By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Nine seniors on the Penn State women's lacrosse team missed their graduation ceremonies this weekend in favor of playing in the NCAA Tournament. After the results of both the first and second-round games, they and the rest of the team could not be happier about that decision.
Instead of walking in caps and gowns the seniors competed with their teammates, helping the Nittany Lions (16-4) defeat both Johns Hopkins (14-4) and Virginia (12-7). With the two victories, this team is officially part of the 2015 Elite Eight.
"I love spending time with my team," said goalie Emi Smith. "I love playing with this team. It's an exhilarating experience to be able to go this far in the NCAAs, and I would not be more excited or happy without these girls. They are pretty much the contributors for us going this far."
Once the Blue and White knocked out the Blue Jays, the team had its sights set on a rematch with the Cavaliers. When the two programs met earlier in the season, Virginia secured the victory with a go-ahead goal four seconds before the conclusion of the game.
With that loss in the back of their minds, the Nittany Lions were determined to have a different outcome in Sunday's match. It was not going to be another heartbreaker.
Defensively, Penn State had one of its best performances of the season. Virginia outshot the Lions, 34-21, won more ground balls, had half the number of turnovers and were far more successful in its clear attempts. Nevertheless, the defense consistently did its job, turning in key plays when it mattered most.
"Our defense was great all game," head coach Missy Doherty said. "We really had a huge clearing problem in this game. We got a lot of balls on the ground. Our D came up with the ball, and then we didn't take care of it as much as we should. So, it's a credit to them for getting the ball back to us time after time."
Really leading the way on the back end, however, was Smith. The junior made 14 saves throughout the entirety of the game, solidifying the win and allowing the Lions a chance to move on in the tournament. The performance was one save shy of her season best, which came in March against Vanderbilt.
"I think Emi stood on her head today making unbelievable saves," Doherty said following the game. "Every game is a little different. Sometimes our offense takes over, our defense takes over, and today, Emi kind of took over. So, it was a great effort by her and a great effort by our team to come up with some huge goals at big times."
In terms of offense, the Nittany Lions once again saw scoring from across the board. Madison Cyr and Katie O'Donnell both collected five points in the game with a hat trick and two assists each. Steph Lazo also notched three goals against the Cavaliers, while Tatum Coffey and Kristin Brent both added two.
With Lazo's three goals and Coffey's six throughout the weekend games, both passed the 40-goal mark on the season. O'Donnell's performance pushed her to 30 goals scored, meaning five Nittany Lions have now reached that accomplishment.
"I thought overall today we really saw each other well," said O'Donnell following the Virginia game. "When everyone is working well together and we're seeing the open goal, it just goes well for everyone. Fortunately, I was on the upper end of that today. But, we were moving the ball, seeing each other, and there was a lot of communication out there today, which is key."
Moving forward, the Nittany Lions will need to defeat North Carolina to stay alive in the tournament. The game will certainly be a challenge, but this team is ready for anything. It wants to keep competing, keep winning and keep playing together. Penn State is not finished yet.
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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The end goal was so close, they could almost taste it.
Penn State's roller coaster season came to a difficult close Thursday night after the Nittany Lions (21-10) fell to the top-seeded Lewis Flyers (27-3) in four sets (20-25, 25-22, 16-25, 20-25) at Maples Pavilion on the campus of Stanford University.
"I think we created opportunities, and I thought we got some good swings, but we could not score points easily against [Lewis]," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "I thought we had some good swings against them, but that I thought was the difference."
Since this was as a tight a group of players Pavlik has ever coached, emotions were running high for the Nittany Lions following the match.
For the four seniors, it was difficult to say goodbye to a program that has meant so much to them.
If you do not know Mike Hobson, he was an integral part of the program the past two years as a student manager. His efforts are difficult to quantify into words, so here is how his head coach and teammates will remember him.
"He's the most undervalued person on our team," redshirt senior libero Connor Curry said. "He gets absolutely no recognition for what he does, but the amount of hours that he's logged throughout the season and the ways that he's helped us - he's completely sold out for the team this year and last year, too - we owe a lot to him as a team."
"He's always willing to do whatever our team needs," senior outside hitter Aaron Russell said. "That's what you want in anyone on a team.... I had a lot of fun having him as part of this team."
"I will go on record to tell anybody if they want a young up-and-coming coach, he's going to be getting his graduate degree from Northwest Missouri State, and he's going to be helping their women's team out," Pavlik said. "Keep an eye on him, he's worth it.
