Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Nittany Lions will take on the MAAC champion, Canisius Griffins, Friday night as they host their first NCAA game since 2005. The Nittany Lions were ousted by North Carolina, 7-6, in triple overtime the last time the team hosted.
Starting the tournament at home will be extremely advantageous for the Nittany Lions. Penn State has been excellent going undefeated and dominating their opponents at home this season. They have outscored their opponents 116-70 and beat ranked teams like No. 2 Florida and No. 15 Ohio State.
The team hit the practice field hard this week as they prepare for a major weekend in the program's history. With the sun shining and the energy on the field palpable, the Nittany Lions know what's at stake with their matchup Friday. If Penn State can edge Canisius, the team would play the winner of University of Connecticut versus Massachusetts on Sunday. If they can advance past Sunday's showdown, it would match the farthest the team has advanced in the tournament under head coach Missy Doherty.
Penn State's focus is at an all-time high. After falling short to the Northwestern Wildcats in the ALC conference tournament last week, it is not hard to see the chip on the shoulder of these Nittany Lions. Their practices have found a new intensity and tenacity, but they still keep the same fun mentality they have throughout this season.
Tuesday's practice focused on getting back to their winning ways. Through scrimmages, 7-on-7 drills, free position drills and more, the team looked re-energized and prepared for their weekend ahead. Although the Nittany Lions are not extremely familiar with Canisius, they know they cannot overlook their opponent.
"You can't really [overlook Canisius] because if we don't win it's our last game, the girls know that," Doherty said. "They're really good, they have some good athletic players, they challenge hard and they're quick so it's not a team from film that is going to take us lightly, so we have to be ready to bring our strengths to the field and go for sixty minutes."
Penn State, who earned a share of its first ALC regular season championship this season, outranks Canisius in nearly every major offensive category. They have registered more goals this season and taken more shots than their NCAA opponent. The major difference between the two squads is the play on the defensive end of the field.
The Griffins have one of the most elite goalies in the nation. Sophomore Kayla Scully has been the focal part of a dominant defensive unit. She is currently ranked No. 3 in the nation with a .521 save percentage and No. 5 in the nation allowing just 7.38 goals per game. As a team, the Griffins have allowed just 8.17 goals per game this season.
Scully will attempt to shut down an offensive unit that looks stronger after every game. The Nittany Lions have gotten solid play from their attackers and midfielders, and look to keep that going this weekend. Sophomores Maggie McCormick and Kelly Lechner have had breakout seasons for the team. McCormick paces the Nittany Lions with 43 goals, while Lechner has registered 41 of her own.
Lechner has turned a solid freshman season into a stellar sophomore season. She has more than doubled her goals as well as her draw controls. Lechner has been the team's most outstanding midfielder throughout the 2013 season helping control the pace of the game for Missy Doherty's Nittany Lions. She has become an attacking force and also a solid defensive contributor each game. Along with senior defender Katie Guy, McCormick and Lechner were named IWLCA All-West/Midwest Region First-Team.
The Nittany Lions have been in this position before. Last season the team advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Florida, 15-2. After gaining some experience and familiarity with postseason play, Penn State now looks poised for a deep postseason push.
"Overall, every year is different from the prior year. This year we have a fairly young team experiencing the NCAAs for the first time," Doherty said. "We're bringing that youth into the tournament and seeing how far that takes us."
Penn State has also emerged as a strong championship contender because of the strength of their schedule. The Nittany Lions have played several top ranked opponents and also play in what some might call the toughest conference in the nation. The American Lacrosse Conference currently has three teams ranked in the top 5.
"I think that what's really prepared them for postseason is our schedule. I go back and forth on playing a pretty tough schedule, but when you get to points like this in the season, they're not going to face anything in the NCAAs that they haven't already faced," Doherty said. "We went to overtime with Northwestern, we beat Florida, we beat Virginia, we played tight games against some other teams that we really wanted to pull out a win, so we've experienced pretty much everything we could have possibly experienced in the regular season to get us ready for post season."
The Nittany Lions will look to continue improving their defense as they prepare for their NCAA showdown. The team has seen improvements with each passing game, but still needs to find their feet if they hope to advance far into NCAAs. Emi Smith has become a solid goaltender for the Nittany Lions, especially at home. She has yet to lose and has recorded 35 saves at the Penn State Lacrosse Field.
Guy, along with senior defender Colleen Shea, will also play a crucial role as Penn State looks to advance. Guy has been the team's defensive leader this season pacing the Nittany Lions with 35 caused turnovers. She currently ranks No. 12 in the nation averaging 1.94 caused turnovers per game. Along with Guy, freshman phenom Jenna Mosketti has been a major defensive contributor. Mosketti has 21 caused turnovers this season and has helped lockdown opposing offenses. The freshman midfielder has also registered 30 points, which is good for sixth on the team.
