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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2014 Penn State women's soccer team has started the season with the best record since the undefeated team of 2005. The impressive 6-1 start wouldn't be possible without the Nittany Lions' determination for success this season.

One player on the team who embodies that mindset both on and off the field is midfielder Emily Hurd. Returning for her second year as a team captain, she is one of the many upperclassman who are leading by example.

"The biggest difference this season is that the senior leadership is fantastic," Hurd said. "The upperclassmen have the drive and push to motivate the team and it creates this whole new environment."

Coming from redshirting her first season with the Lions to now being a leader on the team, Hurd is a player who demonstrates determination in all aspects of her life.

Dealing with a foot injury her first season, Hurd made it her goal to get better and play on Jeffery Field again.

"I went through a big struggle both on and off the field my first year due to an injury," said Hurd.

Through her dedication and passion for the sport, Hurd not only recovered but became a key player on the team.


"Having soccer being taken away also took part of my identity away," she said. "Recovering from that made me both stronger physically and mentally. That taught me to never take things for granted and that nothing is given to me."

Hurd takes every opportunity to succeed that she can, including fulfilling an internship at Beaver Stadium and making Academic All-Big Ten in 2012 and 2013.

"I've had a great academic career thanks to Penn State," said Hurd.

She finished her undergraduate program in only three years, graduating in May 2013 with her B.A. in Communication Arts and Sciences. Currently, Hurd is in Penn State's graduate program for Higher Education and pursue a career in university athletic administration.

Excelling in both soccer and school, Hurd is a role model for the entire team.

"Both on and off the field she has grown as a leader, and that's become her biggest asset to the team," said redshirt junior Britt Ecke
rstrom.

Part of what makes Hurd a great leader on the team is her consistent desire to improve. She is the type of player that is always working on getting better and motivating her team.

"She understands the importance of coming out to train and play every game. She understands that when there's a lull, it's her responsibility to pick things up, and she shoulders that responsibility really well," head coach Erica Walsh said. "As far as I'm concerned, she's the best left-sided player in the country."

Hurd plays a vital role in motivating the team's performance and also makes sure the team's energy is up. She is known as one of the most outgoing players on the team.

UMass Week Q&A - Assistant Coach Terry M. Smith

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10322810.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State defensive recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach Terry M. Smith talked to the media on Thursday.  The Nittany Lions host UMass on Saturday at 4 p.m. (BTN). Take a look at a Q&A with Smith leading up to Saturday's home game.


Q: What have these first few months been like for you coaching back at your alma mater?
Smith:
"It's been really, really exciting. You couldn't dream of such an outcome for myself career-wise. It's been an exciting opportunity for me to work with such a great staff. Obviously, coming back to Penn State has been so good for not only me, but my entire family, as well."

Q: What have you seen from this group of freshmen cornerbacks so far?
Smith:
"I think we've got a group of tremendously talented freshmen at corner. They are all a little bit different. Amani (Oruwariye) is a big, long guy. Christian (Campbell) is kind of long and athletic. Grant (Haley) is more of a smaller, more explosive athlete. Daquan (Worley) is kind of that type of athlete, as well. They bring something different. I think they are all quality players for us. Clearly, Grant is having a really good freshman season so far. We got Christian in a little bit last week. Our plans are for him to have a little more action this week. They are all guys we think will be very successful in the program."

Q: How do you feel like your guys at corner have done at tackling so far this year?
Smith:
"This past game, as a defensive unit, we had some struggles with missing some tackles. The running back we played this past week was a pretty good running back. We do tackling drills each day on Tuesday and Wednesday when we are in pads. We do some angle tackles, some sideline tackles, some form-fit tackles. It's an area of emphasis for us. As we move forward into the heart of the Big Ten season, the backs are bigger and stronger, so we can't afford to have missed tackles."

