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Balanced Effort Leads Penn State Past Sacred Heart

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By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State put on an excellent display of offensive efficiency in a four-set win against Sacred Heart to end a two-game skid against the Pioneers.  Read More

Balanced Effort Leads Penn State Past Sacred Heart

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By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Penn State put on an excellent display of offensive efficiency in a four-set win against Sacred Heart (25-15, 27-29, 25-21, 25-18) at Rec Hall to move to 2-0 in EIVA play.

The win Friday night ended a two-game skid against the Pioneers. Throughout the week, the Nittany Lions mentioned there would be some extra motivation after one of those losses last season was a sweep at home.

"We mentioned it once during the huddle before first serve, but it wasn't like it'd be our focus," setter Luke Braswell said. "Playing with revenge only lasts for about the first five points and then after that you're just playing volleyball." 

Braswell finished the match with five digs and 42 assists, as a masterful facilitator of Penn State's offense that hit .370 as a team for the match.  

Friday night also saw Penn State's star right side hitter Calvin Mende return to the court after missing several weeks with a sprained right ankle.  

Mende was understandably a bit rusty offensively early on in the match, but he began to find his groove beginning in the third set. He finished with 12 of his 14 kills for the match (.440 hitting percentage) in sets three and four. Mende picked up seemingly right where he left off, particularly effective in the back row too, where he tallied a team-high eight digs. 

"Basically, the whole week was shaking off rust, getting my jump back, getting my swing back and trying to get as many reps as possible for this," Mende said. "At practice the speed is a little different, but as the game wore on, I just kind of got in a rhythm."

Having Mende back on the right side allowed Jalen Penrose to move back to the second middle blocker spot and add another big arm up front. Penrose did not have his best offensive outing in his first match back at middle blocker, but he did add four aces from behind the service line.

Aidan Albrecht and Matt McLaren led the way for Penn State offensively. Albrecht finished with 14 kills (.308 hitting percentage), while McLaren posted 13 kills (.435 hitting percentage). They also combined for three service aces.

Penn State had nine team service aces for the match. While the Nittany Lions did commit 11 service errors in the lone set it lost, they regularly forced Sacred Heart out of system, preventing the Pioneers from running their offense.

"I think our serving really won the match for us," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "They could not get any type of offensive rhythm going. They were so aware of our block that we had some easier balls to play. It was a lot more good than bad."

Penn State's offensive balance was off the charts as well, with Albrecht, Mende and McLaren all totaling at least 13 kills.

"It makes it easier for me, obviously, when I have a lot of guys who can put balls away," Braswell said. "Four of the five hitters hit over .300, which is insane. It is really nice for me to be able to set and watch these guys put it away."

Penn State will be right back at it Saturday afternoon, taking on the Harvard Crimson in Rec Hall's south gym at 4 p.m. to cap off the weekend. 

By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "I went to THON my freshman year and just kind of fell in love with it," said Tess Kearns.

That moment was the start of something special for the Penn State track and field student-athlete.  Read More

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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "I went to THON my freshman year and just kind of fell in love with it," said Tess Kearns.

 

That moment was the start of something special for the Penn State track and field student-athlete.   

 

Kearns is the now head THON chair for the Student-Athlete Advisory Board, SAAB, and she has been involved with the organization since coming here as a freshman.

 

"My freshman year, I came in and really wanted to be a part of SAAB. It was definitely something that was very attractive to me. So, then they gave me the role of planning our first ever lip-sync battle three years ago. All of the money ended up going to THON. I just kind of threw myself right into it," Kearns said.

 

Kearns knew she wanted to follow in her older sister's footsteps. Her sister was the head THON chair for the club cross country team here at Penn State.

 

"My sister went here, and she was really involved with THON. She was on the club cross country team and she was their head THON chair, so I was always hearing her talk about it," Kearns said.

 

But Kearns has a more emotional reason for being a part of this organization. Kearns said she hasn't been affected by childhood cancer, but she has been affected by cancer itself.