"He's a fun guy to play with," Curry said. "He's hot and cold a lot of the time, up and down personality wise, but that's what makes it fun. He's been my roommate for the last three years, so I've gotten to know him pretty well. It's been fun."
A 2015 Second Team All-EIVA honoree, Goodell persevered through injury to finish his last rodeo on a high note. The redshirt senior tallied 30 kills and 11 digs in this year's NCAA Tournament, while placing ninth in the EIVA during the regular season with 3.54 points/set.
Clap for Curry
"It's been an unbelievable experience," Curry said. "Coming from California, I didn't come to Penn State for the weather. I came here for the experience. I came for the people mostly, the people on the team and the coaching staff. That's what I've been around for the past five years, and I wouldn't trade it for anything."
With seven digs against Lewis, Curry completes his Penn State career with 1,043 digs. That is good enough for second place in program history behind only Dennis Del Valle, who notched 1,260 digs from 2008-11.
Applause for Aaron
"I've had so much fun playing for this program," Russell said. "When I was being recruited by a bunch of different colleges across the country, I was told that if I went out east that I wouldn't become a good player, or I wouldn't be as good of a player if I went out west. What [the coaching staff] did, I've learned so much through the program. I think that without them I wouldn't be where I am today. I just thank them so much. I owe everything that I am right now to Penn State."
A two-time First-Team All-American AVCA honoree, Russell ends his stellar Nittany Lion career second in program history with 198 service aces. Only Max Holt, who donned the Blue and White from 2006-09, recorded more punch-outs with 207.
PARK, Pa. - A promise made on Memorial Day in 2008 is what motivated Stephon
Morris. That promise is what helped him gain clarity in the wake of chaos
during the 2012 offseason. It is what pushes him to continue the pursuit of his
NFL dreams and ultimately what drove him to complete his bachelor's degree
Upon committing to Penn State on that fateful day in 2008, Morris stood in Joe Paterno's office and shook his hand after vowing to not only play for the Nittany Lions, but uphold the tradition of leaving Happy Valley with his degree. He completed that promise in 2015 by finishing his coursework through the Penn State World Campus and is scheduled to graduate on Saturday.
"I remember standing in his [Paterno's] office with Coach [Larry] Johnson and Eric Shrive," said Morris. "It was my first time meeting Coach Paterno and I committed that day...I told him that I wouldn't leave without my degree."
Morris quickly made an impact on the field for the Nittany Lions, earning Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors from Sporting News. He was the only Penn State rookie to garner the honor and he admitted that his instant success on the field might have gone to his head.
He appeared in all 13 games, logged 30 stops, hauled in one interception and made his first career start in the regular season finale at Michigan State. His interception came at Illinois, a 70-yard return that closed the half and preserved a 7-3 PSU edge heading into the locker room. He also piled up five stops in three of his last four games, including five solo stops in a 19-17 Capital One Bowl victory over LSU.
"I had success as a true freshman and it is hard to tell an 18-year old kid that he needs to focus on his school work when he is having so much fun playing football," said Morris. "You tell yourself that you're not going to be the guy that lets success go to his head, but I did. I can remember Paterno talking to me about my grades. That success is not something that I handled the best."
Morris refocused after his freshman season and remembered the promise he had made, not only to his coach, but to himself and his family. He found success in his studies and on the field during the next two seasons, but during the summer of 2012 he faced another challenge when the program was handed sanctions by the NCAA.
"The entire team was gathered in the players lounge after a workout and I can remember the sanctions coming down. There were a lot of emotions; at some points you could hear a pin drop and at other points guys were yelling. I knew I had to keep my emotions in check because I needed to be a leader... I couldn't show weakness."
Morris told his father that he was staying at Penn State almost immediately and he believes that is the best decision he has made in his 24-years on this earth.
"I called my dad and said, 'I am staying. I told coach Paterno I would get my degree from this school and I am going to do it.'"
For Morris it was about honoring that commitment, but it was what happened a little later that season that really pushed him. As he sat in the squad room for what was Paterno's final team meeting, the long-time head coach spoke about taking advantage of every day you are given. He told his players to take care of one another and his message was something that struck a chord with Morris.
"Something that Coach Paterno made very clear in his last team meeting was that he wanted us to take care of each other...He was talking about the guys who came before us - the alumni - and the players that would come after us. That might have been the first time I realized how special being a part of the Penn State family was. It really put the 'Success with Honor' motto in perspective."
