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Weber's Header, Superb Team Defense Send Lions to NCAA Quarterfinals

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10569097.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A header from junior Mallory Weber in the 71st minute and a standout defensive performance lifted the Nittany Lion women's soccer team (20-3-0) to a 2-1 victory against Virginia Tech (16-6-0) in the NCAA Third Round on a warm Sunday afternoon at Jeffrey Field.

With the triumph, the Nittany Lions are headed to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the 10th time in program history and the second time in the past three seasons.

"Obviously it is a fantastic feeling (to get back to the quarters)," head coach Erica Walsh said. "That was a very good Virginia Tech team, well-coached...Obviously they gave us everything we could handle today. It certainly felt like we had to bend at times, but we never broke."

Weber will be credited with the game-winner. And senior Raquel Rodriguez's goal in the 40th minute was a crucial momentum boost for the Nittany Lions late in the first half, but the day belonged to the defense. Penn State's effort against Virginia Tech's relentless attack was exceptional.

"That unit has been very good all season," Walsh said. "But the great thing about them is that they have been getting stronger as the season has gone on and becoming more of a unit, and led by Britt Eckerstrom, who was great today. You look at Kori Chapic and you look at Whit Church. They have freshmen on either side, who are no longer playing like freshmen. They believe they are as good as they are because of the leadership."

Chapic and Church spearheaded a tremendous 90-minute performance against a Virginia Tech squad that came into the game averaging 2.90 goals per game.

"It was definitely a tough task that we had today," Church said. "They were bringing it to us. Like Coach said, we would bend at times and kind of give them things away at times, but we never broke and we stayed strong. It was really great."

The Nittany Lion back line was outstanding with the ball in the air during Sunday's victory. Virginia Tech delivered a number of balls into the box during both halves, but the Lions yielded just one scoring play from the Hokies. Defending in the box, along with the midfield's work rate and ability to track down balls were Walsh's keys to Penn State advancing into the round of eight.

The visiting Hokies nearly struck first in an entertaining opening half. Virginia Tech's scoring leader, Murielle Tiernan (14 on the season), delivered a shot towards Penn State keeper Britt Eckerstrom in a one-on-one opportunity in the 27th minute. Eckerstrom managed to get a hand on the drive, but it was sophomore midfielder Salina Williford's foot that directed the ball away from the net as it rolled freely into the 6-yard box towards the goal line.

Penn State broke the scoreless tie on a blast from Rodriguez at the 39:59 mark. A great feed from Katy Keen set Rodriguez up with a breakaway opportunity. The Nittany Lion midfielder dribbled to the edge of the 18-yard box before ripping a shot that careened off of the post into the back of the net.

But the Hokies were far from done. Virginia Tech threatened on two occasions in the opening eight minutes of the second half before midfielder Ashley Meier tapped a ball home to set the score at 1-1 as the clock read 52:42.

Nevertheless, Penn State went right back to work on both ends of the field. The Lions earned a free kick in the 71st minute of action from 30 yards out. Midfielder Emily Ogle delivered a flawless set piece into the box where Weber elevated for the eventual game-winning header.

"We work on them in practice day in and day out," Weber said. "(Ogle) played a great ball in and the goal came out. I just need to get a touch on it."

The Jeffrey Field crowd willed the Lions on from there as the Hokies looked for the equalizer. Limiting Virginia Tech to just two shot attempts in the final 10 minutes of play, the Lions held strong en route to raising their all-time postseason record at Jeffrey Field to 33-6-1.

"The crowd was super pumped and energetic out there today," Church said. "It makes that much of a difference. Hearing the crowd behind us, that gets us going and helps us a tremendous amount. That was a very special day out there to hear all of them behind us."

Focus now shifts towards a quarterfinal matchup against No. 1-seeded Texas A&M (21-2-2). The Nittany Lions will play the Aggies in College Station on Saturday with a spot in the College Cup semifinals on the line.

"I think this is a very good soccer playing team this year, but even more importantly, they've got a ton of courage," Walsh said. "We've talked a lot about that it is our family, and we live to fight another day and play another day together."

