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By Shannon Rostick, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- With only two games left in the regular season, the senior women's lacrosse players are reflecting back on their time with the team and making the best of the time they have left.

Seniors Madison Cyr, Heather Herman, Ally Heavens, Jenna Mosketti and Emi Smith all agree that they are not ready to be done with the team that has brought that so many memories over their careers.

They have devoted so much of their time at Penn State to practices, games, watching film, and traveling together, and that is something each and every senior does not want to end.

The girls are upset to have only two games left in their regular season, but they are excited that their last ever regular season games are on their home field.

"It's sad to be ending, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Having Northwestern and Maryland be our last two games and be at home is awesome and we are going to go out with a bang," said Smith.

Smith also thinks that the team plays better at home and truly does have that home-field advantage. With the vibes from the crowd and from the team as a whole, she believes that it helps them to play their best.

Heavens also agreed that being at home for the end of their season is the best thing for the team. 

"It'll be to our advantage being at home. We will have a good crowd cheering for us and that makes it so much better," said Heavens.

The game takes up a lot of the players' time, which has helped them to keep their minds off of graduation and the culmination of their time with the team.

"I have been so consumed with lacrosse and it's nice to have the game to distract myself with, so it hasn't really hit me yet," said Heavens.

Cyr agreed and said that with so much time being devoted to the game and her schoolwork she hasn't had enough time to sit down and think about the end of her career as a player and as a student.

Smith took a slightly different stance, in the fact that their playing time continues through graduation, which makes the transition more manageable.

"We keep playing when school is done, so it's not like when we're done, we're done. We still have some time to keep playing after we graduate, so I haven't really thought too much about it yet," said Smith.

The girls also reflected back on their season so far and the success they have had as a team up to this point.

"We have had an incredible season. Our team has never had a record like we do right now and we are still having a great season," said Smith. 

The one criticism the girls had of their season, was how hard they were on themselves after a loss.

"We focus way too much on our losses even though we've had a great season. But I guess that's a good part of our team because we expect so much from ourselves," said Heavens. 

The girls are looking forward to the rest of the season ahead, and hope that they can look back after it is all over and be proud of the work they have done this year.

Penn State has been their home for the past four years and has given the girls an incredible opportunity to become a part of the community, build relationships, and integrate themselves into the amazing Penn State culture.

Although graduation is quickly coming upon them, the players are excited to be a part of the alumni base and to experience a different part of the school's culture.

"There is no place like Penn State and being on a team that has brought us all together from so many different places is awesome," said Heavens.

Smith also talked about how big the alumni base is and that she loves that no matter where she ends up she will always have someone yelling "We Are" at her whens she's wearing Penn State. 

These past four years also mean that the girls have had lots of time to bond and get to know each other. They spend all of their time together and they have become like their own little family.

"We are not just teammates, we are sisters and Missy (Head coach Missy Doherty) is like our mom," said Cyr.

These close bonds make it hard for the underclassmen to see the seniors go, but they are making sure to celebrate and honor the work they have put into the team with a Senior Day celebration this upcoming weekend prior to their game.

Before the game, the seniors will receive gifts and videos from their underclassmen teammates and will be walked onto the field by friends and family.

This will be a great way to honor the seniors who have put so much time, energy, and love into the team. 

The Nittany Lions will take the field this Saturday, April 23 at 12 p.m. against Northwestern.

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By Zach Reagan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Dannielle Gibson has broken through this year with remarkable performances, but it's her competitive moxie that drives her for nothing short of greatness.

 

The junior jumper from the Bahamas has picked up right where she left off during the indoor season. Gibson earned triple jump victories in the Pac-12 vs. Big Ten Invitational and the Pepsi Invitational so far this outdoor season. She has used the indoor season as motivation to improve.

 

To wrap up the indoor season, Gibson finished a not too shabby tenth in the triple jump in this March's NCAA Indoor Championship with a leap of 42' 3.25" (12.88m). She displayed vast improvement from her sophomore to junior year. Gibson, a fiery competitor, still wasn't satisfied with her indoor finish and she has made it known that she wants to be one of the best collegiate triple jumpers in the country. Ultimately, Gibson wants to stand at the top of the podium when it's all said and done.

