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2015 Coaches Caravan Day III - Altoona & Pittsburgh

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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."

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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."

caravan_pittsburgh_3.jpg 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."
    

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VIDEO: Pittsburgh Press Conference Video


Miles Traveled:
Day 1 - 129 miles

Day II - 142 miles
Day III - 444 miles

Caravan Total - 715 miles


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

Nittany Lions to Face Familiar Foe in the First Round

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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."

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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.

Next Up

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. 

Men's Lacrosse Looks Back on Historic Season

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11061475.jpegBy Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's lacrosse 2015 season may be concluded, but the team's persistence and energy will be forever remembered as staples during their inaugural season as part of Big Ten lacrosse.

The Nittany Lions (5-9, 2-3 Big Ten), in a season of many firsts, fought until the end, culminating in a playoff birth to the Big Ten Tournament.

After a solid start to the season, the Nittany Lions were unable to find their footing in the middle of the season. However, after a double overtime loss against Johns Hopkins, Penn State was able to find the confidence needed to finish out the season strong.

"Beginning and the middle of season I think we weren't truly confident with ourselves," said junior James Chakey. "Once we gained some confidence, I think once we played Johns Hopkins the first time, we started believing in ourselves a little bit more and our leadership came together and we were more organized."

Head coach Jeff Tambroni believes that this team has laid the foundation for Penn State's role in the Big Ten. Tambroni emphasized that the class of 2015 set the tone for the younger players and for any class that comes after them. Led by the first lone captain since 1978, Kyle Zittel, the senior class paved the way for the season with great grit and relentless determination.

"Through it all I look back at our seniors and certainly appreciate and admire what they've done for this program," said Tambroni. "But with great excitement we look with our underclassmen at what we believe will be a bright future."


With the season concluded, Tambroni and the rest of the coaching staff will use the summer to develop off-season training programs, as well as take time to travel and watch high school players committed to Penn State lacrosse. The summer is a great time to watch some of the young commits and see how they have progressed over the season. This time also allows the coaches to get an idea of what the new class will bring to the program.

As for the players returning next season, summer is a time to relax, but not completely. Players are expected to workout on their own and keep up with their skills. It is an individual's responsibility to remain in shape over the summer.

A defenseman, Chakey knows that if an individual doesn't work hard over the summer, it will affect the whole team once they reconvene for fall workouts. He also knows that as part of the class of 2016, he and his fellow seniors now bare responsibility for the team, to not only make sure players are working out over the summer, but to make sure all players are in the same mental and physical shape upon returning to school.

"I think coming back with the mentality that we're going to hit the ground running everyone should be on the same page," said Chakey.  "So as the senior class that's going to be our goal, have everyone on the same page over the summer."

As for the 2016 campaign, the Nittany Lions are already looking forward to it. The Lions have set both individual and team goals to reach, with strategies for getting there as well.

"I think we just need to prepare as a team more on an individual basis once the season hits," said Chakey. "Next January/February when we come back we should treat every game like a Big Ten game, so therefore when we get to Big Ten games at the end of the season we'll be ready to go."

Although Chakey and his fellow rising seniors now have responsibility over their team, that doesn't mean this responsibility only applies to lacrosse. As a senior, an individual's role develops further and spans being a mentor to younger players both on and off the field. Chakey believes there are a few characteristics that make someone an effective leader, and he hopes that the class of 2016 can apply all of them to their final season. 

"Being effective when it comes to communication," said Chakey. "Also, making sure the team doesn't separate and make sure there's not a break in the tight bond we have, especially off the field. We have to make sure the guys are enjoying being a student athlete here at Penn State and at the same time getting their schoolwork done, not getting into trouble, and making sure they focus on what they have to do here."

The 2015 campaign certainly saw the foundation being laid of a team that is capable of being a powerhouse in Big Ten lacrosse. For now, the Nittany Lions can enjoy their summer breaks, but not without a bigger goal emerging in the distance.

