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Spring Football - Nassib Eyeing Bigger Role on Defensive Line

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10982258.jpegSpring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - He hadn't played a down for the Nittany Lions prior to the 2013 season, so when former head coach Bill O'Brien summoned Carl Nassib to his office on an early morning during training camp in August of 2013 it's easy to understand why he was a little nervous.

Nassib entered the head coach's office as a walk-on with a semester bill due to the registrar's office in a matter of days and left with a full scholarship, one that he has kept to this day.

Now, 20 months later, Nassib is in line to play a central role as a defensive end for the Nittany Lions in 2015. While plenty has changed for the West Chester native since that day in 2013, namely bulking up to 6-6, 270 pounds, one thing has remained constant - Nassib's motor.

The senior is relentless and plays every rep at practice like it's his last.

"Everybody is hungry and all of the defensive ends want to prove themselves every time we go on the field," Nassib said.

It's usually not difficult to know when Nassib is on the field for a rep at practice because you can hear his enthusiasm. Nassib never met a challenge he didn't enjoy facing or one he didn't believe he could beat.

"I have a great time at practice, yelling the whole time," said Nassib. "I'm trying to make plays, and when one person is out there yelling and having a good time it excites everybody...While your out there, you want to be hyped, have fun and do your thing. It's all about getting better, and you might as well have fun while you are doing it."

With two vacancies at defensive end following the graduation of Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan, Nassib knew this offseason was an opportunity to take the next step. His quest for securing a starting spot began in the winter when he added nearly 10 pounds of muscle to his frame.

The increased size to go along with his speed and quickness has made the senior a tough man to block since spring practice began on March 17. Nassib, who has seen action in 23 of the past 25 Penn State games (7 tackles and 3.5 TFL in 2014), is the veteran of the defensive ends. It's a unit of ends full of potential thanks to a cupboard filled with young talent, including junior Evan Schwan, sophomore, Garrett Sickels, sophomore Curtis Cothran and freshman Torrence Brown.

"I'm really liking what I am seeing from the young guys," said Nassib. "They make me better. I make them better. They are doing a great job."

Aiding in the growth and development of the defensive ends is who the unit is able to lineup next to. All-America candidates Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson are formidable figures in the heart of the coach Sean Spencer's unit, and it's something that makes Nassib's eyes light up at the potential of the group.

'It's relieving to know that you are lined up right next to them" said Nassib. "They are awesome football players. I'm excited to see how they progress even further from the seasons they had last year. I'm excited to play next to them. Single blocking those two guys is almost impossible."

A biology major with aspirations of pursuing medical school to specialize in pediatrics, Nassib is among the top students on the team. Now, the Eastern Pennsylvania product is primed to leave his mark on the field.

"I don't really look to the future too much and get ahead of myself," Nassib said. "I take everything day by day and try to get better every day. If I think about the future too much, I lose the present. It started in high school, and I just tried to work my butt off every single day. Back then I didn't really see myself here. I had no idea (I would be in this position). But I just worked to see where things would take me."



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

VIDEO: Spring Practice Sights and Sounds - Offensive Line

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Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It has been a spring practice period marked by progress for the Nittany Lion offensive line. Like every unit on the depth chart, the offensive line has taken a significant step forward since the start of spring practice one year ago.

For an inside look at the unit, check out some sights and sounds with offensive line coach Herb Hand and the Nittany Lions during spring practice. Penn State will hold practice No. 11 on Saturday. The Blue-White Game presented by AAA is slated for April 18 at 4 p.m. (BTN).






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

Gritty Nittany Lions Learn From Early Matches and Find Winning Ways

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10981308.jpegBy Sean Donnelly, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's tennis team's five-match winning streak is not by accident.

After starting their season 2-8, the team has clicked and caught fire, winning seven of its past eight matches.

"This year's team is definitely a cohesive group that tries to push each other on a daily basis, whether in practice or supporting each other in close matches," said head coach Chris Cagle. "They're excited. This year's team learned from early matches and have the experience. Match-toughness has paid off for us recently. We're a tough matchup for anybody."

