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By Zach Reagan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With both the Penn State men's and women's track and field teams ranked in the top-25, the Nittany Lions look to keep using their depth as an advantage in this weekend's Sykes & Sabock Challenge Cup.

 

According to this week's United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association's (USTFCCCA) National Computer Rankings, the men's side held the No. 21 ranking and the women made their debut in the top-25 by checking in at No. 25.

 

"Both teams being ranked really shows the depth that we have for both the men's and women's teams. If I sat here and listed everybody, I'd be talking about 50 people which shows the depth that we have this year," said head coach John Gondak.

 

Gondak noted the overall solid performances across the board in the sprints, mid-distance, women's pole vault, women's long and triple jump, women's shot put and weight throw.

 

"Our national level kids are really doing a great job and some of our developmental kids are really coming into their own and producing at a high level," said Gondak.

 

Record-breaking performances from seniors Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, Ohio) and Tori Gerlach (Perkasie, Pa.) have led to several recent accolades. This week, Kidder earned USTFCCCA Division I Athlete of the Week and Big Ten Athlete of the Week honors with his phenomenal performances in the 800-meter event and in Penn State's distance medley relay as the anchor leg during last week's Penn State National.  

 

In the 800-meters, Kidder competed against one of the strongest fields of the weekend and won with a time of 1:47.01. The time is third in the NCAA and first in the Big Ten. During the distance medley relay (DMR), Kidder used a strong kick to come from behind to beat Stanford's Sean McGorty. Kidder split 3:55, which helped Penn State not only win the race, but move up to fourth on the all-time collegiate list.

 

Kidder was also named to The Bowerman Men's Watch List. He's the first Nittany Lion athlete to ever be named to the list. The Bowerman names the most outstanding male and female collegiate track & field athletes in the nation.

 

Also this week, Gerlach was nominated as a Big Ten Athlete of the Week for breaking the school record in the mile with a time of 4:37.83 during the Penn State National. She won the race easily by more than seven seconds. The Penn State women's mile record was previously held by 2012 Olympian Bridget Franek. Gerlach's time currently ranks No. 1 in the Big Ten and No. 7 in the NCAA.

 

As for this weekend's meet, the Nittany Lions are competing in the annual Sykes & Sabock Challenge Cup on Friday and Saturday. The pentathlon starts Friday at 1:30 p.m. and the track and field events start at 5 p.m. Saturday's portion of the competition starts with field events at 11 a.m. and track events at noon.

 

It's the first scored team competition of the year for the Nittany Lions. Among competition with eight schools, Penn State will get a chance to see where they stand in team scored events which can help the Nittany Lions get a preview for team postseason competitions further down the road.

 

The Sykes & Sabock Challenge Cup marks the fourth of five home meets of Penn State's 2016 indoor season schedule. The Sykes & Sabock Challenge Cup is named after the late "Dutch" Sykes and the late Dr. Ralph Sabock who were two long-time Penn State track and field officials. The event is in honor of their dedicated love for Penn State track and field and to the students of Penn State University.

 

Sykes and Sabock each served for over 30 years as Penn State track and field and cross country officials working as clerks of the course, starters and finish judges. They officiated NCAA Championships, all regular season meets, Special Olympics, and physically challenged events. Sykes was Intramural Director and Sabock was a professor in the Department of Kinesiology during their Penn State tenures. Sykes was impactful on the planning and construction of the original Intramural Building. Sabock was the author of the internationally known book "Coaching: A Realistic Perspective," currently in its tenth edition which is used at Penn State and in college coaching courses globally.


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

Lions Return to BJC for Much Needed Home Game

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After seven of the first 10 Big Ten games away from the Bryce Jordan Center, the Nittany Lion basketball team (11-12, 2-8 Big Ten) will play a much-needed home game against No. 22 Indiana (18-4, 9-1 Big Ten) on Saturday at 8 p.m. (BTN).

