By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Freshman year of college is an anticipated, yet
slightly feared, time when you finally leave the nest of your hometown and soar
into the world of independent living, unknown roommates, and questionable dining
If you're a student-athlete, on top of it all, you're thrown into the world
of division I athletics full of 20-40 hour training weeks, hours of traveling,
and top level opponents - what can be fairly described as intimidating.
Freshman Xavier Smith joined the Nittany Lions in August as a one of the
nation's top competitors and among the top three track athletes in his district
and county. He is a football player turned sprinter from the small town of Douglasville,
Pennsylvania who is drawing a lot of attention this season.
The population in Douglasville is 448 - about five percent of Penn State's
total incoming freshman and just about half of the entire body of Penn State
So, to say his move from Douglasville to Happy Valley was intimidating is
However, with the support of his family, which has been strong since his
first day on the rubber, Smith has submerged fiercely into the life of a
full-time division I sprinter with no signs of slowing down.
"In high school, I did it for fun my junior year and then senior year I
started to get more serious," said Smith. "[Collegiate training is] a new
experience and I was trying different things. I had never really had workouts
this hard. It was kind of different....[but] I started to get the hang of it. I
had to take it day by day."
His teammates also play a huge role in his success acting as another direct
source of support.
"I didn't know what to expect but they were there for me if I had any
questions. There are here to help me and show me the ropes and help [me] work
toward our goals," he said. "I use my teammates' energy to help me go out there
and do the best that I can. If I do well, I know that might help someone else
do well and it's a chain reaction."
On various occasions you'll hear the team describe itself as a family - a
very competitive, very ambitious family.
"Alex Shisler actually told me, 'It doesn't matter what kind of work out
you had yesterday. It could have been the best work out you've ever had or the
worst work out you've ever had but, today is a different day so try and make
today the best work out that you can get out of it'," he said.
To his teammates, Smith is respectful, laid back, and focused. To his
coaches he is the definition of a true competitor. But, you don't have to take
their word for it.
In his four outings in the 60-meter dash this year, Smith has improved his time
every single race. In December, Smith posted a time of 6.91 seconds during the
Blue and White Intrasquad Meet. In his last time out, he ran at a season-best
performance of 6.87 seconds.
In the 200-meter dash, Smith is consistent with his improvement as well and is dancing
dangerously on the edge of a personal record. Last weekend, Smith posted a
season best time of 21.54 seconds, .04 of a second from his personal best.
He's also an important fourth of the men's 4x400-meter relay quartet that ran a
season best time of 3:12.61 last weekend at the Tyson Invitational in
"I'm doing a good job so far but I know there is still room for improvement.
There are expectations that still can be reached but...it's alright so far. It
can be better," said Smith.
As Smith looks towards the competition to come, he looks forward to the
challenges and reflects on all that has changed within the last few months when
he stepped onto Happy Valley grounds for the first time.
No one can predict where he or she will end up but Smith is confident that he's
headed in the right direction.
"[I'm going to] keep trying new things," he said. "Whenever you try new things
there's more that's good that can come out of it than bad. You never know where
you're going to end up."
By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK,
Pa. - Named the seventh softball coach in program history in 2013, Amanda
Lehotak arrived in Happy Valley with the dedication and passion to revamp the
Penn State softball program.
Her first season
with the Blue and White concluded with a 14-35 overall record and a 5-18 Big
Ten mark, showing improvement by finishing a spot higher in the conference
standings than the year prior. With her sophomore season now in full swing,
Lehotak and her squad have big plans for the 2015 season.
"I think a big
theme for this year is rebuilding, and really showing what this team has to
offer," said Lehotak.
Currently 6-4 and
off to its best start in six seasons, the team is showing what they have to offer;
toughness and grit which enables them to fight until the very end.
Nebraska, I knew I always wanted to be up North. I see a toughness in these
players and the people here you don't see as much down south," Lehotak said.
"These are some of the toughest girls I've coached so far and I can't wait to
see what the season brings them this year."
means business on the field, she also knows how to connect with her players as
"Coach runs the
show expecting greatness while understanding how each of us work as individuals,"
said Furuya. "She recognizes each of our tendencies and can tailor her coaching
toward our needs, which is awesome."
