UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Follow along with some images from the quarterfinal matchup between Penn State women's basketball and Ohio State at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Throughout the 2013-14 Big Ten Tournament you can follow
along with all of the happenings and latest news with the Lady Lions on their
quest for the programs third Big Ten Tournament title.
The GoPSUsports.com blog team will keep you up-to-date with continued coverage of the team from their quarterfinal matchup with Ohio State through the end of their stay in the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
More content will be added as the Lady Lions continue their quest for the programs first Big Ten Tournament title since 1996.
Monday, March 3 Feature Story | All-Big
Tuesday. March 4 Feature StoryWednesday, March 5 Tournament Notes | Bracket Breakdown
Thursday, March 6 Feature Story
Friday, March 7 What to Watch | Photo Blog | In-Game Blog
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By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After receiving a first round bye in the Big Ten tournament after earning the No. 1 overall seed, the stage is finally set for Penn State's quarterfinal matchup. The No. 11/11 Lady Lions (22-6, 13-3 Big Ten) will play Ohio State (16-17, 5-11 Big Ten) at noon today (March 7) at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind.
Not only are the Lady Lions coming off of their third straight regular season conference title, but this marks the seventh time in program history that Penn State has been awarded the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.
In the two games played between Penn State and Ohio State this season, the Lady Lions have come out on top both times, winning by 20 or more points in each respective contest.
to Watch - Penn State
Machine Gun Maggie: Her numbers speak volumes to her play on the court and despite garnering the majority of attention from opposing teams defenses, senior guard Maggie Lucas still managed to put up 21.5 points per game this season. The two-time Big Ten Player of the Year also gets to the free throw line where she is shooting an astounding 95.9 percent. In her two games against Ohio State this season, Lucas has scored 18 and 23 points, respectively, to lead the Lady Lions to two sizeable victories.
Defensive Focus: One of the main focuses for head coach Coquese Washington is defense. In the two contests against Ohio State this season, the Lady Lions have held the Buckeyes to field-goal percentages of 29.6 and 27.9 percent, respectively. Leading the charge defensively for the Blue and White is senior guard Dara Taylor, who is averaging a conference best 2.9 steals per game while guarding the opposing team's most skilled offensive threat. Because of her efforts this season Taylor was selected as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
Benefit of the Bench: What separates good teams from great teams in the conference tournament is depth. With the possibility of three games in three days, Washington is going to have to give her starters a rest and rely on her bench players at times. Freshmen Kaliyah Mitchell and Peyton Whitted have the talent to provide serviceable minutes for the Lady Lions. Mitchell is averaging 4.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, while Whitted is posting 3.0 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.
What to Watch - Ohio State
Enter Paint with Caution: Trying to score or rebound inside on the Buckeyes is a challenging task. The Scarlet and Grey sit second in the conference in blocked shots, averaging 5.1 swats per game. Defensively, Ohio State is allowing just 65.1 points per game, which puts them at fourth in the conference. Senior Ashley Adams leads the team with 63 out of the team's 168 total blocked shots. Yesterday afternoon in their win against Northwestern, teammates Darryce Moore and Martina Ellerbe combined to corral 23 out of the team's 45 total rebounds.
All Eyes on Alston: Sophomore guard Ameryst Alston has carried the Ohio State offense this season, averaging 36.6 minutes per game and scoring a team-high 18.2 points per contest. She does all this while shooting incredibly efficient 45.1 percent from the field, 34.4 percent from three point range and 83.2 percent from the charity stripe. In the win over Northwestern, Alston shot lights out, scoring 30 points in just 38 minutes of play.
Strength of Schedule: You might look at the Buckeyes 16-17 record and scoff. Even see they lost seven out of their last eight regular season contests. But look at their strength of schedule and you will rescind that scoff to see they sit third nationally in strength of schedule. Ohio State is well prepared for difficult matchups in tournament time after taking on ranked opponents in Connecticut, Maryland, Penn State, Purdue and Nebraska. The Buckeyes have competed against the best in the country and understand what it takes to play against the best.