In dire need of a game on their home floor and shooting at familiar baskets, the Nittany Lions have traveled 6,112 miles since Big Ten play began in late December. Penn State will head into the stretch run of the regular season with five of the last eight at home.

"We haven't been home in a long time. We've been playing on the road a ton," said Chambers. "Seven out of 10 is a lot. This is the hand that we were dealt. Hopefully, being in the Bryce Jordan Center, we can see the ball go in the basket a little bit more."

The Nittany Lions head into Saturday's matchup with the red-hot Hoosiers looking to snap a four-game skid. In addition to a rigorous string of travel, the Nittany Lions have played on the road against four of the top five teams in the Big Ten standings, including No. 5 Iowa on Wednesday night.

"We've been playing some terrific teams. Iowa is a top five team," said Chambers. "Michigan is a really good team. Indiana is a terrific basketball team. We just need to slow down and play at our pace to make those shots. I'm not making excuses, but being on the road and seeing so many foreign baskets and gymnasiums, I think that plays a little bit with these kids' minds. We aren't going to do anything terribly different. We just need to see the ball go through the basket."

Snapping out of the shooting slump all boils down to confidence. The Lions have been able to generate good looks on the offensive end of the floor for the better part of three weeks. Shots just have not gone down consistently. Penn State made nine threes in Madison Square Garden on Jan. 30, but then just one in Iowa City.

"I'm a firm believe or repetition, and I'm a firm believer in preparation. Nothing changes," said head coach Patrick Chambers. "Just keep doing what you are doing. The shots are going to go in. And I have to give them the confidence to take that shot. And I am going to. They know that."

Indiana comes into the BJC atop the Big Ten standings after a dominant performance at Michigan on Tuesday night (80-67). The Hoosiers have won 14 of their last 15 games dating back to early December. Indiana is 9-1 in Big Ten play, which includes a 4-1 mark in road games.

Offensively, the Hoosiers have played at an elite level. Indiana is ranked No. 2 in the nation in field goal percentage at a blistering 51.6 percent, No. 5 in three-point field goal percentage (42.7) and No. 7 in scoring offense (85.0 ppg).

Senior Yogi Ferrell has been outstanding for Indiana in 2015-16. The dynamic point guard is No. 3 in the Big Ten in scoring (17.4 ppg), No. 4 in the Big Ten in assists (5.8 apg) and No. 3 in field goal percentage (48.4). Troy Williams is second on the team in scoring at 13.0 points per game.

Penn State and Indiana have split the last two meetings. Each of the last three games between the Nittany Lions and Hoosiers were decided by three points or less.

"It's confidence. The kids just have to continue playing with confidence," said head coach Patrick Chambers. "They truly deserve to see success with the work ethic they are putting forth."



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


Inside The Numbers: The Last Three Football Signing Classes

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2016 Signing Day Central


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the third-straight February, head coach James Franklin and the football staff have assembled a signing class ranked in the nation's top 25 by all four national recruiting outlets.

Ranked as high as 18th by ESPN, the 2016 class features 20 signees, including 12 future Nittany Lion student-athletes tabbed as either four or five-star prospects. The signing class of 2016 continues a movement of Penn State adding a host of talent and depth to its roster.

"We really want [recruiting] to be about relationships and about the things that we think it should be about, which is getting a world class education and surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals that want to go on and be really successful," said Franklin.

Of the 20 signees slated to be on the roster in August, 16 of them hail from within a 350-mile radius of the University Park campus. The trend of recruiting success within the footprint around Happy Valley has been a common thread throughout Coach Franklin's time in Happy Valley.

Since Franklin arrived in January 2014, the Nittany Lions have signed 70 prospects during the last three recruiting cycles. That figure includes 25 in 2014, 25 in 2015 and 20 in 2016. The 70 players signed have come from 17 states and Canada. Forty-three of the 70 signed players are from 350 miles or less from State College.

