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Knief Focuses on Team Performance and Future

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kniwf)9912956.jpegBy Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Although being recognized as the Big Ten Player of the Week is a tremendous achievement, it's not the main focus of sophomore Lexi Knief, who is more concerned with her team and the future of Penn State softball.

"It's really humbling to be recognized by the Big Ten Conference, but I think the most important thing this week was winning the games and getting our groove back," Knief said.

The sophomore is coming off a spectacular week in which she went 10-for-18 at the plate in five games, registering three extra-base hits.  Additionally, Knief leads the Nittany Lions this season in a number of statistical categories including batting average, runs, hits, triples, and on-base percentage.

While her award, which is the first Big Ten Player of the Week recognition of her career, is an incredible accomplishment, Knief was quick to credit her teammates, as was her coach, Amanda Lehotak.

"I'm just happy for her and the team," Lehotak said.  "I always tell them that no one gets recognized without everybody.  I think it's a great representation of the program and where we're going as a program.  I'm happy for Lexi because her work ethic from day one has been exactly what we demand and what we expect.  It's always fun when your kids get that honor and to see the smile on their faces."

"I loved her response," added Lehotak.  "I called her and congratulated her, and her response was, 'Yeah, but we've got to sweep Indiana.'"

This week is not the first time the Nittany Lions have seen impressive contributions from Knief.  She has been a driving-force for the team all season long and has even been dubbed the team's "biggest competitor" by her coach.

This competitive nature has been driven into the centerfielder since the start of her playing career.  Beginning with her Red Sox T-ball team, which was coached by her mom, Knief has been proving her dedicated to the sport for years.

When it came time to play collegiately, it took only one visit for Knief to decide her future.

"Penn State is only four hours from my house, and Coach Petrini and Coach McIntyre were recruiting me," said the sophomore.  "They were like, 'Just come out for a visit.'  I came out, and once I stepped foot on the campus, I knew I wanted to come here."

This season, Knief has truly demonstrated that she is never willing to give up.  Even when dropping down in the count, the centerfielder shows the opposition's defense that she is and will always be a tough out.

"I'm just really calm at the plate," Knief said.  "I go in with the mentality that I'm better than the pitcher, and I just stay in sequence."

The sophomore's spectacular performances throughout the past five games have also been a key piece to the Lions' four-game winning streak.  These wins have enabled a new, far more confident team to emerge.

While Lehotak is quick to admit these wins were not all pretty, it is safe to say Penn State is headed in a positive direction.  With the pressure to win its first Big Ten games evaporated, the team can now focus on growth and improvement.

"I definitely think confidence will help," said Lehotak.  "Now the monkey is off their back.  I kept telling them, 'The strongest part of your schedule is over with.  You know, they're beating everybody.'  Now, that fighter mentality is starting to come out in them, and I think they see that they can do it.  They know that they can do it.  I expect them to just keep building."

As far as improvements are concerned, Lehotak still feels the team can make adjustments in the area of pitching.  Nevertheless, she also recognizes the progress that has been made since the beginning of the season.

"They're making strides, and they're learning," said Lehotak of the team's pitching staff.  "Even though I've been picking on them in some statistical categories, they are getting better.  This team is just a bunch of fighters.  They're not quitters, and they want it."

Headed to Indiana this weekend, the team, including Knief, is looking to continue its success.  The Hoosiers have posted an 11-27-1 overall record so far this season, going 3-8 in the Big Ten conference.  With the Lions' 3-6 conference record, competition is sure to be high.

"We have to just continuing putting pressure on their defense, and our pitching staff did a great job last weekend," Knief said.  "If they can go out and do the same thing in Indiana, we'll be golden."

Lewis Looking to Build on Strong End to 2013

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Developing a strong rapport between receivers and their quarterback is essential for a successful passing game.

For sophomore Geno Lewis, he started the chemistry building process on the field with Christian Hackenberg last August, but the duo came on strong during the latter weeks of the 2013 season.

With increased playing time, Lewis gained confidence and played his best football in the season finale at Wisconsin.  The Wilkes-Barre native connected with Hackenberg three times for 91 yards, including 59-yard touchdown reception and a 1-yard score, in the 31-24 win over the Badgers.

