By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Everyone has days that don't go according to plan. For Penn State men's basketball player Kevin Montminy, August 6, 2014 was one of those days.
The senior walk-on went to practice that afternoon expecting a normal workout session, yet ended up on the floor instead, his nose bleeding profusely after he broke it as he dove for a loose ball.
But that was just the beginning.
Before Montminy could be taken to the hospital, head coach Patrick Chambers gathered the team at midcourt to make an announcement. For his final season at Penn State, Montminy would receive a full scholarship.
"I was just going into it like any other practice or game with the same approach and ended up having to go to the hospital which is never fun, with blood coming out of my nose, and I was like 'oh jeez, this is not going to be a good day,'" Montminy said. "But then coach pulled everyone aside. It sort of blew me away, I wasn't expecting it at all."
Now in his fourth season, Montminy has played a combined 96 minutes and scored just 24 points during his career. So what about him made Chambers believe he deserved a scholarship?
While there are plenty of hardworking players on the Nittany Lions, Montminy is usually the first guy mentioned by coaches and teammates when attributes like effort and attitude are being discussed. He was an Academic All-Big Ten selection last year and was named a team captain prior to this season.
When asked about the Centre Hall, Pennsylvania, native, Chambers wasn't shy about his feelings.
"I'd let my daughter marry that kid," Chambers said. "He's a beast. Leadership, academically, just does the right things, community service, locker room, his effort in practice, he's vocal, our guys respect him. When he talks they listen. I mean, what a great human being to have a part of your program."
Now in the last season of his career, Montminy is starting to reflect on what the past four years have meant to him.
For a kid who grew up 20 minutes away from the Bryce Jordan Center however, Montminy's Penn State journey began long before he first suited up for the Nittany Lions.
Born to Bleed Blue and White
Long before he was a member of Penn State's basketball team, Montminy was already a member of Nittany Nation.
Living close to State College has its benefits, and being able to attend as many Penn State sporting events as possible was the biggest one for him.
"Ever since I was younger, I was coming into the BJC or Beaver stadium seeing games," Montminy said. "My parents had season tickets to football games, my dad would also get a ticket voucher pack for Penn State basketball. So yeah, I would go to multiple games, whether it was with my family or with my friends in high school. That really made it that much more special that now I'm on the court instead of watching."
Still, when it came time to pick a college, the choice wasn't easy for the promising student athlete. As someone who was the valedictorian of his class and a star wide receiver and shooting guard at Penns Valley High School, Montminy's options of schools certainly weren't limited.
At first, it seemed like football might win out. While the 6-foot-3 guard was originally recruited by mostly Division III schools for basketball, he received serious interest from a number of Ivy League football programs, including Pennsylvania and Princeton.
What seemed like a tough call became easier when then-Penn State head basketball coach Ed DeChellis reached out to him with an offer to walk-on. Right away, Montminy knew he wanted to be a Nittany Lion.
"I had a different options and I wasn't even sure what sport I wanted," Montminy said. "Whenever [Penn State] offered that chance, it was sort of, I can't really pass that up, because it was the academics, it was the ability to play in the Big Ten, have that opportunity that I just couldn't pass up."
The decision was met enthusiastically by Montminy's parents and three sisters, not to mention his friends, coaches and teachers at Penns Valley. Although he may not play every game for the Nittany Lions, he always has a cheering section.
"I'm not playing in every game or getting significant minutes but my family comes to every single game," Montminy said. "They're the best and I wouldn't trade them for anything."
Montminy has shown his alma mater plenty of appreciation as well. Even though he graduated from Penns Valley four years ago, makes sure to attend at least one Rams game a year.
"I was able to make it to the [Penns Valley] holiday tournament this year. Just going up and talking to people and hearing, 'hey we've been watching you and following your career,' means a lot to me."
The Penns Valley faithful will have a chance to reciprocate on Saturday, which is "Penns Valley Community Day" inside the Bryce Jordan Center (12 p.m. vs. Rutgers).