Despite Outcome, A Game of Firsts For Young Lady Lions

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10565481.jpegBy Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It has been 14 years since the Lady Lions and the Seton Hall Pirates have battled it out on the court. In the 10th meeting of the series on Saturday evening in the Bryce Jordan Center, the Lady Lions came up on the short end of a seesaw 75-70 decision.

The Lady Lions are a young team. With only one returning starter, Penn State is starting a sophomore-heavy team, a reality that head coach Coquese Washington believes was clear in Saturday's game.

"I think our youth showed tonight," Washington said. "We need to get more confident and comfortable playing with one another at this pace."

Despite the loss, there are some major takeaways from this game that the Lady Lions can use to their advantage heading into their matchup against St. Bonaventure on Tuesday.

Notables
The Lady Lions got off to a slow start, with their first bucket coming three minutes into the game after the Pirates put nine on the board. Penn State cut into the deficit, but the Pirates pulled away with a 21-8 lead with 10 minutes before the half.

"I feel like it got away from us from the jump," junior Candice Agee said. "We fought hard to stay in the game and get back in it, but at the end Seton Hall got the better of us. We have to give it up to them for that."

Agee was superb for the Lady Lions, leading the team with 21 points in Saturday's contest, along with five rebounds and two blocks. Agee took command inside the paint for the 17 minutes she was on the court, helping the Lady Lions stay in the game until the very end.

"I just want to play hard," Agee said. "I want to be able to do what needs to be done for my team and what is asked of me. If some nights it looks like a 20 point game, then that is alright with me."

Sophomore Sierra Moore posted a career-high game, tallying 14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and a block. Moore was a major asset during the game playing for 37 minutes, the most on the team.


"Whatever is asked of us, we do." Moore said. "We all take turns in practice (playing point guard); that's what practice is for."

Takeaways
Regardless of the slow start, it is obvious that this young Lady Lion team is hungry. Coach Washington took her team to the locker room at half time trailing the Pirates 37-29.

"We talked about playing a little bit faster and moving the ball (in the second half)," Washington said. "We had a lot more energy in the second than the first."

The Lady Lions turned on the offensive strategy taking the lead, 40-39, five minutes into the second half. The Lions closed to within one at 71-70, but that is as close as they would get down the stretch. Fouls and turnovers in the last 30 seconds hindered the Lions in the 75-70 loss, an issue coach Washington believes will work itself out.

"We have to do a better job at the free throw line," Washington said. "I think that if we can fix a few small things, we aren't that far away. We are three games in and I am still getting to know this team. We rallied back and put ourselves in a position to tie it, even possibly force overtime. This is the learning curve, the growing pains of a young team."


Up Next
The Lady Lions take on St. Bonaventure on Tuesday at the Bryce Jordan Center. Following Tuesday's contest, they will travel to Atlanta, Georgia, for the Georgia State Thanksgiving Tournament Nov. 28-30. 

VIDEO: James Franklin Postgame at Illinois

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Head coach James Franklin addresses the media following Saturday's game at Illinois.

VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - at Illinois

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Several Nittany Lions address the media following Saturday's game at Illinois.

2014 Photo Blog - Penn State at Illinois

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's coverage of the 2014 football season. Check back often for an inside look at the Penn State's final road game of the season against Illinois.

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2014 Game Blog - Penn State at Illinois

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive coverage of the 2014 football season. Tune in for live blog coverage from all 12 games on the schedule. The Nittany Lions meet Illinois in the penultimate game of the season.



Live Blog 2014 Game Blog - Penn State at Illinois
 



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Nittany Lions Advance to the NCAA Sweet 16

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10569493.jpegBy Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion women's soccer team (19-3-0) used an early goal and a determined defensive effort to defeat UConn, 1-0, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Jeffrey Field on Friday night.

The NCAA Tournament is full of surprises, but the Lions wasted little time getting on the board in the second-round matchup. Penn State scored in the seventh minute and never looked back.