Since that day, Lewis has not looked back and is ready to play a big role on the offense in 2014.

"This spring has gone really well for me," Lewis said.  "Christian and I are really seeing eye to eye now.  I definitely worked on a lot of things that I needed to work on, but I am really excited for the season."

Albeit just a redshirt sophomore, Lewis is the top returnee on the receiving corps.  Playing in all 12 games last season with four starts, Lewis made 18 receptions for 234 yards and had three touchdowns.  Sophomore Richy Anderson, who had 13 catches for 111 yards and junior Matt Zanellato, who made four receptions for 53 yards, are the only other two receivers on the roster with career receptions.

With youth throughout the receiving corps, Lewis knew that he needed to step up during the offseason to become a go-to target for Hackenberg.

"My main thing (during the winter) was route running," Lewis said.  "With Coach Gattis coming in and teaching us some new things, it really helped me a lot transitioning out of my routes (with more speed).  I think that is going to be a big change for me this year in my routes."

Two-time Big Ten Receiver of the Year Allen Robinson and graduated senior Brandon Felder are gone from the roster, and Lewis views 2014 as a great opportunity.

"I'm happy to be in this position, a higher spot than last year," Lewis said.  "I'm confident in going out there to make more plays to help the team win."

A gifted athlete with good speed and great jumping ability, Lewis's athleticism has impressed head coach James Franklin during spring practice.

"I've been very pleased with him. He's a big bodied kid with great ball skills, tremendous leaping ability, been very impressed with him in red zone and long ball situations," Franklin said. He's a great kid, working hard, him and hack are starting to build a rapport and that's got to continue to grow. Between now and start of summer camp, he has to take that next step."

With 13 spring practices down, the Nittany Lions will hold a session on Friday before the culmination of spring drills during Saturday's Blue-White Game in Beaver Stadium.

"I'm really excited for the game, I know that my teammates are," Lewis said.



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Preview: NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships

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By Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's gymnastics team made its way to the NCAA Gymnastics Championships in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Tuesday morning. The No. 6 Nittany Lions will compete in the second session of the NCAA qualifying round Thursday at 7 p.m. and the team championship rounds Friday and Saturday.

Head coach Randy Jepson and his team are looking to capture the program's 13th national title, something he says they have been "working toward since the end of last season."

"This tournament is three days long," Jepson said. "Anything can happen."

The 2013-'14 Season
Since the December 12 Blue-White Showcase, the men's gymnastics team has only lost one scheduled meet and has placed in the top three of every tournament they have competed in.

With stellar performances from seniors Adrian Evans, Wasef Burbar, Preston Gall, and Ingvar Jochumsson, juniors Tristan Duverglas. Matt Felleman and Craig Hernandez, and sophomores Alexis Torres and Trevor Howard, the team has been able to overcome minor setbacks. The Nittany Lions have remained steadfast despite pre-season injuries, making changes to the starting roster along the way.  

"It is very rewarding to see the guys do such a great job," Jepson said. "Our seniors have done a great job of teaching the younger guys and showing them what Penn State gymnastics is all about."

NCAA Forecast
The Nittany Lions placed third at the Big Ten Championships, trailing behind Ohio State and Michigan. The team placed in the top five in all events. Duverglas led the team in scoring, tying for first on vault. Howard led the team's individual performance with a first place finish on rings, the first Penn State gymnast to win the title since 2012.

Hernandez closed out the team's individual competition with a runner-up finish on pommel horse, an event he has dominated all season. His performance on pommel horse earned him second team All-Big Ten honors.

"I am looking forward to competing in pommel horse the most at NCAAs," Hernandez said. "We have a lot of potential at this tournament as a team."

Championship Hopefuls
With this championship competition, the men's gymnastics team is in pursuit of their 13th NCAA Championship. If successful, this will be the fourth NCAA Championship under coach Jepson.

Among the anticipated performances of the Nittany Lions' seniors, the power lies within the junior and sophomore classes, a promising component of seasons yet to come. Juniors Duverglas and Hernandez are vying for their first NCAA titles. The duo is ranked in the top five in two events. Hernandez is ranked third on pommel horse and Duverglas is ranked second on vault.

Sophomores Torres and Howard have competed consistently throughout the season, earning Torres a top 20 ranking.


