nittany Lions did not practice over the weekend, head coach Mark Pavlik noted the Nittany Lions have had several quality practices over the past week.
"I thought that last week - Wednesday, Thursday, Friday - we had a pretty good week, and Monday we had another good practice," Pavlik said. "That's the first time they've been in that position this year. I think athletes and coaches to become creatures of habit and I think you get used to certain rhythms. I think it eventually just boils down to us having a job to do and getting it done."
A main point of emphasis for the Nittany Lions over the past few weeks has been playing with more consistency at the end of sets to finish off opponents. Pavlik noted, however, that this aspect of the game is strongly dependent on mental toughness, not something that can be fine-tuned in practice similar to other parts of the game.
"I don't think you change drills. I think you look at certain points during the drill and say, you have to score right now, right here," Pavlik said. "I think you try to get them in a mindset where you accentuate how important different elements of the game are and get them to think about that while they're in play."
While Pavlik doesn't believe that a consistent go-to offensive option has conspicuously emerged in these types of situations, one of those Nittany Lions could be redshirt sophomore right-side hitter, Calvin Mende.
"Like most really intelligent people, [Mende]'s got a pretty steep learning curve," Pavlik said. "You don't have to say things to him more than once to have him try to incorporate it and you can tell after a couple of weeks that he's worked on it. Those types of athletes generally improve at a quicker rate."
Mende is only the second 7-footer Pavlik has ever had in his tenure at Penn State, which is especially unique considering most individuals of that size play the middle blocker position. Mende is left-handed though and has become a great weapon at right-side instead.
"His length enables him to not have to be as perfect in what he does because it can make up for a lot of issues," Pavlik said. "[Mende] does a great job of making his offensive window for sets much wider than somebody who's much smaller than he is, and his ability to block balls when he's not even in perfect position is much greater."
Even though Mende, who was a First-Team All-EIVA performer last season, has already enjoyed plenty of success in his career at Penn State to this point, Pavlik believes he still has immense potential that he has not yet reached.
"I think the area he has improved the most is just his confidence and ability to handle anything that happens on the floor," Pavlik said. "He came from a high school background where he really didn't play at the highest level. He started to have some success and now that has kind of carried over.
While Pavlik also noted Mende isn't near his maximum potential yet, he's still taking active steps toward getting there.
"I definitely think just the jump in physicality from high school and club all the way to college is incredibly different," Mende said. "The speed of the game picks up, but physically I've gotten so much stronger since being here."
Mende was sidelined for several weeks with an injury that he suffered against USC back in January but has not missed a beat since his return.
"This is the second injury that I have had to come back from and still be expected to play at a high level after, so I'm kind of used to the mentality of making every opportunity after the injury count to bring yourself back to speed," Mende said. "It can become mentally tedious, but it's just something that you need to put your head down and down and do."
NEW YORK - Penn State's final climb of the season has arrived, as the fourth-seeded Nittany Lions will meet No. 2 seed Utah in the NIT title game Thursday evening at Madison Garden.
Fresh off a 75-60 win against Mississippi State in Tuesday's NIT semifinals, it's been all about mental and physical rest as Penn State prepares to play for the NIT Championship for the first time since 2009.
Less than a mile from the team hotel, Penn State hosted its Wednesday practice at the New York Athletic Club.
"It's just to get them moving, get the blood flowing, get a sweat, get some shots up, get some free throws and work on some of the 50 sets that Utah has, so we just wanted to keep our foundation," Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers said moments after stepping off the court Tuesday. "Keep these guys dialed in on the task at hand."
The task at hand won't be easy, as Chambers noted Tuesday night there wasn't much time to be celebrating with the Nittany Lions having their work cut out for them when it comes to Utah.
Utah's path to the title game started with wins against UC Davis and LSU before upsetting No. 1 seed Saint Mary's in overtime to earn a spot in the semifinals. It was a come-from-behind victory against Western Kentucky Tuesday that saw Utah lock up its third appearance in the NIT championship game and its first since 1974.
History aside though, the Utes are led by a veteran group of seniors all eager to close out their season on top. Utah has four individuals averaging at least 10 points per game. Three of the four are seniors, led by leading scorer Justin Bibbins who's currently averaging 15.8 points per game.
"They are a really good team," Chambers said. "They shoot the ball really well, they've made 12 threes, they've made 14 threes in two prior games so we're really going to have to guard the 3-point line. They are tough, they are physical, they are well coached, they mix up their defenses, so we have to be ready to play Penn State basketball."
Noting bits of Northwestern and Michigan in his earliest assessment of the Utes, Utah enters Thursday's matchup averaging 9. 3 triples per game. In NIT action, Utah knocked down 14 treys in the second round game against LSU before registering 12 against No. 1 seed St. Mary's.
On the other side of things though, Penn State is playing perhaps as carefree and confident as it has all season long.
"It started really after we beat Temple," Chambers said. "I think they got really confident. More confident, playing loose, enjoying themselves out there, having fun. At Notre Dame, Marquette, you could tell they were having a blast, enjoying it."
Penn State fans don't have to look much further than a 24-0 run against Mississippi State for evidence of just what can happen when this team starts having fun.
"I think we're just appreciating our last games together and really just going out, having fun, playing with a clear mind and with a lot of confidence and swagger," sophomore Lamar Stevens said."
Tip time is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State finally returned home Wednesday after not playing at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park for nearly two weeks because of three postponed games. Despite being back on their own turf, the Nittany Lions hardly had home field advantage.
In a game where the box score may only reflect sloppy play, both Penn State and Cornell battled less than ideal weather conditions. What started as a hazy evening at first pitch turned into extremely dense fog by the seventh and eighth innings.
"I've never played in fog like that before," catcher Derek Orndorff said. "That's a first for that."
The Nittany Lions trailed by just two runs entering the eighth, but the fog became so thick that it was nearly unplayable. After two fly balls were hit to the outfield and neither left fielder Braxton Giavedoni nor center fielder Mason Nadeau was able to see them, the umpires decided to call the game early with Cornell ahead, 10-6.
"I couldn't see the ball," left fielder Braxton Giavedoni said. "It was kind of distracting. It probably was one of the craziest [games I've played] I'd say."
Although Orndorff and Giavedoni said it was difficult to see, they definitely did not show it in the batter's box. Giavedoni went 2-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored, while Orndorff drew a walk in each of his four plate appearances.
"It was easy close up to see," Giavedoni said. "Once I [went] into the outfield, it was kind of hard seeing the ball go over the plate like the whole game."
"I felt like I was seeing the ball pretty well," Orndorff said. "Just taking it one pitch at a time and really focusing on what I could control."
Although the weather conditions were not favorable, Giavedoni and Orndorff were sure to point out that the fog was no excuse for the team's loss. Leading into this weekend's series against Purdue, Penn State head coach Rob Cooper wants the Nittany Lions to focus more on their mindset and passion rather than working on hitting or fielding.
"We're not practicing tomorrow," Cooper said. "Us practicing tomorrow is not going to make us better. Tonight wasn't about being able to field a ground ball or take batting practice. We didn't compete."
"We practice great. We really do. We have great practices. This is about [the players] making a choice and us as a group making a choice of what kind of team we want to be. If we come out Friday, Saturday and Sunday, whether we win any of them, but we fight hard and we compete and we play the game at the level that I think we can, then we will get right back at it."
With a 7-12 record to start the season, Cooper noted it's easy for the team to add pressure at the plate, especially with runners in scoring position. However, Cooper is hoping Penn State can push that pressure aside and relax at the plate.
"We're 19 games into this," Cooper said. "At some point you have to go, 'I don't care what my average is. I don't care if I make a mistake as long as I make a mistake doing it the right way.'"
After Sunday's 9-3 win against Rutgers Sunday, Cooper knows that his team is capable of playing at a much higher level than Wednesday's performance demonstrated. The Penn State head coach is hoping that Friday's series opener against Purdue will get his team back on the right track.
"We have to decide if [respecting the game and our uniform] is something that we want to do and we can," Cooper said. "We did it opening weekend against Elon. We did it Sunday against Rutgers. We can do it."
By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Although Penn State split its doubleheader with Robert Morris on the diamond Wednesday night, another late Nittany Lion comeback gave the team a 9-7 victory in game one.
"I'm happy to come away with a split tonight," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "We had another come-from-behind win in game one, so obviously we proved our character and fight. For whatever reason, we just have not played well in a doubleheader setting, and that has to be fixed. I don't know what we're missing with that and why we can't sustain (our play) for 14 innings. It's like we're really good for seven and then we die off, so that will be addressed somehow. Other than that, I like the fight."
Following an RBI triple by Toni Polk to make the score 7-4 in the bottom of the 5th inning, junior outfielder Tori Dubois came up with the bases loaded and gave the Nittany Lions the lead with one swing of her bat. Dubois hit a shot down the left field line that left Beard Park, giving the Blue and White an 8-7 lead.
"I think it's just something you work for and get ready for. We're always prepared," Dubois said. "To come up in the big moment I something I love. I love putting the ball in play for my teammates."
"She's a magnet for those situations and she loves those situations," Lehotak said. "She's just the one you want in that position. She's calm and collected, and I wasn't surprised by (her grand-slam). You just feel good when she's at the plate no matter what."
Shaffer Closes Strong
After entering the game in a tough situation with no outs in the top of the first inning, Shaffer was rock solid for the Nittany Lions. Despite giving up four runs early on, she didn't allow a run in the 5th, 6th, or 7th innings. She even punched out the side in the top of the 7th to close out the game.
"I thought Shaffer in game one settled back down and did exactly what we needed her to do," Lehotak said.
"She was really good," Lehotak added. "I told she looked like herself this past weekend because she wasn't herself with the way she had been throwing. When we put her in for Smith in game one and she kind of looked shaky, but then you could see every inning she was starting to work out of it. I feel like she's back. This happens with pitching, but I'm glad to see her back going to a big weekend against Rutgers."
Shaffer earns her second win of the season due to her seven strikeout, one walk performance Wednesday evening.
Player of the Game
Who else but Tori Dubois? The advertising and public relations major went 2-4 with four RBI in game one, hitting the program's first grand-slam since 2016. The clutch go-ahead shot was her second homerun of the season. Sophomore catcher Kennedy Legg also had two hits in game two, leading the Nittany Lions offensively in the nightcap.
Penn State will continue Big Ten play this weekend as they travel to New Brunswick, New Jersey to play a three game series with Rutgers.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football hosted its first weekly media availably of the spring season Wednesday evening at Holuba Hall.
The Nittany Lions are well underway in the spring season, all leading up to the annual Blue White spring game set for Saturday, April 21st inside Beaver Stadium.
Check in with Penn State head coach James Franklin and the Nittany Lions for a closer look at the earliest update from the spring season.
The Buzz of Camp
Last year it was Juwan Johnson who was impressing during spring ball and this year, Franklin noted it's wide receiver KJ Hamler who has commanded the buzz from his coaches and teammates.
"He's just so quick and so fast," Franklin said. "Usually you get a guy that's really fast or really quick and he's both. He's still not as efficient with his movement as he needs to be but he's an exciting prospect."
Also developing well for the Nittany Lions is wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer, who is also splitting time on the baseball roster.
Hippenhammer is one of the more natural football players that we have, even
last year when he was redshirting on scout team and special teams, you'd watch
him do things and it just came natural to him," Franklin said. "I think the
baseball experience has been good for him, his confidence is built with that.
He did really good academically. That was part of the requirement, we said if
you're going to play baseball then you have to do really well academically
because that's a lot on your plate and he did."
Stevens is Staying
During the offseason quarterback Tommy Stevens did take time to check out other programs considering a possible transfer. As Stevens revealed Wednesday though, he's staying right in Happy Valley.
"I love Penn State," Stevens said. "I love the relationships I have here and I love playing football with my best friends."
During the decision making process Stevens noted his parents were very supportive throughout the process, keeping an open mind the entire way. Stevens made the decision recently and told his teammates today that he'd be staying at Penn State.
"I wanted them to hear it first," Stevens said. "Of course, I live with guys on the team and I wanted them to hear it first so I told them hey, this is what I'm going to do."
Farmer Taking on a
Penn State linebacker Koa Farmer obviously knows the ins and outs of the safety position alongside Sam linebacker, but this year he'd like to continue adding to his skillset. Interchangeable is the word Farmer used, noting he's working on learning Mike and Will linebacker positions to ensure he's ready for any situation where he might be needed.
With key defensive departures, Farmer is also embracing more of a leadership role.
"We had Jason [Cabinda], we had Marcus [Allen], we had Grant [Haley]," Farmer said. "They were probably the leaders of our defense last year and those guys are done and it's my time this year. Being more of a leader, being more vocal, getting the energy up in practice. I can't keep it to myself in practice."
New Leader in the Room
It's been a new transition for DeAndre Thompkins and the rest of the Nittany Lion wide receivers adjusting to a new position coach. At this point in the season, there's nothing but love in the room for the new leader of the wide receivers.
"Coach [Corley], he's cool," Thompkins said. "He's laid back, he's one of those guys who understands the game of football and he has a special way of teaching it to his players."
For Thompkins, Corley is of course well respected, but it's also respect that's a big thing for the Nittany Lion wide receivers coach.
"He's of those guys where he can crack a joke but he can also get on you if he needs to," Thompkins said.
NEW YORK - Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers had his concerns ahead of Tuesday's NIT semifinal matchup at Madison Square Garden. Coming off a full seven-day layoff, there is of course the uncertainty of a challenge really facing every team.
Ask any Nittany Lion though and there was simply no reason to be concerned. For sophomore Tony Carr, at this point in the season, there's no need for pep talks or motivational moments.
Stepping on to the court at the world's most famous arena, Penn State did so with one goal in mind.
"We were ready," Penn State senior Shep Garner said. "We knew that Mississippi State is a good team, an SEC team, and we didn't want to get caught on our heels. We wanted to bring the fight and we came out on a run."
Penn State and Mississippi State kept it close in the earliest part of the first quarter, arriving at the evening's first media timeout tied up, 9-9. The Nittany Lions managed to pull away, leading by two, 13-11, with less than three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
In front of yet another mostly blue and white crowd though, Penn State wouldn't disappoint, taking control with a 24-0 scoring streak lasting 16:32. The Nittany Lions surged ahead by as many as 26 points, unleashing from the perimeter with five triples during the stretch, including three from Garner.
"When we go on runs like that, we know that we're clicking on all cylinders on the defensive end, that's where it starts," Garner said. "When we play like that and we get in transition, we're tough to beat. We all get running and knock some threes down, that's tough."
Neither Garner nor Carr or Stevens or Reaves had any idea they were on such a streak. It didn't matter though. It didn't matter because it was all about having fun, playing with a level of confidence that Chambers noted has reached its highest level of the season.
"It started really after we beat Temple," Chambers said. "I think they got really confident. More confident, playing loose, enjoying themselves out there, having fun. At Notre Dame, Marquette, you could tell they were having a blast, enjoying it."
Penn State departed for the locker room at halftime, the Nittany Lions were
commanding a 42-23 lead. It's an advantage though didn't exactly have Chambers
letting out a sigh of relief.
"I've had some nightmares throughout my career - high school, college, as a player, and I've had some nightmares, Northwestern, Michigan State," Chambers said. "Those things go through your head, like we're up 20, but we've got to keep it at 20. If it gets any lower then they're going to find momentum and confidence and they are going to regain this. I was really proud of our guys, we got big time stops when we needed it. We made the necessary plays to keep that lead near 20."
Chambers' message was simple, keep locked in on the Nittany Lion foundation, defending and rebounding.
Penn State wouldn't let its foot off gas pedal, coming out of the locker room with the same fire.
The second half was perhaps more about milestones though, as Garner surpassed Penn State's Pete Lisicky (1995-98) for first all-time on the Nittany Lion career 3-pointers list.
Just a few minutes later, he drained his sixth triple of the night to set the Penn State single game NIT record. His 3-point of course, widening the Nittany Lion advantage to the largest of the night, 52-25.
Garner joined Carr and sophomore Lamar Stevens in double figures, finishing with 18 points. Carr led the team with 21 points while Stevens had 17, finishing 6-for-10 from the field with a team-high eight rebounds.
"Shep is a great person, he's a great player," Stevens said. "Guys like that deserve to go down in the record books and have successful careers. Shep completely deserves it, he works really hard. I'm happy for him."
For Chambers though, Garner is also a Nittany Lion who took a chance on Penn State.
"He believed in us and his first few years obviously didn't go the way we all wanted it to go," Chambers said. "Man did he stick it out and he persevered and he was able to bring some really good players with him. It's so awesome to see him leave such an amazing legacy for Penn State basketball."
His legacy, or rather, his storybook ending as he calls it, isn't over just yet.
"The only thing that can make it better is winning a championship and that's what we want to do," Garner said. "That's what we came here to do. We came here to do that, that's our goal and we won't be satisfied until we do that."
For now, it's rest and recovery for the Nittany Lions, who will turn their focus toward No. 2 seed Utah in Thursday's finals, set for 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Four-time All-American Andrew
Mackiewicz capped his collegiate career with a semifinal appearance on the
final day of the NCAA fencing national championships.
By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a slow start to the series finale against Maryland, Penn State came roaring back in the bottom of the sixth inning scoring three runs to tie the game. A home run off the bat Skylynne Ellazar put Maryland back on top and Penn State left the game-tying run on third in their final at bat in the seventh. The Nittany Lions fell 4-3 to the Terrapins.
"It was a great game at the end especially those last few innings. I think (there is a mutual respect between us and Maryland). For us it was a tail of two games, first four innings we fell flat, then kind of turned it on," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "Give Maryland credit they came in with a good game plan today, I thought one team made adjustments late in the end. If the win hadn't picked up I think Delaney's ball might have gone out. That's what it's all about on Sundays."
Here are some takeaways from Penn State's Sunday contest.
Player of the Game:
The senior shortstop for Penn State has struggled to start the year at the plate, but came through in clutch moments for Penn State on Sunday. In the top of the sixth inning she started a rally with a single before coming around to score, and in the seventh she once again led off with a single before being stranded on third base.
"Gianna has just been working really hard. She is just one of those poor seniors that has started off slow and wasn't really getting the results that she wanted, but now she is starting to find some holes," Lehotak said. "She's just proves if you keep working the game will finally pay you back. The great thing about Gianna is she never changes her approach just working her tail off and she just finally found some holes."
Cummings dominates Maryland
Jessica Cummings notched another performance in the pitcher's circle for the Nittany Lions, allowing just three earned runs and striking out five batters.
"The biggest thing is she is from Maryland so I think she really gets hyped up for Maryland," Lehotak said. "I think in her whole career she's done really well against them. She just did a really good job handling her emotions, I thought she attacked the zone well. Again only two walks so only two on the entire weekend. That's what we need from her, she is at her best when she has that fearless mindset and just goes right after them. Hopefully the hardest part of the season is behind her and she just keeps getting better the rest of the way."
Both home series so far Penn State has shown the ability to come from behind late in games which continued again on Sunday with the late game comeback.
"They're fighters, you guys have seen us now back-to-back weekends, we never give up. They work their tails off and they believe in one another. I love that grittiness aspect of them, I love the fact that we are never out of the game until it's over," Lehotak said.
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's lacrosse closed out its nonconference slate in dominating fashion, defeating Cleveland State 16-5 Saturday afternoon.
Although the Nittany Lions looked slow to start the first half, they quickly bounced back, scoring 10 unanswered goals throughout the second half.
"It was definitely a good ending [to nonconference play]," head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "I thought we came out in the second half and right off that first faceoff, [Gerard Arceri won] and two or three guys [got] involved in moving the ball up the field for that first goal. I thought that set the stage for our second half. We played hard and kept things simple at both ends of the field."
Perhaps one of the more consistent units for the Nittany Lions, Penn State's defense put on a stellar show against Cleveland State, allowing only one goal in the second half.