 

"Coming into the outdoor season, I had the goal of wanting to go undefeated," said Gibson.

 

Gibson doesn't settle for anything short of excellence on the jumping runway as she practices her craft with jumping coach Fritz Spence. Coach Spence and Gibson continuously work on technique and jumping phases to get winning results.

 

"It's all about competing, I have the physical skills but right now we're just working on my mental approach," said Gibson.

 

Gibson stands at eighth in the country and second among East athletes in the outdoor women's triple jump with a high mark of 42' 11" (13.08m). In the Nittany Lion record books, Gibson finds herself fourth all-time in the triple jump.  A list she looks forward to sometime sitting at the top of some day soon.

 

Among other factors that positively influence her performance on the jumping runway is her pride for Penn State. The balance of elite academics and athletics impacted her coming to Penn State. Her father Dwight thought Penn State was a perfect fit.

 

"I love it here, especially the family atmosphere and community and I've never been a part of anything like this before coming here," said Gibson.

 

Gibson and the Penn State track and field squad will compete this weekend when the team splits up for the Stanford Twilight in Stanford, California on Friday and the Bucknell Team Classic in Lewisburg, Pa. on Saturday.

 

The men's team comes into this weekend No. 12 in the country and No. 1 in the Mid-Atlantic region. They look to be hitting their stride after sharing co-champion honors with No. 2 Oregon in the Pepsi Invitational at the University of Oregon on April 9th.

 

Currently, Isaiah Harris (800m), Brannon Kidder (800m), and Brian Leap (triple jump) all have top-four marks in the country in their events. Leap earned Big Ten Men's Field Athlete of the Week last week with a personal best triple jump of 53' 4.5" (16.27m) in last weekend's Texas Invitational victory.


For more on Nittany Lion track and field, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.

Canadian Lacrosse Players Contribute Unique Skillset

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Most people know Canada as the home to ice hockey. However, Canada is also home to the arguably equally as intense sport of box lacrosse. With four Penn State men's lacrosse (7-5, 1-2 Big Ten) players hailing from Canada, their experience with box lacrosse has helped them build a different skillset than their American teammates.

Senior attacker TJ Sanders, junior midfielder Dan Craig, sophomore midfielder Chris Young, and freshman midfielder Dylan Foulds all have experience playing the physical sport of box lacrosse.

"I started playing field lacrosse when I was 14 but have played box since I was about five," said Foulds. "But really growing up I only played field lacrosse about once or twice a week."

Box lacrosse varies greatly from field lacrosse, as players in box must all use the same length stick, there are only six players from each team on the field at a time (including the goalie), and the more prevalent use of a shot clock.

Equipment is a big differentiator between the styles also, because in box instead of elbow pads players have slash guards to protect the forearm to mid-bicep. Players in box also have bicep and rib protection, which players in field don't have. In box lacrosse there is also off-ball contact, which means players without the ball can be hit, which is against the rules in field lacrosse.

The smaller playing surface of box lacrosse also requires players to be more physical, but also forces them to develop high-quality stick skills. While field lacrosse requires a combination of skill and speed, box lacrosse players can sometimes separate themselves from average players with superior stick skills alone.

"Box is a lot more physical and up-close," said Young. "You've got to be able to handle pressure and it's a lot more compact so you've got to adapt to the game better. On the field you have more open space so you have to adjust your speed and use your size differently."

The need for such skills in box lacrosse, Craig explained, is the reason behind why he believes Canadian players have the innate ability to be more creative on the field. Craig credits his background with box lacrosse for some of the more intricate shots he's taken on net this season, such as those behind the head.    

Having played box lacrosse most of his life, Craig's transition to college lacrosse was unique. He had little experience with field lacrosse, the least of all the current Canadian players on the team. Increasing Craig's confidence was key head coach Jeff Tambroni explained, and noted how the midfielder seems to get more confident the more years he's played on the field.

