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Nittany Lions Win THON Game

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Teddy bears flew through the air during the second intermission of No. 7 Penn State's (13-1-1, 2-0-0-0 Big Ten) Friday night victory against No. 20 Michigan (6-7-1, 0-2-0-0 Big Ten). 

It was Penn State's THON game and hundreds of plush animals of all kinds were thrown on the ice, as part of the teddy bear toss tradition. Bears, turtles, rabbits, and stuffed elephants landed on the smooth surface after the fans in attendance were encouraged to throw them over the boards.

That same intermission, the Nittany Lions headed into the locker room up 3-1. Goals from junior forward James Robinson, junior defenseman Trevor Hamilton, and freshman forward Denis Smirnov in the first period, gave Penn State the edge. 

"The Denis Smirnov goal, a great block by Dylan Richard, and then an unbelievable pass by Derian Hamilton to send to [Smirnov] on the breakaway," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "That was a big, big goal and a big difference heading into the locker room up two instead of one."

The Nittany Lions defeated the Wolverines, 5-1. Sophomore forward Andrew Sturtz and freshman forward Brandon Biro rounded out the goals for the Nittany Lions.

"We've got to go and get even hungrier," sophomore defenseman Kevin Kerr said. "We have a couple weeks off here so we'll practice hard and get prepared for the second half of the season."

The Nittany Lions don't play again until the New Year, when they travel to Ohio State January 6 and 7, 2017.

After the game, to continue with the THON game festivities, senior defenseman David Thompson cut his long hair to donate it to help make a wig for a child with cancer. The event, which many fans stuck around after the victory to witness, took only seconds, but the impact of such a donation will last a lifetime.

Thompson's hair was tied into a ponytail with zip ties and cut with scissors, before Thompson got the rest of his hair buzzed off in the locker room.

The Nittany Lions' THON child, Colton Buckley, was also in attendance for Friday night's festivities. Prior to Thompson's haircut, the Buckley's announced they donated $2,000 to THON, in the name of the Penn State Student Athlete Advisory Board.

Thompson said before he lost his locks, that it was an honor to donate his hair in the name of THON, and felt truly humbled by the experience.

Big Ten Championship Game Content Central

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Penn State Football Big Ten Championship Game Content Central

Welcome to the Penn State Football Big Ten Championship game content central. Follow along with us from Happy Valley to Indianapolis for all your behind-the-scenes access and exclusive content during championship weekend.

Saturday, December 3 - GAMEDAY!

9 a.m. - Noon - ESPN College Gameday
ESPN's College Gameday hit Indianapolis for their weekly Saturday segment. Nittany Lion fans were out in full support with some creative signs and cheers galore. Penn State alum Keegan-Michael Key joined the set as the weekly guest picker, selecting the Nittany Lions as his Big Ten Championship game winner. 

Head out into the crowd and watch the Nittany Lion guest picker take the stage below. 

Noon - 8 p.m. - Fan Fest and the Big Ten Network Letterman Football Panels
An all-day event, the BTN Fan Fest has games, food, displays and more. For a portion of the afternoon, we caught up with Penn State Football alums Tyoka Jackson, Terry Killens and Anthony Morelli to talk Fan Fest and a little Nittany Lion football ahead of tonight's title game against Wisconsin. 

Penn State Women's Lacrosse in Indianapolis!
We caught up with Penn State women's lacrosse in Indianapolis as the Nittany Lions made the trip to show their support for the Nittany Lion football team in a very #OneTeam effort. 

6 p.m. - Penn State Alumni Association Pep Rally
Nittany Lion fans waited patiently in line before entering the Penn State Alumni Association Pep Rally prior to the game Saturday.

 

Friday, December 2 - Arrival & Media

Touchdown in Indianapolis!
The Penn State Football charter flight touched down just before 2 p.m. to be greeted by a Nittany Lion Indy car, which led the police escort to the team hotel.

Once the team arrived at the hotel, Penn State head coach James Franklin was presented with the helmet of the Indy car driver, officially welcoming the Nittany Lions to Indianapolis.

                              

3:30 p.m. - James Franklin visits BTN set
Franklin went live with Dave Revsine, Spice Adams and Gerry DiNardo for a brief segment.
 

4 p.m. - Lucas Oil Stadium Press Conference (Transcript: Franklin - Transcript: Chryst)

INDIANAPOLIS - Penn State head coach James Franklin met with members of Big Ten Championship game media Friday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Prior to taking questions from the media, Franklin and Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst posed together for a snapshot with the Big Ten title game trophy.

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Franklin opened his press conference noting the Nittany Lions are both humbled and honored to represent the Big Ten East Division, in another piece of an already exciting season.

