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Seniors Driving Nittany Lion Culture

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's the final week of the regular season and Penn State's last home outing has arrived at a point in time where there's hardly room for error. Even with the program's best record under head coach Patrick Chambers already locked up, the Nittany Lions still have plenty on the line.

Preparations for a mid-week Big Ten matchup against Michigan (22-7, 11-5) begin Tuesday as the Nittany Lions used Monday to refocus following their first loss in four games.

Prior to Wednesday's first whistle though, Penn State will take time to pay tribute to its seniors. In a class comprised of two, it's Penn State's 2018 seniors who paved the way for what can easily be described as a tangible buzz swirling through Happy Valley at the mere mention of men's hoops.

To understand their unique impact, look no further than where it all started.

Penn State opened the 2014-15 season with a 61-48 win against Morgan State. The box score listed 7,402 as the official attendance. The loudest voice in the Bryce Jordan Center that night was not Chambers, it was Kim Garner. Seated in section 107, Garner watched her son Shep make his collegiate debut with a 14-point performance against the Bears, second only to Nittany Lion leading scorer D.J. Newbill.

Garner was the first freshman to start a season opener since Trey Lewis in 2011.

Fast forward to January 27, 2018, when Penn State topped Rutgers 60-43 in front of the largest BJC hoops crowd since 2011. The voice from section 107 was arguably still the loudest.

It's not a hostile kind of voice though, instead the exact opposite, one of encouragement and often including a confident "We Are."

"You can't replace Ms. Garner," junior Josh Reaves said. "She's a voice you're always going to hear regardless of where you are. The energy she brings from the crowd alone, it just travels. I know she's got my back, even from the crowd."

Upon asking any Nittany Lion freshman why they chose to come to Penn State, the answer is always the same. Family.

Just ask Reaves, who noted he could feel the love from the Penn State coaching staff all the way from Fairfax, Virginia during his recruitment process.

"When I was playing with Team Takeover in AAU, I always heard about Shep Garner, Shep Garner, he's committed to Penn State. He can do this, he can do that." Reaves said. "I'd never seen him, I'd never watched him play and I'd never met him, but as soon as I came here for a game I watched him play and I was like, he lived up to the hype." 

Garner finished his freshman season ranked second on the team and scoring and assists. As a sophomore, he came one triple shy of a Penn State record, shooting 8-for-12 from 3-point range with a career-high 30 points in a win against Boston College, which Chambers immediately notes as his best career outing.

By his junior year, he eclipsed 1,000-point mark in perhaps the most perfect of settings, knocking off Michigan State in front of a packed hometown crowd at the historic Palestra. 

On the strength of a standout senior campaign, he has continued to climb the all-time career scoring record, recently cracking the top 10.

"He's been through a lot and he had many other options other than Penn State but he chose Penn State," Chambers said. "He too could have left in this world that we live in. He did not. He believed in what we were doing. He wanted to see this thing through. What a great example he is for the rest of our team and the guys who are coming in. That's a guy who I am always going to refer to, to say hey, this is what this guy did."

In mid-November 2015, Penn State announced the signing of its highest-ranked recruiting class in program history featuring Roman Catholic standouts Lamar Stevens, Tony Carr and Nazeer Bostick. All three from the same high school as three-time All-Catholic, all-state selection Shep Garner.

When Chambers is asked about recruiting success in Philadelphia though, there's the Garner's.

"If DJ [Newbill] opened the door, Shep threw that thing wide open," Chambers said.

Chambers certainly doesn't stop at Shep though, giving credit back to the one person responsible for shaping exactly the attitude you'd want in a Nittany Lion. Kim Garner.

"She helped recruit these kids," Chambers said. "That's what it is, the families, the players, all coming from the same area, from the same school. You can't deny that. What a special family."

At every pregame training table, Chambers picks a member of the program to lead the team in prayer. His most frequent selection, is Julian Moore.

Much like Garner, Moore, or "reverend Moore" as he's sometimes called by his teammates, has also seen it all. Maybe even a bit more for the fifth-year senior too, considering his freshman year was cut short by injury in 2013-14.

