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By Jeff Sattora, GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Penn State women's lacrosse team has made a habit of playing late into the season, and in its seventh consecutive postseason appearance and coming off back-to-back Final Four runs, the program is ready for the pressure and high-stakes matchups again this May. 

 Though the Nittany Lions are coming off a 10-9 regular season and tough loss in the Big Ten Tournament final to Maryland, for head coach Missy Doherty and her players, the postseason offers a fresh start. 

"We had a really young team this year, we learned a lot throughout the season," Doherty said.  "We're really focused in, it's a new season for us and a chance to prove where we are at this point in the season," she added.

While Doherty's squad is young, the team still is led by players with postseason experience.  Junior Madison Carter leads the Lions with 57 goals on the year, followed by senior captain and Big Ten Midfielder of the Year Katie O'Donnell and sophomore Maria Auth with 56 and 52 respectively.  That group is three of seven double-digit goal scoring Nittany Lions that have been members of at least one of the last two Final Four runs.  O'Donnell echoed her coach, knowing this time of year is a clean slate.  

"Postseason is a new season, your record is 0-0 again," she said.  "It doesn't really matter what you did in the regular season because this is when it really counts."

Penn State will begin its clean slate against in-state rival Penn (13-4), who the Nittany Lions took down in the 2016 postseason to reach the Final Four.  The matchup and this time of year brings a level of excitement for the program.

"We're really excited for the tournament," Doherty said.  "It's such a great place to be in your season to be practicing and getting ready to play some of the best teams in the country.  Going to Stony Brook and playing Penn, Penn is such a great team and it gives us another opportunity to bring our best."

"We had kind of an up and down year so to make NCAAs this year was a big thing for us," O'Donnell added.  "We're really happy that we just get to keep spending the days together and keep playing lacrosse.  It's pretty awesome."

For members of the 2016 and 2017 Final Four teams, like O'Donnell and junior defender Kelly Daggett, looking back and using that previous big game experience will be key for this year's younger squad.

"It's a great memory for us, the past two years we've gone all the way to Memorial Day weekend and that's been incredible for us," Daggett said.  "From a heart and an effort point we really want to get their again and we keep reminding the freshmen this is what we do, we get to the Final Four."

While the freshmen have gotten that reminder and are heading into their first postseason run, the Nittany Lions are confident the group will step up.  

"They've been great, it's been really awesome to see them grow from the time they came in August til now," O'Donnell said.  "I really can't wait to see how they finish the season." 

The Nittany Lions hope that finish to their season doesn't come anytime soon, as Penn State will take its first step to the Final Four again as they travel to Stony Brook, New York to take on Penn Friday at 5pm.  The winner will face fifth-seeded Stony Brook Sunday at noon. 

Coaches Caravan Day 1: New York

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUsports.com

NEW YORK- The Penn State Coaches Caravan is back for its sixth year, hitting the road bright and early before arriving at the iconic New Yorker Hotel in midtown Manhattan. In a bit of a new format, the Coaches Caravan will visit three cities in a span of three days, with tonight's program officially kicking off the three-day event. Read More

Coaches Caravan Day 1: New York

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NEW YORK - The Penn State Coaches Caravan is back for its sixth year, hitting the road bright and early before arriving at the iconic New Yorker Hotel in midtown Manhattan. In a bit of a new format, the Coaches Caravan will visit three cities in a span of three days, with tonight's program officially kicking off the three-day event.

Penn State football head coach James Franklin and Nittany Lion director of athletics Sandy Barbour joined Penn State men's basketball head coach Patrick Chambers, field hockey coach Char Morett-Curtiss and women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose.

Arriving in New York, there was perhaps no better memory for Nittany Lion coaches Chambers and Franklin. Less than 30 days ago it was Chambers who led his 2017-18 squad to an NIT Championship a mere block from the very building Penn State opened its first of three programs. While celebrating with All-American running back Saquon Barkley and his family in Dallas, Texas, it was Franklin who watched the New York Giants select Barkley with the second overall pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. 

