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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Defensive coordinator and safeties coach Bob Shoop talked with GoPSUsports.com during the Coaches Caravan stop in Pittsburgh to provide an update on recruiting and review spring practice from the defensive side of the ball. Take a look.
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff WriterUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sometimes the unknown is frightening, but other times it is exhilarating. The unfamiliar in sports can offer new challenges, new levels of competition and new levels of play. As the Penn State women's lacrosse team travels to take on North Carolina for the first time since 2009, it is ready and excited for the opportunity. The Nittany Lions will bring their best.
To get to this position, the Lions have had to take down Johns Hopkins and Virginia. Both games were intense, close matchups. Nevertheless, with Penn State's (16-4) play as of late, winning 11 of its last 12, it is prepared for any challenge, especially a challenge like the Tar Heels (16-3).
"We're really excited," said head coach Missy Doherty. "It's been a great year for us so far, a lot of really exciting games. I think with the Big Ten Tournament Championship and playing Hopkins and Virginia in the first two rounds of NCAAs, we've really been tested here with some really tough games. It makes us more excited for the next game to see what we're going to bring, and certainly playing North Carolina, who we haven't played yet before, is going to be a fresh new test for us this weekend."
Key to the Nittany Lions' success this season has been its deep offense and reliable goalie, Emi Smith. In the team's second round game alone, Smith made 14 saves. Her efforts have continued to keep the team in close games.
Scouting UNC, the Tar Heels have a similar offense to that of the Nittany Lions. Like Penn State, they do not rely on one scorer and have 10 athletes with double-digit goals. While that fact may seem daunting to some, the team's defense will be more than ready. It gets to practice against its own offense, which has nine scorers who have accumulated at least 10 goals this season.
"I think defensively we really need to focus on the cutters and the one-v-one defense," Smith said. "Watching their film is really a big factor for it, and having such a good attack on our side is a huge contribution because they can help us prepare for a team like UNC. Our attack is just as good as UNC's attack, and that's huge for our defense because we can practice all week long and prepare for their attack. So, I definitely think going into this weekend is just watching film, running through their plays, running through the shots that they take and overall just playing our aggressive defense."
For this game, the team is not relying on just what its coaches say about UNC. Doherty has instructed each of the Lions to prepare their own scouting report of the Tar Heels, forcing them to get a closer look at their opponent prior to the game.
"Our coaches sent us a template, and we're all creating our own scout for the team, which we haven't done before," said junior Madison Cyr. "It's giving all of us the opportunity to learn the style of each player that we're getting ready to play against."
In this Elite Eight matchup, Penn State will rely heavily on its midfielders. The team has seen tremendous effort from them, both offensively and defensively, all season long. They particularly stepped up after the team lost captain Kelly Lechner to injury, and Doherty has been particularly pleased with all of them.
Five of the team's top scorers are midfielders and each has reached the 30-goal mark. Tatum Coffey leads the way with 42, followed by Steph Lazo who has 41, Cyr who has 36 and Katie O'Donnell and Jenna Mosketti who each have scored 30.
"It's a huge advantage because if one player gets shut down, we have so many more to work with," said Cyr of the scoring depth. "We're not just counting on one player to win the game or score the goal. We have so many people and so many different styles of attacking, whether it's a feed or one-v-one."
This group does not only score. Their defensive play has also been huge this season, and they will look to once again bring their best on Saturday. Coffey has the most caused turnovers on the team with 23, while Mosketti and Cyr lead the way in ground balls. These players bring balance to the team, which has been a big asset to the Nittany Lions.
Even with its skill, Penn State enters this Elite Eight game as the underdog. The No. 7 Nittany Lions know this game against No. 2 North Carolina will be a battle, but they are not letting rankings effect their preparation or how they play. This team has each other's backs. They just need to continue communicating and relying on one another.
"I think our team is great," said Doherty. "They get along really well. The camaraderie has been amazing. The team kind of mojo has been just fantastic all season. With these big games, as a coach, you really hope your team takes over and the players take over, and they've made my job so much easier with their drive and their work ethic and their leadership this year."
With the opponent aside, making the Elite Eight for the third time in four years is an accomplishment these Nittany Lions are proud of. This year, they don't want to end at this level. They want to continue playing together, continue winning and continue their season.
"It's kind of surreal," said Smith. "I mean my freshman year we went to the Elite Eight, and last year was kind of an upset because we lost first round NCAAs. But, I think this year we're definitely excited because we're going. That's a huge thing for us because I have a feeling we don't want to stop, and going into UNC that's a huge aspect because we want to make it to the Final Four."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion community will not be the same
without a man whose passion for Penn State bridged generations.