"I've been playing box lacrosse for over 10 years, close to 13 years," said Craig. "I didn't even know general rules of field, I had to work on spacing, and learning how to shoot on American goalies was something I had to work on also. American goalies play like a player with their stick up in the air whereas they have their stick on the ground in box."

In his earlier years on the team Craig was more hesitant on the field in his movements, but throughout his sophomore and junior years he has developed more fluidity. The hard work Craig has put in has paid off, and today he is an effective and dominant presence at midfield.

Tambroni noted how important the Canadian players are to his program. Having seen a good amount of Canadian players come through Penn State, Tambroni highlighted a few areas that Canadian players excel in.

"There's two distinct skillsets that they bring down," said Tambroni of Canadian players. "One is just their stick stills in general they just seem to be a little bit further ahead than most of our American players because of the confines of the arena that they play in. The other one would just be toughness. The rules are much looses in the indoor game, certainly in the box game, it's an extremely physical game and there's not much complaining up there. Those guys expect that when they put that equipment on and they have the ball on their stick that they're going to take a pounding. That's the mentality they carry and more often than not they carry that down to the States. I admire it."

As the game of lacrosse grows in the United States, the Canadian members of Penn State men's lacrosse hope to see more Canadian players come to American colleges to play.

"I think in the past ten years there's been a lot more Canadian players," said Craig. "I think that's just going to keep increasing."

Penn State plays at Rutgers on Friday at 8 p.m. The game will air on the Big Ten Network.



Senior Leadership to Help Lions in Postseason

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11886641.jpegBy Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Experience is a key factor on any team, especially when the postseason begins.

The Penn State men's volleyball team is loaded with experience. Though the team is only graduating five seniors, the underclassmen on the team have also seen more than enough game experience to be considered seasoned veterans. Everything is magnified come playoff time, including the importance of leadership. This fact is something that head coach Mark Pavlik is well aware of.

"I think that this is the time of year where the seniors step up and lead by example on and off the court," Pavlik said. "They have done that a lot for us and you certainly hope they continue to do so."

Penn State lost its last match of the season, an uncharacteristically sloppy performance at George Mason. Though it was the Nittany Lion's final match, Pavlik says he isn't too concerned by that match and says it shouldn't be too indicative of how the team will come out in their EIVA semifinal match.

"Our mindset after the match was okay," Pavlik said. "We had the luxury of playing in a playoff environment when it didn't matter, so now when we get home on Thursday and then maybe Saturday, we will be prepared for that and I think that is the best thing about playing Mason when we did is it gave us a big time game to prepare us for the playoffs."

Penn State's captains are always the ones to step up and calm the team down after matches, or encourage them after wins on the bus rides back. One of those captains, Matt Seifert said that this team is unselfish and will always be ready to play despite the result.

"We have a group of guys that play very hard so I don't think that effort is ever the issue, we just have to remind ourselves to play clean volleyball and stayed focused," Seifert said.  

As the season has gone on for the Nittany Lions, the leadership of the seniors and other captains has shown not just in their vocal encouragement, but also in their willingness to do what is best for the team. Every senior has been sat at points in the season or pulled from a match, but it never seems to affect the overall team psyche or that individual as well.

"We know what we are going to get from everyone on this roster," Pavlik said. "There are no secrets when it comes to our team and I think that is a big benefit for us come this time of the year because we know that one through 13, everyone on that bench needs to and will be ready to jump into the game. I always tell the guys that because more often than not there is a time in a game where they are going to need to step up off the bench cold and come deliver a play for us."

No senior epitomizes the leadership off the bench role better than Andrew Roberts. The service specialist has seen time at right side during the season but primarily journeys behind the service line one to three times a match to try and provide his team a spark.

"Andrew really helps us out a lot and he is one of those guys who is so reliable off the bench," Aiden Albrecht said. "It's tough to come in and make a good serve while you're cold, but Andrew does it really well."

Leadership and experience are not the only key components to a long playoff run, but they certainly are cornerstones and a good foundation to have. The Nittany Lions will rely on their experienced roster as a whole as they start the EIVA tournament this Thursday in Rec Hall at 7:30 p.m. against Saint Francis. The winner of Saint Francis-Penn State will face the Harvard-George Mason winner on Saturday night at 7 p.m. for the championship. 

