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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Having waited a full year to put a helmet back on, defensive end Brad Bars
couldn't help running onto the field on March 17 for Penn State's first spring
practice with great excitement.
Bars has been eligible to play in 50 games since he stepped on campus in the
fall of 2010. He redshirted during his
freshman campaign. That coupled with leg
and Achilles injuries have forced the Nashville, Tenn., native to miss 28 games
during the past four seasons.
The senior ruptured his Achilles during a routine workout during summer
conditioning prior to last season. After
a long road to recovery in the training room and countless hours of rehab, Bars
is back on the field and ready to play a role on the Nittany Lion defensive
line in 2014.
"I believe if I can stay healthy that I
don't think there's anything I can't accomplish this season," Bars said. "If I stay healthy I can do some pretty great
The Achilles injury rehab is ongoing, but Bars has been a full participant in
non-contact drills this spring. His
fellow defensive teammates are fired up about his return to the field.
"It's great to have him back out there. He's really
an intense guy," senior linebacker Mike Hull said. "Always goes 100 miles an
hour. He's really smart and he helps a lot of the younger guys and even the
older guys. He does a really good job of on-field coaching and telling guys
what they need to work on. It's definitely an asset to have him back out there."
Always enthusiastic and upbeat, Bars faced the Achilles injury with a
tremendous attitude. Knowing he was
going to be a spectator throughout the fall didn't deter Bars from helping the
team in any manner possible.
"Last year was probably the
hardest thing I've ever been through," Bars said. "Once I got hurt I looked at the
big picture and said what can I do to help? I made a decision I had to
contribute and help this team, right when I got injured, and I knew that if I
stayed involved, there wouldn't be a transition coming back," Bars said.
The senior defensive end is poised to play an instrumental role on a talented
Nittany Lion defensive line, which features a host of returnees with playing
experience. Deion Barnes, C.J. Olaniyan, Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson all
bring significant game experience to the field in 2014.
While the countdown clock for the UCF game in Dublin, Ireland, is at 148 days,
Bars is thrilled to have the opportunity to make an impact.
"My teammates believe in me and they've seen
what I can do in practices," Bars said. "I have expectations of a veteran. My goals
are to keep working and to keep progressing with my rehab."
Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - During each week this past November, the Penn State
women's gymnastics coaches, Jeff and Rachelle Thompson, gave the team a letter.
With this letter, the team would pick a motivating word that began with that
letter. Then, during each week this season, the word they chose in November
would resurface as, "The Word of The Week."
This week, the team has two words leading up to the NCAA Regional
Championships this weekend - 'Wow' and 'Inspire'.
"If we do well and finish first or second, then, 'Wow. We made it to
Nationals.' But we're going to have to have inspired performances in order to
do that," Jeff Thompson said.
Senior Kassidy Stauder said that these two words are important because she
wants to go to Regionals and "wow" everyone and make it to Nationals. If the
team places first or second this weekend, they will advance to the NCAA
National Championships for the first time as a team since 2009.
"We need to go in there and inspire one another and also inspire the
upcoming teams to make a new tradition of making it to Nationals every year,"
The team decided to combine the two words of the week to make an acronym.
They took the first letter in 'wow' and the first two letters in 'inspire' to
create 'WIN' - What's Important Now.
"This means just focusing on staying in moment. And what's important to us
is hitting our routines and doing our best to progress on to the next meet,"
senior Lindsay Musgrove said.
Some of the gymnasts competing in NCAA Regionals found their "keys" to
being successful in the meet this weekend:
Kassidy Stauder: Confidence
"Go in there with confidence and having fun. Remember that our best is good
enough and do what we do everyday."
Sidney Sanabria-Robles: Compete as if it were warm ups
"Stay calm and do everything as if it was warm up. In warm up, I'm not
thinking about anything, and it actually turns out really good. Just stay relax
and think 'warm up'."
