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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While some of us were busy working on tans and enjoying the break from school this summer, Penn State men's soccer veteran Christian Kaschak was busy assisting in surgeries in Vietnam.

Kaschak, an aspiring surgeon, spent three weeks working with the Vietnam Medicine 17 Project where he not only observed but was able to scrub in for various surgeries.

"Initially my cousin started what's called the Vietnam Medicine Project 17 years ago and he invited me to come along since he knew I was interested in a career in medicine after college," stated Kaschak. "So, I decided this was something I wanted to do and went out to Vietnam and had a great experience."

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Kaschak, who is a current kinesiology major, explains how this trip confirmed his desires to pursue a career in medicine after graduating from Penn State.

"I would love to continue the same type of work after college, it would mean so much if I could combine my medicine career with helping others in Vietnam or anywhere needed like my cousin does," said Kaschak.

Despite his 15 plus hour plane ride for the trip, Kaschak said it was the trip of a lifetime.

Although he did get to explore the land while on his trip, most of his time was spent in a Vietnam hospital.

"The hospitals over there are a complete 180-turn from how they are organized here," said Kaschak. "I was able to scrub in on a few surgeries where here in America I would only be able to observe, so it really was a great way to get hands on experience. I was really able to see medicine in a different way than I would have in the United States."

During his trip Kaschak learned a lot about the culture and gained valuable medicine experience, however he holds one lesson especially close.

"The biggest thing I learned over there was that everyone you interact with can teach you something new," stated Kaschak. "I went into it only expecting to learn from the fellow surgeons but was impressed with how everyone I met over there had something to teach me."

Although Kaschak loved everything he was able to learn during his trip, he claims the best reward of his experience was being able to give back.

"I always try and find ways I can give back to the community," said Kaschak. "I don't simply do things for my resume or things that I think will make me look good, I do things to give back and get involved in organizations I believe in."

Besides being a scholar athlete, Kaschak is also involved in the Athletic Leadership Institute, is a representative of the Student Advisory Board, was a member of a Dancer Relations committee for THON, and even danced in THON two years ago.

"I think you can see his willingness to help others not only on the field, but more importantly in his life outside of soccer," said Head Coach Bob Warming. "Christian is an amazing kid and you see that in every aspect of his life. He's a great example of the type of kids we want in our program, not only dedicated to the sport, but dedicated to being a good person."

Now that Kaschak is back to focusing on soccer, he's already clocked 135 minutes and has two shots for the Nittany Lions this season.

VIDEO: Women's Volleyball Update - Simone Lee (9/30/15)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com caught up with sophomore Simone Lee as the Nittany Lions prepare for weekend matches against No. 4 Nebraska and Iowa. The top-ranked Nittany Lions will host the fourth-ranked Huskers on Friday at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall.

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

VIDEO: Army West Point Week Player Q&As

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with quarterback Christian Hackenberg and defensive end Garrett Sickels during Army West Point week.

Christian Hackenberg

Garrett Sickels

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2015 Tuesday Press Conference Roundup - Army West Point Week

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11361289.jpegVIDEO: Army West Point Week Player Q&As | Transcripts - James Franklin | Players

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin met with the media on Tuesday to preview Penn State's home matchup against Army West Point.

The Nittany Lions (3-1, 1-0) and Black Knights (1-1, 0-0) will play for the first time since 1979 at 12:00 p.m. (ESPNU) inside Beaver Stadium on Saturday, continuing a string of five straight weeks of home football in Happy Valley. Franklin reviewed Penn State's 37-21 win over San Diego State and looked ahead to the final non-conference matchup during his weekly meeting with the press.

A tremendous effort from the Nittany Lion defensive line fueled Penn State to its third-straight win on Saturday. The group in the trenches has done a superb job being disruptive during the first four games of the season. Penn State's D-line finished with 21 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two pass break-ups and a touchdown against the Aztecs.

"We're playing really, really well up front," said Franklin. "That was kind of the expectation going into the season really the last two years. I feel like our depth and our talent at that position is really strong. Our defense kind of feeds off of how our D-line plays."

