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Nittany Lions Finish Series Strong Against Illini

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

With the No. 8 team in the country visiting Medlar Field at Lubrano Park this weekend and after a 10-1 setback in the series' first game, Penn State battled and nearly came up with an upset victory over the team with the conference's best record. 

While head coach Rob Cooper hasn't backed away from the fact that he wants his team to win games, he knows that Saturday's 15-inning 4-2 loss and Sunday's 6-3 loss are games with a few takeaway points to build on moving forward.

"I thought our guys competed and battled," Cooper said. "When you're trying to build a program you look for things like that. Illinois is a team that's probably going to host a regional and be a national seed." 

On Saturday Penn State took a 1-0 lead into the eighth inning after seven shutout innings from freshman Taylor Lehman. With the Nittany Lions just six outs away from the result, the Illini bats came alive to take a 2-1 lead. Then, just as the upset seemed out of reach, Penn State came right back and tied the game in the ninth on a Taylor Skerpon RBI double. 

Then, after six extra innings, the Illini broke through to take the lead in the top of the final inning to get the win. Cooper noted how his team battled in the series' final two-games are what he wants to see.

"For us to have a chance to win Saturday and be in that game all day today like we did it shows that our guys won't quit and we're building toward the right things," he said. 

In building toward the right things, freshmen are going to be a big part of that. While the Nittany Lions have a strong group of upperclassmen, younger players are now working into becoming key parts of the Penn State lineup.

One player, freshman catcher Nick Graham, caught the eye of his upperclassmen teammates after going 3-for-6 with two runs scored between the final two games of the series.

"He was great," redshirt junior Greg Guers said. "Their pitching staff is pretty good and he battled all day and had two doubles and did a great job behind the plate too. It was great seeing him have success against one of the top pitching staffs around."

"He's only a freshman too and he's came a long way since the beginning of the year and has been putting some great at bats together," senior Aaron Novak said.

Cooper agreed that the play of Graham and a few other freshmen namely those in the pitching staff or bullpen has been promising, but the team as a whole still has a few areas they need to clean up.

One of which is limiting free bases for opponents.

"We have to clean up some things as far as playing the games," Cooper said. "We walked or hit nine guys and even though none of them scored, after the seventh inning we had thrown 142 pitches and they had thrown 97. You're working almost twice as hard just to stay in the game."

Secondly, even though the team was hitting the ball hard Saturday and Sunday, Cooper still knows his team has the ability to come up with runs with runners on.

"We have to find a way to break through with runners in scoring position," Cooper said. "We hit the ball on the nose but had nothing to show for it. With bases loaded Jimmy Haley hit the ball on the screws, but we have to find a way to push one of those through."

With just three Big Ten series remaining, Cooper said his team could have given up on the season, but it's clear they have not. Novak noted there was never a point in the weekend where he and his teammates thought they were not in the game, even against a stout Illini club.

"We are just trying to keep our heads up," Novak said. "We are just trying to finish as strong as possible and we are confident in our abilities that hasn't changed so we are going to play until the end."

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- This weekend was full of plenty of action at Beard field as the Penn State softball team dominated Rutgers for the first Big Ten three-game sweep of the season

 

To open up the weekend, the Nittany Lions secured a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth with junior Shannon Good's first career home run. Good was one of five Penn Staters to make a presence at bat during the first game of the series.

 

"I think this series was good for the team, Rutgers is highly respected team and when playing a team like them we have to always show we're willing to fight for the win," said head coach Amanda Lehotak.

 

The team honored three seniors before the start of Saturday's game, Meghan Bradley, Marissa Diescher and Alicia Walker.

 

Jessica Cummings, who was the team's star pitcher Friday night, continued to throw a great game on Saturday. She pitched the first five innings, then teammate Macy Jones close the game on the mound. Despite the Scarlet Knights getting on the board in the first inning, the Lions brought their batting game and ended the game with a 12-6 victory.