"The word I probably would use best to describe our team is we've persevered and we've gotten better as the season has gone on," Franklin said. "It's something we take great pride in. What I've always taken great pride in as a coach is your team playing hard, number one, getting better each week, each day. We've done that."

Franklin also stressed that this week's focus was just as consistent as any other surrounding, 'Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Wisconsin,' no matter what conversation might be going on outside the program.

"The only thing that exists for us is Wisconsin and the Big Ten Championship game," Franklin said. "If we take care of our business and play the way we're capable of playing, we'll be happy with the result."

Friday Night Senior Shares
As Franklin shared earlier this season, the Nittany Lions will have senior shares at the hotel the night before gameday, where selected seniors on the team and staff have opportunities to share their stories in their own unique way. This evening's shares include senior long snapper Zach Ladonis and Penn State director of Football Operations Michael Hazel.

On Special Teams Improvement
While Franklin pointed out that there has been lots of talk about the offensive and defensive improvements this year, he noted that probably the biggest area of improvement as much as anything this season has come on special teams - an area that will be of heavy importance come Saturday.

"Compared to the last two years and really from the beginning of the season, I think that's a big reason why we are where we are today," Franklin said.  "I think Charles Huff, our special teams coordinator, Yaz [Tyler Yazujian], our special teams captain, long snapper, Blake Gillikin, Tyler [Davis], those guys have been awesome all year long. Then the other 10 guys rallying around them have been really good.

Hometown Connections
Franklin pointed out that both he and Chryrst are currently head coaches of teams in their hometown states.

"The fact that he's from there, grew up there, played there, his dad coached there. It's an awesome story for him," Franklin said. 

"Then my story growing up in the state of Pennsylvania, having an opportunity to come back home -  that doesn't happen very often," Franklin said. "So for two coaches to be able to come back home and represent their home states is I think pretty cool, pretty special."

Inside The Locker Room
Take a sneak peek inside the Penn State Football locker room as set up and preparations for gameday are well underway. A converted Indianapolis Colts locker room now has a new shade of blue and white. Check it out below.

Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Michigan (12/2/2016)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 7/6 Penn State men's hockey and No. 20 Michigan are set to meet once again, as the Nittany Lions close out the first semester of the 2016-17 season with a 7 p.m. matchup against the Wolverines. Follow along with our live blog for in-game updates all in one location and exclusive content. 


Live Blog Men's Hockey Live Blog vs. Michigan (12/2/2016)
 

2016 Gameday - Lions, Badgers Set for B1G Championship

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Gameday Central | Gameday Live Blog | 2016 B1G Championship Content Central |  Game Notes | Press Conference Roundup | Wednesday Practice Update | Tim Banks Q&A | Monday Notebook | Nittany Lions in the NFL

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the first time in program history, Penn State is headed to the Big Ten Championship game, as the seventh-ranked Nittany Lions are set to meet sixth-ranked Wisconsin in Saturday's title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.   

The Nittany Lions (10-2, 8-1 East) closed out the regular season with wins in each of the last eight consecutive games, downing Michigan State 45-12 to earn a share of the Big Ten regular season crown. The Badgers (10-2, 7-2 West) won the West division outright and enter the matchup on a six-game winning streak, making their fourth appearance in the Big Ten Championship game since it first began six years ago. 

Following the dominant performance in the regular season victory against the Spartans, Penn State earned several Big Ten postseason awards this week.

Nittany Lion running back Saquon Barkley earned Graham-George Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and Ameche-Dayne Big Ten Running Back of the Year awards, in addition to First Team All-Big Ten Football Team honors from both the coaches and media. 

Penn State head coach James Franklin also earned Dave McClain Big Ten Coach of the Year honors, selected by the conference media members, to mark his first Conference Coach of the Year award.

In total, nine Nittany Lions earned selections to one of the three coaches or media 2016 All-Big Ten Football teams, with an additional five earning honorable mention distinction.

As every Big Ten honoree has been quoted this week though, the honors and awards are wholeheartedly a reflection of a collective team effort. Among postseason all the awards and predictions though, the Nittany Lions have approached the week with the same consistency and dedication to the process as any other regular season game. 

"Our guys are excited and they're focused," Franklin said. "We're not going to treat it as anything different. We're not going to change how we go through our weekly game plan."

Led by second-year head coach and 2016 Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year Paul Chryst, the Badgers wrapped up their regular season with a 31-7 win against Minnesota last week. Wisconsin topped Iowa on the road 17-9 before defeating then-No.7 Nebraska 23-17 in overtime to kick off its recent string of six straight wins. 

Penn State and Wisconsin will meet for the 18th time in program history as the Badgers own a narrow 9-8 advantage in the all-time series. The Nittany Lions have won each of the last two meetings, defeating the Badgers 24-21 in overtime in 2012 and 31-24 on the road in 2013.