Sixty-one players are from the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Midwest, with seven players from the Deep South, one from California and one from Ontario. The states represented in the last three recruiting classes are as follows: Pennsylvania (19), Maryland (10), New Jersey (10), Virginia (6), Georgia (4), Ohio (4), Alabama (2), Delaware (2), Illinois (2), Massachusetts (2), North Carolina (2), California (1), Connecticut (1), Florida (1), Indiana (1), New York (1), Wisconsin (1) and Ontario (1)

"I would make the argument that every year that we want to obviously do a great job of recruiting the state of Pennsylvania," said Franklin. "That's very, very important to us, and the region."

In addition to the vast list of signees from the region, the Nittany Lion coaching staff has signed 26 players tabbed as either four or five-star prospects during the last three recruiting classes. In the two years prior to 2014, Penn State signed just six.


Penn State continues winter workouts leading up to the start of spring practice in mid-March and the annual Blue-White Game, which is slated for April 16 in Beaver Stadium.



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

Training Remains the Same as Nittany Lions Approach Senior Day

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11665202.jpeg By Michel Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a few months of traveling on the road, the men's and women's swimming and diving teams are set to return to McCoy Natatorium on Saturday. The team will face Villanova in its last home dual meet of the season before championship season commences.

It will be a special day for the Nittany Lions as they represent the graduating class on Senior Day. For head coach Tim Murphy, this will be his third senior day with the club.

"Anytime you get to watch a graduating class, it shows their commitment to the program," Murphy said. "It shows how fond they are of what they're doing as a member of the team."

Murphy said that it is a nice touch to see family members come out to show their support for the team on celebratory days such as this. To be a collegiate swimmer for four to five years is a tough accomplishment and should be proudly recognized.

"It's always nice to see their families come down on deck, and share a little time with them," he said. "Giving them a brief moment where everybody is looking at them.

"To stick it out through the thick and thin, highs and the lows. That's all a part of the game [and] is something special. It's very rewarding to be a part of."

The team was able to get in some extra practice and down time after having a change in the schedule two weeks prior. With the original Navy meet cancelled due to snowstorms, and only the men competing last week, the women were able to have a break with some quality relaxing time.

"I think it might have been a little bit of a nice break," Murphy said. "Coming off of the training trip [in Florida,] we train real hard for two weeks, go right into school, then school starts to pile up. So we're trying to get them rested and refreshed.


"As much as we would've liked to compete, I think not traveling, not being on the bus, and resting a little bit more played to our favor."

Relaxation meant that there were no additional training sessions to replace the spare time. Coach said that regular training sessions were kept on task and the rest of the free time helped the swimmers save energy and catch up on schoolwork.

"I think we've done enough up to this point in time," he said. "I think it was good for the men because they had a little bit more time. But, you can't really measure what you haven't done. I think the ladies probably enjoyed the weekend off."

As far as competing for this weekend goes, it is more of a dress rehearsal for the team. With this being the last meet in the regular season, it is another opportunity to get in some racing practice and see other skills in the pool.

"What we'll look for is what's showing up. Do they need a little bit more rest to keep going? Do we need to focus on a certain skill aspect? There are certainly some things to learn from the racing, but we're not going to make it too complicated at this point in time," Murphy said.

When making sure the swimmers are still focused on other meets prior to Big Tens, Murphy said that with nonstop training for two months, the team is prepared. As for the seniors, it's all about embracing the moment, treating the game for what it is, and enjoying the rest of their time with the team.

"This is what we train for and it's a challenge. You don't have a game every Sunday where you peak each game," Murphy said. "In some respects, everything leading up to this point in time, you're trying to follow a progression.

"What we try to do is pace ourselves emotionally. Don't get too excited too soon, the meet will come and you're going to need that energy, and really try to have some fun with it."

The meet is set to begin at 1 p.m.          

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By Shannon Rostick, GoPSUsports.com Staff Writer

University Park, Pa.- Women's Lacrosse head coach Missy Doherty has a lot on her plate as she leads her team into the upcoming season. The team, currently ranked sixth in the Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (WLCA) poll, is coming into the 2016 season with a 2015 Big Ten Tournament Championship under their belts. But with a number of new rule changes and a number of talented teams on their schedule, the Nittany Lions have a challenging season ahead of them.

