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Men's Hockey Ready to Open 2015-16 Season

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10773399.jpegBy Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's hockey team is set to begin its 2015-16 season on Sunday at noon against Windsor in what is the first international matchup in program history.

Head coach Guy Gadowsky emphasized that opening day against Windsor will be a test to see how well captains David Glen, Luke Juha and David Thompson have done preparing the rest of the team. The first official practice of the 2015-16 NCAA hockey season isn't until Oct. 3, which gives Gadowsky merely hours to work with his team before their first time competing against an opponent this season.

"[The captains] have been doing a tremendous job," said Gadowsky. "...The number of hours that we actually can spend as coaches with them until Oct. 3rd is limited. So you need your upperclassmen not only have to be good examples they have to actually teach really well."

Alternate captain and senior defenseman Luke Juha explained the team takes matchups one game at a time. As for now, the team is working toward opening night in Pegula Ice Arena against the Lancers.

"We've been working really hard over the summer and into the fall and it's just good to put it all together at some point," said Juha. "That's what I'm working towards."

With the dawn of a new season approaching, the Penn State men's hockey team is preparing for a schedule that pits them against new opponents like Notre Dame, as well as traditional Big Ten foes. 

As opening day inches closer, Gadowsky explained some key details to setting the tone early in the season.

Gadowsky hopes David Goodwin can build off of his successful 2014-15 campaign, where he was named an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. With the departure of his line mates Casey Bailey and Taylor Holstrom, Goodwin will now have to find synergy with new teammates.

"I think our challenge is to find another line that can have the same chemistry or find strong chemistry with him," said Gadowsky.

Another area of focus Gadowsky wishes to further build off of is the Nittany Lions' defense. With veterans on defense including Juha, David Thompson and Erik Autio, Gadowsky is confident the defense will continue to make important plays in the defensive zone.

"As we are continuing we talked about the creativity of offense being part of our identity, we also want to be very good and very consistent in suffocating defensively," said Gadowsky.

The Nittany Lions also look forward to some schedule consistency this season. During the 2014-15 campaign where Penn State went more than a month without a home contest, this year's schedule provides more of a balance between home and road matchups.

"The schedule is tough because it's often made three years in advance and sometimes you don't have as much flexibility as you think," said Gadowsky. "We're very happy with this schedule."

Gadowsky was quick to point out that although a schedule can seem ideal on paper, it is up to the team to perform and take advantage of its schedule.

"Often you look back on the year and you decide how happy you are with it," said Gadowsky. "Just because the schedule, you might like the balance at the start, and it really depends on if you win those games you love the schedule, if you don't you can blame the schedule."

One thing Gadowsky and the rest of the Nittany Lions are ready for is to be back on home ice in front of their loud and loyal fan base.

"I'm excited to play in Pegula," said Gadowsky. "Every game here, it's very exciting. I love it. It's awesome."

Although Pegula will play host to some great teams in the coming season, Gadowsky knows no matter the opponent, the fans will show up enthusiastically at every game.

"It doesn't matter who we're playing I know that this place is gonna rock," said Gadowsky. "It's so much fun to coach in this building, it's way more fun to even play in this building and every game we play here I look forward to."

Penn State will take on Windsor in the International Game Sunday at noon. 

Statistics Don't Tell the Story in Rodriguez's Senior Season

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11366384.jpegBy Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Statistics in the timeless sport of soccer can be misleading at times. Sure, a great goal scorer is going to put up points game in and game out, and defenders find their own way into the stat sheet with tackles, blocks, and the occasional assist.

Midfielders, however, are rarely on complete attack or defense mode. The middle of the pitch is a barren region where statistics go to die, but it may well be the most important area on the field.

While stats overshadow what happens in the trenches, Penn State has been extremely efficient winning the ball near midfield and pushing it up the pitch before the opposition can get comfortable in PSU's half. The single most important aspect of any match is keeping possession and limiting the opponents' control of the ball, and that's what the Nittany Lions have done so well this season.

At the center of it all is senior Raquel "Rocky" Rodriguez.

The nickname "Rocky" didn't come about until her official visit to Penn State in 2012. Goalie Britt Eckerstrom wrote "Rocky" on her nametag, essentially Americanizing her title, and it stuck ever since.

Raquel Rodriquez Cedeno
, all the way from San Jose, Costa Rica, has been the rock in the middle for Penn State her entire career. Before Penn State, Rodriguez was influenced heavily by her father, Sivianni, who played professionally in Costa Rica.