"If we can hit 100 percent of our routines we can do a lot of damage," Jepson said. "The guys have to trust in this training and preparation. We have to focus on the first day, it is all about the first day." 

Zettel Eager to Make Plays at Interior Spot on D-Line

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When the 2013 season ended, junior Anthony Zettel had in his mind that he was ready to move back into the position that he played in 2012.

Zettel provided a big spark for the Nittany Lion defense on numerous occasions in 2013 with speed and quickness off the edge at defensive end.  He made 16 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss and had 4.0 sacks last season.

But the West Branch, Mich., native knew that he could play an even bigger role at defensive tackle if given the opportunity to do so.  Zettel played in the interior of the defensive line during his redshirt freshman season in 2012, but weighing only 253 pounds, he moved to end prior to 2013.

Zettel finished last season at roughly 260 pounds.  Now, just a bit more than four months later, Zettel weighs nearly 280 pounds after making significant muscle growth in the weight room under the direction of Dwight Galt.

The weight game coincides with a move back to defensive tackle this spring, something Zettel is fired up about.

"You bring a lot of the same techniques to tackle," Zettel said.  "Personally, I feel like things are going really well.  I love playing inside.  It's a lot more about reading things quicker and reacting with a lot less thinking.  Basically, you bring the same techniques, but you need to stay lower and use more leverage because you are going against double teams."

Zettel has been superb for the defensive line during spring practice.  With great speed and quickness, he is a very difficult matchup for an interior offensive lineman.  Zettel has been tough to block for anyone lining up across from him.

"His first step at the line of scrimmage is one of the best I've ever seen," defensive end C.J. Olaniyan said.  "He's going to help us a lot this season, and he is going to make a lot of plays for us."

His move to defensive tackle required great commitment in the weight room and with his diet.  Zettel is eating five or six meals a day in order to keep his metabolism at peak performance.  The increased diet of roughly 2,000 calories per day has helped expedite the process of reaching a targeted playing weight of 285 pounds when the season begins in the fall.

"I have been a lot more consistent in my meals and trying to eat a lot more frequently throughout the day," Zettel said.

Zettel is thrilled with progress he has made, and the increased weight gain has helped him play more physical in the trenches.

"It's helped a lot.  Fighting off blocks, I feel a lot strong.  It wasn't just weight that I put on, it was a lot of muscle, too," said Zettel.  "My speed actually improved this spring.  Everything has been beneficial from the weight."

Despite the weight gain, Zettel got a step quicker during physical testing at the end of winter conditioning, which will pay huge dividends to competing in the interior of the line.

"Especially having a good group of defensive ends like we do, I think I will see a lot of one-on-ones, and I will be able to use my speed even more.  That's where the quickness really helps," Zettel said.

Zettel and the Nittany Lion defense will get to showcase the progress that they have made during the offseason on Saturday at the Blue-White Game (1:30 p.m.).  Confidence is high for the Michigan native, and he is looking forward to the opportunity on Saturday.

"We are all going out there compete against each other," Zettel said.  "We are going to compete like we have been doing in practice, but now the fans can watch us.  I'm excited for it."




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

Nittany Lions Expect Big Things at NCAA Championships

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By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- When seven seniors on the Penn State men's gymnastics team graduated in 2013, the rest of the country didn't have very high expectations for the Nittany Lions for the upcoming season. But head coach Randy Jepson saw the potential and knew the team could make it to the NCAA Championships.

Having lost seven seniors last year, the team is rather inexperienced in terms of competing in NCAA Championship events. But after a strong showing at the Big Ten Championships, Jepson expects the team to perform well this weekend.

Jepson's expectation for the NCAA Championships this weekend in Ann Arbor, Mich., is for the team to go into the meet and hit as many routines as they can. At the Big Ten Championships, the Nittany Lions hit 90 percent of their routines.

"We're trying to build on the momentum from Big Tens. Anything can happen. We just need to put pressure on people. We want to do the best job we can and be as consistent as we can," Jepson said.

Craig Hernandez, an NCAA Championships veteran, earned second-team All-Big Ten honors last weekend for his performance on the pommel horse this season. This season he has worked hard to improve all of his skills.