Q: Were you frustrated at all during the first couple weeks not coming away with interceptions? And then after last week, what was the feeling after getting so many?
Smith:
"We weren't frustrated. You are calculated as to when you have your opportunities. The critical piece is when you get your hands on the ball, you have to make the play that is there. You've got to be patient. Sometimes it's there; sometimes it's not. Obviously, as the season has gone on, we are getting better. We are a lot better this week than we were UCF week. That's a critical piece. Are we improving week to week? And right now, we are making those improvements, and hopefully we'll take another step this week."

Q: What can last week do for Trevor Williams and what level is he playing at right now?
Smith:
"Tremendous confidence boost for him. Two interceptions. He had a tremendous night. Obviously, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. I think this could take Trevor to another level. He's been practicing really well for the last few weeks. It wasn't any surprise that he played well because he has been practicing well. I think Trevor could potentially be one of the top corners in the league. Obviously, he has to continue to get better and provide consistency at the corner. But we are very happy with his approach to practice and games each day."

Q: What did you learn at your last stop coaching wide receivers that has helped you in teaching your guys at corner?
Smith:
"The biggest thing is route recognition. When guys have certain splits or when guys take certain stems towards our cornerbacks, I can tell our guys basically on the first three steps that it is one of three routes. And then based on the next couple steps, I can tell my guys (what I think is coming). So, we've got better route recognition of what is coming at you, so it can be easier for our guys to know what is coming and defend. The route recognition is first and foremost."

Q: What are some of the nuances that go with blitzing from the cornerback position?
Smith:
"Well, depending on what the blitz is - if it's just a corner crasher coming off the side, you've got to time it. You've got to disguise your look. Once you show it, they will slide the protection to you and you will have a big 330-pound tackle on a corner, which isn't fair. So, we work on our hedge and release. There are also certain blitzes where we send a backer up the field and a corner comes underneath. We work on that technique, as well. It takes a lot of time and effort at practice to get it right. We've got to make sure we get it right because each Saturday it has to be perfect to execute and be right."

Q: What have you seen from the UMass offense and the passing game in particular?
Smith:
"They do some things that make you think about what you are doing. They want you to prepare for a lot of different looks. They do some formational things with unbalance. They do a little bit of wildcat, just enough to make you prepare for it. They've got a big, strong quarterback behind center. They've got three good targets that they want to get the football to. So, they try to make plays to get those three guys the football. And they do it in some unorthodox ways with bubble screens, some motions, some shifts and just a lot of things you have to prepare for. They are just looking for that one breakdown to exploit."



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By Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Women's intercollegiate athletics have come along way over the last 50 years. The first women's intercollegiate athletic contest took place at Pollock Field, home of the Nittany Lion field hockey team. Over the past 50 years, the Penn State field hockey program has grown in both success and prowess in the NCAA and Big Ten. Here's a look back over the past 50 years of one of Penn State's first women's sports team.

1960s: intercollegiate athletics are no longer just played by men...

-1964: Penn State's field hockey team began its first season. Pat Seni coached the team.

-The Nittany Lions went 4-0 that season.

-The Nittany Lions appeared in four USFHA field hockey tournaments.

1970s:  Building A Program

-1970-1973: Tonya Toole coached the Nittany Lions for four seasons. Under Toole's direction, Penn State won 13 games.

-1972: Title IX is passed and gender equality is now required in education and athletics.

-1974: Coach Gillian Rattray took over the helm as the head coach of Penn State's field hockey program. The Nittany Lions closed out the 70s with a record of 59-21.

-Five different Nittany Lions were named NFHCA All-Americans (starting in 1977), including current head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss three times.

1980s: The Nittany Lions Gain A Foothold in Collegiate Field Hockey

-Coach Rattray led the Nittany Lions for seven more seasons and celebrated the only undefeated season in 1980 (22-0-2), and the first AIAW national championship. Penn State also won the 1981 AIAW National Championship.

-1980: Broderick Award given to Jeannie Fissinger.

-1981: Broderick Award given Candy Finn.

-1982: Field hockey player Brenda Stauffer was named National Player of the Year. Penn State made its first NCAA Tournament appearance.