Coming into the 2016 season there are a number of major and minor rules changes that are being enacted. These new rules include a self-start rule, as well as more lenient calls when it comes to empty stick checks and three second penalties against defenders.

Doherty, who had a hand in making these new rules, talked about her role in getting these new rules onto the field and the kind of impact it will make on the game.

"The rules committee did all of the work in writing the rules, but I was a part of a separate committee that put in a proposal for the self-start rule," said Doherty.

Doherty said that all of these new rules will allow for less stoppages, which is something that has always prevented the game from going as smoothly and quickly as possible.

"They have always called lacrosse the fastest sport and now it is going to be even faster and things can move along quicker," she said.

Although these rules are going to be beneficial to the upcoming season, it is going to be tough to get used to these rules for both the players and the officials. They have been playing and observing the game without these new rules for so long, so it will tough to get used to these changes in the start of the season.

"It's a learning curve for everybody. I have a lot of sympathy for the officials because our players are practicing with the new rules every day, but the officials only get practice with it a few times a week, so getting into the groove of things may be difficult, " said Doherty.

Doherty emphasized that learning the rules and gameplay are not the only important parts to having a successful championship team. She has been working with her team in focusing on their mental game to create a stronger team as a whole.

"We're preparing them for all situations where things could go either way. I can't give them confidence, but I think that structuring drills a certain way and pointing out the mental things and not just physical things in their play is a way that we can get that edge," said Doherty.

With the high national ranking the team is clearly full of talent, and Doherty really highlighted how her team's success stems from their overarching talent in all positions.

"We have a lot of great players. I think across the board you can't really narrow in on one player. We have a lot of talent both offensively and defensively and I think we can really give anybody a run for their money," Doherty said.

Doherty also emphasized the fact that her duties as a coach only go so far in making her team successful. She believes that it is also on the players to take over and be confident in themselves in order to take their team to the next level in the more difficult games of the season and ultimately bring them back to the Big Ten Tournament Championship.

"If the coaches have to do too much, it doesn't bode well in those clutch games of the season. The more the players are able to take over and lead and be a force within one another, the more of a chance we have to do well in the post-season," said Doherty.

Penn State is one of four teams in the Big Ten that are ranked this season and they will face off with another eight teams ranked in the top twenty.

The Nittany Lions will be kicking off their season this Saturday with an exhibition game against Towson. After that the team will head into their first official game of the season on February 13th at Lehigh University.

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Every game down the stretch of a season is important. For the Penn State women's hockey team, their last six regular season games come against conference foes, making them even more meaningful with CHA Playoffs are right around the corner. While the weekend series against Syracuse is an important league weekend, the games hold added meaning for other reasons as well.

For Penn State, the game on Friday is the annual "faculty and staff appreciation" game, that honors the commitment and the service of the faculty and staffers who aid the Penn State women's hockey team. All faculty and staff receive special deals on tickets if they choose to attend. For the team, it is a great chance to give back to all of the workers behind the scenes. According to Shannon Yoxheimer, it is something the team always looks forward to each year.

"I think that without faculty and staff we really couldn't be a team," said Yoxheimer. "You know you really need all the faculty and staff because they do a lot of small things that go unnoticed and so it's a really good night to just recognize all the hard work that they put in."

From the equipment managers to the workers at Pegula, the entire process is a total team effort. As Yoxheimer said, the team wouldn't be able to do what they have the ability to do without all the aid of the faculty and staff. Head coach Josh Brandwene agreed with what Yoxheimer had to say and added that the excellence of the faculty is university wide and doesn't just start or end with the women's hockey team.

"This is a great community," said Brandwene. "When you talk about one team in Penn State athletics, that's not just the 31 sports but it's the entire community. It's the faculty and their amazing support for our student athletes. It's the staff and all they do to support Penn State and its mission; it's tremendous that we get the opportunity to play for all of them."

