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Whitney Looking to Build on Strong Start to 2014

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10303818.jpegBy Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Everyone has an idol or role model that he or she grows up admiring, whether it be a family member, a celebrity, an athlete, or someone in a different occupation. We based our lives and principles around these certain individuals because we wanted to grow up and accomplish everything our heroes had achieved.

The same story goes for women's volleyball redshirt junior Aiyana Whitney who began playing volleyball after watching her older sister, Anissa Whitney, on the court.

"[I started playing] in middle school," said Whitney. "My older sister picked it up in her high school years and I was just kind of one of those little sisters that said "I want to do it too," and I didn't expect to fall in love with it, so I mean, I guess I would owe it all to her and me just wanting to be like her."

Whitney's older sister helped shape Aiyana into the player she is today.

"I knew nothing about the sport and she definitely helped me out as best as she could growing up," said Whitney. "I think kind of just watching her play and then she kind of encouraged me to take it more seriously and you know, start to really try and improve my game to play at top level."

Nearly four years ago, when it came time for Whitney to select a college to attend, she knew that no other school would compare to Penn State when it came to playing volleyball at the top level.

"You come to a program like this because you want to play in gyms such as Nebraska the other night," said Whitney. "I mean, those are the atmospheres you come to big schools for and I think just Penn State's tradition of winning and excellence and success has been something that draws any player who wants to play big time volleyball, so I think that's what made me come."


Whitney is having an excellent season thus far. She currently has a .377 hitting percentage, which sits at the fifth spot in the Big Ten standings. She received MVP honors from the Penn State Alumni Classic for leading the team in terrific offensive and defensive performances, especially during the win over UIC when she led the team with 13 kills on .722 hitting. Whitney also made the All-Tournament Team following the Villanova Classic after she recorded double-digit kills and a career-high of six blocks in the team's win over No. 24 Kansas.

This past weekend, Whitney logged nine kills and two blocks as Penn State faced off Nebraska and Iowa. Though the Nittany Lions swept past Iowa, the team fell short against Nebraska. Although, Penn State beat Iowa to cap off the weekend, Whitney believes that there is still much to improve on.

"I think we just need to get our game a little tighter. I feel like we had a lot of holes in our game in terms of running on offense. It was kind of difficult for us to get middles involved and things like that," said Whitney. "I know on a personal note, blocking and transition balls are something I need to work on and I think if we get that side of our game a little more air-tight than we have a better chance of competing harder against our opponents."

Whitney is looking on the positive side of things, nonetheless.

"I think coming out of it, we see what we need to work on and we see where we need to tighten our game," said Whitney. "I think it's kind of given us even more motivation going into this week of practice to really prepare for this upcoming weekend."

The Nittany Lions take on Northwestern and Illinois this week and Whitney is moving forward with great confidence.

"This season, I definitely want to defend what we earned last year and I think the best way to do that is to pick up our game now and look forward to the rest of the season," said Whitney. "No one ever likes losing and loses are pretty awful, so I think right now the main focus is on the matches we have ahead of us and just getting better every day."

Showing Fencing to Penn State students

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FullSizeRender.jpgBy Jennifer Hudson, GoPSUsports.com Student Athlete Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Not many people know about the sport of fencing, so some of the Penn State national championship team members put on a demonstration in professor Ron Johnson's business administration class on Tuesday to show how the sport works and promote the team.

Johnson usually shows a video before his classes but this week decided to change it up and give the students an opportunity to learn about fencing.

To start off the demonstration, Kacy Charpin, a freshmen saber fencer, explained what fencing is like and how it works. This allowed the class to learn the basics of what they would see in a fencing meet.

David Gomez-Tanamachi, a senior who represented Mexico in the World Championships in Russia over the summer, and Nicolas Graziano, a sophomore who represented Canada in the Canadian Nationals this summer, fenced a foil bout for everyone to see.

They showed all different actions which kept the audience intrigued.

"I thought it was great!" said Kindrah Kohne, a senior marketing and spanish major. "I've attended a fencing competition before and didn't know much about it, but today I learned a lot and can hopefully use what I learned today in the future when I attend an event."

Next up was an epee demonstration by Jessica O'Neill-Lyublinsky and Jessie Radanovich.

Both O'Neill-Lyublinsky and Radanovich represented Penn State in NCAA Championships in March, helping win the national title.

While a foil bout is a little faster pace and the fencers could only hit the torso area where their lames were, an epee bout allows for a touch anywhere on the body.

O'Neill-Lyublinksky and Radanovich fenced a strategical bout that showed how strong they were.

"I think it went really well," said Gomez. "Hopefully we will get to see a lot of the students supporting us at our upcoming home competition now that they have seen the demonstration."

Due to time constrictions, the team was not able to show what a saber bout, the third weapon, looked like but will get to in the future.

Johnson has allowed the fencing team to come into the start of two more of his classes this week.

In the beginning of MGMT 301 on Wednesday at 9:55 in 105 Forum and at the beginning of BA 342 at 2:15 in 100 Thomas, some members of the fencing team will show off the sport some more.

If you are interested in how fencing works or curious to see what a fencing bout looks like, spot by and check it out!

The next home meet for the team will be the Garret Open held in White Building on November 22-23 starting at 8 a.m.

VIDEO: One-on-One with Salima Rockwell - Oct. 7

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with associate head coach Salima Rockwell for an update on the Nittany Lions. Penn State hosts Northwestern on Wednesday inside Rec Hall.