While she has a
true intensity within her, the second year coach takes the time to get to know
each of her players and understands there's no one-size-fits-all strategy when
it comes to coaching.
"She has a good
type of intensity that can make us into a stronger team," said Furuya.
combination of her love for the sport and understanding of its players, Lehotak
hopes to take Penn State to the next level.
"I think this
season is going to be a good one for us. We have a lot of heart and we're
rebuilding this already great softball program," said Lehotak.
Penn State travels
to Mississippi State this weekend for a three-game weekend series against the
Bulldogs. The Blue and White will continue its road swing until its first home
game on March 18th against Pittsburgh.
PARK, Pa. - The third campaign for Penn State women's hockey has reached
historic levels as the regular season draws to a close. With a program-record
15 wins, and a nine-fold increase in College Hockey America (CHA) wins, the
Nittany Lions are flying high with the CHA Playoffs approaching.
aspects of Penn State's game have been solid, one major facet of the Nittany
Lions' success can be attributed to the sisterhood and extraordinarily tight
bond among the team.
family, each Nittany Lion would do whatever she could to help out her sister.
That selflessness extends to Penn State's play on the ice, which frequently
includes diving in front of a slap shot.
say our team is very selfless," said junior captain Jordin Pardoski. "There
isn't one thing that one girl wouldn't do for another, so blocking shots is
just really a part of the family atmosphere and vibe that we have going here
... We're family-oriented. Each of us looks at each other as sister. "
and her defense partner freshman Remi Martin have combined for 62 blocks this
season, while sophomore Kelly Seward and freshman Bella Sutton have thrown
themselves in front of 91 shots.
blocking a shot does more than stifle a strong forecheck. A well-timed and
perfectly-placed blocked shot can be a major momentum swing for a team.
boost for the whole bench. It's a momentum changer," said head coach Josh
Brandwene. "It's a badge of honor thing that all players, forwards and 'D' are
responsible for. If you have an opportunity and the moment to get in the lane,
sacrifice yourself a little bit on behalf of the team."
State's strong shot blocking game has also been evident in the solid play of
the Nittany Lions' netminders, freshman Hannah Ehresmann and junior Celine
Whitlinger. The goalies have combined for a 2.40 goals against average, over
.50 lower than the previous program record of 2.98, set in 2012-13.
Individually, Whitlinger is a two-time CHA Goaltender of the Month and
Ehresmann has earned CHA Rookie of the Week honors.
oneself into the line of fire with a small piece of rubber careening at a high
speed could be called crazy for some. But for the Nittany Lions, nothing gives
them the thrill more than the selfless act of blocking a shot.
a mini pump up for us," said Pardoski. "The whole bench gets going when someone
has a blocked shot. It's just a change of momentum. It's exciting."
State Nittany Lions will play in Pegula Ice Arena for the regular season finale
this Friday and Saturday against Robert Morris.
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State wrestler Zack Beitz, last March was the
definition of bittersweet.
The redshirt freshman had filled a void for the Nittany Lions all of
last season at 149 pounds, but when the postseason arrived, he was relegated to
the sidelines as senior teammate James English won the starting spot and helped
Penn State win both the Big Ten and NCAA Championships.
While he was happy for his teammates, Beitz was still disappointed that
he wasn't able to contribute in the biggest tournaments of the year.
"You're still cheering for your teammates, you're with them every day
and you want to see them succeed," Beitz said. "It definitely helped motivate
me though. Kept me focused on my goals and things like that."
Now a year later, Beitz has started every dual for Penn State at 149
after taking the mat for 10 of them last year. While his season has had some
ups and downs, the sophomore delivered the biggest win of his career last
weekend at Oklahoma State.
In a match between two of college wrestling's great programs, Beitz
found himself matched up against Josh Kindig, last year's NCAA runner-up and
the fourth-ranked grappler at their weight. The underdog, Beitz shocked the
Oklahoma State crowd by pinning Kindig off of a reversal to start the second
Having lost a close 5-3 match to Kindig last year, it wasn't surprising
to see Beitz hold his own. Still, seeing him completely dismantle an
All-American with one move after a scoreless first period was an incredible
moment for a Penn State team that needs bonus points wherever it can get them.
"[Last year's match helped with] just a lot of little things," Beitz
said. "I knew what kinds of shots he was going off of and that kind of thing.