For Penn State, the weekend festivities do not end with the faculty and staff game. The following afternoon on Saturday, the Nittany Lions will take part in the Skate for the Cure game. All fans who wear pink to that game will receive free admission and also receive the opportunity to skate with the team post-game. Not only that, but just the opportunity for the Penn State team to skate in support of breast cancer research is a huge honor according to Bella Sutton. 

"It's really an honor to give back," said Sutton. "The pink game is a huge game for us just to be able to show our support in the way that we can and being able to play for everyone effected is really cool just to be a part of.

Brandwene echoed Sutton's sentiment and added that the game on Saturday, though obviously important in the standings, is more than just a normal hockey game due to the cause that they will be playing for.

"That just transcends the game," said Brandwene. "What we do, we work really hard at, but nothing is more important than health. To have the opportunity to support cancer research and the opportunity to help find a cure for this horrible disease is just a reminder of the bigger picture and how grateful we have to be for our health." 

Penn State's action packed weekend will begin at 7pm on Friday against the Syracuse Orange. Saturday will be the Skate for the Cure game with puck drop at 2:30 p.m. 

Nittany Lions Gear Up for 2016 Season

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10947939.jpegBy Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After making their way to the inaugural Big Ten Tournament last season, the Nittany Lions enter the 2016 campaign with high goals and strong motivations.

In 2015, the Nittany Lions tallied a 5-9 record, going 3-1 in conference play on their way to a spot in the Big Ten Tournament after an intense takedown of Michigan to end the regular season.

Head coach Jeff Tambroni pointed out that although their record might not show it, the team had many high points to the season, based on individual improvements as a team.

"Going into the Big Ten was a big move for Penn State lacrosse and lacrosse in general but we faced that first year with so many young players at so many different positions," said Tambroni. "It was a great learning experience at the same time that we had to go through some lumps, so I look at the entire year and of course we were disappointed by the product of our record but very excited about the group as they mature throughout and continue to keep fighting."

At the conclusion of the 2015 season, the Nittany Lions graduated nine seniors, including captain midfielder Kyle Zittel and defenseman JP Burnside. With the departure of such consistent players, Tambroni is expecting dedication and leadership from his returning upperclassmen, and for them to set the tone for this season.

Some of those players Tambroni will look to continue to make an impact on the field include redshirt junior midfielder Matt Florence, who had 16 goals last season, as well as junior attack player Nick Aponte. Aponte, who during 2015 moved from midfield to attack, registered 14 goals and 13 assists last season.

"From my transition from midfield to attack, really benefitted our team in one way that most of our dodges were coming from our midfield and we had a bunch of our top scorers from attack," said Aponte. "So what we worked on was by moving me behind and transition the ball from down the alley to 'x' and then hitting the backside to our big shooters which were attack, really worked well for our team."

While Penn State returns many big names this season, the Nittany Lions also welcomed 16 freshmen to the team, filling many spots throughout all positions in need of some depth with seven at midfield and five at defense.

"I personally think that first semester freshmen were the freshmen, they would make their mistakes," said junior defenseman Peter Triolo. "But now moving into the season we're not essentially looking at rank within freshman to senior we're basically just looking at them as another player on the team and everyone has to contribute in order to get wins this season."

The 2016 season has shaped up to be one of the most challenging seasons to date for the Nittany Lions. Their schedule is packed with matchups against many highly regarded opponents within the lacrosse realm, including a game against reigning national champion, Denver, slated for the end of March.

Also included at the second half of the season are all Big Ten contests, with both Maryland and Johns Hopkins having a preseason top 10 ranking. Other Big Ten opponent, Ohio State, also ranks within the preseason top 20.

When it comes to designing a schedule, the coaching staff takes into consideration many different parts to the logistical process, including the ability to challenge their team while also providing opportunities for them to gain valuable wins.

As the Nittany Lions look to start off their season strong against Robert Morris on Saturday, the team knows how important these early games on the schedule are.

