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By Julie Bacanskas

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Coming into Friday night's matchup, the talk was at an all-time high. The only unseeded team to reach the Final Four this season, Penn State women's lacrosse was prepared to compete in its first NCAA semifinal game since 1999. Throughout the night the team proved one important fact.

The Nittany Lions are among the nation's best, a team that more than belongs in this group of elite programs.

Although Penn State saw its season come to an end at the hands of North Carolina for a second consecutive year, the Blue and White never gave in, competing until the very end. In a match that began with a three-goal Tar Heels' run, the Lions clawed their way back before dropping the 12-11 decision in the final seconds.

"It was a great game. That's really what Final Fours are all about - team's going on runs and competing hard and coming up with big plays at big times," head coach Missy Doherty said. "Thankfully our players were competing for 60 minutes. We fell a little short there at the end but I was so proud of how they worked and how hard the game was. I think we wanted to show everybody in the Final Four that there's a reason we're here and that's because we were ready for it. I think they certainly showed that today."

Down 12-9 in the second, an illegal stick called on Carolina began a momentum shift. An Abby Smucker free position goal, her second of the game, brought the team back within two and another quick score with 7:13 remaining made it a one-point game.

However, UNC was content to keep patient after regaining possession of the ball, aiming to let time tick off the clock.

"It definitely is frustrating having UNC pull us out a little bit, trying to keep possession of the ball so that we couldn't swing it back the other way," Smucker said. "We had some practice with that in our previous games. Florida used that tactic against us too. We just wanted to stay composed, stick to our game, not let them get anything easy on us. I think we did a good job on that."

Madison Cyr, who finished with two goals and an assist, forced a turnover, but a stop by Carolina's Megan Waters on a Steph Lazo shot with 40 seconds left sealed the team's fate.

Regardless of the outcome, the Nittany Lions showed their grit and determination, keeping close in a game they had already been counted out of yet again this season.

Understanding how and why Penn State reached the Final Four isn't difficult. They not only played No. 3 UNC, but also the top- two teams in No. 1 Maryland and No. 2 Florida. Those two games were also decided by a single point - Maryland a 10-9 loss in the regular season finale and Florida a 14-13 overtime win in the tournament.

It's time to stop counting the Nittany Lions as underdogs and start recognizing their capabilities. The Blue and White is becoming a lacrosse powerhouse and it has no intentions of going anywhere.

"Everyone's talking all week long (that) it's the first time we've been back," Doherty said. "I told the team, 'Listen, we've been here before. We've played these games all year. It's not like all the sudden we get to the Final Four we try to play a different game.' I think they did a great job of that. They competed. We didn't have too many crazy turnovers. If anything, we were forcing some of those, keeping their composure, getting some good shot opportunities in the second half. I don't think we force opportunities. We had some good ones to make."

"Seeing their composure, I thought it was a championship composure," she added. "We didn't pull it out there in the end but I was so proud of them and the way they competed - even when they're down by three goals or by more goals. They just kept competing. They didn't give in. You could see the fight, the resilience of this team. I thought it was awesome."

Seventeen Years Later: Penn State Returns to the Semifinals

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By Jeremy Falls, Assistant Director of Penn State Strategic Communications

 

Seventeen years.

 

The Nittany Lions return to the grandest stage in collegiate lacrosse for the first time since a similarly talented, yet underdog-type outfit, upset a national power along the way to crashing the NCAA Semifinals.

 

What wasn't known then, as Penn State made its ninth semifinal appearance in the then 18-year history of the NCAA Tournament, was that it would be 17 years for the Nittany Lions to reemerge as one of the final four teams standing.

 

Seventeen years later, another Penn State women's lacrosse team awaits a semifinal game as the Nittany Lions take on No. 3 North Carolina on Friday at 5 p.m. in Chester, Pennsylvania.

 

On that 1999 team, senior captain and three-time IWLCA All-American Jen Johnson (1996-99) would help lead her squad to Homewood Field, site of that year's NCAA Championship Weekend. Johnson and her teammates enjoyed certain traits all championship-caliber teams encompass.

 

"I think we had a very tight knit team," Johnson said. "We had a lot of great chemistry on and off the field and I think that helped our success. We had a lot of talent."

 

Another alumna, B.J. Johnson (nee Lucey), was a freshman on the team and remembers a similar kinship.

 

"We had a lot of fun, we got along very well," B.J. said. "We had some characters like JJ (Jen Johnson). It was a very happy, fun team. We played really well together. It truly was a group effort from goaltending all the way up to attack."

 

One thing B.J. has a hard time processing is how fast time has gone by.

 

"I can't believe it's been 17 years," B.J. said laughingly. "I don't think I'm that old. I saw that on Twitter and I said, 'I think I'm going to vomit.' It feels like it was 17 minutes ago."

 

Dialing the clock back, Penn State had to travel to Princeton in a quarterfinal matchup for the right to reach the 1999 semifinals. The Tigers were able to force overtime late after a few Penn State missteps, but it was the Nittany Lion seniors who stepped up and prevailed in a 9-6 overtime win.

 

That was a very exciting game," Jen Johnson added. "It was close the whole time, we made a couple mistakes down the stretch, but we ultimately did what we needed to do to secure the win. That was a very good Princeton team. We just played at a really high level to keep it going and not have it be our last game."

 

This year's team possesses many of the same characteristics of that 1999 team: a talented bunch that relies on senior leadership and had to overcome a heavy favorite along the way. The Nittany Lions downed No. 2 Florida on the road in the second round, while the 1999 team took down Princeton, who went on to win the 2002 and 2003 national titles. 

