By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a Big Ten Championship on the line, the
Penn State women's lacrosse team entered the tournament feeling confident. The
Nittany Lions took down Northwestern in the second round, bringing them one
step closer to the trophy. While the team was excited, the job was not done
yet. Penn State still needed one more win.
When Ohio State (13-7) took down previously undefeated Maryland, the Lions
(14-4) prepared for the challenge and trusted in their abilities. After 60
minutes of play, Penn State emerged as the conference's first winner by
defeating the Buckeyes, 13-11.
The Nittany Lions are Big Ten champions.
"I don't know if it sunk in yet," said head Coach Missy Doherty. "I think it
was a great game. I just love that competing aspect of it, but certainly being
the first Big Ten winner is such an honor. We have such a great tradition in
our program that goes so far back. Our alums are so proud of our program and
have done well in the past. It's nice to really put Penn State on the map with
our first Big Ten Championship."
Key to the win was Penn State's offense, which has dominated throughout the
entirety of the season. Senior Tatum Coffey led the way with her four goals,
but in all the team saw scoring from seven different players in the final. This
balance up front made the Blue and White a difficult team to beat. They
challenged Ohio State's defense, went to the net and came away from the game
shooting at 52 percent.
For Coffey and the rest of the senior class, this game was crucial. With so
little time left to play in their careers, every second counts. They wanted to
leave it all on the field, which is exactly what they did.
"I honestly had an epiphany," Coffey said. "It was a moment that just hit me,
and I realized that I'm a senior. I'm never going to be in this position again.
So, I let that take over me and decided to be a leader out there and pump
Going into halftime, the Lions had a three-goal lead. Nevertheless, the team
knew it would not be an easy task to finish the game, especially against the
Ohio State controlled play in the opening minutes of the second, tallying three
consecutive goals to even the scoring. The Nittany Lions called a timeout to
regroup, but they were never concerned. Staying calm proved to be key.
"Right when they quickly scored three goals on us, we stayed confident and
composed," said Abby Smucker. "We knew that we had to pick up our defense a
little bit more, but I was confident in the way our defense was playing. And,
having Emi [Smith] back there in the cage was critical for us."
All season long, Smucker has anchored the Nittany Lion defense. Doherty has
labeled her the team organizer, keeping the Lions cohesive in the back. Her
play in the semi-final and final helped boost the Lions and did not go
unnoticed as Smucker was named the tournament MVP.
Also stepping up for the Lions was Emi Smith in the cage. She made seven stops
that kept the Lions ahead. Her biggest save of the game came with just over a
minute to play. Had she not made the stop, the Buckeyes would have pulled
within one. The dynamic of the game would have shifted.
"She just came up with some really crucial saves," said Doherty of Smith. "I
think she's been solid all year, but when the game is on the line I think she
gets better. Especially in that last minute coming up with such a huge save, it
was really that last step we needed to seal up the game."
As time evaporated, Penn State realized the magnitude of what it had done. This
team battled through tough losses, through injuries and through close games to
get to that point. The work it had done all season long finally paid off.
"It shows that we can bounce back," Smith said. "It shows that we can improve
on the losses that we've had, and we can always learn from the things we don't
do right. There's always room for improvement, and I think the team really
shows that. We have improved a lot over this season, and I think that's why we
came up big here. We just focused on the things that we do well and emphasized
From the start of the year, this team knew the season would be special. It
worked hard day in and day out for this opportunity. Now, the Nittany Lions
could not be more proud of their accomplishment. They will forever be the first
Big Ten Champions.
"We really the whole year tried to work on proving who we are, and we made a
statement today," said Coffey. "I'm so proud of my team for doing that. We
really just knew what we needed to work on, knew what we needed to do, and we
went out there and did it."
By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There are 98 total student-athletes on the Penn
State track and field team - 48 women, 50 men. Of all of those, there are a total
of four women pole vaulters: Kasey Kemp, Erin Knabe, Lexi Masterson, andHannah Mulhern.
As if that wasn't exceptional enough in a sport that takes everything
from upper body strength to gymnastics ability, all four women rank within the
top ten pole-vaulters in Penn State history.
"That's something that I value. I earned that," said Masterson, who
holds the school record at 13-3.5. "But to have three other teammates in the
top ten is something that's more for Penn State than it is for me. To have us,
kind of, rewrite pole vault for Penn State is so great."