All season long though, Tambroni has placed a great deal of importance on getting the team to play as one cohesive unit. During Saturday's outing, Penn State's defense perfectly executed what the coaching staff has been waiting to see.
"I thought our defense did a better job of just playing together," Tambroni said. "Not just one guy had to do anything in particular, it was about just getting seven guys to do a better job of connecting with one another and I thought they did a really nice job in the second half."
Although the score was 6-4 in Penn State's favor at the end of the first half, associate head coach Peter Toner knew the Nittany Lion defense could be better. During halftime, he and the team went over key adjustments, which then resulted in a nearly flawless second half.
One of the standouts from the defensive unit was sophomore Nick Cardile. Not only did he defend well against a hardworking Vikings offense, but even netted a goal of his own in the fourth quarter. Along with fellow veterans in his defensive unit, Cardile is confident Penn State can continue the momentum headed to Big Ten play.
"Coming out of halftime, the defense really put their foot down," Cardile said. "We came together and said we can't let this happen and especially moving on forward, if our offense isn't playing as well we're going to have to put our foot down."
On the offensive side of the ball, redshirt sophomore Dylan Foulds continued to find success in the back of the net. Foulds scored four goals on eight shots to go along with a lone assist in front of a crowded Panzer Stadium.
While the coaching staff is still looking for a leader on the offense to step up and take their play to the next level, it is reassuring to see Foulds continuing to put up high numbers on the stat sheet, week after week.
"Seeing what he's doing in the time that he's doing it, he's just super-efficient right now," Tambroni said. "You can see his confidence grow, it's palpable. On the field in the last couple games and watching him in practice, he's just a completely different player over the past couple of weeks."
While Foulds is only spending about half the game on the field, he has continued to rank among the team's top scorers with a total of 13 goals. Conference play though, is the perfect time for gaining confidence shooting the ball.
"It's been fun to watch him play, this is what we had imagined Dylan Foulds to be like coming on his redshirt sophomore year," Tambroni said. "It's taken a little bit longer than we thought but it's nice to know he continues to keep developing into the player we know, and he knows, he's capable of becoming."
Although the Nittany Lions have a whole week of preparation ahead of them before heading to Ohio State, they feel they are in a good place after Saturday's win."We feel really good as a team, we have a lot of confidence in each other right now," senior captain Tanner Peck said. "It's important to be peaking as the season goes on and that's what we'll look to do as we enter Big Ten play and continue on. As important as it is to play well right now we want to be around campus in May."
By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After two days of women's competition, it was time for the men to take center stage at the NCAA Fencing National Championships Saturday. A full slate of bouts started at 9 a.m. and went well into the afternoon, encompassing epée, foil and saber events.
The latter featured two Penn State standouts, both with NCAA experience in the past. Senior Andrew Mackiewicz has already won the national championship twice in saber. Junior Karol Metryka reached the NCAA Championships last year, now looking to get to the top this time around.
Despite the prior experience of participating at the sport's highest level, it's hard not to marvel at the challenge of the path these fencers face to potentially win a national championship.
"It's a little nerve-wracking," Mackiewicz said. "It's different from other competitions in that it's longer. You have to be so laser-focused and consistent bout after bout. If you lose one, you can't let it get to you and you just have to keep moving forward."
The saber competition consists of 23 bouts for each fencer, 15 taking place Saturday and eight Sunday, with the four best athletes advancing to the semifinals Sunday afternoon. There are 24 fencers in the competition, meaning everyone will fence against each other one time.
The competition comes at a fast pace, with each bout only lasting about two or three minutes, which elevates the need for mental strength and the ability to treat each bout as its own entity without overthinking anything.
"You have the best fencers in the country here and they're all competing at such a high level that it can be draining," Mackiewicz said. "We're all in good shape and we've all been training all year and are capable of doing the same thing. At the end of the day, it comes down to who can mentally tough it out."
Mackiewicz won 11 bouts Saturday to finish day one in fourth place overall in the saber. Metryka finished strong on the day, winning six of his last seven bouts to finish with nine on the day, good for ninth in the saber standings.
During one of Metryka's round two bouts, he put a fancy move on Ohio State fencer Domenick Koch to secure a touch, drawing the appreciation of Koch, who stopped and shook hands with Metryka mid-bout. This type of event is not out of the ordinary by any means.
"That's just something that happens if it is a nice touch," Metryka said. "Everyone is trying to beat everyone else, but at the same time we all respect each other. So if you get a really nice touch, sometime they'll come congratulate you."
Another thing hardly out of the ordinary is yelling. A lot of yelling. The student-athletes yell after almost every point, and for a few different reasons.
"You pour your heart into this. Every touch, you want that touch so bad and you get amped up and you use your voice." Mackiewicz said. "It's kind of a way to persuade the referee as well to get him to know that it was your touch."
Besides influencing the referees, it gives the athletes a much-needed boost of energy.
"It's about pumping yourself up too so that you're more into the bout and emotions are a little more into it," Metryka said.
The fencers aren't the only ones yelling, as the tournament setup allows for fans to be right up front next to the action, making for a loud and live environment.
No school benefits more from this than Penn State, who, with the tournament being essentially a home event, naturally drew a large contingent of Blue and White faithful.
"If the fans are giving you a lot of energy and voice, you definitely feed off of it and use that energy throughout the day. It keeps you amped up for your bouts," Mackiewicz said.
"Obviously, you're going to win some and you're going to lose some, having 23 bouts in two days. If you're losing, the crowd definitely helps you get back in it quickly," Metryka said.
The event has a quick turnaround, as the athletes resume competition again tomorrow morning. While Mackiewicz and Metryka are both in the top 10 at the moment, there is always room for improvement."I just need to be more consistent." Mackiewicz said. "I gave up four bouts today and at least two of them I think I shouldn't have. If I win all of them tomorrow, I should be fine in terms of making the semifinal and final matches."
ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The Saturday setting at the PPL Center seemingly could not have been better. Picture a crowd of 7,491 passionate Penn State fans packed into their seats with the same enthusiasm they've had all season long.
It was the outcome though, that could not have been further from what the Nittany Lions were anticipating in their second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
"To be able to come here, to look around and be able to hear everybody, that's why I think I am just so disappointed," Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "I've been to a lot of regionals, whether working them with the NCAA or as a participant and I can tell you, I haven't seen an atmosphere at a regional like this. It was blue and white and it was great and it was awesome. I just feel like when I saw them it was set up to do really well and that's probably why I feel so bad."
Speaking softly in a somber tone, Gadowsky was direct when asked postgame about what went wrong, giving credit to Denver where credit was due.
"They are excellent, they are skilled and I think they are excellent in their work ethic," Gadowsky said. "I give them a ton of credit, I think they really got to our net and we didn't get to theirs. I don't know enough yet to say if it was just what we didn't prepare for, or that we didn't do what we do well enough, or that they were that much better and it's because of what they did. I don't know."
The Pioneers led from start to finish Saturday night, opening the scoring with a goal off an untimely bounce with 7:41 left in the first period. As quickly as the blare of the fog horn faded, the mostly Penn State crowd responded with a resounding "We Are" chant.
No more than a moment later, the Nittany Lions saw one of their prime scoring opportunities swept away as sophomore Liam Folkes went horizontal on a breakaway, giving Penn State its first power play chance of the night. Still, it was Denver controlling the second half of the first period, striking again near the end of the frame, with the delayed penalty goal confirmed after a lengthy review.
That would hardly be the end of the Nittany Lions though, as Penn State picked up the pace and looked to spark some offensive momentum midway through the second period to the tune of audible gasps of near excitement from the crowd among the flurry of offensive opportunities.
"I think they obviously had a lot of momentum over the first period but I think when we were down four nothing, it kind of shifted over the last five minutes in the second period and going into the third, really I think we played how we should have played the entire game," Folkes said.
As Folkes noted, the Nittany Lions wouldn't give in, as Penn State finally broke through with its first goal of the night in the third period. It was Folkes who beat Denver net minder Tanner Jaillet to shave the deficit to three, 4-1, with 7:39 left to play.
Gadowsky's message to the team between periods was simple and true to Penn State's philosophy - shots on net.
"I think tonight we forgot a little bit about what we did really well," Gadowsky said. "I don't think that we did what we do well enough. I think possibly we knew what to expect a little bit more and prepared for what they did, and I think what we lacked, at least in my mind, was a better commitment and execution in what makes us really good."
Denver's lethal leading line proved too strong for the Nittany Lions, as Jarid Lukosevicius sent his second goal of the night past Jones with nearly eight minutes left to play to send the Pioneers ahead 5-1.
"Our line, we've played a lot of good players all year and they're no doubt, arguably the best we've played," senior James Robinson said when asked about Denver's top line. "That's no excuse. It doesn't matter who you are playing, you need to come ready to match their intensity and outwork them and our team did not do that and it's disappointing."
A season-ending loss in the NCAA Tournament in one that brings a certain kind of bitter feeling. It's not this loss though that senior James Robinson will reflect on when he looks back at his time at Penn State.
"I feel like the seniors on this team as well as every guy in that dressing room has made this program better than it was at the start of the season," Robinson said. "With our senior class, we couldn't be more proud of this school, this organization, this program and we just can't wait to see where this program goes in the future."
The future is exactly where the Nittany Lions will now look toward, with something always present to build on.
"We can build off of getting into the tournament," Gadowsky said. "You look at the program's that aren't in the tournament this year and you look at the programs that haven't been in the tournament two years in a row and there are some great ones. We can look at that and feel very, very good and be proud."
For Robinson, it's taken everyone to get the Nittany Lions to where they are now, but it's all those individuals who will also be responsible for continuing to carry on the legacy and tradition carefully set in place.
"We have a very bright future ahead of us and unfortunately both [Erik] Autio and I and the rest of the seniors aren't going to be a part of it but we feel it's in great hands and we can't wait to see what this program does," Robinson said.
Among those hands is Folkes, who has only gratitude when it comes to the impact the senior class has left upon the team.
"They've been the best of the best, that's for sure," Folkes said. "I'm going to miss all of them, they've paved the way for where Penn State is where it is now. I have to thank James Robinson especially because was my mentor when I first got here and he's been the best teammate and the best friend for the two years that I've been here, so I have to thank Jim."
By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Despite splitting its doubleheader with Maryland Saturday afternoon to open up conference play, Penn State played arguably its most complete 7 innings of the year as they took game one 8-3 in commanding fashion.
"We did what we had to do today," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "We got the split, but obviously we would have like to play better game two. I didn't like that we only had two hits in game two. Our effort was there but I was more disappointed in our focus. We did what he had to in game one, though. I really like how we played game one."
Although Penn State dropped game two 8-0, there were many takeaways from the Nittany Lions' first Big Ten win of the year.
Player of the Game- Jessica Cummings
Senior pitcher Jessica Cummings was firing on all cylinders in the circle, throwing a complete game with seven strikeouts and no walks. Cummings was perfect through three innings and only allowed Maryland to get a total of five hits.
"I thought she was dominant game one," Lehotak said. "I think that was her first game all year where she didn't have a walk. She was great. I thought she went right after them and she made great adjustments. (Maryland) also made adjustments in the 4th when they scored, but I thought she came back really well. She kept attacking whereas all year that's when she's gotten a little passive, so I was really proud of her."
Cummings improves her record to 3-7 on the year after notching her third complete game of the season.
Penn State pounded out eight runs, including five in the first inning, on 11 hits to match Cummings' great performance in the circle. Sophomore Destiny Weber had two hits, including a line-drive two RBI double down the left field line to push the score to 5-0. Eight different Nittany Lions registered a hit in what was a very balanced offensive attack.
"Offensively in the first game I thought we were great," Lehotak said. "We came out swinging. I thought we were well prepared for (that game) and we handled it well. We dipped a little bit, which happens when you have an explosion like that in the first two innings. It was good to see us answer again after they scored. The maturity of that was good. I liked that we had good at-bats and we were putting the ball in play."
The Blue and White's eight runs was the team's second-best offensive showing of the year, just behind the ten runs they scored against Kent State last Sunday.
Flashing the Leather
With Cummings forcing ground ball after ground ball on the mound, it was the Nittany Lions' infield defense that came up big. Penn State didn't record an error in game one and were almost flawless both in the infield and outfield, including junior Tori Dubois' impressive leaping catch in left field.
"I was really proud of them," Lehotak said about her team's great glove work in the first game of the doubleheader. "I was very hard on our infield this week. Last week I was really hard on offense, and this week I was really hard on our infield especially. I held them to a high standard and we did some things we haven't done before and their response was great. I was very pleased with how they played infield-wise in both games."
The Nittany Lions and Terrapins will play the rubber match of their conference series Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers can remember the exact moment senior Shep Garner committed. On the very floor he'd soon take to as a Nittany Lion, Garner's commitment came during a team camp. With Kim Garner's approval of course, it was just one of many defining moments for Chambers and the program.
Returning to Madison Square Garden once again, this time, Garner and the rest of the Nittany Lions will have potentially two more opportunities to do something they personally have never done before.
Garner doesn't give much thought to the fact that at some point next week he'll be playing in his final game.
"I'm so locked in on the game, I can't really focus on it being my last game because I think if you focus on losing you really might lose," Garner said. "I focus on winning."
He took that mentality from boxer Floyd Mayweather.
"He said he never focused on losing, he always goes into a fight like he's going to figure out a way to win no matter what happens and that's what I've been doing, not even focusing or thinking about losing because that's negative energy we'll need," Garner said.
There's perhaps something special for Garner when it comes to the world's most famous arena though. In four years, Garner has played five games inside Madison Square Garden.
Among those outings, Garner is averaging 20.2 points per game as well as nearly five triples. He has scored no less than 12 points, scoring at least 20 in three of the five games, including his most recent, a record-setting 33 points in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals against No. 3 seed Purdue.
From the aura of the big stage to the lights or the rim, it's something Garner can't exactly describe.
"It's a beautiful place," Garner said. "A lot of history in the arena so you have to naturally get up to play in Madison Square Garden and that's what I do. I love playing there, obviously. The lighting in there is perfect, you can see the rim, it's a good feel. It's the reason why they call it the Mecca."
The Shep Garner who stepped on the court at Madison Square Garden in the Blue and White for the first time as a sophomore in 2016 for the inaugural Big Ten Hoops-Hockey doubleheader is tremendously different from the one today.
"I just think when you're a senior and you're 22, the light just kind of comes on and you figure things out a little bit," Chambers said. "It wasn't easy for him going from having the ball in his hands for two straight years to not having the ball in his hands, so that took a little bit of an adjustment. We were young and he was trying to do a lot, he was trying to lead, he was trying to score, he was trying to take care of practice, take care of the locker room, that's a lot of responsibility."
Penn State's path through the NIT has had its share of challenges, but with each taste of adversity the Nittany Lions continued to climb.
Coming off a 63-57 win against Temple in the first round, Garner pulled the team in after practice for a message.
"I thought we came out a little slow and I told the team that we're basketball players, this is what we do," Garner said. "We play basketball, we came here to win games and that's what we're going to do, so let's get ready to do that. It was a little short conversation with everybody just to get us back engaged and get us playing to level that we know."
Garner's message was received.
"We definitely want to make the most out of the opportunity that we have here," All-Big Ten First Team selection Tony Carr said. "I think this is Shep's first postseason so to just go out with a championship would mean everything to me because I feel like he deserves that. He put in that work."
Come next Tuesday, the Nittany Lions will need everyone to continue rising to meet the challenges the postseason brings. That includes both consistent contributors like leading scorers Carr and Lamar Stevens as well as those who are new to the starting lineup, like true freshman John Harrar.
Since entering the starting lineup in the first game of the Big Ten Tournament, Harrar has only grown more confident and comfortable on the court.
"The more minutes he's getting the better he is playing," Chamber said. "He just had nine rebounds in 22 minutes. His defense is outstanding. His ball screen defense is outstanding."
For Chambers, there's the deflection against Temple which leads to a key turnover to tie the score with less than three minutes left. Then there's his perimeter defense against Marquette - high active hands, locked in on a body and in just the right position.
When asked about his confidence though, Chambers looks at the free throws.
"He's made two against Temple, he's made two against Notre Dame, I think two against Marquette so he's shooting really good free throws," Chambers said. "He also did a fake dribble handoff and went and tried to lay it in himself. That shows you he's starting to feel better out there, more comfortable out there."
Perhaps the most important thing though, is the confidence teammates.
"I watched Johnny put in tons of hard work before practice, after practice, when there's a game and it's definitely paying off for him right now," Carr said. "He's a big part to our team, he's the anchor of our defense and I'm just happy to see him get that chance and make the most of it."
Harrar earned the confidence of his teammates long before he entered the starting lineup.
Chambers saw it as early as the team's foreign tour to the Bahamas, then returning to peer down through the windows of the offices lining the practice gym to see Harrar hard at work.
"I'd look down from that window right there and he'd be down here working hard, working on his go-to's and counters, his free throws, his midrange," Chambers said.
Upon returning home from road trips during the season, both Carr and Stevens looked inside the practice gym to see something they had never seen before.
"John after a game, if he doesn't play at all for 40 minutes, he'll work out on the climber for 40 minutes," Stevens said. "If he played two minutes, he'll work out for 38 minutes or for the amount of time he didn't play."
For Stevens, Harrar is a whole different animal, for Carr, the sight was simply mind blowing.
"For him to come back here and get on the climber was definitely mind blowing," Carr said. "I think it just speaks to how hard of a worker he is and how much he wanted to have an impact on this team."
Hands down one of the hardest workers on the team, Stevens can recall whispering to his coaches on the sideline - he's going to be ready.
"Some kids might go the other way, might have a bad attitude like, 'oh I'm never going to play, so why am I going to get in the gym,'" Chambers said. "His attitude was I'm going to work so when my name is called or when my numbers is called, I'm going to be ready and he absolutely seized the moment and there's something to be said for that."
Harrar and the rest of the Nittany Lions depart for New York Sunday, now with the focus turned toward their NIT semifinal opponent in fourth-seeded Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs met Nebraska in the first round and knocked off No. 1 seed Baylor in the second round before powering past Louisville to earn their first trip to the NIT semifinals since 2007.
"They have a ton of speed, a ton of athleticism," Chambers said. "In the last five or six games they are averaging 8.4 or 8.5 threes per game so they've added that to their arsenal over the last 10 days to two weeks. They really didn't shoot the ball particularly all year so now they are shooting the ball much better and it's a Ben Howland coached team so you know they are going to be tough on the defensive end. You know they are going to rebound, you know they are really going to challenge you in the paint and they are going to challenge your shots."
With a spot in the finals on the line though, Penn State won't have to spend time searching for motivation.
"To be going back to New York is something that we all really wanted, that was the goal when we were selected to play in the NIT, to get back to New York," Chambers said. "We're fired up. We're looking forward to competing against a great Mississippi team and coach Ben Howland and hopefully we can make it to Thursday and cut down some nets."
By: Briana Zuccarelli, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa- The No. 18 Penn State Nittany Lions took home a win in sudden victory overtime against No. 22 Johns Hopkins in their second Big Ten game of the season Thursday night, 13-12..
The game started with a quick two goals from Johns Hopkins, but was answered by three goals from captain Maggie Gallagher, junior Madison Carter, and sophomore Maria Auth. The Nittany Lions quickly took the lead to three goals in the first period with a score of 8-5.
"I love these kinds of games," said head coach Missy Doherty. "I love watching them make plays and I tell them that all the time. It's not about at the end of the game, did we win or did we lose. I loved when Kelly Daggett went down there in the first half and knocked the goalie pass down and got that interception to score the goal. Seeing her excitement is the reason why I coach."
After the half, Johns Hopkins brought the game to a tie. Although Penn State answered back with each goal, the game went into sudden victory overtime; the team with the first goal wins. Within the first 27 seconds of play, captain Katie O'Donnell had the game-winning goal.