Just being familiar with his style and knowing what to look out for. You go
into a match not expecting to lose. I just told myself, I always go in trying
to score bonus points. Just wrestling to the best of my abilities.
"It was exciting. Also just wrestling in Oklahoma [State], they had a
good environment, a lot of people there so it was cool."
The win was Beitz's first dual meet pin of the season and improved his
record in such meets to 10-4 while also bumping him up from 18th to
14th in the national rankings. Apart from the numbers, the victory
gives the Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, native confidence that he can beat
top-ranked opponents with this year's postseason right around the corner.
Keeping matches close has never been an issue for Beitz, whose last two
matches against top-10 guys resulted in a 6-4 loss to No. 2 Brandon Sorensen of
Iowa and a 6-5 win over No. 9 Alec Pantaleo of Michigan. With the fall over
Kindig now in the 149-pounder's pocket, the Nittany Lions staff is excited to
see what Beitz can do moving forward.
"The last month Zack continues to improve, and a guy like that where
he's been right on that edge, last year he was real close with the top guys,
and this year he's starting to beat them," head coach Cael Sanderson said.
"Confidence if everything. You're going to be a bit more bold and shooting with
more intent. It's a good time to get things rolling, but Zack's always going to
go out and swing it."
With the Nittany Lions featuring a much younger lineup than in years
past, they will need extra production from every wrestler when the Big Ten
Tournament kicks off on March. 7. Though it will be his first postseason trip,
Beitz is looking forward to the challenge.
"I haven't ever competed there, so I'm excited," Beitz said. "It should
be a cool experience."
Brown Thankful for Penn State
Experience as Senior Day Approaches For Matt Brown, going to college hasn't been like it is for most people,
or even for most athletes.
Over the past seven years, the Penn State wrestling captain has attended
two schools, lived in two continents, gotten married, been a part of three
national championship squads and been an All-American twice.
Now, with his final home match approaching on Sunday against Rider,
Brown is trying to stay focused while also reflecting on his journey.
"I've been fulfilled at Penn State socially, academically, obviously
athletically with wrestling," Brown said. "It's been everything I hoped for in
a school. I'm grateful for my coaches and the support structure I've had with
Although he is known by Nittany Lions fans as the lynchpin of Penn
State's lineup, a guy who racked up a 110-15 record over the past four years,
Brown is so much more than that.
For starters, he's managed to balance being one of the best wrestlers in
the country with being a member of Army ROTC, maintaining a near perfect GPA,
and being a husband. As incredible as that sounds, Brown's story goes deeper
The West Valley City, Utah, native spent his redshirt-freshman year at
Iowa State, where Sanderson was coaching at the time. The wrestler then spent
the next two years in Africa on a mission for the Mormon Church before
transferring to Penn State upon returning.
While he has achieved the aforementioned accomplishments on the mat
since then, Brown is someone that Sanderson will remember more for how he acted
when he wasn't competing.
"He's done great things," Sanderson said. "He's a leader, just by
example, academically. Socially he's not a guy we have to worry about, he's a
guy that's going to be very successful in life. If he goes after it he can end
this season the way he wants."
What Brown wants isn't a secret to anybody. After finishing as the NCAA
runner-up two years ago and coming in fifth place last season, the senior is
striving for an individual national title. This Sunday may be a reminder of
some great times in a blue and white singlet, but for Brown, the most important
stretch of his career is yet to begin.
"It's one more chance to wrestle in Rec Hall so it'll be fun, I've had
some fun matches there," Brown said. "I can appreciate the dual season coming
to a close but now I kind of have to worry about myself. Obviously [a national
title] is my goal and what I'm aiming for, but I can look back and say I did
everything I could."
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Former men's lacrosse player Kyle VanThof underwent
a bone marrow donation on Feb. 9.
In November of 2012, the Penn State men's lacrosse team hosted a swab
drive to attempt to find a bone marrow match for then-player Drew Roper's
mother, Kim. Roper's mother had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and
needed a bone marrow transplant to aid in her fight against the disease. As
part of this swab event, many Penn State student-athletes participated and incredibly,
one became a match.