"It feels really cool and it feels like we're making our mark. We're
letting people know: you might not know Penn State pole vault but you're going
to know [it], I promise you," said Knabe.
To add to the prowess, the women are fairly young. Masterson, Kemp, and
Knabe have sophomore athletic experience and Mulhern is finishing up her
"We're so young and we have so much more to learn and grow and keep
building," said Mulhern.
From a training standpoint, the women have all the support form the
university and their coaches, which, for them, makes being part of such a small
"We have to thank Coach Kelly. Practice, meets, he always has our back. Pole
vault is so frustrating, he can be so patient with us," said Masterson. "It's
nice to have our unique little thing. We have respect for the people that do
endless 200 [meter sprints] on the track and think 'Man, I couldn't do that'
but then, we're like, 'They probably can't pole vault'."
Pole vaulting by definition is a track and field event where athletes
must run with a long pole and use it to help them jump over a bar. It requires
more athleticism than most people would predict and can be more dangerous than
most other events.
"As a girl pole vaulter you have to have upper body strength and all of
us have gymnastics background that helps us be successful," said Masterson. "We
have two lifts per week, each about an hour. We'll have drill days and strength
days and plyometric days. There's a lot of time to put in."
"[During] preseason, we lift three days a week at 6:30 a.m. and then
come back later for practice 2:45-5 p.m. Then, on Wednesdays we have lifts,
practice, and then gymnastics from 5 to 6 p.m.," said Knabe.
Aside from being physically fit, pole vaulting takes a lot of mental
discipline and poise.
"Pole vaulting is all about confidence," said Knabe. "It's a lot of
technique. You can be really fast and really strong but if your technique is
wrong you're not going to go anywhere. That's why it's so mental because if
your technique is not perfect then something is going to go wrong and it can be
Fear is far from their vocabulary, though, and they are excited to have
each other to rely on. Being best friends only adds the excitement of being
"With this group, it's not about you, it's about all of us," said
"We know our goals and we're always helping each other get there. The
practice environment is really positive all the time. I think it's helpful that
we're friends outside of track," said Kemp.
"We have an awesome vibe during practice. There's such a respect for
this sport between athletes because you understand how hard this sport is so we
just try and lift each other up," said Knabe.
Penn State is about to earn a whole new reputation in pole vaulting and
the women thrilled to be part of the process confident that this is just
"Penn State is the best school ever. I wish I could put that into better
words but it's true. It's such a good school academically and it's respected
athletically," said Kemp.
"It's important for [people] to see how much we have improved," said
Masterson. "I was a 12-foot jumper two times in high school. I wasn't
consistent and within the first month on competition [at Penn State], I was
13-1. So, to see the improvement and how far it's going to go."
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK,
Pa. - They did it. Again.
For the 17th-straight
season, No. 7 Penn State (20-9) captured the EIVA Championship. This time, the
title came in the form of a straight sets (25-16, 25-17, 25-17) win over George
Mason (15-13) in Rec Hall on Friday.
"Defense is leading to our offensive," head coach Mark
Pavlik said. "And the offensive guys are working hard to finish those
opportunities. It's something that if we can continue, we are going to force
teams to play pretty physically against us."
With the victory, the Nittany Lions are headed once again to
the NCAA tournament being held in Palo Alto, California. The Blue and White
will find out its seeding Saturday, when the selection show begins at 1 p.m.
Thanks to the senior class and assistant head coach Colin
McMillan's integrated defensive scheme, Penn State breezed by the Patriots.
Aaron Russell finished with a match-high 15 kills on a .619 attacking
percentage. He also added six digs and two service aces en route to being named
the 2015 EIVA Championship Most Outstanding Player.
Just like in Wednesday's semifinal match against Princeton,
tonight's bout ended with a Nick Goodell service ace. By taking advantage of
George Mason sending two and three blockers to Russell, the redshirt senior
finished with 11 kills and eight digs.
"Everyone looks to Ron for them to block, and then whenever
one of us steps up, it makes it that much harder, but when everyone steps up,
teams don't have a chance," Goodell said.
The third senior on the team, Connor Curry, kept the Nittany
Lions in system all match long. Curry dug five swings, initiated brilliant
first contacts and added three assists to pace the Blue and White.
"I've been lucky to have won this thing five times," Curry
said. "I'm just happy to be going back to NCAAs, and that's our goal at the
beginning of the season. We've set ourselves up in the right place, so we'll
see what we can do in the next three matches."