"It definitely impacted me in such a strong way because he brought the sport to my life when I was four years old," said Rodriguez. "That's how we discovered I had a passion for it, and I started nice and early so the more I played it the more I loved it. I just had so much passion about it from the beginning."

Rodriguez followed in his footsteps and made her father proud by leading her country to its first ever FIFA Women's World Cup appearance in 2015. If that wasn't enough of an accomplishment, the amateur scored Costa Rica's first ever goal in the FIFA Women's World Cup against Spain in its first match.

In each of her first three years in Happy Valley, Rodriguez managed at least 17 points, including a career-high seven goals in 2014. In 2015, her role is much different. Instead of pushing the attack as much as possible, Rodriguez is helping more on defense and letting PSU's stud forwards do their jobs up top. She has tallied three assists but is still searching for her first goal this year.

"She does everything well," said associate head coach Ann Cook. "Unfortunately, her stats don't reflect it. In so many ways she's the heart of our defending. She's the heart as we change the point of attack, as we get the ball off of our backs and get it forward. She's in a lot of ways what makes us go."

Part of her role modification has to do with the young defense the Nittany Lions have showcased this year. Two freshmen and two sophomores round out the back line, so veteran help is always needed, and Rodriguez is always there.

Rodriguez was named a captain for the 2015 campaign before the season began, and there were no complaints about that choice. Her leadership and poise on the pitch makes her the perfect fit, and her international experience has very much prepared her for whatever the college game throws at her.

"She's the type of person that is a really quiet leader," Cook said. "She leads mostly by example and by small conversations, and those small conversations are incredibly inspirational to her teammates to give them the bump that they need. Her response to being captain has been exactly what we expected. She's been so steady and so good and so dependable and everything we could ask for."

In her final season for the Blue and White, Rodriguez has her mind set on one thing: a national championship. Penn State has captured an unrivaled 16 Big Ten Championships in its great history, but not once have the Nittany Lions held up the national championship trophy.

"Right now, a national championship is the priority of the team and for sure it's my priority now," Rodriguez said. "It would be something historical for women's soccer at Penn State and that's definitely something I dream of. I'm a senior now and I'm part of the captains so that's our responsibility to lead us there."

"Rocky" Rodriguez couldn't care less if she doesn't score even one goal this season. For her, the most important thing is her team's success. This newfound mindset may have altered her numbers, but the Nittany Lions look stronger than ever because of it.

Rodriguez's selflessness can spur Penn State to great things in 2015, but don't be surprised if she puts one in the net at the most crucial time when the season's on the line. That's just what she does.

Army West Point Week Q&A - Sean Spencer

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions finish the non-conference season on Saturday with a matchup against Army West Point at Beaver Stadium (12 p.m. on ESPNU).

Leading up to the non-conference finale, defensive line coach Sean Spencer talked with the media on Thursday to preview the game. Take a look at a Q&A with Coach Spencer.

Q: You seem to have a lot of unique personalities within your group, how do these guys complement one another?
Spencer: "Unique is a nice word. I've got some interesting cats in that room (laughter). I embrace each one of their personalities. One guys is not the same as the other. Honestly, my coaching style adapts to who I am dealing with at that particular time. AJ (Austin Johnson) is a guy that has a lot of detailed questions, what I call 400 and 500 level questions. You really have to talk to AJ and explain the 'why'. Other guys like Anthony (Zettel), you go over the game plan with him, and he's very intense about it. He wants to know how he can be the best on each situation. Carl is a guy who sees it from a cerebral viewpoint. He can see the game from outside the box at all three levels and how he equates to that situation. With the freshmen, they are obviously going to be a little more immature. This is more football than they've ever done in their life. When you have a lot of older guys playing in front of them, you have to keep those guys in tune to the ballgame. We constantly make those guys take notes, even if they are redshirted. And we give those guys the same test that we give the older guys because we never know when their preparation will be called upon in the game."

Q: Carl Nassib is a guy who started his first game at any level a few weeks ago at Temple. What do you think motivated him to become the player he is today?

Spencer: "Well, he is tremendously driven. He's a guy whose entire career has kind of been behind the eight ball. He came in to Penn State at 215 pounds. He's increased his body weight to 275. He's now 6-foot-7, 275. He's a menacing figure out there. His work ethic is what separates him from most people. He refuses to be blocked. He's worked so hard at his craft becoming great at what he does. It's correlated to success on the field. The guy is one of the most intense human beings on the planet. You're in a walkthrough and he's foaming at the mouth talking about making plays with his eyes bulging out of his head. He wants to be a doctor one day. And I told him if he's in the operating room, I'm going to ask for another doctor because I'm a little bit nervous about him performing the surgery (laughter)."