In early 2014, as a result of his participation in the Match4Kim swab
drive, men's hockey player David Glen found out he was a match for a woman
needing a bone marrow transplant. Although he had to sit out a few games in the
middle of the season, Glen knew the choice was clear and didn't hesitate to
More recently, VanThof found out he was a match for someone needing the
life-saving transplant. VanThof had visited his former teammate Drew Roper, just
three days prior to finding out he himself was a match. Roper's mother, who was
the inspiration for the swab drive in 2012, unfortunately still has not found a
VanThof quickly participated in further testing before undergoing the
operation just over a week ago. Finding out he was a match was both surprising
and life changing for VanThof.
was extremely excited, it was an opportunity to give someone more time with
their family, and their family more time with them," said VanThof. "It was a
pretty long process, and I was hoping that everything would work out. I believe
it has, and there is so much more left to finish the journey with her that I
hope we get a chance to be a part of each others lives."
midfield, VanThof spent his years with Penn State men's lacrosse making an
impact both on and off the field. His redshirt junior season, VanThof started
all 17 games and scored six goals with eight assists. VanThof described his
time on the team.
I would never exchange my experience for the world," said VanThof. "I still
keep in touch with so many of my teammates because we have built a family
atmosphere. These were the only guys I spent time with for five years."
coach Jeff Tambroni remembers VanThof as a player who treated his teammates
like family and thought of other people's needs before his own.
"It's one thing
to be a match but it's another thing to actually go through with it," said
Tambroni. "Kyle was not only a match but chose to go through with it. I think
it speaks volumes about Kyle's selflessness and willingness to kind of look out
away from just his own being or his own day-to-day tasks to help somebody else
Due to privacy restrictions VanThof has not been in communication with
the woman who would receive the life-saving transplant.
are rules with communicating with the person, so at this moment in time I have
not heard from her," said VanThof. "I will get updates on how she is doing and
so forth, but until the first year hits and we choose whether or not to
disclose our personal information we can only communicate through letters that
are read by Be The Match."
the lack of direct communication, VanThof knows his contribution is being
received with great appreciation. Also appreciative of his donation are his
family, friends and former teammates who have supported him through the
that I have spoken to has been extremely supportive," said VanThof. "It's
actually an honor because not everyone gets a chance like this to do something
for someone in need."
whole process he has been through these past few weeks has encouraged VanThof
and has inspired him to share his story. VanThof urges that becoming a donor
and getting swabbed is very important because it not only can save someone's
life, but also change your own.
should join because it's such a great cause and awareness needs to be raised on
the subject," said VanThof. "To be a match and give someone another year, let
alone maybe even only a day with their loved ones, is a tremendous opportunity."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Head coach James Franklin frequently talks about being successful in all facets
of a football program.
Simply put, he wants each member of the program to have the entire package -
athletically, academically, spiritually and in the community.
On the heels of ending Franklin's first season with a thrilling 31-30 victory
over Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl and a stellar fall semester
academically, the Nittany Lion football program set the benchmark for success
off the field during the summer and fall of 2014, completing a program-record of
more than 1,900 total hours of community service.
volunteer hours at the Pennsylvania Special Olympics Summer Games on June 6 and
ending on Dec. 26 with a visit to Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital in New
York, members of the football program participated in more than 30 different
community service events during the summer and fall semesters in 2014.
A pre-season highlight was a trip to Hershey Medical Center on July 23. The
entire team boarded buses for a drive to Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital
just before the start of training camp. The team visited with patients and
their families in different sections of the hospital.
"There is nothing more important than taking the time to share a smile with
somebody and making a positive impact on their life," Franklin said. "Having
this type of visit, it puts things in perspective for us."
The list of events includes 23 community service engagements during the
football regular season. Highlighting the list was the United Way's Day of
Caring, which takes place each October in State College. Approximately 50
members of the team used an off day during a bye week to give back to the
community by helping with the upkeep of Centre Furnace Mansion.
Additionally, nearly 25 members of the team and LifeLink special education students carved and painted
pumpkins on the patio of the Lasch Building on Oct. 16.
Approximately a dozen members of the team played games and participated
in the Buddy Walk at Medlar Field to help raise awareness for children with
special needs and support the Centre County Down Syndrome Society on Oct. 18.
In November, the football program adopted Noah Benner through Friends of Jaclyn
foundation as an "official" member of the team. Members of the staff gave Noah
and his family a tour of the football facility before meeting and speaking with
the team at practice.