"It's one game and out at this point so we have to approach it like it's our last game of the season. We're ready to go hard, were ready to work as hard as we can to get the win," Doherty said. "We're fortunate [to be hosting]. I think the girls did a great job the whole season of working hard and coming up with some big wins, so were excited to be here for our fans and our friends.
With so much time to prepare for their upcoming game, most teams might fear rust, not the Nittany Lions. The team has taken advantage of the time off and Doherty says, although her team has more time off than usual, it's never a challenge to get ready for game time.
"It's always difficult keeping them focused. Classes are over, so they have a little too much time on their hands," Doherty said. "But thankfully we have a team of competitors, they want to come out, they want to go hard and they want to win and when you have people that are innately competitive it's not too hard to draw it back out."
The Nittany Lions are well aware of the importance of this weekend. They have worked hard all season in preparation for this moment. While practice continues on Thursday, Penn State cannot wait to hit the field Friday night. Game time is set for 4 p.m. at the Penn State Lacrosse Field.
"Overall I think our focus all year has been on us and bringing our best, so hopefully we'll do that Friday," Doherty said.
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Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
Coaches Caravan Registration
Photo Gallery - Williamsport & Allentown
ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Week two of the Penn State Coaches Caravan kicked off on Tuesday before a sold out crowd of nearly 300 fans in Williamsport and 350 in the Lehigh Valley.
The modified Fullington Bus rolled out of the Bryce Jordan Center parking lot shortly after 9:30 a.m. en route to the Pennsylvania College of Technology campus in Williamsport. Head coaches Bill O'Brien, Charlene Morett and Mark Pavlik delivered passionate speeches to an enthusiastic group of Penn State fans and alums on Tuesday at lunch. Take a look through some highlights on day four.
Stop VII - Williamsport (Penn College of Technology)
Week two began with a great Coaches Caravan stop inside the auditorium on the Penn College of Technology campus. O'Brien, Morett and Pavlik headlined the event with speeches to thank the Penn State fans for their support.
Morett, who will enter her 27th season at the helm of the Nittany Lion field hockey team in the fall, opened the panel of speakers at the luncheon. The 2012 Big Ten Coach of the Year told the crowd that she walked onto the Penn State campus in 1975 as a freshman, and instantly, she knew what type of a special place it was.
On the field of play, Morett has been a superb leader of the field hockey program, leading the Nittany Lions to six Big Ten titles, six Big Ten postseason titles and five of her teams have reached the NCAA semifinals. But off the field, the Philadelphia native has been a tremendous ambassador for the University.
"What makes an event like this special is to come out and see some great old friends and to make some great new friends," Morett said.
Pavlik, who just returned from Penn State's 28th trip (15th straight) the NCAA men's volleyball semifinals, echoed Morett's comments about being in front of a great group of enthusiastic Penn State supporters. Pavlik just finished his 19th season as a head coach in Happy Valley.
"When I go to work every morning, I have to pinch myself," Pavlik said of the opportunity he has.
The Western Pennsylvania native added that there is something special about Penn State's support system everywhere he goes. That being said, Pavlik noted how the fans play a direct, one-team role when the department's teams are competing on the road.
"To have a good crowd on the road, there's no better feeling," Pavlik said.
O'Brien was the final head coach to speak in Williamsport. He opened his speech by introducing Williamsport native Jamie Van Fleet, who was a graduate of the Nittany Lion football program. Van Fleet was unable to play in 2012 due to injury, but played a key role for the Nittany Lions on the sidelines, serving as a defensive mentor assisting the coaching staff.
Heading into his second season as a head coach, O'Brien joked with Morett and Pavlik that he only has 26 more seasons to catch up with the Lion field hockey leader. As has been the case at every stop, though, O'Brien's message focused on the support of the fans and how much it means to the football program, athletic department and the University.
"Every time you go to a speaking engagement (like this one), you know the room will be filled with passionate fans," O'Brien said.
VIDEO: Williamsport Press Conference with Coaches O'Brien, Morett and Pavlik
Stop VIII: Allentown (Holiday Inn Conference Lehigh Valley)
Following the sold out luncheon, the Caravan bus traveled south through Pennsylvania for an evening stop on the western edge of the Lehigh Valley. O'Brien, Morett and Pavlik spoke to a dinner crowd outside of Allentown.
Part of what makes the Coaches Caravan unique for the fans in attendance is how each stop usually features a different story from the head coaches speaking. The head coaches often tell stories about their teams or time at Penn State.