"The players respond to him and his message and his words," Chambers said. "It's just unbelievable. Regardless of how many minutes he has played, how many points he has played, he's going to leave a legacy with this program. One of a guy who is loyal, committed and who played his role to the best of his ability."

For Reaves, there's Garner's leadership, but there's nobody on the team more inspiring than Moore.

Among selecting all the best passages and quotes for the team prayer, it's Moore who knows just how to approach certain teammates when certain situations arise. 

"I love him to death and I'll always have Julian's back no matter what," Reaves said. "As far as a leader, he knows what he's doing. He's trying to help out the other bigs and get with them to improve and you're seeing that each and every night."

Not one to focus on the headlines, Moore is making the most of seeing his final season out, averaging nearly 13 minutes per game across the last nine outings. In 14 minutes at No. 6 Purdue, Moore scored a Big Ten season-high six points.

Upon summer graduation prior to the 2017-18 season, the opportunity to pursue another program was certainly something he could have considered

"He had a chance to leave too," Chambers said. He's a throwback. He stayed. He gutted this thing out."

A Senior Legacy Powered By Leadership

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By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the last regular season series of the year quickly approaching, Penn State men's hockey is looking to end on a positive note. With the goal to finish strong in mind, the Nittany Lions will also take time to honor their four seniors. Read More

A Senior Legacy Powered By Leadership

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By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the last regular season series of the year quickly approaching, Penn State men's hockey is looking to end on a positive note. With the goal to finish strong in mind, the Nittany Lions will also take time to honor their four seniors.

"All four of them have exhibited tremendous character," Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "I think they all have a great deal of pride in Penn State University because of the road they took to get here."

In a pregame ceremony, Penn State will honor captain and forward James Robinson, assistant captain and defenseman Erik Autio, defenseman Trevor Hamilton and goaltender Matt Erlichman.

While each Nittany Lion has a unique journey leading up to their final regular season series in Pegula Ice Arena, they all started in different places.

For Robinson, he didn't even have to step foot on campus to know Penn State was the place for him.

"I knew that I didn't have to come down and see [Penn State] just from talking to my junior coaches and my conversations with Gadz [Gadowsky] and [Keith] Fisher," Robinson said. "I knew, but it surpassed all expectations." 

After his freshman year, things took an unexpected turn. During his sophomore season, Robinson skated one shift before suffering a season-ending injury. Ahead of his junior year, he was voted to wear the "A" for his leadership qualities exhibited off the ice. 

"That is the accomplishment I've been the most proud of in my hockey career," Robinson said. "Not having to play every weekend gave me the opportunity to be the best teammate possible and I tried to build my relationships with every single guy in that locker room. I think that's a big piece of why they trusted me in being a captain the next year."

Throughout his four years in Hockey Valley, there's one not-too-obvious game that sticks out in Robinson's head when it comes to his favorite memory. On Halloween during his freshman year, the Nittany Lions played Bentley and overcame a two-goal deficit, tying the game in the last minute of play.

"I honestly think that's the loudest I've ever heard that rink and we've had some big games against some of the Big Ten teams" Robinson said. "To have that moment against Bentley stand out is pretty special and I'll never forget that."

Autio took a long route to a new country as a freshman. Beyond simply moving to North America to attend an American university, the Finland native had to make many other adjustments on his own. 

The adversity in his path didn't stop him from rising up through the team to become a dominant defenseman, as well as captain during his final year.

"He had so many adjustments and he was the only one," Gadowsky said. "To see him grow from a quiet freshman to a confident leader is my favorite part."

Part of a special group who came to the program when it was up and coming, the seniors put in serious work long before the Big Ten Championship title to establish themselves.

The journey of course, formed an unbreakable bond between senior teammates Autio and Robinson.

"I still remember being a freshman and how much he helped me out back then and how much we loved it in the dorms and moving on from then," Autio said. "We've seen the team grow a lot together and it's been really special to me." 

While it may have took a little longer for Hamilton arrive in Happy Valley, it proved to be a beneficial move for both he and the team. Arriving with two years of eligibility,  he made an impact from the start.