The Lions head into the Army West Point game ranked No. 1 in sacks (18) and No. 2 in tackles for loss (40). Those stats are a direct byproduct of elite play up front. Coach Franklin tabbed tackling fundamentals as the one area he is looking for out of the defense this week heading into the contest against the triple-option attack of Army West Point.

Offensively, Franklin noted the team's ball possession in the first half of the San Diego State game. The Lions had 45 offensive plays and more than 22 minutes of possession in the opening half. San Diego State had just 20 plays and eight minutes of possession. Effectiveness in the running game played a big role in the 27-point half and ball control.

"That's how we'd love to be able to play, control the ball, make plays, keep our defense off the field. Play great, complementary football there," Franklin said.

The Nittany Lions took a step forward in the passing game on Saturday, as well, thanks to a strong afternoon from quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The junior quarterback distributed the ball to seven different players and finished with 296 yards. The Lion receivers made a number of big plays, and Coach Franklin knows the group can take another step forward as confidence continues to grow.

"I thought we had some drops early on in the season, but I think overall we're doing some good things," said Franklin. "We need to continue building there. I think we've got some guys that can have a more significant impact in the game and making opportunities for them in the way we're calling the game... I think they can do better. But as we continue to build confidence on our offensive line and grow with experience there, that those guys will be able to have a bigger and bigger impact as the season progresses."

Penn State will have the unique challenge of prepping for a team that rushed for 556 yards and held the ball for more than 41 minutes last week. Offensive possessions against an effective triple-option team, like Army West Point, can be few and far between. Getting off the field on defense Saturday could play a huge role in impacting all phases of the game.

"I think the big thing for us is the way you practice (during the week)," said defensive end Garrett Sickels. "We practice hard every play. The games are easier. That's (Coach) Franklin's philosophy. If we practice hard every play, the games will take care of themselves. (Against the triple-option) we just have to be disciplined. Everyone has to take care of their job - defensive line, linebackers in the back end. We have to do our job every play."

The Nittany Lions will practice in pads on Tuesday and Wednesday before the final game week session on Thursday. Saturday's game will kick at 12:00 p.m. on ESPNU.

Press Conference Notes:
- Saturday's Military Appreciation Day festivities will be special for two members of the roster. Both of wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton's parents, Johnie and Madgeline, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for more than 20 years. Hamilton has lived all over the world and was born in Okinawa Japan. Fellow wide out DeAndre Thompkins has direct ties to the military, as well. His father, Shawn, is in the Marines. Currently a Staffing and Recruiting Specialist for the U.S. Marine Corps in Buford, Ga., Shawn Thompkins has spent more than 15 years with the Marines.

- Coach Franklin on the field in Beaver Stadium, given the amount of rain on gamedays and during the days leading up to this week's game.

"We've had an unusual amount of rain, obviously, so that's always a concern with that. But Herb and our turf management people, I think are the best in the business. Our turf management program is probably one of the best in the country. So I have tremendous faith in those guys that the field will be in great condition come Saturday."

- Chris Godwin earned a rare double honor for the team's internal accolades this week. The sophomore wide out was named Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Week for the San Diego State game. Godwin tallied five catches for 78 yards on offense and had two tackles and a fumble recovery on special teams.

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

Big Ten Network Gives Viewers an Inside Look into Women's Volleyball

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20150921_133528.jpgBy Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Normally, fans can only see their favorite teams or athletes on game-day, in short interviews or quick game-previews. However, supporters of the Penn State women's volleyball team are in luck for something a little different this week.

The Big Ten Network pointed cameras towards volleyball last week to film a behind-the-scenes look at the Penn State and Wisconsin women's volleyball teams as the two programs prepared for last Wednesday's Big Ten conference opener at Rec Hall.

The second edition of B1G Close Up from BTN Originals, the same group that produces The Journey, will air this Wednesday immediately following the conclusion of the Illinois-Wisconsin volleyball match on the Big Ten Network.