 

Freshman Alyssa VanDerveer lead the charge offensively with her 13th home run of the season and drove in three additional runs to help the Nittany Lions take the win.

 

"Rally innings are a huge part of our game, every time I get a hit I know I'm helping my team win," said VanDerveer.

 

Coming off of another victory over the Scarlet Knights, the Blue and White entered the third and final game hungry for the sweep.

 

Rutgers got on the board early and finished the first inning with two runs and four hits. After four innings, both teams remained scoreless until the Scarlet Knights widened the lead with a single home run by Sierra Maddox in the top of the sixth. Despite being three behind Rutgers, PSU entered the bottom of the seventh inning determined to fight.

 

At the top of the batting lineup, Jones singled and VanDerveer walked, however due to an illegal pitch both Jones and pinch runner Maegan Tupinio advanced to second and third. Pond stepped up to the plate and homered to right field, making the game tied 3-3 and giving the Lions back life in the game. Pitcher Marlaina Laubach prevented the Scarlet Knights from scoring in the eighth and ninth inning as the rest of defense made sure to stop any ball that came its' way.

 

Going into extra innings, Penn State and Rutgers remained tied until Knief singled to centerfield to send Walker home to finish the game and complete the sweep.

 

"Although we were behind, we never gave up. We pride ourselves on being a team that fights until the end and that's what gave us the win today," said Knief.

 

The Nittany Lions are 27-24 overall and are 9-11 in Big Ten play. This weekend also marks the team's 11th home victory of the season, the most since 2012.

 

"This series gave us some confidence I think we needed as we prepare for Pitt and Michigan," said coach Lehotak.

 

Although the Blue and White are done with home games this season, the team will travel to Pittsburgh on Tuesday for a mid-week matchup. This will be the second time Lehotak and the team will face the Panthers this season. The first pitch is to be thrown at 6 p.m. After Pitt, the team will take on the last regular season series against No. 4 Michigan in Ann Arbor for a three-game weekend. The first of the series is set to begin at 6 p.m. Friday night.

 

 

Nittany Lions Serve Up Pavlik's 500th Win to Close Regular Season

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11038440.jpegBy Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A strong contingency of Blue and White fans witnessed history Saturday afternoon at DeGol Arena as the Nittany Lions defeated St. Francis in straight sets (25-21, 25-19, 25-22) in their final match of the regular season to give Mark Pavlik his 500th career victory.

Pavlik, who is in his 21st season as head coach of the men's volleyball program, embodies everything that Penn State stands for academically and athletically. His love of teaching and respect for others reflects the true heart of a Nittany Lion.

"In those 500 wins I have not served a ball in the court," Pavlik said. "I have not put a ball away. I have not set a ball. I just happened to be here that long to see it. More than anything else, I think it speaks to the true foundation that Tom Tait laid for this program back in the late 70s. We've been able to represent the university and the athletic department, not only with our current teams, but also with our alums."

It was a fitting end for No. 7 Penn State (18-9, 12-0 EIVA) over St. Francis (6-20, 4-8 EIVA). Immediately after senior outside hitter Aaron Russell earned the final point of match, the entire team rushed to Pavlik and paraded him with silly string and a celebratory cake.

"His 500th win is a lot of proof to what he's done for the program and the experience that he has," Russell said. "What a great coach he is. He's coached a lot of good players, and he's given a lot to me and my family. It's nice to be able to play for him, and his 500th win to be able to give something back to him."

Under the tutelage of Pavlik, the Nittany Lions have gone from losing their first six matches of the 2015 campaign to finishing the regular season on a 14-match winning streak.

Even further, the program is now a perfect 36-0 all-time versus the Red Flash, having dropped just seven sets ever against the university just down the road from University Park in Loretto. 

"It's not something that [Pavlik] shows a lot, but you know it really means something to him," middle blocker Matt Seifert said. "To be able to get it on the last regular season match of the year, and to be able to celebrate with him the way we did, it's just special. I'll remember this with him for as long as I play."