Putting the 'Student' in 'Student Athlete'
When you ask Montminy how much time he spends on schoolwork compared to basketball, you can already start to tell how diligent a student he is.
In about 10 seconds, the double business major has already calculated it in his head. Most weeks he spends about 28 hours (four a day) on basketball and an additional 14 (two a day) studying after practice. Not to mention that he is generally occupied with class and schoolwork from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm everyday (he usually gets to the BJC for practice at 2:30).
It may seem stressful, but it has certainly paid off for him. A member of both the Smeal College of Business and Schreyer's Honors College, Montminy has had six consecutive semesters with a 4.0 GPA.
"If I have a test [the hours studying] will definitely be more, I'll just go to the library straight after practice and go, not all night, but pretty late. And then wake up and do it again," Montminy said. "It's something I wouldn't pass up for anything. You can sleep when you're dead."
Although this is his last season with the basketball program, the guard will stay in school for a fifth year to earn his master's degree in accounting to go with two bachelor's degrees in accounting and finance.
Until then, Montminy is going to continue to enjoy what is left of his last season in blue and white. Over the past four years, he has learned to love his role as something of a player-coach for the Nittany Lions.
"Coach, at the very beginning said, 'I'm not going to promise you anything, so keep working and good things will come out of that,'" Montminy said. "He relies on me for things that aren't necessarily on the court during games. I know that I can bring someone aside and tell them, 'this is what you're doing.' I think understanding my role and understanding what's best for the team allows me to not worry about the selfish things like wanting to play more."
Having already secured an accounting internship with KPMG in Philadelphia this summer, Montminy is well on his way to starting his post-basketball career.
Both his teammates and coaches have no doubt that the former walk-on will be a success in life, just like they have no doubt that they will miss him.
"He's great in every aspect," junior forward Donovon Jack said. "He's a guy that's all in on Penn State basketball, whether he's cheering us on or pushing us. Just a great, overall leader."
"That kid is going to be a stud, whatever he chooses he's going to be a superstar," Chambers added. "I couldn't be more thankful about having him a part of my program in the beginning of my tenure here at Penn State."
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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
By Mike Esse, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After playing five of its first seven Big Ten conference games on the road, the Penn State Lady Lions (3-15, 0-7) finally return home for two games this weekend starting with Indiana (12-5, 2-4) Thursday at 7 p.m.
"The schedule gods didn't shine on us in terms of how we started the season on the road," head coach Coquese Washington said. "Being able to come home for a couple games will be nice and being in front of our crowd which has been really good this year understanding that this is a transition year for us and they have still been really supportive and loud."
Penn State returns to the comfort of its own arena after a close road setback at Ohio State, 69-60, without leading scorer Lindsey Spann.
Without Spann available against the Buckeyes, Kaliyah Mitchell and her teammates continued to play hard on the court and not let the absence of Spann let them take any steps backwards. Three Lady Lions were in double figures on the afternoon with Sierra Moore notching 16 points, Mitchell tallying 14 and Candice Agee adding 11.
"I think it was us knowing that she's (Spann) not there, we wanted to show her that we can still play well even though she wasn't there," Mitchell said. "We wanted to show her that we still had her back even though she wasn't out there."
The team's performance against Ohio State has served as a way to prove to Mitchell and the rest of the team that they are capable of winning Big Ten games, no matter what the situation is. Plus, it will only help to have Spann back on the court.
"That really did build some confidence for us and with Lindsey coming back soon that shows us that we can really win now," Mitchell added. "That will help with these next few games and them being at home."
Indiana comes into the BJC Thursday night losing three of its last four, including a home loss to the aforementioned Buckeyes. Teri Moren is in her first year at the helm in Bloomington and Penn State had coach Coquese Washington has noticed a few changes, but not in who runs the show on the court for the Hoosiers.