By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It isn't enough to have a 4.0 GPA since freshman year of high school.  It isn't enough to have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors twice.  It isn't enough to be a heck of a designated player, hitting a game-winning shot against Maryland last weekend.  Softball senior Shannon Good wants to make a difference. 

 

"I actually went on a mission trip to Guatemala last fall and really loved the reconstructive surgery they did there, so right now, that's what my interest is," she said.

Good will be attending SUNY Upstate Medical University in the fall as a graduate student after completing her pre-med program at Penn State.  She is interested in all aspects of surgery, but has a special interest for helping out and doing reconstructive surgery in less developed countries.  Her head coach, Amanda Lehotak, knows she is incredibly driven. 

"She's just very 'this is what I'm going to do, this is how I'm going to do it' and nothing really seems to phase her.  I know they all get stressed, but Shannon's one of those kids that, to me, it's hard to tell when she's stressed or overwhelmed," Lehotak said.  

Good was originally a chemical engineering major, like her sister Courtney, until she realized she wanted to be more hands-on with her patients.  She did know from a young age she wanted to be a medical professional.  Since then, she has received near-perfect grades, and was considering Cornell before she chose Penn State and its chemical engineering program. 

With the softball team heating up, she has proven she can be a key contributor to the team.  In game three of last weekend's series against Maryland, Good pinch-hit with the bases juiced in the bottom of the sixth.  She proceeded to rope a single up the middle, scoring two runs and securing the victory for her team. 

So yes, she is a good softball player.  But everyone around her realizes she is more than that.

"Shannon Good is just the highest integrity individual player that you could find.  For someone to do what she did undergrad to go to being accepted to med school, it's pretty amazing," said Lehotak. 

Intensity is a buzzword when talking about Good.  She is intense academically and on the field, and accomplishes goals. 

"I do like the word intensity for her.  Her time management is excellent, that's just who she is," added Lehotak.

Good is looking to help propel her team to an NCAA tournament berth in her final season at Penn State, and after winning seven of the last eight games, the team is looking to keep that momentum going.  As for Good, just like the team on the field, she is in great position to succeed in medicine going forward.  

Lions Plate Five Runs in First, Complete Season Sweep of Bucknell

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11883917.jpegBy Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (23-14) defeated Bucknell (16-24) by a score of 9-5 Tuesday night for its sixth straight victory and second over the Bison in a week.

The Nittany Lions handed Bucknell a loss just six days earlier, 8-1.

Penn State wasted no time getting ahead on the offensive end. In the first inning, the Nittany Lions scored five runs on three hits and three walks and ousted Bison starter P.J. Strahm before he could record even two outs.

"Even though we scored five, you still got to play the rest of the game," said head coach Rob Cooper. "I do think it helped kind of take a little bit of energy and kind of put them down a little bit emotionally, but you got to keep playing and you got to respect the game. Otherwise this game is going to jump up and bite you."

Starter Eli Nabholz held Bucknell hitless for the first three innings and ended up with the win to improve his 2016 record to 2-0. Nabholz lasted five innings, giving up just two hits and one run while striking out five.

"I felt good," Nabholz said. "I was just working with [coach Brian Anderson] during the week trying to get a little more confidence in hitting spots. That was the game plan today. Just to go out and see results kind of reflect on some of the work you've been doing is good."

Nick Distasio relieved Nabholz in the sixth inning and gave up four runs in two innings, three of which came on an inside-the-park homerun by Joe Ogren in the seventh inning.

Jack Anderson came in to close out the game and notched his ninth save of the season. He's tied for ninth in the country for most saves in 2016 and he leads the Big Ten in saves and ERA (0.72).

Greg Guers continued his onslaught of opposing pitchers by smacking two hits and adding an RBI on the night. Guers is 15-21 in his last five games with nine RBIs, and his batting average has risen from .189 in early April to .320 currently.

"It seems like every time I swing the bat it's finding a hole somewhere so that's always good," said Guers. "You just stick to the same approach you've been having, and it's been working so I'm not adjusting it too much right now."