 

Johnson served as a head coach at the University of Vermont for the past 12 seasons and is able to assess Penn State's accomplishments as both an alumna and a coach.

 

"They've been really fun to watch," Jen Johnson noted. "They're just really impressive. I think they have a lot of skill and a lot of athleticism and speed. I've been really impressed with their confidence in key moments."

 

A volunteer assistant at Rutgers, B.J. Johnson might know the team as well as any graduate of the program. She not only coaches against this current team as a Big Ten foe, but after graduating in 2003, Johnson returned to Happy Valley as an assistant for four seasons (2007-10).

 

"This is a little bit of an unlikely team,' B.J. stated, noting that this year's team wasn't as highly ranked as the 2015 team that fell in the quarterfinals. "They're playing well at the right time and they're doing everything they need to do. They have this great opportunity and it shows how hard it truly is and how special to be among the last four standing at the end of the year."

 

Both B.J. and Jen have been rallying their teammates from that special 1999 team and others to support the squad on Friday night in Chester.

 

"I think they have a great shot of going the whole way," Jen Johnson said. "I'm really excited to be there first hand. I'll be bringing my parents. This is big, not just for the alums, but the parents. It's a reunion for them as well. I'm expecting a huge, huge turnout."

 

"We're getting tailgating stuff together," said B.J. Johnson. "Purchasing tickets and getting t-shirts made so we can all be together. That's all we want, is to have one, big happy group of Penn Staters."

 

As for the task at hand, Penn State faces a potent North Carolina side that is seeded third and ended the Nittany Lion season a year ago in Chapel Hill. Friday may see more of the Penn State Blue & White in the stands and a Missy Doherty-led squad is ready to embrace that challenge.

 

"To be able to represent our fans and alums in the final four in Philly is an awesome thing," Doherty noted.

 

As for any home-field advantage, Doherty expects to have one.

 

"I would hope so. We are Pennsylvania's team so we're looking forward to that advantage and making our Pennsylvania residents and our Penn State fans proud our team and our program. Hopefully everyone will be close by on Friday night."

 

One thing is for certain, Doherty and her charges have already made the alums before them proud of this team. Jen Johnson heaped praise on the sixth-year head coach.

 

"I think she's a great person, a great leader," Johnson said. "She's done a great job recruiting and I think she has two great assistants in Amy (Altig) and Brooke (Matthews). I think she's done a really good job with this team and I've been really impressed with what I've seen on film."

 

Jen Johnson went on to add what it means that Penn State gets to play in its home state.

 

"I've spoken to a lot of Philadelphia-area alums and colleagues and everyone is rooting for Penn State because people are happy to see what a great job Missy has done and a new team in the mix."

 

As for whether this team can reach Sunday's national championship game, it would be an achievement unto itself.

 

"It would be incredible," said Jen Johnson. "I think it's definitely something that can be done, they have the talent. They showed it by almost upsetting Maryland."

 

She went onto add there's something a little special of a potential championship game matchup as well.

 

"We (the 1999 team) lost to Maryland in the semis, and we'd love to see a Penn State-Maryland final on Sunday and for PSU to knock off Maryland."

 

Nevertheless, if things don't go Penn State's way Friday night, all of Nittany Nation will have full support.

 

"I'm a proud Penn Stater win, lose or draw," B.J. Johnson added. "And I bleed Blue & White and I always will. This is super special."

 

 

VIDEO: Women's Lacrosse Primed for NCAA Semifinals

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the 10th time in program history, the Penn State women's lacrosse team (14-6) will compete in the NCAA semifinals when the Nittany Lions take the field to battle third-seeded North Carolina (18-2) on Friday at 5 p.m. (ESPN3)  in Chester, Pa.

Making their first appearance in the national semifinals since 1999, the Lions have built a great deal of momentum during a stout run through the NCAA Tournament bracket. After knocking off Winthrop in the opening round, Penn State has ousted second-seeded Florida (14-13) and seventh-seeded Penn (8-4) in back-to-back gains to earn a spot in the final four.

"I'm super proud of our players and of the program," said head coach Missy Doherty. "For our fans and alums, just to be able to represent them in the final four in Philly is just an awesome thing...We are looking forward to that. We are looking to make our Pennsylvania residents and the Penn State fans proud of our team and our program."

A tight-knit group, the players have relished the opportunity to extend the season one final week.

"This is a huge step for our program, and we are just so excited to finally get past the elite eight," said senior Jenna Mosketti. "In our four years here, we've made it to the elite eight almost every year, and to be in the final four now our team has been super pumped. And this week is really exciting."

"I'm so happy to be a senior and experience all of this with everyone," said senior Ally Heavens.

Looking at the matchup, the Lions are familiar with North Carolina. The two teams played in the NCAA quarterfinals last spring, with the Tar Heels topping the Lions by a score of 11-8. Penn State built an 8-4 edge over UNC in the second half before North Carolina ended the game with a surge.

Confidence is high for the Lions, who head to Philadelphia playing some of their best lacrosse of the season.

"I think transitions will be a big key for us," said senior Madison Cyr. "North Carolina is really good at riding back on the opposite end of the field. We need to take care of the ball on transition, and I think we will be successful."

Before the team's departure on Wednesday, GoPSUsports.com caught up with Coach Doherty, Cyr, Heavens and Mosketti for their thoughts on advancing to the national semifinals.