"They're a little different, but it seems to be that she's allowing their personnel to do what they do. So, Larryn Brooks is still leading them in scoring and is their engine and the heart and soul of that team. She's still shooting the ball deep, creative and off the dribble."
Brooks averages 12.3 points and 4.2 assists per game so far in her sophomore campaign.
After Indiana, Penn State hosts Northwestern at the BJC on Sunday at 2 p.m.
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sitting in the stands at Pegula Ice Arena, fans watch as sophomore David Goodwin appears on the jumbotron. As his voice echoes through the stands, he introduces himself as the "other" guy that plays on a line with Casey Bailey and Taylor Holstrom, two current Hobey Baker nominees. While many chuckle at the forward's joke, his teammates and coaches know those words could not be farther from the truth.
Goodwin is much more than the "other" guy to this Penn State hockey team. He is a key component of the Lion's offense, a key component of the trio that is Bailey, Holstrom and Goodwin and a key component of his line's success this season.
In the past four games alone, the top line combined for 20 points. Of those points, eight belong to Goodwin, who scored four goals and notched four assists. With so much offense coming from the three, it's easy for the sophomore, Bailey and Holstrom to stir up some friendly competition with one another.
"It's kind of like an unsaid competition almost," said Goodwin. "When you're playing with other guys who like to score, we have a phrase. Iron sharpens iron. When you're playing with each other, you're making each other better, so obviously there's going to be some competition. You ask me, Holy or Bailey, we're all going to say the same thing that we don't really care who scores as long as our line is producing and not getting scored on."
Goodwin is currently third on the team in points, behind only Bailey and Holstrom. However, his 10 goals and 12 assists come with a plus-10 rating on the ice, which is best among the Nittany Lions. In fact, the sophomore has not been a minus player in a game since the team's Dec. 6 matchup in Wisconsin.
Last weekend specifically, the sophomore's play earned him recognition in the Big Ten. Goodwin was named the conference's second star of the week following the Michigan State series, but the forward was quick to call the award a line honor. He knows all too well the importance of thinking and playing with a team mentality.
"I wouldn't be able to do any of that if it wasn't for Casey or Taylor," said the sophomore of his success. "It's a good accolade, but the credit goes to my linemates. They're the reason I'm getting these easy goals, back door tap ins and assists. I'm honored that I received it, but at the end of the day it's about the three of us, not just myself."
While Goodwin may look at the recognition as a line award, head coach Guy Gadowsky is pleased to see the forward finally getting credit for his efforts. Sometimes overshadowed by his linemates, Goodwin's impressive on-ice vision can be overlooked by the causal fan. He's a playmaker, something Gadowsky knows fully.
"David Goodwin got the puck and Casey Bailey was in such an easy position," Gadowsky explained of a goal-scoring play during the Michigan State series. "I think everybody in the rink knew that was a simple pass, and he has such a good vision in his mind that he went all the way across crease to Taylor [Holstrom]. That's a really high-level, quick-thinking play. It was really great to see. Taylor ended up, I mean the goaltender made a great save, but it went to Bailey for a goal. But he does things like that that really make a huge difference. Sometimes he doesn't get enough credit, so it's nice to see."
No matter the team, the top line is confident it can still contribute. Goodwin, Bailey and Holstrom truly believe they can take on any defense and any forward line. They're working hard, playing an honest game and doing what they love, scoring goals.
Playing with linemates like Bailey and Holstrom has also provided Goodwin with numerous opportunities to learn and grow as a college hockey player. Together, the three are confident in their abilities, and the sophomore is using this experience to soak up as much as he can from his teammates.
"They've been very instrumental in my success I've had this year and my development," Goodwin said. "Just every day in practice getting the opportunity to skate next to them and learn from them, just kind of talk to them in between periods and pick their brains about some of their past experiences. They've both been playing college hockey a little bit longer than I have, so it's been great. I've been very fortunate to have linemates like them, and I'm very proud to be on their line."