-1984: Stauffer, Chris Larson and Charlene Morett earned the bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Ca.

-1987: Former Nittany Lion and Olympian, Morett, took over the helm as Penn State's head coach.

-Penn State had nine different first team All-Americans in the 80s.

1990s: Dominating the A-10, the Big Ten and the NCAA

-1990: The Nittany Lions won the A-10 Conference and represented Penn State in the NCAA semi-finals.

-1992: Penn State joins the Big Ten conference and finish with an 8-2 conference record.

-1993: Morett-Curtiss' Nittany Lions won Penn State's first Big Ten Championship and made another appearance in the NCAA semi-finals.

-1995-1998: Penn State is crowned either Big Ten Conference regular season or tournament champion each year.

-Penn State had 16 NFHCA first team All-Americans in the 90s and made the NCAA Tournament each season.

2000s: Making It To The Finals...

-2002: The Nittany Lions make it to the final round of the NCAA Championships for the first time.

-2005: The Nittany Lions win another Big Ten Championship

-2007: Morett-Curtiss' Nittany Lions make it to the final round of the NCAA Championships again.

-2008: Another Big Ten Championship is added to the list.

-Eight different individuals were named first team All-Americans in the 90s. 

2010s: WE ARE...not finished yet

-2011-2013: The Nittany Lions have successfully won either the Big Ten regular season or tournament championship, each year. In 2012, they won both.

-One NFHCA All-American.

-As of 2014, there have been 15 different former Nittany Lions represented on the U.S. National Team.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

           

 

 

 

VIDEO: James Franklin Practice Update - UMass Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin provided an update to the media following Wednesday's practice session at the Lasch Football Complex. The Nittany Lions host UMass on Saturday for an 4 p.m. kick on BTN.






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Koudys, Jensen, Glen: Trio of Leaders for Penn State Hockey

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10321310.jpegBy Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Wearing the "C" or "A" in hockey means something much more significant than donning an extra letter on the front of a jersey. These letters represent ideals such as leadership, experience, strength and dedication.

As announced in June, defenseman Patrick Koudys will serve as captain this season for Penn State, while defenseman Nate Jensen and forward David Glen will both reprise their assistant captains roles.

Leadership

The three Penn State hockey captains were chosen based on a team vote at the conclusion of the Spring 2014 semester. The results were then taken to the coaching staff to both approve the team's selections and finalize the decision.

"It's a huge honor," said Koudys of his captaincy. "We had a great bunch of guys, so it's obviously a nice thing when a lot of the guys think that about you, but we've got a lot of guys who are in the locker room leading, so it's kind of easy for me.

During the 2013-'14 run, the Ontario-native blocked a team-high 79 shots and was one of only four Nittany Lions to compete in all 36 games. The 6-foot-3 defenseman also recorded a career-high eight points, tallying two goals and six assists on the season.

While this may be Koudys' first year as a captain for the Blue and White, two veterans join him. This season will mark Jensen's third and Glen's second consecutive year as assistant captains.

Glen and Jensen both appeared in 32 and 28 games, respectively. Jensen's eight missed games were all due to injury. The defenseman totaled 10 points with a career-high three goals, one of which was the first ever scored at Pegula Ice Arena.

"I lead by example," said Jensen. "I go out there every day and work hard, and hopefully the younger guys follow me, see what I do. "

Three of Glen's four absences can be attributed to the bone marrow donation procedure he underwent in late January and early February. Throughout his 32 games, the forward accumulated a plus-three rating, earning him recognition as the sole Lion with a positive mark.

All three are ready to work together and help their team continue on the path of success this season.

"Koudys is our captain this year, and he does a great job," said Jensen. "He leads by example, and he has a voice to him too. Glen and I are just his disciples. We help him out whenever we can. Since he's still kind of new, we fill him in on some stuff, but we all work as a team really well. I think that's what makes our captains really great."

Responsibilities


As a captain, there are a number of added responsibilities, one of which includes coordinating schedules with all student-athletes on the 27-man roster.