"We are thrilled to debut another episode of B1G Close Up," said Bill Friedman, Coordinating Producer for BTN Originals. "To be able to provide this type of access around two elite volleyball programs will be a treat for our viewers."

"[This will let others] to get to know us a little bit more," said senior Aiyana Whitney. "I think more than anything, it's about us as a team, what goes into game night, all the work we put into practice and all the stuff we do outside the gym. It's an inside look at our personality and who we are as people."

To give the fans the true experience of seeing things behind the scenes, the camera crew followed the team at all times and places possible. The production team arrived at Penn State on Sept. 19, and filmed scenic and the campus atmosphere before catching the Nittany Lions as soon as they got off the plane from their last match at the South Florida Invitational.

BTN also followed several players to classes, spent time with head coach Russ Rose and associate head coach Salima Rockwell and followed players to their extracurricular activities.

"It's about not just getting the volleyball story, but the personal stories of the players," said Stephen Palgon, director and executive producer of Star Crossed Pictures, who is partnering with BTN on this project. "Ideally, when you're watching the show, the match will have already happened, but our version of the show will be a more personalized version of seeing this match, so that when you see someone setting the ball, that's not just someone setting the ball, that's a character that you've learned about and know their story."

Even with the camera in the team's presence for a lengthy period of time, the players have enjoyed it.

"It's been really cool," said Aiyana Whitney. "It's definitely a different experience. The camera is kind of in your face at all times, but I think it's really cool and exciting, especially for the younger girls to get a feel for how big-time this program is and how big-time this conference is."

For the inaugural episode in April 2015, the camera crew followed the Penn State and Maryland's men's lacrosse teams as the two programs prepared to meet for the first time in the first season of Big Ten Men's lacrosse.

With the history of the Penn State and Wisconsin's volleyball program, it is no surprised that BTN decided to share their story for the second episode.

"Penn State is on top of the mountain in terms of volleyball," said Palgon. "Penn State and Wisconsin is just a great rivalry for us in terms of storytelling because Penn State has knocked Wisconsin out two years in a row, so it provides a good point for us in storytelling. Also, Wisconsin is the defending Big Ten champion and Penn State is the defending national champion, so it gives us good elements for story lines."

Having a chance to show the world what Penn State women's volleyball is all about means a lot to the team, but this episode will also mean a lot for Penn State.

"I think it's awesome for Penn State and I think it's awesome for volleyball fans out here because you see match night, but you don't really see what goes into that and what's kind of behind-the-scenes, so I think it's pretty awesome that [BTN] is able to break it down for the average person or fan or someone that doesn't really know what goes into a program like this," Whitney said.

By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer    

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On December 26, 2014 Brett's life would drastically change after a snowboarding accident left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Now almost a year after Gravatt's accident, the once defenseman for the Lions remain a part of the soccer family and is constantly proving to be a symbol of strength for his teammates.

"Although we wish he was playing, he still does just as much for this team, he's the pulse that keeps the team running and is constantly able to help the guys stay motivated," said Head Coach Bob Warming.

Since Gravatt isn't able to play on the field anymore, he still has his role on the team. He does a wide-range from editing video, being an advisor, and most importantly remaining a source of encouragement for his team.

Despite a tragic and life changing accident, Gravatt still keeps a positive attitude and plans to live his life to the fullest while motivating others in the process.

"I try to be a symbol of never giving up and want to encourage the attitude of how life goes on even after bad accidents," said Gravatt.

On Sunday, September 27 the Penn State men's soccer team honored Gravatt and all ability athletes during the Nittany Lions' home game against fellow Big Ten school, Michigan.

"It meant a lot to not only me but the whole team to honor Brett in this game, he's still just as much  a member of this team as he was before the accident," said senior Brain James.

Against best efforts, Penn State fell to Michigan in a 2-0 defeat.

"It is kind of like what I told our players before. Everybody wants to win, and the thing that I know that Brett, Owen, and anybody else that would like to be playing today but is not, and even the students in the stands, the one thing you have to do is honor them by giving your best effort,"
stated Coach Warming.