"Last season I didn't do as well as I could have. This season I have been building up and trying to meet my own expectations and the team's expectations," Hernandez said.

He has high expectations for both the team and himself for the competition this weekend.

"My expectations for the team are to go out there and hit all the routines the best we can. And to make team finals and have a good showering for Penn State," Hernandez said. "My expectation for myself is to make event finals on pommel horse."

Hernandez and many of the other veteran gymnasts have guided the freshmen through this season. Now, for NCAA Regionals, they have given the younger players some insight on what to expect this weekend.

"They all say it's one of the most exciting events they have ever been to. [They told us] that the team needs to do what we have practiced and it could be the greatest experience of our lives," freshman Dominic DiFulvio said. "And I'm going to try to make it that."

DiFulvio, who has competed six times this season, says he's excited to cheer on his teammates as they compete. Having never been to an NCAA Championship event, DiFulvio's expectations differ from Hernandez.

Gymnasts who have competed in the NCAA Championships before have expectations for their own routines and also have expectations for the team. As a freshman, DiFulvio's expectations are more team oriented.

"We've done a lot to prepare for this competition. I expect the team to put together our routines, make it to the second day and then see how we do in the finals," DiFulvio said.

"I'm most excited about the atmosphere this weekend. It's really competitive but it should be a lot of fun. If we continue building on what we did at Big Tens, it should be even more fun," Hernandez said. 

Ficken Striving for Consistency After Strong Spring

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It would be hard to find a player on Penn State's roster who has improved more during his time as a Nittany Lion than senior kicker Sam Ficken.

Mid-way through the 2012 season, the Indiana native put his nose to the grindstone and worked to become a more reliable player for the Nittany Lions.  Thousands of repetitions, relentless work in the weight room and regular feedback from Chicago Bear Robbie Gould later, and Ficken is on track to be a consistent weapon for the Nittany Lions in 2014 following a superb spring practice period.

Ficken made his final 10 field goal attempts of 2012 and his first five of 2013 to break the Penn State record of consecutive made field goals.  During that span, he set the Beaver Stadium record for the longest kick by a Penn State player against Kent State (54 yards).

In total, Ficken went 15-for-23 on field goal attempts in 2013.  He was perfect on kicks from inside 30 yards, and he went 41-of-42 on PAT attempts.  Ficken's leg strength was a big factor in the upswing from 2012 to 2013.  He made zero kicks of 40 or more yards in 2012.  In 2013, he made five kicks of 43 yards or more, including the 54-yard boot against Kent State.  Ficken also averaged 61 yards per kickoff and had 18 touchbacks.

The bulk of his work to tweak mechanics came during the offseason prior to 2013. Ficken shortened his step sequence from two and a half to two steps.  He also worked tirelessly on the position of his plant foot.

Now, Ficken is focused on consistency.

"My big thing is staying consistent, staying healthy," Ficken said.  "I think based on my changes that I made between the two seasons (2012 and 2013), I think my form is good.  I've looked at every game, basically two or three times.  I think the biggest thing for me is sticking to my fundamentals that I've learned from Robbie (Gould) and just following through with that and staying consistent."

Ficken's positive attitude and work ethic are noteworthy attributes to his tangible progress.  He faced his share of adversity during the first half of 2012, but he never lost focus on becoming the best player he could be for the team.

"When it comes to special teams, you lead by example as a specialist," Ficken said.  "It's hard to lead if you aren't doing your job to the best of your abilities.  I feel like with all of the experience I have, I definitely feel like I have an upper hand in that area where I can show that, 'hey, this is what needs to be done.'"

The Nittany Lions have put a big emphasis on special teams improvement during spring practice.  Ficken has enjoyed working with new special teams coordinator Charles Huff.

"He's really enthusiastic about special teams, which is great," Ficken said.  "He's really bringing a lot of energy to it.  That is really motivating the players to put their best foot forward on special teams, which I really like."

The special teams unit has been thrust into the spotlight throughout spring drills.  At the end of practices, the specialists are challenged with competitions, often with team conditioning on the line.  Coach Franklin then adds to the challenge by putting water on balls to make them more difficult to handle, spraying water at the specialists themselves or calling timeouts to "ice" the unit.  None of that has fazed Ficken, who has been solid since practice began on March 17.  He nailed a 55-yard field goal to save the team from running during a practice earlier this spring.