"I think a main part of it is organization," Koudys said. "I have to try to organize 26 guys and myself to be doing the same thing, whether it's on the ice or off the ice, especially now when the coaches aren't allowed on the ice. I try to get practices going and things like that, but like I said, we've got a great group of guys so I wouldn't say it's difficult by any means. Everyone's doing the right thing and trying to get better out there, so it's pretty easy for me."

Although the Penn State squad is mostly comprised of upperclassmen veterans, the captains still act as mentors. Koudys, Jensen and Glen are all people the rest of the team, including the three freshmen, can look to for guidance and advice.

"We kind of take care of the freshmen a little bit more," Jensen explained. "If they have any questions, we help them out. Other than that, if any of the guys have some questions outside the rink, or needs someone to talk to, we're always there. We're just kind of a big brother to lean on."

2014-'15 Expectations

With eight seniors, nine juniors and seven sophomores on the roster, 24 of the 27 student-athletes are returning members, which not only gives the Lions an added edge but also leadership that expands far past the three captains.

"Our whole senior class, and then even the juniors, we've got a lot of older guys," said Koudys. "Everyone is kind of a leader in their own way, whether it's on the ice or in the classroom. I think if you look around the room, everyone has certain qualities that you try to do and try to beat, and if everyone is doing that, we're doing just fine."

With the majority of last year's team still intact, the dynamic finish to the 2013-14 year and a thrilling performance in the Big Ten Tournament is still fresh in the minds of the Lions. Penn State hockey and its captains are ready to pick up where it left off.

"We need to build off last year," Koudys said. "I think we grew as a team, so we need to continue from where we finished and come back this year at that spot or better. I feel like we're in better shape than last year. Guys are working really hard right now, and I expect to win more games and go from there."

"With everyone coming back, we're looking to make some noise this year," added Jensen. "I'm not going to say a Big Ten Championship, but I don't think we're far from it. I think we're going to have a great year." 

2014 Opponent Previews - UMass

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10321001.jpegUMass | Beaver Stadium | 4 p.m. | Big Ten Network

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions return home this Saturday to host Massachusetts in the first ever meeting between the schools. Get to know the Minutemen in this week's scouting report.

Mark Whipple returned as head coach at UMass in 2014 after spending eight years as a coach in the NFL and a brief stint at the University of Miami. Whipple previously coached UMass from 1998-2003, which included three Atlantic 10 titles, three NCAA I-AA Tournament appearances and an NCAA I-AA National Championship in 1998. Whipple most recently was quarterbacks coach for the Cleveland Browns from 2011-12. He has an overall record of 49-29 at UMass.

The Minutemen finished 1-11 and 1-7 in the Mid-American Conference in 2013, their second year as an FBS program. They returned 59 lettermen and 13 starters in 2014.

UMass is searching for its first win (0-3) after a close loss to Vanderbilt last week. The Minutemen gained 346 yards, including 258 passing, during a 34-31 loss in Nashville. Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel completed 17-of-34 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown, but was sacked three times. Running back Lorenzo Woodley gained 43 yards and scored two touchdowns on 22 carries. He also caught two passes for 241 yards. Tajae Sharpe caught eight passes for 73 yards, while Rodney Mills hauled in three receptions for 76 yards and two touchdowns, including a 53-yard score on a fake punt in the first quarter. Kicker Blake Lucas hit a 32-yard field goal, but missed a 22-yard attempt as time expired.

The UMass defense allowed 310 yards, including 160 on the ground. Linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox recorded 15 tackles, three solo, and 0.5 TFL. Safety Joe Colton added 12 tackles, including 2.5 for loss and a sack. Fellow safety Trey Dudley-Giles forced a fumble and picked off a pass. Dudley-Giles also gained 94 yards on two kick returns.

The Minutemen are averaging just over 25 points per game and 306 yards of total offense. Frohnapfel has completed 48 percent of his passes for 619 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.