On Tuesday night, O'Brien opened his speech by sharing about an event that took place in Happy Valley shortly after the NCAA announced its sanctions against the football program. Former Nittany Lions Tom Donchez and Mike Guman, both former Nittany Lion greats from nearby Bethlehem, were in the crowd. Seeing those two prior to the evening event, it triggered O'Brien to talk about the support from the Penn State Letterman's Club.
Just days after the announcement of the sanctions, O'Brien said that 500 lettermen from all over the country attended a meeting in Holuba Hall on very short notice to talk about what it meant to play football at Penn State. While it was a story O'Brien wanted to share with the crowd about the lettermen, it provided a living, breathing example of what he has talked about for the duration of the Caravan.
The support system surrounding Penn State is special.
Morett spoke about on Tuesday night. And so did Pavlik.
"Char is right, you can feel the energy when you walk into a room like this," O'Brien said.
Penn Staters are a unique group with unwavering support, no matter what the circumstances are. The head coaches feel fortunate to have the type of network behind them.
"Don't underestimate the power you have to help mold our students and student-athletes," Pavlik told the crowd.
"We have an amazing product we get to sell year in and year out at Penn State," Morett said.
Now more than ever, as O'Brien has said at each of the eight stops on the Coaches Caravan, the Penn State support system needs to be strong as the athletic programs continue to move forward in a positive direction.
Following a great evening program, all three coaches received a standing ovation as the event closed. The Caravan moves on to New York City on Wednesday for a lunch stop before traveling to Scranton for a dinner event.
VIDEO: Allentown Press Conference with Coach O'Brien
Miles Covered on Day One - 203 miles
Miles Covered on Day Two - 147 miles
Miles Covered on Day Three - 254 miles
Miles Covered on Day Four - 188 miles
Caravan Total - 792 miles
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After nearly three months of play, Penn State softball head coach Robin Petrini says that there are two words to describe her 2013 Nittany Lions.
The team ended its regular season with a 2-0 setback to Nebraska on Monday at Beard Field and finish with a 15-33 record overall. But numbers and losses aren't much of interest to Petrini after 48 games that she felt were played hard and played well.
"We never took the field as a defeated team," said Petrini. "We always took the field like, 'Let's go play hard.' And that says a lot about the character of your kids."
And for a team that featured six seniors, four juniors, three sophomores and eight freshmen, successfully coming together and working hard is quite the accomplishment.
Macy Jones, who is one of those eight newcomers, said that she bought right into the Nittany Lion program even though she only expected to be playing a few innings here and there. The freshman pitcher threw 166 of the 305 innings that the team played and started 47 of the 48 contests.
"I think we grew the whole season," said Jones. "I think our record doesn't show our potential and how good we really are and we definitely learned a lot."
Jones said that the rest of her team made her job much less stressful most of the time too, as the Penn State offense scored a total of 206 runs to support her whoever was in the circle.
"It's really encouraging. I don't feel like I have to throw a shut-out every game," said Jones. "Even though we didn't score this game we usually get runs across the board so it takes away the pressure."
Looking ahead, the 11th-seeded Lions turn to the Big Ten Tournament in Lincoln, Neb. and prepare to face sixth-seeded Illinois in the first round of play on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Senior Cassidy Bell played her last contest at Beard Field on Monday afternoon, but said that she's not giving up here blue and white uniform just yet. The veteran said that the way her team has recently been pitching, hitting and fielding, she doesn't see why it wouldn't make a postseason run.
"I think we are underdogs going into it but sometimes teams come into it expecting to just walk over us but that hasn't been the case lately and that's to our advantage," said Bell. "We have everything going right now so I think it will be a good matchup."
Thursday's match-up will be the first between Penn State and the Illini this year, but Bell said that she and her teammates won't prepare much differently than they have been all season.
"We've just got to keep being 'pesky Penn State'," said Bell. "We keep coming at you and we don't back down and that's what we've done all season. We're good at never saying die."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was a precarious situation the Nittany Lions found themselves in; bases loaded, no outs in the bottom of the tenth inning in a tie game. Penn State (12-30, 3-15 Big Ten) got out of the jam unscathed and flipped the script on Minnesota (28-15, 11-4 Big Ten), loading the bases with no out before a Tyler Skerpon fielders choice pushed the game winning run across the plate.
If you were in the stands at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park you could feel the momentum begin to shift in the sixth inning when the Lions tied the game at 3-3 with a pair of runs and when Neal Herring got out of the bases loaded jam in the tenth inning, you knew that it was a now or never moment.