The Blue and White utilized experience to slip past the Red Flash. Sixteen kills from Russell, nine kills from redshirt senior Nick Goodell, 34 assists from setter Taylor Hammond, and 11 digs from libero Connor Curry paced Penn State. Sophomore outside hitter Chris Nugent added five more kills and Seifert and Matt Callaway each had four kills to balance out the Nittany Lions.

Penn State had already clinched its 17th straight EIVA regular season title two weeks ago after wins over Harvard and Sacred Heart. That means the Nittany Lions will once again have the top seed and home court advantage for the EIVA Championship coming up on April 29 and May 1 at Rec Hall.

"Just keep things rolling," Russell said. "I think we're doing a good job now. We're going to turn it up more in practice knowing what's at stake. You can always see a difference between playoff play and regular season play, in our mindset even. I'm just looking forward to the focus and the fun we're going to have competing on the court. I'm looking forward to the postseason."

With George Mason topping Princeton and NJIT this past weekend, the Nittany Lions will face Princeton to open the EIVA Semifinals on April 29. First serve set for 7:30 p.m. at Rec Hall.

"There's three different seasons, and now that two of them are in the books, the most exciting one starts," Seifert said. "It's business for us. Getting the first seed and winning the regular season conference title is something that we've done many times while I've been here and many times before I've been here. It's the same type of approach. It's all business, and we have a couple more goals that we want to accomplish before we're done this year."

Lions Secure Spot in Big Ten Tournament With Win Over Michigan

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11025657.jpegBy Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
ANN ARBOR, MI. - The Penn State men's lacrosse team (5-8, 2-3 Big Ten) secured a playoff spot after defeating Michigan (5-8, 1-4 Big Ten), 10-9, on Saturday. Penn State will be the No. 4 seed in the inaugural Big Ten Lacrosse Tournament.

The Nittany Lions came out strong offensively during their matchup against the Wolverines. Nick Aponte and TJ Sanders led the team in goals, netting three apiece to add to Penn State's dominant offensive start against Michigan.

"I think in the offensive end Nick Aponte did a great job just managing our attack, managing our offense once again, so that was a bright spot for us," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "You know when we were lacking a little creativity and a little ability to run by [Michigan] early, he was the one guy who stood out and made the plays. I think the other side of it is it was nice to be in a close game and learn how to win."

Associate head coach and defensive coordinator Peter Toner had said earlier in the week that his goal for the defense was to begin the game strong and not give up early goals, as they had in weeks past. Head coach Jeff Tambroni believed the defense was able to get their best start of the season, holding off any Wolverine goals until the second quarter.

"I thought [the defense] played really well for two and a half quarters," said Tambroni. "I thought the first half, Connor [Darcey] was playing well but I also thought that our defense was playing really well. I thought we managed two or three sizeable threats in the offense and I thought our guys did a pretty good job of managing possession time and did a pretty good job at limiting quality looks."

During the second half, Michigan mounted a comeback. The Wolverines were also fighting for the fourth Big Ten tournament spot, and were determined to not give up a postseason spot so easily. It was up to the Nittany Lion defense to stave off the relentless Wolverines and hold on for a win.

"I thought late in the third, early in the fourth, Michigan made a run," said Tambroni. "They were winning more than their fair share of face offs and I think we ended up having two or three possessions in the fourth quarter offensively. The good thing is not only did we get off to a good start but we found a way at the end to just doing us to walk away from Ann Arbor with a win."

Penn State's defense was able to hold off Michigan's attack men and come out with a 10-9 win. This win validated the last few weeks of hard work the team has put in during long practices.


The Nittany Lions, the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament, will face No. 1 Johns Hopkins (7-6, 4-1 Big Ten) on Thursday in the first round. All Big Ten tournament games will be held on the campus of Maryland in College Park.