While some may consider Goodwin to be the "other" guy on the top line, his play speaks for itself. He is doing and will continue to do big things for Penn State hockey.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. - Since his freshman season in 2012, senior captain and midfielder Kyle Zittel has evolved in many ways within the Penn State men's lacrosse program. He is the sole captain of a team expected to not only compete, but also thrive during the inaugural season of Big Ten lacrosse.
As a freshman, Zittel made seven appearances, recording one goal and two assists. Zittel channeled his limited playing time, using it as motivation to improve his playing skills. In the 2013 and 2014 campaigns, Zittel appeared in every game, setting personal records with 11 ground balls and four caused turnovers last season. His performance and work ethic both on and off the field made him a prime candidate for captain his senior season.
"We believe this is an extremely important position," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "This is ownership of your locker room. You either point your team in the right direction or in a direction that's not going to be conducive to success, however you define that."
The selection process of captain involves both coaches and players. Coach Tambroni explained that the coaches take into consideration the team's opinion of fellow players and look heavily to players who have displayed leadership skills during their time on the team. Notable key qualities of previous Penn State men's lacrosse captains have been outstanding work ethic, the ability to motivate teammates, having the respect of teammates, including taking charge and listening to others' ideas.
"The one thing about Kyle is it's not a matter of him having to change into a role," said Coach Tambroni. "He just needs to be himself and impose his will on this team because he understands what we need to be successful. He has proven that in his first three years, that's why he has had the blessing of his own teammates and the coaching staff to become a captain.
In 2014, the Nittany Lions had three captains - Gavin Ahern, Tom LaCrosse, and Tyler Travis. All three have graduated. In contrast, Zittel stands alone in charge of a team comprised of 36 young men all striving for success on and off the field in 2015. Encouraged by this title of authority, Zittel hopes to set a high bar for what is expected from the younger players.
"I try to lead by example," Zittel said. "I'm not the best player on our team and I don't score the most goals and I never not make mistakes, so there's things they can learn from me. Just as far as I carry myself into practice and out of practice afterwards and what I can do to set the way for how they should carry themselves as well."
Zittel had high praise for the previous captains and graduating seniors who helped set the tone and foundation for him during his time as a younger member of the team. Following in their footsteps, Zittel explained how previous captains have impacted the way he leads the team every day, both on the field and off.
"The previous captains, the way they carried themselves and came to practice with an upbeat energy, confidence and focus every single day was huge for me," Zittel said. "I tried to learn from that and carry myself in the same way,"
With the support of seven fellow seniors, Zittel will look to his experienced counterparts to assist in leading the Nittany Lions through their hardest schedule to date. Names such as JP Burnside and Jack Donnelley will help not only make an impact during games, but be constant role models off the field.
"Our coaching staff has flanked Kyle with two extremely capable leaders in the senior class in JP Burnside and Jack Donnelly, and their leadership certainly cannot be minimized," said Coach Tambroni. "Those two guys have been there for him since day one and will continue to be there."
With the start of the season just days away, Zittel is anticipating a competitive and challenging final season. Set to play five teams ranked in the top 20 of the USILA Preseason Poll, the Nittany Lions will face their fair share of challenges in 2015. Additionally, the first season of Big Ten play is something the captain is looking forward to.
"Seeing our football program and every other athletic program excel in the Big Ten and what it's about, it's great to finally be a apart of it for lacrosse. I think it's a huge stepping stone for our program and then also the Big Ten and the whole lacrosse community."
The Nittany Lions are set to host Army in an exhibition game Saturday in Holuba Hall at 12 p.m.
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNVIERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 4 Penn State men's gymnastics team is off to a prominent start this season as they have clutched two consecutive team titles as well as 11 individual titles in only two meets.
Despite having a young roster for this season due to the addition of six freshmen to the team, the upperclassmen's guidance is leading the team to success.
"The first weekend was a bit of a nerve-wracking experience, but I felt like just concentrating on the things that I do best, just staying confident, and I tried my best," said freshman Joshua Smith. "My team tried to support me the best way they could and after that, the results just came naturally."
