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Lawson Determined to Contribute After Returning From Injury

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By Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It may have been the most frustrating time of his collegiate career, yet Penn State heavyweight Jimmy Lawson couldn't help but take the glass half-full approach.

After a strong 16-4 start to his junior campaign in 2013-'14, the Tom River, New Jersey, native saw his hopes to become an All-American vanish when he sustained a season-ending left knee injury on Jan.19 against Northwestern's Mike McMullan.

Instead of helping the Nittany Lions win a national championship in March, Lawson watched from the sidelines as his teammates won their fourth consecutive title. Still, he never allowed himself to hang his head.

"The positive thing that I could think about was the fact that it wasn't my senior year," Lawson said. "The main thing was being grateful. You get an injury like that and it derails your season and your aspirations for that season but at the same time, I was grateful that I had another opportunity."

That opportunity finally came on Dec. 11 during the Nittany Lions' fourth dual meet of the season against Maryland. In his season debut, Lawson looked as strong as ever, racking up nine takedowns in a 20-8 major decision win over the Terapins' Ryan Kail.

As good as it felt for Lawson to score such a dominant victory, the highlight of the wrestler's night was simply getting back on to the mat in a dual meet after sitting out for so long.

"I've been wrestling in open tournaments but that was definitely a different experience," Lawson said. "I've been out a long time so it was definitely a good experience to get out there and wrestle."

Lawson's journey back to the mat wasn't an easy one. The heavyweight had never undergone any type of surgery before, and the months that followed contained hours of rehab.

In order to get his knee back into wrestling shape, Lawson spent the summer in the gym, working on the strength in his legs and increasing his cardio.

"Definitely squatting and all that stuff, there's a whole bunch of different knee exercises," Lawson said. Conditioning was big. Couldn't really wrestle on the mat or put pressure on it too treadmill and all that stuff. Basically just focusing on improving [the left] knee individually to catch it up with the right knee."

As difficult as the process was at times, the fifth-year wrestler believes he has become a better competitor because of the adversity that he was forced to overcome.

"The knee injury set me back, but at the same time, I was training my body and training my mind to be able to deal with things like that," Lawson said. "I think it definitely made me a better wrestler and a better person. I know I can handle more now."

Now that he's back on the mat, Lawson finds himself in the same position he's been in the past three seasons - battling for the starting spot with fellow redshirt senior Jon Gingrich.

Gingrich, who competed in the NCAA Championships for Penn State last year, has been extremely impressive in his own right this season, getting off to a 3-0 start that has led to a No. 8 national ranking.

Head coach Cael Sanderson has made his feelings on the competition between the two very clear. He believes both have the potential to be an All-American and that it's just a matter of who steps up.

"Lawson's got great potential," Sanderson said. "He's an unbelievable athlete with strength and he's got great speed. If he lets it go like [against Maryland] he can do some big things and he'll be real tough to beat."

The last time Lawson competed on the national stage was his sophomore year, when he went 1-2 in his first NCAA Championships appearance.

Now, the heavyweight has his sights set on bigger goals as the Nittany Lions look to once again defend their crown.

Although the departures of national champions and Penn State legends Ed Ruth and David Taylor has opened up a void in both leadership and production for the Nittany Lions, Lawson said he doesn't feel there is any extra pressure due to anyone's graduation.

According to the senior, becoming a leader is something that every veteran should strive to do, regardless of who his teammates are. As his final season continues, Lawson is focused on creating a legacy of his own.

"Regardless of if you have Ed or Dave on the team you should always assume a leadership role," Lawson said. "That's why coach [Sanderson] gathered these great kids on this great team, to build leaders. No one wants to be a follower. You don't want to be saying, 'I'm the next Dave Taylor or Ed Ruth,' you want to be able to say, '[I'm] the next Jimmy Lawson.' We're trying to build our own legacies." 

VIDEO: Women's Volleyball Travel Day to Oklahoma City

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The fifth-seeded Nittany Lion women's volleyball team traveled to Oklahoma City on Tuesday in preparation for Thursday's NCAA semifinal match against No. 1 Stanford.