"The pitching feeds off the defense, which feeds off the hitting," said senior Luis Montesinos. "Everything feeds off the other and when [the pitchers] are doing well [the hitters] are going to take that confidence to the plate."
The team fed off of each other down the stretch in the series final against Minnesota.
After starting pitcher Steven Hill allowed a pair of runs in the top of the sixth inning it looked like the Lions were headed towards a sixth straight loss, but that was not the case.
J.C. Coban and Skerpon got the bottom of the sixth inning started with a single and a walk, respectively. James Coates followed with his fourth infield single of the year and when Gophers third baseman Ryan Abrahamson's throw went wide of the first baseman, Coban and Skerpon were both able cross the plate to tie things up.
Both team's threatened during the next four innings, but it wasn't until Skerpon stepped to the plate in the tenth that someone was able to end the battle of wills.
"I've been struggling a little bit lately," said Skerpon, "but going into my last at-bat I told [Coban], 'if you don't do it, I'm going to'. I just went to the plate wanting to hit the ball hard somewhere. The corners were playing in and I obviously didn't hit it very hard, but I did my best to beat it out and it was enough."
The sophomore was 0-for-3 with a walk entering his fifth plate appearance of the afternoon, but the confidence never wavered and he delivered one of the biggest hits of his young career.
In life you do your best work when you feel comfortable; it's the same way in baseball. On Sunday, the Lions entered the series final with a comfortable feeling at the plate and it showed as they out-hit the Gophers, 8-7, and put base runners on in seven of the ten innings.
Wine felt like his team had played well offensively all weekend, especially against a pitching staff as deep as Minnesota's. The Gophers do not allow many big innings and have limited opponents to 4.6 runs per game this season and own a Big Ten-best .230 batting average against, however, Penn State never felt uneasy in the batter's box.
"We are a team that is going hustle and play hard," said Skerpon. "We are always working hard, everyone is up early working in the weight room, doing conditioning and getting in swings. That's one thing we stress before every game to make sure that you are locked in and playing hard on every pitch."
Now the Lions have to carry that momentum into the final two weeks of the regular season. With just eight games left on the schedule, Penn State will play four straight road games, before closing the year with four straight at home and are looking to keep this momentum going down the stretch.
"We just have to keep moving forward," said Skerpon. "We saw some pretty good pitching from Minnesota this weekend and the bats started to come alive a little bit. We just have to keep playing out game, getting on base, moving runners, stealing bases and playing solid defensively."
The effort has been there, but sometimes baseball is about catching - or making - a break or two and the Lions made their own breaks on Sunday and were able to end the weekend on a high note.
"I have been really happy with our effort," said Wine. "Sometimes things just haven't gone our way, but today we just went out there and reacted and it worked out for us."
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth,
senior Lauren Yao doubled to left on the 17th pitch of her at-bat to
bring in three runs and give the Nittany Lions a 3-2 lead over Nebraska.
It was her longest at-bat of the season, but when Yao finally put the ball between the white lines she said it was easily the highlight of her year.
"The energy is what keeps you motivated and especially since my parents were here and we had a huge crowd out, I was happy I could be the one to get it done," said Yao.
The hit would prove to be enough to give the Lions the lead and the victory two innings later as the Cornhuskers could not respond. And while head coach Robin Petrini said that she was happy for Yao to come up big in a pressure spot, she was even more proud of the way it all came together.
Kasie Hatfield led off the inning with a single to right and Alyssa Renwick put down a sacrifice-bunt to move her. Then, Liz Presto pinch-hit for Shannon Hutchinson and battled a nine-pitch at-bat to earn a single to left. Cassidy Bell followed with a walk, and the bases were loaded for Yao. Petrini said that she couldn't have asked for more.
"For them to fight and overcome all of the adversity that we've had all year shows a lot of character for this team," said Petrini. "They made it happen like I know they can, but more importantly like they know they can."
And what really sealed the deal was the pressure pitching that came from sophomore Marissa Diescher. Diescher took over for started Jordan Wheatley in the middle of the third and was supposed to get the Lions through two innings of play.
"After I stuck her in there and she got us out of the third, I told her I needed one more out of her and then we'd go from there," said Petrini.
But Diescher wanted more.
She finished the game and allowed just two hits to get the win.
"I just had to attack the batters and kept throwing hard," said Diescher. "As the game goes on I really get into it and I actually start to throw harder as the game goes on."
The victory marks the Lions' fourth in the last six games played, and their fifth Big Ten win this season. And on a day that celebrated six seniors that have averaged more than 162 starts for the Nittany Lions, their head coach was nothing but proud.