The goal was scored by freshman Frannie Crouse and assisted by veteran Kori Chapic. Crouse got the ball and headed in the back post.

"
I wasn't really sure if it went in or not at first, but as soon as I heard my teammates and the crowd cheer I knew," Frannie Crouse said.

The Greensburg, Pennsylvania, native is currently the team leader with 10 goals for the Lions, despite this being her first year at the collegiate level.

"
I just always remember what coach preaches, believe. We need t o believe in ourselves and believe in our team and that's how we'll score," Crouse said.

Both teams were aggressive and had opportunities to score throughout Friday
's game. Penn State had 19 shots in total while UConn trailed with 10 shots.

"
We knew they would come out strong and so did we, I couldn't be prouder of the way the girls played," said head coach Erica Walsh.

With an aggressive offense from both teams, the Lions
' defensive line made sure to not to let UConn get on the board.

"
As a defense we're all playing really well together right now," goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom said.

"
We're all communicating constantly and we're so connected right now, we really are playing as one backline," Eckerstrom added.

As the starting goalkeeper, Eckerstrom helped lead the team to victory on Friday night with five saves for her eighth shutout this season.

Eckerstrom was also in goal for the regular season match against UConn back in August, but she acknowledged that since the last meeting both teams have improved.

"
Although we play some of the same teams in this tournament it's always different every game," Eckerstrom said. "When we played UConn earlier we both were just different teams, we both have grown so much with our regular seasons. It's cause in the beginning of the season everyone is still trying to find their place on the field. We both have grown so much so re-playing them today was like two brand new teams playing."

With the NCAA Tournament in full swing, Penn State will take on its next challenge by facing Virginia Tech on Sunday.

"
The best thing about this tournament is its unpredictability," Walsh said. "We are exposed to both familiar and new teams and we get to see what each team can bring. I'm excited to see what Virginia Tech can do."

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Lady Lions close out the Preseason WNIT on Saturday against Seton Hall, a matchup that has been on hiatus since 1998. With one exhibition game and two preseason matchups under its belt, the young Lady Lion basketball team is ready to place another 'W' in the win column.

Seton Hall's style of play is something similar to what Penn State demonstrates on the court; attack in transition.

Heading into this Saturday's game, head coach Coquese Washington and her staff are firm that if the team can attack the paint in transition, the Lady Lions will come out on top.

"We've got to get more free throws," said coach Washington. "We've got to get more pressure on the defense by attacking the paint."

The Lady Lions are known to be a fast-paced team that can sink baskets on transition. This season, the key to execute just that is point guard Lindsey Spann. A newcomer to the starting lineup, the Laurel, Maryland native is leading the Blue and White in scoring after posting 14 points against Albany and 17 against Towson last week.

"She's a fantastic point guard," said coach Washington. "She has a really high basketball IQ. She sees the floor and has a knack for scoring."

Spann isn't only focusing on her offensive contributions but how she can further aid on defense.

"I'm working on hustling, being more aggressive on defense, getting deflections and steals," said Spann.

Washington knows that the Lady Lion defense will have to be prepared when the Pirates come to University Park.

They're a pretty aggressive team," said Washington. "They've got really quick guards who do a great job attacking the basket. They're going to put pressure on our defense with their dribble penetration."

Senior Tori Waldner's experience and height is no secret for the Lady Lion defense. Waldner has tallied 20 rebounds in two games. However, the Lady Lion defense is looking to increase its total boards across the roster tomorrow.

"Seton Hall throws up a lot of shots," assistant coach Itoro Coleman said. "We have to rebound. They move very quickly in their offense and there will be plenty of opportunities for us to rebound. How well we are able to get the 50/50 balls will determine who will win this game."

The Lady Lions will tip off with Seton Hall on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center. 

By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach John Gondak and two members of the Penn State cross country teams are headed west to Indiana this weekend to compete in the 2014 NCAA Cross Country Championships.

Freshman Jillian Hunsberger is making her National stage debut after qualifying at the Mid-Atlantic Regional with an 11th place (20 minutes, 49 seconds) finish in the 6,000-meter run.