However, it was two non-seniors who changed the complexity
of the match in favor of the Nittany Lions. Sophomore Chris Nugent accumulated
14 kills on just 19 swings and redshirt junior setter Taylor Hammond compiled
"I thought our passing and serving was pretty good," Pavlik
said. "Can't give enough credit to our offense. We took what they gave us, and
we understood what they were giving us, and made it real tough on them to try
to adapt to anything we did."
Russell echoed the words of his four-year head coach, but
went even further by praising the play of his talented setter.
"A lot of credit to Taylor [Hammond]," Russell said. "He spread
the offense really well tonight, and he gave us a lot of good opportunities....
We had a very offensively efficient game, and that is a good thing when you're
going into a national championship tournament."
Now Penn State has a quick turnaround before leaving for
Stanford on Sunday. Though according to Russell, the team's challenging
non-conference schedule this season has prepared the team well for the NCAA Tournament.
"Through the non-conference play that we've had, we've
experienced a lot of adversity," Russell said. "I think that just being able to
learn and improve from that has brought us to where we are today.... We want to
take it to these teams that are standing in our way of a national championship."
By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's
softball team is in Ann Arbor, Mich. to end the regular season by facing No. 3
Michigan this weekend. After a five-game winning streak, the Nittany Lions
enter this series with a 28-24 overall record, including a 9-11 Big Ten record.
With the first pitch set for 5:30
p.m. on Friday, Penn State and Michigan will be facing off in a three-game
In the past the Lions trail the
series 56-7 against the Wolverines, but this time Coach Lehotak and the team
are coming in hungry for the fight.
So far this season, the Blue and
White have been making an explosive presence at the plate with a total of seven
grand slams so far.
In those seven grand slams, two were
during the same inning on April, 1 against Bucknell. Penn State is the sixth
team in record Division I NCAA softball history to hit a pair of grand slams in
Some players specifically who have
been leading the pack at the plate are Alyssa VanDerveer with three grand
slams, Kristina Brackpool with two, Shelby Miller and Reina Furuya who each
have one grand slam of their own.
Another Lion who has made a name for
herself offensively is junior Macy Jones. She's leading the team with 41 runs,
99 total bases and is batting at .639.
"The team is back to keeping it
simple at the plate and we're much better when our mindset is simple rather
than trying to hard to get big," said head coach Amanda Lehotak.
With their bats ready to go, Lehotak
is ready to lead her squad into the weekend and are hoping to end the regular
season on a high note by showing Michigan a good fight for the wins.
Michigan enters its final home
series with a 45-6 record, 18-2 in Big Ten play. The Wolverines carry a .336
batting average with a great presence at the plate. Sierra Romero leads the B1G
with a .468 BA and runs scored with 66. Kelly Christner trails for second
place with 62 runs. The pair tallies 17 homeruns each.
Megan Betsa leads the Wolverine at the mound
with 22 wins and 244 strikeouts. Her ERA of 1.46 leads the conference. Fellow
pitcher Haylie Wagner totals 101 strikeouts on the season.
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY
PARK, Pa.- Watching college kids graduate is nothing new to Rob Cooper.
the Nittany Lions' head coach is in his 11th season at the helm of a
college program, after working as an assistant for more than a decade. In that
time, Cooper, like every college coach, has said goodbye to a different group
of young men every spring.
a process that never gets any easier for him. With Penn State's final home
series of the season this weekend against Rutgers, the old emotions
are already coming back for the skipper.
senior days really hard," Cooper said. "I know number one, how tough it is to
do something your whole life and then you're no longer playing baseball,
something every spring you've gotten ready to do. I'm sensitive to that but I'm
also sensitive to the fact that these guys, although they choose to, have given
up a lot of time and energy and it directly impacts me and my family. So I want
to them go out on a good note."
hand, this current group of eight Nittany Lion seniors may seem like any other
graduating class. At the same time, Cooper will always remember this group
fondly for helping him adjust to Penn State.
accepted the head coaching job at Penn State two years ago after nine seasons
at Wright State, it was clear the Nittany Lions were in a rebuilding phase.
Cooper accepted the challenge from day one, yet it was still nice for the coach to have players who embraced his style.
crop of seniors, which consisted of nine guys, went a long way in helping
Cooper implement the culture the coach wanted at Penn State. But this year's
crew has been just as responsive.
was very welcoming to me when I got the job," Cooper said. "Even though maybe
on record it doesn't show that we've made progress, it's definitely night and
day compared to when I got here and that's a testament to them."
feel just as strongly about their coach as he feels about them. When Cooper
arrived after their sophomore seasons, many of them were still raw players just
scratching the surface of their abilities.