Randi Lau: Focus
"We have to focus on the details and sticking our landings, because we are
a Top 12 team and we're really capable of making it to Nationals. We just have
to stay focused and finish really [well] on floor."
Krystal Welsh: Having fun
"Just have fun and do exactly what we do in practice."
Coach Jeff Thompson: Hitting routines
"The most important thing for everyone is to hit routines. If everyone
hits, then it's going to come down to stuck landings."
Lindsay Musgrove: Compete freely
"We've put in all of the preparation up until now, so we don't need to
stress or worry. I think just have fun and compete freely and just let
ourselves do our gymnastics because we all know how to great routines. We hit them in the gym everyday."
In the NCAA Regional Championships this weekend, No. 15 Penn State will
take on No. 1 Florida, No. 12 Oregon State, No. 23 New Hampshire, Kentucky, and
Maryland. Penn State is the No. 3 seed.
Catch the Nittany Lions at home in Rec Hall for the last time this season on
Saturday at 4 p.m.
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the season continues for the men's volleyball team, its level of
production and how the offense works together on the court has developed and
strengthened over the past three months.
Of the different
positions on the court, the setter is designated to control and run the
offense. This person is in charge of making the decisions of which hitter will
receive the ball. For the Nittany Lions, this player is Taylor Hammond.
"I run the offense
and make sure everyone's on the same page," Hammond said. "I make decisions on
where I want the ball to go. It's just what I've always done and it's a part of
my position. I enjoy doing this and I like having the ball in my hands."
Coming off of
strong matches against George Mason and Princeton, the team has come together
to make the offense efficient and more effective. The coaching staff has
noticed development in both their offensive game and Hammond's performance on
"The passers are
handling themselves really well. Taylor is making very sound decisions. He's
always been somebody that wants to understand why he does something or why we
ask him to do something. Now, he is really understanding that this is his job.
His job is not to keep everyone happy - it's to get the ball to the floor as
quickly as possible," head coach Mark Pavlik said.
Although Hammond is
only a redshirt sophomore, he is really starting to fully understand his job as
"As a setter, you
need to make those decisions and say right now with who they have blocking,
where they are defensively, and how the hitters are hitting - what is my best
opportunity to get the ball to the floor quick? He's really starting to grasp
that right now. Like most young setters it takes a while. It's not something
you can just walk in and do," Pavlik said.
In order to make
the offensive game successful, the coaches help guide Hammond. They study the
blockers on the other side of the net to predict where the ball will go.
"You'll see Jay
(Hosack) come up and he'll talk to me about what their blockers are trying to
do. They'll scheme against me and they'll try to send some towards Aaron
(Russell) so we'll go the opposite way and we'll go towards Nick (Goodell) or
they'll try to send someone towards Nick and we'll try to go the opposite way.
It's really just a cat and mouse game. It's like a game of chess between me and
the blockers," Hammond said.
Although the setter
controls the offense and makes game-changing decisions, it takes all of the
players on the court to make the offense successful.
"Anytime it's the
offensive ball - it's not just one position," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "The
offense is predicated first and foremost on our first contact and with our ball
control. The level that our ball control has been at the past couple of weeks
enables Taylor to have an easier job and have all four or five options
available to him just about every time."
In order for Hammond
to be able to set up the ball properly, it's up to the passers to put the ball
where they are supposed to making Hammond's job easier.
"If our passers can
put the ball where they are supposed to - it makes Taylor's job a lot easier
when he doesn't have to run for it. Connor (Curry's) job is to control the
servicing patterns and where he needs them to be all with the idea of making
sure our offense starts where we want them to start - right in the middle of
the net about two and a half feet off of the net," Pavlik said.
As a whole team,
the passers have been working with Hammond to get the ball where it needs to be
during each play. In their last few matches, the offense has come together to
put up some of the best offensive numbers the team has seen up until this
"Our execution is
really high right now," Hammond said. "This past weekend is an attribution to
what we've been working on right now. We've had trouble in the big matches
executing. We've made mistakes where the wheels kind of fall off, but against
Princeton and George Mason - that was really an attribute to what we've been
working on and just staying steady."