"I think just being fresh is going to be the most important thing right now," said Tambroni. "It's been a long season, a lot of travel, and the premium will be having a fresh team walk on to the field on Thursday."

Lions' Comeback Falls Short Against Maryland

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11028181.jpegBy Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the Big Ten title on the line, the Penn State women's lacrosse team prepared to go up against an undefeated Maryland team. The Nittany Lions knew they were in for a challenge, but they would not go down without a fight.

Following a slow start, the Blue and White returned to the field for the final 30 minutes of play trailing the No. 1 Terrapins, 8-3. Unfortunately, after a tough battle and hard-fought second half, Penn State suffered its first conference loss of the season. Despite outscoring the Terrapins in the final minutes, the No. 8 Nittany Lions (12-4, 4-1 B1G) fell to No. 1 Maryland (17-0, 5-0 B1G), 13-10.

"I thought it was a good game," said head coach Missy Doherty. "We came out, and the first half was really tough. We couldn't manage to get the draw. That made it hard to get any goals. So, I think in the second half we did a much better job of getting the draw, and turning the game around."

The Nittany Lions came out as a different, more aggressive and determined squad in the final half. They worked to swing momentum in their favor. The team could not find a way to win the draw in the opening 30 minutes but was determined to make a change. It knew possession would be key to winning the game.

Leading the way for the Nittany Lions in that aspect of the match was junior Jenna Mosketti. She secured six draw controls alone, helping the team win the draw in eight of the second half's 13 attempts.

"I don't know if it was as much words as it was just a better effort there in the second half," said Doherty. "I mean Jenna came up really big, coming up with some huge draw controls in the second half. She really helped us change the momentum around. Then the offense got a little bit more aggressive going to goal and finishing their shots."

In addition to the draw, Mosketti registered a hat trick, assisting her team in as many ways possible. Sophomore Steph Lazo also recorded three goals, and captain Maggie McCormick continued building on her assists record, adding five more to her total.

Throughout the game, the Nittany Lions saw goals from six players, as Madison Cyr, Katie O'Donnell, Tatum Coffey and Ally Heavens all added goals of their own. Nevertheless, the Blue and White were unable to capitalize from the free position, which ultimately hurt them in the end.

Also taking away from the team's momentum was an injury to goalie Emi Smith. The junior played the first 42:34 of the game, allowing nine goals and stopping seven attempts before being helped off the field. Freshman McKenna Coyle stepped into the cage for the final 17:26. She made three saves and allowed four, giving a strong performance as well.

"I think McKenna came in and did a really solid job for us," Doherty said. "I think from a motivational standpoint, it hurts a little when someone like Emi leaves the game. But, thankfully McKenna came in and stepped up and came up with some pretty big saves."

Overall, the Nittany Lions' performance showed that they can play with the best in the country. The loss gives them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Had they come out a little stronger, not putting themselves into such a deficit, the outcome could have been different.

Penn State may not have captured the Big Ten title yesterday, but they know they have the ability to beat a team like Maryland. That confidence will be huge in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament, which will be the team's next challenge.

"I think we've seen that we can compete, and we have to do that for 60 minutes," said Doherty. "We had a little bit of a slow start, and against a team like that you need every advantage. But, I think the way we competed for the full game was awesome. I'm really proud of the team."

Lions Gear Up for Final Road Game

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11027842.jpegBy Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a strong win on Sunday over Rutgers, Penn State (4-8, 1-3 Big Ten) looks to finish the regular season on a high note when they take on Michigan (5-7, 1-3 Big Ten) on Saturday Saturday in Ann Arbor.

Fueled by an outstanding performance by the Nittany Lion offense last weekend, Penn State looks to gain a playoff birth with a win against the Wolverines. The winner of Saturday's contest will secure the No. 4 spot in the Big Ten tournament, a spot the Nittany Lions hope to find themselves in.