"If you go out and do not give your best effort, you dishonor everyone else who wishes that they could play," noted warming.

The team may have lost, but the Blue and White now that in any situation good or bad-there's a lesson to learned. This philosophy is constantly proven to them by Brett Gravatt and his story.

"It's amazing having a community like this that stands behind you and all the support makes the transition and being back at school a lot easier," said Gravatt.

Although Gravatt's life is much different than it was this time last year, he's adjusting and knows he will always have the love and support of his teammates behind him.

"Every day is getting more away from the normal, being able to walk but it's becoming the new normal for me in a chair. Everyday becomes easier and every day I strive to become stronger," stated Gravatt.

Now that Gravatt isn't playing soccer, he has found a new way to keep active by competing in and training for the Paralympic games.

"I love it, I've gotten into wheel chair racing and want to be a symbol of the Paralympic Games since not many people know about that and I want to help people become educated on sports," stated Gravatt.

Gravatt's story not only inspires the Nittany Lions, it's an inspiration to all ability athletes. He's proven that regardless of what happens, life goes on.

"If you're a competitor you're going to find a way to compete in any aspect of your life, and Brett is an unbelievable competitor. He's going to break records for sure and I can't wait to see where his journey takes him," said Coach Warming.

By Jack
Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Superstars shine in all levels of sports. They are why fans come out to games and they are the ones that garner the most attention. However, what separates good teams from great ones is depth.

Last season the Penn State women's hockey team enjoyed its best season in program history. They posted 17 wins, thanks largely in part to eight players recording double-figure point totals during the season.

This year, the Nittany Lions are poised to continue their winning ways and the return of seven of those eight top scorers will definitely help the cause.

"We have talent, depth, strength, speed and experience," said Coach Josh Brandwene. "If we can continue to work hard and have a growth mindset all year, the sky's the limit."

That talent, depth and speed were on display for the Nittany Lions in their first game of the year, as they dispatched Guelph in a scrimmage, 1-0.

Though the Nittany Lions only scored one goal, the offense looked much better than the score indicated and all four lines showed signs of potency. Also, the in game adjustments made by the team seemed to be a big talking point for Brandwene as he has preached a growth mindset from the beginning of the season.

"We needed to make some adjustments in the middle of the game and I was really pleased with the way our team responded," said Brandwene.

The lone goal in the game was scored by freshman Victoria Samuelsson, who was one of the more impressive players on the ice during the game. The team boasts strength in all four classes and Samuelsson looks to provide a youthful boost.

"I'm just really excited to be here and play my first game with all of the girls and now I'm just looking forward to next week," said Samuelsson following the scrimmage.

It's not only Samuelsson, but also other freshman, like Hannah England and Kelsey Crow will have a significant impact on the team this year according to Brandwene.

"We have great senior and junior leadership from our veterans, we have some really good efforts from our sophomores as well and specifically talking about our freshman, very pleased with what we saw from them as it was the first time they put on a Penn State uniform," said Brandwene.

Penn State's season kicks off with a big time matchup against the number one ranked team in the nation, Minnesota. However, as is usually the case with the Brandwene coached team, the Nittany Lions are focused on what they can do to improve and not so much on what their opponent will do.

"Our first step is to focus on us and what we see on film," said Brandwene. "We need to build on the things we did well and focus on what we need to improve on before we even turn the page and focus on Minnesota. We are excited for the game, but our job right now is team growth."

Penn State takes on the Golden Gophers next Thursday and Friday at Pegula Ice Arena to kick off their 2015-16 campaign. 

Monday Notebook: Chunk Plays Kick Start Passing Game

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11358387.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg finished just four yards shy of a 300-yard afternoon during Penn State's 37-21 victory over San Diego State on Saturday. The Nittany Lions stretched the field on big day through the air. 

During the first three weeks, the Nittany Lion passing attack had accounted for two plays of more than 35 yards. On Saturday, the Lions tallied three plays of 35 yards or more alone.