"A win at home would be huge going into this season," said Triolo. "We want to make the Penn State lacrosse community a very dangerous team at home and I think it would be essential to get a win at home this first coming game."

In 2015, Penn State only lost one home game, and now looks to continue its home success against the Colonials this weekend.

"The keys to success, really just playing hard, being disciplined, opening up the offense for ourselves and our teammates and really just going out there and communicating and playing hard," said Florence.

Penn State takes on Robert Morris this Saturday at noon in Holuba Hall. 

Seifert Leading Nittany Lions

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Leadership is a key component on all teams in all levels of sports. For the Penn State men's volleyball team, the leadership extends from head coach Mark Pavlik, all the way down through the ranks of the team. However, if you were to ask the Nittany Lions who the leader of the team was, they would all point to captain Matt Seifert.

Seifert is a fifth-year senior and is now in his third year of serving as a team captain. The captaincy is voted on by both the players and the coaches, as coach Pavlik explained.

"Most of the time the players decide on the captains," said Pavlik. "The coaches can step in if they feel otherwise, but this group has always gotten it right when it has come to choosing the captain and I think Seif is a perfect example of that."

Seifert is a calming force both on and off the court. Though his six-foot-nine frame can be intimidating, Pavlik says that he is one of the most approachable guys on the team and is always looking for ways to help people out. He believes that is one of the main reasons why Seifert has been chosen to fill the role of captain for three years now. Seifert says that he doesn't think much of the actual title of captain, but that he is much more humbled by the fact that his teammates have chosen him now for multiple years to lead the team.

"For me, what means the most is that the guys picked me to be in that role for them," said Seifert. "Just because I'm the captain doesn't mean anything, I still get treated the same I'm just more of a communicator from the coaches to the guys."

Despite Seifert's humility, Pavlik says that he is much more than just a communicator between himself and the rest of the team.

"He isn't afraid to say something and he understands that keeping a team functioning together through the whole season is very important," said Pavlik.

In many people's minds, there are two types of leaders - leaders by example and vocal leaders. Pavlik says that the reason Seifert is such a good leader is because he is great at exemplifying both types of leadership.

"I would say that he is a perfect combination of both," said Pavlik. "I think he models the effort level that we want everyone to have and that is a great quality. I think what you really want in a leader is someone who can stand up in the middle of the locker room and not be afraid to say something."

Seifert also believes that he has both qualities of leadership and says that he understands that being the captain that is expected of him.

"I know that if I talk, the guys will listen," said Seifert. "I think I communicate really well with a lot of the guys and relay messages to all of them pretty well. On the court it's kind of the other way around, I just try and stay as calm as I can. I think if the other guys on the court see that I'm calm they know that we are in a good spot and everything is going well. I don't believe that there should be any added tension by saying too much when you're on the court."

Pavlik says that what really separates Seifert from lots of other players he knows is his work ethic on and off the court. Seifert has battled through injuries for a lot of his career and Pavlik says that he has continued to work hard to get where he is now and to continue to compete at a high level.

"Seif is just a beast in the weight room," said Pavlik. "I don't think he has ever been afraid of the weights, they may have been afraid of him at times, but never the other way around. He has battled a lot of injuries but Seif at 100 percent is really really good. Even when he is 80% he is a very good volleyball player and you know he will always battle for us."

Being a fifth-year senior, this is Seifert's last chance to win a national championship. Add the fact that Penn State will be hosting the national semifinals and finals at Rec and you have the recipe for storybook ending. The finals are also the most intense time of the season and Pavlik says that Seifert has done a great job of preparing the team for the possibility of a tournament run.

"I think Seif has a real good view of what it takes to get there," said Pavlik. "We have to take care of business in the regular season and EIVA first so we can't get ahead of ourselves. I think he has been doing a very appropriate job of letting the guys know 'here is what we have to do first'. The ultimate goal is to get there, but he knows there is a process to go through."

For Seifert and the whole Nittany Lion team, the goal is to walk out of their own locker room for the last game of the season. As Pavlik mentioned, Seifert is fully aware of not only what it takes to get there, but also the uniqueness of the opportunity ahead.