"It's important to get moving on 2016 quickly," said Tambroni. "Our hope is that these guys are going to go home with a great deal of urgency and a great deal of hunger and start to focus on how well prepared they need to be and how well prepared we will be."

What to Watch: No. 1 Lewis vs. No. 5 Penn State

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11061468.jpegBy Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
PALO ALTO, Calif. - The fifth-seed Nittany Lions (21-9) face the top-seeded Lewis Flyers (26-3) in the NCAA semifinals on Thursday. First serve is set for 11 p.m. ET inside historic Maples Pavilion.

Having already lost in four sets twice during the regular season against Lewis, Penn State comes into its 17
th consecutive NCAA national semifinal match on Thursday with a chip on its shoulder. 

"We're looking forward to the battle with the Flyers," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "We've seen them twice this year.... It's a lot of fun to play those guys. They play big boy volleyball. It's a very physical game, not only at the net but from behind the service line. It's men's volleyball at its best."

The Blue and White have battled adversity all season long. From starting 4-9 to having to deal with a number of student-athlete setbacks due to injury, resiliency is the word to describe this year's team.

"The first two times we played them, I don't think that we were as physical as we could or should have been," senior outside hitter Aaron Russell said. "I think we also just didn't really compete as hard.... We've come a long way since then." 

In order to top Lewis for the first time this season, the physicality that Russell talked about above will have to be in full force from start to finish.

"If we can serve well...if we can knock them off the net and if we can really force them to not be as physical as they can be, I think that's where we can really expect us to get some separation from them in the game," Pavlik said.

Scouting No. 1 Lewis
After finishing 15-1 in conference play, Lewis ended the regular season as MIVA champions. However, the Flyers completed the season by falling to No. 3 Loyola (25-2) in the MIVA Championship game. Nonetheless, the committee rewarded Lewis with the top ranking for this year's NCAA tournament.

Having lost just three matches all season long, the Flyers have a host of quality wins. Strong wins include: UC Irvine, Stanford, Penn State (twice), Ohio State, IPFW (twice), and Ball State (twice). Lewis's three losses have all come at the hands of ranked foes in BYU, Ohio State and Loyola.

Offensively, a three-headed monster leads the Flyers. Redshirt senior outside hitter Geoff Powell, senior outside hitter Greg Petty, and senior opposite Eric Fitterer are incredibly physical pin hitters that have challenged opponents all season long. Each of the three are averaging more than 2.75 kills per set and hitting higher than .296.

All three players detailed above are AVCA All-Americans. Together, the Flyers combined for five this year, however. The other two? Senior libero Lucas Yanez who is averaging 2.02 digs this season and junior middle blocker Bobby Walsh who is averaging 1.53 blocks per set this year.

"Bobby [Walsh] is an up-and-coming middle who is really doing the right things and playing the right way," Pavlik said. "They use him so well...Walsh is in the middle saying 'hey, don't forget about me.'"

What's at Stake?
The winner will advance to the 2015 NCAA title match on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. ET and will play the victor of No. 2 UC Irvine and No. 3 Loyola.

2015 Coaches Caravan Day II - Washington, D.C. & Baltimore

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Photo Gallery - Washington, D.C. | Photo Gallery - Baltimore

Day I Recap - Harrisburg & Lancaster

BALTIMORE - The Coaches Caravan traveled southeast on Wednesday on day two of the first leg, making a pair of stops in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

The Penn State wrapped Fullington Trailways bus rolled into the nation's capital on Wednesday morning for a lunch stop to kick off the day. Take a look through highlights from the second two stops of a six-event week on the Coaches Caravan.

Stop No. 3 - Washington, D.C. (JW Marriott)
Raised in Annapolis, Maryland, Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour kicked off the panel of speakers with a story about how she was introduced to the prideful fan base of the Nittany Lions. The D.C. area is home to approximately 26,000 Penn State alums. Barbour cited that many of the folks sitting in the room played a big role in establishing her feelings about the University.

"You all taught me about Penn State," said Barbour. "Growing up in the area, I learned a lot of my initial feelings and in a lot of ways had my introduction to Penn State from people like you."