Penn State departed the University Park Airport just after 1 p.m.  The Nittany Lions arrived in Oklahoma shortly after 2 p.m. CT before getting set for practice. But prior to the team's evening practice at the University of Central Oklahoma on Tuesday night, the Lions stopped at the home of senior Micha Hancock in Edmond.  Take a behind the scenes look at the travel day to the NCAA semifinals, including scenes from the team's visit to Hancock's home.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: NCAA Semifinals Preview - One-on-One with Micha Hancock

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - catches up with senior setter Micha Hancock leading up to Penn State's trip the NCAA semifinals. An Oklahoma native, Hancock is headed home to compete in a Penn State uniform for the final time.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Pinstripe Bowl Preview - Miles Dieffenbach

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - continues its series of interviews leading up to Penn State's trip to New York for the Pinstripe Bowl against Boston College (Dec. 27 at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN). Today, we talk with senior captain Miles Dieffenbach.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Agee Powers Lady Lions to Victory

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10626694.jpegBy Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lady Lions looked like a team on a mission in Sunday's victory against Rider. They opened the floodgates early, putting two on the board just 15 seconds after the tip. With only one game separating them from their conference schedule, the Lady Lions are starting to find a rhythm and develop court chemistry.

The 85-51 triumph against Rider was a true team effort with a handful of Lady Lions posting double-digit games. Freshman Lindsey Spann posted her second 20-point game of her career and Kaliyah Mitchell secured her first double-double. But for anyone watching Sunday's matchup against Rider, junior Candice Agee was a force to be reckoned with offensively and defensively.

"I think that she [Agee] is one of the players that has really grown," head coach Coquese Washington said. "Over the course these non-conference games you've seen some inconsistency with her. She plays a good half here and a good half there, but the last two or three games, we're starting to see a little more consistency from her."

Agee was on fire, tallying 19 points en route to her third double-digit scoring game of the season. While she was a major contributor on offense, Agee controlled the post last night, checking out of the game with five blocks.

"You're starting to see her confidence grow and her understanding of how she fits and how she can be an impact player for us on both ends," coach Washington said. "You're starting to see her figure that out. Whenever you can have a dominant post-player everything else can flow around that."

Standing at 6-foot-6, the California native is the tallest center coach Washington has had on her roster. Agee is impactful inside the paint; her size, confidence and patience are proving to be an unavoidable obstacle for opposing teams.

"I think it was very important for us to come out firing in the first half rather than trying to pick up [our offense] in the second half," Agee said. "This game compared to last; I made a point to become [the aggressive] player in the first half. It was very important for me to come out and dominate the paint early to open [shots] up for my teammates."

All season long, Coach Washington has been saying that as soon as her team gains some confidence that everything else will fall into place. Agee's confidence is forcing teams outside, making them take shots they aren't comfortable with. With Agee's help, the Lady Lions were able to hold Rider's leading scorer, Robin Perkins, to just six points in Sunday's contest. Perkins came into the game averaging 12.4 points per game.

"We went to the basket in the first half and really didn't get anything out of it because of her presence," coach Milligan said. "She does a great job of clogging the lane and she obviously is long and definitely altered our shots today, there's no doubt about that. That's something for them moving forward is going to be very helpful."

This season, Agee has posted at least on block in all but one game. Her efforts against Rider pushed Agee past the 50-career blocks milestone with 54 all-time and 20 this season. Agee was pretty vocal in last night's game, a necessary component to the on-court chemistry we are seeing develop with these young Lady Lions.

"We wanted to be disciplined in our rotations and make sure we were talking," Agee said. I think we all focused and made an effort to get our rotations right and that helped me get some nice blocks. We are going to keep getting better and working at it." 

VIDEO: James Franklin Pinstripe Bowl Preview

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the Nittany Lions kicking off final exams week, caught up with head coach James Franklin to review the first portion of bowl practice and look ahead to the Pinstripe Bowl.

Penn State is slated to meet Boston College at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 27 at Yankee Stadium in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Take a look at the video.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Monster First Half Leads to Lady Lion Win

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10626659.jpegBy Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After starting slow Wednesday at Hartford, Coquese Washington stressed to her team during practice the importance of a fast start in the first half against Rider on Sunday. It's safe to say the Lady Lions listened in their 85-51 win.

Two minutes and 46 seconds into the contest, Penn State raced out to a 13-4 lead without missing a shot from the field and forcing three Rider turnovers. Just under five minutes into the game, the Lady Lions already doubled up the Broncs taking a 21-10 lead.

