By Briana Zuccarelli, student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Nittany Lions returned to Panzer Stadium and Big Ten play Saturday evening to take on seventh-ranked Northwestern in their 2018 THON game.
A 46-hour no sitting, no sleeping dance marathon, THON is an annual event run by Penn State students each year. Throughout the year, Nittany Lion student-athletes from variety of Penn State sports participate in THON, giving back to the cause in support of childhood cancer.
"Any game we get to go out there and play for the kids is a big deal for us," Katie O'Donnell said. "We are just happy it was a great game to do it for. Northwestern was a great team and it was a great matchup."
THON children and families arrived early to the game to play in the bouncy house, later taking to the field with the team for starting lineups and the national anthem.
"The THON game is a great opportunity for us to spread awareness for such an incredible cause," Kelly Daggett said. "Any way we can help raise funds for THON is great for us and great for the kids and the cause."
While the Nittany Lions are regular supporters of THON in various events throughout the year, the evening was of course filled with hope, but ended with a slightly bitter outcome. Playing in front of their largest crowd of the season, the Nittany Lions came up short against the Wildcats, 17-13.
"I think we definitely just fought hard until the end," O'Donnell said. "We're going to have to do that for the rest of the season. We play really good teams to finish the remainder of our regular season. It's really a learning experience that we need to get better for these next couple of games. We pushed our legs a lot in transition, but we really needed to put our shots away."
The game started off with quick goals from both the Nittany Lions and the Wildcats. Northwestern quickly took a two goal lead with 20 minutes left in the first period to pull ahead.
Heading into the locker room at halftime, the Nittany Lions were trailing by three, 10-7. Inside the locker room, Penn State focused on getting refocused to put up a fight in the second period, which they did.
O'Donnell, Maria Auth and Madison Carter came out hot in the second, each scoring a pair of goals to bring the Nittany Lions within one, 13-12.
"We basically just told everyone in the locker room that we are in this game," Auth said. "We just need to come out and fight hard, that Northwestern is a great team, but so are we. We can compete with any team in the country. At halftime, whether we are up or down, we need to treat each half like it's 0-0 and we need to fight hard."
Among the highlights from the Nittany Lions, freshman Rachel Rosen recorded four assists for a career-best mark.
"She has done a good job," Penn State head coach Missy Doherty said. "She has come in with some really strong plays. We are always looking to see who is going to give us the most and she has come into some games and given us some good points. She filled a good spot for us there and has been holding her own."
Although the Nittany Lions ultimately fell short, Penn State moves to 9-5 on the year and 3-1 in Big Ten play.
"I think tonight was just their night," O'Donnell said. "They played really hard, they had a great defense and they got a lot of lose 50-50 balls. They are just a great team and we just didn't come out on the winning end tonight. Hopefully we will get to see them again."
Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State has an extremely young roster this season that features 13 freshmen and nine sophomores. Only five of the team's 35 players are seniors.
While the young roster may have experienced trouble adjusting to division I pitching and hitting early on this year, many of the promising Nittany Lions of tomorrow are hitting their stride in the middle of the season.
Penn State lost both games of its Saturday doubleheader against Ohio State by scores of 5-1 and 19-8, but multiple underclassmen showcased what the bright future of Penn State baseball could look like in the process.
Most notably, sophomore infielder Logan Goodnight broke out of his recent slump in the three-game series with the Buckeyes.
Goodnight had gone three straight games without reaching base leading up to the weekend series, but he rocked Ohio State's pitching for two multi-hit games and went 5-for-12 with a run scored in the series.
Goodnight has only started 11 games so far this year, but head coach Rob Cooper has given him the nod the past four games. He could become the regular starter at shortstop if his bat stays hot.
"This is a guy that we thought a lot of coming out of high school. He was an All-American coming out of high school," Cooper said. "He's a kid that we think has a lot of potential. I hope this is a sign of things to come with him."
Freshman Parker Hendershot also started all three games as the designated hitter against the Buckeyes and made his own case to stay in the normal rotation. Hendershot exploded in game two of the doubleheader, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. His three hits Saturday marked a career high.
"One thing I love about Parker is that he will basically do whatever you ask him to do," Cooper said. "He's super coachable. He takes his role here personally. He wants to be the best he can be."
Hendershot's .262 average is the highest among underclassmen and third highest on the team.
Fellow freshman Curtis Robison also put together a solid weekend at the plate with a hit in each of the three contests. Robison was less than a foot away from his second career home run in game two of the doubleheader when his bomb in the third inning hit the top of the right field fence.