"This team has never torn apart, they've never gotten on each other, they've come out every day, they've worked hard and they've encouraged each other," said Petrini. "That's a sign of good leadership from your seniors."
Penn State closes out its regular-season schedule in the finale of a three-game series against Nebraska at 1 p.m. on Monday at Beard Field.
Lucas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State hosted the Jim Thorpe Open, its only home meet of the season, Friday night at the outdoor track.
It was a relatively small meet with only three other teams - University of Buffalo, Shippensburg University, and Monroe College, competing.
However, that didn't stop Penn State high jumper Jon Hendershot form having an outstanding performance. The junior tied the school record in the event clearing the bar at 7-03.25. The record Hendershot tied has been standing since 1985 and currently has him sitting at No. 3 in the Big Ten and No. 10 in the nation.
Hendershot wasn't the only field athlete to have a good night. Redshirt junior Will Barr captured two victories. In the discus, Barr won the even with a toss of 180-06, a season best. He took the hammer with a throw of 204-00.
The Big Ten leader in the shot put, Darrell Hill, further distanced himself from the competition setting a new personal best. Hill won the event with a toss of 62-09.25.
Melissa Kurzdorfer replicated Barr's performance on the women's side. She tossed 165-1 in the discus to win the event. Then tossed the hammer 195-08.
On the track the women's team was lead by strong performance by junior Mahagony Jones and sophomore Dynasty McGee. Jones took the 100-meter dash in a time of 11.74. McGee would win the 200-meter dash in 24.93.
The men were equally as successful posting victories in the 400 meters and 110-meter hurdles. Junior Bernard Bennett-Green lead in the way in the 400 clocking in at 47.90, a full second ahead of the second place finisher. Sancho Barrett capture a victory in the hurdles. The sophomore won the race in 14.28.
The Nittany Lions will be back in action next weekend as they travel to Columbus, Ohio for the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. The meet is schedule to open Friday and is a three-day event.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (11-30,
2-15 Big Ten) dropped their second straight contest to Minnesota (28-14, 11-3
Big Ten) on Saturday inside Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, but the final score
of 7-3 didn't damper the spirits or reveal the positives that have been
building in the Nittany Lions clubhouse.
Penn State was again stung by an early onslaught of offense from the Gophers, who tallied all seven of their runs between the second and fourth innings, but three PSU relievers combined to throw the final five innings scoreless and the offense was able to put pressure on the Gophers, even though they were unable to capitalize on opportunities against one of the best pitching staffs in the country.
That wasn't an excuse for the players, however, as they know they need continue to relax, take it one pitch at a time and keep pushing forward with just nine game left in the 2013 season.
"The effort is there," said senior Cody Lewis. "I have no doubt about that. Sometimes we play a little tight and put [the game] on a pedestal and try too hard, instead of playing loose and just letting the game come to us. Sometimes we [think too much] and that gets in the way. We just have to go out and play our game."
That is something that Lewis did on Saturday as the first reliever out of the bullpen versus Minnesota. Entering the game out of the bullpen to start the fifth inning, Lewis retired nine of the first 11 batters he faced and fired three and two-thirds innings of scoreless work. He tied his career-high with five strikeouts, four of the looking variety, and allowed just five base runners.
"Cody struggled with an injury last year, but he's past that now," said head coach Robbie Wine. "He changed his arm angle and he's always been a competitor. He's been one of our main guys [out of the bullpen] and he came in today in a game that was far from over and kept putting up zeroes for us. He's been doing his job [all year]."
Another player that has been doing his job is junior Alex Farkes. The catcher was able to put some good swings on the ball, but had nothing to show for it, which ended his 10-game hitting streak, but it is the little things that he does that stand out to his coaches.
"Farkes has done a good job," said Wine. "He's been throwing and receiving the ball well, and he's really taking charge behind the plate. As a coach you see things he is doing that the everyday fan might not see. His big thing has been building confidence and taking control of the pitching staff. He's also a great guy in the dugout and the clubhouse"
For Farkes, it has been about getting back to the fundamentals and getting a chance to play every day. He has already set career-bests in a host of offensive categories and is hitting .247 15 runs scored and nine RBIs. He made his career-high 25th start on Saturday and has played in 30 of the team's 41 games and is fielding almost .980.
"I've been trying to keep it simple and just make solid contact," said Farkes. "Seeing opposing pitchers on a consistent basis has been huge, too. You start to feel good at the plate and you're not trying to prove too much [when you get to play every day]. It helps the game slow down a little bit and makes it fun."
Farkes, Lewis and the rest of the Nittany Lions will try to get back on track in the series finale with Minnesota on Sunday starting at 12:05 p.m.