"Ficken has been money all of camp," running back Akeel Lynch said.  "He's made a lot of improvement.  Anytime it has been double or nothing for running at the end of practice, we put it on Ficken's leg and he's been clutch every time."

"The team gets really excited when we come through for them at the end of practice," Ficken said.

A small, but very significant factor to Ficken's consistency this spring is the return of longtime holder Ryan Keiser.  Keiser suffered a hand injury during the Kent State game last fall and did not hold during the final eight games of the season. 

Just how important is consistency in a kicking operation?

In games with Keiser holding, Ficken went 7-for-8 on field goal attempts and 16-for-16 on point after touchdown attempts in 2013.  His lone miss was a 57-yard attempt against UCF. 

In games without his primary holder, Ficken went 8-for-15 on field goal attempts and 25-for-26 on point after touchdown attempts.

Keiser and Ficken are back to full strength as a kicking unit this spring.

"We basically have picked up right where we were when he went down with the injury," Ficken said.  "It's definitely good to have him back.  I've worked with (Chris) Gulla in the offseason just in case something happens again."

With continued progress and consistency during the rest of the offseason, the sky is the limit for Ficken in 2014.




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Boylston Holds Down the Fort in First Career Start

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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Geoff Boylston had been waiting for the opportunity to be a starting pitcher for so long, so nobody could blame him for being a little nervous when the chance finally came.

Making the first start of his career against West Virginia last night after spending the past three and a half seasons either injured or occasionally coming out of the bullpen, the redshirt junior gave up three runs - two earned - on four hits in the first two innings, and he knew something needed to change.

"I was a little tentative at first and I was trying to get a feel for things instead of just going after [hitters]," Boylston said. "At that point I just stopped caring and decided they could hit the ball as hard as they wanted because my defense was playing well behind me."

Settling down, Boylston gave up just two more hits over the next three and two-thirds innings in the longest performance of his career, as the Nittany Lions (16-14) defeated the Mountaineers (16-12), 8-4, to improve to 8-0 at home on the season.

Though he only recorded one strikeout, he also issued just one walk and retired nine straight batters from the end of the second inning through the start of the fifth as Penn State quickly erased an early West Virginia lead.

With his longest outing having previously been just three and one-third innings in 2011 against Albany and having not seen the mound since a March 12 relief appearance at Fresno State, even Boylston couldn't have predicted that he would wind up going longer than five innings on Tuesday.

"Coach [Rob] Cooper preaches taking everything one pitch at a time, so I was only thinking about [getting] strike one," Boylston said. "Things compounded and the next thing I knew I was sitting in the sixth inning."

Afterwards, the West Chester, Pa. native still seemed to be somewhat in awe of the fact that he had just won his first ever collegiate start.

It was only yesterday that the biggest stress in his life had been his upcoming accounting exam. That was until he received a surprise phone call from fellow pitcher Patton Taylor.

"I was in the library studying and I get a call from Patton and he said 'dude you're starting tomorrow,' and I just said 'wait, what,'" Boylston said. "Then I found out again when I walked into the locker room."

As surprising as it may have seemed to go with a pitcher who had never started a game against easily one of the Nittany Lions toughest opponents, Cooper and pitching coach Brian Anderson never hesitated with their decision to go with the untested Boylston.

Although he had only appeared in four games and thrown just two and two-thirds innings previously this season, Cooper knew the fourth year pitcher deserved a chance to prove himself, even if it was against a tough Mountaineers squad.

"Geoff has been working hard and what you saw tonight is what we all felt [Geoff] could do," Cooper said. "His biggest problem has been trusting himself and he just needed to slow the game down and compete."

As big a win as it was for a Penn State team that has now won 11 of its last 13 games, it meant even more to the former Archmere Academy standout, who's career hadn't exactly gone the way he originally expected it to.

The past three years have included more time sitting in the dugout than on the mound for Boylston, who entering this season had appeared in 27 games in two active seasons while missing all of 2012 with an injury.

Having the chance to not only run out to the mound and hear his name announced as the starter, but also to exit the game to a standing ovation from the fans and his teammates, are two moments that Boylston will never forget.