By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When Penn State takes the ice this weekend for a showdown with No. 5 Wisconsin, it will be the team's second to last home series and it will mean we're just one week away from the end of a historic season for the men's hockey program.
For forward Mike McDonagh, however, it's just another step in a long hockey journey.
McDonagh, the team's lone senior, has been a part of Penn State hockey for four years. Prior to joining coach Guy Gadowsky's squad, he was a member of Penn State's club team, the Icers. During his time with the Icers, he was a force, playing 61 games and collecting 47 points.
Then, the announcement came that Penn State was adding an NCAA Division I team, and the Wilmington, Mass., native knew he wanted to be a part of the historic beginning.
"I've played hockey my whole life...and I figured I might as well pursue the dream of playing at the highest level possible," McDonagh said. "That's always been a dream for everyone that's played hockey. So when I got that opportunity, I decided to go for it."
McDonagh has always faced the challenge of trying out for the Nittany Lions. Each season he laced up his skates, he knew he had to prove that he belonged and that he could thrive. When the hard work paid off, the reward of playing Division I hockey was all he could ask for.
"It was awesome," McDonagh said. "The first year when [coach] Gadowsky was here was a club year, and it was a tryout year for myself, and I had no clue if I would be on the team or not my junior year. When he brought me into the office and told me [I made the team] I don't think I said anything back to him. I just sat there, so appreciative of the opportunity. I was definitely pumped."
In his first season as a Division I hockey player, McDonagh was solid. He assisted on nine goals and contributed a three game point-streak. He was the type of player that brought the same enthusiasm and intensity to every practice and left everything on the ice.
He also brought a different kind of enthusiasm to the team. McDonagh, as all of his teammates will say, is a jokester and a "goofball." He's the kind of guy people gravitate to, and feel comfortable around.
"It's very stressful," the senior said. "Our practices are hard. We're always concentrated on trying to win games and competing at the highest level, so you need that break in between sometimes. I just try to go in there and get a laugh out of the guys sometimes."
During this season, he has been the ultimate teammate, while contributing as a solid forward to Gadowsky's squad.
"You just love being around him," Gadowsky said. "He's a guy you love being around, and you can't have enough of those guys on your team.
"I love him because of the kind of guy he is. He is such a great guy. He's got tremendous work ethic; he's extremely intelligent; his teammates love him; he always gives you a great effort and he is always positive. I love having him on the team."
He is, as his bench boss says, one of the team's top players for a shootout and a gritty type of forward. McDonagh isn't afraid to step in front of a shot, or crash the net to score a goal. His enthusiasm carries over from practice perfectly into the game, and the rest of his teammates feed off of it.
As McDonagh's Penn State career comes to an end, the Nittany Lion isn't looking too far beyond each game. He has treasured the last two years as a Division I player, and knows he is a huge part of this young program. When the idea of a legacy comes up, the senior knows what kind of player he was for Penn State.
"Definitely a guy the younger guys could look up to just for the hard work on and off the ice," McDonagh said. "I might not have had as much skill as those guys, so in order to compete with them I had to work really hard. I think the guys can look at that and follow that lead, as well."
His coach couldn't agree more.
"Yeah, he will be our first senior class in Pegula Ice Arena and in the Big Ten era," Gadowsky said. "He will go down in history as someone special and that's good because he's a great guy. He has done everything we've asked of him and he deserves it."
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In just two seasons on the court in the blue and white, senior guard Dara Taylor has managed to make a seamless transition into the fabric of the Penn State women's basketball program.
It's almost as if she has been a Lady Lion for four years, however, that is hardly the case. Taylor has had to display patience and growth to reach the point that she is at currently.
Just this past week, Taylor's patience and hard work was noticed by more than just her coaches and teammates, as she was named the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year, in addition to being selected to the All-Big Ten second team and the Big Ten All-Defensive team.
"Being named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year is cool," said Taylor. "It's only my second year in the league, but it is great to have the respect of the other coaches and humbling that they would allow me to win that award."