Q: There was a play on Saturday where Anthony Zettel covered a lot of ground to track a guy down from behind. Is that the type of play you use as an example for the other guys in the room?
Spencer: "I think both Anthony and AJ have that ability to chase things down from behind. A couple weeks ago, when we played Buffalo both of those guys chased down a screen and actually overran the guy the running the ball and beat most of the guys running to the ball. Coach Franklin pointed that out to the team. It was pretty impressive. That's the type of effort we are looking for. The expectation is to always play that hard. When the young guys see that and they're in the game, until the whistle is blown, the play is never over. When you have guys in the middle able to do that, it raises the expectations for everyone else on the team."

Q: How much did you enjoy seeing Austin have a big play on Saturday? He's a guy who maybe isn't talked about as much as Anthony.
Spencer: "Austin does a lot of things people don't see right away. When plays have to bounce outside, it's tough to run up the middle against him because he's such a physical presence in there. He's made a lot of plays. I think he's almost surpassed the TFL number he had all of last year...His presence was always known. I think people tend to look where Anthony is, but when you have a guy like Austin, he can reap the benefits of them concentrating on Anthony. And when you get them both going, it makes it harder to concentrate on either one of those guys."

Q: What has Garrett Sickels done to take the next step on the defensive line?
Spencer: "He's gotten better against the run. He's a guy that has always been a good pass rusher. He can go in on third down and pass rush because he is tremendously twitched up. He's a guy who worked on completing his game (during the offseason). He's a guy who understands the function of the defense and understands how to play the run and get off of blocks. I think those are two of the things in the offseason he's really done a great job with. He's a really, really good pass rusher, some of the best lean and bend that I've coached. He can come off the end and clear the tackle and really bend. He can twist well. He can explode at the point of impact. We are really excited about him moving forward. He's done a great job helping the young guys and has really matured. I'm excited about G."

Q: Your guys have been really successful in the fourth quarter. Depth probably plays a big role in that, but why do you think you've been able to play so well in the final quarter?
Spencer: "I think in those games and situations we've faced this season, No. 1, the depth is huge. You are able to play a lot of guys. They are able to play as strong in the fourth quarter as they are in the first quarter. Secondly, teams are having to throw the ball late, and those guys get to pin their ears back. Honestly, our crowd is unbelievable. And how loud our crowd is affects timing and what the offense is trying to do. That gives us an advantage, especially at home."

Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Behind the Scenes - Wrestling Green Screen Video Shoot

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head behind the scenes with the Nittany Lion wrestling team during its green screen video shoot day at the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex. The Nittany Lions kick off the 2015-16 season on Nov. 13 against Lock Haven in Rec Hall.

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VIDEO: James Franklin Practice Update - Army West Point Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin addressed the media following Wednesday's practice session at the Lasch Football Complex.

The Nittany Lions will host Army West Point on Saturday at 12 p.m. in Beaver Stadium in the final non-conference game of 2015. Take a look at the practice update from Army week.

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While some of us were busy working on tans and enjoying the break from school this summer, Penn State men's soccer veteran Christian Kaschak was busy assisting in surgeries in Vietnam.

Kaschak, an aspiring surgeon, spent three weeks working with the Vietnam Medicine 17 Project where he not only observed but was able to scrub in for various surgeries.

"Initially my cousin started what's called the Vietnam Medicine Project 17 years ago and he invited me to come along since he knew I was interested in a career in medicine after college," stated Kaschak. "So, I decided this was something I wanted to do and went out to Vietnam and had a great experience."

Thumbnail image for IMG_4315_2[1].JPG
Kaschak, who is a current kinesiology major, explains how this trip confirmed his desires to pursue a career in medicine after graduating from Penn State.

"I would love to continue the same type of work after college, it would mean so much if I could combine my medicine career with helping others in Vietnam or anywhere needed like my cousin does," said Kaschak.

Despite his 15 plus hour plane ride for the trip, Kaschak said it was the trip of a lifetime.

Although he did get to explore the land while on his trip, most of his time was spent in a Vietnam hospital.

"The hospitals over there are a complete 180-turn from how they are organized here," said Kaschak. "I was able to scrub in on a few surgeries where here in America I would only be able to observe, so it really was a great way to get hands on experience. I was really able to see medicine in a different way than I would have in the United States."

During his trip Kaschak learned a lot about the culture and gained valuable medicine experience, however he holds one lesson especially close.