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

By: Jeff Sattora, GoPSUsports.com Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The seniors on the Penn State women's lacrosse team have three NCAA quarterfinal appearances on their resumes in four years wearing the Blue and White in Happy Valley.  They can now add a Final Four trip to that list.  The Nittany Lions advanced to the round of four on Saturday afternoon, taking down the 7th seeded Penn Quakers, 8-4, to move on.
 

The win secures the program's first trip to the Final Four since 1999.   

"I can't even talk right now," said Penn State head coach Missy Doherty as she sat down to the podium postgame.  "It was awesome.  It's an awesome win for our program and just an awesome day in general." 

"We've been kind of knocking at the door the past couple years and every year's been a little bit different," she added on the program and seniors getting over the hump.  "We've been really fortunate in this tournament so far with some big wins and good learning experiences to go into such a tough Final Four next week."

Awesome was one way to describe Penn State's performance on this rainy afternoon.  Even with Penn jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first eight minutes of play, Penn State battled. 

"You could see the nerves coming out because of the immense stress this kind of game provides," Doherty said.   "But I was so proud of them to come through strong and make huge plays when it mattered."

Freshman Kelly Daggett got the ball rolling with big plays for Penn State, as her goal down the right side put Penn State on the board 11 minutes into the game, and the Nittany Lions never looked back. 

Once Daggett found the net it was time for the senior class to shine.  Seniors Madison Cyr and Jenna Mosketti scored back-to-back goals to give Penn State a 3-2 lead they would not give up. 

The Nittany Lions continued that strong play into halftime, taking a 6-2 lead into the break.  While Penn opened the second half with a goal of their own to cut it to 6-3, that was the closest they would get the rest of the day. 

"We've shown a commitment all year to the play that we're in," Doherty said on the team being able to respond.  "We know we have great scorers and we know we were playing well defensively." 

Cyr was one of those great scorers on Saturday, as her first goal wasn't her only strong play on the afternoon.  She led the attack with two goals and two assists in the win.  

"I'm just thinking move as fast as you can and get around them," Cyr said on her offensive mindset. 

"She does a great job just seeing the cage," Doherty added on Cyr's efforts.  "She's not worried about this person or that person.  Her head is up seeing the cage and she came up with some awesome plays today."

While the offense gave Penn State the lead, it was the Nittany Lions' defense that helped secure in win.  The Blue and White held Penn's top three point scorers, including the nation's leader in assists, Nina Corcoran, to a combined zero points on the day. 

"Momentum-wise today we just got it from our defense," Doherty said.  "Emi (senior goalie Emi Smith), made some crazy saves this game and our mark-up defenders did a great job on their key players." 

Following Penn's two early goals in the game's first eight minutes, the Quakers would not find the back of the net again for 27:32 of game action. 

"The defense did a great job forcing them in a certain direction where I could make an easier save than just a one-on-one.  They work so hard down the field and on just want to back them up," said Smith, who finished the day with eight saves in the win. 

The strong play led to a great win, and that great win is a big step for women's lacrosse at Penn State.  

"It's a huge step for our program.  I love Penn State, I love our players," said Doherty.  "They work so hard and to see them experience something that they'll never forget, that's why you love to coach."

The seniors are not ready for this ride to end.

"The timing is perfect, happening our senior year we just want to stay here as long as we can," said Cyr. "We're just happy to make the Final Four."

"Being back on this field one last time, it was kind of like just give it your all, one last time," added Smith.  "It was an all or nothing type of feeling for our seniors and I definitely think that showed on the field." 

Doherty, the seniors, and the rest of the Nittany Lions will look to make a few more special memories next weekend in the Final Four in Philadelphia.  Penn State will take on the third-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels Friday night with a trip to the title game on the line. 

VIDEO: Women's Lacrosse Gearing Up for NCAA Quarterfinals

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a thrilling overtime victory at No. 2-seeded Florida on Sunday, the Nittany Lion women's lacrosse team (13-6) will host an NCAA quarterfinal game for the first time since 1995 when it meets seventh-seeded Penn (15-4) on Saturday at noon.

Playing in the quarterfinals for the fourth time in five seasons, the Lions are seeking their first trip to the NCAA Semifinals since 1999. Junior All-American Steph Lazo netted the game-winner on Sunday to help lift the Lions into the round of eight.

Now, the Lions are thrilled to play on their home field in the quarterfinals. GoPSUsports.com caught up with head coach Missy Doherty, along with Lazo, senior Madison Cyr, sophomore Katie O'Donnell and senior Emi Smith for their thoughts leading up to Saturday's game.






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

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Rising junior goaltender Hannah Ehresmann is heading to Florence, Italy, to study abroad for the next six weeks and she will be sharing her experiences via blog posts on GoPSUsports.com.

Sixth Post (Friday, June 17):

Another week down. During the week we checked off many of our to-do's in Florence. Last Thursday, we went to the Bargello Museum and two churches nearby. One church had a wedding taking place and you were free to walk in.

Friday, I had a field trip to a winery in the Tuscany countryside and Antico Spedale del Bigallo, which is a medieval kitchen where we had a cooking class. That was so much fun. We made homemade flat bread and panzanella, which is basically Italy's version of stuffing. The lunch we were served, along with what we created, was amazing! The pasta was some of the best I have had here in Italy.

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Our cooking class at the Antico Spedale del Bigallo

That afternoon when we got back I hopped right on a train and headed to Rome. My hotel was conveniently only two blocks from Bella Sutton so I got to see her!! Roomies reunited in Rome. It doesn't get much better than that. Anyways that night I just went to dinner and then obviously had to be like Lizzie McGuire and make a wish at the Trevi Fountain.