The Blue and White will send senior Steven Hill to the mound for his tenth start of the season and coach Wine knows his team needs a strong outing from Hill to help the team build some momentum down the stretch.
"We are going to get back to the basics and find the fun in the game," said Wine. "We are hoping Steve [Hill] goes out there and keep us in the game early...We're not playing bad, but it just feels like we are climbing a mountain right now. We need to get some momentum early and build on it."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -When you look at the
scorebook for the Nittany Lions from Friday night contest vs. Minnesota (27-14,
10-3 Big Ten) you see that Penn State (11-29, 2-14 Big Ten) put runners on base
in seven of the nine innings against one of the Big Ten's top pitchers, but 12
free baserunners and 12 hits by the Gophers were too much in the 11-2 loss.
"It starts on the mound," said Wine. "When you have long innings...it takes the wind out of you both offensively and from a pitching standpoint. If tonight's was closer, it would have been a different game. Tomorrow [Greg Welsh] needs to go out there with some energy, get deep [in the game] and give us a chance to win."
It looked like sophomore T.J. Jann would present the Lions with a great chance to grab a victory after allowing a first inning run and then limiting the Gophers offense to just a hit over the next two frames.
Penn State grabbed their first lead of the game in the second inning by taking advantage of a misplay by the Gophers and using some timely hitting. J.J. White reached on a two-out error and Alex Farkes moved his hitting streak to ten games with a base hit. Zach Ell stepped in and delivered with a two-out, two-RBI double down the left field line to push the home squad out to a 2-1 lead.
The Lions faced Minnestoa's Friday night starter, Tom Windle, twice last season and that helped them in the early going. Windle, one of the top hurlers in the Big Ten with a 2.00 ERA and a .179 batting average against, took the loss on Friday night vs. Penn State in 2012 and that success against the left-hander carried over early.
"We hit [Windle] a little bit last year when we went to their place," said J.C. Coban, "so we came into today with a little confidence. Confidence was a big key today. And we were pretty loose and things were going our way early on."
A six-run fourth inning and two more runs for the Gophers in the fifth slowed the momentum that Penn State had built and made the road a little tougher against an efficient and effective Windle.
The good thing about college baseball is that the Lions will have another chance tomorrow to get back into the win column.
"We just have to take care of the things that we can take care of," said Searer. "[Coach Folmar] always tells us to focus on what we can control, like hustling and coming to ballpark prepared. We just have to keep playing the game the right way. We need to come out and put pressure on [Minnesota] and see what good comes out of it."
Playing 56 games in four months is a daunting task, but it makes focusing on what you can control that much more important. An old baseball adage tells you that momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher.
That momentum will come in the form of junior Greg Welsh on Saturday. He will make his seventh start of the season and carries a 3.62 ERA, the best among the Penn State starters, while ranking second on the team in strikeouts (33) and batting average against (.278).
The left-hander also brings an edge to the mound that his teammates know they can feed off of.
"[Welsh] brings a great demeanor to the mound," Coban said. "He's a competitor. He wants to win. You can always see it in his face; he is just ready to go once he steps on the mound."
Those attributes will go a long way in helping the Lions even their series with the Gophers.
By Pat White, GoPSUsport.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The third time proved to be the charm for Penn State men's lacrosse (12-3, 7-0 CAA) as it defeated UMass (7-8, 2-5 CAA) 10-7 in the semifinal of the CAA Championship on Wednesday.
Head coach Jeff Tambroni knew going into the game that UMass would not be an easy first round matchup. They played a grind-it-out style that slowed Penn State's tempo in the first half. He was pleased with the way his team fought through despite not having a strong first half.
"I am very proud of our team's effort today. We knew we would have our hands full and I am proud of the way our team responded after halftime," Tambroni said. "These guys have fought through a ton of adversity all year and we are very fortunate to be playing in the CAA Championship."
Junior Tom LaCrosse (Canandaigua, N.Y.) and senior Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) got the Nittany Lions a quick 2-0 lead just under three minutes into the game. After that, the Penn State offense went stagnant and couldn't possess the ball for long stretches like UMass did.
UMass' Joe Calvello owned the faceoff X, winning seven of nine first half draws. Tambroni said the lone bright spot for Penn State in the first half was the play of junior defender Steven Bogert (Carlsbad, Calif.). Bogert played one of his best games of the year and stepped up in the first half with four groundballs while played stellar defense.
"I thought Steven Bogert was the player of the game for 60 minutes," Tambroni said. "I thought we struggled in the first half outside of Steven Bogert. He was a monster in between the 30s and outside the wing on faceoffs."