"We focused more on building off of that second half (against Hartford) and playing with the same level of energy and intensity to start this game," Washington said of her team's preparation prior to Sunday. "There were a lot of positives today."

Ten minutes into the first half Penn State already tallied 30 points. Point guard Lindsey Spann said that they were able to succeed immediately in the first half because they went back to playing their brand of basketball.

"We were able to get out and run in transition," Spann said. "That led to getting a lot of easy buckets. Our spacing was good and people were knocking down open shots, so that helped us out a lot."

When the first half ended Penn State held a 50-23 lead, as they shot 55.6 percent from the field, forced 13 Rider turnovers and outrebounded the Broncs 29-18. Penn State's impressive first half stats didn't go away in the second half as they ended up winning by a margin of 34 points.

With a young team, that is learning from each and every game, being up by 20 points or more could allow them to lessen the energy in the second half or as the lead grew larger, but the Lady Lions kept pushing.

"We can't get too comfortable," guard Keke Sevillian said of what her team was focusing on in the second half. "We may be up 20 points, but this game was about us and us getting better at the things we need to [get better at] before conference play starts. We try to not look at the scoreboard. We can't get to comfortable with any lead. We have to continue to play our game."

Washington was impressed with that aspect of her team's dominating performance.

"I was glad that we didn't have long stretches of play where the energy and focus wasn't where we needed it to be," she said. "For a young team, I think they're learning that 40 minutes is a long time. It's a long game and a lot can happen both positive and negative, if you relax or if you don't play with intensity. We learned that lesson in some of our earlier games and I think they responded to that challenge tonight by staying focused and playing hard for 40 minutes."

Playing hard was also a major takeaway for Washington. Her teams have traditionally become successful because of their energy and relentless play defensively.

That style of play has been on display all season during the non-conference, but perhaps none more than Sunday against Rider.

"It always comes down to who wants it more," Sevillian said. "At the end of the game it came down to effort. Effort includes transitions, diving for the ball, steals and deflections. That is what it comes down to so it is very important that we hone in on that every game."

With one non-conference game to play before opening the Big Ten schedule, Washington reflected on her team's progression thus far.

"In terms of preparation, it's been a big learning experience for us," Washington said. "Developing an identity, developing our on-court chemistry, developing a rhythm in terms of how we want to play and what we can expect each night. Even after 10 games, it's still a work in progress."

Video Highlights

By Astrid Diaz, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State track and field is more than prepared to bring in this season's challenges, as they impressed a large cheerful crowd at the annual Blue and White meet at the Ashenfelter III Indoor Track on Saturday afternoon.

The Blue squad defeated the White 138-130 but all of the Nittany Lions displayed the fruits of all their tough offseason labor.

"[Today] got the juices flowing again. It was fun...a lot of the stuff we've been doing all year they got a chance to apply it," said assistant coach Randy Bungard.

Senior Darrell Hill isn't slowing down coming off of an adventurous summer as he swept away the victory for the Blue team against the throwers in the weight throw (58 feet, 11 ¼ inches) and the shot put (64-3.25).

"Today was cool. I felt a little rusty but it was good to get out and have a good meet," said Hill. "It's my first time throwing a weight and I was trying to make it a competitive atmosphere...I was hoping it would bring more out of the younger guys."

The team's runners had a dominant outing on both the men's and women's sides with some young Nittany Lions like freshman Joey Logue, freshman Elizabeth Chikotas, sophomore Malik Moffet, and freshman Greta Lindsley impressing with victories in their respective races.

Junior Ahmenah Richardson had a spectacular day as she high jumped a personal best 5-10.50 and finished strong in the second leg of women's 4x400-meter relay race.

"All year I've been working hard and trying to maintain my weight. I was determined. I'm ready. Jumping this 5-10.5 was a great accomplishment for me. I'm so grateful," said Richardson. "[Jumping 6 feet] is definitely still one of my goals - still, for sure, positive - and then after that, I'm going to keep pushing."

Robert Cardina, Lexi Masterson, and Michael McClellan were intense in the pole vault and jumps portion of the meet showing no signs of slowing down.

While the Blue and White meet didn't bring in any outside competition for Penn State, it provides a time for the team to show off their competitive inner beast, which have been building up all summer and fall, as well as, attracting some of the team's biggest fans and supporters.