As Franklin reflected on the emotional moment he heard Barkley's name called, it was perhaps a full circle moment as he saw the entire evolution of legendary Nittany Lion take shape. 

For Franklin, there's certainly being legendary for talent on the field, but when it comes to Barkley, there's more to it for the Happy Valley community. 

"People I think were amazed whenever they got a chance to spend time with Saquon, with how kind he was and how thoughtful he was and how intelligent he was," Franklin said. "Just how he treated people. I think that rubbed off on a lot of people and people saw that if you make the type of investment that he made and have the type of success that he did, at the end of the day you're still going to be remembered based on how you treat people." 

It's that type of investment though that Franklin noted has rubbed off on more than just the community, setting a tone for the entire organization. Barkley set the tone in a variety of ways, but when he's no longer around on a day-to-day basis, those who were around with him know just what it takes when it comes to watching hard work translate to an NFL opportunity of a lifetime. 

"I think there are going to be a lot of residual effects on our program from all those perspectives from him," Franklin said. "I think we have a hungry team and I think Saquon's experience has probably made a lot of our players hungrier because someone that they know and someone they have seen in our program was able to chase all of his dreams at the very highest level," Franklin said.

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Chambers also reflected on the impact of a program-defining student-athlete, noting the great foundation potential NBA-bound Nittany Lion Tony Carr set during his time with the program. 

As Chambers noted in his portion of the evening program, much like Barkley, there were times it was Carr who put the team on his back.

Less than five days ago though, it was Penn State announcing Chambers and his staff would have the opportunity to continue building on the foundation, as the Penn State Board of Trustees compensation committee approved a contract extension for Chambers through the 2021-22 season.

In the days since the announcement made headlines, the response from the community has been simply mind blowing to Chambers. 

"It was almost like winning the NIT Championship," Chambers said. "I think I received more texts and emails and people reaching out, and when I'm walking downtown and even in New York the last couple of days, it's been mind blowing the people who have come up to me and supported how hard my staff and I have worked over the last seven years to get it to this point."

Like any great coach would say though, with every successful climb, there's another mountain right behind. For Chambers its keeping the trajectory headed in the right direction when it comes to progress and player development. There's perhaps no better example than the offseason strides Carr made before dominating his way through the 2017-18 season.

"Just the fact of watching him all year from the player development aspect, changing his body and putting on the weight," Chambers said. "He shot the ball so incredibly well. Then his leadership. Then he almost gets a triple double in the championship game. He did everything for us."

There's simply no doubting the blazing trajectory the Nittany Lions have already forged, signing off in his program speech though, Chambers noted it's time to change the narrative.

"We need to change the narrative of Penn State basketball because Penn State basketball is back," Chamber said.

A Few Minutes with Barbour
Fresh off another successful graduation which saw nearly 100 Penn State student-athletes approved to graduate, Barbour was of course pleased with another year of continued academic excellence. Among the 97 student-athletes, a total of 28 teams were listed as approved to graduate, with nearly 60 percent of the group earning Academic All-Big Ten honors during the past four years for earning at least a 3.0 cumulative grade-point average.

"Our student-athlete continue, to number one, amaze me and number two, make me really, really proud and should make all of us proud at the rate of which they are graduating and the level of which they are performing academically," Barbour said. "From their grades to the different curriculums that they are pursuing and the things they are doing in their postgraduate careers."

More from Barbour below. 

The Penn State Coaches Caravan pulls out of New York early Wednesday morning, headed to Philadelphia for an evening program. 

By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A career of ups and downs has made Jess Cummings one of the toughest players on the Penn State softball team, if not Penn State as a whole. Read More

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By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A career of ups and downs has made Jess Cummings one of the toughest players on the Penn State softball team, if not Penn State as a whole.

While nothing in her college career has gone exactly to plan, Cummings credits all the people surrounding the Penn State program to her success and to help her become the person and player she is today. They have supported her through multiple years of injuries, which in a way have made Cummings much stronger.  After pitching a combined 184.0 innings in the first three years of her career battling injuries, Cummings has fought through pitched 154.0 this year alone. 