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The Trevi Fountain

My next two days there were jam packed as we went to the Vatican City to see the Sistine Chapel, Saint Peters Basilica, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Forum, and Palatine Hill. Rome was definitely way bigger and more city-like than I expected. It was fun being there for a little bit, but after the weekend I was very happy to be back in Florence. Monday was back to reality with classes. But I also climbed the Palazzo Vecchio, which was really cool because you had an amazing view of the skyline and especially the Duomo.

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The Colosseum

Tuesday was more of a relaxing day but at night we went to Acqua al 2. There are only three of them in the world, Florence, D.C., and San Diego. Wednesday, Bella was actually in Florence, but I had another field trip. This one we went to the marble quarry where Michelangelo got all of his marble for his sculpting. We got to see how they extract the marble from the mountains. For the second half of the field trip we went farther up the mountains into a tiny city called Colonnata. They are known for Lardo here, which is the back fat of pigs. Their business was very interesting but I still couldn't get myself to try it. I got back pretty late from that so I could only meet up with Bella later at night. I took her and her two friends up to the Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sunset and then we got gelato at one of my favorite places called La Carraia.

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Bella and I on the Piazzale Michelangelo

It was cool being able to show her where I have been living and what I have been doing for the past five weeks. Unfortunately, she had to leave early the next morning. Thursday of this week I went to the church of Santa Croce and we hiked up to the Forte di Belvedere. Both were very fun and then we treated ourselves to dinner on the rooftop overlooking the Arno River.

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The Arno River

Time is ticking away here. I only have one more week of classes, including two exams, one paper, and one presentation!! So much to do, but on the bright side my parents are coming out next Wednesday and we are doing some post traveling :)

This weekend I am doing two day trips, one to Cinque Terre and another to Venice!! Check in next week for my final post about Florence!

Fifth Post (Thursday, June 9):

Another eventful weekend and week has passed. Last Thursday night I began my 12 hour journey to Split, Croatia. I am pretty sure I slept basically that entire ride, which was great because when we got there at 9 a.m. on Friday morning. We only had about an hour to get to our hostel, eat breakfast and then we had to get back on the bus for our journey up to the mountains for whitewater rafting. I had never done that before so I was interested to see what it entailed.

Once we got there they gave us a sweet git-up of a wet suit and helmet and then we were off. For about three hours we alternated between rapids and just floating down the river. We also got to do cliff diving along the way. By the time we got to the bottom, everyone was starving, but luckily they had lunch ready for us, so we ate before hopping on the bus again. That night we got to explore the city of Split. It was very pretty and chill.

Day two we took a boat cruise to Brac, one of the Dalmatian Islands. The view from the middle of the ocean looking back at Split is definitely one I will never forget. The mountains looked as if they were painted on. Plus we got to see a water plane land so that was sweet. Once we got to the island we had the whole day to just relax on the beach; boy was that much needed. That night we just went to dinner and chilled because we had an early morning the next day.

Day three we went to the Krka waterfalls. These were beautiful and we even got to swim in them. We got to spend half the day here before getting on the bus to head back to Florence.

This week I watched the sunset on the Piazzale Michelangelo again, went to the Mercato Centrale, Rose Garden, and Bargello Museum. I also unfortunately had to write a paper for my foods class. It was a reminder that I am here for school, but I have confidence that it was pretty good. This weekend I am going to Rome. So you know that means basic pictures of me making a wish at the Trevi Fountain, touring the Vatican City, Colosseum, and most importantly seeing BELLA SUTTON!!!!! She gets two nights with me so read up next week to see what adventure we have together! :) 

Fourth Post (Friday, June 3):

So I just realized I forgot to tell you all about my crazy adventure climbing up the Duomo in the pouring rain a few weeks ago. Well that was something. We had been waiting in line for about an hour and finally when we were very close to the front it just started down pouring. Luckily I had my umbrella, which is something I have learned to always have with me because you never know when it will just pour for a few minutes.

Anyways, we thought it would pass hopefully by the time we got to the top, however, that did not happen. It took us like 20 minutes to climb in very tight spaces to get to the top. At that time it was even thundering and lightning. Being at one of the highest points in Florence we decided just to take a few quick pictures and get some good looks before heading back down. I will definitely try and climb it again on a sunny day. The weather here has been unusually rainy, but next week it is hopefully going to clear up and be a nice, hot 90 degrees.

Italy has many cool museums and places you can visit; going to the Piazzale Michelangelo, Boboli Gardens, and Duomo, I have visited the Santa Maria Novella (beautiful church), the academia (real David), the Uffizi (painting of the Venus and other artworks), and walked around the Piazza della Signoria (giant gold turtle and sculptures and David and Goliath).

I feel like I am on a constant move here because there is so much to do. I did finally go shopping to Zara and to the leather market. The leather market is definitely overwhelming but amazing to see all the jackets, bags, and sandals. I definitely have my eye on a jacket. The other night I also did a cooking class. Now that was fun. We made potato souffle for an appetizer, two types of homemade pastas, and panna cotta for dessert. The pasta was the best I've had here; it is amazing how good fresh pasta tastes.

I have been crazy busy this week with classes though. We have had two field trips and two exams. The field trips were definitely better than the exams, except after one exam our professor bought us all gelato :).