The freshman has had a great 2014 season posting competitive times in all her races.

As most athletes would be, she is excited, nervous, and ready for the challenge.

"I don't event know what to expect I'm just going to go and try my hardest. Just thinking about the race, making sure I have it planned out," said Hunsberger. "I [mostly] mentally preparing, I will be excited on Saturday.

Fifth-year senior Matt Fischer has had an exemplary year. He finished first in both races he competed in at home and was named second team All-Big Ten at the Big Ten Championships.

Fischer, the Mid-Atlantic Men's Athlete of the Year, is making his second trip to the NCAA Championships this weekend after a phenomenal first-place finish at the Regional meet with a time of 30 minutes, 16 seconds.

"I was pretty excited and just to see how well the team did was exciting. It was a bit of a let down when we found out that we didn't make it [to Nationals]," said Fischer. "Personally, it ended up working out and I think it set me up well for this week."

As Fischer looks to end his senior year in the best way he can, his second trip to Terre Haute, Indiana provides opportunity for preparation.

"Last year was my first time there and I wanted to go out there and get All-American but there were 70-80 guys that at any given day could fall in there too," said Fischer. "I'm just more mentally and physical ready [this year] and I'm more confident."

In 2013, Fischer posted a 78th place finish in 31 minutes, 6 seconds, a 10,000-meter time.

"I feel that I still have work to do and I'm not satisfied at all and I want a big result this weekend," he said. "Making sure I feel good is all that matters at this point. There's only one left and I have to put all my energy into that one."

This weekend will see Fischer final collegiate cross country race, however, he doesn't fear the end quite yet as he stays focused on the mission.

"I'm really excited. I feel like I'm in the best spot I've been all season at the right time and as long as I can put that together on Saturday and I can walk away happy with what I did, it'll be a good end to the season," he said.

Hunsberger will represent the Nittany Lions in the 6,000-meter run set to kick off at noon on Saturday followed by the men's 10,000-meter run slated for 1 p.m.

2014 Gameday Preview - Nittany Lions Travel to Illinois

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Game Blog: Penn State at Illinois

Game Notes | Gameday Central | Illinois Scouting Report | Coach Franklin Wednesday

Press Conference Roundup | Coach Huff Q&A | Player Q&A Video

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (6-4, 2-4) will play its final road game of the 2014 season on Saturday when it travels to Illinois (4-6, 1-5) for a noon kick (ESPN2) inside Memorial Stadium.

10554078.jpegThe Nittany Lions earned their sixth win of the season last weekend with a 30-13 victory over intrastate foe Temple. The running back duo of Akeel Lynch and Bill Belton powered the Penn State offense behind a strong outing from the offensive line. Lynch and Belton combined for 222 rushing yards and a pair of scores in the victory. Lynch tallied a career-high 132 yards in the winning effort.

Defensively, the Nittany Lions forced five turnovers and limited the Owls to just 248 yards. Freshmen Christian Campbell and Grant Haley each snagged their first career interceptions in the contest. Haley returned his interception 30 yards for a touchdown, marking the first time a true freshman has scored a touchdown since Nov. 15, 2003 (Paul Posluszny).

Penn State is ranked in the top five in three of the four major defensive statistical categories. The Nittany Lions are No. 1 in the nation against the run (83.1 ypg.), No. 3 in the nation in total defense (265.6 ypg) and No. 4 in the nation in scoring defense (16.2 ppg).

Additionally, Penn State leads the nation in team pass efficiency defense (96.89), is sixth in third down conversion percentage defense (29.2 percent), is second in the nation in first downs defense (140 total), is 10th in passes intercepted (15) and is No. 16 in passing yards allowed (182.5 ypg).


The Nittany Lions have held their opponents to an average of 15.4 points and 139.9 yards below their season average this year. In the last three games, Penn State foes are 7-of-47 on third down (14.9 percent).