Robison's 21 starts are the most on the team out of all freshman.
On the mound, a duo of freshman put together the two best relief performances of the weekend.
In game one Saturday, Conor Larkin relieved starter Taylor Lehman in the fourth inning with two runners on base and promptly struck out Ohio State's best hitter, Noah McGowan, to end the inning.
Larkin tossed a career-high 4.2 innings out of the bullpen and held the potent Buckeye offense to just two hits and no runs. Ohio State may lead the Big Ten in runs scored, but Larkin handled the Buckeyes with ease.
"I think the sky is the limit [for him]," Cooper said. "Right now, being a freshman, he's trying to learn how to pitch at this level. At times it can feel like drinking water out of a firehose for these young guys. He's gotten back in the bullpen and he's really starting to pitch well."
Larkin has now gone three straight appearances without allowing a run.
Freshman reliever Mason Mellott followed Larkin's performance in game one with a 2.2-inning effort in which he didn't allow a hit in game two. Mellot's 3.63 ERA is the lowest of all Penn State bullpen pitchers.
Despite Penn State's recent slide, the team's rich pool of underclassmen are getting more opportunities to showcase what the future may hold. If Saturday's performances are any indication, there's nothing short of excitement and optimism to look forward to.
By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Big first innings for Michigan State doomed Penn State in both games of a double header Saturday. Michigan State took the first game, 7-1 and the second leg, 6-2 after scoring three first-inning runs in game one and four runs in the first frame of game two.
"I'm really disappointed in us today, head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "In game one we didn't show up early or at all until the second half. I think in game two we had a little more fight but we didn't make adjustments today and Michigan State did, so they won and we lost."
The Nittany Lion offense was limited all day due the strong performance from Kristina Zalewski, who threw all 14 innings on the day for the Spartans. Tori Dubois was a bright spot for the Nittany Lions, constantly having the answer to Zalewski in the circle.
Player of the Day: Tori
Most of the offense Penn State was able to produce came from Dubois, who earned her way to the leadoff spot this weekend.
"What makes Tori special is that she just plays ball," Lehotak said. "Some hitters are really particular about four spot or three spot, but Tori just sees ball, hits ball and that's why she's really effective anywhere."
Dubois registered the only two hits for Penn State in the first game of the day, including a solo home run while the rest of the offense struggled to adjust to Zalewski's pitching.
"My preparation going into the game (worked well)," Dubois said. "I do the same thing before every single game and the same thing in practice to I try to bring what I do in practice to the games,"
Dubois leads the Nittany Lions in most offensive categories including batting average and home runs. She has carried the offense recently with her consistent approach.
Pinch Hitting Success
Looking for a spark late in the first game, coach Lehotak inserted pinch hitter Christa Wagner who worked a walk to reach base for Dubois.
In game two, Penn State was in a similar situation in the fourth inning and Paige Johnson entered the game for Destiny Weber and singled up the middle. This further emphasizes Lehotak's assessment that her team never gives up and fights to the end. The Nittany Lions were prepared to succeed right away off the bench.
In the sixth inning of game two, Penn State loaded the bases with nobody out on three straight hits. A fielder's choice helped them push across one run but were unable to add any more, stranding two runners.
"The (fighting attitude) is just the players. That's the attitude the bring," Lehotak said. "As you saw they had bases loaded no outs and that's a team that fights constantly late in the game. That's just something where it's who they are as people, so that's an area of the game I never have to worry about which is great because that's just so hard to motivate. They've taken that upon themselves and I think that's why they are so special and I praise them in that area. They could have quit many times today and they didn't."
Penn State returns to action Wednesday when Pennsylvania rival Saint Francis travels to Happy Valley for a double header.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 15 Penn State men's lacrosse pulled off the upset, defeating fourth-ranked Johns Hopkins to earn the program's first win against the Blue Jays.
Headed into the matchup, Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni knew he'd need to rely on a heavy rotation as the Nittany Lions delivered in a stellar offensive performance.
"I was really grateful with the contributions both midfields made, we had seven guys playing at the midfield and three at the attack and every one of those guys did their part," Tambroni said. "We knew we were going to need that kind of performance to make this thing happen today."
The Nittany Lions saw goals from eight different Nittany Lions, including sophomore attacker Mac O'Keefe and junior midfielder Kevin Hill, who both score three goals apiece.
It was the midfield that generated more than half of Penn State's goals Saturday afternoon, led by five different goal-scorers.