Each year on the Caravan, the trips to the DMV are always filled with enthusiastic fans of the Blue and White. And it's a critical area for recruiting.

"This is going to be a very, very important area for us moving forward in recruiting," head coach James Franklin said. "It's always been a big part of Penn State Football, and it will continue to be very important."

Additionally, with the expanded footprint of the Big Ten Conference, the Penn State fans in the DC area will have more opportunities to see the Lions play closer to home.

In addition to games at Maryland across all of the Big Ten's sanctioned sports, the 2017 Big Ten Basketball Tournament will be contested in Washington, D.C., from March 8-12 in the Verizon Center.

Among the attendees in D.C. on Wednesday was captain in the U.S. Navy. Looking at the diehard Penn State fan, hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky singled the man out during his speech about the Nittany Lion supporters. Gadowsky said the Navy captain came up to him prior to the lunch to inform him of a new tradition started during the Michigan hockey series. The captain brought tailgating to the parking lot during the coldest weekend of the year, and Gadowsky loved it.

"How are you not fired up to play in Pegula Ice Arena when you have someone like a Navy captain tailgating outside in the snow before our game?" Gadowsky said.

What gives the Caravan a unique touch are stories and meetings like the one Gadowsky had with the Naval captain. Penn State's fan base is one big family. Each coach on the Caravan uses the experience to learn about the fans and engage with them. It helps the fans understand how important the support is for each program on campus.

"Our philosophy is built on relationships and how we interact with people," head coach James Franklin said.

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VIDEO: Washington, D.C. Press Conference




Stop No. 4 - Baltimore (Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport)
After a quick look at the White House before leaving Washington, the Caravan traveled north to Baltimore for stop No. 4 during the week at the Hilton near BWI Airport. The greater Baltimore area is home to nearly 10,500 Penn State alums, and like Washington, the Caravan crowd is always energetic at stops in the DMV. Wednesday evening's event was no different.

Barbour, and head coaches James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky and Denise St. Pierre received a rousing ovation from the moment they stepped on the stage inside Thurgood Marshall Ballroom.

It's going to be a big year ahead for Penn State and the Baltimore area. The Nittany Lions are slated to meet Maryland on October 24 in M&T Bank Stadium. The game will mark Penn State's first game in Baltimore since Nov. 9, 1991 when the Lions topped Maryland, 47-7, in Memorial Stadium.

The DMV is home to 19 players on the 2015 football roster. That list includes seven returning players who hail from the state of Maryland. For decades, the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area has been pivotal recruiting ground for the football program. That is not going to change in the eyes of Coach Franklin.

caravan15_baltimore_1.jpg Assistant coaches Charles Huff and Sean Spencer were in attendance on Wednesday evening after spending the day recruiting in the area. Additionally, junior offensive lineman Brian Gaia (Pasadena, Maryland) was in attendance. Gaia stood and recited the program's four core values when called upon during Franklin's speech.

Maryland is an area Franklin and Gadowsky are quite familiar with. They both have family members in the state. And Franklin spent several years of his professional career in the local area.

"Being able to come around to different areas around the region is great, and we love to come out and say thank you," Franklin said. "The fans have been so supportive since we got here last year, and places like this are big reason we have felt so welcome."

An Annapolis native, Barbour spoke on Wednesday evening about having the opportunity to come home when she took the job as Director of Athletics for Penn State in August. Her passion for the Blue and White is evident every time she speaks. Barbour loves every ounce of her job and takes great pride in leading a department that sets the standard for academic and athletic excellence.

"All of the reasons why I came to Penn State have all come true and more," Barbour said.

The first week of the Caravan will conclude on Thursday with stops in Altoona (lunch) and north of Pittsburgh (evening reception).