The Nittany Lions also gave Deven Jackson, a Perry County, Pennsylvania native,
an opportunity to tour the football facility and visit with the team at
practice. Jackson, who suffered from kidney failure and lost both of his legs
to meningitis, inspired the team by competing in youth football with two
The week leading up to Thanksgiving was a big time period for community
service. The Nittany Lions spent time participating in "Roar for Reading" at
local elementary schools, visited The Village, a State College retirement
community, spent time with children at the Bellefonte Youth Service Bureau and
helped the State College Food bank move more than 2,000 pounds of food.
The long list of community service opportunities is met with tremendous
enthusiasm from the student-athletes on the roster. The members of the team
jump at the opportunity to lend a hand in the community.
"I absolutely love it," freshman linebacker Jason Cabinda said. "It keeps you
grounded. Obviously, you like to do it because you want to help the community
as much as possible, but it helps me as a person. You grow and you get to see
just how fortunate you are. It makes you appreciate all of the things around
Also in 2014, the Penn State chapter of Uplifting Athletes set new heights with
fundraising efforts surrounding the 12th Annual Penn State Uplifting Athletes
"Lift For Life" held on July 12. The chapter raised a record $151,990 last year,
bringing the cumulative total to more than $1 million to benefit the Kidney
Looking ahead, the latter stages of February will be another busy time for the
Nittany Lions in the community. The team and staff will again play a big role
in the THON festivities beginning on Saturday. The Lions will host their annual
THON 2015 Explorers Program (The Football Experience). Members of the team will
provide a tour of the building and have an ice cream social with Four Diamonds
children and their families.
The Lions will also participate during THON's "Athlete Hour" on Saturday
afternoon, in addition to dancing on stage as part of the annual pep rally on
Penn State's community service activity adds to the program's outstanding
semester off the field. The team produced a record-setting academic performance
during the fall 2014 semester, with 51 squad members earning at least a 3.0
grade-point average, the second-highest total in program history.
The squad set program records with 25 student-athletes earning Dean's List (GPA
of 3.5 or better) recognition, 57 players owning a cumulative 3.0 GPA or higher
after the fall semester and 21 true freshmen posting a 3.0 GPA or better last
fall. Additionally, a Big
Ten Conference-high 16 members of the football team had earned their degrees
prior to the Nittany Lions' win in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl to rank in the
top 10 percent among all Football Bowl Subdivision institutions. Penn State returns 15 starters (7 offense, 7 defense, 1 specialist), and 14
additional players who have started, for the 2015 season. The Blue-White Game
is set for April 18 in Beaver Stadium at 4 p.m. and the season opener is Sept.
5 at Temple.
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com catches up with Matt Brown (174 pounds) leading up to his final match inside Rec Hall. The fifth-year senior and the Nittany Lions will meet Rider on Sunday at 2 p.m. in the 2014-'15 regular season finale.
Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Performance, precision and power: the key
ingredients to any competitive collegiate floor routine. For the Penn State
women's gymnastics team, floor is strength; and neither the coaches nor the
gymnasts understand how they have become so strong in this event; they say it
"just happened." But, for anyone who has seen them perform and practice, it
didn't just happen; they have truly earned it.
"We teach the girls a simple phrase for them to
repeat in their heads as they start their floor routines," associate head coach
Rachelle Thompson said. "It helps them relax and calm down before they
Throughout the season, the team has routinely
scored above a 49 on floor, achieving a season high of a 49.400 against Michigan
State. Four gymnasts have scored the coveted "9.900" this season, including
freshman Oni Timothy, sophomore Emma Sibson and senior Krystal Welsh. Freshman
Briannah Tsang has gone as far as to secure a 9.925, the highest for the team
Performance Floor routines are exciting, as they combine
various skills and technique, along with dance. Floor is the only event paired,
specifically, with music in gymnastics. The music helps tell a story, one that
has new chapters added to it as the gymnasts become more comfortable with their
routines and their style.
"It is a never ending process," Thompson said.
"Some of the girls come in with routines and music and sometimes we have to
start from scratch. It is so great to see how the routines change as the season
goes on. You get to watch the girls grow into their own. As a coach, you get to
help them tell that story."