"I have to admit he's really exceeded my expectations on the ice," Gadowsky said. "The way he was such an immediate, positive part of this program was something that I didn't expect but I'm really happy to see. We wouldn't be close to the program that we are without him."

Hamilton has been a threat both offensively and defensively during his senior stand, scoring four goals to go along with 21 assists.

The Michigan native's skill isn't the only impact he has made on the team, as he will also leave behind his presence in the locker room and on the ice as a leader. 

"Trevor on the ice is obviously a huge piece of our team," Robinson said. "We are just very fortunate to have him for the two seasons that we did and I am very happy that we did."

Erlichman's journey might be the most unusual, as the Pennsylvania native came to Penn State to play club hockey, but by his senior year achieved more than he could have ever hoped for.

Due to his outstanding performance with the club team and attitude with other staff members, Erlichman was able to walk-on to the varsity team and become a backup goaltender.

"We didn't plan on doing this but because of the guy he is, we decided to go this route with him," Gadowsky said. "He has been extremely important to our team, he's quite a guy."

Erlichman's energy and positivity has not gone unnoticed by his teammates and coaches, proving a key piece of impact on the team.

"He's as much a part of the team as Jones or Funkey or anyone else for that matter," Robinson said. "He brings a work ethic in the weight room and in practice. He brings an energy in the dressing room we need and we're happy he's part of [the team]."

Even though the series will be an emotional one for the entire quartet, Penn State doesn't plan on letting the senior night festivities impact its performance.

Not to be overlooked though, the Nittany Lions will face a tough opponent in Minnesota this weekend. 

While the Gophers and the Nittany Lions have both improved in different areas since the last meeting in mid-October, Robinson is confident his team will be ready for a competitive weekend.

"They're a good team but we're a good team and we can't wait to match up against them," Robinson said. "It's going to be a fun weekend."

By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team always knows a competition weekend will be busy in and out of Rec Hall. With that said, this past weekend had a little extra buzz as it was also THON weekend on Penn State's campus. Read More

Gene Harris Talks Black History Month

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUsports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A Nittany Lion hoops record holder, Gene Harris served as team captain his senior season, lettering from 1960-62. During the 1961-62 season, Harris scored a record 46 points December 27th against Holy Cross in the Quaker City Tournament. In the second of a multi-part video series, hear from Harris as he recounts his experience at Penn State. Read More

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By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  The Penn State women's gymnastics team always knows a competition weekend will be busy in and out of Rec Hall.  With that said, this past weekend had a little extra buzz as it was also THON weekend on Penn State's campus.

THON, a 46-hour student-run dance marathon took place Friday to Sunday, but before the team could head over to the marathon, they had to finish a competition.  

No. 28 Penn State (195.325) defeated Cornell (192.400) and Penn (192.200) in its first tri-meet of the season on Saturday, nabbing reputable scores across the board. 

"Tonight was a good night for us," head coach Sarah Brown said after the win. "We started out strong, we only had five up on vault and I thought we had a really strong rotation there." 

The team placed a 48.375 on the beam lineup, an ongoing battle for the Nittany Lions, who ended up leading the scoring in that rotation.

"We've struggled in that 1-2 position, but I thought Peyton [Schuller] and Lauren [Bridgens] did a really great job," Brown said. "Unfortunately, we didn't finish as strong as we would have liked on that event. Moving to floor, I thought our energy was good and again the scores were great so if we can stay in bounds I think we're going to be a really complete team moving forward later on in the season." 

The Nittany Lions saw success from multiple gymnasts all afternoon. Along with Bridgens on beam, Peyton Schuller tied for fifth with a 9.700.  On the uneven bars, sophomore Tess McCracken tied a career-best outing to tie for sixth with Briannah Tsang with a 9.800.

"I think we really came together as a team, especially at certain parts in the meet where everybody had each other's backs," Schuller said. "There was lots of energy at the end when we needed it." 

Bridgens was a start of the night for Penn State, winning the all-around title.  In addition to the all-around, Bridgens won three event titles.