Her mentor and head coach, Coquese Washington, could not be happier for her star point guard.
"I'm really, really happy for her," said Washington.
That feeling is echoed by Taylor's teammates.
"She picks up her defensive assignment full court every game," said senior guard Maggie Lucas. "That's a lot to ask out of somebody and she's done it, no questions asked, the whole season. In my opinion, she 100 percent deserves to be Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. We are very proud of her."
However, it wasn't all accolades and awards for Taylor when she arrived in Happy Valley during the 2011-12 season. As a matter of fact, Taylor had to sit out the entire year due to NCAA transfer rules.
"That year was difficult," said Taylor. "Not to be able to travel, not to be able to really play with the team, that was tough. But, it gave me a chance to see how things developed, how the team worked together and what the coaches were looking for. I think it really helped me fit into the system really well when I finally got my chance."
Even Washington knew how much the year off was a struggle for Taylor, but she also realized how much she could learn from simply watching an entire season.
"That year off, that hurts," said Washington. "It kills you every night when you're watching your teammates play, and you can't go out there and help them. But I think she learned a lot during that season."
For Taylor, her collegiate basketball career began in 2009 at the University of Maryland. During her freshman campaign she broke Maryland's freshman single season assists record with 171 dimes. She then saw considerate time during her sophomore campaign but felt she needed a change.
That's where Washington and the Lady Lions come into play. Taylor opted to move from College Park to State College after her sophomore year, and the rest is history.
"I got here [to Penn State] and Coquese really worked one-on-one with me," said Taylor. "That helped get me comfortable and build my confidence up. She's been very specific in what she is looking for, which makes it really easy as a player. They [coaches] are constantly giving me feedback and helping me to grow, that makes it easier to gel on the court."
Since Taylor's arrival onto the court, the Lady Lions have compiled a record of 48-12. In her senior campaign, the 5-foot-8 point guard is averaging 33.8 minutes per game, 11.6 points per game, 4.9 assists per game, and 2.9 steals per game.
When looking at those numbers, the word balance certainly comes to mind.
"Certainly she's grown this year on both ends of the floor," said Washington. "She's been able to be a better defensive player than she was last year in terms of steals per game. Also what she's done on the offensive end in terms of managing and running the team has been amazing."
From where Taylor began, to where she is now, she has transitioned from lead by example, to lead by example and being a vocal leader. According to Washington, Taylor's most impressive development has been the maturation of her voice on the court and in practice.
"Believe it or not, she's more vocal this year," said Washington. "You probably can't tell on the court - she's quiet by nature - but she's been more vocal. She's a good balance with Maggie, who is a little bit more emotional and more of a fiery player. Dara is the voice of reason and calms everyone down and gets them focused on what needs to happen next."
So much of Taylor's development can be traced to assistant coach, Frank Chmiel, who Taylor gives the majority of credit to for her success. With that being said, Chmiel notes that Taylor is an extremely hard worker, so seeing her be awarded for her efforts comes as no surprise
"She's got a lot to work with," said Chmiel. "She's fast, she's quick, and she's intelligent. So, it's not hard for her to be a great defensive player. The hard part for her was swinging for the fence every time down the floor - going for the steal. She refined things like changing her angles, knowing where the next pass was coming from and the other little things. The rest was Dara, she's a phenomenal athlete and defender."
Despite being rewarded for her stellar play this season, Taylor, her teammates, and her coaches understand that the season is still far from over. The Big Ten Tournament is up next, followed by the NCAA Tournament.
Washington knows that the success of her team relies on the balance that Taylor can bring to the hardwood.
"The more balanced she can be, the better it makes our team," said Washington. "We've been at our best this year when we're getting four or five people in double figures. And that is a direct reflection in some respects on the way Dara manages the game. Her defense is going to be there night in, night out, but she makes out team run on both ends."
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming back from road trips to Princeton and George Mason, the men's volleyball team returned 1-1 from the weekend. Although they faced a loss against Princeton, the preparation the team has put in all year allowed the players to rebound and overcome adversity as they defeated George Mason.