"What I would say about these guys is when you think in your mind, or at least when I think in my mind, of what a traditional Big Ten team is, that's who these guys are," Franklin said.

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Pregame Reading -

What To Watch For: Penn State
1. Just a quick scan of running back Saquon Barkley's certainly makes the case for his conference postseason honors. Averaging 130.25 all-purpose yards per game Barkley is tops in the Big Ten in the category, while also leading the league with 17 touchdowns on the year, including 15 rushing touchdown runs. Barkley isn't the only threat from the running back unit though, as Andre Robinson, Miles Sanders and Mark Allen have all showcased their talent this season, with Robison coming off of a two-touchdown outing against the Spartans highlighted by a career-long 40-yard touchdown catch.

2. Second Team All-Big Ten quarterback Trace McSorley has continued to impress as the leader of Penn State's high-scoring explosive offense. McSorley leads the nation in passing yards per completion, averaging 16.17 per game. He's both gutsy and effective with the deep ball, ranking within the top five for passes of 20, 30, or 40 or more yards, slotted as high as second nationally with 20 passes for 40-plus yards on the year. McSorley's arsenal includes a deep group of wide receivers, including veteran Chris Godwin who sparked a 35-0 run in the second half against Michigan State with a 34-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

3. Having battled through adversity and challenges with injuries, Penn State's defense has only continued to become more relentless throughout the season. Ranked fourth in the conference in total defense, the Nittany Lions have held their last two consecutive opponents without a touchdown. Defensive linemen Garrett Sickels and Evan Schwan are atop the team standings with six sacks each this season. Combining for 7.5 sacks between the two of the them in the last four games, Schwan has registered at least a half of a sack in all four outings during the stretch.

What To Watch For: Wisconsin
1. Earlier this week, Franklin sighted the matchup between Penn State's wide receivers and the Wisconsin secondary as an interesting matchup. Not only have the Nittany Lions proven that they can come up with the big catch, but McSorley's deceptive mobility has kept defenses guessing. Come Saturday, the Badgers enter the matchup with a national-best 21 interceptions on the year. All-Big Ten Badger safety Leo Musso has picked off five passes this season, ranking second in the conference and 10th nationally in interceptions per game. Wisconsin has also limited its opponents to eight touchdown passes in 12 games this season. 

2. As an entire defensive unit, the Badgers have strength all around, as Franklin pointed out strength in the Wisconsin linebacking unit as well as the secondary. With the third-ranked scoring defense nationally in the FBS standings, Wisconsin has also limited its opponents to 100.8 rushing yards per game with the third-ranked rushing defense. First Team All-Big Ten linebacker T.J. Watt is atop the team standings with 13.0 tackles for loss. With a team-high 9.5 sacks on the year, Watt is averaging nearly a sack per game at 0.79, which ranks third in the conference and 20th nationally. 

3. On the offensive side of the ball, the Badgers are both strong and physical, as their ground game has surpassed the 200-yard mark in five of the last seven games. All-Big Ten running back Corey Clement is the focal point of the Badger rushing attack, as he's logged at least 100-yard performances in six of Wisconsin's last seven games, including each of the last four straight. As just the 17th Badger in program history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season, Clement's 1,140 rushing yards ranks third in the conference, while his 103.6 rushing yards per game is second. 

The Final Word -
Saturday's matchup has all of the making of a true strength-on-strength matchup with both the Badgers and the Nittany Lions are among the Big Ten's best in a few opposing categories. Keying in on just a few of the intriguing storylines, in the East Division, Penn State has won its last eight straight, averaging 40.4 points per game during the winning streak. In the West Division, Wisconsin has limited its opponents to fewer than 14 points per game, picking off a total of 11 passes in the second half of a six-game winning streak. Either way, both teams will await the outcome of another postseason matchup with Bowl selections beginning as early as 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Every Penn State athletic team sends one representative to the Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) on campus, in charge of planning out community involvement. For the women's hockey team, that person is junior forward Aly Hardy.

 

"I volunteered personally," Hardy said. "My freshman and sophomore years, I tried to get involved in SAAB, but I always had classes Monday night [meetings are held then]. So I tried to do as much as I could, we'd do canning before some of the games and different activities."


After all of her hard work, Hardy was finally able to become the team rep this season.

 

"Basically, I go to all of the SAAB meetings and then there are individual committees," she said. "I'm a part of a couple of committees, but overall, we just meet and do different things. For the THON committee, I put together the signed stick for the auction for SAAB THON. We just do all those types of things. We'll do athlete events, like we have a movie night coming up for all the athletes. We also make baskets for local communities and that kind of stuff."

 

The "signed stick" refers to the stick signed by all member's of the women's hockey team as part of the SAAB online auction.

 

"All of that money is going straight towards SAAB THON," Hardy said. "All of the different teams put together some sort of piece that they wanted to auction off. Some put together a basket of different apparel that was signed."