The Nittany Lions started the season with a 426.700-403.000 win over Army nearly two weeks ago at Rec Hall. They won all six events that Sunday to earn the victory.
The team has continued to build on their momentum by capturing their 16th West Point Open team title with a score of 439.400 last Saturday. The Nittany Lions captured the seventh-best team score in school history with their performance.
Thirteen Nittany Lions recorded qualifying performances for the individual finals on Saturday night. Freshman Thad Lawson, senior Matthew Felleman, senior Craig Hernandez, junior Alexis Torres, and senior Tristan Duverglas all went home with an individual title.
Freshman Thad Lawson earned his first collegiate title by securing first place in the floor exercise event.
"[The meet] was fun," said Lawson. "I've never really been in that big of an exciting team environment. A lot of team support and it was really fun and exciting and a big adrenaline rush."
Lawson built on his accomplishment this week by receiving
the Big Ten Freshman of the Week award.
"It's really exciting," said Lawson. "It was pretty unexpected, you know, being my first competition. I've had some adversity with concussions and some minor injuries, but it was a really pleasant surprise."
Even with the success, Lawson couldn't have done it without his teammates.
"[The upperclassmen] have been really supportive," said Lawson. "Giving me some helpful hints with competing and dealing with the pressure, just staying calm, and focusing in on every small detail."
Teammate and fellow freshman Benjamin Cooperman echoes his teammate about the support from the juniors and seniors.
"All the upperclassmen really help me out," said Cooperman. "Any of the seniors and juniors are role-models and I definitely look up to them."
With such a young roster, the young athletes are bringing something new to the team.
"I think [the freshmen] bring depth to the table," said Cooperman. "We got a lot of really good upperclassmen who help out the team a lot, but I think we can really help them out by stepping up when they need rest and really just adding a lot of depth into the team, so we can go deeper into the season."
Though there has been much accomplished this season already, the team still hopes to improve.
"I think there are definitely some little areas that we need to improve in...Hitting as many routines as possible, keep cleaning up, tightness, just really cleaning up the little things, definitely focus on sticking out dismounts, just little things, but I think we're off to a great start," said Cooperman. "I'm really confident and excited to go forward with the team and see what we do. I think we have a really great shot at doing really well this year."
Penn State will meet Michigan at 4 p.m. this Saturday at Rec Hall.
"This weekend, I definitely want to beat Michigan and just want to show improvement from our last meet," said Cooperman.
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - At the beginning of the 2014-'15 season, Penn State wrestler Garett Hammond had quite the task on his hands.
As if stepping into a starting role for the four-time defending national champion Nittany Lions wasn't difficult enough, the redshirt freshman was also replacing four-time All-American and two-time individual national champion David Taylor in the lineup.
Now just past the halfway point in his first year as a starter, Hammond has responded to the challenge well. Though he is not undefeated as Taylor was during his first regular season, the 165-pounder is second on the team with 18 wins and is 6-3 in duals after winning twice this past weekend.
"I've had some great experiences so far," Hammond said. "I think I'm doing a lot better than I was at the beginning of the season. I can tell a big difference, I'm getting more comfortable out there and a lot of it is my mentality and my confidence in myself. Working with the coaches and working with other teammates to get better."
Hammond knows the comparisons to his predecessor are inevitable, but it's not something he's really focused on. After all, he was well aware of the situation he was entering when he enrolled at Penn State prior to last season.
Like every wrestler who joins head coach Cael Sanderson's program, Hammond was excited about the chance to compete at a school with sky-high expectations every year. With his weight having been in the 150s in high school, the former Chambersburg High star knew there was a strong possibility he would be the next 165-pound starter once Taylor graduated.
"With a team like this, you're going to have good guys at every single weight," Hammond said. "[Three-time national champion] Ed Ruth graduated last year, he's also very good. We won four national titles the past four seasons so there's obviously going to be a lot of good guys coming through the program."