The entire team is excited about the direction this season is heading. Close matches have been used as fuel, and mistakes have been corrected. Now that the season is in full swing, the Nittany Lions' hard work has finally started to reflect in their record.

Jacqueline Zuhse has been on a hot streak, winning against St. Bonaventure during her most recent outing in straight sets, picking up her fifth win in the past six matches.

"We had a rough start in the beginning, but we were able to learn from those matches," said Zuhse. "We took what we needed from those matches and built upon that. Every day we work to get stronger, faster and better."

In a way, the early heartbreak was exactly what the team needed. Now that the team has gone through some tough matches together, the bond and desire to win is stronger than ever.

"A couple girls lost their voice in the last match because they were cheering so much," said Zuhse. "We're a close-knit group of girls. I know if I'm playing on a court next to someone, I can look over to that person and they'll push me to be even better. "

The year-long camaraderie and support the team has provided for one another hasn't just been evident in the record. Their energy can even be felt during practice.

"We're at practices constantly cheering," said Zuhse. "Everyone gets to practice knowing we're going to have to give 100 percent and they do exactly that. We've worked really hard."

The biggest wins of the season thus far were back-to-back victories against No. 43 Indiana and No. 28 Purdue. The Nittany Lions are now 5-2 in Big Ten play, and 6-1 playing at home. They are tied for third in conference play with Minnesota and Northwestern.

For Devan McCluskey, it's been all about the team stepping out on the court and believing they can beat anybody.

"When we beat them they were both really big wins for us," said McCluskey. "Everyone who stepped on the court was focused."

Confident in their abilities going forward, the Nittany Lions are looking to string together a few more wins with the Big Ten Championships in sight.

"We're going to work to get a little better in a few spots," said coach Cagle. "We'll keep working on our doubles-game, making sure we're sharp in singles and that we're ready to go."

The Nittany Lions are playing tennis at a very high level. Following road matches at Nebraska and Iowa this weekend, the Lions will be hosting Michigan State and No. 14 Michigan for their last two matches of the regular season.

"Women's tennis is on the up," said McCluskey. "We're an intense, feisty team and we're going to work hard each match and leave it all out there. We're stepping out and we want to win. We're going to get gritty and it's going to be a battle for us."

Burnside Makes An Impact Both On and Off the Field

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10981217.jpegBy Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior defenseman JP Burnside has been a huge contributor during his final season with Penn State men's lacrosse. He may be a standout player on the field, but Burnside's biggest contributions to the team are what he does when the game clock isn't running.

Since a young age, Burnside felt at home on a lacrosse field. After moving to Garden City, New York, in fifth grade, Burnside's friends encouraged him to try the sport.


"Garden City is a very lacrosse-rich town," said Burnside. "All the kids I became friends with when I moved there told me to try it, and that's how it all started."

After being named an All-American his senior year at Garden City High School, Burnside decided to continue his lacrosse journey at Penn State. Head coach Jeff Tambroni has had the opportunity to coach Burnside during all his years at Penn State. Tambroni has seen first hand the growth that Burnside has experienced both as a player and as a young man.

"I think JP has grown up a lot in many ways," said Tambroni. "He has certainly taken a more, I would say, professional attack at being a student-athlete. At first he was always pretty talented on the field but I'm not sure if he realized the impact that his personality, his behavior, and his work ethic was going to affect others around him. I think the older he got, the more he realized, and the more mature he became."

Coach Tambroni has been able to count on Burnside for always being a leader by example and always giving full commitment to everything he does.

This season, Burnside has been a constant presence in front of the Penn State net, having started every game so far in the 2015 campaign. Burnside's role as a senior and as a leader has been to be vocal on the field, but that doesn't mean he didn't have things to work on before the season started.

"I think he's had to grow more this year into a communicator and realize that guys aren't always going to be able to do what he does just because he's doing it," said Tambroni. "He had to learn to get other guys who are younger on the same page as him."

Although his senior season is winding down, when asked to reflect on his time at Penn State, Burnside had many memories that stood out in his mind.

"[My favorite memory was] when we watched the selection show my sophomore year and we found out we'd be hosting a tournament game," said Burnside. "There have been a lot of great memories but that one was just been a time where everyone was screaming and yelling and hugging. It was pretty awesome."