The first piece of adversity that the team had to overcome was missing pass and serve time with the travel and traffic involved with getting to Princeton.
"The travel was frustrating," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "I jokingly told the guys 'Welcome to roll with the punches tour of 2014' but they figured it out. They literally rolled with the punches. They focused well on the things that they could control and they did a really good job of controlling that."
Traveling and playing on the same day was a challenge for the players, but they relied on their preparation to handle the punches thrown at them.
"We just kept telling ourselves that we push ourselves harder than that in practice everyday so the stuff that we face in south gym day in and day out - we're doing that to prepare us for times like this. We kept telling ourselves that we do this everyday in practice so there's no reason we can't go out and execute it now," Peter Russell said.
After winning 11 consecutive matches, the second element of adversity they faced was coming up short of a win against Princeton even though they battled tough through all five sets.
"The match against Princeton was a good match," Pavlik said. "Princeton was as physical as any EIVA team we've seen recently. The fact that it went to five games and we're on the road with our first road trip - from the performance side it went okay. The guys handled everything that they couldn't control really well."
Even though the Nittany Lions didn't have the outcome they hoped for against Princeton, the players used that as motivation and shifted their focus to come out even stronger against George Mason.
"They did a really good job of just showering it off and getting ready for Mason the next night because we knew that Mason was having their alumni weekend with a big crowd and it was really emotional both nights," Pavlik said. "They didn't dwell on what happened. This group is something that does that - they worry about what's in the moment right now."
Helping the players stay in the moment were the captains who talked to the team on the bus after the Princeton match about focusing on what is ahead of them rather than dwelling on the past.
"When we got on the bus and talked, one thing that me and Connor (Curry) wanted to make sure was that there was no hangover going into Saturday and there really wasn't at all," Matt Seifert said. "We didn't have any problem on Saturday against Mason. They had a big crowd with alumni weekend down there so I thought we answered their call well when they started playing physical and rowdy, we didn't get phased by it at all."
With strong leadership from the experienced players, Pavlik did not see any signs of panic or lack of confidence.
"I don't see (leadership) - and I think with good leadership you don't see leaders," Pavlik said. "I didn't see anybody panicking there wasn't any examples of poor leadership or what are we going to do. The leadership in those situations, if I don't see it and we don't have issues, it speaks volumes about what kind of leadership we do have."
From the coaching standpoint, the staff told them that the trip would not be easy and to be prepared to handle what they can and cannot control.
"We let them know that it's not going to be easy," Pavlik said. "Things happen that you can't control that you just have to roll off of you. Win, lose, or draw - you're still trying to play at the level you need to play at, the level that your teammates need you to play at."
By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- About four years ago, Néstor Rodriguez left his home in Puerto Rico to begin his career as a Penn State gymnast. In the next two years after that, Puerto Rico natives-Ismael Sanabria and Alexis Torres joined him. Rodriguez, Sanabria and Torres grew up together, practicing their gymnastics in the same gym. Years later, they still continue to practice together in the same gym as Penn State gymnasts.
"[Having Sanabria and Torres on the team is] amazing. It's like two of my little brothers came here with me," Rodriguez said. "I've known them since we were really little. And for them to be here with me, to motivate each other, is just great."
This weekend, the No. 5 Penn State men's gymnastics team is traveling to Puerto Rico to compete against the team that taught Rodriguez, Sanabria and Torres everything they know about gymnastics - the Puerto Rican National Team.
The gymnasts on the Puerto Rican National Team were all teammates of Rodriguez, Torres and Sanabria and they are looking forward to seeing old friends.
"They're all my teammates. I know all of them, so it should be fun for them and fun for us," Rodriguez said.
The Nittany Lions will compete against the team, but not in their usual gym. The meet is set in an air-conditioned, better environment that resembles the White Building, the Nittany Lions' practice facility.
Sanabria said he is looking forward to competing in Puerto Rico.