For our field trips we went to the Mazzei Winery and a textile manufacturer. Both we were so cool to see how they do business here compared to the U.S. and what they have to do to gain the competitive advantage. At the winery we got to taste test a few different red wines, before they fed us an amazing, authentic Tuscany meal. It was definitely hard for the textile manufacturer to top that, but it was pretty close since they gave everyone scarfs at the end. My favorite part about the textile manufacturer is seeing the scarfs they make for Coach. We are officially half way done with our six weeks studying aboard here :( it's sad because I am not ready to leave here.

This past weekend I traveled down to the Amalfi Coast to see Capri, Positano, and Pompeii. We did have a six hour bus ride to get there, but it was a breeze since I'm used to all of our traveling for hockey. We didn't get there till about 2 a.m. Friday morning though so we went straight to bed in our hostel. They are actually pretty nice. Anyways we traveled with this company called Bus2Alps, which most students use. They plan all the traveling, housing, and activities which is nice.

Friday, we took a ferry to the island of Capri. Here we went into the Blue Grotto. If you have never heard of it, it is considered one of the natural wonders of the world. The water color there was amazing and was all over Capri. We also got a tour around the island. After the tour, we hiked to the middle of the island, walked around there and later took a gondola up to the top of the island. That was the best view I have seen since being in Italy. That night our tour guides took us to dinner in downtown Sorento. All the streets are lined with lemon and orange trees.  /p>

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Capri

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Capri

Saturday, we went to the beach in Positano. Very relaxing and warm, but it was unfortunately rocky getting down to the water. The water was refreshing though and fun to swim in. We got sandwiches here from a tiny hole in the wall. It was the best sandwich I have had here. I am still dreaming about it. 

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Positano

Sunday, we had a guided tour of Pompeii. For those who don't know what Pompeii is, it was a town that got covered by volcanic ashes in 79 AD. The ashes perfectly preserved the town. Later archeologists uncovered the town and saw how advanced the people who lived there were. They had already invented a wood fire oven, sewage system, roads, steam rooms, and so much more that people didn't know how to do/make years later. 

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Pompeii

Needless to say it was a very adventurous, fun, relaxing, and historic trip! This weekend I am heading to Croatia for some whitewater rafting and waterfalls. Look for this next week!!

Third Post (Thursday, May 26):

Wow, was this weekend fun and full of adventures. On Friday, I traveled with the program I am studying with to Siena and San Gimignano. They were both gorgeous, but San Gimignano was definitely my favorite!! In Siena, we visited the Duomo, which is known for its black and white stripes. The significance of these is that the Medici family took over most of Tuscany and wanted everything to be black and white striped. That is why all throughout Tuscany different famous buildings have this design.

While we were there we also got to climb the tower that was attached to the Duomo. The view from up there was amazing. You could see far beyond the town limits and into the vineyards of Tuscany. After that we got to check out the town square where they hold horse races every year, like how it was many, many years ago. We ended there around 2 p.m., and hopped back on our bus and got to San Gimignano by 3 p.m. San Gimignano is a very cute, quaint town that not many tourists go to since it is difficult to get to, thus making it more enjoyable. Also, here they have the world champion gelato shop called Gelateria Dondoli. The rest of the day we just got to explore there before getting on the bus at 5:30 p.m.

On Saturday, we took another day trip, but to Pisa and Lucca instead. Pisa was very touristy, but still very cool. Obviously I got some good pictures of me both holding up the leaning tower and pushing it down (see below). We also explored the baptistery, Cathedral, and cemetery here. They were all very cool. In the Cathedral they have the tomb of Saint Pisa still there with his body!! Kind of creepy, but cool that they preserved him so well. Around 1 p.m. we left there and headed to Lucca.

Lucca was a smaller and almost more family/residential oriented town. Here we got to eat lunch in the sun and then ride bikes all around and throughout the town. It was so much fun being able to explore and goof around.

Sunday, was much more relaxing. The weather was perfect, 85 and sunny by mid-day. We went to Mama's bakery for breakfast and then visited the Uffizi Gallery. The Uffizi Gallery holds tons of artwork, including the Birth of Venus and the Primavera. It took us over two hours to go through the whole thing; it was cool to see all the different interpretations artists had with Madonna and child. To top off that day, we walked up to the Piazzale Michelangelo again to watch the sunset. Once again it was amazing. I don't think I will ever get used to seeing such a beautiful sunset, or a city in general. Now time to tell you about climbing the Duomo in Florence last Thursday. Now that was something.

We were almost to the front of the line when it started down pouring. Luckily we only had to wait for 10 minutes in the rain. It wasn't that tiring to climb, but the space you had to go through was tiny, which made it difficult. When we made it to the top it was still down pouring and lightning so we tried our best to take pictures, but it just wasn't enjoyable so we went back down. Plus you can't stay up there too long because other groups need to come up. Needless to say we will be doing that again when it's sunny out. After we did treat ourselves to gelato from Eduardo's, which is a vegan and organic gelato place. It's amazing and they make homemade waffle bowls. They were to die for.

During the week we have just been shopping, walking around, trying new restaurants, eating gelato and obviously doing our school work. As of now we are planning on going to the Academia on Thursday and I also leave for the Amalfi Coast Thursday night for the whole weekend, so lots of more sightseeing to be done. We are also going to a winery for my international business class. Next post you will be able to catch all of that!

Second post (Tuesday, May 24):

Wow, this past week flew by! A lot of fun and a lot of adventures. This will definitely be a long post because I was hoping to write every two or three days, but the Wi-Fi is so spotty here that's why I am currently sitting at a cute cafe drinking a cappuccino. I definitely recommend the cappuccinos here, they are sweet and delicious! Okay so now I'll break it down for you.