"It's really given me a new perspective on it and enjoying the moments and enjoying it rather than being completely like consumed with the end result or getting really frustrated. I think I've been able to find the joy and happiness and just be more grateful for the moments as opposed to my perfectionist personality taking the joy and fun out of it which it may have if it hadn't been shown how lucky I am to be playing." 

Head coach Amanda Lehotak has described this team as a bunch of fighters all season, and none can truly fit that description more than Cummings. Lehotak thanks the seniors for all they have brought to the program and what they have made it today. 

"These seniors are the ones who have changed our program," Lehotak said. "You won't always see it on the stat sheet but behind the scenes in the dugout in the locker room. That's got to be culture wise and they are going to be so greatly missed."

Throughout her tumultuous career Cummings has not always been the go-to pitcher on the pitching staff.  This year however she has been placed in that role alongside Madison Shaffer. Cummings had a team high six wins, as well as 24 starts in the circle while making 40 appearances. 

"I don't think I have a specific moment (that sticks out)," Cummings said on her favorite memories in Happy Valley.  "I think when I look back on it or when I am talking about it when I'm older will be the people. I think that I have a group of friends and especially the upperclassman like Gianna that I am graduating with and the juniors that will be part of my life for the rest if my life. There are people that I can count on for absolutely anything from the illness and injury so I think I am going to be able to value the relationships that I formed with them than like a specific moment or pitch."

 She gave the prior answer before Senior Day, but she created a special moment with a performance on Senior Day she will never forget, throwing five scoreless innings in relief and earning the win against Illinois. 

"It's the goal every day, it makes it more special as just a memory to just remember it," Cummings said following the win. "Obviously the win was just fantastic but really it's just going to be the memories of just getting to play and fight with the 18 other people that I've gotten to play and fight with all season and finally get the win that I think that we've deserved." 

The relationships formed and the people met will stick in with Cummings forever. While they have impacted her life she has surely made an impact on theirs as well.  

"I've talked with Tori (Dubois) a lot about it and we both said we are going to need to cry before Senior Day so we are able to take the field. But I am very sad about it, a lot of people are ready for a break when they are done, I wish that I could do it for another 113 games. It's really difficult and I'm really upset about it but I am really grateful for the four years."

By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As a native of Pembroke Pines, Florida, there was no doubt some uncertainty in going to a school over 1,000 miles away from home. However, after four years in Happy Valley, shortstop Gianna Arrizurieta knew she made the right decision in coming to Penn State - and all thanks to her teammates. Read More

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By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As a native of Pembroke Pines, Florida, there was no doubt some uncertainty in going to a school over 1,000 miles away from home. However, after four years in Happy Valley, shortstop Gianna Arrizurieta knew she made the right decision in coming to Penn State - and all thanks to her teammates.

 "It's bittersweet," Arrizurieta said about graduating and leaving her fellow Nittany Lions. "I'm excited to move on into the real world and focus on my career and my future, but at the same time softball has been a huge part of my experience at Penn State and I'm going to miss being a part of this team. Being with my teammates all the time has been my favorite part of Penn State. (Leaving my teammates) is going to be the saddest part." 

"It's been awesome to get really close with everybody on the team and get to build those bonds that will last forever," she added. 

On the field, the biochemistry and molecular biology major started 43 of the team's 47 games at shortstop this season and set career-highs in almost every offensive category, including hits, doubles, and runs batted in. She was also terrific defensively at shortstop, recording 60 putouts on the season. 

Head coach Amanda Lehotak talked about how her senior infielder was crucial to the program's culture and identity.

 "Obviously win-loss wise, it's been a rough year for a multitude of reasons, but the one thing that hasn't changed has been our culture and our love for each other, and that's been because of (Gianna) and Jess (Cummings) and what they've brought to our program."

Lehotak continued her high praise for Arrizurieta as both a person and a leader. 