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VIDEO: Baltimore Press Conference



Coaches Caravan Miles Traveled:
Day I - 129 miles
Day II - 142 miles

Caravan Total - 271 miles

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Pin Hitters Help Nittany Lions Advance to NCAA Semifinals

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11059407.jpegBy Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
PALO ALTO, Calif. - Thanks to the superb play of its pin hitters, fifth-seeded Penn State (21-9) upended fourth-seeded Hawaii (24-7) in four sets (25-22, 25-20, 17-25, 27-25) in the second of two play-in games Tuesday night at historic Maples Pavilion.

With the win, the Nittany Lions advanced to the NCAA national semifinals and will face top-seeded Lewis at 11 p.m. ET on Thursday, May 7. This is the 17th consecutive season Penn State has reached the final four. 

The Blue and White's pin hitters - made up of Aaron Russell, Nick Goodell and Chris Nugent - accumulated 92 percent of the team's kills (54 out of 59). The trio's dynamic offensive balance created defensive problems for the Rainbow Warriors.

"I thought that our outside hitters did a good job," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "Nick [Goodell] balanced out the rights side with the night that he had. Overall, when the match was on the line, our competition level was as high as it's been all year long."

First-team AVCA All-American Aaron Russell led all hitters with 20 kills in the match. He swung at a match-high 46 sets and finished with a .239 hitting percentage. Russell also added seven digs and a perfect receive percentage.

"I think we've come a long way since the beginning of the year when we faced Hawaii and it feels good to get a little revenge and next we have Lewis who we also lost to twice," Russell said. "And I think the adversity we experienced at the beginning of the season really has helped us improve, and I definitely think that's one of the reasons why were on this run that we're on right now."

The senior outside hitter has been a leader all season long but is using the postseason platform as a pedestal to help make sure his teammates and coaching staff achieve their end goal, a national championship.

"I think I'm getting more comfortable," Russell said. "Being out this past summer in Anaheim really helped me learn a lot, it was a good experience. My experience being a senior now, I've been through a lot and played with a lot of these guys and so were getting comfortable with each other and gelling, and it's a lot of fun."  

Redshirt senior opposite Nick Goodell and sophomore outside hitter Chris Nugent were the two x-factors, however. Goodell was magical, killing 19 attacks on a .378 mark and adding one service ace and four digs. Nugent was spectacular, as well, tallying 15 kills at a .400 attacking percentage.

The performances described above would not be possible without setter Taylor Hammond. The redshirt junior kept the Nittany Lions in system and served up a match-high 54 assists. His play certainly did not go unnoticed by his teammates.

"Again it starts with the passers," Goodell said. "Once they're able to get in a rhythm, then Taylor [Hammond] can get in a rhythm. Then with our middles getting up like they did, everyone is going to be successful. We're a very hard team to stop like that."

Prior to upsetting Hawaii yesterday, the last time Penn State had beaten a team ranked higher than them in the NCAA tournament occurred back in 2010. That year, the Nittany Lions reached the championship only to lose to host and top-ranked Stanford.

The winner of Lewis vs. Penn State will play the victor of Loyola-Chicago vs. UC Irvine in the 2015 NCAA National Championship on May 9.

2015 Coaches Caravan Day I - Harrisburg and Lancaster

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Photo Gallery: Stop #1 - Harrisburg | Photo Gallery: Stop #2 - Lancaster

LANCASTER, Pa. - The 2015 Penn State Coaches Caravan hit the road on Tuesday with a pair of events in the heart of Nittany Lion country at Harrisburg and Lancaster.

The Penn State themed Fullington Trailways bus pulled out of the Bryce Jordan Center parking lot at 7:04 a.m. en route to Harrisburg. Take a look through highlights from the first two stops of a six-event week on the Coaches Caravan.

Stop No. 1 - Harrisburg (Best Western Premier)
Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour and head coaches James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky and Denise St. Pierre headlined the first day of the road tour on Tuesday. The trip began with a visit to the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. Members of the travel party toured the ornate structure, which was built in 1906 at a cost of $15 million.

Just after 10 a.m., Barbour, the head coaches and Penn State Alumni Association Executive Director Roger Williams participated in the opening of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives session for May 5. Representative Frank Farry introduced Franklin before the head coach of the Nittany Lions addressed the room of state representatives. Farry, who hails from Bucks County, and Franklin both graduated from Neshaminy High School.