Those three simple words have led him to where he is today to the moment that "means the world" to him; graduation day. His on field accolades and leadership when the program needed him the most were not enough. What really mattered to Morris was being a part of the 87-percent.
"I wanted to be a part of 'Success with Honor' and the tradition of Penn State football players getting their degrees. I wanted to walk across that stage. I want to be a part of that 87-percent graduation rate. I wanted to show the younger guys in the program now that if you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything."
Morris, a native of the metropolitan Washington D.C., had planned to make the trek from his hometown of Greenbelt, Md. to State College with nine members of his family. The journey would have taken about three hours, but instead he will continue chasing his dream of NFL success. The family trip took a detour when he was invited to Tampa Bay for an open tryout.
I am sure there are other Penn State graduates that will be missing graduation for job interviews, as well, and like them, Morris will surely make his way back to campus in the future. In fact, he plans to make Happy Valley a destination a lot in the future.
"It is amazing the brotherhood that this program has," said Morris. "To be able to walk into the Letterman's Club and see all of these guys who played in the 60s and 70s, all the way to us younger guys is amazing. You would think that some of the older guys wouldn't really know who you are, but they know you better than anyone. They are up there telling stories, handing out business cards and that makes the Letterman's Club such a special group to be a part of."
The stories Morris has from his career will stack up against many of those that populate the Letterman's Lounge throughout the fall, including his favorite Penn State anecdote: a 2012 overtime victory over Wisconsin that punctuated what brotherhood can accomplish.
Soon enough, however, Morris will have his own business cards to hand out and on them he can now proudly display: Penn State Class of 2015.
By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
Jack Anderson credits his division one baseball scholarship to Penn State and his success in three seasons in Happy Valley to one thing: his delivery.
If you've ever seen head coach Rob Cooper's right-handed closer pitch, you know exactly why.
Anderson's pitching style places him in a unique group of pitchers, a group that in today's game is very small. They call it "submarine" pitching, but Anderson just calls it normal after deciding to make the pitching style his own during high school.
"My dad always told me my arm slot was dropping every year progressing through little league and then it was my freshman summer of high school playing against another team in the summer and an opposing coach came up to me after the game and said he could make me into a great pitcher," Anderson said. "He had me drop down completely and everything came natural after that since I had been throwing sidearm for so long."
Anderson's natural arm slot has always been a low three-quarters, even when he was a young little leaguer.
When he warms up before practices or games, his arm slot is at that three-quarters release point, but when he steps on the mound it's as low as he can get to the ground before he releases the ball.
"I really want to start high and get lower," he said of his delivery. "I don't want to go down then up then down. I want to keep it one fluid motion and follow through and get behind the baseball."
With a delivery so unique, muscle memory and repetition is the key to consistency. Although, he said he doesn't do many drills that are different from pitchers that throw at a more conventional release point, he does put extra focus on where he releases the ball and which release point works best.
During his time in college, he has been able to find that release point and a place of comfort on the mound.
"Consistency is the biggest key to having the success and being able to repeat that delivery," Anderson said. "Sometimes I think about moving it up a little bit to get more spin but there's never a drastic difference. I'm trying to keep the same arm slot to keep deception with the hitter and then I'm snapping it off at the end to get movement across the zone."
He has experienced with challenging himself with how low he can go before releasing the ball, including during a game early in his career when he dropped down a little too far.
"One time during my freshman year against Iowa I actually scraped my hand on the ground on a pitch and it was bloody and it wasn't pretty," the junior said. "It kind of got in my head a little bit and I couldn't go any lower after that."
Now in his junior season, he has reached a stellar point of consistency as Penn State's closer and most reliable option out of the bullpen. With two Big Ten series left, Anderson boasts a 4-3 record with a 2.59 ERA, 25 strikeouts and opponents hitting just .217 when he's on the mound.
He has appeared in a variety of ways this season, whether it's the conventional three-out save or a long appearance of two to four innings. Cooper said Anderson's confidence is a big reason why he appears in any situation for Penn State.
"From the day I got here he has not been afraid to pitch and hasn't been afraid to take the ball," Cooper said. "Every time he has had the ball the game means something, so when he makes a mistake it's magnified."
Mistakes haven't come often for Anderson and Cooper acknowledged the righty's ability to finish off ball games.