Precision The coaching staff members are sticklers for
"performing how you practice." Often, they say the girls are better in practice
than they are in the meets. You might say there is a science to how the
Thompsons run their practices, a formula that has been proven time and time
again since they took over the program in 2010. They devote large portions of
their practices to each gymnast working on one single event, instead of having
them doing various events at the same time. During these sessions, the girls
even cheer like they do in meets, so that competition day is a seamless transition
from the practice gym.
"We train really hard on floor," Timothy said.
"I don't know if it is a combination of what rotation we get during the meet
and practice, but we are really good a this event. I love it because as soon as
the music starts, you know that everyone looking at you. Nailing a routine or
tumbling pass is the best feeling."
Power Performing inside of a taped-off square can be
intimidating. If you go out of bounds, deduction. If you hold a pose too long,
deduction. If you miss a landing, deduction. To say it is stressful would be an
"Floor is a very mental event," Tsang said. "You
have to have a real sense of who are as a gymnast to make it through the minor
missteps that happen. You just have to say to yourself, if you go out of bounds,
just keep moving."
As the routines change throughout the season,
the skill levels of the tumbling combinations change, too. Penn State has a
roster of powerful gymnasts. The way they attack each routine and land with
such definition after a tumbling pass speaks to their training.
"It is funny, sometimes the easier routines are
the hardest for them." Thompson said. "We have to give them challenging passes
and routines because they have so much adrenaline. They are so strong that if
we were to give them an easy tumbling pass, they will go out of bounds, simply
because they have so much power. Harnessing that energy is challenging, but it
is so fun to watch them do what they do best."
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's hockey team loves playing
in Pegula Ice Arena. Head coach Guy Gadowsky talks about the building and the
energetic crowds after every game in Hockey Valley, and the team's 10-1-3 home
record speaks for itself.
Yet, the Nittany Lions do not take all the credit for their dominance on home
ice. The support the student section gives each and every weekend motivates
them to play their best hockey. In a way, the Roar Zone gives the Blue and
White an extra edge, an extra advantage.
amazing," said forward Curtis Loik of the atmosphere. "It's why I came here.
When you first see this place and you see what Pegula built and the
infrastructure and the whole Roar Zone, it's unbelievable to play in. They're
loud, and they motivate us to get going. If we're down, they bring us up."
The Roar Zone, which many believe to be the pride and joy of Pegula Ice Arena,
is always filled when the Lions are in town. The students cheer, make signs,
dress up and are constantly involved with every aspect of the game.
The Penn State student body is a source of inspiration for the hockey team, as
it constantly feeds of the section's energy.
think every game they've gotten better with the chants, even Wisconsin when
they had that massive banner," Loik said. "You know, that's exciting to come
out and see that. It just fires us up."
This weekend as Minnesota comes into town, however, the student section's makeup
may look a bit different. With THON, and 46 hours of dancing, taking place
across the street in the Bryce Jordan Center, many students will be unable to
attend the games.
Nevertheless, that does not
mean their tickets will go unused. Instead of empty seats, the Roar Zone will
be filled with THON families. The students decided to donate their tickets to
those affected by pediatric cancer.
Following the games, the Nittany Lions will also be joining the Penn State
student body, and their THON child Colton Buckley, over in the BJC. The men's
hockey team has been heavily involved with THON since before its days as a DI
I think, falls in love with Penn State in their own ways, and really for me,
THON was just so amazing," said Gadowsky. "I personally believe it's the best
thing that any university does. It's such a great cause. You know, everybody
talks about the passion of our student body, our alumni, our supporters, and I
think THON builds a lot of that."
The Lions will take part in the annual Pep Rally, showing off their dance moves
to all in attendance at THON, but they understand the bigger picture. They want
to do all they can for the kids.
"Colton, our THON child, he's been around us for a few years now," Loik said.
"He's such an inspiration to us. To have someone of that character and what
he's been through around us, it really make you think how much we have to
appreciate. Coming up, it's going to be a lot of fun, and it's a big weekend for
Before the excitement of THON can begin for the men's hockey team, it will have
to face No. 15 Minnesota. The Lions (15-9-4, 7-4-1 B1G) are looking to snap their two game
losing streak, while the Gophers (16-9-3, 7-2-3 B1G) want to keep their dominant play
"I think last weekend will tell you all you need to know," Gadowsky said of the
Gophers, who most recently swept Michigan. "The team that's scoring more goal
than anybody in the NCAA they held to two goals on the weekend. They held them
to, I believe, 49 shots. So, defensively they had a tremendous weekend. They're
very tough to play against. On the other hand, they scored eight goals.