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
PARK, Pa. - A promise made on Memorial Day in 2008 is what motivated Stephon
Morris. That promise is what helped him gain clarity in the wake of chaos
during the 2012 offseason. It is what pushes him to continue the pursuit of his
NFL dreams and ultimately what drove him to complete his bachelor's degree
By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
Jack Anderson credits his division one baseball scholarship to Penn State and his success in three seasons in Happy Valley to one thing: his delivery.
If you've ever seen head coach Rob Cooper's right-handed closer pitch, you know exactly why.
Anderson's pitching style places him in a unique group of pitchers, a group that in today's game is very small. They call it "submarine" pitching, but Anderson just calls it normal after deciding to make the pitching style his own during high school.
"My dad always told me my arm slot was dropping every year progressing through little league and then it was my freshman summer of high school playing against another team in the summer and an opposing coach came up to me after the game and said he could make me into a great pitcher," Anderson said. "He had me drop down completely and everything came natural after that since I had been throwing sidearm for so long."
Anderson's natural arm slot has always been a low three-quarters, even when he was a young little leaguer.
When he warms up before practices or games, his arm slot is at that three-quarters release point, but when he steps on the mound it's as low as he can get to the ground before he releases the ball.
"I really want to start high and get lower," he said of his delivery. "I don't want to go down then up then down. I want to keep it one fluid motion and follow through and get behind the baseball."
With a delivery so unique, muscle memory and repetition is the key to consistency. Although, he said he doesn't do many drills that are different from pitchers that throw at a more conventional release point, he does put extra focus on where he releases the ball and which release point works best.
During his time in college, he has been able to find that release point and a place of comfort on the mound.
"Consistency is the biggest key to having the success and being able to repeat that delivery," Anderson said. "Sometimes I think about moving it up a little bit to get more spin but there's never a drastic difference. I'm trying to keep the same arm slot to keep deception with the hitter and then I'm snapping it off at the end to get movement across the zone."
He has experienced with challenging himself with how low he can go before releasing the ball, including during a game early in his career when he dropped down a little too far.
"One time during my freshman year against Iowa I actually scraped my hand on the ground on a pitch and it was bloody and it wasn't pretty," the junior said. "It kind of got in my head a little bit and I couldn't go any lower after that."
Now in his junior season, he has reached a stellar point of consistency as Penn State's closer and most reliable option out of the bullpen. With two Big Ten series left, Anderson boasts a 4-3 record with a 2.59 ERA, 25 strikeouts and opponents hitting just .217 when he's on the mound.
He has appeared in a variety of ways this season, whether it's the conventional three-out save or a long appearance of two to four innings. Cooper said Anderson's confidence is a big reason why he appears in any situation for Penn State.
"From the day I got here he has not been afraid to pitch and hasn't been afraid to take the ball," Cooper said. "Every time he has had the ball the game means something, so when he makes a mistake it's magnified."
Mistakes haven't come often for Anderson and Cooper acknowledged the righty's ability to finish off ball games.
"Mariano Rivera said it perfect it's not that it takes a special guy to get three outs, it takes a special guy to get the last three outs and Jack has done a really good job of that," Cooper said.
For Anderson, though, his success all goes back to his delivery. He doesn't think he would be the closer at Penn State, let alone a division one pitcher without the submarine approach.
"Absolutely not," Anderson said of whether or not he would be a division one pitcher if he threw conventionally.
Furthermore, he can't even imagine pitching a baseball any other way.
"I don't even know if I could," Anderson said. "I've just been throwing submarine for so long I don't even know what throwing differently would look like at this point."
Coaches Caravan Registration | Download Your PSU Caravan Photo Booth Pictures Here
Photo Gallery - Altoona | Photo Gallery - Pittsburgh
Day I Recap - Harrisburg & Lancaster | Day II Recap - Washington, D.C. & Baltimore
MARS, Pa. - The first week of the 2015 Coaches Caravan wrapped up in the western half of Pennsylvania on Thursday with a lunch stop in Altoona and an evening reception in northern suburbs of Pittsburgh.
The Penn State Fullington Trailways bus drove nearly three hours to the northwest from Baltimore on Thursday morning in preparation for lunch at Lakemont Park Casino. Take a look through highlights from the final two stops of a six-event leg of the Coaches Caravan.
Stop No. 5 - Altoona (Lakemont Park Casino)
Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour, James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky and Denise St. Pierre headlined the closest stop to the University Park campus on Thursday morning. The ballroom at Lakemont Casino Park hosted the fifth event on the Coaches Caravan before some of the fan base's deepest roots.
Just 45 minutes down the road from State College, Altoona is in the core of Nittany Nation. Fan after fan in the room on Thursday told the coaches and Barbour about either events they had recently attended or games they had circled on their calendars in the fall and winter.