Burnside's journey with Penn State lacrosse has been an unforgettable one. Having grown close with his teammates and class over the years, Burnside is looking forward to finishing off the last few games of his senior season on a high note.

"You get to hang out with these guys every single day," said Burnside. "From being in the locker room, to out at night, to here at practice. You've got some of your best friends here and you get to hang out with them for four or five hours a day, you've got to love it."

This weekend Penn State (3-7, 0-2) will again be on the road, this time facing Johns Hopkins (4-6, 1-1), a team rich in lacrosse tradition. Burnside and his fellow seniors, all members of the founding class of Big Ten lacrosse, will battle it out on the field for a much-needed win for the Nittany Lions. Burnside knows his role and knows how important these last few games are to himself and his teammates.

"I try to be very passionate and emotional," said Burnside. "I try to be loud [on the field] if the team makes a good play. And then I try to make plays as well. We've been talking a lot about 'well done is better than well said' so I'm just trying to be a guy who's making plays out there and just trying to be loud and get everyone excited and motivate my team."

Penn State will face Johns Hopkins this Saturday at 6 p.m. in Baltimore. The game will air on ESPNU. 

Lions on the Diamond: Relaxed Approach Benefiting Smith in Final Season

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10981197.jpegBy Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When Ryky Smith steps on the baseball field, his favorite movie about the sport is never far from his mind.

But it's not The Natural or The Rookie or some other inspiration baseball film that the Penn State senior is thinking of. Instead, it's the 1993 kids classic, The Sandlot.

For starters, Smith uses one of the movie's songs, titled "Green Onions," as his walk-up music. But it actually goes a bit deeper than that for the Nittany Lion infielder.

"It's one of my favorite movies, that's for sure," Smith said. "That 's the mindset that I take out there on the field every day. I'm going to play like a sandlot ballplayer today. I'm not going to make it look too pretty, I'm just going to get the job done. That kind of why I choose that song because I want to remind people what kind of player I am."

It may seem like a humorous approach, but the senior has certainly been showing what type of player he is this season. After getting off to a slow start, Smith has hit .410 since March 18 and is currently second on the team in batting average at .317 and fourth in RBIs with 15.

A player who has the ability to play both second and third base, Smith has already started 13 games this season after making just 14 last year. He has also registered 63 at-bats after only receiving 53 in his third season.

According to the York, Pennsylvania, native, his improved performance has been the result of receiving more consistent playing and taking a more easygoing approach at the plate.

"In the past, I seemed to not have gotten the consistent play that you need to get on a roll," Smith said. "I've had at-bats here and there, but never really had the chance to string them together. Now, I've gotten the chance to prove myself on a consistent basis and that's kind of where the success for me has been.

"There's nothing mechanic about. It's just a mindset for me right now. I'm going to be extremely aggressive out there, I'm not going to play scared and I'm going to have fun doing it."

Head coach Rob Cooper agreed with Smith's assessment, and also added that he thought Smith put too much pressure on himself last year, which helped lead to his .226 average.

Now, Cooper said that Smith has accepted his role as a utility player that might not start every game but is still expected to contribute on a regular basis and plug any hole necessary.

"I think last year, one the coaching transition and him being an upperclassmen and wanting to do well," Cooper said. "I think just relaxing and going, 'my role is going to come off the bench and if I get a chance I'll do the best I can.'

"Last year when he would get his chance he would put a lot of pressure on himself. Now, its just like, 'I'm going to enjoy the moment and go out there and play hard,' and he's having great success."

At the end of the day, the biggest key for Smith has been staying loose on the field. A scrappy player who runs out every groundball and isn't afraid to dive in the dirt, the 5-foot-10 infielder has become one of the Nittany Lions most reliable hitters in his final season with the team.

Smith knows that his days at Penn State are numbered, but he is determined to enjoy every one of them. In his mind, there's no better way to end his career by approaching each game with a "sandlot" mentality.