"Mariano Rivera said it perfect it's not that it takes a special guy to get three outs, it takes a special guy to get the last three outs and Jack has done a really good job of that," Cooper said.
For Anderson, though, his success all goes back to his delivery. He doesn't think he would be the closer at Penn State, let alone a division one pitcher without the submarine approach.
"Absolutely not," Anderson said of whether or not he would be a division one pitcher if he threw conventionally.
Furthermore, he can't even imagine pitching a baseball any other way.
"I don't even know if I could," Anderson said. "I've just been throwing submarine for so long I don't even know what throwing differently would look like at this point."
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Photo Gallery - Altoona | Photo Gallery - Pittsburgh
Day I Recap - Harrisburg & Lancaster | Day II Recap - Washington, D.C. & Baltimore
MARS, Pa. - The first week of the 2015 Coaches Caravan wrapped up in the western half of Pennsylvania on Thursday with a lunch stop in Altoona and an evening reception in northern suburbs of Pittsburgh.
The Penn State Fullington Trailways bus drove nearly three hours to the northwest from Baltimore on Thursday morning in preparation for lunch at Lakemont Park Casino. Take a look through highlights from the final two stops of a six-event leg of the Coaches Caravan.
Stop No. 5 - Altoona (Lakemont Park Casino)
Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour, James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky and Denise St. Pierre headlined the closest stop to the University Park campus on Thursday morning. The ballroom at Lakemont Casino Park hosted the fifth event on the Coaches Caravan before some of the fan base's deepest roots.
Just 45 minutes down the road from State College, Altoona is in the core of Nittany Nation. Fan after fan in the room on Thursday told the coaches and Barbour about either events they had recently attended or games they had circled on their calendars in the fall and winter.
"The heartbeat of Penn State is in Altoona," said Franklin.
One of the big pieces to the fan base in the center portion of the state is the following of the men's hockey program. Gadowsky has mentioned on a number of occasions during his three-day stint on the Caravan about what the growth of youth hockey in Pennsylvania can do for the overall growth of Penn State Hockey.
"Ideally, you want the recruiting footprint to shrink," Gadowsky said. "The more individuals who are involved with youth hockey in the state of Pennsylvania, the better off the entire state will be."
The growth of Nittany Lion hockey, along with the increased interest in youth hockey, tends to go hand in hand. It's a process Gadowsky knows will take time, but it's something he's very excited about. Locations like Altoona are big piece to the puzzle with a growing interest in youth hockey. The region's hockey footprint will grow even further with the announcement that Johnstown (just 50 miles from Altoona) will play host to the NHL's "Hockeyville" game in September.
"I've been so impressed with the interest and reception from the community on the hockey program," said Barbour. "Pegula Ice Arena is a huge piece to that, and the sky is the limit (for the program)."
The Altoona stop marked the final one for St. Pierre. The leader of the women's golf program spent the week educating the fans on the process of being a collegiate golf coach during an extended fall and spring season. She enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the fans and loved to share insight about the program.
"It's been a great ride to hang out with these fantastic people has been a great treat," said St. Pierre. "A lot of people have thanked me for being part of the Caravan, but really it has been my benefit."
VIDEO: Altoona Press Conference
Stop No. 6 - Pittsburgh (DoubleTree by Hilton in Mars, Pa.)
The Caravan visited a spot near and dear to Coach Franklin en route to the evening reception in Cranberry Township on Thursday. The bus weaved through the Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar section of Pittsburgh (northeast of downtown along the Allegheny River) where Franklin spent a lot of time as a kid. The group met up with childhood friend Keith Gardner (known as "Mighty" from his pickup sports days) near Franklin's Aunt Janet's home on Lemington Ave. The group toured a park where Franklin and "Mighty" played a lot of pickup football and basketball growing up.
"It was really cool. I hadn't been there in probably 30 years," said Franklin. "I come back to Pittsburgh all the time and even did for family functions before Penn State, but to actually go to some of those places today that I haven't been in a long time was really cool."
The more than 260 attendees inside the Grand Ballroom of the DoubleTree by Hilton in Mars were thrilled to welcome Franklin, Gadowsky and Deputy Director of Athletics & Chief Operating Officer Phil Esten, along with football assistants and Pittsburgh natives Bob Shoop (Oakmont) and Terry M. Smith (Monroeville).
The talk of the room from the fans focused on a number of topics, but there is a general excitement surrounding the hockey program's regular visits to Pittsburgh and the football team's four-year series with Pittsburgh, which begins at Heinz Field on Sept. 10 in 2016. The supporters in Pittsburgh are fired up about Penn State teams playing in their backyard.