 

"It's an important role for every team in Penn State athletics," head coach Josh Brandwene said. "To have a representative that's so dedicated, so consistent with her contributions, makes me really proud as a Penn Stater. It's up to them. It's who wants that role and who wants to make a commitment. It's no surprise to me that Aly stepped up to the plate."

 

Hardy also spoke about the importance of being part of the community, especially as someone in such a prominent role as a student-athlete at Penn State.

 

"I'm an RPTM (Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management) major, so I'm looking into possibly doing event management or planning," Hardy said. "Just being able to be a part of all that and creating things like that. I'm in "The Nittanys" group, so I'm putting together all the stuff for the Nittanys, which is an awards banquet at the end of the year for the athletes. It's just really cool to see that aspect of everything."

 

Inside the glass, Hardy has steadily improved over her two-plus seasons as a Penn Stater, garnering praise and respect from her coach along the way.

 

"She is a leader and example setter with the little things and the details," Brandwene said. "Decisions at blue lines, battles in the corner, blocking shots, out-racing loose pucks and waving off icings, it's those sort of efforts that make the difference over a 60-minute hockey game."

 

Hardy had proved to be a valuable matchup asset because of her adaptability and instinct.

 

"Versatility is one of her great strengths," Brandwene said. "Her hockey IQ is so strong. You can put her in any situation and she is going to thrive."

 

Throughout the year, Brandwene and several players (including Hardy) have cited the team's ability to come back from adversity as a defining factor that has shaped this group's development.

 

"The thing that stands out the most is the way they respond to adversity," Brandwene said. "Whether it's in between periods or out of time outs.  Life is 95 percent how you respond and this team is fabulous at that."

 

"Overall, our bounce backs from any sort of downfall have been great and it really gets everyone going," Hardy said. "Sometimes when one or two people go out after a timeout and kill their shift, it's very motivating for everyone else."

 

The Nittany Lions have a chance to bounce back this weekend as they return to Pegula Ice Arena and conference play with two games against first-place Robert Morris. Puck drops are set for 1 p.m. Saturday and 12 p.m. Sunday.

Balanced Offense Shuts Down Michigan

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions were buzzing Thursday night, as a strong and balanced offensive performance propelled No. 7 Penn State men's hockey (12-1-1) past No. 20 Michigan (6-6-1) in Pegula Ice Arena, 6-1.

As is seemingly tradition between the two teams, Penn State came out of another high-scoring outing with the win, helped out by goals from five different scorers, with a total of 11 Nittany Lions notching at least a point.

A goal from sophomore forward Andrew Sturtz halfway through the first period got Penn State rolling. A back-and-forth remainder of the first period saw both teams have quality chances on net, with freshman Peyton Jones in net stopping eight shots in the first 20 minutes of play.  

There was pandemonium in the rink during the second period, when freshman forward Liam Folkes found the back of the net for the second time this season, signaling the song "Timber," that began blaring through the Pegula sound system in celebration. 

Junior defenseman Trevor Hamilton followed up with a power-play goal toward the end of the second period, assisted by senior forward David Goodwin and sophomore forward Chase Berger. It was Hamilton's second goal of the season.

Hamilton's physicality on the ice was also a noticeable contribution, as he made several clean hits throughout the game and didn't shy away from blocking shots. The team's ability to play physically will continue to be important, as Big Ten opponents often are more aggressive on the ice than the competition faced in nonconference play.

Senior forward Ricky DeRosa scored late in the second period, bringing Penn State's lead to 4-0. Senior forward Zach Saar got the assist.

"If you look at the first four goals I think they came from all four different lines. I think Trevor's was just at the end of the power play but that was with Goodwin and Berger, so really you could say all four lines contributed on all four goals," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "When we can do that I think we're pretty tough to play against."

The third period saw another goal from Sturtz, followed later by a goal from junior defenseman Erik Autio.

There seemed to be a little more energy in the air throughout the night, likely due to to the fact that it was Penn State's first Big Ten Conference game of the season. The Roar Zone, which made the night a white out, was a full house from the drop of the puck.

The Roar Zone president, Chris Godissart, explained that the decision to make Thursday night's game a white out was an easy choice.

"We chose to make tonight a student whiteout because it felt like the perfect game to do so," Godissart said. "It's the last series of the semester, against Michigan who beat us five times last year. We wanted to do everything we could to pump up the team and be as loud as we could be at puck drop."

Gadowsky and the team noticed the heightened support from the Roar Zone throughout the night, with DeRosa noting how important it is to have the backing of a great student section, especially when facing down a conference foe.

"They're amazing, they're the best student section in college hockey," DeRosa said. "You skate out on the ice and you see a sea of white with the band going, that's why you play, that's why so many guys choose Penn State." 