Three different running backs have more 20 carries this season. Redshirt junior Jamal Wilson has 88 yards and a touchdown. Freshman J.T. Blyden has 68 yards. Woodley, a 6-foot, 212-pound sophomore, has 53 yards and two touchdowns. All three backs are also active in the passing game, as Wilson has five receptions, Blyden has three and Woodley has two.

Sharpe leads the receiving corps with 246 yards and a touchdown on 15 catches. He is averaging 16.4 yards per catch. Mills has 112 yards and three scores on five receptions and junior Jean Sifrin has five catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns.

The UMass offensive line features three sophomores and two juniors.

Opponents are averaging 35 points and 431.7 yards against the UMass defense, including 218 yards per game on the ground. The Minutemen use a 3-4 defense.

Nose tackle Daniel Maynes leads the Minutemen with four tackles for loss. He has 17 total tackles.

Santos-Knox, a junior, leads the team with 42 tackles (11 solo). He also has three tackles for loss and a sack. Fellow linebacker Kassan Messiah has 25 tackles, including 1.5 for loss and a sack.

Colton, a junior, leads the secondary with 34 tackles, 13 solo, and 3.5 for loss, including a sack. Cornerback Randall Jette has 18 tackles and leads the team with two interceptions. Dudley-Giles has 16 tackles and an interception.

Lucas has connected on two-of-four field goal attempts with a long of 34 yards. Punter Brian McDonald is averaging 39 yards per kick, placing five inside the 20-yard line. Dudley-Giles is one of the most dangerous returners in the nation, averaging 35 yards per return. He ranks second in the nation in kick return yards.

What Mark Whipple is saying about Penn State:

"Bill O'Brien and I are close and I saw every game last year. Penn State was great to my son, Austin, so I was there a lot last year. They have great kids and it is a great place. Penn State is a great place to play and has tremendous history." 

"(Hackenberg) is an awesome kid. To see the way he's taken the team on his shoulders, the way he played all last year and the way he handles not only success but also the way he handles failures... Hackenberg is a winner and I couldn't say enough about him. I've seen him play every single game, I've seen his practice habits, seen him in the meeting rooms, I've seen the way he's worked with Bill O'Brien and he's the real deal.

"Austin Johnson is a great player and Anthony Zettel is playing out of his mind. Deion Barnes is a great player who can rush the passer. I think their whole defense is set up and Bob Shoop has done a great job. They've got the guys up front and they play coverage very well, but those guys up front are making it happen." 


Contributions on all of the 2014 Opponent Previews provided by GoPSUsports.com Student Writer Paul Marboe.

National Champions Take on Stadium Clean Up

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IMG_4846.JPGBy Jennifer Hudson, GoPSUsports.com Student Athlete Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Bright and early on Sunday, Sept. 7 at 7 a.m., the men's and women's national championship fencing team took on their first challenge of the year - cleaning Beaver Stadium.

It is a continuing tradition that the fencing team cleans half of the stadium right after the first home football game.

In return for their hard work, the team gets money to fund the season for travel and other events.

Unlike other varsity teams, fencing does not have many sponsors to help fund traveling during the year, which is why stadium clean up is mandatory for the entire team.

Although it is not a group favorite, it does give the chance for a little team bonding before the season begins.

"It was an excellent team building exercise," said sophomore epee fencer, Conor Shepard. "It's been a tradition for a long time, and does an amazing job of bringing all classes together in order to get to know each other."

The upperclassmen will take a section to sweep next to freshmen to show them the best way for clean up. The coaches will also come around every so often to let team members know if they missed any piece of trash, any little wrapper.

"It was a good way to build discipline for the whole team," said freshmen saber fencer, Andrew Mackiewicz. "The freshman fencers were able to connect with the upperclassmen by helping each other out which is crucial for the upcoming season."

Communication during the whole process was key for the team.

With half the stadium to clean, it was important to see who needed help or who needed motivated to get everyone back on their feet in order to finish the task as soon as possible. Just like if it were a meet, it was important for everyone to be focused and in it together, no matter how mundane and tiring the task.