Senior faceoff man Danny Henneghan (Beverly Hills, Mich.) rebounded to win six of 12 faceoffs in the second half. It was a big turnaround for Penn State, and Bogert played a major role in creating possessions. He finished with seven groundballs while adding pestering defense.
"We work on it every day and it was a big part of this week," Bogert said. "Me and Danny have been on a great page. It wasn't just off of faceoffs. I knew coming into this game that groundballs were going to be a big part of this game. I just kind of got in a rhythm and got focused."
Tambroni thought there was a little bit of added pressure to finally move past the first round that may have caused the poor start to the game. Tambroni said that last year's captains-Matt Mackrides, Ryan McGarvey and Ryan Link-wrote the team a note that motivated them coming into the game.
"I thought we played a little tight and lacked mobility," Tambroni said. "I thought in the second half our guys relaxed, played hard, put themselves at ease a little bit, and got over the hump."
Junior Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.) looked relaxed coming out of the break. Sturgis recorded a third quarter hat-trick for the Nittany Lions and was a major spark plug for the offense. The junior attacked the goal from all areas of the field and got his scoring touch back after being held scoreless in the last four contests.
Sturgis said he was the benefactor of the offense beginning to click with good ball movement.
"I think our offense just moved the ball better in the second half," Sturgis said. "We got some good opportunities and we were able to capitalize on some of them."
Penn State has been led offensively all season by a potent attack. In the fourth quarter, Forster, Sturgis and freshman TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) put the team on their back and cruised to victory. After being held in check the first half, Sander chipped in with two goals to match Forster's output, while Sturgis finished with four goals and a helper.
Penn State now looks to claim its first CAA Championship on Friday at 3 p.m. against Towson. The Tigers defeated Drexel 11-8 in Wednesday's night cap. Nittany Lions took down Towson 10-8 at home on April 13. Bogert said the captains said that the regular season means nothing now and that every team has a clean slate.
"Our captains said it best: that we are zero and zero," Bogert said. "It's the CAA playoffs and granted we got a good win today but it doesn't matter now. We are going to our first ever CAA Championship and that's enough of a motivating factor. We are excited about that."
Tambroni said that both teams will look to play to their strengths while taking away the opposition's. Forster and Tambroni both said that the ultimate goal is to prepare and win the next game.
"I think it starts right now," Tambroni said after the game. "I hope they enjoy it for a half an hour to an hour. It is more about rest. We are going to need legs on Friday, so X's and O's are irrelevant to a certain degree."
Towson head coach Sean Nadelen also said that rest will be the key. His team was dominated 19-3 by Drexel in faceoff wins, and he want to see that improve in what will be a possession dominated game.
"It will come down to a possession game, especially with a quick turnaround," Nadelen said. "Teams are going to be a little beaten down in terms of physical status. It comes down to valuing possession time, capitalizing possessions and making sure that the defenses aren't playing a ton of defensive possessions."
A Look at Towson
Towson looked dominating against Drexel in its victory. Midfielder Ben McCarty led the way for Towson with six goals, matching his season total. McCarty stepped into a rhythm as Drexel contained leading scorer Thomas DeNapoli (39 goals, 16 assists) to just one score. Andrew Hodgson added a pair of tallies to up his total to 22 for the season.
DeNapoli and Hodgson are most dangerous with the ball. DeNapoli is at his best when he can initiate the offense from behind the goal and get his hands free in space. Hodgson primarily dodges down the wing where he either takes the open shot, or uses his vision to find open teammates. Against Drexel, they proved they can be used as decoys, and guys like McCarty can get hot as well.
Towson played a slow and methodical game on the offensive end, working the ball around and slowing the tempo. The Tigers average 8.94 goals per game while allowing 8.81. Senior goalkeeper Andrew Wascavage played spectacular against Drexel and posted a .612 save percentage for the season. Wascavage and Penn State keeper Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) will make for a goaltending battle on Friday.
Penn State has won three straight games against Towson dating back to 2011.
Coaches Caravan Registration
Photo Gallery: Lancaster | Photo Gallery: Harrisburg
CAMP HILL, Pa. - The Coaches Caravan capped off the first leg of the 12-stop tour with visits to Lancaster and Harrisburg on Thursday.
A capacity crowd of 330 fans greeted head coaches Bill O'Brien, Cael Sanderson and Russ Rose for a luncheon at Penn Square in Lancaster. The bus then loaded up for a 50-minute drive to Camp Hill for the week's final stop before nearly 550 enthusiastic attendees. In total, more than 2,100 fans and alums took part in Caravan stops during week one. Take a look through some highlights on day three at two visits to the heart of Nittany Nation.