"Gianna, if you're lucky enough to get to know her as a person, you'll know that she's amazing," Lehotak said. "If you get to be in her life, you're the blessed one, not her. She's just that special. Not everybody talks about it, but her leadership, her grind, and her work ethic are amazing." 

"She's just such a good person in that everything she does is with high character, high quality, high morals, and high ethics," Lehotak added. "I'm going to be really sad to see her go." 

Arrizurieta talked about how Penn State's softball program over the years has helped shape her into the person she is today.

"(This program) has molded me into who I am," Arrizurieta said. "Obviously this season hasn't gone the way we wanted it or expected it to, but I think that builds a lot of character. It shows what kind of people we are." 

This mindset helped her become the 2017 Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, an honor that she has shown she's absolutely worthy of. 

No matter where Arrizurieta chooses to go after her graduation from Penn State, one thing is certain - she left her mark on the program in the most positive of ways.

By: Briana Zuccarelli, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- With the Big Ten Tournament beginning this week, the Nittany Lions are preparing physically and mentally for what is to come. Read More

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By: Briana Zuccarelli, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- With the Big Ten Tournament beginning this week, the Nittany Lions are preparing physically and mentally for what is to come.

While getting ready for one of the most important games of thee season, Penn State is focused on finishing the academic year strong. Head coach Missy Doherty wants to make sure the team heads into the tournament ready to play. 

"Exam week is going to be over for us as they are finishing up today and tomorrow," Doherty said. "It will be nice to have that weight of their shoulders a little bit. A new season, new opportunity with four teams in it and we're proud to be one of the best four teams in the conference with the number 3 seed." 

The team will travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan Friday to take on No. 2 seed, Northwestern in the second semifinal. Coach Doherty reflected on when the two teams met just a few short weeks ago. 

"I think we have to be ready to help defensively," Doherty said on where her team needs to improve following the earlier season loss. "A couple times we got caught just watching them come in and not sending help soon enough for some goals. A couple tough breaks didn't go our way so we want to do everything to make that happen." 

The last time Northwestern and Penn State met was in mid-April, where the Nittany Lions fell in a 17-13 loss. 

Despite the outcome in that game, it was one of the many times throughout the later part of the season the team has seen encouraging performances from the freshman class.

"I think that our freshmen have stepped up in a lot of ways, which is hard because there are so many of them starting this year on an especially young team," captain Kayla Brisolari said. "I think they've grown into themselves, they've showed a lot of confidence and they are willing to shoot the ball in big moments during our big games."

In that mix of freshmen starters is Sophia Triandafils, who already shows a great level of confidence according to sophomore Kristen Roberto.

"Coming in as a freshman, she has already made such a big difference on our team," Roberto said. "She's only going to keep getting better as she gets older."  

Freshman goalie Lucy Lowe has also grown in her position from the beginning of the season. From only playing half the game in the start of the season, to playing all 60 minutes, Lowe has made massive saves for the team that don't go unrecognized. 

This past weekend, Lowe tied her career-high with 13 saves against Michigan, which she originally set in the matchup against Northwestern. 

"Lucy has done an incredible job for us," Roberto said. "She has come up with huge saves for us which is amazing as a freshman. She's only going to get better and better each year and I can't wait to watch her grow as a player." 

As the team continues to prepare in hopes of winning a Big Ten Championship, they share some words of advice to the younger players who have yet to play in a tournament. 

"Just need to continue taking chances," Doherty said. "There has been a lot of pressure on the freshmen and sophomores this year to step up. We have a lot of them in the starting lineup, so we want them to be able to assert themselves. We need more of everyone on the team being leaders."

 Penn State may be young, but the Nittany Lions know they have what it takes to be successful if they focus on improving the little things and continue to be aggressive.

Bullpen Bounces Back with Complete Game Effort

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Normally, when a team's starting pitcher can't make it out of the first inning, it spells big trouble. While Penn State seemed to be in a heap of trouble early, the game could've gotten out of hand quickly. Freshman Bailey Dees wasn't going to let that happen. Read More

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