"I can't tell you how honored we are to be here and address the House of Representatives," said Franklin.

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 From the Capitol Building, the bus traveled to the Best Western Premier for the opening stop of the two-week tour through the region. Barbour spoke to the crowd first, highlighting the department's "why" and her vision for Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics. Everything within the department begins with the "why", and the student-athletes are at the forefront.

"We want to create a world class environment for our student-athletes to help them prepare for life after earning their degrees," Barbour said.

While it is mentioned regularly, the support Penn State fans provide for the athletic department and its 800 student-athletes is something that should never be taken for granted. And Barbour, along with the coaches, would like to use the Coaches Caravan as an opportunity to simply say thank you for the fans' unrivaled commitment.

"The fact that so many people are here with us (today) is tremendous," said St. Pierre. "The fact that all of you stuck with us makes us feel so fortunate."

"One of the best things about this for me is getting to learn from these other coaches," Gadowsky said. "The second thing that I love about this is getting to be around people who share the same amount of passion as you."

Gadowsky's remarks were a transition into a comical story about a fan's commitment to the hockey program. One of the approximately 250 fans in attendance on Tuesday for lunch had been struck while attempting to catch a puck during a Penn State men's hockey game this winter. He met Gadowsky before the program began and showed him some of his battle scars. As the crowd roared with approval, the man pulled the puck from his pocket and waved to the fans while Gadowsky applauded him for sticking with the game and not leaving despite black eyes and a bloody face.

"This is the type of guy I want at our hockey games. He didn't leave!" Gadowsky said.

Franklin promptly asked the fan if he had any eligibility left because he wants that type of commitment within the football program. The second-year leader of the Nittany Lions then highlighted the program's stellar academic success in 2014-'15. Fifty-seven players achieved a 3.0 GPA or higher during the fall semester. Additionally, 21 true freshman earned a 3.0 GPA or better in the fall. Graduation and success in the classroom will always be at the top of Franklin's list of accomplishments for the growth of the football program.

Emphasizing the program's four core values is a staple for Franklin moving forward. He told the crowd that the players and staff members did a good job of memorizing the values - positive attitude, unrivaled work ethic, compete in everything you do and sacrifice - but now he wants to see the program live them.

With five more days on the caravan ahead, the theme of each discussion will focus on what makes Penn State so special - the people.

"I love to take this time to say thank you," Franklin said. Having the opportunity to come out and thank you personally means a lot to me."


VIDEO: Harrisburg Press Conference



Stop No. 2 - Lancaster (Marriott at Penn Square)

More than 360 boisterous Penn State fans greeted the Coaches Caravan in Lancaster on Tuesday night. The crowd was enthusiastic from the moment Roger Williams, Executive Director of the Penn State Alumni Association, welcomed the group with a rousing "We Are" chant in the Commonwealth Ballroom of the Marriott at Penn Square.

Barbour, Franklin, Gadowsky and St. Pierre were joined during the pre-event reception by assistant football coaches John Donovan and Brent Pry, who were in the area recruiting on Tuesday. Donovan and Pry, along with the rest of the assistant coaches have been on the recruiting trail since spring practice wrapped up with the Blue-White Game.

Like the first stop in Harrisburg, Barbour opened the evening with a speech updating the fans and alums in the room about the current state of Penn State Athletics. With 500 of the 800 student-athletes receiving a 3.0 GPA or higher, the department's academic excellence speaks for itself.

Additionally, on the field, it has been a stellar campaign for Penn State teams, as well. Currently sitting in second spot in the Learfield Directors' Cup following the winter season, Penn State had 15 of its 17 teams (through the winter seasons) NCAA postseason competition. That list includes four teams that won conference titles, a record seventh NCAA title for women's volleyball and three individual NCAA championships.
    

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It's no surprise to see the academic and athletic accolades when you hear the coaches speak to the public. Franklin, Gadowsky and St. Pierre are just three examples of what is a tremendous lineup of coaches on the University Park campus right now.