"I just saw some openings and our team really moved the ball," said O'Donnell. "Carter getting that draw was absolutely crucial and that goal wouldn't have happened without her. We just said, first one down we have to go hard and go with confidence. Overtime just means when you get your shot, you just have to take it."
The Nittany Lions have had four games end in a one goal difference. The team has won two of those games so far. When O'Donnell scored the clutch goal, the screams and excitement from the sidelines could not be contained as came out again on top in another close game.
"Honestly, it's amazing to come out on top," Gallagher explained. "I think we put in a lot of hard work this season, so to see it come together is really really amazing."
Penn State had seven different players score during the win against the Blue Jays. Auth led the team with four goals, followed behind O'Donnell with three and Carter with two. Gallagher, Daggett, Quinn Nicolai, and Kristen Roberto each finished the game with a goal.
"To get this win tonight means the world to me," said O'Donnell. "We've had very ups and downs and those one goal losses are heartbreakers. To come out on the other side of that tonight has just been absolutely amazing, especially for these younger players to feel what that feels like. This joy after the game tonight is what I want them to continue to feel."
In goal, freshman Lucy Lowe finished the game with 12 saves and is now 5-4 for the season in the goal. Coach Doherty emphasized on how well Lowe has played and the incredible saves she has made throughout her first season.
The game will start at noon on Saturday, March 31st.
By Brian McLaughlin, Student Staff Writer GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State softball finally returned home last weekend, taking the series against the Kent State Golden Flashes. Not only was it the first home series of the year for the Nittany Lions, it was also the first games at Beard Field for the Penn State freshmen, including Erin Murray.
Murray is an outfielder for the Nittany Lions, hailing from Great Falls, Virginia. For the Nittany Lion newcomer, attending Penn State was always an obvious choice.
"I came here for softball camp when I was a freshman in high school," Murray said. "Just being here and being on campus and seeing the people I knew this was where I wanted to go to school."
"I thought the kids played hard and I hope everyone got to see what we've been talking about away from home. We play hard, we fight, and we don't give up," head coach Amanda Lehotak said following the opening games against Kent State.
That attitude is one of the most valuable aspects Murray brings to the team, and she hopes to contribute to that attitude moving forward.
True to her word, having just appeared in two games so far this season, Murray has seen just one plate appearance but got hit by a pitch and reached base.
All of the players on Penn State's roster have been praised for their work ethic and strong team chemistry, but one leader particularly stands out to Murray and exemplifies this team's attitude as someone she looks up to
"(I look up to) Toni Polk. She is very calm and relaxed and she is a good teammate to everybody and she works hard every day," Murray said.
The Penn State team broke through in the third game of the series against Kent State. The teams took extra innings before the Nittany Lions got the walk-off and clinching the series victory.
"(Coming back on Sunday) was one of the best feelings ever. I loved it so much, the energy in the dugout was so much fun, it was unbelievable," Murray said.
Like many experiences as a freshman, everything is still new to Murray as she adjusts to her life on campus as well as on the field. Recently she had a switch off the field that helped her feel more comfortable.
"I just switched to the College of Communications from the School of Engineering, so a big change for me," Murray said. "It was something exciting and new and different completely from what I had been studying before."
Another first for Murray will occur this weekend with Penn State opening its Big Ten play against the Maryland Terrapins.
"As a freshman I'm new to Big Ten play, but I'm excited and nervous and I think it should go pretty well," Murray said.
The confidence is growing for Penn State with every game, as they are in the midst of a young two game winning streak. From freshman like Murray, to upperclassmen like Polk, this team has gone through lots of adversity early in the season but appears to be emerging out of it stronger than ever and ready to compete.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A swell of emotions surrounded Penn State fencing, as the Nittany Lion women's team opened the first day of the NCAA Championships with rounds one through three at the Multi-Sport Facility.
Surrounded by their teammates, the Nittany Lions quickly shook off some opening round jitters before putting together productive performances across the women's foil, epee and saber competitions.
In the team standings, Penn State is third behind Notre Dame and Columbia after the first day of NCAA Championships action.
Of the six Nittany Lions competing on day one, four were doing so in the NCAA Championships for the very first time. Among them, junior Anastasia Kalonji and freshman Zara Moss.
"It's been an amazing experience," Kalonji said. "It's my first NCAA's so it's really thrilling, a lot of emotions for sure. I'm glad that it's at Penn State. It's great to be able to sleep in my own bed and kind of have that home court advantage. It's really awesome."
Competing alongside sophomore Barbara VanBenthuysen in the women's epee, Kalonji didn't open the first round as well as she would have liked.
"I think it started out a little rough to be honest with three wins and four losses but throughout the day I rallied, got a few extra victories and I'm just hoping for the best tomorrow," Kalonji said.
One day one, each Nittany Lion will have seven first round bouts before moving on to four more in the second and third rounds, respectively. Headed toward her final bout of the day, Kalonji found herself feeling down, having lost each of the last two.
Behind the sound of her teammates chanting her name, Kalonji was underway against a tough Notre Dame opponent she defeated by a close 5-4 score to end her first day of NCAA action on top.
"That was definitely a tough bout, previous to that bout I had lost two bouts so I was feeling down but I was able to be fresh, to reset and really just go get it," Kalonji said. "It was an awesome bout to fence."
Currently at 13th in the individual standings behind VanBenthuysen, it's all about coming in with a fresh approach in today's fourth and fifth rounds ahead of semifinal action.
"I'm going to come in motivated and fresh and just reboot for tomorrow."
For Moss, competing in the NCAA Championships is something she has dreamed of since she began fencing at age seven.
Much like Kalonji though, a mix of emotions and nerves were present to start the day.
"Starting out I was very nervous, I had ups and downs," Moss said. "I started my first pool and I was doing very well, then I lost a bout that I felt like I should have won. I struggled for a minute but then I was able to pull myself back together. It's been a lot of emotions but I think I've been handling them fairly well."
Moss went 4-3 in the opening round of the women's saber, but quickly regrouped to close out the day with a string of eight consecutive victories with 4-0 marks in back-to-back rounds.
Initially anxious about meetings against a pair of tough Notre Dame opponents, Moss stayed focused on her plan, keying in on the little things like keeping her steps small.
"I was really happy because a lot of times when I'm fencing I'll get overwhelmed and I start thinking about, 'oh I have to win this or I'm not going to do well' and I just start thinking about the whole day or the whole competition," Moss said. "So I was just narrowing it down and thinking about this touch, this couple of seconds and that really helped a lot. When I won the first bout against Notre Dame, that gave me confidence for the second one."
Moss' surging second and third rounds vaulted her to second in the team standings at 12-15 on the day with a plus-25 indicator.
For both Moss and Kalonji though, it's the benefit of having a teammate competing right alongside them that helped fight through the tough moments.
"I think it's been great having a partner like Barbara, she's always very supportive," Kalonji said. "We talk to each other, we have little things we know will lift our spirits up. She's been great with that. I think that having that duo is honestly a great, great privilege in this competition and it's definitely going to keep us going for tomorrow."
For Moss, it was junior Karen Chung, who currently sits in seventh place after day one, winning 10 of 15 bouts with a plus-22 indicator.
"Today, in my first bout she came and she hooked me up," Moss said. "Usually you hook yourself up, but she came and said, 'I got it, I got it for you.' Just to have her there alongside me where I can ask her questions and talk to her, she's been amazing. She's an amazing role model and a great person to fence alongside."
Tomorrow brings new opportunity for all the Nittany Lion women, as champions will be crowned at the end of the day. Rounds four and five are set to begin at 9 a.m. ESPN3 will have live coverage of the semifinals, which begin at 1 p.m.
By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State is set to begin its Big Ten slate this weekend with a three-game series against Rutgers on the road in Piscataway, New Jersey.
The Nittany Lions are coming off a 2017 season in which the team posted a 4-20 record in conference play, but that isn't sending Penn State head coach Rob Cooper astray from his yearly goals.
Cooper said the team's goal for conference play is to make the Big Ten Tournament at the end of the season.
In the Big Ten, the top eight teams are invited to the tournament after the regular season. The Nittany Lions are currently sitting in 12th place in the conference with a 6-9 record, but Big Ten games matter much more in regards to conference standings.
A strong opening weekend against Rutgers could vault Penn State to the top of the conference standings in a hurry.
"Last year is last year. Now we got to work on just trying to win one game at Rutgers and going from there," Cooper said. "It's really honestly just about us and this year's team and what we can do to get better."
Taking from conversations with Penn State football head coach James Franklin, Cooper's approach to the start of Big Ten play has been Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers.
"It's a different challenge. It's a different part of the season, but I don't look at it much differently because if I look at different parts of the season differently then I'm not getting our guys to buy in to one game at a time, one pitch at a time," Cooper said.
Cooper and the rest of the team are locked in to the one game at a time approach, but there's no denying conference game have an extra splash of excitement.
Junior starting pitcher Justin Hagenman knows the difference between suiting up against Big Ten teams and nonconference opponents. Hagenman has recorded the most starts for Penn State against conference teams over the last two seasons.
Hagenman has recorded some of his best starts and notched personal best performances against Big Ten teams. In his freshman season, Hagenman won his sixth game against Rutgers to become Penn State's winningest pitcher in one season since 2011.
It's also the thrill of conference rivalries that fuels the junior to another level.
"Everything's on the line," Hagenman said. "Every game is very important. Every weekend is very important, so you just got to do everything you can. All these games and practices--this is what you're working for."
Looking out across the Big Ten, seven of the teams currently have winning records, with Indiana holding the top spot at 15-4. Illinois and Ohio State round out the top three.
Rutgers sits at sixth place in the conference with an 11-7 record.
The Scarlet Knights boast five players with batting averages above .300 in their balanced offense. Leading the charge is Kyle Walker, who owns a .417 average and a .491 on-base percentage.
On the mound, Eric Heatter leads the starters with a 2.35 ERA in 23 innings pitched. Bullpen aces Collin Kiernan and Brito Serafino have logged nine and 10 appearances, respectively, and have both been shut down so far this year.
Kiernan owns a team-best 1.74 ERA and Serafino leads all relievers with 17 strikeouts in 14.2 innings.
"[Rutgers is] super aggressive on the bases," Cooper said. "Their starting pitching is going to attack the strike zone and they're tough to beat at home, so we're going to have our work cut out for us. We got to keep them off the bases. We got to hold their running game down, and we got to just do a better job of limiting the free baseball that we give up."
For Cooper, he believes his team will succeed this weekend if it can cut down on strikeouts offensively and errors and walks defensively.
For Hagenman, it's Penn State's four days off this week that will help, ensuring every pitcher is rested and ready to contribute this weekend.
"It would've been good to play them just to get everybody in there, but we get fresh without playing those games," Hagenman said. "Everybody's good to go now pitching-wise, and we got some good days of practice in, so I feel like we did what we needed to do without playing those games and I think we're ready to go for this weekend."
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Headed toward the final nonconference outing of the season, Penn State men's lacrosse in honing in on fine tuning its offensive identity.
Although the unit has been thriving in its most recent outings, scoring a combined 50 goals in the last four games on the road, Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni is looking for more regularity out of some of his offensive Nittany Lions.
"In the offensive end we're still trying to find the consistency of one or two guys that are just premiere, go-to guys," Tambroni said. "That will allow everyone else to kind of relax [and] play the way they're capable of."
While it's not an ideal situation for Tambroni, the occasional lack in consistency has given rise to some clutch performances. One of the most notable Nittany Lions being redshirt sophomore attacker, Dylan Foulds.
"He has a wonderful work ethic both on and off the field," Tambroni said. "He's an easy guy to coach because there's no distractions, no fluff, what you see is what you get."
Foulds' hard work in the offseason has allowed him to become one of the team's top four scorers, with nine goals and seven assists.
While Foulds noted he feels comfortable in his new role within the offense, he also added it takes a group effort to get goals in the back of the net.
"I think I do a pretty decent job [of playing off the ball]," Foulds said. "I have a lot of background in that from playing in Canada and offense in general, of just being aware and a threat even when [I] don't have the ball. As an offense it's pretty easy to be good off-ball when you have four or five guys working as a unit, so playing together [makes it a lot easier]."
On the other side of the field, Tambroni feels as though the defense has been able to hold its own against several very tough opponents.
Unlike Penn State's offense, the defensive unit features strong leadership in experienced Nittany Lions like redshirt junior Mike Aronow and junior Chris Sabia. This veteran guidance has allowed the unit to find stability early in the season.
"I think defensively we're just a little bit more mature," Tambroni said. "I think the group back there has been our most consistent group. I think they've grown each and every week and have given us a chance to win in every game thus far. We're more hopeful that they continue their trend of consistency and tighten up in certain areas [instead of any] drastic changes."
A quick glance at the first half of the year shows a bit of a pattern when it comes to results for the Nittany Lions. Looking at the schedule, after Penn State loses a game, it returns with back-to-back wins.
While the Nittany Lions have played a tough nonconference schedule in the first half of the season, it will only get more challenging from here on out. Headed toward Big Ten play in just over a week, Tambroni noted this trend in the team's focus and skill will not be enough against conference teams like Johns Hopkins and Maryland.
"I do think we faced some teams prior to the Big Ten that are just as competitive, if not more, than some of the teams we will play," Tambroni said. "We can ill-afford to have complacency and hunger, complacency and hunger on alternating weeks. We have to lock it down and make sure each and every week there's a little more consistency, to our focus, to our game planning [and] to the details of our practice."
While getting ready to face some of the best teams in the country, the adversity the Nittany Lions have already faced in the nonconference stretch will only make them stronger for what's ahead.
"The beauty of playing a competitive non-league schedule is that we will be prepared and more battle tested," Tambroni said. "We've gone through some adversity [and] I think if we can reflect back and learn from that, I think we will be seasoned and prepared for those challenges."
By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State dives into its bye week after playing perhaps the busiest part of its schedule this season. The Nittany Lions are fresh off of a seven-match stretch in a span of 17 days, featuring outings against many opponents ranked within the AVCA DI-II Top 15.
Head coach Mark Pavlik is looking forward to a week of, noting his team is beginning to peak at the right time.
"Against teams that are ranked above us, we play well enough to potentially end the match before it gets to five sets," Pavlik said. "We're not good in stretches of two or three points where we absolutely have to have one point, and I think if we turn that corner we can be pretty dangerous."
The aforementioned seven-match streak for the Nittany Lions included a four-match series against BYU, Hawaii, Lewis and Ohio State, all of which are ranked in the top 10 nationally. Despite finishing 0-4 in these matches, Pavlik took many positives from the string of matches.
"It's what you do to win a national championship," Pavlik said. "You're going to have to play on a Friday, you're going to have to play on a Tuesday, a Thursday and a Saturday to win a national championship. So, you'll have four matches in eight days against good teams, so it gives you that sense of what it's going to be like in a month and a half."
Over the past several matches, redshirt sophomore middle blocker, Jason Donorovich, has been entered in the starting lineup in place of redshirt senior Jalen Penrose.
Pavlik has been impressed with the energy and consistency Donorovich has brought to the court since being inserted into a starting role.
"With [Donorovich], you know what you're going to get out of him," Pavlik said. "He works really hard in transition, he works really hard with blocking and he's fairly good at independent hands where you'll see some blockers have to move both hands to do something - he can have his be independent of each other."
For Donorovich, it's all about doing what the team needs.
"I'm really trying to work on blocking because if you have a solid block it makes the job for the defenders behind you a lot easier," Donorovich said.
Penn State's two middles in Penrose and Donorovich play with contrasting styles, but both have been very effective at times this year for Penn State.
"You know Jalen is going to go in and put balls away consistently because there's not many people in the country who can stop him," Donorovich said. "I think what I bring is more defense and energy. Whatever we need, I think that's how coach decides who will play when. I think we have two really good options."
The area where Donorovich has separated himself lately, however, has been in consistency, which Pavlik says has made things easier for the team offensively.
"He is finding ways to put the ball to the floor and block balls," Pavlik said. "It's all about trying to score points and if we can get six guys on the court that we know are going to score four points each and not give up any - there's 24 points right there. I think we can then find a way to score one more."
With the week off, Penn State will have extra time to recover from its physically demanding schedule over the past couple of weeks. The following weekend, the Nittany Lions will be on the road against Sacred Heart and Harvard looking to close the gap in the EIVA standings behind George Mason.
By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With indoor season over, the men's track and field team is left with the first indoor national champion since 1990, sophomore David Lucas.
Lucas won the weight throw title at the national championship at Texas A&M on March 10th. Lucas beat the runner-up by over three feet, throwing a new school record and a new facility record of 78'-9.75".
"It's super exciting. It's been 28 years since Penn State's won an indoor men's track and field individual title. I'm super excited to be able go down to Texas and compete and bring us back this national title back for Penn State," Lucas said.
Throws coach, Lucais MacKay, is excited that one his athletes brought home a national title this season.
"It feels really fulfilling, especially with David and the weight because it's kinda from ground up," MacKay said.
Going forward, Lucas learned a lot this indoor season, and he knows that this mark will help him transition into the outdoor season.
"You can't end the indoor season with any more momentum than winning an individual title," Lucas said. "I think that I learned a lot about competing this indoor season, learning how to channel anxiety and all the energy of the competition in a really efficient way to throw my absolute best. I'm hoping to take those same skills that I learned in the indoor season and translate that into how we move into outdoor."
"I think him understanding what competition is about and that it's an opportunity to compete. I hope that messages carry through because that's what we accomplished," MacKay said. "He's a really good athlete, so if it translates to the discus and the hammer and possibly the shot put then so be it."
As for outdoor season compared to indoor, the throwers switch from throwing the weight throw and shot put to throwing hammer, discus, shot and maybe even javelin. Lucas's best event is usually the discus, and he has high hopes of repeating a national title in that event.
"Things like that are always in the back of your mind. Performing at the high level meets and consistently doing that, I think there's definitely something to back up coming from indoor," Lucas said. "I'm comfortable with that level and pressure and having a target on my back. I think I'm just going to roll into shot, and the discus, and the hammer all outdoors and really just get things going from the start and keep building from there throughout the season."
Transitioning from the indoor season to the outdoor season is always tough for the athletes due to the change in events and the change in the weather. In State College it is especially difficult to make that transition due to the weather inconsistency.
"It takes a little while. You have to kind of put the disc on the backburner for at least a month or so of the indoor season. So, it takes a little while to get that going. Obviously with our weather patterns in Central Pennsylvania we aren't outside seven days a week right now or even five days a week," MacKay said.
This is Lucas's second season working alongside MacKay, and he feels that MacKay has prepared him for the level of competition he sees at meets. He is looking forward to MacKay's coaching style as they prepare for the outdoor season.
"I think that he and I really understand how I respond as an athlete and learning how he coaches and building a really good relationship that he and I have," Lucas said.
"Moving forward and trying to replicate the success, he and I sat down and mapped out how the training plan was going to be and how we are going to progress throughout the season," Lucas added. "I'm just going to trust in the training and continue to go through the motions and the same process, kinda like what we did in indoors and then try to peak in a similar manner for outdoors. I want to go and have some fun with the season."
By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's rare for a coaching staff to be as cohesive and work as well together in its first full-time year together--but that's exactly how Penn State's women's gymnastics rolls.
When head coach Sarah Brown took over the reins this past year, she brought with her two trusty sidekicks from her past: assistant coaches Rob Drass and Dallas Becerra.
"When I took over in May, there were a lot of changes that I saw that needed to be me made with the program initially," Brown said. "The most important thing for me was getting to know the athletes and getting a good staff on board. Because there were so many changes that I had been going through personally and so many changes I felt the program needed, I thought it was most important to have people around me that I could trust, and people that knew me the best."
The trio has an interesting history in their web of connections.
Brown first met Drass, who graduated from Penn State, between her sixth and seventh grade years as a gymnast. After going through a personal coach transition, Brown came to Missouri looking for a place to train, where Drass, who was there at the time, took her under his wing. Their relationship was strong and Drass saw her talent, eventually becoming Brown's head coach when she pursued her collegiate career in Mizzou.