"Running out at the start was probably one of the greatest feelings I've had in the past three years," Boylston said. "The last three years of my baseball career haven't been too bright and there have been a lot of dark spots. To have an ovation like that was truly special and I want to thank everyone."

Now that he has proven he can beat an elite team, it might not be long before Boylston gets to hear hears his name called again.

"He's a guy that deserves another shot for sure," Cooper said. "Hopefully he can show that this is something he can do on a consistent basis."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Nittany Lions Back On Track With Win Against Cornell

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By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions took to the Penn State Lacrosse Field on Tuesday evening with only one thing on their minds - beat Cornell.


The Nittany Lions had dropped two hard-fought games against ALC rivals Florida and Northwestern, but they were determined to show their fans, their coaching staff, and themselves the kind of a team they are and the kind of team they can be. It's a team that doesn't quit, makes the smart play, and stays focused on its goals.

That was the team the Penn State faithful saw beat Cornell, 13-8, and get back to its winning ways.

The Nittany Lions and the Big Red went back and forth to start off the game. Cornell was having tremendous success off the draw, but that didn't seem to slow down the girls in blue and white. After Cornell sophomore Lindsay Toppe gave the Big Red a 3-4 lead with just over 11 minutes left in the first half, the Nittany Lions just took over the game.

Penn State scored six goals - four of which came from the stick of Madison Cyr - over the last 11 minutes to Cornell's two goals, and they ended the half with a 9-6 lead. Missy Doherty's squad started to win draw controls, 50-50 balls and took complete advantage of their opportunities.

"...But that's challenge of every game we have, is to be able to keep that energy up," the head coach said. "Especially with the three remaining games we have, they are going to be just like this one. It's a hard fought battle and we have to be ready to bring our best."


Cyr was the story to end the first half. The four goals she scored were the result of hustle and strong willpower. She received a well-deserved applause from teammates and fans when she took a break with two minutes left in the first half after spearheading the comeback.

In the second half, after a very inspiring speech from Doherty, the Nittany Lions continued their dominance and made all the necessary plays to secure the victory. Their possessions on offense were crisp, and well executed and the defense continued to be ball-hawks and create turnovers, while keeping the Cornell offense at bay.

Six Nittany Lions found their way onto the score sheet and helped contribute to the win. It was a total team effort on offense and defense and the Nittany Lions seemed to hit a stride and never look back. Attacker Jess Loizeaux continued to play well and helped contribute to the win with an early goal and a few helpers throughout the evening.

"Playing here," Loizeaux said, "it reminds me of having fun and playing the game. I know I'm playing better here than I did at [University of Virginia] and I think that's part of the reason why, because I'm having fun while I'm playing. I enjoy coming to practice every day and I think its fun to play with the teammates. I love playing with Maggie [McCormick], and Mackenzie [Cyr], and Madison [Cyr], and Jen [Mosketti] and all the other girls on the attack."

Along with Cyr and Loizeaux, midfielders Abby Smucker, Ally Heavens, and Tatum Coffey all finished the day with two goals. Coffey also recorded an assist on Heaven's goal to open the game, giving her 11 on the season and tying her career-high.

"I think that's one of the thing we wanted to take advantage of this year is not having three to four main scorers, [but] to have a lot of threats so they're not really sure where the goals are going to be coming from," Doherty said. "Thankfully for the girls, every game a different player steps up and it's been nice to see everybody contribute."

This win will be a huge momentum boost as Penn State prepare for a showdown with ALC Rival Ohio State. The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions have gone back and forth over recent years, and both teams have a lot riding on the game. Doherty and her staff know the game will be a challenging one, but they also know they will be ready for what the Buckeyes bring.

"Ohio State is a big game," Doherty said. "They've done really well this season and it's always kind a grudge match there and we're just ready to come out, fight, and try to bring our best game."

VIDEO: 2014 NFL Pro Day Interviews

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Photo Gallery: 2014 NFL Pro Day


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Eleven former Nittany Lions participated in Penn State's 2014 Pro Day inside the Lasch Football Building and Holuba Hall on Tuesday.

The participants took part in mental and physical testing in front of representatives from 26 different NFL teams in preparation for the 2014 NFL Draft, which takes place in New York City on May 8-10.