Associate head coach and defensive coordinator Peter Toner is hoping this game will prove the final piece to the puzzle that was a trying 2015 regular season. A win against Michigan and a playoff spot will bring validation to the young group of men who have worked hard throughout the season.

"Based on where we're at in the Big Ten we have to kind of treat this as a playoff game," said Toner. "I think at this point I wouldn't say it's do or die but obviously if we don't win our season probably comes to an end mathematically. For the guys we're excited about the opportunity to go to Michigan and do what needs to be done on the field and earn our way into the Big Ten championship series."

Penn State has faced Michigan every season since 2012. The Nittany Lions have won all three contests in those years, including a dominant 22-7 win to open the 2014 campaign. Despite recent successes, this weekend's game will not be without challenges.

The Nittany Lions, having come back from a two-goal deficit against Rutgers, will need to come out strong on defense to stay confident in all 60 minutes of play against Michigan.

"We still have yet to start a game defensively on the right note," said Toner. "Unfortunately we always seem to go down by a couple and I'm not sure if it's our guys overthinking or if they're a bit nervous, I don't know, but we keep working on it during practice. We keep using these scrimmage opportunities and adding emphasis on the early portion of the scrimmages and hopefully our guys will just continue to just have a better focus when the game starts."

Focus will be another key for the Nittany Lions this weekend. In previous years the Nittany Lions have been strong away from University Park, but this year have been inconsistent on the road. This weekend's matchup, in Michigan's "Big House," will prove a challenge for a team that needs one final win. The bus ride will give the players and coaches time to focus and strategize on their one goal of the weekend: to win.

Throughout the season, the team's motto has been "one game at a time." By never getting ahead of the next game on the calendar, the Nittany Lions focus all of their energy on one opponent at a time. Coach Toner emphasized that although this has given the team a new perspective on their season, he does still see room for improvement even as the season winds down.

"I think we just got to keep working on us," said Toner. "I think that's the key. We were talking to our guys last week about just doing what we do, but just doing it a little bit better. I think a lot of our focus earlier in the year tended to be on our opponent versus fixing the things that were going on within our own team."

One other area of improvement the team looks to tackle this weekend is possession time. To start, faceoff specialists like Drake Kreinz will need to win face offs, it then comes down to Penn State's ability to keep and possess the ball.

"Time of possession in this game is going to be key," said Toner. "It certainly highlights our ability to clear the ball effectively. To tip the scales a little bit more in our favor in terms of possession time for our offense and limited possessions for [Michigan's] offense. The fewer times we have to defend them the better off we'll be."

While every game offers the opportunity for improvement, the little changes that the Nittany Lions are focusing on this week could be the difference between extending their season and cleaning out their lockers sooner than they would like.

"I think this is an exciting opportunity for them and for us, knowing that we can extend our season with a win and we certainly look forward to the challenge," said Toner.

Penn State will face Michigan Saturday in Ann Arbor at 6 p.m. The game will air on the Big Ten Network. 

Back In the Leadoff Spot, Coates Driving Lions Once Again

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11025526.jpegBy Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2015 season didn't quite get off to the start that James Coates wanted it to.

After entering the campaign as Penn State's expected leadoff hitter and a team leader, the junior outfielder went hitless in the team's opening series against Elon and pulled his hamstring. By the time the Lions home schedule started on March. 18, Coates was just 2 for 19 on the season and fighting to get healthy and earn a spot back in the lineup.

"I had a rough first weekend, I hit the ball hard but got a few tough outs and then I was injured for a while," Coates said. "Just trying to fight through the injury but when you don't get to see a lot of live pitching it's hard to just come in and get hits and that was a big problem for me."

While it was starting to look like a lost year for Coates, his hamstring healed by the start of April and head coach Rob Cooper placed him back in the starting lineup. It didn't take long for the results to start showing.