Sophomore Saeed Blacknall had receptions of 45 and 46 yards, while senior tight end Kyle Carter had a catch and run of 35 yards on Saturday. The success in the passing game goes hand in hand with the success of the Nittany Lion ground attack. And it was huge for the offense's confidence.

"Being able to make some plays down the field is huge for us," Hackenberg said. "It's huge for confidence, especially to see Saeed make a couple big catches down the field. It adds another dimension to the offense for us."

Penn State had seven different players catch a pass on Saturday, including three receivers, two tight ends and two running backs. Distributing the ball to a number of players makes it tougher on an opposing defense to gameplan for the Lions.

"When you have a lot of different guys catch the football and a lot of different guys make plays, especially down the field, it's going to bode well for us the rest of the year," said Hackenberg.

Nassib Leading the Nation
Senior defensive end Carl Nassib has been nothing short of stellar during the first quarter of the 2015 season. The former walk-on has been a man on a mission for the Nittany Lions since pre-season practice started on Aug. 3.

Nassib entered the season with 2.0 career sacks and 5.5 career tackles for loss. Through four games, the West Chester native has 7.0 sacks and 9.0 tackles for loss. He is leading the nation in sacks with (1.75 per game) and third in the nation in tackles for loss (2.3 per game).

"You look at Nassib; he's got some elite, overpowering size and speed and combination things that are really showing up," said head coach James Franklin.

His never-ending motor makes Nassib a fun player to watch during every snap.

Penn State vs. Service Academies
The service academies have been a big piece in Penn State's 129 seasons on the gridiron. The Nittany Lions have the utmost respect to the men and women in uniform, and this Saturday, Beaver Stadium will pay tribute to the armed services on Military Appreciation Day.

Saturday's clash against Army West Point will make the 67th game against service academies. The Nittany Lions have played against Navy on 38 occasions, Army on 25 occasions and Air Force on three occasions. Penn State leads the series against Army West Point, 13-10-2. The two teams first met in 1899. The most recent meeting came in 1979. The Nittany Lions have won the last nine games against Army West Point.

Early Look at Army West Point
The Black Knights enter the game with a 1-3 mark following a 58-36 victory over Eastern Michigan last week. The Knights scored 22 points in the fourth quarter to pull away from Eastern Michigan. Army West Point tallied 556 rushing yards in the victory and had six players tally 60 or more yards in the game.

The Black Knights are ranked No. 9 nationally in rushing offense with 294.5 yards per game. Running a triple option scheme, Army West Point has attempted just 36 passes in 2015. The Knights have rushed for 1,178 yards on 200 attempts (5.9 ypc). Sophomore quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw is the team's leading rusher at 341 yards. All three of Army West Point's losses came by five points or fewer (Fordham - 37-35, UConn - 22-17, Wake Forest - 17-14).

Extended Game Highlight
Watch extended game highlights from the victory over San Diego State on Saturday.

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Freshman Features: Sturtz Makes Transition from CCHL to College

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Freshman forward Andrew Sturtz is poised to make an immediate impact during the Penn State men's hockey 2015-16 season. After two successful years with the Carleton Place Canadians of the CCHL, Sturtz is ready for the challenging but rewarding transition into college hockey.

Sturtz, known for his effectiveness in front of the net, tallied 72 points in 58 regular-season games during the Canadians' 2014-15 campaign. Head coach Guy Gadowsky emphasized that Sturtz has been a player that Penn State was highly motivated to recruit.

"He was on the radar for a long, long time," said Gadowsky. "He has been someone that we've been very excited about for a while."

There are many reasons for the program to be excited about such a coveted recruit. Sturtz was named CCHL MVP and CJHL Player of the Year in 2013-14 by leading the league in scoring (104 points). Sturtz has made a major impact in the CCHL and he hopes the success he has seen will transition well in to NCAA-caliber games.

"It's obviously a big jump from [CCHL] to college, speed and strength wise," said Sturtz. "But [my teammates] are helping me out a lot and I look forward to seeing what I can do at this level, whatever role that is."