The team worked together in pairs, taking sections at a time to look for any little Minute Maid Lemonade wrapper and every popcorn kernel.

Seven hours later, the fencers were cleared to leave the spotless cleanup site.

With the joyous news, some of the team went with the coaches to get pizza, while others went home to shower and sleep.

Everyone was happy that this year's clean up was completed and some of the seniors rejoiced a little more.

"It was my last time," said senior saber fencer, Michael Brand. "It makes reality set in that I'm graduating this year."

The next task for the Penn State fencing team is to train hard for its first meet of the season, The Nittany Lion Cup Open on Oct. 4 and 5 at the White Building.


Jennifer Hudson is a junior on the women
's fencing team.

Success Begins with Guidance

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10320311.jpegBy Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State women's volleyball team is off to a great start this season, with much of its success coming from the novice players. But the team's success isn't possible without a veteran corps of talent.

The success begins with the veterans leading the way.


Playing on a defending national championship team is a big adjustment from high school volleyball, so how did the freshmen adjust so quickly? They have guidance from the defending national champs themselves.

Head coach Russ Rose said this guidance is "tradition." The responsibility to be a good role model and provide good direction is something that Rose expects out of the older players.

Veterans like seniors Dominique Gonzalez, Nia Grant, Lacey Fuller and Micha Hancock, along with junior Megan Courtney, are being challenged to teach the younger players what it takes to work hard, recognize challenges, and take care of themselves and their academic responsibilities.

Gonzalez said the veteran leadership is crucial to the team's success.

She said that her goal is to ensure in the younger players what is going to happen before each play.

"[We] make sure they know the rotation if we're changing it up, explain to them which players like to hit which shot, and [tell them] where they need to stand," Gonzalez said. "If something doesn't go right in the play, [we're] not jumping down people's throats. [We're] being more helpful rather than critiquing people." 

Courtney has also been leading the younger players by encouraging them to take big swings and showing them that if the block is there, she will be there to cover them.

She is also trying to instill in the freshmen that they can make errors. Courtney said telling them it's OK to make errors has allowed them to take big swings without fear. She said that is the reason why the young players have been so successful.

"It's a great thing for them to be able to have, just knowing that we've got their backs and that we'll take the pressure off of them by putting the pressure on us," Courtney said.

Setter Micha Hancock, a prominent leader on the team, has been in the same shoes that the current freshmen are in now. The older players taught her as a freshman and helped shape her into the player she is today. And Rose hopes that she can do the same for the freshmen this season.

"She knows so much of how I'll judge senior year is how she can lead the youngsters," Rose said.

For a freshman like Haleigh Washington, advice from older players is an important factor in her success. In just a few months, they have taught Washington many things, but above all else, they have taught her to always give it her all.


"Whether it's in practice, passing back and forth with a teammate, or serving before practice," Washington said. "Always going hard."

In her collegiate-debut last weekend at Villanova, the veteran players helped Washington figure out what was going on. She said the older players got her into the flow of things. During practice, they make sure she knows the rules, where to stand, how loud she needs to be, and what's happening.

The No. 3-ranked Nittany Lions have a busy weekend beginning on Friday, as they take on Eastern Illinois and DePaul. On Saturday, the Lions will face UIC and East Carolina.

The team has three matches in a very short amount of time (4:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday and 9:00 a.m. Saturday). Rose would like to see the team play at a high level despite the hectic schedule.

"You don't want to give games away. I'm not just going to play everybody, just so they have a chance to play," Rose said.  "I want us to play at a high level, whoever is on the floor, and respect the opponent and respect the game. That's always something we want to continue."

This weekend is also the celebration of 50 years of women's athletics at Penn State. During two of the matches this weekend, on Friday and Saturday evening, former Penn State women's volleyball players that now coach Division I teams will be honored.

With less than two weeks until conference play begins, the Nittany Lions are gearing up to compete in the rigorous Big Ten. The team's first conference match is next Wednesday at Wisconsin. The veteran players will have to step up even more to help the freshmen when conference play begins.