 

"I've never been personally affected by childhood cancer but growing up my dad did have cancer when he was 33. Not childhood cancer, but he was still pretty young. Cancer has always had a place in my heart, I just always want to help as much as I can," she said.

 

Kearns found herself shadowing Angela Widlacki, who was the head THON chair for SAAB last year. Now, Kearns is the head chair for SAAB and works alongside co-chair and football player Charlie Shuman. Kearns and Shuman are in charge of organization all the THON fundraising efforts for SAAB.

 

"We do the lip-sync battle, a pie in the face contest, our annual auction. So, a bunch of teams donate stuff and we auction it off online. I think this year we made almost $5,500 on it. We did an assassin game this year, we did a bake sale, and a lot of small fundraisers through athletics," Kearns said. "We sold programs in the fall at the football games, and we did some sustainability stuff with the Penn State Tailgate Ambassadors, so kind of dabbled in a little bit of everything."

 

Although juggling both track and field and being the head chair for THON on SAAB can be time consuming, Kearns expresses how much Shuman and her collaborate to make sure the job gets done.

 

"I can tag team with him. So, when one of us can't do something, the other one picks up the slack," Kearns said. "It works well. We make it work. It's time consuming, but it's worth it." He's done so much this year. I wouldn't be able to do what I do without Charlie."

 

Kearns is also in charge of leading Athlete Hour, which is a special hour that kids at THON get to come interact with athletes.

 

"Every year on Saturday we rent out the Tennis Center or the IM building, and we set up booths with fun simple games. The kids come over from the Bryce Jordan Center and we play around and have fun," Kearns said. "They love it. There's a DJ and people are dancing and playing games. They get to interact with athletes which is really fun for them."

 

Seeing the kids play with all of the athletes is one of Kearns's favorite parts about THON. She also loves how this organization brings so many people together for one goal.

 

"Within athletics, it's such a big organization. We are all going at different speeds all year round but when THON does come around and we get 18 teams up on stage for pep rally, all fighting for one cause and we get 22 teams at Athlete Hour to dance around with the kids. To see that sense of community and love and that you are all fighting for one single goal, is just amazing," Kearns said.

 

That community and love will be felt throughout Happy Valley this weekend, and Kearns will be a big part of it. 

By Briana Zuccarelli, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa- After a one-goal loss in their season opener against the Towson Tigers, the Penn State Nittany Lions women's lacrosse team learned the key parts of their game they need to work on heading into the remainder of the season.  Read More

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By Briana Zuccarelli, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer    

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa- After a one-goal loss in their season opener against the Towson Tigers, the Penn State Nittany Lions women's lacrosse team learned the key parts of their game they need to work on heading into the remainder of the season.

 

"There were a lot of question marks that we are continuing to fill," head coach Missy Doherty said. "We graduated half of our starting lineup and most of that was on the defensive end. A lot of that requires experience playing in some tough games, dealing with different situations that come about. We had to go through those during the Towson game."

Due to the changes in the game day schedule requirements, the Nittany Lions were unable to play a game before February 9th and had to jump right into playing a ranked Towson. Doherty explained how this change shifted the teams schedule and didn't give them the opportunity to put a scrimmage in.

 

"Obviously anytime you're going into a season with a younger team, you want to have that experience," Doherty said, on how an exhibition game could have helped her team. "That being said, we had a lot of learning lessons in our first game."

 

With losing half of their starting lineup, mostly on the defensive end, the Nittany Lions had to start some young players who have never played in a collegiate game before the matchup last Saturday. Doherty explained that they played around with the lineup during the game in order to find their best defensive unit and will continue working on finding it.

 

"We were starting a young goalkeeper and starting a new round of defense," said Doherty. "As the game started to progress and we kept going through the game, we kept getting better and better; started to make some defensive stops, started making some big goals and we fought the entire game. We almost scraped our way back to tying it up there in the end, so I like to see the fight."

 

As the team prepares for the upcoming matchup against Lehigh in Saturday, February 17th, junior Madison Carter expressed that the team is taking the loss as a learning lesson to help the team bounce back.