Both teams are back at it again Friday night at 7 p.m. in Pegula Ice Arena.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 7/6 Penn State men's hockey is set to welcome No. 20 Michigan a two-game series to open Big Ten play Thursday and Friday at Pegula Ice Arena. The Nittany Lions host the Wolverines Thursday at 6:30 p.m. with live TV coverage on ESPNU. 

Friday, the two teams will meet once again as Penn State closes out the first semester of the 2016-17 season with a 7 p.m. puck drop against Michigan. The matchup will stream online via BTN Plus.  
Live Blog Men's Hockey Live Blog vs. Michigan (12/1/16)
 

This Week in Penn State Wrestling - 12/1/2016

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Nickal Building on Success in 2016
By Brandon Pelter, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Success is nothing new for Penn State sophomore Bo Nickal. Last season wrestling at 174 pounds, Nickal finished with an impressive 33-2 record as an All-American runner-up for the NCAA title. Through two dual meets and a tournament this season at 184 pounds, Nickal isn't showing any signs of slowing down.

"Nothing has really changed," Nickal said regarding the weight class change. "Just the same thing, sticking to the plan, staying consistent. I worked on moving forward, pressure and stuff like that so I'm wrestling the same and just having fun. Doing what I do." 

On The Mat
After eight pins last season, Nickal is already closing in on that number with six pins through six bouts this season.

Not only is Nickal in competition with wrestlers from around the country at other schools, but also with some of his own teammates. 

"[Bo Nickal, Zain Retherford, and Jason Nolf] want to see each other get pins and help the team succeed, but obviously, there's fun in competing for those types of stats," Sanderson said. "We want to see all of our guys compete like that, but in a friendly way." 

While pinning opponents has become routine, it certainly isn't always an expectation. 

"Well I hate to say you expect [a pin]," Sanderson said. "But those guys have been there in those positions and those situations and are obviously very good and they have experience under their belts. So you kind of know what you have going out there and Bo is a guy that pins so I don't want to say we expected it, it's still exciting and it's a challenge for him." 

With the lone Bryce Jordan Center dual meet of the season upcoming against Lehigh, Nickal is excited for another shot to wrestle on the BJC stage.

"The BJC is awesome," Nickal said. "It's unlike any environment that I've ever wrestled in. It's incredible and I'm just super excited to get back and wrestle in front of a sellout crowd. It's going to be a lot of fun for sure."

Off The Mat
With many Penn State student athletes participating in Giving Tuesday, Nickal and the wrestling team are no different, and they try to give back to the surrounding community throughout the year.  

"We like to do a lot with our community and stay involved," Nickal said. "They give us so much support so it only makes sense to just give a little back to them through the youth program, working with the kids and stuff like that and volunteering. I know a lot of our guys are involved in SAAB and do a lot of volunteering through that so we try to stay active."

While many might expect one of the nation's top wrestlers to constantly be in the gym, he finds some time away for hobbies. One of which he shares with some teammates as well.

"I play a lot of Clash of Clans and Clash Royale and stuff like that," Nickal said with a grin. "So I'm into video games a little bit." 

Nickal looks to build on his strong start Sunday at noon when the Nittany Lions host Lehigh in the Bryce Jordan Center. Nickal will have a probable matchup against freshman Kyle Gentile who is 1-2 this season. 

Check out more updates from Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson below.

Tim Banks Q&A - Wisconsin (B1G Championship)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Tim Banks took time to talk with members of the media Thursday afternoon leading up to the Nittany Lions' trip to Indianapolis.

Penn State and Wisconsin are set to square off in the Big Ten Championship game at 8:17 p.m. Saturday in Lucas Oil Stadium.

Check out updates from the Q&A session below.

On what Banks has seen on tape from Wisconsin in terms of how they might plan their offensive attack Saturday.

Banks: I don't think they'll change. I think they'll do exactly what the Wisconsin model has been, run the ball, play action pass. They are very big offensively up the front with their offensive line. Obviously, they have very good backs, they have a long history of being able to run the ball, control the clock and take shots appropriately. I think they'll stick to their formula because obviously it has been boding well for them through the years. 

On how to balance game planning and preparation with recruiting efforts this week.

Banks: It's a big challenge because you have to be able to take care of business with our own team and concentrate on how to win this game, but you also have to have the ability to look toward the future and work with some guys who are heavily involved in the recruiting process. It's definitely a challenge but it's one that is welcome being in this situation, having an opportunity to play this late in the year. Has it been difficult? Yes, but definitely we've enjoyed it and playing in the championship is the best possible recruiting that we can do. 

I think the kids have really handled it well, they have been great with the few official visits that we have had, helping us recruit and us being in contact, and some of the younger guys being able to see us playing consistently on TV has been great as well. It's been good in that regard but very challenging. 