Now, they've come a long way in reaching their potential. While the Nittany Lions are
still in the process of becoming contenders in the Big Ten, they've played .500
ball in their last 26 games in part because of the efforts of the senior class.
that exemplify the improvements that the team has made the past two seasons are
second baseman Taylor Skerpon and right fielder Aaron Novak.
Cooper arrived in 2013, Skerpon was a talented shortstop that struggled with
consistency and Novak was merely part of a mix of outfielders competing for
playing time. Now, Skerpon is arguably the team's best defender at second while
Novak has been the club's top hitter, leading the team in average (.331) and on-base
percentage (.406) while ranking second in home runs (four) and RBIs (22).
Cooper has gotten me to consistently play the game the right way all the time,
whether it's sprinting on and off the field in between innings or always
running down the baseline hard," Skerpon said. "Just being a great guy. He's
fun to be around and play for."
of seniors, which also includes infielders Ryky Smith and J.J. White,
outfielder Ryan Richter, and pitchers Geoff Boylston, Ryan
Harper, and Patton Taylor, has also grown closer with their teammates these
past two years.
Novak said that although there used to be a bit of a disconnect between the older players and
the younger ones, that is no longer the case.
"As a team,
during [Cooper's] time here we became much closer," Novak said. "From the
freshmen to seniors, we're all amazing friends and we've developed much closer
relationships then we had in the past. There used to be this kind of divide
between the freshman and the seniors and these past two years it wasn't at all
like that so we're a much more cohesive team."
like having seven other brothers, and truly meaning brothers," Skerpon added.
"We know how each other act, what can tweak somebody a little bit just to mess
with them. But it's been amazing. I couldn't ask for better guys to have four
college seniors, Skerpon and Novak aren't trying to think too much about their careers winding down. While the inevitable will soon become reality, the pair is trying to take advantage of the time they have left.
"I try not
to dwell on it too much because you know it's coming up," Novak said. "I guess
it's got to end so you've got to deal with it somehow."
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The Penn State men's lacrosse team battled Johns
Hopkins until time ran out in the first round matchup of the Big Ten
Tournament. Despite the strong effort, and outstanding performance by several
Nittany Lions, the No. 4 seed Penn State fell 14-9 to the No. 1 seed Johns
After putting is a valiant effort, the Nittany Lions (5-9, 2-3 Big Ten) found
themselves on the defense early and weren't able to hold off Johns Hopkins' quick
start. Penn State let up five goals in the first quarter, and Johns Hopkins
(8-6, 4-1 Big Ten) was able to hold Penn State to just 14 shots in the first
half. Head coach Jeff Tambroni knew that to come back and be competitive he had
to bring his team in and calm their nerves.
"I said relax, just relax," said Tambroni. "I felt like defensively we
tried to do some things that didn't seem to work. Offensively, we were just
rushing everything and giving the ball right back to their offense. We were
exhausted within the first ten minutes of that game. I think we were just
really worn down."
Once the Nittany Lions defense was back on track, the offense took the
lead, netting in what seemed to be an endless stream of goals kick-started by
junior TJ Sanders. From then on it was a constant game of cat and mouse, with
Johns Hopkins and Penn State trading leads and ties throughout the second half.
The two opponents would tie each other twice during the game, and were never
separated by more than two goals during the third quarter.
"I thought when we had our hand free and had room and space to shoot the
ball we did a really nice job with it," said Tambroni. "When we didn't the
result was evident, we turned the ball over on four possessions in the second
half and that proved to probably be a little more than we can handle."
Connor Darcey had an outstanding game in net, saving 11 shots in the
first half. Darcey's 11 saves helped him achieved a feat that hasn't happened
since Penn State's March 23, 2013 game against Bucknell. His total saves for
the night would come to 17, a large number by any comparison.
Although the season ended sooner than they would have liked, the Nittany
Lions have much to be proud of from their 2015 campaign. Being a part of the
inaugural Big Ten conference for lacrosse makes this season that much more
special. Having secured one of only four spots in the Big Ten Tournament, Penn
State further proved their ability to contend against the elite programs in the
"It was a honor to be involved in the Big Ten," said Tambroni. "It was a
lot of fun for all of us to be involved in the first ever Big Ten Tournament.