"I continue to listen to the gratitude and passion from our coaches towards their student-athletes, and it's just so impressive," Barbour said.

The success of Penn State's teams on the field and in the classroom would not be possible without superb mentors, and it would not be possible without the support of individuals like those in the room on Tuesday night in Lancaster.

"No one in the nation does passion like we do, and it's not even close," Gadowsky said. "Not only is it fun to be a part of a family reunion (home game), it's very motivating for us."

The sense of pride in Penn State Blue and White is truly unique.

"There is no place like us," Franklin said.

The Caravan will extend outside of Pennsylvania on Wednesday when it rolls south to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.
    

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VIDEO: Lancaster Press Conference




Miles Traveled:
Day 1 - 129 miles


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


Nittany Lions Coach Kids During Garth Brooks ProClinic

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Saturday afternoon, members of the Penn State men's and women's ice hockey teams spent time inside Pegula Ice Arena. They were not practicing, not skating, not working on their own skills. Instead, they were serving as coaches, teaching 50 kids from the Centre County Youth Services Bureau and YMCA of Centre County about the sport of hockey with the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation.

When most people think of Garth Brooks, they automatically register his successful singing career; however in 1999, Brooks and one other created Teammates for Kids, a foundation aiming to give all kids an even start. They wanted to use statistics in sports, transforming them into dollars that could directly impact children across the world. That is exactly what the foundation has done.

"We started with baseball, Major League Baseball," Brooks said. "I think we had about 60 players the first year, and what it was is a player donates money for homeruns or here goals, saves, assists, stuff like that. Then our job is to triple that money as a foundation. One hundred percent of the money goes to kids. That's it. Every penny goes to kids. We walk into a locker room now with 4,000 professional athletes, and the first thing you say is 100 percent of the money goes to kids. They just start signing left and right. So, it's pretty cool."

With Brooks' current tour making a stop in State College, he knew he wanted to host a camp at Penn State. It was immediately clear that hockey was the way to go. With the ice removed from the main rink at Pegula, it was the perfect setting for a floor hockey clinic. Both the men's team and the women's team were excited to get involved.

The kids in attendance were split into groups by age, and each athlete was given one specific group to coach. The experience was something special for not only the kids but also the Nittany Lions.

"I have the older kids, and they've been just this happy group," said women's hockey junior Jordin Pardoski. "They're so happy to be here. They're having a blast out there, so it's really fun."

Nevertheless, this clinic is not only helping the children involved. It is also assisting the game of hockey as many new faces are being exposed to the sport through the clinic.

"I think the biggest thing for me is I just want to try and share the game," said men's hockey forward Eric Scheid. "Hockey is growing, but it's still not there yet, especially college hockey. So, out of all the kids here today if one or two of them grows a love for the game, then I think today was a success. I just want to spread the game and my love for it. I hope someone get to enjoy the game like I do."

As the 50 kids ran around with sticks in their hands, the enjoyment was written all over their faces. They smiled wide and were constantly talking with their coaches. It didn't matter that many didn't know who Garth Brooks was because that they were having fun and enjoying every minute of the experience.

Clinics like these and sports in general have so much to offer children, allowing them to grow. They promote health, promote friendship, promote positivity, and when working with the kids of Centre County, those aspect are exactly what the coaches emphasized.

"Another thing sport does is it creates bonds and friendships that last a lifetime," Scheid said. "I've been on a lot of different teams in the last five or six years, played with a lot of different players. Every year you play on a team and meet 20 new teammates, and you make friends for life."

Overall, Brooks wants to encourage these kids to be happy, to be healthy and to enjoy life. Hosting these camps is truly making a huge impact on many lives, which is why the country singer continues to have them.

Sports offer children so much in the grand scheme of life. It is of the utmost importance to continue that trend and to allow kids to grow into positive people.