"We have the possibility for an opportunity that not many Penn State teams have had," said Seifert. "Instead of making us nervous I told the guys that it's a unique opportunity so let's take it pretty seriously. It's my last year and I'm from Pennsylvania so it's pretty cool to finish my senior season where I started it."

With Seifert at the helm, the Nittany Lions seem poised for a tournament run, knowing full well what they have to do to achieve the ultimate end goal of a national championship. The team returns to action this Saturday against Mount Olive with first serve set for 7 p.m.


Tsang's Confidence And Experience Provides Anchor For Nittany Lions

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11662724.jpegBy Mandy Bell, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Briannah Tsang stands in front of a crowd of more than 1,500 people in Rec Hall. She stares at the vault table 25 meters away, envisioning the perfect routine.


"Usually I think to breathe and try to make my vault as normal as possible," Tsang said. "I don't want to put too much energy into it and make myself go flying."

Tsang takes off running down the runway. She runs as fast as she can in order to have as much momentum as possible to perform her vault. As Tsang approaches the vault table, she does a round off onto the springboard lifting her up to the table. Using the momentum she built up, she must powerfully push off of the table to propel herself into the air. She must flip and twist in the air while trying to keep a perfectly tight form with her toes pointed. In order to get a high score, Tsang must then "stick" her landing.

"Once I stick my landing, it's the greatest feeling ever. I can't even describe it. It's not the same as sticking any of the other events," Tsang said. "Sticking vault is just different for me because I'm not as consistent sticking the landing."

Despite what Tsang might say, the vault has been her most consistent event of the 2016 season. In the team's first three home meets, the Canada native has taken home all three of the vault titles with a 9.825 and two 9.850s. In 2014, she claimed the vault title at the Canadian National Championships and won the 2011 Canada Winter Games vault crown.

"Her senior year in high school she was the elite national champion on vault in Canada. So that would be like being the McKayla Maroney of Canada at the time," Penn State head coach Jeff Thompson said. "To see that she's ranked that highly on vault isn't surprising, it's expected."

The vault was not always Tsang's favorite apparatus. When Tsang was a little girl, she had no gymnastics influence in her life. Her mom worked at a hospital, and Tsang knew that one day she would follow in her mom's footsteps. However, an event that most four-year-olds would consider a fun party ended up changing Tsang's life.

"I went to a gymnastics birthday party at a local gym and I just loved it," Tsang said. "I learned that I loved tumbling and that started my love for not just gymnastics, but for floor."

The floor exercise is where Tsang first started tumbling and experimenting with different routines. But, as she advanced as a gymnast, Tsang started to become more interested in other events.

"I just got better and better at vault," Tsang said. "It just started to become more fun than what I was doing on floor."

Although it is no longer her favorite event, Tsang is coming off of tying her career-best score with the Nittany Lions with a 9.925 last weekend against Illinois.

"One of the unique things is when we train on floor exercise, she uses landing mats on the floor in practice like you see some of the girls do in competition," Thompson said. "But when she gets to the competition, she doesn't want the mats. From an optical standpoint, some may wonder why she needs the mat thinking she's not ready or prepared. So, she won't use the mat in competition."

Tsang has performed in front of huge crowds in many different countries. She remembers a meet that she competed in in Germany that had the biggest crowd she had ever performed in front of and also tried out to be on the Canadian Olympic team in 2012.  

"When it comes to nerves, the size of the crowd does not affect me," Tsang said. "The amount of nerves I have comes from my confidence in my gymnastics."

Those nerves are something that is rarely a factor for the sophomore. She has been a gymnast that Coach Thompson and his team have been able to rely on in any situation. She was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year last year and Coach Thompson thinks there is more to come.  

"She's a great student, she's a great ambassador for Penn State, for the gymnastics program and one of the top athletes I've ever coached in the last 30 years," Thompson said. "She's just phenomenal. We are lucky to have her."