On how Penn State has worked with the defense in anticipation of Wisconsin ability to have success controlling the clock.

Banks: We just talk about doing our job and concentrating on the next play, the next play, the next play. We can't get frustrated, obviously their goal is to try to get ahead of the chains and our goal is to do the same. If we're disciplined and particularly from a back end perspective, if we key our eyes in the right places, hopefully we can get off the field quicker than they want to. But the reality of it is, that they have been great controlling the ball so we just have to do a great job winning up front. The back end has to do a good job covering, but it's a challenge, that's why those guys have been successful. I think it's a challenge that our guys are looking forward to and hopefully we can answer the bell come Saturday.

On what makes Wisconsin's play action so good and how the team has approached the area of strength in practice.

Banks: What tends to happen, because they run the ball so effectively, people tend to have to get secondary guys involved. The more involved they get and the more aggressive they get, you sometimes leave yourself vulnerable for deep passes and play action passes. From our perspective, we have to do a good job of hopefully slowing the run game down to the point where we feel comfortable that they are going to be in what we deem as obvious passing situations. 

But if you allow them to be able to run the ball with great success, that makes us have to be a lot more aggressive and in turn, put guys in different situations where they might be somewhat uncomfortable and leave you to be susceptible to some of the bigger plays. We just talked about winning at the line of scrimmage and from a safety or defensive back position, make sure we have our eyes in the right places. If we do those things, hopefully we can limit some of their deep shots and some of their play action passes. 

On scout team or true freshmen guys who have stood out this season.

Banks: We've played some young guys, probably Cam Brown comes to mind. An outside linebacker for us who has played some significant snaps not only on defense, but on special teams. He has been a great contributor to our program and has a vital role in helping us get to this championship game. Ayron Monroe, one of our young safeties who has really played well on special teams. I think our special teams have played well. If you look across the board, we have a lot of young guys there who take great pride in their roles and have really embraced it and I think that has really helped out program take the next step because our special teams have been so good and I think a lot of that has to do with a lot of the young guys we have - Javis Miller comes to mind, Shareef Miller. We feel like we have a really good nucleus of young player who are contributing even though they don't get a lot of the press clippings. Those guys are really embracing their roles and playing at a high level.

On what Banks has noticed the most about Marcus Allen's game throughout the season.

Banks: He has been very consistent. He is obviously a very fun loving guy, he loves to have fun, but when we step between those lines he's all about business. One compliment I would give him is that he's not one of those guys who waits for Saturday to practice hard or play hard. He does it in practice from Sunday through Friday. He knows one speed on the practice field, he practices hard and it shows up on Saturdays. That's why he plays well, because he knows how to practice and I think the young kids see that and they see how he goes about his business and I think he has had a good impact not just in the way he plays, but in the way he practices. That probably would be the highest compliment I could give him. I really love the way he practices.

2016 NCAA Tournament Preview Content Central

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w_volleyball_blog.jpgUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the 27th consecutive season, Penn State women's volleyball is set to welcome a trio of teams to the court in Rec Hall for the opening two rounds of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

The No. 16 Nittany Lions (22-9) will square off against Northeastern conference champion LIU Brooklyn (16-14) at 7:30 p.m. in Rec Hall, with Atlantic 10 conference champion Dayton (30-1) and Pittsburgh (24-8) meeting in the earlier round one matchup at 5 p.m. 

The winner of the Penn State-LIU Brooklyn outing will advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament to play the winner of the Dayton-Pitt match, Saturday, Dec. 3 at 6:30 p.m. 

One of just two teams in the nation to make an appearance in all 36 consecutive NCAA Tournament events, Penn State enters the matchup with a 30-5 all-time record in opening matches of the tournament. The Nittany Lions have not surrendered a single set to a first-round opponent since 1989, with straight set wins to advance to the second round of play in their last 26 consecutive round one victories. 

Earlier this week, four Nittany Lions earned Big Ten postseason honors as juniors Simone Lee and Haleigh Washington were both named unanimous selections to the All-Big Ten team. Redshirt freshman Tori Gorrell and Kendall White also earned All-Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors. 

Lee and Washington are atop the team standings in kills per set and blocks per set, respectively with each of the two juniors among a group of Nittany Lions who already have experience as members of Penn State's 2013-14 back-to-back NCAA championship teams.

Tournament time has finally arrived in Happy Valley, kicking off Friday at Rec Hall. Take a closer look at the Nittany Lions and this year's tournament as they head into postseason play. 

VIDEO: NCAA Tournament Press Conference

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: No. 16 Penn State vs. LIU Brooklyn

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A CLOSER LOOK: Features & Highlights

Penn State Looking Ahead to First Round of 2016 NCAA Tournament
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since its inception in 1976, the Penn State women's volleyball program has been the standard for hard work and success in collegiate volleyball. In addition to 16 Big Ten Championships, the Nittany Lions have proved themselves to be the top team in the country seven times with NCAA national championships in 1999, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014.