I arrived in Florence last Thursday. That day we explored a little by walking through the bottom of the Duomo and then went to dinner at a place called Dante's which is right around the corner of my apartment.

Friday, I had orientation all day and then we went to Hot Pot for dinner. I got the carbonara. It was pretty good, but not the best pasta here.

Saturday, we went to the Boboli Gardens. It is pretty much just a huge uphill park with trees and cool historic buildings. It was a climb, but the view was great! It overlooked all of Florence and Tuscany vineyards on the other side. After that we went to Margartaio for dinner. We went out that night to walk around and explore the other side of the river and actually found a place called Lion's Fountain that had a Penn State t-shirt hanging on their ceiling along with tons of different US colleges. We even got to sign the t-shirt! We may or may not have gotten lost on our way home in the pouring rain for an hour, whoops. It was still very fun and throughout this past week we have gotten our bearings and know where everything is now. It's hard to believe that we were so lost at first.

Sunday, we started walking up the Piazzale Michelangelo and once again it started raining on us. It has been unusually rainy here so hopefully that changes by next week.

On Tuesday night we walked up to the Piazzale Michelangelo again to see the sunset. That was very fun and we will definitely do it a lot over these next five weeks, along with eating tons and tons of gelato. So far I have tried six different places, I think. I even had it for breakfast one morning. Classes unfortunately started on Monday. So now I'm unfortunately stuck in a classroom for 3 hours a day :( Otherwise throughout this week we have been walking around, shopping, eating, and just living life here! This weekend I am taking a day trip to Siena and another one to Pisa!

My next post will be about those adventures, along with our class field trip to the two major food markets here in Florence and climbing the Duomo in once again, the pouring rain.

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Leaning Tower of Pisa

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Leaning Tower of Pisa

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Gelateria Dondoli in San Gimignano, Italy

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San Gimignano, Italy

First post (Tuesday, May 17):

Well I made it halfway around the world. I left Minnesota at 3 p.m. on May 11th and arrived in Amsterdam at 6:30 a.m. on May 12th. No worries though the flight was only eight hours and it seemed to fly by. We were served dinner quickly after take off, with the choices of ravioli, chicken caesar salad, and grilled chicken with mashed potatoes. Of course knowing me I had to choose the ravioli because I can never turn that down.

The plane had tons of different movies and TV shows to choose from. I watched the movie "How to Be Single" staring Rebel Wilson. Very funny. I highly recommend it. Pretty much after that I just napped and listened to music. Before I knew it we were already there. It was a much better trip than driving from Penn State to Iowa State last weekend. Don't even get me started on that.

Anyways, I made it to Amsterdam and just chilled at my gate before my next flight took off.

On my next flight I sat next to the cutest old woman. This was her 15th time going to Florence. She was telling me about all the hidden secrets in Italy and also told me not to trust what the Italian boys say, even though it seems like it's from the heart. Needless to say she was very interesting.

My travel was smooth all the way to my apartment. I have an apartment with eight girls, so it will be pretty packed, but they are very nice. It is right in the city. Literally a five minute walk to the Piazza del Duomo. We went and saw that today while we were exploring. Gelato was obviously the first thing I ate when I got here. It was amazing. There are at least two gelato shops on every block. It is definitely going to take a while to get an idea where everything is, but it is very fun so far! Many more adventures to come!!

We Are!

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Boboli Gardens

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Boboli Gardens

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Boboli Gardens

Introduction post:

Hi, my name is Hannah Ehresmann and I just completed my sophomore year at Penn State. I am from Minnetonka, Minnesota, and I am a goaltender on the Penn State women's hockey team. It was a jam packed year, but very fun! The fun and adventure is continuing on as I am traveling to Florence, Italy, to study abroad for six weeks this summer. Very tough life I have, I know. However, this is my first time going overseas, so I am pretty nervous. I am flying out on Minnesota to Amsterdam and then into Florence. Praying my bag will make it there safe and sound. I'm sure it will be a little bit of a culture shock at first, but it is also a trip of a lifetime! I can't wait to see what adventures will come!!

Penn State Field Hockey Holland Trip: Day Nine

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Penn State Field Hockey Holland Trip: Day Nine

Day Nine in Holland and lesson learned as told by Field Hockey student-athletes Gini Bramley and Lauren McNally

May 16, 2016

The Penn State women's field hockey team, under the direction of head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss, has embarked on a ten-day, five-city exhibition tour of The Netherlands, playing five games against a variety of competition in the most renowned field hockey country in the world. Through the student-athletes' own words and pictures, the #PSUFH2Holland daily blog chronicles their adventures on and off the field.


Days 9 & 10, May 14-15

The Hague - Amsterdam - Philadelphia - State College

 

Lauren McNally, sophomore, Marmora, N.J., and Gini Bramley, sophomore, Elizabethtown

"Hi everyone, Lauren McNally and Gini Bramley here, as we reflect back on the nine days we've all spent exploring Holland, we learned multiple things to improve our field hockey game and our knowledge about the Dutch culture. Throughout the days, we grew as a team on and off the field due to some amazing competition and rotating roommates from hotel to hotel.

"Every one of us learned something to improve our own game and to take back home to have a successful season in the fall. For example, taking the ball on the move and using simple passes to eliminate defenders. Playing field hockey teams from a country that has field hockey as its main sport really helps you grow your field hockey IQ. They have speed, great small passing, and find each other and use smart passes to get up the field in order to set up great scoring opportunities.