It is such a first class conference from start to finish. From the way that
they promote and market, run games, run the tournament. It has been an honor
and I think our guys sensed the difference from where we were to where we are
For the 2015 senior class, this season was the opportunity to steer Penn
State men's lacrosse in a new direction, with them at the helm. The nine
seniors set the standard for work ethic and sportsmanship that will be in place
for years to come in Happy Valley.
"We said to these guys during their senior day, they are the link," said
Tambroni. "They are the link to the past and the future."
Penn State men's lacrosse has a bright and promising future ahead thanks to
their senior class.
"This was really the last group between the old coaching staff and the
new coaching staff and I think they've done a pretty good job of holding on to
what we believe is a honorable past, but also leading this group to a new
culture and a future to what we think is going to be really bright," said
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Penn State women's lacrosse team arrived
in New Jersey yesterday afternoon, it watched the final minutes of the
first-round game Northwestern would eventually win. With their opponent now
know, the Nittany Lions will aim to do what they did for the first time in
twelve years a second time this season. If Penn State wants to win the
first-ever Big Ten Tournament, it will need to defeat a strong Northwestern
team yet again. This team is more than ready for that challenge.
The last time these two teams met, Penn State (12-4, 4-1 B1G) opened with
determination. The team dominated the first half and was able to shut down the
Wildcats (12-5, 3-2 B1G) with solid defensive plays. Nevertheless, head coach
Missy Doherty has made sure her team knows this game will be different. There
is more on the line in a tournament situation. Every team will be bringing its
"I'm really emphasizing to the players that it's going to be a different game,"
Doherty said. "It's not going to be the same game. They're going to be coming
at us a lot harder. I think it's always hard to play a team that you just beat
because there's a little bit of this hidden drive in the team that just lost.
So, you really have to go in and match that drive. We have to be ready to not
just play like we played last game and win. We have to be ready to play a
different game with different energy and win a different way."
Even with a new mindset, it is clear that this Nittany Lion team is confident.
It finished the regular season playing the most competitive teams in the
country, especially during its final outing. Although the Blue and White fell
to Maryland during the final regular-season game, they showed they have the
ability to keep up with the best teams.
Throughout the entirety of the season, Penn State has been working toward that
goal of being known as one of the best. It has downed teams like Northwestern,
Stanford and Loyola Maryland. Furthermore, the Nittany Lions were just three
goals shy of handing the Terrapins their first loss of the season.
"I think it definitely helps us because they're the No. 1 team in the nation,"
said sophomore Steph Lazo of the Maryland game. "The fact that we only lost by
three and we put up a fight against them, it's really nice knowing we can hang
with big teams. We're a top-ten team too. I think it definitely boosts our
confidence a little bit knowing we can play to that ability and we can hang
with the best team."
A major factor this season, which will continue to determine games in the
post-season, is the draw. Possession is key, and the Nittany Lions know they
will need to find ways to get the ball throughout the entirety of the game
During its last match with the Wildcats, Penn State was edged out in draw
controls, 16-10. The Nittany Lions know that cannot happen again if they want
to move on to the tournament final. It is understood by the entire team that it
will need to find ways to win possession.
"Just taking the draw I know that it's a really big factor because you can't
really do anything if you don't have the ball," said junior Jenna Mosketti.
"So, that's something that we've been working on in practice, and I think it'll
Mosketti is the team's draw control leader, with 54 on the season. However, winning
the ball will not only be up to her in this second-round game. It will need to
be a team effort in order to have success.
"It comes from both ends, the defensive line all the way to the attack line,"
said Lazo. "It's not just Jenna [Mosketti] trying to get the ball. It's not
just Tatum [Coffey] taking it as well. It comes from everyone. You just have to
be hungry for it, and you just have to want it and get it."
As the Nittany Lions prepare for their evening matchup with the Wildcats, they
know and understand what they need to do to have success. Each member of the
team wants to leave its mark. History will be made this weekend, and Penn State
wants nothing more that to come out on top.
"We've proved who we are, and I think that was a goal from the beginning of the
season, to prove who we are in the Big Ten and in the country," said senior
Tatum Coffey. "So, I think coming into this tournament we're not looking back.
We're going into these games not thinking about our past games. We're going
into it fresh and new. A fresh start."