"We've seen each other at our best, we've seen each other at our worst, and we know how to read each other," Drass said. "For me, the attraction coming back to Penn State was partly being an alumnus, and helping Sarah restore Penn State gymnastics to its rightful place, and I get to work with someone who I look at as a super person who does things for the right reasons."
Meanwhile, Becerra was a diver at University of Missouri, a shared alma mater with Brown, and left diving behind to become a gymnastics coach. He ended up getting to know Brown at a gymnastics club where she quickly became his mentor. After a few years apart, the two reconnected. Prior to taking on her role at Penn State, Brown served as head coach at Eastern Michigan, where she worked side-by-side with Becerra once again.
For Brown, her past relationships were key in building this staff.
"Dallas and I had a really good working relationship, so immediately I knew that he would be a great fit," Brown said. "Rob and I had talked for years about potentially working together again. Then, I was fortunate enough to be his director of operations while I was in grad school, so we had worked together on different levels in the past. I felt like since he was a Penn State alum, and someone who really understood what Penn State was about, and the timing happened to work out well, and he was kind enough to join me on staff. It's been really fun and we all balance each other really well."
"We can all look at each other and we all know exactly what the other one's thinking and what the other one needs," Becerra said. "In the gym one of us might be tougher and the other one might be there to give the TLC, so I think us being so close helps everything flow."
The three have been together in Happy Valley for nearly a year now, and they've adjusted to the change as a unit.
"Sarah's divvied up the responsibilities for each event so that there's one person that oversees it," Drass said. "Then we all collaborate and talk about each all the time, because the more eyes looking at something the better. We have a very seamless interaction, because we all were friends before, we all knew each other, and it makes it really easy when you work in a place you're very comfortable with where you don't have to feel out the relationships and you know how to be straightforward."
For the two assistants, the collaboration with each other is huge.
"I think it's great to have someone like Dallas," Drass said. "As someone who's been working in this for a while, he keeps me fresh and looking at things from a different perspective, and most of the time it's the way the athletes see things."
"It's really helpful that we can all look at each other and know exactly what the other one's thinking or what the other one needs," Becerra added. "Rob's experience definitely helps me because he's done this year after year, so there may be things I'm thinking that I want to do, but he can give me that advice."
While the staff had a familiarity, there was still the challenge of getting used to new athletes.
"Until you see everybody in each situation, it's hard to know how they tick," Drass said. "But once the championship season starts, the meet season starts, the inner squad starts--all those things help to learn and peel back the layers of the athletes. As a staff, we're learning how to respond to them, and moving forward we're going to get so much better at it."
Freshmen Kourtney Chinnery and Ava Verdeflor, two newcomers, had a great deal of talent in combination with some nerves about the new atmosphere. The two agreed that the stellar coaching staff made the experience better in every aspect.
"They've helped us adjust to college in general, and not just the sport but the transition with everything," Chinnery said. "College gymnastics is way different; school is way different. So, we have to work hard in school so we can compete. They really have helped with our mindset and our growth as people."
As the athletes have gotten used to their new environment, the closeness of the staff has been key.
"There's a formal aspect of the coaching vs. team, but we're also all really close," Verdeflor said. "They know that they work well together. They each bring several different things to the table, and it's just the perfect combination."
That perfect combination has led to a gymnastics family.
season, we came in a little unsure of how things would go, but we knew we were
in it together," Brown said. "It has
become much more like the feel of a family, and I think going into next season
there's going to be more opportunity to learn and grow, and I think we're going
to get to a point even more where don't even have to look at each other and we
Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com student staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Third-seeded Penn State will play No. 2 seed Denver in the first round of the Midwest Regional to kick off the NCAA Tournament this weekend. Sent home by Denver in last year's NCAA Tournament quarterfinals, the Nittany Lion postseason rematch against the Pioneers has a different feel to it this season.
"It's been different from last year," Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "Coming off such an emotional Big Ten Championship and then jumping right into the NCAAs, the practices were actually not very good. We were very tired, but this has been different. We've been off, guys have been chomping at the bit and they've really been working hard, so it's been a much different feel. I would say the plan is to just work hard and improve. The workman's-like attitude has really carried over and I like how the guys are approaching it."
Looking toward the familiar matchup, Penn State is well aware of the challenge come Saturday.
"Obviously they're an excellent hockey team, but at this point in the year you're going to play an excellent hockey team no matter what," Gadowsky said. "That's what we've been preparing for even before we knew it was Denver."
Key for Penn State will be its ability to shut down the Pioneers' prolific offense - a task easier said than done. With three players on the team with more than 40 points this season, including NCHC Player of the Year, Henrik Borgström and U.S. Olympic team member, Troy Terry. Along with Jones in net, Penn State's defense will most certainly have a tall task ahead.
"We'll be ready," Jones said.
Penn State is healthy and ready to go though, playing with a home field advantage, with the Nittany Lions serving as the host institution for the weekend at the PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
"It's certainly exciting being in Allentown," Gadowsky said. "We know we're going to have great Penn State support, which is awesome. That's going to be a lot of fun."
Sophomore goaltender Peyton Jones, who is a native of Langhorne, Pennsylvania talked about playing an NCAA Tournament game so close to Happy Valley.
"It's going to be awesome," Jones said. "I'm going to have a lot of family and friends there. It's only about an hour from my house so it's going to be great playing in front of all those people."
In addition to the hometown advantage, Penn State also has a year of NCAA Tournament experience under its belt. For Gadowsky, it's a helpful addition when it comes to last year's matchup with Denver.
"I think it's comforting because we've done it once before," Gadowsky said. "Not only playing the same opponent, but just the fact that we've gone to a regional and we know what to expect."
Comparing last year to this year, for Gadowsky, the experiences are certainly different but it's the quality, character and much of the same style that is the same for the Nittany Lions.
"Every team is a little bit different, but I think we have the same great feel in the locker room and really quality, competitive guys," Gadowsky said. "That hasn't changed. I think the style is relatively similar, too. We still play to score goals, we get up and down the ice really quickly, but I think every year is different. You go through experiences, both positive and negative, throughout the season and that leads you to where you are."
Penn State and Denver lace up the skates Saturday at 7 p.m. in the PPL Center. Should the Nittany Lions advance, they would meet the winner of No. 1 Ohio State and No. 4 Princeton in Sunday's quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the summer of 2014, current senior Quest Hayden went to coach at Woodward's gymnastics facility in Pennsylvania before he started his first semester at Penn State. That same summer, current junior Chris Sands left his Lancaster, Pennsylvania home to go train under the staff at Woodward.
Four years later, the two gymnasts have evolved into teammates and even closer friends.
"We understand each other on a personable level," Hayden said. "He's very understanding of me and I am very understanding of him."
Their friendship grew through their combined love of gymnastics. Although only a year apart, Hayden became a mentor for the younger Sands and his evolving gymnastics career.
"Quest and I met at Woodward," Sands said. "He came to coach with (former Penn State assistant coach) Slava [Boiko] and we met there and he helped me through a lot. He is a really technically perfect gymnast. He really knows how the human body rotates and all of the biomechanics and stuff like that and I was not a good gymnast when I was in high school."
"I coached there and trained there, but while we [Hayden and Boiko] were there he [Sands] was a gymnast there, a camper and I coached him a lot," Hayden said. "He was a cool guy and we would always talk and we had lunch together. Me and Slava would work together to help him be a better gymnast."
Through the ties of then Penn State gymnastics' assistant coach Boiko and Hayden, Sands spent his senior year imagining himself in Blue and White.
"Well, I drew a lot of inspiration from Quest Hayden when I came here," Sands said. "He and I have been friends from years so I drew a lot on him. He's done a lot for me. He helped me actually like get interested in Penn State. He's helped me all along the way so I mean I can't thank him enough. "
As Sands narrowed his options between Penn State, Ohio State, Navy and a few other schools, Hayden gave his best-selling pitch in the only way he knew how: gymnastics.
"I was on my recruiting trip on senior night when he [Hayden] was brought in on vault last minute and he came in and absolutely nailed it and stuck that vault and everything," Sands said. "His ankles were hurting, everything was going wrong, but he came through and did that. That was a huge eye opener for me at the time."
As much as Sands needed Hayden's mentoring to focus and evolve his gymnastics career into the dominance he currently displays on rings, floor and the high bar, Sands has been a reliable friend and teammate throughout Hayden's injury prone career, one of the many teammates that has helped Hayden.
"Chris helped me with my injuries, but also the team," Hayden said. "Maybe after my shoulder surgery if I wasn't training for the team and the team's benefit I would have stopped gymnastics, but seeing these guys have a goal and I have a similar goal that I would train just as hard and harder to get back to where I need to be. So, they all helped me."
"He was really a big influence on the progression of my gymnastics that summer  and he helped me through some injuries as well and now it's kind of coming full circle," Sands added.
Both gymnasts are grateful for their opportunity to not only be teammates, but also help each other process and confront the challenges that lay ahead of them as student-athletes in one of the toughest sports, physically and mentally.
"Quest likes to psychoanalyze a lot, I mean he is a psychology major, so that's most of his rehabilitation in a sense," Sands said. "His body is going to heal on its own, but it's helping him through the mental aspect of that helping him stay like up beat with him."
"Me and him [Sands] can always have deep talks with each other," Hayden said. "I'm a pretty silly guy, but deep down I think deep and he understands that."
The two gymnast's roads will diverge as Hayden graduates this spring and Sands returns for his senior season. Even after devastating injuries, Sands believes Hayden's inspirational connection with gymnastics will be a consistent influence in his future beyond the walls of Rec Hall.
"I really hope he [Hayden] finds like his true calling," Sands said. "Gymnastics is one of those things that he is just in love with so he's obviously going to try and continue that...I don't see him leaving the sport anytime soon."
Although Hayden will not suit up alongside Sands next season, Hayden still has high hopes and expectations for the evolving gymnast and the entire Nittany Lion squad.
"For him [Sands] the sky is the limit," Hayden said. "He is a very good gymnast, very talented, very strong...If he works on his technique and form, whatever goals he sets he can reach next year."
After years of learning from one another, pushing each other through challenges and creating a thoughtful support system, the two athletes have created a bond through and beyond the sport that brought them both to Woodward four years ago.
"He's helped me all along the way so I mean I can't thank him enough," Sands said.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football hosted its annual Pro Day today, welcoming NFL Scouts and a total of 21 Nittany Lions for drills, testing and workouts. The morning started in the Lasch building weight room before moving over to Holuba Hall for the rest of the afternoon.
We caught up with a few Nittany Lions who returned to campus to check in on their Pro Day performance as well as look back at their trip to Indianapolis, Indiana for the NFL Combine.
Steve Smith Sr. called Penn State All-American running back Saquon Barkley a "create-a-player" on Madden following his NFL Combine performance. Although Barkley did not participate in the full set of testing, drills or workouts today, being back in Happy Valley was still a highlight, especially as media members packed the inside of Holuba Hall.
"To be able to see Pro Day and how much bigger it got since my freshman year, you truly, truly have to give credit to coach Franklin and those guys on the field," Barkley said.
While it's bittersweet for the Nittany Lion to be back at Penn State but no longer suiting up in the Blue and White, there's still plenty look forward to.
"It's been fun. I have a lot of things that came my way, I was able to announce that I signed with Nike, which was a dream of mine. I was able to do a little video shoot with Nike also," Barkley said. "It's everything I've dreamed of and I'm just blessed I've had to opportunity to be in the position I am today.
Tight end Mike Gesicki placed first in his position with four different NFL Combine performances, capping a successful showing in Indianapolis.
"The combine is obviously something I've been dreaming about ever since I was little kid, I've been watching it on TV," Gesicki said.
Safety Troy Apke turned all kinds of heads at the NFL Combine running a 4.34 40-yard dash before registering a 41-inch vertical jump.
Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton did not bench or run the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, instead opting to train specifically for the 40 at Pro Day. This afternoon Hamilton clocked in at an official 4.52 in the 40-yard dash, a time he was pleased with.
"I feel like I did pretty good, I obviously got my adrenaline running for both of those events that I did today so really just let all my training take over and just rely on all the things I've been working for the past two and a half months and getting out here and able to perform those two events and do well at them I felt pretty good," Hamilton said.
Linebacker Jason Cabinda was also limited at the NFL Combine, noting that it was all the more crucial for him to be able to come out with a strong Pro Day performance.
"I think the broad jump really shows how explosive you can be and stuff and obviously not being able to run the 40 today, I knew I needed to really put up numbers in the broad jump so jumping 10-9, I felt good about that, I PR'd, so that was really good," Cabinda said.
For a majority of the Nittany Lions with the NFL Combine and Pro Day now checked off, it's all about waiting until the NFL Draft. In the meantime, most will spend time working out, awaiting any calls from teams for private workouts and prepping for the next step.
Perhaps one of the most pressing questions of the day though all came down to who has better hands, Barkley or Gesicki. We'll let the two of them break it down.
We also caught up with Barkley's agent, Kim Miale, of Roc Nation Sports for a closer look at what it's been like working with the Nittany Lion and the most unique request she's received so far.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just a few hours separate Penn State men's basketball from a its NIT quarterfinals tipoff on the road at Marquette. The Nittany Lions and the Golden Eagles get underway at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
Prior to tipoff though, check out three key storylines ahead of Penn State's first appearance in the NIT quarterfinals since taking home the title in 2009. The Nittany Lions have never lost an NIT quarterfinal outing at 5-0 all-time, having last met Marquette in the semifinals of the 1995 NIT.
GAMEDAY! CLIMBIN!— Penn State Men's Basketball (@PennStateMBB) March 20, 2018
🏀: Penn State 🦁 vs. Marquette 🦅
🕐: 7:00 p.m. ET
📍: Al McGuire Center, Milwaukee, Wis.
📺: @espn & WatchESPN
📻: https://t.co/ktFpa6DcxT or https://t.co/38TZzhCub7#ClimbWithUs 🔵🏀⚪ #NIT pic.twitter.com/fq1uQtc0Ua
Defending the Three
Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers noted Monday that key to his early prep in watching Marquette on film came in their performance from the 3-point line.
"It's amazing now seeing Howard and these guys, how they get shots up and they make three's at an alarming rate," Chambers said. You really have to be able to guard them, they're really good basketball players.
For the Golden Eagles, that strength from behind the arc comes from one of the most dangerous 3-point duos in the nation. Through March 18, Marquette's Markus Howard (109) and Andrew Rowsey (119) have combined for 228 3-pointers, good for the most in NCAA Division I.
Howard highlighted the season with a career-high 52 point outing in Marquette's win against Providence in early January. The sophomore guard finished 17-of-29 from the field and 11-for-19 from 3-point. His 11 triples set a Marquette record and a BIG EAST all-time mark.
Dominating on the boards is also another area Chambers mentioned this week.
"You have to do a really good job of defending the three but also limiting them to one chance," Chambers said. "Rebounding is going to be big, Temple got us pretty good."
On the year, the Nittany Lions have out-rebounded their opponents in 21 games, with a 17-4 record in games where Penn State has won the advantage on the glass.
With Penn State's Mike Watkins out with an injury, Chambers is pleased with what he has seen from freshman John Harrar. Combined with veteran Julian Moore, Chambers noted the two are combining for eight boards per game, which fills in well for the loss of the usual double-double from Watkins.
Harrar has started each of the last five games including both NIT outings against Temple and Notre Dame. He scored a career-high six points and added a personal-best four points to help the Nittany Lions against the Fighting Irish.
Long Term Benefits
While Chambers hasn't started any of the big picture, looking back-type of conversation at this point, there's certainly no doubting Penn State has a tremendous amount to gain in terms of valuable experience for its young squad.
"The fact that we're getting critical minutes for certain guys," Chambers said. "They get to play in game-like situations. At Notre Dame, wearing the green uni's, there's nothing better than that. You take these experiences and it's only going to help us for next year. As a staff it's only going to help us prepare, what we liked, what we didn't like and how we're going to move forward in the future."
By: Briana Zuccarelli, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa- After a weekend away game at Rutgers University, the Nittany Lions had to prepare quickly to play the No. 16 Princeton Tigers on Monday, March 19th. Although the team suffered a 13-12 loss, the players and coaches saw improvements on the defensive side of the field.
"I think there has been a lot of growth from the start of this season," said captain Kayla Brisolari. "Our defense has really grown and I know there were 13 goals today, but I think they had some really good stops down the stretch. I think as the season progressed, our defense has done a really good job of coming together, since we were fairly new."
Brisolari and Katie O'Donnell each caused a game-high of three turnovers, while freshman Lucy Lowe made eight saves in goal for the Nittany Lions. Lowe is now 4-4 on the season, but has impressed not only head coach Missy Doherty, but her teammates as well.
"I think that she is a more reserved player off the field, but when she gets on the field she's very vocal, she's a big presence, and she's had to make some huge saves," said Brisolari. "I've been beyond impressed with her play and I think she is playing way above her freshman level right now."
"It's what you're going to get when you're playing the top teams," said Doherty. "Everyone gets a little bit faster and stronger. They ended up marking Maria Auth and Madison Carter pretty closely and they did a good job, but our other players need to step up and score some goals for us."
The Nittany Lion team only had one day to rest their bodies before they played the Tigers, while Princeton had nine days off to focus on bettering their bodies. The Nittany Lions will have a quick turnaround again when they face Johns Hopkins on Thursday, March 22nd, their second matchup this week.
"It was certainly a tough game coming into this game, when playing a game just this past Saturday," Doherty explained. "We have to get our legs under us for Thursday. It's really important for a Big Ten game. Hopkins is very similar to Princeton: very scrappy and hardworking. We need to regroup and be ready to give our best on Thursday."
Johns Hopkins will visit Happy Valley at 7-3 overall and is coming off a 15-5 loss against the Maryland Terrapins. Both teams will be looking for a win to add to their conference play record and to make up for their recent losses.
"We just need to do a better job at finishing the stretch," said Brisolari. "We need to continue pulling on the winning momentum the whole game, instead of letting it slip through our fingers. If we capitalize on our shots and capitalize on our transitions more in our game against Johns Hopkins, we will come out with a win."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off a productive winter conditioning period, Penn State football is ready to put the pads on again. The Nittany Lions return to the field Monday to officially kick off the spring season.
As he does every year, Penn State head coach James Franklin met with member of the media to preview the 14-practice spring session, which culminates in the annual Blue-White game at Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions will host Blue-White weekend Saturday, April 21 with action beginning at 3 p.m.
Check out a few storylines from this afternoon's session with Franklin.
Among a few critical areas of spring ball development, Franklin noted that a top priority is developing a two deep at middle linebacker as well as a two-and-a-half to three deep at defensive tackle. With obvious departures in Jason Cabinda, Parker Cothren and Curtis Cothran.
"I think [Robert] Windsor and Kevin [Givens] we're excited about what they were able to bring to the table," Franklin said. "Really kind of the guys after them, it's excitement based on potential. But they haven't played enough. You know, when you graduate three D-tackles and you had two D-tackles coming back, you're typically only going to play about five, maybe six guys at that position in the game."
While it's still too early to make any final determinations, based on potential Franklin noted he was pleased with Nittany Lions like Antonio Shelton, Ellison Jordan, Fred Hansard and Damion Barber.
"Still too early for me to say at this point," Franklin said. "Promising excitement based on potential but I haven't really seen enough to know."
On the special teams side of things, Penn State will have a major gap to fill when it comes to replacing the consistency of kicker Tyler Davis. Franklin made specific note of walk on kicker Carson Landis in terms of the opportunity he has this spring.
"He's going to get a bunch of reps in this camp," Franklin said. "He's got a strong leg. I think the biggest thing for a high school player trying to transition into the Big Ten and football at this level is the consistency aspect. He shows flashes of being really good."
Franklin highlighted Penn State's positional changes, but when asked about sophomore Lamont Wade's move from cornerback to safety, it mostly came down to filling needs at safety, with the cornerback position shaping out to be both deep and experienced headed into 2018.