Like most first-year starters, Hammond has had his fair share of learning to do now that he's facing Big Ten competition for the first time.
Although he dropped his first two duals in January against Indiana and Ohio State, he battled back with an impressive showing last weekend, majoring Nick Visicaro of Rutgers 13-4 and beating Pat Robinson of Purdue 16-11 in a match that turned the momentum for the Nittany Lions in a 26-9 win.
For Hammond, improving his confidence has been just as key as strengthening his technique. While he went 29-7 in open tournaments last year as a redshirt, he still had to adjust to being someone the team relied on in key situations.
"Last year, I just made a decision where I could make a slow adjustment," Hammond said. "I had a whole year to focus on wrestling open tournaments, I didn't have as much pressure on myself. Time is limited now, I don't give myself a year to get better, I focus on the next week and making sure I make the big improvements."
Luckily, the new starter has had plenty of experienced sparring partners to help him with his development. Among that group is Taylor, who still frequently trains in Rec Hall as a member of the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, and Matt Brown, the team's senior captain and two-time All-American at the 174-pound weight.
"Yeah, it's a complete turnaround from last year," Brown said of Hammond. "He's was fresh, new coming out of high school. Now he's a competitive partner. We go probably once a week and I can see that growth in him."
Growing up just two hours away from State College, the Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, native competed in tournaments at Penn State as a kid and always wanted to be a part of the school's wrestling tradition.
He knows that expectations of him will only grow from here, and he's perfectly fine with that. Although his career is just beginning, Hammond hopes to leave a legacy that the next Penn State 165-pounder will want to live up to.
"You just kind of realize, they're (Taylor and Ruth) just people too, just like everyone on the team," Hammond said. "I mean, you work hard and make that decision to win, and big part of it is mentality and confidence in yourself and it's starting to rub off a little bit."
Nittany Lions Gearing Up For Match Against Gophers
Since Cael Sanderson took over as head coach in 2009, the Nittany Lions have had their share of challenging matches on their way to four straight national titles.
This Sunday, they'll have perhaps their toughest test of the season, when No. 2 Minnesota comes to Rec Hall.
The Gophers, who are led by three-time national championship coach J Robinson, boast a lineup that features eight ranked wrestlers, not to mention three (133-pounder Chris Dardanes, 157-pounder Dylan Ness and 197-Pounder Scott Schiller) ranked first at their weight.
While the Nittany Lions haven't beaten the Gophers in a dual meet during Sanderson's tenure (going 0-3-1), they have gotten the best of them at both the conference and national tournaments the past four years. Still, Sanderson remains focused on the present task at hand.
"They've just been real strong," Sanderson said. "They're a good dual meet team, a lot of depth, solid, a tough group of kids, a tough staff, just tough people. We like our chances with any team, but again it comes down to, you've gotta choose to be tough, choose to score those points and keep wrestling and do all those things that bring success."
One match that will be especially intriguing is the 174-pound contest, where Penn State's Matt Brown (No. 4, two-time All-American) will take on Minnesota's Logan Storley (No.3, three-time All-American) for the eighth time in their respective careers.
The two faced off four times last season, with Brown winning at the Southern Scuffle and the Big Ten Championships and Storley taking the bouts at the dual meet and the NCAA Tournament. Overall, Brown is 4-3 against the Gopher grappler.
"Has it really been that many times?" Brown said with a smile. "I think we're pretty familiar with each other, but every time the whistle blows it's a new match. I'm gonna try to wrestle my match regardless of what he's trying to do."
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Pit bulls are often misunderstood. But, for junior forward Emily Laurenzi, that is not the case.
According to the American Kennel Club, there are more than 400 dog breeds worldwide. Based on a multitude of experiences, Laurenzi has decided to dedicate her life to protecting and rescuing the breed she is most zealous about, pit bulls.