The Nittany Lions capped off the 2016 regular season with a 22-9 overall record, 13-6 in Big Ten conference play. After closing out the regular season on a three-match winning streak, Penn State earned the No. 16 seed in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

Penn State is one of the only two programs in the country to have been selected to participate in all 36 NCAA postseason tournaments since it began in 1981. During that time, the Nittany Lions have racked up a 92-28 all-time record, including 12 appearances in the NCAA national finals. 

A Look Into the Tournament
The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences led all leagues with eight teams selected from their conferences to compete in the championship tournament. 

In the 64-team field, where the top-16 teams are seeded, three of the top four teams belong to the Big Ten. For this year's tournament, No. 16 Penn State is joined by seven other Big Ten squads: No. 1 Nebraska, No. 2 Minnesota, No. 3 Wisconsin, No. 9 Michigan State, No. 12 Michigan, Ohio State and Purdue.

"The Big Ten season was incredibly challenging this year with three teams that were taking turns in being ranked the top team in the country," head coach Russ Rose said. "It was a grind for all the teams and even the teams toward the top. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the Big Ten teams have success because I think the conference was really strong this year." 

Outside of the Big Ten teams, there are three schools that Penn State played during the regular season - No. 6 Stanford, No. 7 North Carolina and Howard. The Nittany Lions fell to Stanford in three-straight sets early in the season in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge. In the third match of the season, North Carolina gave Penn State its first loss by defeating the Nittany Lions in a five-set thriller. Moving forward, Penn State got back into the swing of things and defeated Howard in straight sets to win the Penn State Invitational. 

"It's a grind," junior Simone Lee said, looking toward tournament time. "It's hard. It's tough. There Aare going to be upsets, knockouts and teams that you're not expecting to make it further than you thought. It's all about keeping a positive attitude and maintaining a mental focus no matter who you have to play or who is across the net. You're focused on your team and what you can do to make the team better at all times." 

Round One
The quest for an eighth national championship title begins on Friday against Northeastern conference champion LIU Brooklyn (16-14) at 7:30 p.m. in Rec Hall. Penn State holds a 7-0 all-time record against LIU Brooklyn, meeting for the first time since the 2013 NCAA Tournament where the Nittany Lions claimed a 3-0 win. 

"LIU Brooklyn has a good collection of young players with a couple of international players, and I know that we will have to address the excitement and the nerves of the opponent," coach Rose said.

If the Nittany Lions were to advance to the second round, then the two possible opponents are Dayton and Pittsburgh.

Penn State and Dayton (30-1) could meet for the third straight season in the tournament, with Penn State leading the series, 3-1. Dayton recently captured its league-record 11th Atlantic 10 Championship title after winning 97 percent of their matches this year, the highest in the country.

Pittsburgh (24-8) is making its first appearance in the tournament since 2004 after the Panthers won 10 of their last 11 matches. The Nittany Lions have a 30-17 advantage in the series against Pittsburgh.  

"We're familiar with some of the opponents," coach Rose said. "We scrimmaged with Pittsburgh the last few springs so we're familiar with them and know that they beat two of the teams we lost to this year. We played Dayton the last two years in the NCAA tournament and we played LIU in the past. We're looking forward to the weekend, and we're hoping that we can play at the highest level."

In The Bracket
Coach Rose always stresses the importance of focusing on one match at a time, and that advice is essential for this postseason. It takes six perfect matches to win a national championship, and each match gets tougher with every round.

In the bracket, the No. 16 Penn State women's volleyball team is joined by No. 1 Nebraska, No. 8 Washington and No. 9 Michigan State in the top left quarter. This year is a little different because the regionals are no longer at predetermined sites. The top surviving seed in each quarter of the brackets gets to host the regionals on Dec. 9-10.

No. 1 Nebraska
The Huskers are the defending national champions as well as this year's Big Ten champions after finishing off the regular season with a 27-2 record. Their only two losses this season were to Ohio State and Minnesota, who snapped the Nebraska's 14-match winning streak last week.

Head coach John Cook was named the conference's coach of the year by the coaches and media, his first time earning the honor since the team joined in the Big Ten. Libero Justine Wong-Orantes earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second consecutive season.

Penn State dropped both matches against Nebraska this season. Back in November, top-ranked Nebraska visited Rec Hall and the Nittany Lions were able to take the Huskers to five-sets but fell short at home. A mere 12 days later, Penn State headed to Lincoln, Nebraska for a rematch but the Nittany Lions lost in three sets.