"The biggest thing I learned over there was that everyone you interact with can teach you something new," stated Kaschak. "I went into it only expecting to learn from the fellow surgeons but was impressed with how everyone I met over there had something to teach me."

Although Kaschak loved everything he was able to learn during his trip, he claims the best reward of his experience was being able to give back.

"I always try and find ways I can give back to the community," said Kaschak. "I don't simply do things for my resume or things that I think will make me look good, I do things to give back and get involved in organizations I believe in."

Besides being a scholar athlete, Kaschak is also involved in the Athletic Leadership Institute, is a representative of the Student Advisory Board, was a member of a Dancer Relations committee for THON, and even danced in THON two years ago.

"I think you can see his willingness to help others not only on the field, but more importantly in his life outside of soccer," said Head Coach Bob Warming. "Christian is an amazing kid and you see that in every aspect of his life. He's a great example of the type of kids we want in our program, not only dedicated to the sport, but dedicated to being a good person."

Now that Kaschak is back to focusing on soccer, he's already clocked 135 minutes and has two shots for the Nittany Lions this season.

VIDEO: Women's Volleyball Update - Simone Lee (9/30/15)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com caught up with sophomore Simone Lee as the Nittany Lions prepare for weekend matches against No. 4 Nebraska and Iowa. The top-ranked Nittany Lions will host the fourth-ranked Huskers on Friday at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall.

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VIDEO: Army West Point Week Player Q&As

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with quarterback Christian Hackenberg and defensive end Garrett Sickels during Army West Point week.

Christian Hackenberg

Garrett Sickels

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2015 Tuesday Press Conference Roundup - Army West Point Week

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11361289.jpegVIDEO: Army West Point Week Player Q&As | Transcripts - James Franklin | Players

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin met with the media on Tuesday to preview Penn State's home matchup against Army West Point.

The Nittany Lions (3-1, 1-0) and Black Knights (1-1, 0-0) will play for the first time since 1979 at 12:00 p.m. (ESPNU) inside Beaver Stadium on Saturday, continuing a string of five straight weeks of home football in Happy Valley. Franklin reviewed Penn State's 37-21 win over San Diego State and looked ahead to the final non-conference matchup during his weekly meeting with the press.

A tremendous effort from the Nittany Lion defensive line fueled Penn State to its third-straight win on Saturday. The group in the trenches has done a superb job being disruptive during the first four games of the season. Penn State's D-line finished with 21 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two pass break-ups and a touchdown against the Aztecs.

"We're playing really, really well up front," said Franklin. "That was kind of the expectation going into the season really the last two years. I feel like our depth and our talent at that position is really strong. Our defense kind of feeds off of how our D-line plays."

The Lions head into the Army West Point game ranked No. 1 in sacks (18) and No. 2 in tackles for loss (40). Those stats are a direct byproduct of elite play up front. Coach Franklin tabbed tackling fundamentals as the one area he is looking for out of the defense this week heading into the contest against the triple-option attack of Army West Point.

Offensively, Franklin noted the team's ball possession in the first half of the San Diego State game. The Lions had 45 offensive plays and more than 22 minutes of possession in the opening half. San Diego State had just 20 plays and eight minutes of possession. Effectiveness in the running game played a big role in the 27-point half and ball control.

"That's how we'd love to be able to play, control the ball, make plays, keep our defense off the field. Play great, complementary football there," Franklin said.

The Nittany Lions took a step forward in the passing game on Saturday, as well, thanks to a strong afternoon from quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The junior quarterback distributed the ball to seven different players and finished with 296 yards. The Lion receivers made a number of big plays, and Coach Franklin knows the group can take another step forward as confidence continues to grow.

"I thought we had some drops early on in the season, but I think overall we're doing some good things," said Franklin. "We need to continue building there. I think we've got some guys that can have a more significant impact in the game and making opportunities for them in the way we're calling the game... I think they can do better. But as we continue to build confidence on our offensive line and grow with experience there, that those guys will be able to have a bigger and bigger impact as the season progresses."

Penn State will have the unique challenge of prepping for a team that rushed for 556 yards and held the ball for more than 41 minutes last week. Offensive possessions against an effective triple-option team, like Army West Point, can be few and far between. Getting off the field on defense Saturday could play a huge role in impacting all phases of the game.

"I think the big thing for us is the way you practice (during the week)," said defensive end Garrett Sickels. "We practice hard every play. The games are easier. That's (Coach) Franklin's philosophy. If we practice hard every play, the games will take care of themselves. (Against the triple-option) we just have to be disciplined. Everyone has to take care of their job - defensive line, linebackers in the back end. We have to do our job every play."