"The heartbeat of Penn State is in Altoona," said Franklin.
One of the big pieces to the fan base in the center portion of the state is the following of the men's hockey program. Gadowsky has mentioned on a number of occasions during his three-day stint on the Caravan about what the growth of youth hockey in Pennsylvania can do for the overall growth of Penn State Hockey.
"Ideally, you want the recruiting footprint to shrink," Gadowsky said. "The more individuals who are involved with youth hockey in the state of Pennsylvania, the better off the entire state will be."
The growth of Nittany Lion hockey, along with the increased interest in youth hockey, tends to go hand in hand. It's a process Gadowsky knows will take time, but it's something he's very excited about. Locations like Altoona are big piece to the puzzle with a growing interest in youth hockey. The region's hockey footprint will grow even further with the announcement that Johnstown (just 50 miles from Altoona) will play host to the NHL's "Hockeyville" game in September.
"I've been so impressed with the interest and reception from the community on the hockey program," said Barbour. "Pegula Ice Arena is a huge piece to that, and the sky is the limit (for the program)."
The Altoona stop marked the final one for St. Pierre. The leader of the women's golf program spent the week educating the fans on the process of being a collegiate golf coach during an extended fall and spring season. She enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the fans and loved to share insight about the program.
"It's been a great ride to hang out with these fantastic people has been a great treat," said St. Pierre. "A lot of people have thanked me for being part of the Caravan, but really it has been my benefit."
VIDEO: Altoona Press Conference
Stop No. 6 - Pittsburgh (DoubleTree by Hilton in Mars, Pa.)
The Caravan visited a spot near and dear to Coach Franklin en route to the evening reception in Cranberry Township on Thursday. The bus weaved through the Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar section of Pittsburgh (northeast of downtown along the Allegheny River) where Franklin spent a lot of time as a kid. The group met up with childhood friend Keith Gardner (known as "Mighty" from his pickup sports days) near Franklin's Aunt Janet's home on Lemington Ave. The group toured a park where Franklin and "Mighty" played a lot of pickup football and basketball growing up.
"It was really cool. I hadn't been there in probably 30 years," said Franklin. "I come back to Pittsburgh all the time and even did for family functions before Penn State, but to actually go to some of those places today that I haven't been in a long time was really cool."
The more than 260 attendees inside the Grand Ballroom of the DoubleTree by Hilton in Mars were thrilled to welcome Franklin, Gadowsky and Deputy Director of Athletics & Chief Operating Officer Phil Esten, along with football assistants and Pittsburgh natives Bob Shoop (Oakmont) and Terry M. Smith (Monroeville).
The talk of the room from the fans focused on a number of topics, but there is a general excitement surrounding the hockey program's regular visits to Pittsburgh and the football team's four-year series with Pittsburgh, which begins at Heinz Field on Sept. 10 in 2016. The supporters in Pittsburgh are fired up about Penn State teams playing in their backyard.
"I think people are excited about it, especially in this region," said Franklin. "We are playing in '16, '17, '18 and '19...There is a lot of history and tradition with it. Generally, I'm in support of keeping the dollars in the state and supporting high school football and programs in the state. And in a lot of ways, there are some really good arguments you could make why it makes sense."
The Nittany Lions and Panthers last met inside Three Rivers Stadium in 2000. The series is slated for four-straight seasons, but Franklin indicated in the press conference prior to the event that both sides are open to discussions about the potential for more games in the future.
As for the hockey program, since Penn State has been a Division I program, the Lions have played in Pittsburgh each season. Every game has been well attended by Nittany Nation. Home to 56,000 alums in the greater metro area, the Steel City is home to some of Penn State's most loyal followers.
With the conclusion of a superb event in the Pittsburgh area, the first leg of the Coaches Caravan is wrapped up. The circuit will pick back up on May 19 in Philadelphia. A big thank you goes out to the fans who attended all six stops during week one.
"That's what these caravans are all about and that's what makes this so special," Franklin said. "We don't get to do this often, and we just want you to know how truly important you are to what we do...The thing that will always make Penn State special is the people."
VIDEO: Pittsburgh Press Conference Video
Day 1 - 129 miles
Day II - 142 miles
Day III - 444 miles
Caravan Total - 715 miles
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Fresh off its Big Ten Tournament win, the Penn State women's lacrosse team is already preparing for the next part of its season. With the NCAA Tournament beginning Friday, the Nittany Lions know they have a clean slate. They are ready to show their skill and prove their dominance.
With this year's appearance, the Blue and White have locked up their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament run. Every year the Lions have made improvements, and this year was no exception. Right now, they have momentum and confidence on their side.