"I think people are excited about it, especially in this region," said Franklin. "We are playing in '16, '17, '18 and '19...There is a lot of history and tradition with it. Generally, I'm in support of keeping the dollars in the state and supporting high school football and programs in the state. And in a lot of ways, there are some really good arguments you could make why it makes sense."
The Nittany Lions and Panthers last met inside Three Rivers Stadium in 2000. The series is slated for four-straight seasons, but Franklin indicated in the press conference prior to the event that both sides are open to discussions about the potential for more games in the future.
As for the hockey program, since Penn State has been a Division I program, the Lions have played in Pittsburgh each season. Every game has been well attended by Nittany Nation. Home to 56,000 alums in the greater metro area, the Steel City is home to some of Penn State's most loyal followers.
With the conclusion of a superb event in the Pittsburgh area, the first leg of the Coaches Caravan is wrapped up. The circuit will pick back up on May 19 in Philadelphia. A big thank you goes out to the fans who attended all six stops during week one.
"That's what these caravans are all about and that's what makes this so special," Franklin said. "We don't get to do this often, and we just want you to know how truly important you are to what we do...The thing that will always make Penn State special is the people."
VIDEO: Pittsburgh Press Conference Video
Day 1 - 129 miles
Day II - 142 miles
Day III - 444 miles
Caravan Total - 715 miles
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Fresh off its Big Ten Tournament win, the Penn State women's lacrosse team is already preparing for the next part of its season. With the NCAA Tournament beginning Friday, the Nittany Lions know they have a clean slate. They are ready to show their skill and prove their dominance.
With this year's appearance, the Blue and White have locked up their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament run. Every year the Lions have made improvements, and this year was no exception. Right now, they have momentum and confidence on their side.
Penn State (14-4) knows it is a national competitor, and the team is looking to go as far into this tournament as possible. In order to do that, the Blue and White will first have to down Johns Hopkins(14-3), a previous conference rival. With such familiarity with their opponent, the Nittany Lions are ready for the challenge.
"They're very physical," said head coach Missy Doherty of Hopkins. "They work very hard. They hustle everywhere. Nothing comes easy against them, so we're going to have to work just as hard and assert ourselves on both ends of the field."
On the offensive side of the game, the Nittany Lions will look to its leaders, including senior captain Maggie McCormick. McCormick leads the team in points with 63 and is also one of the strongest voices for this Penn State squad.
Eyes will also be on senior Tatum Coffey, sophomore Steph Lazo and junior Madison Cyr. All three have over 30 goals this season, adding depth to the team and making Penn State's offense all the more dangerous.
"Hopkins is always a fun team to play because we know that we're going to get one of their best games," McCormick said. "They're definitely going to test us and going to push us. They're a really hard working team, and we know we're going to get a battle out of it. We're going to have to play our best to beat them."
The Nittany Lion offensive will only be a portion of the recipe for success in this first-round game. Doherty and the team know that Hopkins is a squad that shoots the ball, meaning the defense will need to be solid. Saves in this game will be crucial, and senior Emi Smith will need to come up in big ways once again.
Smith, who was named the Big Ten goalie of the year, is no stranger to this pressure. She is more than ready to take on the Blue Jays. In fact, she's looking forward to the matchup and is ready to have fun doing what she loves. The junior just needs to make sure she maintains her focus for all 60 minutes.
"At some points there's times where I don't see a shot for about 10 minutes because our attack and midfielders are doing such a great time with handling the ball," said Smith. "I think my challenge is going to be maintaining my focus throughout the entire game and being a positive factor for my teammates."
As in the Big Ten Tournament, NCAAs are one-game elimination style. Nevertheless, the Nittany Lions are not planning to exit any time soon. With a Big Ten championship and successful season, they have momentum on their side.
This tournament gives Penn State a chance to start new. It knows what has worked well and what has not. Now, the team wants to just go out and show everyone what Penn State lacrosse is all about.
"We're really excited," said McCormick. "When we go finals are going to be over and everyone's going to be able to focus on lacrosse and the team. It's going to be fun. As a senior it's a little bit bitter sweet, but you don't want to think about the fact that the end is kind of nearing. You want to prolong this journey as much as possible, so we're really looking forward to it, especially the seniors."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - At the end of the regular season, the slate is wiped clean as conference foes battle head-to-head for the tournament crown. After losing three close games to the Terrapins this season, the retaliation of Penn State knocking Maryland out of the conference tournament would be sweet.