"I'm really just focused on having fun right now," Smith. "I've said it before, I've put in the hard work but now it's time to enjoy my senior season, go have fun and that's what baseball is all about. That's kind of been the emphasis for me."

Resilient Senior Class Sets Standard

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10978272.jpegBy Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Mark Pavlik always talks about the evolution of collegiate athletics. Being in his 21st year at the helm of the men's volleyball program, Pavlik understands that he has just four or five years to coach his student-athletes before they must graduate.

This season is no different for Pavlik as libero Connor Curry, opposite Nick Goodell, outside hitter Aaron Russell, and student manager Mike Hobson's Penn State careers near a resilient end.

"They went out, and they represented the very best of Penn State and Penn State student-athletes," Pavlik said.

Curry and Goodell are redshirt seniors and arrived in Happy Valley back in 2011. Russell, a senior, started his career in 2012. Hobson transferred to University Park in 2013 after two years at Penn State Behrend. Each has taken different paths to arrive at the university, but together they have left a lasting impression on the athletic and academic community.

"Everything that's right about Penn State Athletics is embodied by these guys," Pavlik said.


Great Goodell
An Ambridge, Pennsylvania, native, Goodell has made the most of his Penn State career. An RPTM major, Goodell has achieved quite a lot over his five-year career.

Currently, Goodell is ranked fifth among NCAA D-I active career leaders in kills. He has accumulated 1,058 of them throughout his time while donning the Blue and White. This season Goodell has tallied 204 kills, second most on the team.

"My best times here were just traveling with the guys," Goodell said. "I wouldn't trade any memory on the road with them."

Conceptual Curry
Curry traveled across the country from Newport Beach, California, to play at the highest collegiate volleyball level. An academic all-star, Curry is a constant on the Dean's List, majoring in economics and international politics.

His academic success has translated to the volleyball court, as well.  He has accumulated 959 digs over his career and has been an integral part of keeping the team in system both offensively and defensively. Just this season alone, Curry leads the team with 193 digs (2.41 per set).

"Hanging around with the guys," Curry said is what he will miss most. "Being a part of the team, that's really the best part. It's fun to be able to play volleyball and do something you enjoy, but what I'll remember forever is the experiences with my teammates and my best friends."

Rocket Russell
Russell is unquestionably the most talented player on the team. The four-year starter from Ellicott City, Maryland, played his first three seasons alongside his older brother, Peter, who graduated just last year. With 379 kills this year (4.74 per set), Russell now has 1,384 kills in his career. He leads all NCAA D-I active players with that kill mark.

He is also a superb server, who has accumulated a team-leading 41 service aces this season. He ranks first among active NCAA players with 177 career aces. That means he needs just 30 more aces to match former Nittany Lion Max Holt (2006-09) for the program record for total aces.

Russell was named to the First Team All-EIVA last season and is making a strong case to be crowned national player of the year this season.

"There's school and then there's your team," Russell said. "Your team is your family away from home. Everyone is close, and it's just a nice little brotherhood that we have."

Helpful Hobson
Hobson's older brother, Corey, held the same position with the program prior to Mike arriving to University Park. According to Pavlik, Hobson basically redshirted the summer before his first year at the main campus in order to learn the Data Volley software.

"Mike is one of those people when you ask for 'X' you generally get four or five times what you ask for, and it's done well," Pavlik said. "He is going to make a great coach."

For Hobson, he could not have asked for a better learning experience at Penn State. The team immediately welcomed him in and accepted him right away, something Hobson says helped him transition to the larger campus.

"Just the way I can help these guys and help the coaches out is just awesome," Hobson said. "They've done so much for me that I just want to give everything back to them."


Pavlik used the word "resilient" to describe this senior class. Nothing has worn this team down according to the head coach.

"It's a group that has set a standard for making their teammates believe, making their teammates better," Pavlik said.

This senior class is winners of four EIVA regular season championships and has reached the NCAA tournament every season. It is a special class with clear portraits of leadership and the ability to win.

The question that Pavlik poses for his future student athletes is, "Here's what they did. Can you do that?"

The Nittany Lions wrap up the home portion of their regular season on Friday and Saturday against conference foes Harvard and Sacred Heart. Both matches will take place in the main gym at Rec Hall.