Since April 7, Coates has hit .316 and worked his way back to the front of the order. Even with his slow start, the 5-foot-8 outfielder has a .352 on-base percentage this season and has looked like the player that hit .287 with a .393 on-base percentage over his first two seasons.

What has led to the drastic improvement? According to Coates, it's been about receiving consistent playing time and not being expected to turn things around in just one game.

"For me, it was about getting more at-bats and seeing more pitches and getting more comfortable in the box," Coates said. "Just trusting myself is what it comes down to."

For Cooper, the biggest difference between Coates right now and at the start of the season has simply been his health. The outfielder first began struggling with his hamstring at the end of last season, and the second-year coach said the injury was the only thing holding Coates back.

"He's healthy and has confidence in being healthy," Cooper said. "He's a guy that really cares about playing for Penn State and has a lot of pride in himself. Last year he was doing a good job for us before he got hurt and it ate at him and then to have it early on [this season], it's like, 'Gosh, is this ever going to heal up'. So one, he's healthy and two, he's mentally healthy."

Not only does Coates feel better than he has all season, his presence in the leadoff spot has Penn State's lineup ready to reach it's potential.

Although Cooper used second baseman Taylor Skerpon and even power-hitting outfielder Aaron Novak in that spot at times this year, neither player was a perfect fit there. With Coates sliding back in, Novak is back at his normal No. 3 spot while Skerpon has gone down to seventh, where he went 4 for 5 with two RBIs on Tuesday against Kent State.

But Coates hitting leadoff has done more than just help his teammates succeed. It has also allowed him to do what he does best, which is work counts, get on base and use his speed to his advantage.

"Unless you're able to watch him play, if look at look him on paper at his stats you might say, 'Why is this guy leading off,'" Cooper said. "Even when he doesn't get a hit he finds a way to get on base and when he is on base, because he can run he generates offense that way. And him being a leader, being on the field and being able to not just talk and lead but play and lead helps."

That's part of the reason why Coates enjoys the challenge of starting things off for the Lions. Not only does he feel it plays to the team's strengths, it also allows him the opportunity to lead by example.


That chance was once the things that the Girard, Ohio, native, looked forward to before the start of the season. Although he tried to remain a leader even when he wasn't playing, being back on the field has made it much easier.

"I always try to be a leader, that's the role I want to take on this team," Coates said. "I felt I had a duty to the team and responsibility to be a leader.

"I like having the leadoff role because for me, it's about doing anything I possibly can to get on base so the guys behind me can get me in and see more pitches. It definitely seems to have put our lineup back in synch."

On Tuesday, Coates put on a leadoff hitting clinic against the Flashes, going 2 for 4 with a walk, two RBIs and two runs scored. His ability to come through for his team didn't stop after the final out though.

With Coates' family living less than an hour from Kent State, his aunt provided the team with two-dozen homemade pepperoni rolls, which the team enjoyed on the bus ride home.

While he can't promise post-game snacks the rest of the season, Coates is determined to keep his hot steak going.

"They were a big hit on the bus for sure," Coates said with a smile. "Just a one time thing since we were so close to my home. I come from a big Italian family, we're really big into food, probably a lot of excess food." 

Pavlik Nearing 500th Career Win

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11025510.jpegBy Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In his 21st season as head coach of the men's volleyball program, Mark Pavlik is on the brink of his 500th career victory.

After wins over NJIT and Princeton last weekend, Pavlik now sits in his Rec Hall office with 499 wins under his belt at the helm of Penn State Men's Volleyball heading in to Saturday's match at Saint Francis.

"It's a nice round number that people tend to remember," Pavlik said. "You get a chance to look back on it. If it happens this weekend, I'm glad it happens with this group of guys. I really enjoy this team. They've been so resilient, so much fun to be around, and they've worked so hard. It's just a time where you get a chance to think about what's come before you."

Currently, Pavlik owns a lifetime record at Penn State of 499-151. He has won more than 77 percent of the matches he has coached, a statistic that speaks volumes to the standard he has set in Happy Valley.