No. 1 Maryland (5-0 B1G)
Points Leader: Taylor Cummings, 81 points Leading Goal Scorer: Megan Whittle, 56 goals Assists Leader: Taylor Cummings, 28 assists
Heading into the tournament, Maryland remains undefeated and the top team in
the county. The Terrapins final regular season game came against the Nittany
Lions last week, which was a battle to the very end. Junior Taylor Cummings and
freshman Megan Whittle lead the team, both of whom also earned All-Big Ten team
honors this week. With the No. 1 seed in the tournament, Maryland earned a
first-round bye and is schedule to take on Ohio State in the second round.
Like Maryland, the second-seed Nittany Lions earned a bye in the first round of
the tournament. Although the team is coming off a loss to Maryland, Penn State
has the utmost confidence in its abilities. With Northwestern's win over
Michigan, the Nittany Lions will take on the Wildcats in a rematch of the game
played earlier this season. The Blue and White will rely heavily on senior
Maggie McCormick and sophomore Steph Lazo for scoring as they attempt to move
on to the tournament final.
Fresh off its first-round win over Michigan, the Wildcats will be ready to take
on Penn State. Even without a bye this team is bound to come out strong,
especially because of the opponent. Northwestern fell to the Nittany Lions for
the first time since 2003 and are hungry for the tournament upset. Freshman
Selena Lasota and junior Kaleigh Craig, who has 34 goals and 40 points on the
season, lead the Wildcats' offense.
Just like Northwestern, the Buckeyes will be coming into the second round
fresh off it first win of the tournament. Ohio State downed Rutgers, 17-7, and
will now look to go up against the best team in the country. Playing against
Maryland, the Buckeyes will need to rely on their offensive producers, Jackie
Cifarelli and Katie Chase, for points. When the two teams met earlier this
season, Ohio State fell to Maryland, 13-8.
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It only takes one swing to break out of a slump,
something that Ryky Smith can attest to after Wednesday night.
The senior infielder went into a midweek contest against Pittsburgh on
the bench after going hitless in his prior 24 at-bats. With the game on the
line in the bottom of the ninth however, it was his bat that the Nittany Lions
Smith came to the plate with the score tied 7-7 and runners on the
corners with one out. The situation called
for a hit-and-run, and Smith executed it perfectly, slapping a grounder that
shortstop Ron Sherman wasn't able to make a play on before Jim Haley crossed
the plate with the winning run.
Apart from giving Penn State a thrilling 8-7 win, the play also went a
long way in getting Smith his confidence back.
"I hadn't had a hit in a while, that's for sure," Smith said. "The thing
going through my mind was, it's about time you get it done.
"[Head Coach Rob] Cooper put on a hit-and-run, all I have to right there
is hit a ground ball and we win the game. So I made it a point to hit that ball
on the ground no mater what."
In the clubhouse afterwards, Smith barely had a chance to finish his
statement when Haley snuck up from behind and rubbed a celebratory shaving
cream pie in his face. As his teammates looked on and laughed, the 5-foot-10
infielder couldn't help but smile.
"Anyway, now that that's over, jeez," Smith said as he wiped his face.
"As soon as I hit the ball I knew they weren't turning a double play and the
game was probably over."
While it's far from the hardest ball that the York, Pennsylvania,
native, has ever hit, it may wind up as his most memorable. It came at a good
time too, with his senior season winding down.
Easily one of Penn State's scrappiest players, Smith started the year on
fire, hitting over .300 for most of the first two months of the season. Despite
his recent slump, he's remained a versatile defender capable playing second and
third base, and Cooper was pleased to see him get a moment in the spotlight.
"He's a good college player, but he's one of those guys you wish was
loaded with talent because he would make the most of it," Cooper said. "He
wouldn't be a guy who wouldn't work at it or take it serious, because that's
not the way he plays, so it was good to see him do that."
Going into the ninth with a 7-5 lead, the Lions didn't appear to need
their half of the inning to win. The Panthers battled back however, scoring two
runs on three hits to set up the dramatic finish.
Before Smith delivered his game-winning infield hit, Haley and
center fielder Ryan Richter started the inning with singles of their own. In a
game in which Penn State registered 15 hits, all but one were singles.
Oh, but what a hit that one non-single was. In the bottom of the eighth
with the Lions clinging to a 6-5 lead, left fielder Greg Guers ripped his sixth
home run of the season on a solo shot that gave the Lions an important
"Our guys made adjustments from at-bat to at-bat and pitch to pitch and
the best example is Guers' home run," Cooper said. "He laid off a breaking ball
down in the dirt and when he didn't swing at that, the pitcher for them
realizes, 'He's not going to chase that, what am I going to do here.' Usually
you have an approach like that, you get a lot of hits."