Penn State (14-4) knows it is a national competitor, and the team is looking to go as far into this tournament as possible. In order to do that, the Blue and White will first have to down Johns Hopkins(14-3), a previous conference rival. With such familiarity with their opponent, the Nittany Lions are ready for the challenge.
"They're very physical," said head coach Missy Doherty of Hopkins. "They work very hard. They hustle everywhere. Nothing comes easy against them, so we're going to have to work just as hard and assert ourselves on both ends of the field."
On the offensive side of the game, the Nittany Lions will look to its leaders, including senior captain Maggie McCormick. McCormick leads the team in points with 63 and is also one of the strongest voices for this Penn State squad.
Eyes will also be on senior Tatum Coffey, sophomore Steph Lazo and junior Madison Cyr. All three have over 30 goals this season, adding depth to the team and making Penn State's offense all the more dangerous.
"Hopkins is always a fun team to play because we know that we're going to get one of their best games," McCormick said. "They're definitely going to test us and going to push us. They're a really hard working team, and we know we're going to get a battle out of it. We're going to have to play our best to beat them."
The Nittany Lion offensive will only be a portion of the recipe for success in this first-round game. Doherty and the team know that Hopkins is a squad that shoots the ball, meaning the defense will need to be solid. Saves in this game will be crucial, and senior Emi Smith will need to come up in big ways once again.
Smith, who was named the Big Ten goalie of the year, is no stranger to this pressure. She is more than ready to take on the Blue Jays. In fact, she's looking forward to the matchup and is ready to have fun doing what she loves. The junior just needs to make sure she maintains her focus for all 60 minutes.
"At some points there's times where I don't see a shot for about 10 minutes because our attack and midfielders are doing such a great time with handling the ball," said Smith. "I think my challenge is going to be maintaining my focus throughout the entire game and being a positive factor for my teammates."
As in the Big Ten Tournament, NCAAs are one-game elimination style. Nevertheless, the Nittany Lions are not planning to exit any time soon. With a Big Ten championship and successful season, they have momentum on their side.
This tournament gives Penn State a chance to start new. It knows what has worked well and what has not. Now, the team wants to just go out and show everyone what Penn State lacrosse is all about.
"We're really excited," said McCormick. "When we go finals are going to be over and everyone's going to be able to focus on lacrosse and the team. It's going to be fun. As a senior it's a little bit bitter sweet, but you don't want to think about the fact that the end is kind of nearing. You want to prolong this journey as much as possible, so we're really looking forward to it, especially the seniors."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - At the end of the regular season, the slate is wiped clean as conference foes battle head-to-head for the tournament crown. After losing three close games to the Terrapins this season, the retaliation of Penn State knocking Maryland out of the conference tournament would be sweet.
Ninth-seeded Nittany Lions (28-27) will take on eighth-seeded Maryland (27-26) in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday. Evenly matched, both teams own a 9-14 record in conference play. First meeting in 1999, Penn State owns a 9-5 record all-time against the Terrapins.
Nittany Lion Bats on Fire
Penn State will need to stay dominant at the plate in order to fold Maryland at the mound. The team's aggressiveness has produced 434 hits this season. Forty-five of those were homeruns with six grand slams. Leading the team, Alyssa Vanderveer tallies 13 homeruns while Macy Jones follows with 10.
With a team-best .408 batting average and 71 hits, Second Team All-Big Ten honoree Lexi Knief has made her mark on Penn State's offense this season. Fellow honoree Macy Jones claims a .348 batting average for the second place spot for Penn State.
On the defensive side of the game, Marlaina Laubach, Jones, and Jessica Cummings are the backbone of Penn State's offense. Pitching 136.2 innings, Laubaugh leads the team with 12 wins and 84 strikeouts. Jones trails with 7 wins and 36 strikeouts. Cummings tallies 76 strikeouts with 19 games started pitching 114.2 innings.
Terrapins Scout Report
In its first season in the Big Ten, Maryland owns a 27-26 overall record (9-14 in B1G). The team is hitting .306 on the season with 66 homeruns. Leading at the plate, Erin Pronobis has a .370 average with 57 hits and 12 home runs. Following Pronobis, Lindsey Schemieiser is batting a .364 with the team-high 60 hits.
The Terps maintained a strong pitching presence this season tallying 257 strikeouts. Schmeiser took the top spot with 19 wins and 170 strikeouts. She pitched 201.2 innings finishing only 18 games. Reliever Hannah Dewey's 57 strikeouts and 18 starts earn her a second-place standing for Maryland.
Penn State will need to keep its hitting presence booming in order to move on in the tournament. If Penn State defeats the Terrapins, the team will take on No. 1 Michigan on Friday, May 8 at 2:30 p.m. ET.
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