"Hopefully what we teach them is to believe in themselves, to love one another," said Brooks. "And, if it's through the sport of hockey or through the sport of life, if today changes one of those kids to look in the mirror and feel better about themselves then this whole camp, this whole tour, everything is worth it."
    

Previewing the 12-Stop 2015 Coaches Caravan

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Coaches Caravan Registration - Click Here

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With spring practice in the books, head coach James Franklin and five other Penn State head coaches and eight football assistant coaches are set to participate on the 12-stop 2015 Coaches Caravan.

Festivities kick off on Thursday with a lunch stop in Harrisburg and an evening reception in Lancaster.

"It's important to get it out and mingle with the fans and the alumni base because they are the people who make Penn State special," Franklin said.  "It's about the people here. It always has been and it always will. We have a sense of family and community like nowhere else in the country."

More than 2,500 Penn State fans and alumni have already registered for Caravan events. Following the evening reception in Lancaster, the Caravan bus hits the road on Wednesday with stops in Washington, D.C. (lunch) and Baltimore (evening reception). The first leg of the Caravan will wrap up on Thursday in Altoona (lunch) and Pittsburgh (evening reception).

The lineup of coaches for week one, in addition to Franklin, include men's hockey's Guy Gadowsky and women's golf's Denise St. Pierre.

"The best thing about Penn State is that we are one big passionate family," Gadowsky said. "You don't see that more than when you get to interact with our supporters. For our program, you look at what happens in Pegula Ice Arena, and it's all because of the great supporters that we have. So, to get out there to meet and interact with all of the Penn State supporters is just fantastic."

Among the coaches slated to join Franklin on the road during a star-studded week two of the Coaches Caravan are wrestling's Cael Sanderson, men's basketball's Patrick Chambers (May 19-20) and women's volleyball's Russ Rose.

GoPSUsports.com will again board the modified Fullington Trailways motorcoach for all 12 stops on the Caravan.  Look for photos, video and written content from all 12 locations as the Penn State Coaches Caravan hits the road for six days in the coming two weeks.

Register today for a stop near you, and we look forward to seeing you on the road.


2015 Coaches Caravan Schedule

Week One:

May 5 - Harrisburg/Best Western Premier (Lunch)
Coaches:
James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky, Denise St. Pierre

Lancaster/Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square (Evening reception)
Coaches:
James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky, Denise St. Pierre, John Donovan, Brent Pry

May 6 - Washington, D.C./J.W. Marriott Washington, D.C. (Lunch)
Coaches:
James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky, Denise St. Pierre

Baltimore/Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport; Linthicum Heights (Evening reception)
Coaches:
James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky, Denise St. Pierre, Charles Huff

Sean Spencer

May 7 - Altoona/Lakemont Park Casino (Lunch)
Coaches: James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky, Denise St. Pierre

Pittsburgh/Doubletree by Hilton Cranberry (Evening reception)
Coaches: James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky, Bob Shoop, Terry M. Smith

Week Two:
May 19 - Philadelphia/Hyatt at the Bellevue; Center City (Lunch)

Coaches: James Franklin, Patrick Chambers, Russ Rose, Cael Sanderson, Josh Gattis, Sean Spencer

Philadelphia/Sheraton Bucks County Hotel; Langhorne (Evening reception)

Coaches: James Franklin, Patrick Chambers, Russ Rose, Cael Sanderson, Josh Gattis, Sean Spencer

May 20 - New York City/Edison Ballroom (Lunch)

Coaches: James Franklin, Patrick Chambers, Russ Rose, Cael Sanderson

Northern New Jersey/Hilton; Parsippany (Evening reception)

Coaches: James Franklin, Patrick Chambers, Russ Rose, Cael Sanderson, Ricky Rahne

May 21 - Lehigh Valley/Holiday Inn, Allentown - I-78; Breinigsville (Lunch)

Coaches: James Franklin, Russ Rose, Cael Sanderson

Wilkes-Barre/The F.M. Kirby Center (Evening reception)

Coaches: James Franklin, Russ Rose, Cael Sanderson, Ricky Rahne


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