For his spectacular efforts in the past week, Guers earned Big Ten Player of the Week and NCBWA National Hitter of the Week honors.

"It's awesome to see," Cooper said. "Even when he was struggling, we still trusted him in the middle of that lineup. His success right now started back a month and a half ago when he kept with that process and he kept with that approach. If he had just kind of scrapped everything then I don't know if he's where he is so I'm extremely happy for him."

Also logging a strong night at the plate was freshman catcher Ryan Sloniger. Sloniger went 2-4 and tied a season high with four RBIs to lead the Blue and White in that category.

"I've been working with [coach Ross Oeder] a lot in the last few weeks, and I've felt a lot better in every game," Sloniger said. "Leading up to the night, I just wanted to barrel the ball and stay in the middle of the field."

Seniors James Coates and Tyler Kendall recorded multi-hit games in the win as well. The top four batters in the lineup (Coates, Jim Haley, Guers, and Kendall) reached base a combined 13 times and accounted for six of Penn State's nine runs.

The Nittany Lions have now won 11 straight games against Pennsylvania foes dating back to 2014. Penn State still has games scheduled against Pitt and Villanova later this season.

Penn State will travel south to face Kent State in another non-conference matchup Wednesday night. This weekend, the Nittany Lions will visit Piscataway, N.J. for a three game series against conference foe Rutgers. The Lions currently sit at fourth in the B1G with an 8-4 conference record, while Rutgers occupies the 11th spot with a 3-6 conference mark. 

Aponte a Standout Against Johns Hopkins

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11879797.jpegBy Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 14 Penn State men's lacrosse team (7-5, 1-2 Big Ten) may have lost an overtime game to No. 17 Johns Hopkins (7-4, 2-1 Big Ten) on Sunday evening, but the game was anything but dull. The Nittany Lions were able to keep the Blue Jays to less than a two-goal lead after the first quarter of play.

Johns Hopkins got on the board first in what seemed like a barrage of goals early on in the first quarter. Hopkins dominated possession time in the first half of the quarter, putting the Nittany Lions on defense early.

Despite allowing four early goals, the Nittany Lions were just getting warmed up. Quickly, the intensity of the game picked up and Penn State notched two goals to end the first quarter down by two.

Both goals, scored by junior attacker Nick Aponte, made the crowd of more than 2,700 go wild.

On Aponte's first goal, the attacker forced a turnover, gained possession of the ball, and scored unassisted. His second goal, with one second left on the clock in the first quarter, was a wrap around shot from the right side of the net.

Aponte, a seasoned dodger, used his speed to his advantage when it came to beating defenders around the net. Aponte has developed his skills over the last two years and has become one of the more stable players on attack.  

As the sun set over the field, the game of cat and mouse started.

To kick off the second quarter, Penn State notched a third goal as senior TJ Sanders netted his 22nd goal of the season. By the end of the second quarter the Blue Jays were still leading 6-5, but the Nittany Lions were far from giving up.

The crowd went wild once again as freshman attacker Nick Spillane gave the Nittany Lions their first tying goal of the night with 10 seconds to go in the third quarter. The score was even at seven apiece as Penn State's come-from-behind spirit propelled them into the fourth quarter.

The constant back-and-forth was exhausting for both teams who were determined to crank out a conference win. The Nittany Lions, fresh off an overtime loss to Maryland the Sunday prior, wanted to keep the Blue Jays guessing by changing up their defensive game between zone and man-to-man defense. Penn State's defense contributed to keeping Johns Hopkins' offense to no more than a two-point lead throughout three quarters of play.

Aponte again found the back of the net halfway through the fourth quarter, to bring the Nittany Lions within one goal of the 9-8 lead the Blue Jays had created. Junior midfielder Dan Craig made his way through traffic in front of the net to give the Nittany Lions their second tie of the night.

Aponte's fourth and final goal of the night, with 3:47 left in the fourth quarter, would once again bring the Nittany Lions within one point of the lead, this time with the Blue Jays leading 11-10.