Nebraska leads the all-time series, 17-10, and the two programs have combined for eight of the past 10 NCAA titles. 

No. 8 Washington
If Penn State makes it to the quarterfinals, a potential opponent is eight-seeded Washington.

The Pac-12 Champion Huskies finished the regular season at 26-4 and went 16-4 in Pac-12 play to win the conference title for the third time in the past four years. Junior outside hitter Courtney Schwan was named Pac-12 Player of the Year.

No. 9 Michigan State
The Spartans went 3-1 in their last three matches, but had an overall record of 24-8 and 13-7 in Big Ten play. When Michigan State visited Happy Valley, the Nittany Lions swept the team in three sets.

SENIOR FEATURE: Krause Reflects on Penn State Journey
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It has always been in senior Taylor Krause's blood to attend Penn State. Her mom's entire side of the family were Nittany Lions, and she could never imagine herself going to any other school. 

"It was just part of the family process," Krause said. "Pretty much everyone goes here and it's something that is part of the family. We have supported every sport our whole life, so to actually be here and to be on the team has been an unbelievable experience."

Krause started playing volleyball at a young age, but she was a little skeptical and nervous about the sport at first. After attending more practices and playing in more matches, she started to fall in love with the sport. 

The Allentown, Pennsylvania native was a four-year letterwinner and team captain at Parkland High School. She helped guide Parkland to three conference titles, three district titles and one state championship throughout her scholastic career. 

Now a senior caption on the squad, all of this led her to not only be a Nittany Lion, but to also be a member of the Penn State women's volleyball team.

"The program and the dynasty that goes along with the program is why I came to Penn State," Krause said. "Everything that makes up this program and everything that the alums have worked for to make Penn State such a proud university is everything that I want to be a part of, and I am so grateful to be part of it."

As a freshman, Krause made her collegiate debut for Penn State in the season-opener against Syracuse. In her sophomore year, Krause made an appearance in 20 matches, including nine Big Ten matches as well as the NCAA title match against BYU.

"My favorite memory would be winning two national championships with my best friends," Krause said. "It just shows how hard we worked and that working hard does pay off and it comes full circle." 

Krause made the biggest impact in her junior year, playing in 53 sets in 25 matches throughout the season. She posted a career-high 10 digs against Minnesota and helped the team in the NCAA tournament against Howard and Dayton.

"Taylor has really grown as a person and she's become so much more mature and responsible," senior Carley Muller said. "It's nice to be able to know that I can rely on her, whether that be on the court or off the court. On the court, if I touch the ball, I know that Taylor is going to run for the ball and do everything she can to pop it back up, and off the court, I just know that if something goes wrong or if I'm not doing well, then Taylor is going to be there no matter what, and that's always nice to know."

With all her accomplishments, Krause was named one of the captains for the 2016 season. Not only has she been helping the other defensive specialists in the back row, but she's also been getting the freshmen adjusted, like her sister, Kristen Krause.

"There's no words to describe [playing with Taylor]," freshman Kristen Krause said. "It's an incredible experience to be able to share time, not only on campus and go through college with her, but to also play the sport that we love together."

Taylor has been a great mentor for her sister throughout the season.

"She always gives me little things when I'm not doing something right," Kristen Krause said. "She always right there to help me out, and outside the court, we spend time together every single day. We make sure I am on top of my schoolwork and she's making sure that I have a great college experience."

She has also been helping the other freshmen understand Penn State volleyball.

"She's been doing a really nice job in instilling what Penn State volleyball means and all of our mottos and lessons that we go on [to the freshmen]," Muller said. "She's grown up as a Penn Stater and I think it's helpful to have somebody in the program, at the top, that knows what's going on and can be able to help the freshmen know what we do here." 

Though Taylor has been having an excellent volleyball career, having Kristen by her side has only made it better.

"It's been an awesome semester," Taylor Krause said. "It's always nice to have a little piece of home with you wherever you go, and hopefully, playing with her, she realizes how lucky she is to be here and what an honor it is to play for Penn state. I couldn't be more grateful to have her here in my last season."

Majoring in elementary education and minoring in special education, Krause will be graduating in December. 

"I know she's going to be a teacher, and I think she's going to be the best teacher and her future kids are going to be lucky to have her," Muller said.

Throughout her four years at Penn State, her teammates have helped Krause to be the player that she is today. Alongside them, head coach Russ Rose has gotten Krause to grow not only her volleyball IQ but also as a person off the court. There are infinite lessons she has learned but the most valuable thing she is going to take away from her career is to value the time at Penn State. 

"Don't take anything for granted," Krause said. "It goes by so much faster than you think and everyone says that so you don't really realize it until your senior year. So every time you come in the gym or every time you go work out at camp, give it all your got. Make sure you're giving your hardest effort day in and day out." 

@GOPSUSPORTS

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