The Fighting Illini will look to snap a two-game losing streak on Saturday after back-to-back losses to No. 16 Ohio State (55-14) and Iowa (30-14). The Illini defeated Minnesota on Oct. 25 (28-24) for their first Big Ten victory of the season. Illinois is averaging 25.6 points per game on offense and is ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten in passing (255.6 ypg).

Welcome to the Gameday Preview for the week 11 matchup against Illinois.

PreviewGraphic_ILLINOIS_2014.jpg
Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
10554080.jpeg1. Senior safety Adrian Amos said that the Nittany Lions set a goal of forcing at least two turnovers per game. Through 10 games, the Lions have forced their opponents into at least two miscues on five different occasions. That includes each of the last four games. Penn State has forced 11 turnovers in the last four contests. Head coach James Franklin often talks about the importance of playing complementary football. The turnover picture speaks to that in clear details. Since the Ohio State game, Penn State has scored 41 points off of turnovers, including two defensive touchdowns. Simply put, the defense's ability to create turnovers has put the Nittany Lion offense in a good position to capitalize on short fields and score more points.

2. Thanks to a season-high 254 rushing yards against Temple, the Nittany Lions have gained 416 yards on the ground during the past two games. Junior left tackle Donovan Smith returned from injury against the Owls and senior captain Miles Dieffenbach played extensive snaps for the first time this season last week, as well. The addition of two veteran players up front is a significant boost to the offensive line and its ability to create running lanes for Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch.

3. Penn State is the nation's second-youngest team with 76 underclassmen (49 freshmen/27 sophomores). Only Pittsburgh entered training camp with more underclassmen on its roster (81). In all, 11 players on offense, two players on defense and two players on special teams (15 total) have made their first career starts this season. Nine true freshmen have played for the Nittany Lions in 2014, including five on defense, three on offense and one punter. All nine freshmen - Marcus Allen, Troy Apke, Saeed Blacknall, Christian Campbell, Jason Cabinda, Mike Gesicki, Chris Godwin, Grant Haley and Daniel Pasquariello - have been instrumental in helping the Lions secure six victories.

What to Watch For - Illinois
10554098.jpeg1. Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt returned to the field last week after missing three games due to injury. Prior to getting hurt, Lunt was among the top signal-callers in the Big Ten. Lunt has completed 65 percent of his passes and thrown for 1,671 yards and 14 touchdowns with just three interceptions this season. Senior Reilly O'Toole stepped in for Lunt when he was injured, and he will likely see action on Saturday. O'Toole has thrown for 745 yards and five touchdowns with his arm. Additionally, he has playmaking ability with his feet. Freshman receiver Mike Dudek has been very productive for the Illini with 51 catches for 787 yards.

2. Junior linebacker Mason Monheim is the leader of the Illinois defense. A Butkus Award Watch List member, Monheim is ranked 16th among all active FBS players and first in the Big Ten with 8.26 tackles per game (Minimum of 24 career games played). Monheim is second in the Big Ten behind Mike Hull with 9.8 tackles per contest this season. He equaled his career-high with 15 tackles against Iowa last week.

3. Illinois is ranked 10th in the nation in net punting thanks to a 44.9-yard average from Justin DuVernois. The Illini have averaged 40.85 net yards on 60 punts this season. DuVernois has kicked 17 punts of 50 or more yards this season and has forced 15 fair catches.

The Final Word:
Saturday's game marks the final road game of the 2014 season. The Nittany Lions are 3-1 in games away from Beaver Stadium this season, which includes a 2-1 mark in Big Ten games. Penn State topped UCF to open the season in Ireland. In Big Ten play, the Lions have victories at Rutgers and Indiana. Since 2000, the Nittany Lions have tallied four on-field wins away from home just three times. The list includes the 2008, 2009 and 2011 seasons. Saturday's contest in Memorial Stadium will mark Penn State's 12th visit to Champaign. The Nittany Lions own an 8-3 on-field mark in games held at Illinois. Kickoff is set for 12:01 p.m. on Saturday with Bob Wischusen, Matt Millen and Quint Kessenich calling the ESPN2 broadcast.




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