"Not only playing against the Holland teams was fun -- yet challenging -- talking to them after the games was interesting and fun too. We talked about what their everyday lives were like in Holland and what girls our age do. It is interesting how the club field hockey teams don't practice as much as we do. They practice two times a week for about four hours, with an hour break in the middle. Also, girls don't play for their school teams because they don't have one. In the U.S., we play field hockey for our club and school teams.

"We also learned the history of the Netherlands, like the seven canal bridges in Amsterdam that align perfectly, as well as the sizes of the houses there and how the residents have to transport their belongings through windows because of thin staircases. We saw many old churches and in Utrecht went up the Dom Tower, which was built in the 1300s and contained old bells that were rung on special celebrations.

"Fun memories that we look back on are the Escape Room, strolling through the streets of Utrecht, biking through the beautiful city of Zwolle, kayaking through the canals, exploring Amsterdam and meeting all the wonderful people through all of it. One person that helped us immensely with directing us toward the right stores, helping us get to places on time, and being our guide was Judith. She showed us around in her home country and more specifically in her home city, Utrecht.

"This was definitely an experience of a lifetime, from experiencing the huge sense of community from the field hockey culture to the Dutch culture in general. We all have gained new perspectives on life and the different things out in the world. I think I can speak for the team in that we are headed home with many learning experiences. After every game, Coach Char (Morett-Curtiss) asked us what we learned from the Dutch and how we could improve our game. Off the field, we noticed how the Dutch rarely use their phones and ride a bike everywhere. Living more simply like the Dutch is something I'm definitely going to try when we get back in the States."

 

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Gini Bramley and Skyler Fretz explore the Dutch city of Utrecht by kayak.
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The team gathered at a restaurant in The Hague on the final night of their tour of Holland.
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Coaches, staff, parents and supporters were part of the final night celebration.

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The airport in Amsterdam...next stop, the U.S.A.!


VIDEO: Frank Molinaro Headed to Rio 2016 Olympics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State wrestling national champion and current assistant coach Frank Molinaro is set to represent the United States at the Rio 2016 Olympics in August.

Molinaro qualified for the Olympics in dramatic fashion after the United States solidified a berth at the 65 kg weight class following a doping violation involving participants in a qualifying tournament. Molinaro learned of the news while on the golf course in Happy Valley.

The 2012 NCAA champ at 149 pounds will spend the summer training and competing before traveling to Rio in early August. Molinaro and Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson talked with the media on Monday about Molinaro's spot in the Olympics.







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

Penn State Field Hockey Holland Trip: Day Eight

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Penn State Field Hockey Holland Trip: Day Eight

Day Eight in Holland as told by Field Hockey student-athletes Cori Conley and Emily Klingler

May 15, 2016

The Penn State women's field hockey team, under the direction of head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss, has embarked on a ten-day, five-city exhibition tour of The Netherlands, playing five games against a variety of competition in the most renowned field hockey country in the world. Through the student-athletes' own words and pictures, the #PSUFH2Holland daily blog chronicles their adventures on and off the field.

Days 8 & 9, May 14-15

The Hague - Harleem - Bloemendaal - Amsterdam

Cori Conley, junior, Oak Park, Illinois

The final match of our tour of Holland was scheduled for late Saturday afternoon, against hockey club Bloemendaal. Before the match we went to Haarlem, where we enjoyed a hardy lunch, followed by a little bit of shopping, and then a few sweets from a local sweets shop that had Belgian waffles with various toppings and different flavors of ice cream!

Once we finished our sightseeing in Haarlem, we hopped on the bus and headed over to Bloemendaal for our final match of hockey. Bloemendaal is known for being a highly-skilled hockey club here in Holland. Playing against them was a chance to only make us better. The style of play was almost similar to that of a Big Ten Conference game. Bloemendaal was really physical when it came to winning 50/50 balls as the game was played at a very high tempo -- as all our games in Holland were! Colleen Conway was strong for us in goal, while both Aurelia Meijer and Cassie Kline scored goals for us. After regulation, we got in some extra pressure-packed practice by participating in a shootout with Bloemendaal.

When the match and shootout were over, we joined the members of the hockey club for dinner and social hour, when we talked about hockey, our countries and our cultures. We devoured a pasta and salad dinner (which was very tasty, BTW). Afterwards, we returned to the hotel and then experienced a bit more of The Hague. Tomorrow is the final full day of the trip and we are all excited to visit Amsterdam.

 

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(Clockwise from lower right): At Club Bloemendaal, among the shootout stars for Penn State were Aurelia Meijer, Colleen Conway and Gini Bramley.

Emily Klingler, sophomore, Selinsgrove, Pa.

Hallo (Dutch for "hello") from Emily Klingler in Amsterdam. Sunday is our final day in Holland before we board our eight-hour flight home. For me, today is bittersweet. Bitter because I have had such an amazing time with my teammates and it has come to an end. Sweet because I get to go share my stories and my experiences at home with my friends and family.

Today we got to cruise the canals of Amsterdam and had the chance to see many parts of the city. We passed many houseboats -- some legal and some illegal. The legal houseboats had electricity water, and sewer, and were permitted to be parked in the canal of the Amsel River. The houses along the canal are narrow because when they were first constructed centuries ago they were taxed depending on the width of the house. They have large, wide windows so they can move furniture in and out of the house on higher floors using a pulley at the top of the house.