"We feel really good about the depth we have and are creating at the corner position," Franklin said. "We have a little bit more question marks at safety, and Lamont is a football player and although he's not the longest guy in terms of height, he's put together. He'll hit you and we just felt like it probably played to a little bit more of his strengths."
It goes without saying that finding a way to replace the production of Saquon Barkley is certainly something the Nittany Lions will have to address this spring. For Franklin, it's obvious that replacing his production won't be falling on one individual.
"We need to replace Saquon Barkley with the running backs that we have," Franklin said. "And when I talk about "replacing Saquon," I talk about his production, but replace it with the group of running backs that we have -but also with the growth of the offensive line and the development of our tight ends, and still be a team that's difficult to stop because of the firepower that we have at wide receiver and the mobility we have at the quarterback position."
First things first though, Franklin noted that the running backs are going to surprise some people in terms of what they're able to do.
Speaking of the
For Franklin, there's the clear benefit of a potent running back group, but there's also the benefit of the offensive line reaching perhaps its best point to date. With Penn State seeing a scholarship two deep, he noted the offensive line has grown bigger, stronger and more experienced with increasing depth.
Among the Nittany Lions he's pleased with, Franklin noted Alex Gellerstedt has gone from someone who came in with about a year of experience at offensive line and has only taken positive steps.
"He's big. He's strong," Franklin said. "Even just getting into stance now, he never looked comfortable his whole freshman year in his stance and now he's comfortable and he's athletic."
That bodes well for the Nittany Lions, who return a majority of starters along the offensive line including Connor McGovern at center.
By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State swept Saint Francis (25-20, 25-22, 25-19) Sunday afternoon to put an end to its five-match losing streak. In arguably the cleanest match of the year so far, the Nittany Lions committed just seven attacking errors and hit .370 for the match.
"We're playing the game well and we're putting ourselves in position to be in spots where we can win games," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "I'll take four percent hitting errors like that."
Penn State turned in an exceptionally balanced effort offensively Sunday with five Nittany Lions chipping in at least seven kills. Aidan Albrecht and Calvin Mende led the way with 11 and 10 kills, respectively while Matt McLaren, Jason Donorovich and Kevin Gear combined for 22 kills and zero hitting errors.
Setter Luke Braswell spoke about just how much easier his job becomes when the offensive effort is balanced .
"It makes it easy on me and a lot harder on the other blockers because when a team's blockers are trying to guess where the set is going, they have no idea when everyone is hitting as well as they are right now," Braswell said.
Donorovich has seen an increased role over the last few games for the Nittany Lions in place of former starting middle, Jalen Penrose, playing very well.
"[Donorovich] works real hard in transition," Pavlik said. "He makes himself available to [Braswell] and when that happens the imposing middle has to respect where [Donorovich] is and where [Braswell] is at. There is a flow to our offense that he brings, and he is right at the cusp of becoming a very consistent offensive player."
Donorovich's teammates also offered similar praise for the redshirt sophomore middle blocker.
"He is a really good blocker, especially in two-pass," Albrecht said. "It makes our defense a lot easier to play around. It also helps me out blocking too because he covers a lot of ground."
It has been a difficult stretch for the Nittany Lions over the past few weeks, as they have now played seven matches in the last 17 days.
Despite the possible fatigue from playing that much volleyball in a relatively condensed frame, Penn State still managed to play one of its most efficient matches of the year.
"It's all about determination," McLaren said. "It's hard to play fatigued, but you've just got to keep talking to yourself and telling yourself you're okay and keep working hard."
Another big key to the Nittany Lion success Sunday was their productivity in transition.
"We did a good job of staying engaged the entire way," Braswell said. "We worked hard in transition and tried to get good swings...if we stick to what we know - good approaches, good sets and hard swings - that's when we become pretty lethal in transition.
Penn State improved to 11-8 (6-2 EIVA) on the season and currently sits at second place in the conference standings behind George Mason. The Nittany Lions will have two critical EIVA matches next weekend on the road at Sacred Heart and Harvard.
By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After missing the 2017 season due to injury and a slow start in 2018, redshirt freshman Dante Biasi proved exactly why he was worth the wait in Sunday's 8-6 loss to NJIT.
The Nittany Lions have been waiting to work Biasi into the starting rotation since he joined his older brother, Sal, on the Penn State pitching staff in 2017. The younger Biasi was forced to watch from the dugout throughout what would have been his freshman season after undergoing surgery. Now, he is getting his first action at the collegiate level.
"My arm feels great [now], so there's nothing really wrong there," Biasi said. "It's just getting experience. This is my first time facing college-level hitters, so I'm pretty happy with where I'm at right now, but there's still a lot to work on and get better by the end of the season."
It's tough for Nittany Lion fans to not have high hopes for the young starter because of the success his older brother had in his three years at Penn State. Sal posted a career 3.41 ERA while recording an impressive 185 strikeouts in 174 innings pitched.
Not only are expectations high because of his brother's legacy, but the younger Biasi proved his talents prior to college, getting drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 22nd round of the 2016 MLB Entry Draft. Despite having the option to become a professional player straight out of high school, Biasi decided to follow his brother and play at Penn State, but had to take his first year off for his surgery.
Biasi finally took the mound for the first time in the third game of the 2018 season. In his collegiate debut at Elon, the left-hander carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning giving Penn State fans a taste of what could be to come. Biasi then struggled through his second outing lasting just 1/3 of an inning against St. John's before going 3 2/3 innings against UC Santa Barbara in his third start. Because the lefty is fresh off of surgery, the Penn State coaching staff has had to be careful with Biasi's pitch count.
"What we do with him, just like we do with everybody else, is we kind of monitor what his velocity is at, how his stuff is," Penn State head coach Rob Cooper said. "You know if all of the sudden he really drops off, that's good sign that he's kind of hit the wall physically."
He may have had to come out early in the first few starts of the season, but Sunday, Biasi was in a groove. The lefty was dominate on the mound, pitching six scoreless innings of one-hit baseball.
"It felt good [to get that deep into the game]," Biasi said. "Me, [junior catcher Ryan] Sloni[ger] and [pitching] Coach [Josh] Newman worked all week on just developing my secondary stuff. I was able to throw that for strikes, so kind of made it easier on myself. We just got after it and competed out there."
On top of logging his first quality start of the season, Biasi recorded seven strikeouts, allowing just one walk on the afternoon.
"Couple of my starts before, I couldn't really throw my off-speed for strikes," Biasi said. "Today we went with a lot of curveballs early for strikes and I was just getting ahead with that and pitching off that. So, I really think Coach Newman and Sloni[ger] did a great job calling the game and we just kept going with what was working."
"I think the biggest thing for him today was his fastball command. He was ahead of everybody," Sloniger said. "All his secondary stuff was good, but he was able to locate and he was ahead of guys. It makes it a lot easier to pitch like that."
The Nittany Lions are not looking to rush Biasi into the season, however, once the lefty is at full strength, there's certainly evidence he could spend much more time on the mound.
"Let me make sure you guys understand why he's had three starts," Cooper said. "This kid was rehabbing at this time last year. I want you to understand how hard this kid is working. The fact that he was able to go six innings today and, based on where he was last year at this time, he is well ahead of schedule."
By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off a split vs. Kent State during the first two games of the series on Saturday, Penn State won Sunday afternoon after scoring seven runs in the final three innings and completing an improbable comeback. The Nittany Lions used a four-run bottom of the 7th to force extra innings before hitting a walk-off in the 9th.
"I'm really proud of my kids fight today, they never gave up," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "I know it wasn't pretty in some areas of the game, but they continued to fight. It was good to see our offense rise to the occasion. We do fight, and we play hard, so it's good to see something go our way."
Here are some takeaways from the rubber match between the Nittany Lions and Golden Flashes.
Penn State's offense thrived in crunch time on Sunday. With two runners on and nobody out in the bottom of the 7th inning, junior outfielder Toni Polk hit a 3-run homerun to cut the Kent State lead to 8-7. Polk finished the contest with a team-high three hits and four RBIs.
"When Toni came up with the big homerun in that situation, it was awesome," Lehotak said. "That's kind of been what we've been waiting for all year. We've seen the clutch hitting in practice, but we finally got to see them relax and come through (in a game)."
"My favorite part of it is that we had clutch hitting all night," Lehotak added. "We had a huge pinch hit at bat by Haley Vallejos. For her to come in and do that is great."
After both teams scored two runs in the 8th inning, Penn State once again got a clutch hit, this time by junior outfielder Tori Dubois. With freshman Dani Fey on second base after a leadoff double, Dubois lined a single to the outfield, scoring Fey and giving Penn State a well-deserved victory.
"We knew as soon as we went down that we had the fight to come back," Dubois said. "We've been down a lot this year, so we knew what we had to do to get back."
Dubois added: "I think it's been a big weekend for us. We were home for the first time and everyone was hitting very well today. Everyone was producing, and we just went out there and had a good time."
Patience at the Plate
After drawing a combined nine walks over the first two games of the series, Penn State once again showed its tremendous patience at the plate. The Nittany Lions drew nine more walks to go along with only one strikeout Sunday at the dish.
"I think we're getting disciplined. We made some changes this week at practice and I think it worked," Lehotak said. "I think it was the most relaxed I've seen our offense. I felt like they settled in, while the first few weeks I feel like we were pressing. When you press you're not going to see the ball well and you're going to have high strikeouts. This was the first weekend I felt like they breathed and were more themselves."
Although the team's offense got all the credit in the 11-10 victory, the Blue and White's fielding was also terrific. The team had no errors and came up with numerous big plays in the field, especially first basemen Delaney Elling.
"Delaney definitely provides a lot of energy from first base," Dubois said.
of the Day- Tori Dubois
On top of her game-winning RBI single in the 9th, Dubois also added a double and a run scored to help set the table for Penn State's offense from the No. 2 spot in the batting order.
"All my teammates had been doing it all day, just punching home runners on base," Dubois said. "It was just kind of another at-bat and I knew that if I didn't get the job done the person behind me would."
Penn State will host Hofstra University at Beard Field for a two-game series this Wednesday. The double-header will kick-off at 5 p.m Wednesday evening.
CLEVELAND - In front of a hometown crowd in this afternoon's earlier session, things were going just about as well as they possibly could for Ohio State. Then came Penn State. Just as fearless as their leader, the Nittany Lions were unafraid, loose, relaxed and ready to seize a prime opportunity.
With the uncertainty of the team race palpable in the Quicken Loans Arena air, it was Penn State junior Bo Nickal who brought a hush across the largest NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships crowd in history. It lasted only a few blinks though, as the Nittany Lion sent the record-setting crowd into pure pandemonium at the bat of an eyelid.
"I was nervous for a second, but he'd already adjusted so that's Bo Nickal for 'ya," Penn State head assistant coach Casey Cunningham said.
It was less than a half hour prior that he and Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson were matside as Nickal flew through the puffs of green tinted smoke and pyrotechnics to meet Ohio State's Myles Martin for the ninth time. A second consecutive NCAA Championship was obviously on the line, but so was something else - the team title.
"I think the thing about the pressure is, you can let it be positive or negative and the thing is, I want the pressure because if there's anybody going out there with the team title on the line, I would just pick myself," Nickal said.
That's just the type of confidence that Sanderson and his staff have so seemingly perfected.
"I think our job as a staff is to believe in these guys and try to help them really to believe in themselves," Sanderson said. "An I'm not - as a coach, I'm not afraid to lose. That's what we talk to our team about, it's a very important aspect."
As Martin reached in to throw Nickal, the three-time All-American knew just what to do, rolling through before locking up the fall at the 2:29 mark.
"I've done that move a lot, ever since I was probably about 12 or 13 so just, knowing that position so well, I knew kind of what was going to happen before it did and once I got him over on his back I knew it was going to happen and it did," Nickal said. "Once that happened, I was pretty excited and just kind of freaked out."
So did the Q.
Seconds after the sound of the referee slapping the mat, Nickal lifted Cunningham before jumping into the outstretched arms of Sanderson. Meanwhile, his teammates came streaming from the green tunnel led by fellow NCAA national finalist Mark Hall to greet him - the very Nittany Lion Penn State needed to perform with the team title on the line.
"Having these guys around me who support me and love me and want me to be the best, that gives me that confidence to go out there and know that I'm going to go out there and compete to the best of my ability and I just did it for my team," Nickal said clutching his 2018 NCAA Championships Most Outstanding Wrestler trophy with his championship hat on.
Just like that Penn State punctuated an NCAA national finals performance awfully similar to the one it put on exactly 365 days prior.
Penn State is nine for 10 across the last two years with five finalists in back-to-back concluding sessions.
Top-seeded Zain Retherford opened up the finals for the Nittany Lions with a 6-2 win against Lock Haven's No. 15 seed Ronnie Perry.
The only thing different for Retherford though, is that Saturday's finals marked his last in Penn State singlet. Becoming just the second three-time NCAA Champion in program history, the nerves were just the same as they were the other two times.
So Retherford went for a walk, taking time outside in the brisk but sunny streets of Cleveland to clear his mind by the sights of Lake Erie.
"I was feeling nervous all day so it's a good thing," Retherford said. "The first time I won a national championship was in New York City and I the night before I got maybe an hour or two of sleep, just excited about it. That was kind of what I felt today so I knew I was in a good place. Coach Cael just grabbed me aside before this just said be patient and you don't need to rush and score points, just take them as they come and keep getting your leads so that's kind of where my head was at emotionally."
Coming off a knee injury that saw third-seeded Jason Nolf sidelined for the end of the season, he powered his way back to the finals, knocking off NC State's top-seeded Hayden Hidlay.
Turning aside an early shot from the previously undefeated redshirt freshman, Nolf responded with a takedown for a 2-0 lead and didn't look back.
"Right away he had me in a double leg and I got pretty nervous," Nolf said. "I don't know why he didn't finish it because I thought that I was about to get taken down but I fought out of it somehow, I got my back to center and I got to a couple leg attacks and just kept scoring from there."
Then came No. 3 seed Vincenzo Joseph in a highly anticipated matchup against Illinois' top-seeded Isaiah Martinez.
Joseph struck first, registering a takedown late in the first period before adding two back points for a 4-0 lead that he wouldn't relinquish.
"We kept both digging under hooks, stuff like that, kind of typical for how our matches go and I just felt it so I went for it," Joseph said.
Anticipating an aggressive match just like those in the past, this time, Joseph went in with something different.
"I think we were both more offensive this match," Joseph said. "I tend to kind of hang out a lot and stuff whenever I wrestle but this match I made sure that I wanted to go out there with purpose, try to score points offensively and I felt pretty good."
Joseph brought the crowd to its feet with a yet another NCAA upset victory against Martinez for his second consecutive NCAA crown.
Perhaps different from last year's run though, was Hall, who came up short in a tough battle against Arizona State's top-seeded Zahid Valencia.
It's a loss like that, where it's Hall's coaches and teammates who are all feeling for the sophomore even amid the excitement of a seventh NCAA Championship team title in the last eight years.
"I'm incredibly proud of Mark Hall," Sanderson said. "I think he wrestled a fantastic tournament, just had a tough match there in the finals against a very, very good wrestler. But Mark was on fire with a lot of bonus points and I'm bummed for him. It hurts."
Even with the sting of loss in the finals, there's no doubting that Penn State has achieved something truly unique.
"Penn State wrestling is on another level," Nickal said. "It's different. The program we have at Penn State, you don't really want to compare it because there's no comparison to any other program in the country. Any team that I've had in the past, this is easily the best team I've had and I'm just so grateful to be a part of it. It's unlike any other."
By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Before they donned the Blue and White as competitive gymnasts, they were young athletes discovering the incredible feeling of learning skills, sticking landings and honing a specialty in gymnastics. On Saturday, the same athletes, who once dreamt of competing amongst for the Blue and White, closed the door on their dedicated Penn State gymnastics careers in Rec Hall.
"It really hit me all at once that this was my last meet in Rec Hall and I've been competing in Rec Hall since I've been about 12-years-old," senior Colin Coates said. "It's always just been amazing here and I really just wanted to soak it all in."
Although the overall results did not favor the Penn State men's gymnastics team over the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Nittany Lions were able to honor their hard-working and dedicated seniors who evolved from those young boys to distinguished men and athletes ending another chapter of their gymnastics journey.
"I just told them to go out and fun," head coach Randy Jepson said when asked about how he encouraged the senior's last meet in Rec Hall.
On Saturday, Penn State honored Benjamin Cooperman, Joshua Smith, Quest Hayden, Greg Tamargo and Coates with a ceremony and tribute video that recognized their development from young gymnasts into established gymnasts and role models.
"It was definitely an emotional day for me," Coates said.
The rest of the Nittany Lions worked hard to make the day special for the graduating seniors, including junior standout Chris Sands.
"He had an outstanding day a week ago in Arizona and led our team," Jepson said. "He came back into the same thing today with terrific landings. He stuck three landings on his three events."
"I felt pretty good," Sands said. "I mean at this point in the season this is our fourth meet in a row so it's pretty much like clock work now."
Sands highest score of the day was on the still rings when he landed a solid 14.150. Sands credits senior Hayden for a lot of his experiences and opportunities as a student-athlete at Penn State.
"Well I drew a lot of inspiration from Quest Hayden when I came here," Sands said. "He and I have been friends for years so I drew a lot on him when he was healthy and competing...He's done a lot for me. He helped me actually like get interested in Penn State. He's helped me all along the way so I mean I can't thank him enough."
Sophomore Sam Zakutney also showed up for the Nittany Lions and his graduating seniors when he notched the Nittany Lions highest score of the day with a 14.600 result on the parallel bars.
All five of the athletes left a legacy on their teammates and ended this season together in the gym that gave them another opportunity to continue to be those young athletes so many years ago just discovering the thrill of floor routines and the strength of conquering the pommel horse.
"Getting to see Penn State gymnastics when I was younger I always strived to be on the team," Coates said. "I think being here has really built me to be a better person whether that be in competition, be a better teammate, be better in school and I am really thankful for that."
As the Penn State Nittany Lions say goodbye to Rec Hall for the 2018 campaign, they will take their efforts to Ann Arbor, Michigan next weekend to close out the regular season against the Wolverines before Big Ten and NCAA Championships.
"We have our most important meets at the end of the year," Coates said. "We have Big Tens and NCAAs and I think the team is really gonna peak then and I think we can surprise everyone."
By Brian McLaughlin, Student Staff Writer GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State returned to Beard Field for the first time in 2018, battling its way to a split in a doubleheader with the Kent State Golden Flashes. The Nittany Lions fell in game one 6-5, falling just short on the comeback. The home team then took game two by the same score 6-5, holding on late fighting off a late Kent State rally.
"I love this team, I can't say that enough and you could see late they had the look on their faces like we're going to win," head coach Amada Lehotak said. We are still not relaxed in those moments I think because they get so excited. I think that's just youth and experience in those situations. They played a great second game and Jess (Cummings) did a great job and Shaffer pitched well all game."
Here are some takeaways from the home opening day of games.
Home Sweet Home
The return home could not have come sooner for the Nittany Lions who started the season with 18 games on the road. The team played relaxed and felt comfortable in front of their home fans.
"It's great to be back at Beard Field, you have no idea what it's like to be gone for so many games then come back home. We would like to thank our fans in what turned out to be a pretty nice day weather wise," Lehotak said. "I thought the kids played hard and I hope everyone got to see what we've been talking about away from home. We play hard, we fight, and we don't give up."
There was a definite energy for the Nittany Lions at home on Saturday, something the players fed off of.
"I love playing at home, there is nothing better than playing at home with our fans our friends and our family. The energy here is just so much better than anywhere else," first baseman Delaney Elling added.
Patience is Key
The Nittany Lions worked deep counts in both games against Kent State, walking a total of nine times between the two games.
a whole our plan was to compete at the plate. When you compete you see more
pitches alternately you see the ball better and that results in better hits,"
Getting the Big Hit
Penn State's offense all season has struggled driving in runs, with the most runs scored in a game at six coming in. The team finally had some balls bounce its way with runners on base between the two games.