He captured the 2008 NCAA National Championship and has made University Park one of the premier spots across the country to play Division I men's volleyball. He has helped Penn State earn 17 straight EIVA Regular Season Championships, EIVA Tournament Championships and NCAA Tournament appearances.

The maestro has coached 21 different players to 41 All-America awards. Even further, each season at least three of his student athletes have earned first team All-East/All-EIVA accolades.

"Any coach will tell you 500 [wins] is a great accomplishment, but it really means that you've been doing it for quite awhile with some really great people around him," assistant coach Jay Hosack said. "He's been lucky enough to be in a place like Penn State where they've been very supportive of the program and supportive of him. The quality of the kids that he gets here, you look at the whole package, and that's really what that means."

For Pavlik, winning has always been important, but what he takes pride in is the way in which he develops his players into well-rounded student athletes who positively impact both the program athletically and the university academically and socially.

"I think Pav will tell you that the 500 wins belong to the players, and he's just happy to be a part of all the great players that have come through that have provided him with the opportunity," assistant coach Colin McMillan. "He's been a great shepherd and steward for the program throughout his 21 years as head coach."

Having already sealed the top spot atop the EIVA standings, the Nittany Lions will host the EIVA Tournament for 17th straight season under Pavlik. Garnering home court advantage is an area that Pavlik understands is integral to the success of his team in the postseason.

"It's huge," Pavlik said. "You look at our history, and I think our guys, over the course of all the EIVA Championships that have been hosted by us, we've been able to stay in our routine and embrace the pressure that's on us to win these matches. They've done that really well. This year, with the other three teams involved, we're going to have two tough matches to play, and we're going to have to be ready for them. That's the beauty of hosting."

The Nittany Lions will look to not only help get Pavlik his milestone victory, but also close out their regular season a perfect 12-0 in EIVA Conference play when they travel to Loretto to meet Saint Francis at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

"The way we've been playing, we've shown that we can play a pretty high level game, and we're playing for a longer and longer period of time during a match, and I just want that to continue," Pavlik said. "Let's keep building. Let's keep getting stronger because after this weekend, their season can end in one match, and I'd like to stay with this group for as long as I can."

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By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Embarking on yet another stepping stone toward a championship, Penn State track and field is headed to Philadelphia to compete in the Penn Relays Carnival.

Unlike any other meet, the Penn Relays is the oldest, largest track meet in the country celebrating its 121st year this weekend and with over 15,000 athletes, of all levels, from around the country competing in over 120 events, the Nittany Lions have a big three days ahead.

"I don't think it's that you prepare any differently. I think it's that you have to respect and understand what the history and the tradition of the Penn Relays are. It's one of the oldest track meets in the country. Right now, if you get a sunny day, from the attendance stand point it will be one of the largest attended track meets in the country," said head coach John Gondak.

With its long-established tradition, the Penn Relays has bred more than just another exciting meet weekend. The carnival-style display has sparked careers, dreams, and motives.

"There have been so many Olympians and champions whether it's at the high school, college, or professional level that have competed at the Franklin Field. It's a very hallowed ground of our sport," said Gondak. "It's the track meet I attended that got me into the sport back when I attended in the 10th grade and it has been, in my opinion, what launched my career."

 "Although the Penn Relays are hosted by the University of Pennsylvania, at Penn State we still take pride in having one of the largest track and field meets in the country being held in our home state. [There is] pride that is involved with [being a part of] the blue and white...Talking about the history we are involved in gives you a little bit of added motivation and a different type of respect for the meet," said Hill, Philadelphia native.

"It's always really exciting to get into the Philly area and compete. It's exciting to have my parents come out and support me. I know the facilities and some of the officials...and it's the Penn Relays. It's always exciting to go back.