Gadowsky hopes that Sturtz's established talent blends in quickly with returning players like Dylan Richard and David Glen. The 2014-15 Big Ten Coach of the Year had taken his time studying Sturtz and his development before giving him the nod to be a Nittany Lion.

During the 2013-14 season with the Canadians, Sturtz was a standout team member, but his stats leveled-out during the 2014-15 campaign. This didn't deter Gadowsky however, but instead reflected opportunity to develop the young player.

"If you talk to his coaches and people around their junior program they said that he was a much better all around player [in the 2014-15 season], so he's the guy for us," said Gadowsky. "We're absolutely looking for some of that offense because we know that he can do it at high levels."

For Sturtz, the transition into college life off the ice has been equally as challenging as on the ice.

"It was tough for me at first," said Sturtz. "I battled with trying to find places a lot and I kept getting lost."

Once he found his way around campus, navigating hockey practices and workouts was something veteran team members helped Sturtz with. Sturtz has quickly fallen in to pace with the Penn State hockey ways.

"Adjusting to the hockey part of being here has been great," said Sturtz.

Being one of eight freshmen on the team this year, Sturtz has been able to learn from and bond with both his rookie and veteran teammates alike. He explained that even on his first visit to Penn State before committing, the players made Happy Valley feel like home.

"A big thing for me was when I came to visit all the guys came up to introduce themselves to me," said Sturtz. "You don't get that a lot at other schools, which shows this team has good character. I liked what I saw right when I got here and I knew this is where I wanted to play hockey."

Veteran players made Sturtz feel welcome during his first visit to Penn State and now those players have become his teammates. Sturtz explained who on the team he has become close with and who has given him a few pointers about transitioning to college life.

"Since I got here, David Glen is a good guy I look up to," said Sturtz. "He's good on the ice and off the ice, he's a good role model. Also, David Goodwin and Luke Juha are good players but also good students and I look forward to taking after their lead as the years go on."

With the Nittany Lions set to open their season this weekend, all of Sturtz's training will be put to the test. His offensive prowess will be something coaches and fans will be looking toward to help the Nittany Lions this season. If his hard work training for the season pays off, Sturtz will be an impactful player during his first season with Penn State.

"He someone that we're looking for to putting the puck in the net but also helping us with our identity," said Gadowsky. "He's someone we're very, very excited about."

Cori Conley is Bright Spot in Tough Loss

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11357432.jpegBy Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
Whenever Penn State was in trouble on an Ohio State attack, Cori Conley was there to keep things under control.

Conley was a major part of a dominant defensive effort by Penn State, despite heartbreaking the 2-1 defeat in the second overtime period to the Buckeyes. One thing head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss noticed was the strength of her defense, including Conley.

"The backs just did a good job, especially Cori," said Morett-Curtiss.

Conley seemed to serve as an excellent safety net on dangerous-looking attacks. She had many timely tackles, knocking balls loose and clearing the ball away from danger when the Buckeyes had possession in the attacking circle.

The defensive statistics were solid, as Ohio State's first penalty corner did not occur until overtime.

"It was good we only allowed six shots. We played really tough defense and we didn't even allow them a corner at all, except for overtime. We played really well defensively and were able to tackle outside the circle...I feel like we played a really good defensive game," said Conley.

Not one to talk about herself, Conley stressed the importance of freshman goalie Jenny Rizzo in helping send the game to overtime.

"We reacted well to the good shots. Jenny reacted well saving them, and our defense and breaking out we did a really good job with," said Conley.

The frustrating part for the Lions is they showed they are capable of going off on offense, as they scored six goals on Friday night against Michigan State. The offensive statistics from Sunday's game, though, will be something the team learns from.

The Lions had 21 shots on goal and 14 penalty corners against the Buckeyes.

Penn State did score a goal on a penalty stroke, as Brooke Birosik went top shelf and put it past Buckeye goalkeeper Liz Tamburro.

Conley explained the team's faith in Birosik's ability to knock in goals.

"She [coach Morett-Curtiss] has really good trust in Brooke with her shot," said Conley.

The defense sparkled Sunday, led by Conley, and that is something that can be built upon going into next weekend.