"Last week against Iowa State we had two line drives right at people that would've tied the game or at least scored a run so in that situation we got the ball passed people today and found some holes," Lehotak said. "Sometimes you just can't get the big hit. Game one we couldn't get it, in game two we did. Just like always I loved our attitude and we didn't quit."
On Saturday Elling delivered the first big hit in game two, driving a two-run home run over the left field wall for her first long-ball of the year. Destiny Weber and Dani Fey also delivered RBI doubles in the big fourth inning for Lions.
Elling's home run was just the beginning for her in game two. She also hit an RBI single driving home Tori Dubois for an insurance run that proved to be the difference late in the game in the fifth inning.
"It was great to have my first home run here at Beard Field, I didn't really have that experience last year," she said. "I feel like I needed that and offensively we needed that as a team."
Penn State returns to action on Sunday for the series finale against Kent State.
CLEVELAND - Penn State saw both of its first time NCAA Championship Nittany Lions place Saturday afternoon, as No. 8 seed Nick Lee and No. 5 seed Shakur Rasheed both added to All-America honors with fifth and seventh place medals, respectively.
Penn State also closed out session five with a seventh-place finish from third-seeded Nick Nevills, adding on more crucial team points via the All-American.
Headed into tonight's NCAA Championship finals, the Nittany Lions have five competing for individual titles, with Penn State trailing Ohio State by just six points in the team standings.
NCAA Championships Team Standings after Session V (Finals Participants)
1. - Ohio State - 130.5 (2)
2. - Penn State - 124.5 (5)
3. - Iowa - 93 (1)
4. - Michigan - 80 (2)
5. - NC State - 76 (2)
For both Lee and Rasheed though, there's plenty to be pleased with in their first experience at the NCAA Championships, both taking different paths to their podium positions.
As a high school senior, Lee was at last year's NCAA Championships in St. Louis, watching as his future teammates celebrated their sixth NCAA title in the last seven years.
"I was just thinking that I can't wait to be on the team," Lee said. "I've been thinking about that a long time. It's a great group of guys and I wouldn't give it up for anything."
Joining the lineup at 141 pounds, he made his Penn State dual debut against Michigan, Lee entered his first NCAA Championships with a 26-5 record as a true freshman, having posted a 4-1 mark in his first Big Ten Championships.
Met with adversity in his first NCAA Championships event, it wasn't exactly the start the Nittany Lion had in mind.
"That was a position he was good in and he got me in it and I got pinned there," Lee said when asked about his first round pin. "Not really something to dwell on, we'll look at that position, make sure I'm better there in the future. Just got to come back, keep wrestling and do the same thing over and over again."
Like his NCAA Championships roommate Zain Retherford says though, you have to have a short memory in a tournament like this. Instead of bowing out, Lee opted to buck up.
"My team was with me the whole time," Lee said. "It was great, a lot of fun. The most I could ask for is more matches."
That would be six more matches for Lee before he bounced back from a loss to Missouri's No. 2 seed Jaydin Eierman with a thrilling 9-7 sudden victory win against NC State's fifth-seeded Kevin Jack to secure the fifth place finish.
All smiles after finishing above his assigned No. 8 seed, it's not the seed that really matters.
"The seeds don't really mean that much to me anyways because you're going to wrestle all of them anyway," Lee said. "It was amazing for me. It's the most fun I've had I think in my whole life."
Summing up the most fun he has ever had in his life though, can't be done in just a word.
"I think just because I love it," Lee said. "This
is what I live for, this is what I wrestle for, this is what I came to Penn
State for, to wrestle matches. After my first loss, it's just an opportunity
for me to wrestle more and I couldn't ask for anything else."
For Rasheed, his first loss came in a bitter finish to the third period, as he fell to NC State's fourth-seeded Michael Macchiavello in the quarterfinals.
"After I lost a tough one in the quarterfinals, I was pretty beat up, I was pretty tough on myself," Rasheed said. "I was really mad about just a last second thing. I had that match and the kid's tough but I realized that I'm grateful to have a team like Penn State, that even though I lost and my goal of being a national champion in 2018 isn't going to be true, we can still win this thing as a team."
Making the most of his final match, Rasheed came out on a roll, recording a pair of early takedowns against Missouri's sixth-ranked Willie Miklus before finishing off a pivotal 11-3 major decision with 2:56 in riding time.
"I knew scoring bonus was crucial so I was kind of like let's go out there and get bonus and that's what I did," Rasheed said. "I said I'm going to capitalize on my best position and that's top. Once I got on top, I was making sure I was working on turns and getting right through it."
Even though his expectations were higher coming in, having the opportunity to score points for his teammates is something he'll take moving forward.
"I got the opportunity to score points for our team and when we win this team title, I could finally say I was a part of that. I could really say that I scored points for this team," Rasheed said.
Up Next in Session VI
149: #1 seed Zain Retherford, Sr. - Finals
vs. #15 Ronnie Perry, Lock Haven
#3 seed Jason Nolf, Jr. - Finals
vs. #1 Hayden Hidlay, North Carolina State
#3 seed Vincenzo Joseph, So. - Finals
vs. #1 Isaiah Martinez, Illinois
#2 seed Mark Hall, So. - S Finals
vs. #1 Zahid Valencia, Arizona State
#1 seed Bo Nickal, Jr. - Finals
vs. #2 Myles Martin, Ohio State
CLEVELAND - There's Penn State wrestling and bonus points and then there's Penn State wrestling and poise under pressure.
Questions about the team race were often among the first asked to each advancing Nittany Lion, as media members peppered in small corner huddles in the underbelly of the Q. With only the slightest of variation, Penn State answered those questions the same way each time.
"I think when you start thinking about the score too much or things that are outside of your control, you start competing worse," top-seeded Zain Retherford said. "We're just focused on what we can do for the team. Each guy, the best that they can do for the team at the moment is what they can do out on the mat for seven minutes. So that's what we're focused on, not really what's going on around us."
It's that exact mindset that sent the Nittany Lions rolling past Ohio State in the team standings, shrinking a 13.5 point deficit ahead of Friday night's semifinals that saw Penn State emerge with an 11-point lead at the end of session four.
NCAA Championships Team
Standings after Session IV (Finals Participants)
1. - Penn State - 120.5 (5)
2. - Ohio State - 109.5 (2)
3. - Iowa - 86.5 (1)
4. - Michigan - 73.5 (2)
5. - NC State - 68.5 (2)
All five semifinalists did just what they needed to do, earning their spots in Saturday's NCAA national finals in what could be a repeat of last year's thrilling finale.
Meeting fourth-seeded Troy Heilmann from North Carolina, Retherford took just a moment pre-match to soak it all in before recording a 10-4 win to advance to the finals.
"I think before that match I was kind of pacing out there in the center," Retherford said. "I was just thinking, this is my second-to-last folk style match I'll ever get to wrestle in a Penn State singlet."
Third-seeded Jason Nolf then followed with a dominant 16-0 tech fall at the 4:28 mark against Ohio State's No. 7 seed Micah Jordan. Much like Nolf though, there's no reason exhale just yet.
"This is where we want to peak, it's the most important tournament of the year so just feeling good and ready to go," Nolf said. "It doesn't really feel like anything yet. You have to win in the finals."
After No. 3 seed Vincenzo Joseph knocked off Virginia Tech's No. 2 seed David McFadden, the Nittany Lion of course knew it meant another meeting with Illinois' top-seeded Isaiah Martinez in the finals.
"Whenever me and Isaiah wrestle, it's usually pretty exciting match, pretty offensive," Joseph said. "We're both looking forward to it. We know it's going to be a good one, and we're just ready to put on a show."
Penn State wasn't finished, closing out its semifinal showdown with a pair of exciting wins from No. 2 seed Mark Hall and top-seeded Bo Nickal.
Meeting Missouri's third-seeded Daniel Lewis, Hall found himself in an unfamiliar position he doesn't typically get into in the room, after Lewis went in on single leg.
"I'll be honest, I thought he was going to break my leg that first shot," Hall said. "He had a very tight hold on my ankle, and that's how you're supposed to do it. He did everything right. I'm not saying he's a dirty wrestler, he's not."
Throwing his leg over the top to relieve the pressure, Lewis missed, but Hall knew just what he had to do to close it out.
"It's funny before the match, coach Casey, we were talking and he was like, he's going to try and hit that single leg and put his leg over top." Hall said. "And I was like dang I can pin him from there, and it's just crazy that's how it happened, but it's something I had in the back of my head and I was ready to do."
Perhaps more unlikely than what Nittany Lion fans are used to seeing from Nickal, he defeated Michigan's No. 5 seed Domenic Abounader in a surgical 6-3 victory with 1:41 in riding time. Regardless of the final score, simply having his arm raised at the end of the match was of course, most important.
"I think that the second match I wrestled - I wouldn't say tentatively, because I was pretty aggressive, but just more methodical than I normally do," Nickal said. "I got a couple takedowns and was looking for my openings, and he kind of just stayed solid."
For Nickal, the methodical approach was good experience, but not something he anticipates happening again.
"Just to be able to control the tempo and stuff, but it's not really as fun or exciting for me so I don't think we'll be seeing too much of that anymore," Nickal said.
The Nittany Lions have eight All-Americans set for Saturday action with eighth-seeded Nick Lee opening the day in the consolation semis and No. 5 Shakur Rasheed and No. 3 Nick Nevills both wrestling for seventh.
Session five begins at 11 a.m. inside Quicken Loans Arena before the NCAA Championship finals kick off a 8 p.m. on ESPN.
Up Next in Session V
141: #8 seed Nick Lee,
Fr. - Consolation Semi.
vs. #2Jaydin Eierman, Missouri
149: #1 seed Zain
Retherford, Sr. - Finals
vs. #15 Ronnie Perry, Lock Haven
157: #3 seed Jason
Nolf, Jr. - Finals
vs. #1 Hayden Hidlay, North Carolina State
165: #3 seed Vincenzo
Joseph, So. - Finals
vs. #1 Isaiah Martinez, Illinois
174: #2 seed Mark
Hall, So. - S Finals
vs. #1 Zahid Valencia, Arizona State
184: #1 seed Bo
Nickal, Jr. - Finals
vs. #2 Myles Martin, Ohio State
197: #5 seed Shakur
Rasheed, Jr. - Seventh Place
vs. #Willie Miklus, Missouri
285: #3 seed Nick
Nevills, Jr. - Seventh Place
vs. #12 Youssif Hemida, Maryland
CLEVELAND - Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson noted last night that today's opening session would prove critical in the team standings. Headed into the evening, the Nittany Lions are still in the thick of the NCAA Championships team race, with five advancing to tonight's semifinal round.
Penn State will also have three additional Nittany Lions in consolations, with eight of an original nine qualifiers still in action headed into session four action, which begins at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
NCAA Championships Team
Standings after Session III (Semifinals Participants)
1. - Ohio State - 80.5 (6)
2. - Penn State - 67 (5)
3. - Michigan - 59.5 (5)
4. - Iowa - 53.5 (2)
5. - NC State - 43 (3)
Top-seeded Zain Retherford was the first Nittany Lion to earn a spot in the NCAA semifinals, powering past Oklahoma State's No. 8 seed Boo Lewallen. Picking up a quick take down, Retherford surged to a 20-2 tech fall at the 5-minute mark.
With two tech falls and a pin across two days, Retherford is only growing more comfortable with each passing session, now Penn State's 10th four-time All-American.
"The bow and arrow last night was the first time I hit it in a while and I hit it a few times that match so it's awesome finally getting some top offense going, definitely a confidence builder," Retherford said.
Third-seeded Jason Nolf followed Retherford into the semifinals for his third consecutive All-America honor, defeating Iowa's sixth-seeded Michael Kemerer in a 6-2 decision.
Among a tight race in the team standings, Retherford noted the mood was actually just the opposite of tense headed into the important day.
"I know coach Cael was keeping it pretty light this morning," Retherford said. "I know our coaches were trying to make us laugh a little bit so it's good, especially when you walk around here and you see a lot of faces that are staring at you, so it's good to smile at these tournaments. Even though we want to win, this is fun, this is the NCAA Championships."
Penn State's No. 3 seed Vincenzo Joseph also has reason to smile, defeating Nebraska's No. 11 seed Isaiah White in sudden victory. It was a matchup he didn't think would happen this year against an opponent he knows all too well.
"I wrestled him twice in high school actually and he beat me both times," Joseph said. "I was kind of really looking forward to that match. I didn't really think it was going to happen this year but it did and I'm grateful for that. It's not like a vendetta type of thing, I'm just trying to see where I've grown as a wrestler because in high school he whooped my butt at Fargo and then he beat me at Ironman, it was an overtime match but it wasn't really that close I was just backing up the whole time."
With the score tied at 1-1, both Joseph and White exchanged escapes in the tie-breaker. As quickly as the sudden victory period began, a Joseph takedown ended it, as he earns his second consecutive All-America honor.
"I knew he was going to keep shooting," Joseph said. "He felt like he could get me on that but I knew he wouldn't so just letting him shoot, getting to my re-attacks and I knew I would score eventually."
No. 2 seed Mark Hall and top-seeded Bo Nickal also followed with a pair of decisions to earn All-America honors and move on to the semifinals.
Wrapping up consolation action for the Nittany Lions was eighth-seeded freshman Nick lee, who posted a 5-0 decision against Central Michigan's No. 10 seed Mason Smith before a 13-5 major decision against Indiana's No. 16 Cole Weaver.
"I feel good, doing it for myself, my teammates and my coaches," Lee said.
Earning some key bonus points for his team for the first time in NCAA Championships action, it was all business as usual for the Nittany Lion.
"That's what we want to do, open up offense, that's what we came here for and it's more fun too," Lee said.
Penn State gets underway in yet another critical session later this evening in Quicken Loans Arena.
in Session IV
141: #8 seed Nick Lee, Fr. - Round 12
vs. #12 Tyler Smith, Bucknell
149: #1 seed Zain
Retherford, Sr. - Semifinals
vs. #4 Troy Heilmann, North Carolina
157: #3 seed Jason
Nolf, Jr. - Semifinals
vs. #7 Micah Jordan, Ohio State
165: #3 seed Vincenzo
Joseph, So. - Semifinals
vs. #2 David McFadden, Virginia Tech
174: #2 seed Mark Hall,
So. - Semifinals
vs. #3 Daniel Lewis, Missouri
184: #1 seed Bo Nickal,
Jr. - Semifinals
vs. #5 Domenic Abounader, Michigan
197: #5 seed Shakur
Rasheed, Jr. - Round 12
vs. #7 Frank Mattiace, Penn
285: #3 seed Nick
Nevills, Jr. - Round 12
vs. Jere Heino, Campbell
By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off a stretch of 18 games over the course of four tournaments to start out the year, Penn State will finally get the opportunity to suit up on its home field over the weekend. The Blue and White will most certainly be looking forward to returning home and playing at Nittany Lion Softball Park and Beard Field for the first time this season.
"It's amazing. I think it's what we need," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "Just to come home and be in front of our fans, our people, our field and what we're familiar with. It's exactly what we need to get the ball rolling here in a real positive way."
Last weekend, Penn State played five hard-fought games in the Houston Tournament, which concluded the team's five-week out-of-state tournament schedule. With the student-athletes of the softball team yelling "We're home!" upon stepping off the bus at 4 a.m. Monday morning in Happy Valley, Lehotak could tell there was an increased sense of energy throughout the team.
"You just get excited," Lehotak added. "We're entering phase two of our season and we finally get to play here at Beard Field. It's a renewing experience. It's nice to be in our facility and be the one everyone is cheering for."
Although the reinvigorated Nittany Lions will hope to use this positivity and energy to improve their play on the field, being at home also means competing in the frigid and unpredictable Pennsylvania weather, something that creates the need to make adjustments after lacing up the spikes in mostly warm climates all winter.
"Now that we're home, we're going to start playing in some really cold weather. Practice almost becomes maintenance," Lehotak said. "It's about how their bodies are feeling and what they need. We'll do even more hitting and watch a lot more film. It will be about trying to keep the healthy kids healthy if we can."
Lehotak also talked about some of the challenges that come with having to practice and play games in the cold weather.
Rain, snow, or shine, however, the Nittany Lions are ready and eager to play.
"Especially with a young team, we need to play. I think right now, if I had to pick between practice or playing, I want to play. We need experience, we need situational work."
"Everyone wants to win so it's frustrating. But it (playing hard) is the only way to get where we want to go," Lehotak continued. "I mean, their hearts are on their sleeves. I've never seen a teem with so much heart."
The Nittany Lions will host the Kent State Golden Eagles to kick off their home slate this weekend. The three-game series will begin with a doubleheader on Saturday at 1 p.m.
By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With its final meet of the regular season this weekend, the Penn State women's gymnastics team is seeing its hard work pay off in preparation for Big Fives.
"The quad meets we've been competing in the past few meets have symbolized the energy that we're going to have," head coach Sarah Brown said. "Being on the floor with four teams has a whole different vibe to it, and I can even speak back to the double duals as a way to help prepare us for post-season going into the Big Fives and Big Tens."
In addition to three consecutive season-best scores, Brown has spent the past year really getting to know her team and watching them progress into the cohesive squad they are becoming.
"I think at the beginning of the year we were still trying to figure out all of the athletes, and each week we were doing something different and we were making progress, but it still hadn't come together yet," Brown said. "Multiple times I've said 'this was our most complete meet, but I know we have more in us' and then I say it again. It's been great to watch them grow."
The key to Brown is observing the gymnasts and seeing what needs work and where their heads are at.
"We check in with where our energy level is after each event, whether it's good or bad, and then channeling the energy that we need moving to the next event, because one doesn't depend upon the other," Brown said. "I think for some of the athletes that's helped them to break it down a little bit, and makes the meet feel not so big or overwhelming, but helped them realize that in this moment, 'this is the energy I need.' Once we started zoning in on that, I think right around the GW meet is when things started to take off for us."
Penn State's meet against George Washington on February 24 marked the team's second meet of the season tallying a score of above 196.000-or-higher. The meet also consisted of individual season highs for Nittany Lion gymnasts on vault, floor, and all-around.
"I think we've always known our potential, but it's cool to see that every single week we've gotten a little bit better," junior Gianna LaGuardia said. "It's definitely building our confidence, so we can go into Big Fives feeling pretty confident."
Against Ohio State on February 9, LaGuardia finished third on vault with a season-high 9.875 after taking some time off from competing to nurse a foot injury.
"I think confidence has a huge thing to do with it," LaGuardia said. "It means a lot to do really well in one meet, and when I came back from an injury, it wasn't even muscle memory, it was just believing that you have it. At this point in the season, you just have to know that you have it in you. The whole team's confidence is so helpful."
"Gigi really hit her stride," Brown said. "She had an ankle injury and was out for a couple of meets on vault and we were only able to put up five. Having her back has brought so much confidence to the lineup, just knowing that she's a great vaulter and taking the pressure off of the five lineup. She loves competing for this team and she's doing an amazing job right now. She's giving everything I could've asked for."
Another factor in composure in competition and a confidence boost, a few switch-ups of rotations and routines has helped keep the gymnasts on their toes and ready for various potential set-ups they may face.
"We pretty much have had every rotation possible right now except for starting on floor," LaGuardia said. "That's really nice going into Big Five and Big Tens, so we're prepared for pretty much any scenario at this point."
This weekend's Big Five Meet will consist of a bye rotation, meaning the Nittany Lions will experience an extra rotation where they won't be competing. The five rotations instead of their usual four will be a new experience for the team this season. Another change the Penn State squad has integrated into their routine is an adjustment in the beam lineup, now leading with two freshman followed by two sophomores.