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Wrapping up their first season under head coach Tim Murphy, the Nittany
Lions continued to build off of the success the team saw at Big Tens as they
headed into the 2014 NCAA Championships.
The seven men who
competed brought back a 17th-place finish and scored 63 total points. This
marked the first time in over a decade that the Nittany Lions posted this many
points and finished this high in the rankings against the toughest competition
in the nation.
Coming off of a
strong Big Ten showing, the men had three weeks to get back to work and prepare
for the highly competitive meet.
"It was kind of
hard resting for Big Tens and then making a three week transition where we went
up in yardage and tried to come back down," Shane Ryan said. "We just wanted to
be at our best and better than we were at Big Tens. We always want to swim faster
and break more records. Overall we did an amazing job as a team - just imagine
what we could do if we had a full team there."
The squad's mentality
going into the weekend was to relax and have fun with what could be considered
one of their biggest meets of their career.
"Going into NCAA's
we just wanted to have fun and see what we could do," Ryan said. "There's more
pressure on Big Tens rather than NCAAs, even though there should be more
pressure on NCAAs. There's more of a team atmosphere at Big Tens because there
are more people from our team there. We went there and tried to swim our hearts
This meet marked
the last time four seniors would ever be able to compete as a Nittany Lion.
James Wilson, John Hauser, Seth Wensel, and Shane Austin all exhibited strong
leadership skills throughout the season and contributed to reaching new goals
for the team.
"They are all
really good guys leaving that will be really hard to replace. With the
transition of the new coaches, it was good to have them help ease the
transition and help us handle the changes," Ryan said. "Swimming on a relay
with all seniors was an awesome experience because they had fire. It was their
last race and they didn't hold anything back."
Although this meet
was the last opportunity for some of the swimmers to compete, it was the first
opportunity for Ryan to represent Penn State at NCAAs. The sophomore competed
to a second place finish in the 100 Backstroke and his time put him just 0.15
seconds away from a first place finish. He was also 0.71 seconds away from
setting an American record.
"My mentality going
into the night was if you have a lane you can win," Ryan said. "I just went out
and swam to try and win and get the gold. I was happy with the time - I really
wasn't expecting to go that fast. I thought the fastest time I could go was at
Big Tens so I was happy about that."
Not only was Ryan
pleased with the time and where he placed, he was also happy to be able to
bring positive attention to the program.
"It's a great honor
to be able to get Penn State up on the board, especially in the A final," Ryan
said. "The last person who was in the A final was in 2008. I'm happy to be able
to represent Penn State and get our name out there more. They know our program
is up and coming and it will help with recruiting."
swimmers and divers are able to take Penn State to new heights and set new
records for the program, their performances benefit the future of the team.
"We were just
thinking of the future," Ryan said. "We want people to see that we are getting
better, that we are a really good program with a great coaching staff. We've
always had good coaching, but this year we really stepped up our game and all
of us are swimming well. We wanted to make a statement for Penn State and get
our name up on the board. We wanted to get the announcer to say Penn State more
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just four practices and nine days remain until
the Nittany Lions take the field inside Beaver Stadium for the Blue-White Game
on April 12 (1:30 p.m. kick).
In a spring marked by progress on both sides of the ball under the direction of
head coach James Franklin, the Nittany Lion players are excited about the
opportunity to get in front of the fans for the first time in 2014.
"It's something to look forward to during spring practice,"
senior safety Adrian Amos said. "We
don't have games to look forward to, so the Blue-White game is a big weekend,
and we're excited to be back in Beaver Stadium."
As the team continues to get more reps in the new schemes installed on both
sides of the ball, the Lions are beginning to feel more and more comfort with
each passing practice.