Down by one late in the fourth quarter, the Nittany Lions had time for one last play. The crowd rose to its feet and fans clapped as the Nittany Lions set up in the offensive zone. Redshirt junior attacker Matt Florence got the ball and cradled it on his left side. Switching to the right side, Florence worked his way around the defender and threw the ball to the goalie's left side.

With 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Florence gave Penn State the momentum it had been looking for, and tied the game. Under the bright lights of the Penn State lacrosse field, the Nittany Lions had come from behind and forced overtime.

"When we went into overtime, I just thought having been there before is important," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "Whether you win or lose there is a sense of calming that goes into that. I felt like these guys were prepared to win and Hopkins made a nice play defensively and then made the play they needed to offensively. So, sometimes it just comes down to that."

Penn State fell to Johns Hopkins, 12-11.

Despite last week's overtime loss to Maryland, Aponte explained that this game against Johns Hopkins was completely different.

"This one we had to fight back to get back in it," said Aponte.

Aponte noted how the team's determination allowed Penn State to stay close to Johns Hopkins on the scoreboard, but ultimately wasn't able to make the necessary play on offense in overtime.

"They're hurting for sure," said Tambroni. "We're going to have to get back after this immediately and make sure that our focus is where it needs to be headed into Rutgers."

Penn State plays at Rutgers on Friday at 8 p.m. The game will be aired on the Big Ten Network. 

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By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was a gorgeous Blue & White Weekend in Happy Valley, and despite being a weekend typically known for its football and tailgating, James Franklin's squad wasn't the only Penn State team putting on a clinic.

Across the street from Beaver Stadium, the Penn State softball team earned their third Big Ten series sweep of the season as they beat the Maryland Terrapins 9-6, 4-0 and 5-3 en route to earning their spot in the history books. 

The win on Saturday was Penn State's tenth conference win of the season, making them just the eighth team in school history to reach that milestone. They reached the mark in the fewest amount of games (13), too, besting the record set by the 2002 team that did it in 15 games.

Senior Macy Jones started the weekend off strong for the Nittany Lions (24-17, 11-3 Big Ten), going 4-for-4 on Friday night, including two RBIs off her ninth homerun of the season. 

"Macy, like I've said all year, has been Steady Eddy for us," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "She's having some power numbers that she's never had before but really that's just because she's so confident and relaxed at the plate right now. She's seeing the ball really well, she's being aggressive [and] as a leadoff that's exactly what you want."

Jones credits her success to the four years that she's been on the team that have prepared her for this moment. 

"It's just that it's my senior year and I feel like I've been in this situation before and I know what to do so I'm more confident than I have been in the past," Jones said. "I'm really just trying not to think about it too much and am just envisioning myself having good at bats and swinging at good pitches and the results [have been] great but even if they weren't, you just got to keep going."

Jones' homerun was the first of three long balls hit in the fourth inning of Friday night's game, with Shelby Miller and Alyssa VanDerveer also each smacking a solo shot in the frame. VanDerveer also tacked on another home run in the first inning of game two to give Penn State the quick lead.

It looked like the Nittany Lions were going to cruise to the sweep early on in game three thanks to a three-run first inning. But the Terps battled back, much like Lehotak knew they would, and were able to tie it up in the fifth inning. 

"Once they scored, we believe in answer innings and we just had to answer so that was our focus," Lehotak said.

Penn State wasn't able to answer until the bottom of the sixth, when Lehotak made a decision that would play out pretty 'good'.

With the bases loaded and one out, Lehotak put senior Shannon Good in to pinch hit for Erin Pond, hoping she could score one of the runs on base. Good did more than that, and smacked a line drive up the middle, scoring two before advancing to second on the throw.

"Shannon's our best pinch hitter, I think she's the best pinch hitter I've ever had in my entire career and she's usually money in that situation," Lehotak said. "It was a good matchup for her and she's done that for the past few years for us so that's exactly why I put her in there and she did great."

The weekend marked the first time that a sellout crowd watched a game at Beard Field, as over 1,100 fans took in the game on Saturday. The fans were back in full force again on Sunday, making it the first back-to-back sellouts in Beard Field history. 