"There were some good surprises [but] it's just the beginning right now," said Bungard. "The team is really cohesive and really bonding. We saw that today with people cheering each other in other events. It was really cool - this place is great with fans and spectators."

"To put it in perspective, we had a long fall of training so to be able to come out today and do well, obviously that [means well] for the rest of the season," said Hill. "But, you still have to come out and put in the work for this next month before our next meet."

The team officially begins their 2015 indoor campaign next month on Sat., January 10th at home for the Penn State Indoor Relays.

By Tyler Feldman, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's hockey team (10-7-3, 5-4-1 CHA) may be in its third season as a Division I program, but after sweeping No. 6 Mercyhurst (17-4-2, 7-3-0 CHA) over the weekend at Pegula Ice Arena, the Nittany Lions mean business.

Following a 2-1 upset over the Lakers Friday night, the Nittany Lions carried momentum into Saturday afternoon's THON game by winning again, 5-3.

"This team is so resilient," said head coach Josh Brandwene. "Playing the number six team in the country, we never wavered and stuck with the game plan. That was a big time effort from our hockey team."

Junior goaltender Celine Whitlinger was the star in Friday's contest, making 36 saves to preserve the one goal victory.

"She definitely kept us in the game," said freshman defenseman Bella Sutton. "There were a lot of amazing saves she made that I have no idea how she did."

The top line consisting of Minnesota trio Caitlin Reilly, Amy Petersen and Laura Bowman had a stellar weekend.

In the first game, Petersen received a drop pass from Bowman who then buried the biscuit top shelf to give the Nittany Lions a 1-0 advantage.

"Laura really did all of the work," said Petersen. "She made a nice play and beat two defenders, and all I had to do was hit it home."

Then 62 seconds later Sutton pushed Penn State's lead to two goals when, while on the power play, she fired a hard, low shot from the high slot past the glove of Mercyhurst net minder, Amanda Makela.

Top CHA goal scorer, Emily Janiga, cut the Penn State lead in half 17:24 into the third period, but it was too little, too late as the Nittany Lions managed to hold on for the upset.

"Incredibly proud of this hockey team," said Brandwene. "We had a solid first period and we built on it and got better in the second. We had excellent special teams play, and we never wavered in the third, no matter what they threw at us."

Earlier in the week, Petersen talked about how Saturday would be more than just a game because of THON day. With that being said, it's no surprise that Petersen and the top line put on a show for the 1,257 fans and THON children in attendance.

Thanks to a hat trick from Laura Bowman, the Nittany Lions were able to bring out the brooms.

Bowman's second goal of the afternoon turned out to be the game-winner. After stealing the puck in the neutral zone, the sophomore assistant captain skated down the right side and wristed a shot towards Makela. Initially seen as a save, the puck managed to trickle through Makela's five-hole and cross the goal line to give Penn State a 4-3 lead with 1:44 remaining in regulation.

"I honestly thought [Makela] had it," said Bowman. "I was kind of disappointed, but then [the fans] started cheering. I didn't see it go in until [the fans] cheered."

Despite trailing 2-0 early in the first period, freshman goaltender Hannah Ehresmann calmed down in net to turn away 26 shots.

"I just made sure I focused on each of the next shots, played my own game, and kept with the process," said Ehresmann.

The Nittany Lions cut the two-goal first period deficit in half after Bowman tallied her first goal of the game 4:21 into the first frame.

Then it was freshman speedster Caitlin Reilly who redirected a Kelly Seward shot from the point to tie the game at two.

Hannah Bramm gave the Nittany Lions a 3-2 advantage 4:11 into the third period after netting a power play goal on a hard wrist shot past the blocker of Makela.

Bowman secured a hat trick on an empty net goal following a center ice faceoff win with 3.1 seconds remaining in regulation.

Notable for the Nittany Lions over the weekend was the continued formidable special teams play. While going 2-for-6 on the power play, the Blue and White managed to hold the Lakers to 0-for-6 on the player-advantage.

"This sweep shows just how far we've come," said Petersen. "It shows just how far we've come in our third year as a D1 program. It shows that we're capable of doing anything we set our minds to and we can if we work together as a team."