Two more fun facts about Amsterdam's canals: There are small fences along the canal used to keep cars from going in the water. However, one car a week still ends up in the canal. Yikes! More than 1,000 bikes are removed from the canal each year. My favorite sites along the cruise were the "weepers" tower, where many tears were shed by wives were who gathered there to see their husbands off to sea. Only one in four men returned! I also liked the point on the canal where you could look through and see seven arched bridges all lined up. After the cruise, we went in search of the Anne Frank House. We did see the location the house - now part of a museum that envelopes it - where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis during the Holocaust.

I then had a nice warm lunch at a small café with a few of my teammates. It was great to get out of the cold and sit down after walking around the different parts of the city, including the red light district. Just like New York City, Amsterdam is a huge city filled with people traveling by bikes, cars, buses and trams coming and going in every direction. The city is filled with museums and different shops you can explore. It's impossible to see everything in just one day.

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 (Left to right): Lauren McNally, Mary Nell Smith, Gini Bramley and Emily Klingler.

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The shoe fits for (left to right) Colleen Conway, Emilee Ehret, Brooke Birosik and Aurelia Meijer.
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A Penn State goal by Cassie Kline against Bloemendaal was a present for her parents' anniversary, just as she promised.
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Reunited again, at Bloemendaal clubhouse: Penn State trainer Renee Messina (right) and Amanda Dinunzio, former Nittany Lion who just finished up the year playing for Hockey Club Rotterdam in overgangsklasse.
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First-half highlights against Bloemendaal on Saturday night included (clockwise, from upper left): fine ball handling by Brooke Birosik, great Penn State team spirit and tight play, and key stops by keeper Colleen Conway.
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A cruise of Amsterdam's canals produced lots of great views!

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A cruise of Amsterdam's canals produced lots of great views!

 

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By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State ended its Big Ten Tournament run with a 6-1 loss against No. 2 ranked and top-seeded Michigan in the semifinals Saturday evening. 

Michigan jumped out to an early lead thanks to an RBI single from Kelsey Susalla, followed by a two-run homerun from Tera Blanco and a solo shot from Aidan Falk, all in the first inning. Despite the early hole, head coach Amanda Lehotak didn't feel like she had to be the one to motivate her team heading into the next frame.

"I didn't need to. This team is so seasoned that I didn't need to have any 'coach speak' with them," Lehotak said. "They knew exactly what they had to do. The way we run our system, the only thing we were focusing on was answering, so we were just trying to focus on the answer inning and move on to the next pitch."

The Nittany Lions weren't able to get a hit against the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Megan Betsa, who pitched the first 2.2 innings for Michigan. However, the Lions were able to get one earned run off of her in the third inning, when she walked four straight batters to score one.

Betsa had the bases loaded with catcher Alyssa VanDerveer up to bat, a scene reminiscent of Penn State's quarterfinal win when VanDerveer hit a grand slam in an almost identical situation.

With the fans loud and on their feet, VanDerveer almost played hero again, ripping a line drive down the sideline, but it fell just inches into foul territory. VanDerveer ultimately drew the walk to score Macy Jones from third base.

"We're in those situations so many times during practice, we really hammer situational awareness during practice," Lehotak said. "Coach [Joe] Guthrie's probably the best in the country, making sure our kids are used to that situation. I was just looking for a plus and looking to move 60 feet, and [VanDerveer's] the one you want in that situation, she's great, she loves that moment, so if we could do it again, I hope she's in that moment."

Lehotak pulled starting pitcher Marlaina Laubach before the start of the second inning in favor of freshman Maddie Seifert, who then finished out the game. Seifert earned the save in the quarterfinal game when she pitched 2.1 innings of relief for Laubach.

"It's everything [being able to get that production from a freshman]," Lehotak said. "Obviously, to be at the top of the country, you have to have great pitching, so for her to come in like that and consistently get better throughout the year is huge. I really think Seifert can be something special over her career, so hopefully that's just the starting block"

Taking Betsa out of the game early and keeping Big Ten Player of the Year Sierra Romero at bay were two big things Penn State was looking to accomplish, and they did.

"Our two goals were to take the Pitcher of the Year off the mound, which we did, and shut down the Player of the Year, which we did," Lehotak said. "I think both were 0-fors [Romero finished 0-for-4] so that was a goal. Those two, Betsa and Romero, are amazing athletes so for us to do that, it's a small victory and we feel really good about that."

Penn State is still hopeful that their season isn't over yet; Lehotak and her team are preparing for a possible spot in the postseason tournament.

"I'm secretly hoping it's not over yet, I still think we have a shot," Lehotak said. "I think we may be one of the last teams out, maybe the last teams in, depending what happens to our RPI and everything. I think we can make some noise in the NCAA if we got the chance, you never know, but I don't think anybody would want to play us right now with the way we're playing."

After the championship game on Saturday night, in which Minnesota defeated Michigan 4-3 in 10 innings, the All-Tournament team was announced. Shelby Miller and VanDerveer were both selected to the team for their efforts in both of Penn State's games. 

If Penn State doesn't make the tournament, they still finished the season at 30-24 overall (14-9 Big Ten). It's the first 30-win season since 2011, when the team finished with 31 wins. The team also finished in the top four of the conference, marking just the third time in program history to do so.

After playing all season feeling as if they weren't respected in their own conference, Lehotak finally feels that her team was able to get the message across that they're a force to be reckoned with. 

"I don't know how you don't respect us after this year and after how we played this weekend," Lehotak said. "I think that's for our peers in the Big Ten to decide, but coming in, we didn't feel respected at all, we felt we had something to prove all year. I feel that we've proved it, that we're here, to being the upper echelon in the Big Ten, that we can do it and we're very serious about it. By some handshakes I've received from coaches, I think they respect us now."

 
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