"She just developed a real passion and affinity for [pit bulls], and it just spoke to her," said head coach Josh Brandwene. "Em has a heart of gold, and that's in everything that she does. The care and love she has for her teammates, and just the effort and commitment that she has put into the dog rescue does not surprise me in the least. It's who she is as a person."
Laurenzi's adoration for pit bulls began with Animal Planet's "Pit Bulls and Parolees" TV show. Episode after episode, her love for the breed grew exponentially. What the show did for Laurenzi was inspire her to want to rescue, as well.
The goal of the popular show is to raise awareness on a national level so that one day, caring people won't have to protect pit bulls.
So, on Pit Bull Awareness Day in 2013, Laurenzi met her match. She found the perfect pit bull to adopt.
She wanted to help this pit bull so badly that she even cried before a hockey game.
The Townsend, Del., native finally saved Gracie on November 3, which was about a week after the two first met.
"Gracie is good," said Laurenzi about her pit bull. "She's the nicest dog. Everybody on the team loves her. She comes to every game and wears a little Penn State jacket. She's like the mascot."
Following her first rescue, Laurenzi wanted to volunteer more, so she began to help out at the Delaware l Response-a-Bull Rescue, a place mostly for bully breeds.
Her care for pit bulls translates into a supportive teammate and friend. Being the warmhearted person that she is, her actions come as no surprise to those around her.
"[Laurenzi's pit bull work] has me speechless because it's so incredible," said teammate and roommate Jordin Pardoski. "Her passion for pit bulls...it's indescribable how much she cares about animals, especially that certain dog. She's always looking to help others out. She's one of the most selfless people I've ever met...and it shows on the ice."
Laurenzi's spare time
is spent at home volunteering at Response-a-Bull Rescue. She provides a voice
for a breed that so often receives a false impression.
"I would definitely call her a pit bull advocate," said Pardoski.
For right now, Laurenzi is focused on Nittany Lion hockey. However, following graduation she plans to start up her own shelter. Currently, she has a fund set up to save money to eventually start her own dog home.
"I want to have my own rescue one day," said Laurenzi. "I've already started a fund for myself. I don't have that much money in it, but every once in a while I put money in there. That's just a dream of mine to own my own one day."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The warning track of
Medlar Field at Lubrano Park was covered in snow and flurries blew about
outside the window of head coach Rob Cooper's third floor office. Though
temperatures reached just above freezing on Monday, you could tell in Cooper's mind
it was 80 degrees and sunny.
After a whirlwind first season that saw him accept his post at Penn State in August, quickly relocate and assemble his coaching staff just weeks before beginning his first official fall workouts in Happy Valley, Cooper is ready to get away from the chaos. He is ready for his team to find their comfort zone, as well, but knows that they better be content being in a state of unrest.
"We talk to our team all the time about being comfortable being uncomfortable," said Cooper. "With 56 games and the postseason there are a lot of times that you are going to be out of your element. Not everything is going to go our way and I am excited to see how this team responds when we hit a little adversity this season."
We sat down and talked to Cooper about the progress he has seen with his team, the challenging 2015 schedule and where he is at now personally as he enters his second season in the dugout.
With a new season right around the corner the Nittany Lions need every moment they have to prepare for the rigors of a 56-game schedule. Cooper spoke about the work his players have put in during the summer and winter breaks, and things that will give his players an advantage heading into preseason workouts.
"The message to our players [entering practice] is to continue to build, continue to get better and move the program forward," said Cooper. "Our players understand that we need to maximize each day and they used the [winter] break to get stronger; not only in the weight room but mentally, as well."
Official team practice starts on Friday and Cooper knows that because of the veteran leadership and the dedication his group has shown during the offseason they will be well ahead of where they started last season. For this team it is all about making progress throughout the year, even if the numbers might not show it. Cooper things his group made major improvements from the end of 2014 until now.