Ninth-seeded Nittany Lions (28-27) will take on eighth-seeded Maryland (27-26) in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday. Evenly matched, both teams own a 9-14 record in conference play. First meeting in 1999, Penn State owns a 9-5 record all-time against the Terrapins.
Nittany Lion Bats on Fire
Penn State will need to stay dominant at the plate in order to fold Maryland at the mound. The team's aggressiveness has produced 434 hits this season. Forty-five of those were homeruns with six grand slams. Leading the team, Alyssa Vanderveer tallies 13 homeruns while Macy Jones follows with 10.
With a team-best .408 batting average and 71 hits, Second Team All-Big Ten honoree Lexi Knief has made her mark on Penn State's offense this season. Fellow honoree Macy Jones claims a .348 batting average for the second place spot for Penn State.
On the defensive side of the game, Marlaina Laubach, Jones, and Jessica Cummings are the backbone of Penn State's offense. Pitching 136.2 innings, Laubaugh leads the team with 12 wins and 84 strikeouts. Jones trails with 7 wins and 36 strikeouts. Cummings tallies 76 strikeouts with 19 games started pitching 114.2 innings.
Terrapins Scout Report
In its first season in the Big Ten, Maryland owns a 27-26 overall record (9-14 in B1G). The team is hitting .306 on the season with 66 homeruns. Leading at the plate, Erin Pronobis has a .370 average with 57 hits and 12 home runs. Following Pronobis, Lindsey Schemieiser is batting a .364 with the team-high 60 hits.
The Terps maintained a strong pitching presence this season tallying 257 strikeouts. Schmeiser took the top spot with 19 wins and 170 strikeouts. She pitched 201.2 innings finishing only 18 games. Reliever Hannah Dewey's 57 strikeouts and 18 starts earn her a second-place standing for Maryland.
Penn State will need to keep its hitting presence booming in order to move on in the tournament. If Penn State defeats the Terrapins, the team will take on No. 1 Michigan on Friday, May 8 at 2:30 p.m. ET.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's lacrosse 2015 season may be concluded, but the team's persistence and energy will be forever remembered as staples during their inaugural season as part of Big Ten lacrosse.
The Nittany Lions (5-9, 2-3 Big Ten), in a season of many firsts, fought until the end, culminating in a playoff birth to the Big Ten Tournament.
After a solid start to the season, the Nittany Lions were unable to find their footing in the middle of the season. However, after a double overtime loss against Johns Hopkins, Penn State was able to find the confidence needed to finish out the season strong.
"Beginning and the middle of season I think we weren't truly confident with ourselves," said junior James Chakey. "Once we gained some confidence, I think once we played Johns Hopkins the first time, we started believing in ourselves a little bit more and our leadership came together and we were more organized."
Head coach Jeff Tambroni believes that this team has laid the foundation for Penn State's role in the Big Ten. Tambroni emphasized that the class of 2015 set the tone for the younger players and for any class that comes after them. Led by the first lone captain since 1978, Kyle Zittel, the senior class paved the way for the season with great grit and relentless determination.
"Through it all I look back at our seniors and certainly appreciate and admire what they've done for this program," said Tambroni. "But with great excitement we look with our underclassmen at what we believe will be a bright future."
With the season concluded, Tambroni and the rest of the coaching staff will use the summer to develop off-season training programs, as well as take time to travel and watch high school players committed to Penn State lacrosse. The summer is a great time to watch some of the young commits and see how they have progressed over the season. This time also allows the coaches to get an idea of what the new class will bring to the program.
As for the players returning next season, summer is a time to relax, but not completely. Players are expected to workout on their own and keep up with their skills. It is an individual's responsibility to remain in shape over the summer.
A defenseman, Chakey knows that if an individual doesn't work hard over the summer, it will affect the whole team once they reconvene for fall workouts. He also knows that as part of the class of 2016, he and his fellow seniors now bare responsibility for the team, to not only make sure players are working out over the summer, but to make sure all players are in the same mental and physical shape upon returning to school.
"I think coming back with the mentality that we're going to hit the ground running everyone should be on the same page," said Chakey. "So as the senior class that's going to be our goal, have everyone on the same page over the summer."
As for the 2016 campaign, the Nittany Lions are already looking forward to it. The Lions have set both individual and team goals to reach, with strategies for getting there as well.