The win gave Penn State a 2-0 record against Pittsburgh this season,
following a 6-1 win in 12 innings on March 17. While the Lions don't mind extra
innings, they're glad they won this one in a timely fashion.
"When Penn State plays Pitt, people are going to want to beat each
other," Cooper said. "Last time it was 40 degrees colder than it was tonight,
but I've always said I'll play as many innings as it takes as long as we win."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Compete in everything you do. It's one of the
football program's four core values, and it's the mantra head coach James
Franklin lives by.
He took that competitive energy onto the mound at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday
night prior to the Yankees-Tampa Bay Rays game and delivered a strike during a
ceremonial first pitch as part of a celebration of the team's Pinstripe Bowl
Upon arrival in the Bronx, Franklin and a small group of staff members toured
the stadium and some of the organization's most prized artifacts, including
holding a 45-ounce bat used by Babe Ruth in 1927. The leader of the Nittany
Lions presented Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who is a college football fanatic,
with a signed Penn State helmet on the field during batting practice.
The group watched the Yankees take batting practice from behind home plate
while mingling with members from the Pinstripe Bowl and Yankees organization.
From there, Franklin shifted into prep mode for the opening pitch. He used just
four practice tosses into the batting cage nets in the Yankees clubhouse before
walking onto the mound to a rousing cheer.
"I have tremendous training for this. I played highly competitive Little
League baseball about 30 years ago," Franklin joked before the pitch.
As promised, Franklin worked from a wind up and tossed the ceremonial pitch
with some heat on the corner of the plate before a "We Are" chant rang through
the area behind home plate as the mit popped.
"I had an awesome experience," Franklin said. "They've been great to us since
we arrived in town, and really the whole bowl experience carried over. I went
out on the mound, let it fly and had some fun...It felt good. I tried not to
think about it a lot and just let it fly. It went somewhere near the plate and
had a little bit of velocity on it."
Much like the bowl week in New York, the Pinstripe Bowl and Yankees staff
members were tremendous hosts and first class for the Nittany Lions on Tuesday.
Fans heading to Yankee Stadium will find a mural documenting Penn State's
thrilling 31-30 win over Boston College in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl.
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's lacrosse team has fought for
every win so far this season, and on Thursday the team will battle for one
more, this time in the first round of the inaugural Big Ten Tournament.
With history waiting to be written, the No. 4-seeded Nittany Lions (5-8, 2-3
Big Ten) are prepared to face a familiar foe, the No. 1 seed Johns Hopkins (7-6,
4-1 Big Ten).
The Lions and Blue Jays saw one another just less than three weeks prior
they took to double overtime in one of the most thrilling games of the regular
season. Although the outcome of that game didn't land in the Penn State's
favor, this time around the Lions hope to change that; playoffs are a whole new
Head coach Jeff Tambroni knows the significance of what his team has
accomplished so far this season. Tambroni noted that just being in the
tournament is an accomplishment in itself, since only four of the six Big Ten
teams qualified; Michigan and Rutgers missed the cut.
"I think it's significant because of the fact that it's the inaugural Big
Ten Tournament," said Tambroni. "I feel really good for our guys. I just think
it's a wonderful group of young men who have worked very hard, we just have not
always gotten the results that we would hoped for throughout the course of the
regular season, but winning the last two games - must-win games - I think feels
real good for our guys. I'm sure there's a sense of relief, but also a sense of
pride, knowing that they're going to be representing Penn State in the
The pride the Nittany Lions have going in to the tournament stems from two
strong wins to end the regular season, a home win against Rutgers and a win in
Ann Arbor against Michigan. Penn State also has a sense of familiarity going in
to their matchup against Johns Hopkins, after an 11-10 decision decided the
first meeting in double overtime.
"I think it certainly provides our guys with the link of understanding that
we can play with Johns Hopkins," said Tambroni. "Both teams were at a different
place, I think both teams were coming off a loss, so I think the mindset of
both teams coming in there was probably a little bit questionable. It's going
to be a completely different game when the whistle blows [on Thursday] and you
got to go back to square one."
Penn State will turn to its key players to contend with Johns Hopkins.