"I am happy when what our hitters have done. I am happy with what our pitching staff has done," said Cooper. "I think what Ross [Oeder] has done an unbelievable job with our hitters and I think Brian [Anderson] is doing a tremendous job with our pitching staff."
The numbers from 2013 to 2014 showed the growth of the pitching staff: lower ERA, fewer walks and less runs allowed, however it was not as easy to see the growth in statistics offensively. That doesn't worry Cooper as his team enters 2015 because he feels they have laid the foundation for more growth in 2015.
"[Our players] having a full year under our staff and knowing what we expect and what our philosophy is will help this season," Cooper said. "We want to be a great offensive team, not a great hitting team. Usually if you are a sound offensive team that leads to being a great hitting team. It is about understanding your strengths and weaknesses and using those to complement the players around you. [Our players] recognize that we are trying to lay the foundation for success now and in the future."
Starting a new job can be difficult for anyone and it was no different for Cooper when who rolled down I-99 and into Happy Valley to start his tenure at Penn State. He knew upon arrival he would have nearly 10 months without his wife and two sons, but what he didn't know is that he was inheriting an extended family that ranged from sea to shining sea.
Upon accepting the dugout post with the Nittany Lions, Cooper knew he was joining a university with a passionate and expansive alumni base, but what he didn't expect was the airport chats with former Penn Staters and the welcoming attitude of everyone he encountered while wearing the blue and white.
"I thought I had an idea about what it meant to be a part of Penn State and this community, but until you are here and you meet the people and you see their passion you don't truly understand it," said Cooper. "There is always a buzz and energy on this campus and you feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself and to really understand that is a neat thing."
Cooper hopes that he can add to that tradition during his time on campus, but he is thankful that his family has finally joined him. Whether it is his sons, Tyson and Jake, hanging around the field or the fact he is able to bounce ideas off of his wife, he is more at peace with his family by his side.
"My family being here now absolutely helps me," said Cooper. "Being able to go home and have them there and to be able to see them, in person and not over the phone, has been huge. I love what I do, but part of the reason I love it so much is because I have a family that loves it just as much as I do."
The NCAA Tournament is the goal for Cooper and his team and to do that he knows they must get used to playing in the chaotic environment that comes along with postseason baseball. That's why when putting together a schedule it is about challenging his team, while also wanting to put some tallies in the win column.
"Any time that you can be put into a place of chaos it makes you evaluate what you need to do to play at that level," Cooper said. "We may play great [in our early season games], but I guarantee that we will also see things that we need to work on. These games will be a test to see if we are ready to play in a Big Ten Championship or NCAA Regional-type atmosphere."
Cooper likes to use his non-conference games as a test. He wants to see how his team will respond when they are introduced to some of college baseball's most passionate fan bases. His players will have the chance to experience them early and often with 33 of their 56 games away from home this season.
The 2015 schedule includes 56 games against 25 different opponents. Of those games, 29 of them will come against teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament at least once since 2012.
"Our goal is to make this program into one that is competing for a spot in the NCAA Tournament each year," said Cooper. "The only way to do that is by playing [tournament] teams. When you look at our schedule you see a handful of teams that advanced to the postseason last year, but what most people don't see are the games vs. programs that are contending for at-large berths on a yearly basis."
Those teams include Binghamton, Elon, Kent State, Liberty, North Carolina State and Texas A&M, to name a few. Then you add in the Big Ten schedule: looking at the rise of programs like Indiana and Purdue in recent years and the addition of Maryland that will help boosts the conference's profile, and you have the makings of a championship caliber test for the Nittany Lions.
"The Big Ten is a really good baseball conference," said Cooper, "it has been ever since Michigan, Minnesota and Penn State were making the College World Series in the 1970's. Now, you look at Indiana going to the College World Series, Nebraska is always a threat to make it to Omaha and on down the line. This is one of the toughest conferences to play in week-in and week-out."
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive coverage of the 2014-'15 men's basketball season. Tonight, the Nittany Lions travel to the Breslin Center to take on Michigan State.