"I think we have some very talented players, but I think in order for us to be good everyone has to contribute," Tambroni said. "Sometimes it's the attack's turn and sometimes it's the middies' turn. Today we just had a few more opportunities with our middies and they took advantage of that."
Penn State's offense thrives on the involvement of everyone. While the team has been working on trying to include everyone in its offensive production throughout the first half of the season, things are starting to finally take shape during Big Ten play.
"That's what we preach every day, we're a team offense," Hill said. "There's not one guy that's the all-star, we work as a team every single day, that's how we succeed. We take a lot of pride in that and that's why we won this game and played so well in the first half offensively."
Perhaps the true star of the game was sophomore attackman, Gerard Arceri. After leaving last weekend's game late in the fourth quarter with a leg injury, it was unclear if he would play Saturday afternoon against the Blue Jays.
Even though Arceri battled through the pain, he went an impressive 16-23 on the day.
"He's been saying he's going to play since Sunday night, there was never a doubt in that young man's mind," Tambroni said. "Our trainers had a different opinion and we did as well, but he proved every one of us wrong today and got out there and had the performance of a lifetime."
The week leading up to the game wasn't easy though, as Arceri spent all of his time in the training room instead of taking reps on the field.
Knowing the importance of Saturday's game against the Blue Jays, Arceri was determined to make it onto the field to help his teammates fight for the win.
"I've never seen a kid spend so much time in the training room," junior midfielder Nick Spillane said. "He was just so determined to get on the field and just so locked in on what he haxd to do. That's one of the more impressive performances I've ever seen out of anyone."
After taking a big hit at the end of the first half, it looked doubtful Arceri would return to the field. He ended up sitting the third quarter out, giving sophomore Nick McEvoy time at the face off X. McEvoy was spectacular in the meantime, finishing 2-4 with a goal off a face off win with just a second remaining in the third quarter.
Arceri re-entered the game in the fourth quarter, providing yet another spark of momentum for the Nittany Lions to help them secure the victory. There were just a few changes Arceri had to make to his game plan in light of his leg injury though.
"I tried to find my wings a lot faster," Arceri said. "I still tried to pull the ball to myself, but I tried to find them as quick as I could because I couldn't run. Also trying to find [Colby Kneese] back there as an outlet and as many outlets as possible after winning the face off."
As his teammates and coaches noted, Arceri's performance was nothing short of amazing. Even though he was hampered with pain, it was his strong mindset that helped him stay in the game.
"The key was his mental toughness outside of his physical ability," Tambroni said. "What he was able to do out there, just focus and eliminate any thoughts about his leg and dominate the way he did, that was a special once in a lifetime kind of performance."
By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's volleyball never quite got going Friday night, falling to the Princeton Tigers in three sets, 25-23, 25-17, 25-17.
"Hats off to them," Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik said. "I'm disappointed in the fact that I didn't have our guys understand what level they needed to compete to be successful tonight. We talked this week about how there is nothing on the line for us, we're in the playoffs, but that can be a kiss of death. The last thing you want to do is try to ramp back up."
Penn State's Calvin Mende returned to the floor, collecting six kills in his first game since late March.
"I started practicing Tuesday and started to get back into the swing of things," Mende said. "I feel pretty good. I don't see a major difference from where I left off, maybe just a little slow here, a little smaller jump there."
Penn State won't have much time to make adjustments but Mende does think there are some simple things the Nittany Lions could work on ahead of Saturday's regular season home finale.
"Definitely our energy to start off the sets," Mende said. "You can't go down 5-1 or 6-1. If you come out fast, it could be a different game. We definitely need to improve communication. We had some scramble plays where the ball dropped but somebody could've gotten it."
For the Nittany Lions, a quick turnaround playing Saturday night might just help them move past the tough loss.
"I think we already have," sophomore Jason Donorovich said about the loss. "After what coach said and what we feel right now, it's not too hard to flip the switch because no one wants this feeling again. Basically you walk out of the locker room and it's over with."
That message from Pavlik after the game was simple, shake it off.
"Nobody had a good night including myself," Pavlik said. "I told them the chart that I kept was probably one of the worst kept charts of my career and I think the whole idea here is what's done is now done. You can't get it back and we can't carry it with us. So let's make sure we don't carry it with us. Shower it off, pass and serve tomorrow, let's get ready for New Jersey Tech."
The goal remains the same for the Nittany Lions, to close out the season strong and take it game by game working toward an EIVA Championship and a NCAA bid for a shot at the title.
Penn State is back in action at 7 p.m. hosting NJIT in its final regular season match.
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