With the program being so young, many "firsts" are still being crossed off the list. This past weekend not only included Penn State's very first win over a ranked opponent, but it also consisted of its very first sweep of a ranked and conference foe.  

With finals week and the holidays upcoming, Penn State will take a three-week break before returning to action Jan. 3 and Jan. 4 at home versus Ohio State.

Taylor Sparks Nittany Lions' Win Over George Washington

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10626353.jpegBy Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It only took 24 seconds for Brandon Taylor to make his presence felt on Sunday afternoon.

Against George Washington, the Penn State forward wasted no time establishing himself on offense, hitting a jumper to give the Nittany Lions an early 2-0 lead. It was a sign of things to come for the junior.

In a game that Penn State dominated in multiple facets, Taylor played perhaps his best all-around game of the year, finishing with 17 points, eight rebounds and two steals as the Lions beat the Colonials 64-51.

"BT made some great shots and made some great passes that put [George Washington] on their heals a little bit," Chambers said. "We did some good things and got the ball to the middle of the floor."

One of Penn State's best 3-point shooters, Taylor had an efficient day from behind the arc, going 3-for-6 from long distance. While it was his fourth game of the season hitting at least three 3-pointers, it was the first time he did it while also shooting 50 percent on those shots.

The only game this season in which the 6-foot-6, 235 pound forward finished with more points was Nov. 20 against Charlotte, when he finished with 19 in a double overtime contest. The eight boards also tied his second highest rebound total of the season.

After struggling with foul trouble and going 0-for-5 from the field during Penn State's 64-62 win over Duquesne on Wednesday, it was certainly a welcome performance for a player considered one of the Nittany Lions most important offensive weapons.

"It was definitely a good feeling to see some of my shots fall in," Taylor said. "As of late I haven't been shooting the ball as well as I'd like so it's definitely good to see the ball go through the hoop."

Much of Taylor's production came in the second half, when the Lions outscored the Colonials 30-23. After halftime, the Tabernacle, New Jersey, native had 12 points and seven rebounds while going 2-of-4 from three.

Still, Taylor really hit his stride at the second half's 13:15 mark, with the Lions holding on to a 42-39 lead following four consecutive George Washington points. The junior captain drilled two straight threes and scored 10 points during a 13-4 Penn State run that lasted just over six minutes.

While it was his sixth double-digit scoring effort of the season and his fourth game totaling at least eight rebounds, Taylor did more than just rack up stats.

Not only did his passing play a big part of Penn State's ball movement, he also opened up the floor for his teammates to score. The Lions starting guard tandem of D.J. Newbill and Shep Garner combined for 30 points and clearly benefitted from the extra attention that they Colonials were forced to pay to Taylor.

"[Taylor's shooting] helps a lot," Newbill said. "Once BT gets going from the outside, they gotta respect him. We stretch their defense out so we get driving lanes. So even when he doesn't have the ball it creates so much tension. I can remember one time after he hit a three, I drove, and they stayed with him and Shep got a wide open three so that helps us out a lot on offense."

After averaging 9.2 points and 4.9 rebounds as a sophomore, Taylor is now up to 10.4 points and 6.1 rebounds after 11 games this season. More importantly though, the Nittany Lions have already won 10 games after it took them until Jan. 23 to reach double-digit victories last season.

Sunday's win was a perfect example of how good Penn State can be when each player fulfills his intended role. Along with Taylor's strong performance, the Lions got 20 points from their leading scorer in Newbill, 10 boards from top rebounder Ross Travis and six blocks from 7-foot-1 center Jordan Dickerson as they took down a George Washington squad coming off three consecutive wins.

"You know I think everybody of the team does understand their role," Taylor says. "I think that really helps us. Geno [Thorpe] knows that if he gets in the game to play defense. Payton [Banks] knows to get in and do the little things. I think everybody on the team is understanding of where they should be and what they should do on this team."

At 10-1, Penn State is off to its best start since the 1995-'96 season. Still, Chambers knows his team has plenty of things to work on with the start on Big Ten play less than a month away.

Chambers' goal for his team all season has been to see them play a complete 40-minute game. By holding the Colonials to 23 points and a 29 percent shooting performance in the second half, the fourth-year coach feels his team is almost there.

"We're getting there, we're definitely getting there," Chambers said. "I don't think we started the game off real well. GW brought the best out of us and once the game got level I really like what our team did."