"[I am looking forward to] going home, doing work, and doing a good job at the meet," Sanabria said.
But most of all, Rodriguez, Sanabria and Torres are excited to be back home to see their families and friends.
"I'm pretty excited. Last weekend, even in the meet, I was thinking of [going back to Puerto Rico]. All of my family is going to be there," Rodriguez said.
Torres said he is more focused on seeing his family rather than on the meet because gymnastics is what he does everyday. Seeing family is something new.
"I don't really focus on meets because doing the routines, doing gymnastics is what I do everyday. But seeing my family and seeing my friends, being home, is not something I do everyday," Torres said. "I know that when I get there I am going to go crazy when I see my friends and family."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Day in and day out, senior Alyssa Sovereign practices hard as she strives toward perfection, an accomplishment she has nearly achieved in the field during her time at Penn State.
As she works out the kinks in her personal game, many of which deal with her transition from the outfield to second base, the California native also makes her overall team stronger. Her focus and high expectations are unparalleled, and both stand as highly positive concepts for the Nittany Lions moving forward in 2014.
This season, Sovereign has a perfect fielding percentage through 16 games. In her entire collegiate career, the senior has only made two fielding errors, one of which came during the 2012 season and one of which came in 2013. Despite these two errors, Sovereign maintained .981 and .984 fielding percentages respectively during those years. Just as she has been through the start of this season, Sovereign was also perfect in 2011, committing no errors during her freshman year.
Now with 164 games as a Lion under her belt, the infielder prides herself on the .992 career fielding percentage she has accumulated since 2011. Sovereign does everything in her power to avoid mistakes, more specifically errors, and keep her game as positive as possible.
"I hate errors with a passion," said Sovereign. "I make it a point to do everything that I can possibly do to not make an error. I understand that they happen, but I try to make my errors in practice so that when I'm in game and game speed, it doesn't happen."
While impressive field statistics are an important piece to Sovereign's style of play, she has also demonstrated her abilities at second base this season with 62 chances, 33 putouts, and 29 assists. While the senior is clearly comfortable in her current role, her transition to second base from right field took a bit of practice and determination. Nevertheless, Sovereign willingly made the change, adjusted her game, and has been doing everything in her power to be an asset to this Nittany Lion squad.
"I needed to be placed in a different role this year, so instead of being in right, which I was the past three years, they needed me to fit in at second," said Sovereign. "I figured it out the best I could. I really just like to be out on the field, so it doesn't really matter to me where I am. Second is a fun position to play so I really enjoy it."
Sovereign admits that while the switch initially took some getting used to, she adjusted quickly because of her past playing experiences. Before arriving at Penn State, Sovereign grew up primarily starting at second base. In other words, the first transition she experienced came during her freshman year as a Nittany Lion.
She maintained a spot in right field for the majority of her career, until being moved back to second base during second half of the 2013 season. Sovereign explained her switch back to the infield was much like the concept of riding a bike, claiming that she just needed to "relearn the mechanics."
Now that Sovereign has settled into her position for the season, she has really placed an emphasis on communication among the team while in the field. She identifies herself as the "talker of the group," as well as the teammate who is constantly energized and trying to keep everyone fired up. Her main goal when taking the field each inning is "to get in and out as fast as possible," which is directly related to this idea of effective communication.
"Communication is a huge part of our game," said Sovereign. "If our communication is at a high level, our game is at a high level."
In addition to being aware of and talking to one another on the field, Sovereign believes the team needs to really concentrate on its mental focus as the season progresses. The entire game of softball is mental, from hitting to fielding, and being on the same page as a team is key to elevating the level of play.
"The past couple weekends we've really kind of gotten out of our game plan, and we just need to get back into how we want to play and our focus and our mindset," said Sovereign. "If we do that, we should have successful results."
With communication, focus, and the continued consistent fielding of Sovereign, the Nittany Lions hope to raise their level of competition. Sovereign and the rest of her teammates will next seek to further improve when they take the field March 14-16 in Clearwater, Fla. for the Michele Smith Spring Break Tournament hosted by USF.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Although the Penn State wrestling team likes to approach each season with the mindset of taking it one match at a time, they sometimes can't help but look ahead.