 

"As a team I think we can do a better job at taking care of the ball," Cater said. "We kind of had a lot of turnovers. So being confident with the ball and what we're doing on the field. We need to execute all over the field from every single person on the field to people that come off the bench; we need to work together."

 

While some Nittany Lions are still gaining experience on the field, the game Saturday will provide a familiar opponent for the Penn State program.  The Nittany Lions are 25-0 all-time against Lehigh, including wins three straight years.   

 

Carter and senior Katie O'Donnell combined for nine goals in last year's win over the Mountain Hawks, and the team will look to repeat that performance.

 

No matter what the final outcome is on Saturday, Penn State is ready to gain experience, keep improving, and see where this season takes them. 

By Brian McLaughlin, Student Staff Writer GoPSUsports.com

UNIVERSTIY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State softball team opened its 2018 campaign last week on a trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama. Though they dropped the two games they played, one to the Alabama Crimson Tide and the other to the Virginia Tech Hokies, and the remaining three games of the road trip were cancelled due to inclement weather, the team still took away positives from the trip.  Read More

Lady Lions Excited for THON

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By Brian McLaughlin, Student Staff Writer GoPSUsports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Lady Lions enter a rare week off from play and the opportunity to have some fun off the court this weekend with Penn State's 46-hour long dance-marathon THON looming, this Friday to Sunday in the Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State's campus.  Read More

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By Brian McLaughlin, Student Staff Writer GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSTIY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State softball team opened its 2018 campaign last week on a trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama. Though they dropped the two games they played, one to the Alabama Crimson Tide and the other to the Virginia Tech Hokies, and the remaining three games of the road trip were cancelled due to inclement weather, the team still took away positives from the trip. 

The team returned to State College following the road trip and had their preseason media day, here are some takeaways.

 1.     Coach Amanda Lehotak was pleased with first two games

"Opening weekend was disappointing only in the fact that they had more rain in three days than they've had in 32 years according to their local news," Lehotak said.

 The Lions were scheduled to play Ole Miss, Georgia Tech and Lipscomb after their first two games, but had all three rained out.

"In the softball we did play I really liked what I saw, loved the attitude and the energy from our team. The attitude we brought was great and makes me really excited for this year," Lehotak said. "We still have 54 games left, it's about getting better every weekend and not about winning a national championship opening weekend." 

2.     Solid pitching kept it close against Virginia Tech

Jessica Cummings started both games for the Nittany Lions and went seven and a third innings total surrendering five earned runs and eight total on the weekend.  The Virginia Tech game saw her hold the Hokies scoreless in six of the game's seven innings. 

"Jess Cummings was stellar for us against Virginia Tech. She got really big for us at a few different moments," Lehotak said. "She had a great weekend overall and really kept Alabama off balance. For her mental stability to stay calm and to come back after the tough loss to Alabama and pitch well against Virginia tech shows where she is at mentally." 

3.     Dr. Ohlson making an impact with the team

This August Penn State athletics welcomed Dr. Carl Ohlson as its assistant athletic director for performance psychology services. Ohlson has been especially instrumental for the softball program, while also working with all the other teams within the athletic department. His main objective with the program is developing and executing innovative strategies to maximize the athletic performance and general well-being of Penn State's 800 student-athletes.

"Dr. Ohlson does a great job at doing team work and individual work. Right before we left he actually asked all of us what our greatest fear was going into the first game." sophomore Destiny Weber said. "By recognizing and addressing our fear we realized it really wasn't a fear and we could go forward confidently and try to get a W."

 Ohlson has not only helped the players, but works with the coaching staff as well, and has given some new perspective for Lehotak.

"His ability to touch the coaching staff and bring everyone together on the same language and the same page is huge," Lehotak said. "His ability to give us a common language has been instrumental for us and other teams as well." 

4.     Preparing for Big Ten/ACC Challenge

"We had a really good fight against Virginia Tech in the second game and are excited to play them again this weekend," Lehotak said.

Outside of a Virginia Tech rematch, the Nittany Lions will also take on the Duke Blue Devils in their program's inaugural season, in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Blue Devils finished 2-3 in their first weekend of play, while Virginia Tech is 3-2 on the young season.    