"We are a work in progress. I don't think we're a finished product and I think we will find a lot of challenge, maybe not as much this weekend as we will once we hit Big Ten play," Rose said.

The veterans have a very important role on this team. They are expected to perform at the caliber of a national championship team, while making sure the younger players perform well by guiding them in practices and matches.

Much of the team's success must be attributed to the older players. Their guidance, advice and leadership is driving the team to match wins. 

VIDEO: One-on-One with Dominique Gonzalez - Sept. 17

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with senior libero Dominique Gonzalez to recap the first three weeks of 2014 and look ahead to a busy weekend in Rec Hall.




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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Mikey Minutillo was always supposed to be the difference maker.

After a 2013 season in which six of the Penn State men's soccer team's 13 wins came by a score of 1-0, the San Jose, Calif. native's return to the lineup after a missed season was expected to be the spark that ignited the Nittany Lions offense.

Tuesday night against Saint Francis, Minutillo was more of an explosion than a spark. The senior scored twice, once in the first half and once in the second, as Penn State rolled to a 3-0 victory over the Red Flash.

"[Scoring twice] is awesome and hopefully it's going to carry over into the next game," Minutillo said. "I just read the play on both of them, made good runs into the end of the box and got on the end of some good [passes]."

Early on, it was clear that Minutillo was locked in and focused, but whether he would end up on the stat sheet at the end of the game was not as certain.

Twice in the first half between the 27:00 mark to the 24:00 mark, Minutillo had great goal-scoring opportunites stymied by Saint Francis goalie Andrew Garcia.

"I think I should have put one of those away," Minutillo said. "If you put your head down you're never going to score. You've got to keep getting on the end of things."

With plenty of time still remaining, Minutillo continued plugging away. Less than five minutes later, the 6-foot-1 forward found himself on the receiving end of a pass from Drew Klingenberg near the left side of the box, though at angle that seemed implausible to score from.

However tricky it seemed, it wasn't too tough for Minutillo. He fired a shot by Garcia that ricocheted off the right post and into the net.

"Drew played a good ball and I just took a touch forward to eliminate the defenders," Minutillo said. "The defender might have got a touch on it [after I shot it] but it went to the back post, hit it and went in."

In the second half, it would take Minutillo less than eight minutes to turn what could have been another low scoring nail biter into an eventual rout, knocking a perfect pass from Riley Grant into the net. Brandon Savino would later add the first goal of his Nittany Lion career to put the icing on the cake.

While the second goal was a big of moment for Minutillo, who registered his first multi-goal game as a Nittany Lion, it was even bigger for Grant. The assist gave the sophomore his first collegiate point.  

"The play by Riley was absolutely nothing short of remarkable," head coach Bob Warming said. "I told Riley in front of the team at halftime, 'you're not in for your heading ability, you're not in because you're a great defender, you're in because you're incredible on the ball...go get the ball, do something with it every time you get.' He was unreal, I thought he was terrific tonight."

As for Minutillo, Warming credited the senior's big night to a positional adjustment made before the game.

For the most of the first five games of the season, Warming placed Minutillo at the top of the Nittany Lion offense as a forward, where his job was to post up the opposing team's center back.

Looking to better utilize his speed and athleticism by getting him into open space, the reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year moved Minutillo back to attacking midfield. Obviously, the results were splendid.

"Mikey had been so caught up - and it was my fault - about posting up at the top that it hurt his game," Warming said. "Now he came back in the midfield, got a ball, laid it off and showed up someplace else...they couldn't find him. That made a big difference in the game and in his play."

Though the goals were just Minutillo's second and third of the season, Warming dismissed the notion that the performance was a needed confidence boost for the fifth-year player.

One of the most determined players on the team, Minutillo never needed more confidence. According to Warming, he just needed a change to get him going.

"I don't think Mikey has ever lacked confidence," Warming said. "He believes in himself, I believe in him and I've believed in him ever since I had him in camp when he was 13 years old. He's a great talent."