Attack men like TJ Sanders will now more than ever need to find the back of the
net, and continue to be aggressive in the offensive zone. Goalie Connor Darcey
will need to find his groove early and settle in in net to stave off his
opponents. And the defense must build off of its strong start against Michigan
and continue holding off their opponents early on in the game.
"I think if we want or expect to win then our best players are going to
have to show up and make plays, I think that's just fact of the matter," said
Tambroni. "Both teams really want to win; I think it's going to come down to
willingness of certain guys to make plays at certain times."
Although there are four teams in the tournament, Coach Tambroni emphasized
that it's not about being better than all three of the other teams; it comes
down to beating one team at a time.
"We don't have to play three teams; we have to play one team on Thursday,"
said Tambroni. "The reality of it is we don't have to be better than all three
teams; we have to be better than one team on Thursday and one team on Saturday.
I think if we don't bite off more than we can chew, we can put ourselves in a
position to win."
Coach Tambroni has put great importance during the past month on his
players getting back to the simplistic way of playing lacrosse. This strategy
has proven successful, giving the Nittany Lions necessary wins to qualify for
the Big Ten Tournament.
"You can tend to over prepare, so hopefully we just give these guys
confidence in themselves," said Tambroni. "I think if we put in too much stuff
they'll start to question if they can do it. [Back to the basics] will be the
same philosophy going in to this one."
The Nittany Lions have proven they're fully deserving of their bid to the
Big Ten Tournament. Now it is just up to Penn State to bring the competition
with them to College Park.
"Hopefully [the team] will have stepped back and reflected for just an
instant on the opportunity for us and take advantage of the opportunity that
they have earned," said Tambroni.
No. 1 Johns Hopkins (7-6, 4-1 Big Ten) Points Leader: Ryan Brown 60 points Leading Goal Scorer: Ryan Brown, 51 goals Assists Leader: Wells Stanwick, 31 assists
The Blue Jays, coming off an upset against Maryland, are on a hot streak
entering the Big Ten Tournament. Johns Hopkins led in both shots (37) and
groundballs (34) against Maryland, and will look to bring momentum into the
game against Penn State in the first round of the tournament. Junior Ryan Brown
looks to continue his standout season, already becoming the first Big Ten
player since 1995 to surpass 50 goals in a season. Brown was also named the
2015 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Freshman Joel Tinney was named the
2015 Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
No. 2 Maryland (12-2, 4-1 Big Ten) Points Leader: Matt Rambo, 40 points Leading Goal Scorer: Matt Rambo, 28 goals Assists Leader: Bryan Cole, 12 assists
Although they didn't win the outright Big Ten regular season title due to
their loss to Johns Hopkins last Saturday, the Terrapins will be looking to
bounce back against Ohio State during the first round of the Big Ten
tournament. Casey Ikeda was named the 2015 Big Ten Defensive Player of the
Year, helping the Terrapins keep opponents to just 6.43 goals per game.
Maryland will face Ohio State on Thursday at 8 p.m.
No. 3 Ohio State (10-5, 3-2 Big Ten) Points Leader: Jesse King, 58 points Leading Goal Scorer: Jesse King, 35 goals Assists Leader: Jesse King, 23 assists
The Buckeyes will enter the Big Ten Tournament coming off a 17-10 loss at
Rutgers. Despite the late April loss, Ohio State finished 10-5 overall, including
wins against Penn State, Johns Hopkins and Michigan. Jesse King earned All-Big
Ten Team honors, as well as Carter Brown. Tom Carey and Robby Haus were Big Ten
Honorable Mentions. The Buckeyes face Maryland on Thursday at 8 p.m.
No. 4 Penn State (5-8, 2-3 Big Ten) Points Leader: TJ Sanders, 39 points Leading Goal Scorer: TJ Sanders, 27 goals Assists Leader: TJ Sanders, 12 assists, Nick Aponte 12 assists
The Nittany Lions have been gaining momentum following two consecutive wins
against Rutgers and Michigan to finish off the regular season. After their win
against Rutgers, Mike Sutton was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week,
and goaltender Connor Darcey took home Defensive Player of the Week honors. TJ
Sanders has been Penn State's most standout player of the year, netting 27
goals to end the regular season. Sanders leads the team in points and goals,
and is also tied with sophomore Nick Aponte for assists. On April 28th,
TJ Sanders and Mike Sutton were awarded Big Ten honorable mentions. The Nittany
Lions will take the field against Johns Hopkins on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.