"You never know what you're going to get with freshman," Brown said. "Obviously Lauren [Bridgens] and Alissa [Bonsall] had a really great start to their season, and both of them have had bumps along the way, but they're in a really good place right now. Kourtney [Chinnery] has been consistent for us on vault which is great, and I couldn't be prouder of Ava [Verdeflor] for stepping up in the beam lineup in the middle of the season. It's not often that you change the lead-off on beam, and that you put a brand new person in in the middle of the year. We are a young team, but I think the more they compete with each other, the more confident they get."
The Nittany Lions have built from a 194.275 in the season-opener to a season-best, a 196.675, against BYU last weekend.
"With every meet, we've gotten better with our scores, and a lot of that is coming from our mentality in the gym," sophomore Kristen Politz said. "Not just trusting yourself, but believing in your teammates, and that's shown in every meet. Everyone has had each other's back and we've had incredible scores individually and that's created better team scores each weekend. Ultimately, we've gotten more confident getting out there and giving it our all."
comes down to confidence for the whole team," LaGuardia agrees. "Seeing what we
do in the gym finally paying off in a meet is great. Some days you have a bad
day in the gym, and that weekend you see where it's coming from. The work in
the gym definitely shows."
Even with a couple of consecutive wins, the Nittany Lions know they are capable of reaching higher. They see their challenges ahead, and approach them with unity and confidence.
"Post-season is definitely different than
regular season, but if you try not to make it seem bigger than it is you can
stay more focused," Politz said. "But the excitement makes it that much more
powerful in the post-season, so I'm super excited to experience it for the
second time and hopefully let my nerves go a little bit more than I probably
did my freshman year now that I've had that experience."
Against BYU, Politz achieved her personal season-best on uneven bars, but isn't letting the recent accomplishment get in the way of her focus.
"If anything, we just take the confidence we've had from that meet, and we can definitely improve on floor and vault for sure," Politz said. "That momentum that we built on our bar rotation was incredible, so hopefully we can keep going up from that. Ultimately, it was a really great meet for us, and especially a meet so far away with less fans. Being back in our home area should be super exciting."
By Tom Shively,
GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The stakes were high. The stage was set. The game was hanging in the balance.
As had happened so many times this season, Penn State junior guard Teniya Page found herself with the ball in her hands late in the game with a chance to win it for the Lady Lions.
She wasn't able to complete the play, but had another chance in the closing seconds of overtime with the Lady Lions down one. She put up a contested three, which fell short, as did Penn State's bid to reach the second round of the Women's NIT.
The Lady Lions were quelled by Radford, 63-62, on a night that the Blue and White didn't play its cleanest basketball but still had chances to win late.
Despite coming up just a few inches short, the Lady Lions put themselves in position to earn a victory with a strong third quarter star, spearheaded by Alisia Smith. Smith had six quick points at the beginning of the frame and 11 on the night.
"I took a different approach coming out [after halftime]," Smith said. "In the first half, I didn't play too well but I tried to make up for it in the second half."
Smith was one of three Lady Lions in double figures on a night that no one player emerged as a dominant scorer.
Penn State turned the ball over 21 times, leading to 19 Radford points. The offense rushed itself a tad at times, leading to difficult passes and some hard catches on the offensive end.
"John Wooden had a famous saying: 'Be quick but don't hurry,'" Washington said. "I thought there were times when we hurried rather than playing at a fast pace."
The game did provide opportunity for some valuable playing time for youthful Lady Lions, including freshman Sam Breen, who had four rebounds in six valuable minutes off the bench.
"Sam is someone I think that over the course of the latter half of the season has really improved," Washington said. "Her confidence has really improved so that we're able to put her out there in moments and games like this and have those be productive minutes. Her knowledge of the game has really improved so that she can contribute in doses in games like she did today."
Breen is just one example of this young Penn State team, one with no seniors on the roster. It's games like these, in a postseason atmosphere with high stakes in a down-to-the-wire game, that allow a young team to grow.
"A lot of people who were returning didn't have a lot of experience or a lot of minutes on the floor, myself included. We know what we can do now and we look forward to building on that next year," redshirt sophomore Amari Carter said.
With the book now closed on the season, the Lady Lions can turn their attention to the offseason and 2018-19. It's only a matter of time before this team returns to championship form, and the youthfulness of this team will lead to an aggressive veteran team next year and beyond.
"When I look back at the recent history [three straight Big Ten championships from 2012-14], one thing we had in common with all those teams was senior leadership," Washington said. "One of the things this season does for us is that it gives our juniors an opportunity to understand coming into next year how hard it is to contend and how much work it takes."
CLEVELAND - Penn State wrestling carried its session one momentum right into the evening session, closing out day one with a 9-0 finish. With seven Nittany Lions headed for the quarterfinals, all nine qualifiers are still in action headed toward day two.
Penn State's most consistent contributors continued to deliver, with top-seeded Zain Retherford opening session two pinning Maryland's No. 16 Alfred Bannister at the 2:29 mark.
"I think I wrestled well," Retherford said. "I think I've been working some stuff on top, so I was finally able to get my bow and arrow, I haven't been able to do that in a while so that was fun."
Retherford's pin marked the 53rd of his career to tie the Penn State all-time record, following a round one tech fall. Although it was the pin he wanted in the opening round, for Retherford, in the NCAA Championships it's all about having a short term memory.
"No matter how close the match is or anything like that, just keep rolling one match at a time," Retherford said.
Retherford's 2-0 day didn't come without a few nerves, but the two-time NCAA national champion says nerves are a good thing.
"Nerves is good, it's not a bad thing," Retherford said. "It feels awesome, there's not too many things that I get to do where I kind of feel those nerves. I know that this is a special thing and just making the most out of this opportunity."
NCAA Championships Team
Standings after Session I (Quarterfinal Participants)
1. - Ohio State - 36 (9)
2. - Penn State - 28.5 (7)
3. - Iowa - 27 (3)
4. - Michigan - 22.5 (5)
5. - Missouri - 19 (4)
At 174, second-seeded Mark Hall followed an earlier 12-2 major decision with a 21-3 tech fall at the 6:54 mark. Meeting Purdue's Dylan Lydy, Hall shot out to an early first period advantage, widening his advantage turning Lydy twice in the final frame.
"It started quick, I got him right to his back," Hall said. "I wanted to pin him there, I had two times where I had him pretty deep on his back and I have to finish the job but all in all, I've been wrestling really well, getting to my attacks."
No. 5 seed Shakur Rasheed rounded out Penn State's bonus point performances, registering a 14-3 major decision with 3:36 in riding time against UNC's Daniel Chaid.
"Second match, I just kind of had the mindset like I'm going to get it," Rasheed said. "It doesn't matter. I think I showed it out there, I didn't have the best shots, the cleanest shots, but I got it done."
Third-seeded Nick Nevills closed out Penn State's second round matchups defeating NC State's No. 14 Michael Boykin, 5-4 in sudden victory by way of :16 of riding time. Although not exactly pleased with his performance, it was moving on for a chance to compete for his team that was on his mind.
"That was one of the biggest things on my mind besides what was going on in the match because we needed team points and we needed to win and I was just trying to deliver," Nevills said.
Nittany Lions Nick Lee and Corey Keener then came through for the Nittany Lions in the consolation rounds with a pair of decisions.
After a tough start in the first round, Retherford didn't have to say anything to his NCAA Championships roommate in between sessions.
"I'm roommates with Nick Lee on this trip, he's a good kid," Retherford said. "I haven't really said too much to him, I think he knows what to do. If he seemed like he wasn't in a good place or something, maybe I would say something, but I have all the confidence in him and Corey as well."
For Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson, both Lee and Keener are key in keeping the Nittany Lions in the hunt for the team title.
"Yeah we had to stay alive there and who knows tomorrow, we can just keep rolling and get bonus points and get back up on that All-American stand," Sanderson said. "You can't do that if you're out."
Ask any Nittany Lion though and there's no doubting the importance of wrestling well for a full day Friday.
"Tomorrow's the big day, tomorrow's the big point day so these bonus points are really huge in these early rounds but we've got to wrestle," Sanderson said. "Everyone has great matches -we're having fun. We're just competing hard and it's a great team race here but we just want our guys to go out there and be themselves and wrestle hard."
Session three kicks off tomorrow at 11 a.m. in Quicken Loans Arena.
Up Next in Session III
133: Corey Keener, Sr.
- Consolation 2
vs. Rico Montoya, Northern Colorado
141: #8 seed Nick Lee,
Fr. - Consolation 2
vs. #10 Mason Smith, Central Michigan
149: #1 seed Zain Retherford,
Sr. - Quarterfinals
vs. #8 Boo Lewallen, Oklahoma State
157: #3 seed Jason
Nolf, Jr. - Quarterfinals
vs. #6 Michael Kemerer, Iowa
165: #3 seed Vincenzo
Joseph, So. - Quarterfinals
vs. #11 Isaiah White, Nebraska
174: #2 seed Mark Hall,
So. - Quarterfinals
vs. #7 Taylor Lujan, Northern Iowa
184: #1 seed Bo Nickal,
Jr. - Quarterfinals
vs. #9 Max Dean, Cornell
197: #5 seed Shakur
Rasheed, Jr. - Quarterfinals
vs. #4 Michael Macchiavello, NC State
285: #3 seed Nick
Nevills, Jr. - Quarterfinals
vs. #6 Amar Dhesi, Oregon State
CLEVELAND - Amid an interesting opening session for top-ranked Penn State, when it comes to the team score, there's certainly more to the story than what's listed in the team standings. Met with unusual early adversity, Penn State regrouped from a pair of early losses and rallied with seven bonus point victories to begin the NCAA national championships.
Just a little more than 24 hours ago it was senior Zain Retherford who said his focus isn't on anything else other than scoring points and enjoying the moment. The Nittany Lions needed just that from the top-seeded Nittany Lion, who sparked a bonus point streak putting Penn State on the board.
Retherford built up a 5-1 lead headed into the third period before dialing up the offense to finish with a 16-1 tech fall against Eastern Michigan's Kyle Springer. Retherford's win sets up a meeting with Maryland's Alfred Bannister, who he pinned earlier this year in just 1:21 during a streak of six consecutive pins for the Nittany Lion.
NCAA Championships Team
Standings after Session I (Round Two Participants)
1. - Iowa - 18.5 (8)
2. - Ohio State - 17.0 (10)
3. - Penn State - 16.0 (7)
4. - Michigan - 13.0 (7)
5. - NC State - 12.0 (8)
At 157 pounds, a healthy Jason Nolf came out firing in the NCAA first round with a 22-7 tech fall, controlling Central Michigan's Colin Heffernan from start to finish. Third-seeded Nolf will now meet Wisconsin's Andrew Crone in tonight's second session.
Vincenzo Joseph continued the momentum, recording a 15-4 major decision with 3:21 in riding time before Mark Hall added a 12-2 major decision with 3:38 in riding time.
Hall, the No. 2 seed at 174 pounds, led 7-0 at the end of two periods before using a strong third period to power his way into the second round. His matchup includes a meeting with Purdue's Dylan Lydy, who he majored, 11-3, with 1:45 in riding time in a mid-January outing at Rec Hall.
At 184 pounds, Bo Nickal only added to the momentum with yet another major decision, taking care of South Dakota State's Martin Mueller, 16-4.
One of two Nittany Lions making his NCAA Championships debut, Penn State's Shakur Rasheed battled the Citadel's Sawyer Root to a 4-4 tie headed into the final period. Rasheed responded with a reversal before nearly pinning Root, earning four back points from the cradle to pull ahead for good. Rasheed will meet UNC'S Daniel Chaid in the second round after registering a 13-5 major with 2:15 in riding time in his first NCAA Championships victory.
Penn State punctuated its opening session with a Nick Nevills pin, giving the Nittany Lions a promising boost in the team standings. Nevills went up 8-0 before pinning Kent State's Stephen Suglio.
The Nittany Lions are back at it in session two starting at 7 p.m. in Quicken Loans Arena.
133: Corey Keener, Sr. -
vs. Cam Sykora, North Dakota State
141: #8 seed Nick Lee,
Fr. - Consolation 1
vs. No. 9 Josh Alber, Northern Iowa
149: #1 seed Zain
Retherford, Sr. - Second Round
vs. No. 16 Alfred Bannister, Maryland
157: #3 seed Jason
Nolf, Jr. - Second Round
vs. No. 14 Andrew Crone, Wisconsin
165: #3 seed Vincenzo
Joseph, So. - Second Round
vs. No. 14 Branson Ashworth, Wyoming
174: #2 seed Mark Hall,
So. - Second Round
vs. No. 15 Dyland Lydy, Purdue
184: #1 seed Bo Nickal,
Jr. - Second Round
vs. No. 16 Jordan Ellingwood, Central Michigan
197: #5 seed Shakur
Rasheed, Jr. - Second Round
vs. Daniel Chaid, North Carolina
285: #3 seed Nick Nevills,
Jr. - Second Round
vs. No. 14 Michael Boykin, NC State
By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As Rec Hall gears up for its last Penn State men's gymnastics meet of the 2018 campaign, the seniors prepare to dismount for the final time at home. As they stick their landings and hold their form on Saturday against Nebraska, these gymnasts will be competing for those little boys who fell in love with one of the most demanding sports so many years ago.
"It's kind of crazy to think about," team captain Ben Cooperman said. "You hear as freshmen that it goes by fast and it really does but it has been a really special opportunity to be able to compete for Penn State. So, it is really surreal but it is really cool to experience one last time."
Cooperman will be recognized on Saturday alongside Colin Coates, Quest Hayden, Greg Tamargo and Joshua Smith for their dedication to the program over the past four years.
"They've all been instrumental in the success of the team," head coach Randy Jepson said. "That's the tough part, you see guys go and you hope what they've passed on will be instilled in the guys that are coming up next and they can continue to perpetuate that."
Since his freshman year, Cooperman has exceeded expectations in and out of the gym because of his work ethic on pommel horse and rings, his dedication to the team and his respect of the sport. These qualities and developments motivated his teammates to give him the nod as the sole team captain for this season.
"I look at Ben and as a not really highly heralded guy coming in and now he's been elected team captain and he's done a really admirable job of doing everything we've asked," Jepson said.
As a management major, Cooperman is preparing for graduation and hoping to stay immersed in the gymnastics community through judging opportunities.
Like Cooperman, Coates has been a constant for the Blue and White since he joined the team in 2014. As a pommel horse specialist, he has won multiple events and even helped Penn State earn a bid into the NCAA championships.
"At NCAAs we just barely snuck into the top six and we hadn't been hitting pommel horse pretty much the entire season and we got the opportunity to go up," Cooperman said. "I think I was first up and I hit my set and then we had Quest right after me then Colin Coates...all three of us got an opportunity to hit our sets and to help qualify us into the next day and that was a really special moment to share."
Coates career best on pommel horse was a solid 15.050 at the West Point Open of his sophomore year.
"Colin's had a wrist injury that he has managed since last year," Jepson said. "He had surgery this summer. He's really limited in what he can do in terms of reps, yet he's gone out and been really steady for us and that's all we can ask for."
"I've always wanted to be at Penn State," Coates said. "I've competed at Rec Hall since I was about 12 years old as a JO [Junior Olympics] gymnast and to be able to get to put on the Nittany Lion and compete in Rec Hall again has just been amazing."
As a soon-to-be mechanical engineer graduate, Coates hopes to pursue a career as a design engineer within the automotive industry.
Like Coates, Hayden has remained resilient throughout countless injury-riddled seasons to continue to represent and lead the Blue and White.
"I look at Quest and he's had so many injuries," Jepson said. "It's just been really tough for him, but you know you don't always get what you hoped for and he's handled that very pretty well.
As an all-around competitor, Hayden's best event came as a freshman against Iowa when he scored a 14.950 on vault. His freshman season also gave him one of his fondest memories of Penn State gymnastics to this day.
"Definitely freshman year when we won Big Tens," Hayden said. "Everything happening the way it did with Alexis (Torres) getting injured...and then me having to fill his shoes and come in I thought that was a pretty surreal experience and the whole team got to share that as well."
Hayden hopes his love for gymnastics will carry over into his career as he plans to graduate with a psychology degree and immediately look for coaching jobs.
"I really want to be an NCAA coach so I am planning to volunteer coach at a NCAA job hopefully here, but we'll see what doors open up for me and everything," Hayden said.
Like Coates and Hayden, Tamargo has been immersed in Penn State culture since he was a little boy competing in Rec Hall at the start of a successful gymnastics career.
"My whole life, state championships almost every year from the time I was like six-years-old was always here at Penn State," Tamargo said. "So, I grew up competing at Rec Hall since I've been doing gymnastics basically my whole life so just being able to see how much its changed since I was a kid watching these guys growing up competing and now being at the point where this me now."
Since freshman year, Tamargo's development has immensely improved his success on vault, floor and rings. His still rings performance that secured a 14.600 against Nebraska in 2016 still sits above the rest of his career events going into this season.
"Greg is the same kind of thing he's stepped up," Jepson said. "He's come a long way from his freshman year...he's just gotten better and better and this season he is having the best season he's ever had."
Since an injury sidelined him last season, Tamargo will return next year for another season of representing the Blue and White in competition.
Smith has appeared on two events for the Nittany Lions in 2018, earning a win on both the floor exercise and the vault. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana native has also notched two podium finishes on the vault with second-place finishes.
As the bittersweet day dons on the five student-athletes, they've reflected on the bonds they've forged, the memories they made and the sport and school they influenced.
"It's meant a lot being a Penn Stater," Hayden said. "Being apart of something bigger than myself, it's made me realize that my talents and everything that I do isn't just for me it's to help contribute to a bigger goal, a bigger picture."
They began as boys with dreams in a gym, some even in the very spot they will compete in on Saturday, and now they will stand in front of their crowd, teammates and mentors to say goodbye to one of their proudest accomplishments and look towards their new future and new dream.
By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Seven years ago during this very week in March, Fran Dunphy's Temple Owls used some last-second heroics in the first round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament to end Penn State's postseason run.
Penn State fans remember it all too well. But these were two completely different teams than the ones that laced up in 2011. Penn State has a different coaching staff from top to bottom, alongside a totally new roster.
Seven years later, the Nittany Lions weren't focused on the past headed into their 11th NIT first round game. Instead, fourth-seeded Penn State was still ready to climb.
It hardly came easy though, as Penn State's usual winning blueprint, did not pan out like it usually does.
Sophomore guard Tony Carr, sophomore forward Lamar Stevens and senior guard Shep Garner average 45.2 combined points per game. By halftime, Penn State's three active leading scorers were held to a combined zero points.
Battling back from a third quarter deficit as large as 11, the Nittany Lions flipped the script, using a 15-3 run to bury the Owls. The Nittany Lions outscored Temple 19-9 in the fourth quarter, using the final scoring streak across 3:24 to complete the comeback.
"I can't say enough about the guys," Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers said. "We had to overcome a lot and that's what the climb is about. That's what it's all about - just handling adversity. Give Temple a lot of credit. They came in here and tried to punch us in the mouth, that's for sure, and these guys were able to find a way at the end."
Handling adversity - something Penn State has done all season long. Wednesday night was nothing new though as adversity has hit this team in a variety of ways.
Trailing by six with just fewer than four minutes to play, the Nittany Lions relied on their experienced veterans in junior guard Josh Reaves and Garner for a pair of perfectly timed treys. Garner's swished through the net with 2:43 on the clock, tying the game for the first time all night.
"I didn't want it to be my last game," Garner said. "I definitely wanted to come out here and win. It came down to who wanted it more, us or them, so we made the plays down the stretch to win the game."
Rising to the occasion, Reaves had been consistent for the Nittany Lions all night.
A 35 percent shooter from beyond the arc during the year, Reaves knocked down three of his four attempts from deep in the first half and led all scorers at the break with 13 points. He went on to shoot 4-for-6 from the 3-point line, which was lengthened in one of a few experimental rules utilized in this year's NIT.