Stop V - Lancaster (Marriott at Penn Square)
A sold out crowd of 330 enthusiastic Penn State fans and alums greeted all three coaches on the docket for Thursday's lunch stop with a warm, standing ovation reception. Five-time NCAA champion women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose joined the Caravan for the final day of the initial leg.
Sanderson kicked off the panel of speakers with high praise of the other two leaders on stage with him. The wrestling offices are just down the hall from the women's volleyball offices inside Rec Hall, and Sanderson told the crowd that when he sees Rose and how he runs his program, he uses it as motivation for leading the wrestling program.
"Coach Rose is a tremendous asset for Penn State," Sanderson said.
"What he (Coach O'Brien) has done for the University is unbelievable," Sanderson went on to say.
Nestled in the heart of wrestling country, Sanderson took the opportunity to tell the fans to take advantage of the opportunity to see talents like David Taylor and Ed Ruth wrestle during their senior seasons. Sanderson said that elite athletes like those two do not come around too often.
Rose took the microphone second and echoed Sanderson's remarks about the cast of coaches on stage at the Caravan stops on Thursday. He joked that his team's 109-match winning streak during the program's unprecedented string of four-straight NCAA titles pales is just a number alongside Sanderson's 159-0 mark as a collegiate wrestler.
The Nittany Lion women's volleyball team will kick off a European tour on Saturday. Rose said he is looking forward to how his team works during the offseason. The Lions kick off the trip in the Czech Republic and cap things off in Italy.
One of the great things about the Caravan is seeing how the coaches interact with one another. All three leaders were truly genuine in their remarks directed at one another. Sanderson and Rose both praised O'Brien for his leadership of the program during the past 15 months. O'Brien's feelings are mutual for the other two coaches. He and Sanderson shared stories and exchanged coaching philosophies throughout the bus travel on Thursday.
"It's very humbling to share the stage with Russ Rose and Cael Sanderson," O'Brien said as he opened his speech.
The trio of coaches in Lancaster was among the seven Penn State leaders who earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors during the 2012-13 season.
"[Penn State] is a great place to be. Our coaching staffs are really strong in a lot of areas," Rose said.
VIDEO: Lancaster Press Conference with Coaches O'Brien, Rose and Sanderson
Stop VI: Harrisburg (Radisson Camp Hill)
Following a luncheon before a capacity crowd, the Caravan rolled into the Harrisburg area for an evening program in Camp Hill. Nearly 550 guests congregated inside the Grand Ballroom at the Radisson to hear O'Brien, Sanderson and Rose address the crowd on Thursday night.
The first week of the Caravan ended with a night fun night of entertainment for the fans in Harrisburg. The largest crowd of the week was a lively, engaged group from start to finish during the speeches and Q&A, largely thanks to another sterling performance from leadoff man Cael Sanderson to kick-start the program.
After drawing a huge crowd and shaking countless hands during the pre-event reception, Sanderson had the audience in stiches with one-liner after one-liner during his speech. Among many quick-witted moments, he got the crowd into a standing ovation contest, as he called it, to see how many times he could get the crowd to give O'Brien a standing ovation during his own speech.
All three coaches fed off of one another at both stops on Thursday, but Sanderson and O'Brien were a comical matchup on stage throughout the evening in Harrisburg. O'Brien answered Sanderson's stand-up act later during his speech by ribbing the wrestling legend for losing a grand total of three matches from high school through college (He was a combined 286-3 in high school and college.)
"Come on, Cael. You could have done better than that (laughter)," O'Brien said.
With the crowd roaring, Rose took the microphone and said," Cael's on fire!" The Nittany Lion women's volleyball head coach went on to tell the crowd that the individuals in the room understood what the true meaning is behind being a Penn Stater. The 34-year veteran also knows a thing or two about what Penn State is all about with its success on the field of play and in the classroom.
"I've been there a long time, and I love being there," Rose said. "I'm not going anywhere."
"When you talk about Penn State around the country, you just want people to see what people are like in a room like this," O'Brien said.
The Penn State community is special to all three coaches. Without a doubt, they all had fun joking with one another on stage Thursday night, but there is no question how each coach feels about the place they call home and the people who support the Blue and White.
"If you have that support before the success that's how you get the success, and that's what we have at Penn State," Sanderson said.
"A roomful of energetic, passionate Penn Staters, this is what it's all about," O'Brien said.
VIDEO: Harrisburg Press Conference with Coaches O'Brien, Rose and Sanderson
Miles Covered on Day One - 203 miles
Miles Covered on Day Two - 147 miles
Miles Covered on Day Three - 254 miles
Caravan Total - 604 miles
The Caravan resumes on Tuesday with stops in Williamsport and Allentown.
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