"Oh my god, it's amazing. If I could write a personal letter of the thanks to the fans I would," Lehotak said. "It means a lot, our kids work really hard, most of their games are away from here so for the fans that come out and support them and celebrate what they do, it was pretty special. I know the kids are very honored by it and hopefully the fans are proud of how we played."

Nittany Lions Wrap Up Spring with Eye on Regular Season

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VIDEO: James Franklin Postgame Interview | VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews

Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Ideal weather conditions and 65,000 fans greeted the Nittany Lions inside Beaver Stadium during the final day of spring practice for the 2016 season on Saturday afternoon.

After a practice period marked by superb progress and installation, the Nittany Lions will head into the final few weeks of the spring academic semester and summer with a confidence. The Blue topped the White, 37-0, during a productive gameday for the Lions.

"I thought we had 15 really good practices," said head coach James Franklin. "I thought we really improved dramatically from the start of the spring to the end. Today, having 65,000 fans here was unbelievable. Overall, we had a great spring."

Penn State practiced 15 times between March 18 and April 16 before the spring season culminated with the four quarters of action inside Beaver Stadium on a sun-splashed day with a terrific crowd.

The fan support Penn State Football receives throughout a year sets it apart, and Saturday was no different. From the new-look autograph session held at stadium gates during the morning to the spring game festivities, the Nittany Lions truly embraced the opportunity to spend a day with so many loyal supporters of the program.

"Blue-White Weekend is an awesome time every year to spend time with your family and see so many fans supporting us," said offensive tackle Andrew Nelson. "We couldn't be anymore thankful for our fans and how they came out to be in Beaver Stadium for the spring game."

Offensively, the Nittany Lions took a big leap forward from the start of spring ball. Installing a new offensive scheme in a span of 15 spring practices is no small task, but the Lions worked through the paces of the process with great efficiency. Tempo was the key throughout spring drills, and the Lions are primed to pick up right where they left off on Saturday when training camp begins in August.

"I think the offense did a really good job picking up the offense this spring," said quarterback Trace McSorley. "We kept getting better every day. We came out and had a really good day in front of the fans. I thought we moved the ball well most of the day. We have some things to clean up, but we are really happy with how the day and spring went."

McSorley and Tommy Stevens steered the offense with great efficiency during spring practice. The young Nittany Lions will continue to grow with work during the summer months, but Coach Franklin is pleased with the progress made during the past month on the field and how they performed on Saturday afternoon.

"I thought the two quarterbacks did a really good job of running the offense," said Franklin. "Tommy Stevens, even though he was working with the white team against the blue defense, he really did some nice things and then late in the game we were able to get him with the blue offense and he really did a nice job. I thought Trace (McSorley) looked poised, looked confident, looked under control."

On defense, the Lions gained valuable experience at a number of spots during the first spring under coordinator Brent Pry. The Nittany Lions are replacing two big pieces at defensive tackle, but the unit made a lot of big plays this spring and got its hands on a number of balls.

"I really like the way the defense has grown," said Franklin. "We made a bunch of plays and we didn't have Nyeem Wartman-White and Brandon Bell, two of our better players. We lost some great players on the defensive line that we are going to have to replace. I'm really pleased at defensive end and our secondary. We've got some very nice depth."

Penn State will look to finish the semester strong in the classroom before the summer conditioning program begins. With a spring marked by positive growth, the Nittany Lions have a lot to build upon before fall camp begins in early August.

Saturday's spring game was the final time the fans will see the team before action commences in Beaver Stadium against Kent State on Sept. 3. The window of opportunity for growth between now and the opener is a big one for the Nittany Lions. With the foundation laid this spring, the Lions are well on their way to a strong start for 2016.

"We improved on offense, defense and special teams this spring, but where we really took a step forward is that team camaraderie," said Nelson. "We are looking forward to growing more over the summer after a very good spring."



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



VIDEO: 2016 Blue-White James Franklin Postgame Interview

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin talks with GoPSUsports.com following the Blue-White Game to wrap up a productive spring practice period.








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

 

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