To add to the motivation, Penn State is entering this weekend as the sole owner of the men's 4x800-meter relay record time of 7:11.17 for the 30th straight year.

"It's an incredible sense of pride for our alumni, those that ran in that relay and the program in general. It's talked about at every alumni gathering and event," said Gondak. "Records are out there in an attempt to be broken but it has been 30 years and no one has broken this one. It's something that I know is in the back of our minds for our team to go out there and try to accomplish that."

Returning shot put champion, Hill knows very well the excitement that comes with big accomplishments but notes that the most important part is to focus on the now.

"You have to stay focused on the task. It goes on for a few days but the excitement about it helps you soak in the atmosphere and use [it] to your advantage. You have to be focused on the goal," said Hill. "I understand that it's a new year. I won last year, which was cool but it's a new feel and a lot of good competition so it's going to take a good day to repeat a championship. I'm prepared and that's the goal but I understand that it's going to take [a lot]. I can't underestimate anybody."

The most exciting weekend of the year begins Thursday, April 23 and lasts through Saturday, April 25th.

Nittany Lions Head to Maryland with Big Ten Title on the Line

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When the Penn State women's lacrosse team takes on Maryland, it will be playing more than the final regular game of the season. These two teams will be going head-to-head, each looking to hand the other its first conference loss. Following Thursday's game, only one team will capture the first-ever Big Ten regular season title.

While the Blue and White are hoping to emerge with a win, this game is set to be the most difficult of the season. The No. 8 Lions will not just be going up against the No. 1 team in the country, but they will also be going up against the only undefeated team this season in the NCAA.

"I think it makes it more exciting," said head coach Missy Doherty. "It's a great way to end your regular season with a game that's so important. It's also a great way to gain some experience going into the Big Ten Tournament and hopefully NCAAs. So, I think it's a great matchup and great timing. We're pretty excited for Thursday."

In terms of what the Lions need to do to compete, Doherty believes defense will be key. She wants her team to be physical and assertive, ready to go up against the Terrapins from the time the game starts to the time it ends.

With Maryland's scorers and its ability to gain possession on the draw, Penn State has to take advantage of its time with the ball. Nevertheless, the team's leading scorers, Maggie McCormick and Steph Lazo, know that if they sticks to their game, success will come.

"We just need to listen to our coaches and believe in what they have to say," said Lazo. "They put out a really good scouting report. So, we just need to listen to them and play our game, not going into it thinking they're the No. 1 team. We're a top-ten team as well, so just being smart will be important."

The Blue and White will need to find a way to get balls by the Terrapin's goalie, who has one of the best save percentages in the Big Ten conference. Again, Lazo believes confidence will be a major factor. If the team stays calm and focused, it can achieve the results it wants.

"Missy [Doherty] always says when we're shooting we're going to shoot with a purpose," Lazo said. "We're going to shoot with the mindset that we're going to make the shot. I think just going in confident with our shots, just faking and putting it in."

With so many aspects the Lions will have to overcome, it is only fitting that the game will be played away from home. However, this challenge may not be as large of an issue for Penn State.

Fifteen athletes on the roster hail from Maryland, meaning there will be Nittany Lion supporters in the crowd giving the Blue and White an extra boost. In many ways, the team will feel right at home.

"Going back to Maryland, it's definitely a special game for a lot of people," McCormick said. "I know that a lot of girls on the team enjoy going back there, and we're definitely going to have a lot of fan support. Technically it's an away game, but it's not going to feel like that."

Even with all the pressure of going up against Maryland and playing this game on the road, the Nittany Lions have remained calm. No matter the outcome, they are happy to take the field for such a competitive, hard-fought match.

Right now, this team is excited. It is ready to play its best game of the season, and the Lions cannot wait to battle for the Big Ten title.

"I don't think this team really gets nervous, which I think is a good thing," said McCormick. "But, it's definitely exciting that the last game of the season is against two undefeated teams in the conference. We wouldn't want it any other way."