5.     Doesn't matter, get better

Penn State is coming into this year with the attitude that no matter what happens on the field the goal is to improve every time they are on the diamond. They feel this is the best way to have success and the best attitude throughout the long season. 

"It is a lot of fun to play for Penn State and we take a lot of pride wearing Penn State across our chest. When you put on the blue and white uniform, it is easy to focus in on what we need to do because we know what we are playing for," Weber said. "We focus on getting better each day and each game, which will come with taking things one pitch at a time."

The Nittany Lions will look to use that attitude for not only success this weekend, but in weeks to come. 

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By Brian McLaughlin, Student Staff Writer GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Lady Lions enter a rare week off from play and the opportunity to have some fun off the court this weekend with Penn State's 46-hour long dance-marathon THON looming, this Friday to Sunday in the Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State's campus. 

THON, which is student-run and raises money to fight childhood cancer, has what is called "athlete hour" every year in which student-athletes get to energize the crowd with performances on stage. Because THON falls during the basketball season, the Lady Lions are not always able to participate, but the last few years the schedule has fallen perfectly and allowed the team to participate in this life-altering event. 

"The energy that THON brings to the building is incredible and thankfully we're not on the road this year," head coach Coquese Washington said. "Our kids get to experience this and be a part of athlete hour and be a part of the whole weekend. I know they are excited to participate and just feel the energy of the whole weekend." 

In 2017 the Lady Lions showed off their moves in front of a packed Bryce Jordan Center, highlighted by solo moves by then freshman Siyeh Frazier. Sarah McMurtry also showed off, with the worm dance move in front of her teammates.

"All the students of different backgrounds I think is what got me going so much," Frazier said. "Regardless of race or what was going on today we were able to all come together and celebrate and do something great for a great cause. I'm not really an outgoing person and I wouldn't do that on a regular basis so I guess I was so into it that it just happened with all the people around and the energy it just happened." 

A huge part of THON is the community it creates between the students as Frazier explained. Washington believes that is one of the best parts for her team. 

"THON is an unbelievable experience. I think one of the strength of the Penn State community and one of the things that makes Penn State so unique is its commitment to community service, commitment to giving back and commitment to connecting others. THON is just an extremely vibrant example of that commitment and for our students to be a part of that and experience it on such a big scale is really meaningful for them," Washington said. "It's things like THON in your college life that when you reflect 10 years later those are the moments you go back to, things like getting to dance at THON. Those are the memories and experiences that make being a college athlete and being a college student at Penn State so special." 

The Lady Lions will once again have the chance to dance during the athlete hour, but don't have any concrete plans yet, or at least none they will divulge. 

"We've talked about this year's a little bit but we do have some stuff we are getting ready, but nothing huge yet," Frazier said. 

"We don't have a ton of time to plan it like some other teams, but hopefully we can bring energy and excitement to the stage," sophomore guard Amari Carter said. "Last year the gymnastics team was so good, they were doing flips and other crazy stuff." 

Don't expect that much out of the Lady Lions however, Carter has a much different style.

"No way I don't flip, or skip or really anything. The only time I'm in the air is straight up like for a rebound. Only normal vertical jumps for me," Carter said.

"Nobody on our team surprised me with their dance moves, they are a bunch of hams. You turn that camera and music on and the Lady Lions will start that dance party for you. They have an affinity for being engaged and involved in THON," Washington added.

While the dance moves are a fun part of the weekend, the team knows it's all for a bigger cause. 

 "The key word is support through it all. Everybody's experience with cancer is personal to them and I think the job that the rest of us can do is just to support in any way we can," Washington said. "Whether it's giving a listening ear or driving someone to treatment or helping do research on medications. It takes a community of people to help fight this disease and help each other get through it, that's what THON is all about creating a community to help beat this." 

"I've been fortunate enough at times to be here during THON and when you look out and see thousands of people dancing and having a good time and bringing attention and awareness to a cause it gives you chills," she added.  "To know you are part of a community of students that find this important and keep the dream living on is really impressive."

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