By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's gymnastics team battled hard against Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio State to win the Big Ten Championship only two weeks ago. The Nittany Lions have been riding on that victory as they get ready for the NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships this weekend.

"I honestly feel like we're really prepared for this competition," said senior Tristian Duverglas. "We had two intrasquads last week on Thursday and Friday and I just feel like we're really prepared to do a good job. Compared to previous years, there were some people in some routines that we weren't necessarily 100 percent sure on, that were kind of shaky, and I don't feel that at all this year. I think everyone is easily prepared to go out and do some of the best routines that we've ever done."

The men's gymnastics team has been hard at work all season in preparation for the NCAA Championships. They've recorded five wins, two-second places finishes, one loss and a Big Ten title thus far, but they know that they can prove themselves to be this best team in the country this weekend.

"We're not really [looking to improve on anything]," said junior Alexis Torres. "We're pretty much joined together as a team. We know what we can do and we know what we're capable of, even though in some competitions, we didn't demonstrate it, but this semester has been really good for us and we showed that in the Big Tens and we'll see what happens at the NCAA Championships."

Though it's important to enter a meet with confidence, it's also imperative to not let the assurance affect performances and routines.

"I feel pretty confident [about this weekend] and I think the team feels pretty confident, too, but not in a way that is too overwhelming to ourselves," said Alexis Torres. "We know that we can do a good job, so we're pretty much prepared to do that and to do the things that we've been doing in the gym over the past week after Big Tens and this week, too. In this moment, it's just to go and have fun and do whatever we've been doing this whole semester and past semester."

With only two missed routines in the Big Ten Championships, the team knows the key to winning.

"We're just going to have to perform solidly," said head coach Jepson. "Stick landings. Not miss routines. It's 5-of-5 counts, so you can't have wholesale meltdowns from anybody where you're counting to 12 or something like that."

The NCAA Championships is a three-day competition. Penn State will open competition on Thursday in the NCAA Qualifier against No. 2 Stanford, No. 6 Minnesota, No. 7 California, No. 10 Air Force and No. 11 Nebraska, so it's vital to take each day one at a time.

"[The Big Ten win] gives the team confidence in knowing that they've faced some great teams and they've done really well against them, but it's a whole new day and anything can happened," said head coach Randy Jepson. "The most important thing is that we advance as the top-three teams on Thursday and we'll look at Friday, if we get there, but we got to get through Thursday first. That's the focus."

Even if Penn State does not win the National Championship title this weekend, there is no better school for a gymnast to attend.

"Just looking back, it's just been an amazing ride," said Duverglas. "My experience at Penn State has been a blessing and if this is my last NCAAs, then on that note, I have a group of guys behind me that are willing to fight for it just as much as I am. Going into the competition and knowing that, and knowing that, regardless of how we do, we competed with our hearts on the floor, it's really all I can ask for."

But for these Nittany Lions, doing gymnastics and doing it with passion is their every day job and they know what they're capable of doing

"We compete so much, like weekend by weekend, so we're prepared for it, so we don't have any pressure," said Torres. "It's just go there and do our job. We're [at practice] every day, so it's not really that different. It's just another place doing the same thing."

By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's gymnastics team battled hard against Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio State to win the Big Ten Championship only two weeks ago. The Nittany Lions have been riding on that victory as they get ready for the NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships this weekend.

"I honestly feel like we're really prepared for this competition," said senior Tristian Duverglas. "We had two intrasquads last week on Thursday and Friday and I just feel like we're really prepared to do a good job. Compared to previous years, there were some people in some routines that we weren't necessarily 100 percent sure on, that were kind of shaky, and I don't feel that at all this year. I think everyone is easily prepared to go out and do some of the best routines that we've ever done."

The men's gymnastics team has been hard at work all season in preparation for the NCAA Championships. They've recorded five wins, two-second places finishes, one loss and a Big Ten title thus far, but they know that they can prove themselves to be this best team in the country this weekend.