"I think we just need to prepare as a team more on an individual basis once the season hits," said Chakey. "Next January/February when we come back we should treat every game like a Big Ten game, so therefore when we get to Big Ten games at the end of the season we'll be ready to go."
Although Chakey and his fellow rising seniors now have responsibility over their team, that doesn't mean this responsibility only applies to lacrosse. As a senior, an individual's role develops further and spans being a mentor to younger players both on and off the field. Chakey believes there are a few characteristics that make someone an effective leader, and he hopes that the class of 2016 can apply all of them to their final season.
"Being effective when it comes to communication," said Chakey. "Also, making sure the team doesn't separate and make sure there's not a break in the tight bond we have, especially off the field. We have to make sure the guys are enjoying being a student athlete here at Penn State and at the same time getting their schoolwork done, not getting into trouble, and making sure they focus on what they have to do here."
The 2015 campaign certainly saw the foundation being laid of a team that is capable of being a powerhouse in Big Ten lacrosse. For now, the Nittany Lions can enjoy their summer breaks, but not without a bigger goal emerging in the distance.
"It's important to get moving on 2016 quickly," said Tambroni. "Our hope is that these guys are going to go home with a great deal of urgency and a great deal of hunger and start to focus on how well prepared they need to be and how well prepared we will be."
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
PALO ALTO, Calif. - The fifth-seed Nittany Lions (21-9) face the top-seeded Lewis Flyers (26-3) in the NCAA semifinals on Thursday. First serve is set for 11 p.m. ET inside historic Maples Pavilion.
Having already lost in four sets twice during the regular season against Lewis, Penn State comes into its 17th consecutive NCAA national semifinal match on Thursday with a chip on its shoulder.
"We're looking forward to the battle with the Flyers," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "We've seen them twice this year.... It's a lot of fun to play those guys. They play big boy volleyball. It's a very physical game, not only at the net but from behind the service line. It's men's volleyball at its best."
The Blue and White have battled adversity all season long. From starting 4-9 to having to deal with a number of student-athlete setbacks due to injury, resiliency is the word to describe this year's team.
"The first two times we played them, I don't think that we were as physical as we could or should have been," senior outside hitter Aaron Russell said. "I think we also just didn't really compete as hard.... We've come a long way since then."
In order to top Lewis for the first time this season, the physicality that Russell talked about above will have to be in full force from start to finish.
"If we can serve well...if we can knock them off the net and if we can really force them to not be as physical as they can be, I think that's where we can really expect us to get some separation from them in the game," Pavlik said.
Scouting No. 1 Lewis
After finishing 15-1 in conference play, Lewis ended the regular season as MIVA champions. However, the Flyers completed the season by falling to No. 3 Loyola (25-2) in the MIVA Championship game. Nonetheless, the committee rewarded Lewis with the top ranking for this year's NCAA tournament.
Having lost just three matches all season long, the Flyers have a host of quality wins. Strong wins include: UC Irvine, Stanford, Penn State (twice), Ohio State, IPFW (twice), and Ball State (twice). Lewis's three losses have all come at the hands of ranked foes in BYU, Ohio State and Loyola.
Offensively, a three-headed monster leads the Flyers. Redshirt senior outside hitter Geoff Powell, senior outside hitter Greg Petty, and senior opposite Eric Fitterer are incredibly physical pin hitters that have challenged opponents all season long. Each of the three are averaging more than 2.75 kills per set and hitting higher than .296.
All three players detailed above are AVCA All-Americans. Together, the Flyers combined for five this year, however. The other two? Senior libero Lucas Yanez who is averaging 2.02 digs this season and junior middle blocker Bobby Walsh who is averaging 1.53 blocks per set this year.
"Bobby [Walsh] is an up-and-coming middle who is really doing the right things and playing the right way," Pavlik said. "They use him so well...Walsh is in the middle saying 'hey, don't forget about me.'"
What's at Stake?
The winner will advance to the 2015 NCAA title match on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. ET and will play the victor of No. 2 UC Irvine and No. 3 Loyola.
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Day I Recap - Harrisburg & Lancaster
BALTIMORE - The Coaches Caravan traveled southeast on Wednesday on day two of the first leg, making a pair of stops in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.
The Penn State wrapped Fullington Trailways bus rolled into the nation's capital on Wednesday morning for a lunch stop to kick off the day. Take a look through highlights from the second two stops of a six-event week on the Coaches Caravan.