"We have made a lot of progress each and every day as we get more acclimated
into the scheme," Amos said. "We are
getting a lot more comfortable with the defense and working with each other."
"Things are going really well," sophomore running back Akeel Lynch said. "We are gelling together. Offense takes some time. The concepts are getting into our heads, and
we are starting to move faster."
Penn State completed its 10th practice of the spring on Wednesday
afternoon. The Lions practiced outdoors
for the first time on Monday. A portion
of Wednesday's practice was outdoors, as well.
Senior kicker Sam Ficken ended Wednesday's practice with a 55-yard field
goal, keeping the Nittany Lions from running sprints.
"Ficken has been money all of camp," Lynch said. "He's made a lot of improvement. Anytime it has been double or nothing for
running at the end of practice, we put it on Ficken's leg and he's been clutch
The Nittany Lions will practice on Saturday before shifting into the final week
of spring drills, which will feature three sessions before the Blue-White Game
on April 12.
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- After watching his team come from behind to win its
past two games at home, Penn State baseball head coach Rob Cooper was waiting
for the Nittany Lions to jump out to an early lead for once.
Taking on Youngstown State last night, the Nittany Lions more than answered
their coach's wishes, erupting for seven runs off of five hits in the first
inning on their way to a 15-2 victory over the Penguins.
In topping their previous season high of 10 runs, the Lions got 15 hits from
nine different players, with six of them (James Coates, Greg Guers, Alex
Malinsky, Aaron Novak, Taylor Skerpon, and Steve Synder) all recording two hits
"Our guys did a great job," head coach Rob Cooper said. "They really did some
good things at the plate and jumped on them and took them out of the game
really early. It was nice to be ahead going into the second inning."
With the bases loaded just three batters into the bottom of the first, Guers
got the ball rolling by lacing a double to right field that brought home both
Coates and Synder.
Guers, who finished the day 2-for-3 and drove in three runs vs. the Penguins to
give him seven RBI in his last three games, said that he and his teammates were
determined to get off to a hot start after receiving a challenge from Cooper
before the game.
"Cooper told us before the game to get ahead of them early and we took that to
heart and proved it out there," Guers said. "(Getting an early lead) felt good
and it was really fun out there today."
Penn State wouldn't settle for just two runs however, as Taylor Skerpon
followed up Guers' double with an RBI single of his own. The Blue and White would
bat around and score four more runs as Youngstown State starter Anthony Konders
managed just two outs before being relieved.
It wouldn't get any easier for the Penguins going forward, as the Nittany Lions
answered a two-run fourth inning by the Penguins with back-to-back three run
innings of their own in the fifth and sixth to give them a 14-2 lead.
"We came out saying that we wanted to get out on top and take them out of the
game early," catcher Alex Malinsky said. "It was fun to see."
Taking their offensive performance to the next level was the performance of the
Nittany Lions bench, as utility players Aaron Novak (2-for-2, 2 RBI) and Mike
Wilcox (1-for-1) each got hits in addition to seven of the team's starters.
The number of contributors that came through is what stood out the most to
Cooper about the win, far more than the number of runs that his team scored.
"This is a team and we preach all the time that we have 35 guys and we don't
keep anybody that we don't think can help us win," Cooper said. "Seeing a guy
like Aaron Novak come in and do well...I love that because it's a team effort and
a team game."
The large cushion gave Cooper a chance to give five different pitchers the
chance to pitch as starter Nick Hedge went three and one-thirds innings before
being relieved by Ryan Harper and later Tim Dunn, Zach Ell, and Tim Scholly.
While the pitching staff certainly did their job, giving up just two unearned
runs on five hits, Cooper was even more impressed by the performance of Malinsky,
both at and behind the plate.
Getting the start on Tuesday over senior Alex Farkes, Malinsky went 2-for-3 with
two runs scored and two RBI in addition to handling five different pitchers.
"He's a real calming influence on our pitchers and he's really smart and gives
our pitchers confidence," Cooper said. "He swung the bat well today and you can
ask him to do just about anything and he will."