"Lauren was awesome tonight, I'm super proud of her. She continues to be steady," Brown said. "As a coaching staff, we've gotten to know her a little bit better and recognize how she competes well, so the most important thing for her first is having fun and doing what she does well, and when we let her loose, she's a star, so we couldn't be more proud of her." 

After the win, the Nittany Lions made their way over to the Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State's campus to put together a fun routine for this year's pep rally performed by student-athletes at THON, which has become a traditional part of the dance marathon. 

"It's an honor to be here, and it's important to be able to do something for the community and for people that are less fortunate than us and to do anything we can," Schuller said. 

For many of the athletes, like McCracken, it was also their first THON experience, a typically memorable one for many Penn State students.

"It's great being a part of something that's bigger than us, dancing for the kids and being out there doing something that's good for the world and not just for us," McCracken said. 

"We just had a quick team meeting after the competition," Brown said. "We can say what we want about the competition, but at the end of the day, there are bigger and larger events out there in the world, and an opportunity for them to dance is huge to help out pediatric cancer, and we're honored to be a part of it and I hope that it's something we're going to continue to be part of in the future." 

After a busy weekend for the athletes and coming off of a bin win, the Nittany Lions look ahead to cap off the season strong.

"I keep saying details, details, details, but I feel like at this point, we want to make sure that we're actually practicing what we preach, so I think at practice we need to be a little more intense," Brown said. "I know the girls have a lot going on, they've been practicing for THON, and it's been a really heavy exam week, but we're getting to the point where we really need to zone in on those details in practice so that we can expect them in competition and not just hope that they happen." 

This week will consist of three to four practices for the gymnasts, where they will prepare for their last home meet of the regular season, followed by a long slate of meets on the road.

"On Monday I'll get an idea of how the athletes' bodies are feeling and how they've been maintaining throughout the season," Brown said. "I want to make sure that we're continuing to stay healthy and making smart decisions, but we're going to have to be a little more intense in practice if we're going to see it translate in competition."

"I'm looking forward to going in and fixing what we didn't do well this week," McCracken said. "Also, just to keep grinding and really get back to where we started and what our goals were in the beginning and re-focus on that. 

Penn State will host No. 18 George Washington for its final home meet of the regular season, which will be a combined double dual with the men's team. The meet is slated for Feb. 24 at 4 p.m. at Rec Hall.

Gene Harris Talks Black History Month

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Throughout the entire month of February, Penn State Athletics is proudly sharing the stories of its student-athletes and coaches who have shaped Nittany Lion history.

A Nittany Lion record holder, Gene Harris served as team captain his senior season, lettering from 1960-62. During the 1961-62 season, Harris scored a record 46 points on December 27th against Holy Cross in the Quaker City Tournament.

"The early sixties were a time of transition on college campuses and sports," Harris said. "There weren't that many African American players in any of the sports."

Drawn to Penn State by way of an athletic scholarship, Harris immediately found campus to be a friendly environment as he fondly looks back at his time in Happy Valley.

In the second of a multi-part video series, hear from Harris as he recounts his experience.

Click here for more Black History Month coverage.

Penn State Athletics at THON 2018

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUsports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State saw its 2018 THON weekend come to a close shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday. Moments after revealing a combined fundraising total of more than $10 million to benefit the Four Diamonds Fund and childhood cancer, the 700-plus dancers were finally off their feet. Among the dancers to reach the finish line of the 46-hour dance marathon were six student-athletes as well as members of the cheerleading and dance team. Recap their memorable weekend. Read More

Penn State Athletics at THON 2018

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State saw its 2018 THON weekend come to a close shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday. Moments after revealing a combined fundraising total of more than $10 million to benefit the Four Diamonds Fund and childhood cancer, the 700-plus dancers were finally off their feet. 

Among the dancers to reach the finish line of the 46-hour dance marathon were six student-athletes as well as members of the cheerleading and dance team. Recap their memorable weekend below. 

Penn State Athletics at #THON2018

Nittany Lions Celebrate a Dominant Senior Day

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By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State didn't only honor its eight senior wrestlers before the match, it put on a show. It was a show that those in attendance won't forget. Read More

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