"We're not really [looking to improve on anything]," said junior Alexis Torres. "We're pretty much joined together as a team. We know what we can do and we know what we're capable of, even though in some competitions, we didn't demonstrate it, but this semester has been really good for us and we showed that in the Big Tens and we'll see what happens at the NCAA Championships."

Though it's important to enter a meet with confidence, it's also imperative to not let the assurance affect performances and routines.

"I feel pretty confident [about this weekend] and I think the team feels pretty confident, too, but not in a way that is too overwhelming to ourselves," said Alexis Torres. "We know that we can do a good job, so we're pretty much prepared to do that and to do the things that we've been doing in the gym over the past week after Big Tens and this week, too. In this moment, it's just to go and have fun and do whatever we've been doing this whole semester and past semester."

With only two missed routines in the Big Ten Championships, the team knows the key to winning.

"We're just going to have to perform solidly," said head coach Jepson. "Stick landings. Not miss routines. It's 5-of-5 counts, so you can't have wholesale meltdowns from anybody where you're counting to 12 or something like that."

The NCAA Championships is a three-day competition. Penn State will open competition on Thursday in the NCAA Qualifier against No. 2 Stanford, No. 6 Minnesota, No. 7 California, No. 10 Air Force and No. 11 Nebraska, so it's vital to take each day one at a time.

"[The Big Ten win] gives the team confidence in knowing that they've faced some great teams and they've done really well against them, but it's a whole new day and anything can happened," said head coach Randy Jepson. "The most important thing is that we advance as the top-three teams on Thursday and we'll look at Friday, if we get there, but we got to get through Thursday first. That's the focus."

Even if Penn State does not win the National Championship title this weekend, there is no better school for a gymnast to attend.

"Just looking back, it's just been an amazing ride," said Duverglas. "My experience at Penn State has been a blessing and if this is my last NCAAs, then on that note, I have a group of guys behind me that are willing to fight for it just as much as I am. Going into the competition and knowing that, and knowing that, regardless of how we do, we competed with our hearts on the floor, it's really all I can ask for."

But for these Nittany Lions, doing gymnastics and doing it with passion is their every day job and they know what they're capable of doing

"We compete so much, like weekend by weekend, so we're prepared for it, so we don't have any pressure," said Torres. "It's just go there and do our job. We're [at practice] every day, so it's not really that different. It's just another place doing the same thing."

Spring Football: Hamilton, Receiving Corps Ready to Take Next Step

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10976389.jpegSpring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - One year ago from today, DaeSean Hamilton had not made a single catch as a Penn State receiver during a practice or in a game.

After a wrist injury sidelined the Virginia native throughout 2013 and the first 12 spring practices of 2014, Hamilton did not participate in a practice until April 9. He practiced twice in a limited role before two quarters of action in the Blue-White Game on April 12.

But what a difference a year has made for the all-time leader in receptions for a Nittany Lion freshman.

On the heels of a rookie campaign where he hauled in a Big Ten-best 82 catches, Hamilton has reached for another gear during his first full spring on the field for the Nittany Lions.

"Having a season under your belt makes such a big difference," Hamilton said. "You're able to play a lot faster and understand the nature of the game a lot quicker with that experience. It makes a big difference. I feel a lot more comfortable."

Primed to be a central figure in a deeply talented pool of receivers, Hamilton is expecting big things from the Penn State offense in 2015.

"We are significantly more comfortable this year," Hamilton said. "We are going out there and reviewing things instead of learning them for the first time. You can tell a lot with guys knowing where they need to be on every play."

There is a natural progression from year one on the field to year two, and a big piece of the growth is the continued rapport with rising junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The duo has a season full of game and practice reps to build on, in addition to all of the work set forth during the offseason.

"It's big for us," Hamilton said. "We are a lot more comfortable with one another because we have played a lot. The expectations will be bigger for us (in the fall), but we're confident in what we are capable of doing."

"These guys have all worked extremely hard this spring, and you are seeing it on the field," Hackenberg said. "Guys know where to be and how to go out there and execute, and that is huge for the offense."

Within the 15 allotted spring practices, Hamilton said there are a number of things he is working on to refine his game following the stellar campaign in 2014.