"You are going to see high-quality hockey. You're also going to see pretty
hockey, and you're going to see fast hockey. So, to give you a preview in terms
of what we're looking at, you can't say we're going to stop this line because
they're very deep. We can't say if we just don't take any penalties we're going
to be ok. They are really deep. They are very skilled at every position.
They're going to come at you with speed and with skill, and you have to beat
them with good hockey."
Even if the Roar Zone does not take on its usual composition this weekend, the
Nittany Lions will feel the support. The students have strengthened the team
time and time again, but now the team will look for inspiration in the young
fans, like Colton Buckley, who are in attendance.
Penn State is playing for more than just itself this weekend. The Lions are
playing for the kids.
"It's amazing what those kids do, and they deserve everything in the world,"
said Loik. "To give a few tickets away to these special people, it'll inspire
us even more. Even if the Roar Zone's not as full, those families coming to
those games, we play for them. We play for what they've been through."
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Having the opportunity to compete against some
of the best athletes in the nation during one's lifetime is something few people
can say they have done, but for senior Craig Hernandez and junior Trevor Howard
that is exactly what they will be doing this weekend.
Hernandez and Howard will be competing in the Winter Cup Challenge in
Las Vegas, Nev., on Feb. 19 and 21.
"I'm actually really excited," said Hernandez. "It should be fun.
Getting back to some of the individual styles of gymnastics that's like before
college and of course, it's nice and warm out there and it's frigid here."
These two Nittany Lions will be leaving the comforts of Rec Hall for a
two-day competition where they will be taking on the top gymnasts in the
"They will be with guys that competed in the World Championships in the
United States and Olympic Games," said head coach Randy Jepson. "It's the top
gymnasts. It's not just collegiate guys there - it's people that are
post-grads, the best the US has to offer, so it's a good chance to compete with
some of the best guys."
Facing off against the best gymnasts in the country can be
intimidating, but Hernandez and Howard don't plan for that to affect their
"It's a little intimidating [to be competing against the best in the
country], but we wouldn't be going there if we weren't good ourselves and
that's the way I look at it," said Hernandez. "I want to beat them and we'll
try to beat them."
This Penn State duo is familiar with the scene at the Winter Cup as
both have been part of the competition in previous years. Hernandez placed
first in pommel horse for the past two years and last year, he earned the title
with a score of 14.350. Though getting a third win is ideal, that isn't the
main emphasis for Hernandez.
"Maybe a little bit of expectation [is there], but I don't really look
at it," said Hernandez. "I just focus on doing the best gymnastics that I can."
Out of the 42 gymnastics in the 2014 Winter Cup last year, Howard
placed 17th-overall with an all-around score of 81.750 in the finals.
Even with that grand accomplishment, Howard is only focusing on being better.
"Basically, I go out there and just think, 'This is for yourself. What
you do is on you,' so I kind of make it more myself-oriented than
team-oriented," said Howard. "I feel like there are always high expectations. I
always set my standards higher than normal, so I want to plan on getting Top-10.
A lot of guys are injured, so this is the time to step up and make the [Senior
Although the Winter Cup and NCAA meets are vastly different, the
toughest challenge will be the fact that their fellow teammates will not be
"It definitely is [hard to go to Las Vegas without the team]," said
Howard. "Having the team behind you and hearing them cheer your name when
you're doing your routine is awesome, so it's definitely a little more quieting."
Besides competing individually, Hernandez and Howard will have the
opportunity to watch their other opponents.
"You get the chance to see the rest of the guys in the country from the
other teams and outside the NCAA structure - what the best are doing, so that
gives you some ideas to what you need to compete against," said head coach
Jepson. "You got to know your opponent, so it's really important to have a
grasp of that, but really, we can only control the things we do, so we have to
do what we can to be the best we can. That means focusing on execution at this
point and being clean."
Even though Hernandez and Howard have multiple experiences
with competing in the Winter Cup, it's always an enjoyable time.
"It's always exciting to go out there," said Howard.