Penn State will travel to East Lansing to take on Michigan State at 2 p.m. on Saturday. 

Competitiveness Helps Rasheed Step Up at 165

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11662692.jpegBy Ryan Hickey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For a team as talented as the No. 1 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions, competition can be found throughout the entire roster. Arguably the most competitive weight on the team is the battle at 165 between Shakur Rasheed and Geno Morelli.

Throughout the season, Rasheed and Morelli have battled back and forth to crack the 165 starting spot. While the constant competition could create some tension and hostility between the two, they both have a healthy relationship, no different than any other on the team.

"It doesn't matter who it is, we are all competitive. Just because me and [Morelli] are fighting for the same spot, there's no negativity towards that," said Rasheed. "That's part of this sport and mostly part of our program. We got four guys at the same weight class that can all be All-Americans. That's just the way it goes. That's what makes us who we are. We are friends."

Aside from their relationship, another reason why Rasheed says there is no hostility between the two is because of how competitive the entire team is. The intensity that is brewed everyday in practice is the reason, according to Rasheed, why Penn State is not like any other team. 

"No matter what weight you're at, we are all going to be competitive because that's what we do. That's why Penn State is so good. In here in this room, everything's a competition," said Rasheed. "Anytime I wrestle any of these guys, that's the way it's going to be. We go into practice and the best way to train is to train as if it's a match, as if it's real competition. We help each other, but we are competitive. Everyone in here are teammates at the end of the day."

Rasheed's freshman year has not gone according to his plan, as the New York product was hoping to have fewer losses at this point in the season, but is excited to keep improving his regime. This season has also brought a lot of lessons for the 17th-ranked wrestler, with the biggest one being trusting his coaches. Learning to trust the coaches is most beneficial when Rasheed finds himself in a rut, as it is very tempting to try and figure it out himself.

"I learned to always trust your coaches. No matter how hard it gets, they can help you and they will do what's best for you," said Rasheed. "That's something that I really picked up this year. Anytime I'm having a struggle with something, I know who to go to to help me out with whatever is going on with me."

Part of the roller coaster year for Rasheed has been his impressive performance against some of the nations best. Posting a 14-6 record and ranked No. 17, the freshman has been able to step up in the biggest moments. Wrestling against six ranked grapplers so far this season, the freshman has posted a 4-2 record, wit the most impressive and possibly shocking outcome by pinning Purdue's Chad Welch, who at the time was ranked No. 5.  

While having this early success against many of the best wrestlers in his weight class, Rasheed still knows there are always things to work on. One of the biggest areas that the freshman is looking to improve upon during the rest of the season is being comfortable at his weight.

"Just feeling better down at the weight. That's the biggest issue right now," said Rasheed. "Once that's gone, I'm not worried about anything. I'm 100 percent confident in my wrestling ability and all I have to go is get everything feeling good from when I'm at 165 and there's nothing to worry about."

For any athlete, being in a routine can be just as important as anything else they do throughout the week. For Rasheed this season, it has been tough at times to find that rhythm with the constant lineup shuffle. The freshman has been able to adapt, which is something that the Coram, N.Y., native says is part of the sport. This adaption is why Rasheed believes he is always ready for every match, whether he's in the lineup or not.

Attitude, according to Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson, is the biggest attribute that Rasheed brings to the team and is one of the reasons why he's been so successful this season.

"Generally when people are evenly matched, you go with the guy that you feel has the better attitude and I'm not saying that Geno has a bad attitude, but I just think Shakur is just a guy that will do anything you ask him to do and wants to win," said Sanderson.


This positive attitude comes from his roots, as Rasheed is the first person in his family to go away to college. Seeing where he came from and what some of the people back at home are doing, the freshman is just grateful to be here doing the right thing.

"From the people I see back home and what they are doing and then I see the position I am in now, I just have to feel blessed," said Rasheed. "Coaches always talk about gratitude and that's exactly what it's about. I'm just so grateful to be here and honestly that's just the way it is. Coming from where I was at to where I am now, it's a lot." 

 

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