"Without having spring ball last year, a big thing for me is just keeping my ball skills up, having a better catch radius to make better catches, being precise with my routes, being versatile by playing inside and outside," said Hamilton.

Hamilton will be just one piece of a receiving corps with great potential. Senior Geno Lewis returns as the team's second-leading receiver. Lewis made 55 receptions last season. Fellow senior Matt Zanellato and junior Gregg Garrity are also back, in addition to a pair of true sophomores poised for breakout campaigns.

Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall are two players who made big jumps in the weight room during the winter conditioning period, and that has translated into a very productive spring practice season for the talented tandem. As true freshmen, Godwin and Blacknall made 25 and 11 receptions, respectively, and combined for three touchdowns.

"We have high expectations (as a group) now after the performance we had against Boston College (in the Pinstripe Bowl)," Hamilton said. "Consistency is a big thing, but also taking our games to the next level. We want to be an elite group. We want to come back in the fall and springboard off of the way we finished last season. As long as we set the bar high and miss small, we are going to take a step forward next fall and even the rest of this spring."

Continuing with head coach James Franklin's theme of iron sharpening iron, the receiving corps is using the opportunity to practice against one of the top defensive units in the nation to its advantage. Each time the group steps on the field it learns something.

"Going out every day and working against one of the best defenses in the country last year helps everyone get better. When you practice against those guys, it helps all of us become better football players. And it's competitive," said Hamilton.


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

Nittany Lion Seniors Leave their Mark on the Lacrosse Program

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10960587.jpeg
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Thursday night, nine seniors on the Penn State women's lacrosse team will play in Happy Valley for the final time in the regular season. During their years as Nittany Lions, Haley Ford, Tatum Coffey, Kelly Lechner, Cat Layne, Jess Loizeaux, Maggie McCormick, Dani Lazo, Kristin Brent and Natalia Angelo all made an impact on this program.

These athletes will never be forgotten because of what they have done for the team. Their efforts will continue to help Penn State lacrosse grow and improve.

"The senior class has been great for four years," head coach Missy Doherty said. "This is the first class that we brought in here at Penn State, and I think they've done a great job in four years of continuing to improve the program and help us compete at a top level. Having different leaders every year emerge from that group has been great, and everybody in that group has contributed in so many different ways."

This season specifically, the senior class stepped up in an attempt to make its final year in Blue and White its best year. The nine have combined for 77 goals, 46 assists, 42 ground balls and 36 draw controls over the course of the 12 games. In total, they are responsible for 52 percent of the team's scoring.

McCormick and Coffey are the team's two leading scorers, while Lechner currently has the third most draw controls on the team with 24. This dominance is a direct reflection of the dedication the seniors have shown year in and year out. Doherty knows this class's work ethic is correlated with the team's success.

The seniors have accomplished great feats in all conferences they have been part of, the most recent of which is the Big Ten. They have excelled time and time again, proving no challenge is too difficult to overcome.

"In the past we won the ALC Championship, and we got rings for that," said Coffey. "We beat Florida with that, and Florida was ranked way ahead of us. So, games like that when you leave, you're never going to have a feeling like that again, I really hold on to."

While the seniors have worked hard each and every year, they have also made sure to have fun. Without enjoying their sport, they would have never experienced such triumphs.

All nine love lacrosse. They are passionate about the game, and that passion has helped defined their time in Happy Valley. It's something they certainly hope to leave behind.

"We came here to play lacrosse in college because it's fun and this is what we love to do," said Coffey. "Hopefully, we can leave that with the other classes that we do this because we love it. Still, we work hard, but we have to have fun too."

With such few games remaining the time has come to look beyond what theses nine seniors have accomplished during their time on the team.

They have set the standard for what it means to play on the Penn State women's lacrosse team. Their leadership and skill will not be easily replaced.

"I think it's just their consistency and effort and what that helped us lead to as a program," Doherty said. "In their four years, we've made the tournament every year and been consistently in the top ten and helped us to really realize that when you compete at a consistent level and work hard that we can achieve good things."

There is still time left in the season with at least five games remaining. These seniors aren't finished yet; they still have more they want to prove.