The Nittany Lions will practice in pads on Tuesday and Wednesday before the final game week session on Thursday. Saturday's game will kick at 12:00 p.m. on ESPNU.

Press Conference Notes:
- Saturday's Military Appreciation Day festivities will be special for two members of the roster. Both of wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton's parents, Johnie and Madgeline, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for more than 20 years. Hamilton has lived all over the world and was born in Okinawa Japan. Fellow wide out DeAndre Thompkins has direct ties to the military, as well. His father, Shawn, is in the Marines. Currently a Staffing and Recruiting Specialist for the U.S. Marine Corps in Buford, Ga., Shawn Thompkins has spent more than 15 years with the Marines.

- Coach Franklin on the field in Beaver Stadium, given the amount of rain on gamedays and during the days leading up to this week's game.

"We've had an unusual amount of rain, obviously, so that's always a concern with that. But Herb and our turf management people, I think are the best in the business. Our turf management program is probably one of the best in the country. So I have tremendous faith in those guys that the field will be in great condition come Saturday."

- Chris Godwin earned a rare double honor for the team's internal accolades this week. The sophomore wide out was named Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Week for the San Diego State game. Godwin tallied five catches for 78 yards on offense and had two tackles and a fumble recovery on special teams.

Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Big Ten Network Gives Viewers an Inside Look into Women's Volleyball

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20150921_133528.jpgBy Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Normally, fans can only see their favorite teams or athletes on game-day, in short interviews or quick game-previews. However, supporters of the Penn State women's volleyball team are in luck for something a little different this week.

The Big Ten Network pointed cameras towards volleyball last week to film a behind-the-scenes look at the Penn State and Wisconsin women's volleyball teams as the two programs prepared for last Wednesday's Big Ten conference opener at Rec Hall.

The second edition of B1G Close Up from BTN Originals, the same group that produces The Journey, will air this Wednesday immediately following the conclusion of the Illinois-Wisconsin volleyball match on the Big Ten Network.

"We are thrilled to debut another episode of B1G Close Up," said Bill Friedman, Coordinating Producer for BTN Originals. "To be able to provide this type of access around two elite volleyball programs will be a treat for our viewers."

"[This will let others] to get to know us a little bit more," said senior Aiyana Whitney. "I think more than anything, it's about us as a team, what goes into game night, all the work we put into practice and all the stuff we do outside the gym. It's an inside look at our personality and who we are as people."

To give the fans the true experience of seeing things behind the scenes, the camera crew followed the team at all times and places possible. The production team arrived at Penn State on Sept. 19, and filmed scenic and the campus atmosphere before catching the Nittany Lions as soon as they got off the plane from their last match at the South Florida Invitational.

BTN also followed several players to classes, spent time with head coach Russ Rose and associate head coach Salima Rockwell and followed players to their extracurricular activities.

"It's about not just getting the volleyball story, but the personal stories of the players," said Stephen Palgon, director and executive producer of Star Crossed Pictures, who is partnering with BTN on this project. "Ideally, when you're watching the show, the match will have already happened, but our version of the show will be a more personalized version of seeing this match, so that when you see someone setting the ball, that's not just someone setting the ball, that's a character that you've learned about and know their story."

Even with the camera in the team's presence for a lengthy period of time, the players have enjoyed it.

"It's been really cool," said Aiyana Whitney. "It's definitely a different experience. The camera is kind of in your face at all times, but I think it's really cool and exciting, especially for the younger girls to get a feel for how big-time this program is and how big-time this conference is."

For the inaugural episode in April 2015, the camera crew followed the Penn State and Maryland's men's lacrosse teams as the two programs prepared to meet for the first time in the first season of Big Ten Men's lacrosse.

With the history of the Penn State and Wisconsin's volleyball program, it is no surprised that BTN decided to share their story for the second episode.

"Penn State is on top of the mountain in terms of volleyball," said Palgon. "Penn State and Wisconsin is just a great rivalry for us in terms of storytelling because Penn State has knocked Wisconsin out two years in a row, so it provides a good point for us in storytelling. Also, Wisconsin is the defending Big Ten champion and Penn State is the defending national champion, so it gives us good elements for story lines."

Having a chance to show the world what Penn State women's volleyball is all about means a lot to the team, but this episode will also mean a lot for Penn State.

"I think it's awesome for Penn State and I think it's awesome for volleyball fans out here because you see match night, but you don't really see what goes into that and what's kind of behind-the-scenes, so I think it's pretty awesome that [BTN] is able to break it down for the average person or fan or someone that doesn't really know what goes into a program like this," Whitney said.