That's because when it comes to college wrestling, there is no time more exciting than March, and after a long regular season, the Nittany Lions' favorite month and the prospect of postseason competition has finally arrived.
"This is the best time of the year and the most exciting time of the year," senior David Taylor said. "Now it's time to go out and have some fun."
After going 7-1 in the Big Ten this season, along with a non-conference dual victory of conference rival Iowa, the Nittany Lions enter the weekend as Big Ten regular season co-champions after splitting the dual meet title with Iowa and Minnesota.
Along with their impressive dual record, the Nittany Lions enter the weekend with five wrestlers seeded No. 1 in the tournament, with junior Nico Megaludis (125), freshman Zain Retherford (141), Taylor (165), senior Ed Ruth (184), and redshirt-sophomore Morgan McIntosh (197) all taking the top spots at their respective weights, while junior Matt Brown (174) isn't far behind as a No. 2 seed.
Despite their high rankings, the Nittany Lions prefer not to look at their individuals seeds as they prepare for the postseason, knowing that previous reputations mean little when their fates can be determined by one match.
"I haven't looked too close at the seeds but I think our guys earned what they got," head coach Cael Sanderson said. "Our guys are ready and a lot of it is just attitude at this point."
Sanderson only has to think back to last season to point out how little seeds can ultimately mean, when Brown, ranked No. 5 in last year's tournament, rallied to win the conference title at 174.
As determined as the Nittany Lions are to win their fourth consecutive Big Ten title, they know that their biggest goal of the weekend is qualifying as many wrestlers as possible for the NCAA Championships, which will kick off on Mar. 20.
Last season the Nittany Lions qualified all ten starters for the national tournament, and saw the benefit payoff as the team claimed their third straight national title. With the Big Ten having garnered 74 automatic qualifying spots for the national tournament and with no Penn State starter seeded lower than eighth, the Nittany Lions will look to do the same this year.
"This is a huge weekend for us with an even bigger weekend coming two weeks later," Sanderson said. "To have an opportunity at the NCAAs we have to have a good weekend this weekend and move all of our guys through."
This year the Nittany Lions will enter the postseason with a lineup featuring a unique mix of veteran stars and young talent.
While some wrestlers, Ruth and Taylor in particular, will be soaking in their final conference tournament while both looking to become four-time Big Ten champions, others, such as Retherford, will be experiencing the postseason for the first time.
"I've been preparing for this all year so I'm excited to go out and step on the mat," Retherford said. "Everybody says this is the best time of the year so that's what I'm looking forward to."
Any nerves felt by Retherford and fellow freshman Jimmy Gulibon (133) have been tempered by having former Big Ten Champions Brown, Ruth, and Taylor to seek advice from.
"You're trying to set the standard for where you want to be at the NCAAs so it's just about going out and wrestling the match like you have all season long," Taylor said. "The biggest mistake people make is trying to change things up the week of the Big Ten tournament."
One wrestler who will be especially determined to make his mark felt this weekend is senior James English, who has recently taken over the starting spot at the 149-pound weight.
A sixth-year competitor who missed two seasons to injury earlier in his career before fighting through various ailments this year, English is finally healthy, and having beaten out freshman Zack Beitz and junior Andrew Alton, will compete in the Big Ten Championships for the first time in his career.
"(English) has earned the right to compete for Penn State and when he's feeling good he's very good," Sanderson said. "He's resilient and if things end the way he's planning on them ending I think you've got a nice script for a movie."
Sanderson is confident is the ability of all his wrestlers, both young and old, to score points this weekend. Now that the regular season is over, the is little more that he say or do other than sit back and enjoy the show.
"The fun part as coaches is to prepare these guys and send the right messages and examples," Sanderson said. "At the Big Ten (Championships) you sit back and say 'here you go, it's up to you, go get it,' and I'm as excited to watch as anyone else is."