9905530.jpegThe Pro Day schedule included film study, scout meetings with coaches, Wonderlic testing, team testing, player interviews, height, weight, reach testing, flexibility testing, 225-pound bench, physical testing on the practice field and individual player/group workouts.

The physical testing on the practice field included two 40-yard dashes, two 20-yard shuttle runs, L cone drill, one 60-yard shuttle run, two broad jumps and two vertical jumps.

The participants on Monday consisted of the following 11 former Nittany Lions: WR - Allen Robinson and Brandon Felder, OL - John Urschel, Garry Gilliam and Adam Gress, TE - Matt Lehman, DL - DaQuan Jones, LB - Glenn Carson, DB - Stephen Obeng-Agyapong and Malcolm Willis, P - Alex Butterworth.

"I was happy to be able to get back here to Penn State. This is home for me," Urschel said.  "I worked on polishing a few things.  I think I took a little bit off my 40 (time) today, so that's a good thing.  I looked good in drills. So, all's well that ends well."

In addition to Pro Day, Jones, Robinson and Urschel participated in the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis during February.  All three were pleased with progress and improvements they made from February to Tuesday's workout at Penn State.  Robinson's cousin and Ottawa Redblacks (Canadian Football League) quarterback Kevin Glenn threw for Robinson and Felder during passing drills.

"I feel great.  I feel in (great) shape," Robinson said.  "My body feels good."

Penn State head coach James Franklin was in attendance for the Pro Day festivities, in addition to Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly.

Several former Nittany Lion were among the observers, as well, including All-Americans Kyle Brady, Bobby Engram, Kenny Jackson and Stefen Wisniewski.
    


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Triple Overtime Setback to Drexel Provided Some 'Bright Spots'

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By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- For the Penn State men's lacrosse team, dropping a triple overtime thriller to Drexel last Saturday provided far more than just heartbreak. The team exhibited grittiness, determination and persistence from all depths of the roster.


"Look no further than guys like Michael Sutton and Danny Craig," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "Those guys have just stayed the course and have been persistent all year. They deserve all the playing time they get because of their resilient efforts."

The freshman duo of Craig and Sutton combined for nine points against the Dragons, displaying their will and deservedness to earn more minutes and starts.

"They were both tremendous bright spots," Tambroni said. "Our freshmen are starting to play with confidence and playing to what we thought their potential could be."

Sutton, a midfielder, netted five goals in the 13-12 setback on Saturday. His numbers weren't the only thing that impressed his coaches in his first start--but his demonstration of persistence and effort that has culminated all season long.

"Mike Sutton has never waivered in his own ability," Tambroni said. "He's continued to embrace his role whether it was on the scout team, deep within the second unit or now as a starter and very high contributor."

Sutton isn't alone in this display, as Craig and fellow freshman Nick Aponte also had big games against Drexel.

"Credit the guys that have been sitting on the bench all year, keep working hard and continue to believe in themselves," the fourth-year coach said.

The roller coaster game against Drexel marked the fourth loss in the last five for the Nittany Lions.

"It is not from a lack of trying," Tambroni said. "Our guys are continuing to give a great effort and keep moving forward with the belief of being successful."


A major theme in the last four losses has been that the team hasn't gotten off to the early start in each half that the coaches would like to see. Despite scoring three goals in the first quarter last Saturday, Tambroni would like to see a faster pace in the opening quarter.

"For whatever reason--the start of the game and the start of the third quarter have not been very kind to us in the majority of our games," Tambroni said. "If you take the first ten minutes of every game and the first five minutes of every third quarter--it's a lopsided affair."

With three games remaining on the schedule, the team is looking to tighten up this disconnect in the opening quarters of both halves.

"We have to do a better job as coaches and our guys have to do a better job as players of providing a little more focus to when that first whistle is blown."

The Blue and White are committed to finishing this season strong, which means a variety of things to players and coaches. Winning out, seeing more production from numerous players on the field and seeing growth from the freshmen class are among the team's goals.

"I believe this group is committed and we need to find a way to play up to our potential," Tambroni said. "We are dead set on finishing this season on a high note."

The Nittany Lions will travel to Maryland next Saturday to take on Towson. Opening faceoff against the Tigers is set for 7 p.m.