Stop No. 3 - Washington, D.C. (JW Marriott)
Raised in Annapolis, Maryland, Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour kicked off the panel of speakers with a story about how she was introduced to the prideful fan base of the Nittany Lions. The D.C. area is home to approximately 26,000 Penn State alums. Barbour cited that many of the folks sitting in the room played a big role in establishing her feelings about the University.
"You all taught me about Penn State," said Barbour. "Growing up in the area, I learned a lot of my initial feelings and in a lot of ways had my introduction to Penn State from people like you."
Each year on the Caravan, the trips to the DMV are always filled with enthusiastic fans of the Blue and White. And it's a critical area for recruiting.
"This is going to be a very, very important area for us moving forward in recruiting," head coach James Franklin said. "It's always been a big part of Penn State Football, and it will continue to be very important."
Additionally, with the expanded footprint of the Big Ten Conference, the Penn State fans in the DC area will have more opportunities to see the Lions play closer to home.
In addition to games at Maryland across all of the Big Ten's sanctioned sports, the 2017 Big Ten Basketball Tournament will be contested in Washington, D.C., from March 8-12 in the Verizon Center.
Among the attendees in D.C. on Wednesday was captain in the U.S. Navy. Looking at the diehard Penn State fan, hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky singled the man out during his speech about the Nittany Lion supporters. Gadowsky said the Navy captain came up to him prior to the lunch to inform him of a new tradition started during the Michigan hockey series. The captain brought tailgating to the parking lot during the coldest weekend of the year, and Gadowsky loved it.
"How are you not fired up to play in Pegula Ice Arena when you have someone like a Navy captain tailgating outside in the snow before our game?" Gadowsky said.
What gives the Caravan a unique touch are stories and meetings like the one Gadowsky had with the Naval captain. Penn State's fan base is one big family. Each coach on the Caravan uses the experience to learn about the fans and engage with them. It helps the fans understand how important the support is for each program on campus.
"Our philosophy is built on relationships and how we interact with people," head coach James Franklin said.
VIDEO: Washington, D.C. Press Conference
Stop No. 4 - Baltimore (Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport)
After a quick look at the White House before leaving Washington, the Caravan traveled north to Baltimore for stop No. 4 during the week at the Hilton near BWI Airport. The greater Baltimore area is home to nearly 10,500 Penn State alums, and like Washington, the Caravan crowd is always energetic at stops in the DMV. Wednesday evening's event was no different.
Barbour, and head coaches James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky and Denise St. Pierre received a rousing ovation from the moment they stepped on the stage inside Thurgood Marshall Ballroom.
It's going to be a big year ahead for Penn State and the Baltimore area. The Nittany Lions are slated to meet Maryland on October 24 in M&T Bank Stadium. The game will mark Penn State's first game in Baltimore since Nov. 9, 1991 when the Lions topped Maryland, 47-7, in Memorial Stadium.
The DMV is home to 19 players on the 2015 football roster. That list includes seven returning players who hail from the state of Maryland. For decades, the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area has been pivotal recruiting ground for the football program. That is not going to change in the eyes of Coach Franklin.
Assistant coaches Charles Huff and Sean Spencer were in attendance on Wednesday evening after spending the day recruiting in the area. Additionally, junior offensive lineman Brian Gaia (Pasadena, Maryland) was in attendance. Gaia stood and recited the program's four core values when called upon during Franklin's speech.
Maryland is an area Franklin and Gadowsky are quite familiar with. They both have family members in the state. And Franklin spent several years of his professional career in the local area.
"Being able to come around to different areas around the region is great, and we love to come out and say thank you," Franklin said. "The fans have been so supportive since we got here last year, and places like this are big reason we have felt so welcome."
An Annapolis native, Barbour spoke on Wednesday evening about having the opportunity to come home when she took the job as Director of Athletics for Penn State in August. Her passion for the Blue and White is evident every time she speaks. Barbour loves every ounce of her job and takes great pride in leading a department that sets the standard for academic and athletic excellence.
"All of the reasons why I came to Penn State have all come true and more," Barbour said.
The first week of the Caravan will conclude on Thursday with stops in Altoona (lunch) and north of Pittsburgh (evening reception).
VIDEO: Baltimore Press Conference
Coaches Caravan Miles Traveled:
Day I - 129 miles
Day II - 142 miles
Caravan Total - 271 miles
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