Reaves finished with a season-high 19 points to lead both teams. The do-it-all guard also pulled in 11 rebounds for his second career double-double.
"They did a really good job just keying in on our main guys, and I was just fortunate enough to get open shots and I made them," Reaves said. "They tried to force me a certain way and our bigs did a really good job of just setting screens and rolling and just being in the right spots. I was just taking as much advantage as I could."
It was Lamar Stevens, who like many of the Nittany Lions, was playing against high school teammates and friends, who gave the Nittany Lions perhaps its biggest boost. Stevens posted a monster block out of a Temple timeout to set up another Garner 3-pointer on the other end. Just like that, Penn State's two-point advantage grew to five and as the wide smile came across Stevens' face when Temple called another timeout, Penn State would not look back.
"I just found spots to get open and my coach called a great play at the end of the game," Garner said. "My teammates set a great screen where the guy just fell and I made a shot. It came down to getting stops because when we can get stops, we can get an easy offensive going. That's what we did down the stretch, we got stops. It was on the defensive end. Our offensive can take care of itself as long as we are defending and rebounding."
Not to be missed in Penn State's comeback effort though was sophomore guard Nazeer Bostick, who brought Penn State within five at halftime and found his way to the free throw line in the final minutes of the game. Bostick went 4-for-4 from the field, finishing second on the team behind Reaves with 12 points.
Penn State will hardly have time to celebrate its NIT victory, with a matchup against No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the second round. Tip time is set for noon in South Bend, Indiana.
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While getting settled back into their normal routine following three of four weeks on the road, Penn State men's lacrosse head coach Jeff Tambroni has had some time to reflect. As Penn State moves in its preparation for the second half of the season, the Nittany Lions are also starting to solidify team identity.
While Penn State has faced collective struggles on both ends of the field throughout the season, Tambroni and his staff feel the pieces are finally starting to fall into place.
"We're honing in on the identity of our team," Tambroni said. "Our defense is gaining a lot of confidence and I think they're getting better in each and every game. I think our offense understands, a little bit more so now after going through this stretch, what we need to do. I think we're still a click or two away offensively [but] we understand that everyone needs to contribute in that end of the field in order for us to be successful."
The Nittany Lions traveled to Philadelphia to take on Penn just as students were traveling home from campus for spring break. The Quakers were riding momentum at the time the two teams met, with Penn having recently upset the top-ranked team in the country. Penn State put an end to the momentum, with the Nittany Lions emerging victorious to start their road stretch on a high note.
"At the end of the year I do think that's going to be a really good win because I do think Penn is going to continue to win games within their league," Tambroni said. "I feel they are going to be a quality win for us."
The strong win put the Nittany Lions in great position to excel against Furman. The team put on an offensive showcase, scoring 16 goals and allowing just three.
The game also provided the bench with opportunities to contribute on the field. Freshman Jake Glatz had the opportunity to take faceoffs toward the end of the game, as well as rookies Cole Willard and John Nostrant each netting a goal.
With only two games separating Penn State from Big Ten play, the outing was helpful for the coaching staff not only to get a look at some new jerseys on the field, but to also boost enthusiasm.
"When [players] have the chance to come off the bench, morale more than depth is really just lifted," Tambroni said. "Getting off the bench gives everyone a little bit of a lift. Our starters get an opportunity to see what it's like on the sidelines and appreciate what those guys do for them, and then those guys that have been in a reserve role get a chance to go out there and compete on game day. When you have a chance to play in a game and everyone feels like they've contributed, that really uplifts their confidence and the moral of the overall group."
Although the Nittany Lions did not get the result they were looking in their next stop on the road at Cornell, there were still many positives to come out of the trip.
One of the most important takeaways was midfielder Kevin Hill's performance. Continuing his a highly productive season, he opened up the first quarter with back-to-back goals, adding another goal and assist in the second and third quarters.
Hill has been clutch in much needed scoring situations throughout the season, and has become an essential part of the offense.
"In a pinch, in a tough situation or in a end of quarter, end of a half, end of a game situation, he has been as reliable as anyone in our offensive end," Tambroni said. "He is quickly becoming one of, or if not, our go-to guy."
After coming off a successful freshman year, Hill's impact didn't fill the stat sheet in his sophomore year. Instead, he was able to learn from veteran middies on his line. Since the beginning of his junior campaign, Hill has not only showed his skill on the field, but has also become a leader in the offense zone.
Tambroni traced Hill's success this season back to his stellar performances during fall scrimmages, helping to give him a boost in confidence heading into the regular season. Tambroni also attributed his success to his work ethic off the field, during preseason preparations.
"I think I just grew a lot the last two years, developed a little more confidence in my game and going out there and believing in myself and my teammates," Hill said. "It's also doing extra work off the field whether it's in the weight room or extra shooting."
Hill and the rest of the Nittany Lions will travel to Fairfield for their last road game before coming back home to host their final nonconference opponent of the regular season.
The Nittany Lions want to utilize these games to work out some final kinks in their game plan to put themselves in prime position to succeed in conference play."I think we're just excited for another opportunity coming off a disappointing loss to Cornell," Hill said. "In the offensive end, we lost our way as the game went on. We're just excited to get out there and show that we can play a full game and not tail-off in the fourth quarter like we have in the past couple games."
Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following a heartbreaking loss at Notre Dame in the Big Ten semifinals, No. 13 Penn State will now look toward the NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday to see if it receives an at-large bid. Even though the Nittany Lions have most likely already punched their ticket to the NCAA regionals, the team is most certainly not getting ahead of themselves.
"We know we're not in right now, but we're hoping at some point this weekend we are," head coach Guy Gadowsky when asked about the NCAA Tournament selection. "Because we're optimists, were approaching it in hopes that it is going to happen. We're just preparing as hard as we can right now. Until somebody says we're officially in, I'm not going to feel comfortable."
Despite the high stakes of a potential NCAA Tournament game and the level of uncertainty that comes with it, the Penn State's game plan for the next week of practice will not diverge from the norm.
"It's fairly similar because our goal all year has been to use every week to improve," Gadowsky said. "There's a couple things from last weekend that we know we have to improve so that's what this week is about. We're going to prepare like every week prior to this to get better and try to work as hard as we can."
For Penn State senior defenseman Trevor Hamilton, the Nittany Lions will continue to take things one week at a time while controlling the controlables.
"We are taking it as a game week just to make sure we're still in shape and still in midseason form in case we do get into the NCAA Tournament," Hamilton said.
Hamilton, who currently is tied for third on the team in total points, was recently named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. The economics major is the first Nittany Lion in program history to receive a major conference award.
"It's a huge honor and I think it's more of a team award than an individual award," Hamilton said. "With how successful our team has been this year, I definitely would not have this award without our goalies and forwards and just giving them the puck and letting them go to work. I'm just doing as much as I can to help out our goalies as well, so I think it's more of a team award than an individual one."
Although Hamilton is eighth in the Big Ten with 23 assists and has registered a total of 29 points on the year, his impact on the ice goes far beyond the box score. For a second consecutive year, he leads the nation in blocked shots with his current mark of 104 blocks just four shy of a career best.
"I take a lot of pride in (blocking shots), and it's not only me but the team as well," Hamilton said. "It's been a huge part of our culture the past couple years here."
Gadowsky talked about Hamilton's importance to the program as not only a top-notch defender, but as a leader, too.
"It was such a well-deserved award," Gadowsky said. "For all defensemen, he leads the league in points, but I know for sure he's much more proud to lead the nation in blocks. When you have that combination, it really is a well-deserved award. Here at Penn State hockey we're so proud of him because besides those two stats, just the way he is. He's such a warrior. He plays hurt, he plays for the team, he's always smiling, he makes practices fun and he makes the locker-room fun. It's really the way he is as a guy and a teammate that we're most proud of."Hamilton and the rest of the Nittany Lions will await their NCAA Tournament selection when the full bracket is announced Sunday, March 18 at noon on ESPNU.
By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State will be back at Rec Hall this weekend after a long road trip to Hawaii for the Outrigger Invitational. While spending spring break across the country, the Nittany Lions played three matches against some of the nation's top competition.
The Nittany Lions are currently on a four-match losing streak, but despite the unfavorable results, head coach Mark Pavlik and the team believe they are beginning to play their best volleyball of the season.
"We played really well [in Hawaii]," Pavlik said. "We just have not had the results showing yet, but I like where we're at, I really do.
Pavlik said before the trip, the three-match span against BYU, Hawaii and Lewis would be a great measuring stick to where the team is at this point in the season.
"I've been at this tournament enough to know that by the second match it almost feels like you're playing at midnight our time, and against Hawaii we just couldn't get moving," Pavlik said. "But I like where out serving is, that continues to improve. I thought are passers did a nice job against some very physical servers the teams had. It just seems like we're playing the game well right now."
The Nittany Lions will now turn their attention to their fourth ranked opponent in a row, as they take on the ninth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes Friday night. In their meeting earlier this season, the defending national champions swept the Nittany Lions in Columbus.
However, the last time Ohio State visited Rec Hall, Penn State defeated the then top-ranked Buckeyes in five sets last season. Interestingly, Penn State starting setter Luke Braswell was injured for that match, and Nathan Smith led Penn State to a huge upset win in replacement.
Smith, who saw time on the court in the matches against Hawaii and Lewis to give Braswell some rest, will not start the match against Ohio State, but the Nittany Lions have a reliable and experienced option behind Braswell should they need him.
"I think [Smith] is very quietly competitive, and he knows that he can win, and he proved that last year," Pavlik said.
Braswell and Smith have challenged each other over the last two seasons in practice every day, and they each bring different styles of setting to the table.
"[Braswell] tends to handle the ball a little bit higher above the net and gives you a bigger block up front and [Smith] tends to deliver the ball to the antenna a little bit better. It's just a different type of setter, but both work," Pavlik said.
"[Braswell] is very consistent and makes really good decsions, and his location is very good," Smith said. "I think I'm a bit more of a risk-taker, and my location is a bit more off, but I'll be a bit more deceptive. The balance between those two styles is something we can learn from each other.
Smith admits he was a bit nervous when Pavlik called his number during the Hawaii trip but eventually settled in and took full advantage of the opportunity.
"It was a really awesome opportunity," Smith said. "Just playing in front of a huge crowd in one of the best places to play volleyball in America was fun to be out there with the team. It is a bit flustering at first, but once you get into and being around people you play with every day, it's awesome to be out there with the guys."
Smith said the team will have some extra motivation for this weekend, but he also agreed with his coach - there is still plenty of reason for optimism.
"Nobody was happy about losing all three games last week, but I think the mentality is pretty good," Smith said. "We've gone in with the mindset to attack every play like it's your last point and trusting our training and getting to where we want to be at the end of the season.Penn State will look to knock off Ohio State at Rec Hall for the second year in a row at 7 p.m. Friday night. The Nittany Lions will then be right back on the floor Sunday at 4 p.m. for a match against EIVA foe Saint Francis.
By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Ryan Sloniger and Braxton Giavedoni.
The Penn State catcher and outfielder have become accustomed to seeing their names side-by-side.
Sloniger and Giavedoni grew up together in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. When they were six years old, the two began playing baseball on the same team in the Coach Pitch league. Since then, they have gone through Little League, high school and even college without ever playing on different teams.
"Oh yeah [I remember playing with Giavedoni when we were six], Sloniger said. "Our dads were our coaches. We started in Coach Pitch together. Like t-ball, coach pitch, all that stuff and our dads were our coaches all the way up through."
As if playing together for their entire baseball careers did not make them close enough, the two have hit back-to-back in the batting order on every team they have played on. From youth baseball through high school, it was common for Giavedoni to hit right in front of Sloniger and for Sloniger to drive in his childhood friend.
"[My favorite memory playing with Giavedoni was when] we had back-to-back homers in a Little League game to walk it off in the sixth inning," Sloniger said. "I was 11 and Braxton was 10. That was in the regular season of Little League. My dad was the head coach and Braxton's dad was the assistant coach."
Sloniger committed to play baseball at Penn State when he was a junior in high school. When he left for his freshman year in Happy Valley, Giavedoni was still a senior at Punxsutawney. The outfielder was getting recruited by multiple schools, but Penn State ended up becoming an obvious choice.
"I mean [Sloniger didn't] really [have an impact on me deciding to come to Penn State]," Giavedoni said. "This is where I wanted to come to begin with. He was obviously there along the way telling me this was a great place and that he wanted me to come here."
After a year of experience under his belt, Sloniger was ready for Giavedoni to make his arrival to Happy Valley to take him under his wing.
"We've been friends since we were born probably," Giavedoni said. "We grew up two minutes away from each other. When I got here as a freshman, he really helped me out so I always love that guy."
Whatever it was that Sloniger did to help make Giavedoni's transition to the collegiate level easier, it worked.
The freshman outfielder ended up leading his team in hitting (.287), runs (30), hits (54), doubles (10), total bases (77, tied), slugging percentage (.410) and on-base percentage (.355).
Through the first 12 games of the 2018 season, the two Nittany Lions leading the team in batting average are none other than the childhood friends. Sloniger has 13 RBIs already this season including two home runs with a .302 average. After a .215 season at the plate for the catcher last season, Penn State head coach Rob Cooper is pleased with the start Sloniger is having this year.
"We always felt like Ryan could be a really good player for us," Cooper said. "He's always caught well and he's had moments where he's shown he could swing the bat. But, what I think you're seeing is a guy that's just really confident, really confident in his own skin and not afraid to make a mistake. I think at times he's tried to play too perfect in the past. So, to see him get off to the start he has, it doesn't surprise anyone that knows him that he has that ability."
Not only have both of the Punxsutawney natives found success at the plate early this season, but they have also continued the tradition that's been in place since they were little kids: hitting back-to-back. Of the team's 12 games played this season, the two have hit consecutively in the batting order in seven different games. However, this year, instead of Sloniger hitting behind Giavedoni like they did in high school, the roles have reversed.
"[Cooper] definitely knows we have that chemistry together because we have been together for so long," Sloniger said. "We always talk about how Braxton always hit in front of me in high school and I hit right behind him. The amount of times I've driven him in and stuff and then now he's been hitting behind me and he's like, 'Now I get to return the favor a little bit for you.'"
"I know it brings them some pride to see them next to each other in the lineup or in the dugout or in the locker room because of where they came from," Cooper said. "They're two really, really quality kids that are blue collar players and we're lucky to have them."
By Briana Zuccarelli, GoPSUspors.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Nittany Lions now move to 5-3 after a 22-9 win against Drexel on Wednesday, March 14th.
Penn State returned home to Panzer Stadium Wednesday afternoon after back-to-back away games this past week. The #17 Nittany Lions took on the Drexel Dragons in 27-degree weather and snow flurries.
"State College weather is very unpredictable," said sophomore Maria Auth. "We are pretty much used to it at this point because we practice outside a lot to prepare for games like this. It was definitely cold, but I think by the end we were used to it."
Both teams came out of the locker room strong tying the game at 1-1 within the first four minutes of play. However, Penn State quickly took a 4-1 lead after four unanswered goals. As the game progressed, the offense continued to get hot having 13 different players score at least once during the matchup. Auth led the team with a career-high of six goals and seven points.
"What that means for me is our whole offense is cooking," Auth said. "Whenever I have a good day, or anyone has a good day, it just means our team as a whole is doing well. Credit to everyone out there on offense. We move the ball to each other which gives us those goals."
On defense, both Lucy Lowe and Madison Cunningham saw time in the net for the Nittany Lions. Lowe started in the goal for the first 30 minutes of play and had seven saves for the team, while Cunningham finished off the game in the second half with five saves.
"Lucy was on fire," said head coach Missy Doherty. "It was hard to take her out, but we knew the quality of practices that Madison had too. We are giving them both the opportunity and keeping them both game-ready, so we will see how it progresses moving forward."
As the team celebrates the win, they also are beginning to focus on this weekend's matchup against the Scarlett Knights of Rutgers. The game will take place in Piscataway, New Jersey on Saturday, March 17th at noon. This marks the team's first game this season in Big Ten conference play.
"I think for us we need to take every opportunity we can to get better," said Auth. "Every practice, every extra rep, every game because every Big Ten game is a tough one and every team in the Big Ten can win. You never know who is going to be a good team this year, so I think we need to take every opportunity to improve."
For freshmen Alyssa Sloane and Quinn Nicolai, playing at Rutgers means returning to their home state and playing their old teammates. Nicolai, a Morrestown, New Jersey native, will play against two of her high school teammates, Abbey Brooks and Jenna Martinelli. She explained how excited she is for this game and to go back home.
"A lot of my family is coming, old coach and they're really excited to be come see us. It's going to be cool playing against teammates that were once mine, but now they're on another team. I definitely know their style of play, so it will help us, but I'm really excited to see them."
Rutgers will be heading into the matchup at 4-4 and coming off a two-game losing streak. While the Nittany Lions are 5-3, coming off a two-game win streak. Heading into the first conference game, the team is spending time on what is important.
"Missy's big focus is to focus on your 15 seconds," said Nicolai. "The past doesn't matter, the future doesn't matter, it's what you are going to do in the present. So, we just need to focus on what we're doing in the moment."
By Tom Shively,
GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After being a role player for much of the regular season in 2016-17, Then-freshman Siyeh Frazier found her rhythm in the Women's NIT at the end of the year. Frazier was one of a few Lady Lions to emerge into the spotlight in last year's tournament, including notching a season-high 10 points in a first round win over Ohio.
Fast forward one year, and the Lady Lions are back in the Women's NIT, hoping for another deep run in the postseason. The Lady Lions won two games in the tournament last year and the team believes that was only the beginning.
For players like Frazier, who may not always be a prime contributor in the regular season, the postseason gives them a chance to showcase themselves and improve on the big stage.
Frazier credits her increased role in the WNIT last year as a stepping stone for her growth this year, helping her in several different aspects of her game.
"I've improved on my ability to be more versatile," Frazier said. "Like if [head coach Coquese Washington] wants me at a different position, remembering the plays and at different spots being able to consistently play defense."
Washington has seen the impact that the increased playing time had on Frazier a season ago, and hopes that is a trend for some other young Lady Lions.
"[Frazier's rhythm] started late in the season in the conference tournament and then she had a little bit bigger role in the NIT," Washington said. "I'm hopeful that that same kind of experience, being out there and making mistakes and playing through them, will be out there for everyone on this team."
For a team with no seniors, any extra basketball is a bonus as the team continues to build chemistry. Many of the Lady Lions have little to no postseason experience, as nine of the 12 players played in their first Big Ten Tournament just two weeks ago.
"Those are the kind of numbers that make you start thinking about your team in [a young] way," Washington said. "Now we go into postseason play, and it's a very similar thing. Besides Amari, Teniya and Jaylen, nobody else on our team has played in the postseason."
Not only is the postseason an invaluable chance to build chemistry, it also allows the team to spend a little more time together bonding before a long offseason awaits.
"For us right now, it's just about having fun and playing together. We usually do our best when we're playing together and having fun with each other," Washington said.
"All tournament play is unique and interesting in its own," Washington said. "It's never the same. Every game is its own experience and I think that's what makes it fun and fresh."
The Lady Lions draw Radford in the first round, a team that prides itself on the defensive end of the court. The Highlanders surrender only 52.3 points per game, good for fifth in the NCAA.
"They don't score a lot of points, but they also don't give up a lot of points," Washington said. "I think it's their system that makes them effective. I wouldn't say they're Virginia men's basketball, but they're going to get back and make you play half-court offense."
The Lady Lions hope to combat this style of play by being aggressive in transition, relying heavily on guards Amari Carter and Teniya Page to push the pace.
"We've got to get as many easy baskets as possible and try to put pressure on their transition defense," Washington said. "They don't really have a star player, it's a sum of their parts. They like to play fast and they like to slow you down on defense. It's interesting because there aren't a lot of teams like that."
Tip off from the Bryce Jordan Center is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday. The winner will face the winner of James Madison and East Tennessee State in the second round.