The win improves Penn State (13-13) to 7-0 at Medlar Field, their best start at
home since 1980.
As they move back to their Big Ten schedule this weekend when they play a
series against Purdue, the Lions will look to keep the offensive momentum that
has seen them score 25 runs in their past two games combined going.
"As a team we've all been hitting really well," Guers said. "I think everyone
is feeling really comfortable at the plate so going into Purdue this weekend it
should be good to have that [confidence]."
PARK, Pa.- The Penn State baseball team claimed a 15-2 victory over Youngstown
State on Tuesday evening inside Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. We caught up with
head coach Rob Cooper and sophomore designated hitter Greg Guers to talk about
the game, their impressive record at home and the upcoming trip to Purdue.
PARK, Pa.- With their season wrapping up after an exciting trip to the Big Ten
Tournament in St. Paul, Minn. the Penn State men's hockey program met with the
media to wrap up the 2013-14 season. We caught up with some players and asked
them about the season and what their success can do heading into the offseason.
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student
PARK, Pa.- As the Penn State baseball team wrapped up a road trip to California
two weeks ago, head coach Rob Cooper noticed something concerning about his team.
just that they went 2-6 in an eight game stretch against Saint Mary's, Fresno
State, and Santa Clara, but the fact that they fell behind in the first or
second inning of each loss without being able to fight their way back.
up Big Ten play with a weekend series against Northwestern, the Nittany Lions
found themselves in a similar situation in back-to-back games, falling behind
2-0 in the first on Friday, and 3-0 in the opening frame on Saturday.
times however, Penn State kept its composure, rallying back each day to take
the series with two straight wins by scores of 7-3 and 10-6, respectively.
in the year, that might have been it for our guys," Cooper said. "After the
first inning, I felt like our mindset was right and (we knew) there was a lot
of game left and we were going to just play. I don't think we do that a couple
weeks ago and that shows you the kind of growth and the choices they've made."
only did the weekend get Cooper's Big Ten coaching career off on the right
foot, it also reaffirmed that the players have been buying into the principles
that their new coach preaches, namely that being a good offensive team is more
important than being a good hitting team.
the Blue and White registered nine hits in each game, they produced runs by not
by bashing the ball all over he park, but with timeliness and patience, drawing
19 walks in the two games combined and forcing Wildcat pitchers Brandon
Magallones (Friday) and Matt Portland (Saturday) to each top 100 pitches.
Zach Ell had multiple hits (on Saturday) but we scored 10 runs," Cooper said.
"Early in the season we were trying to do too much and we were chasing pitches
but today we had a lot of two-strike at-bats that our guys battled back in to
walks or productive at bats."
the charge for Penn State was the three-four combination of J.J. White and Greg
Guers, who drove in two runs apiece both nights.
also came through in big moments, opening up the fourth inning on Friday with a
pair of hits with the Lions down, 2-0, and then scoring to even the game at
2-2. Later in the sixth, the duo came up with consecutive RBI to cap a four-run
inning that turned a 3-3 tie into a 7-3 lead.
just trying to do our job," White said. "The guys in front of us have been
doing a good job getting on base and whether it's a sac fly or a hit we're
trying to find runs anyway we can."
the Nittany Lions to pull off both comebacks, they needed their pitching staff
to prevent Northwestern from expanding their leads, and on both days, that
required big performances in long relief from the Penn State bullpen.
days after a masterful relief performance against Bucknell in which he struck
out the final seven batters of the game, Ian Parvin relieved T.J. Jann in the
fifth inning on Friday and picked up right where he left off. Though he only
recorded one strikeout this time around, the right-hander gave up just two hits
over four and one-thirds scoreless innings to get the win.
off-speed stuff wasn't working very well so I basically just pitched off my
fastball and let the guys behind me make plays," Parvin said. "These are the
days when you really have to dig deep and find something inside you."
next day it was Dakota Forsyth's turn to get the Blue and White out of a jam,
as the freshman came in for Greg Welsh in the third inning with men on first
and second and one out, with Penn State clinging to a 5-4 lead.
just the sixth appearance of his college career, Forsyth retired two straight
batters before going an additional five innings, giving up two runs on four
hits in the process. The offense took care of the rest, matching their season
high of 10 runs in the victory.
in coach Cooper just told me to throw strikes," Forsyth said. "I wasn't really
expecting to go five innings but when your pitch count is low you can go a
6-0 at home and having won their last three series, the pieces appear to be
coming together for Cooper and his crew. With the Big Ten season now in full
swing, the Nittany Lions (12-13) will continue to focus on each day moving
fun to play at home but I'm just glad we're playing well," Cooper said. "When
you win at home it helps you moving forward but we need to prove we can win on
the road now."
By Mike Esse, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Relief
pitchers perhaps play the most unexpected role in baseball. One poor batter
could lead to an equally poor inning and a short-lived outing. One strong
batter could lead to a strong inning followed by another and another and
latter scenario is what took place for Penn State relief pitchers senior Ian
Parvin and freshman Dakota Forsyth during Friday and Saturday's two game sweep
of Northwestern to open Big Ten play. Neither pitcher had an incredibly strong
outing by their coach's or their own standards, but they got the job done to
secure both Nittany Lion wins.
Parvin went four and two-thirds scoreless innings, surrendering just two hits
and striking out to hold Northwestern at bay after three runs in the first four
innings. Forsyth followed suit the next morning tossing five and two-thirds
innings, giving up four hits and two earned runs.
"It was awesome," Cooper said of Forsyth's performance. "It was like what he
did against Bucknell. He was lights out. He didn't pitch very well today command
wise, but he competed. When he needed to he said 'alright here you go hit it.'
That's big. It was a great effort and we needed it."
Parvin did almost the exact same thing one night prior. Relieved the starter in
a time of need and got outs regardless of the way it happened. Having that as a
cemented luxury with a young team going through a learning process is a big
advantage for Cooper and he knows it.
"If you have those two guys and they are pitching the way they have been and
your starter can give you five innings and you bring those guys in for an
inning or two and then have Jack Anderson who you can extend [for more than one
inning], it makes games really short for your pitchers."
pitcher will blow opposing batters away and they didn't this weekend combining
for just two strikeouts in their ten and one-thirds innings pitched. That's not
what they are effective though.
Both Parvin and Forsyth understand that they're not going to overwhelm many of
their opponents, but if placement is accurate and the right pitches are thrown
at the right time, the ball, hit or not, has the chance to be recorded as an
out, which is all they want.
"I didn't have your slider today and my changeup wasn't very effective, so I
just went straight fastballs," Forsyth said. "When you put it on the corners
more times than not the batters are going to get themselves out."
Cooper said the same thing about Parvin. His velocity wasn't anything above
average, but, even on a day where his location wasn't superb, he wasn't afraid
to attack the Northwestern hitters and trust his teammates to get outs and
that's more important than anything else in his pitching arsenal.
"Here's a guy that maybe sits at 87 miles an hour, which is not a negative
thing, but he just competes so hard," Cooper said. "I'm not afraid to bring him
in whenever if we need him to stop a rally or keep us in there and give us a
chance. As long has he keeps going like this then we're going to do use him in
Forsyth and Parvin into the mix out of the bullpen with Jack Anderson, who has
been a reliable closing presence and then some, the Penn State pen is one of
the more confident areas for the Nittany Lions.
the two games against Northwestern the three Penn State relief pitchers threw
eleven and one-thirds innings allowing just two earned runs and six hits.
The even crazier stat, they only had three combined strikeouts. Cooper has said
it all year though, it doesn't matter how they get the job done, as long as
they produce good results. Friday and Saturday, the Penn State bullpen did just