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VIDEO: Lady Lions Hold First Practice of 2014-'15 Season

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Monday marked the first day of practice for the Penn State Lady Lions in the 2014-'15 season. Coquese Washington addressed the media before practice and was all smiles when talking about her new-look and young team for the upcoming season.

Washington knows it will be a challenge to replace Lady Lion mainstays Maggie Lucas, Dara Taylor and Ariel Edwards, among others, but is excited for the challenge ahead.

"There's a different level of anticipation and different level of uncertainty but that's the fun part," Washington said. "Getting a chance to figure out what our identity is going to be, who's going to step up and who's going to emerge and how our roles are going to be defined are the exciting parts about this year."

Tori Waldner is the lone senior on the roster, coupled with six sophomores and one junior. Redshirt senior Brianna Banks is not eligible to play in the 2014-'15 season after transferring from Connecticut.

Penn State also has a transfer that will be eligible to play this season in forward Dominique Brooks. Brooks transferred to Happy Valley after playing two seasons at Trinity Valley Community College. Pair Brooks with redshirt freshman Lindsey Spann, who missed last season with an injury, and redshirt sophomore Sierra Moore, who had to sit out 2013-'14 due to transfer rules, and the Lady Lions have three newcomers Washington expects to make immediate contributions.

At the start of the season, Washington says her team may be inexperienced but it is fun working through those challenges.

"It's fun trying to get them to understand what they can do and to establish and develop their own identity and not have to worry about trying to be like teams in the past," Washington said.

"They want to be their own team and create their own identity while still having and maintaining and even elevating the success that we have had on the court in the past."

On the court is not the only place fans will see new faces for the Lady Lions. Washington brought in two new assistant coaches in Jocelyn Wyatt and Itoro Coleman. Wyatt previously spent four seasons at Georgia State before coming to Penn State.

Coleman is no stranger to Lady Lion basketball as she served as an assistant at Penn State from 2008-'10. She then spent three years as the head coach at her alma mater Clemson before returning to the Blue and White.

"It's felt like home ever since I came back because I a m just familiar with the surroundings and the people here and they have made my transition so easy," Coleman said.

Penn State starts the 2014-15 campaign with an exhibition against IUP on Nov. 2 before opening the regular season against Towson on Nov. 14.

VIDEO: Michigan Week Player Q&As - C.J. Olaniyan & DaeSean Hamilton

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com catches up with defensive end C.J. Olaniyan and wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton leading up to the Michigan game.

Week Six Press Conference Roundup - Michigan Week

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10413814.jpegJames Franklin Transcript - Oct. 7

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following a bye week, Penn State returns to action on Saturday with a primetime game against Michigan (7 p.m. on ESPN2).

Head coach James Franklin previewed the matchup against the Wolverines on Tuesday afternoon inside the Beaver Stadium Media Room.

On the heels of a productive bye week, Franklin is pleased with how the team got back to work on Sunday during the first practice of Michigan week. The Nittany Lions practiced three times last week before the players had a few days off to recharge.

"It seems like forever since we've been out there and played, and I know we're excited to get back going," said Franklin. "Guys were able to spend extra time academically, which is really important. Extra hours and study hall, it came at a really good time in terms of some exams and things like that. They were also able to get home and see their friends and family and go to high school football games and things like that, which is important."

Moving into Michigan preparations, Franklin highlighted Wolverine quarterback Devin Gardner. Without the services of leading rusher Derrick Green (clavicle), Gardner will be a focal point for the Michigan offense on Saturday night.

"The fact that he's a veteran guy and has played a lot of games, I think that shows up," Franklin said. "I think the fact that he's 6 4, 220 pounds and probably one of the more athletic guys; in terms of being able to pull the ball do you know and take off. You saw him do that a couple times the other night and was able to get to the edge of the defense and really make some positive plays for them. And that's challenging, because on defense, there's so many things that you're trying to stop, and now you have to deal with a quarterback, as well."

Two Nittany Lions along the defensive line will play in front of friends and family on Saturday. C.J. Olaniyan (Warren) and Anthony Zettel (West Branch) are Michigan natives, and neither has played a game in Michigan. Olaniyan noted on Tuesday that disciplined gap control is critical when preparing for a quarterback like Gardner. Franklin echoed what Olaniyan talked about.

"Especially with them losing their tailback, it probably shifts even more emphasis to that," said Franklin. "And it's a challenge, because every offense and every defense and every special teams has strengths, it has weaknesses, and you can't take it all away and that's what you've got to decide. You've got to decide, what are you going to take away from the defense, what's important to you and what are you going to give up."

This will mark Penn State's first visit to Michigan Stadium since the 2009 season.

"We are excited about the opportunity," Franklin said. "This will be my first time going to Michigan. Looking forward to that and experiencing that and that's something we're keeping mental notes as a coaching staff because a lot of our coaches haven't been to a lot of these locations before."

Saturday's game will be the 18th game between Penn State and Michigan. It will be the first Big Ten night game in Michigan Stadium history.


Press Conference Notes
- Franklin on the Michigan offense:
"Offensively, Doug Nussmeier, who I've known for awhile, is his first year at Michigan, had been the offensive coordinator at Alabama the last couple years. They are a multiple pro offense. Obviously the quarterback, No. 98 Devin Gardner, big, strong physical guy, was really impressed with his presence at Big Ten media days. He's an impressive guy, 6-4, 216 pounds, is completing 62 percent of his passes, and is very, very athletic in terms of making plays with his feet."


- Franklin on the Michigan defense:
"Greg Mattison is one of the more veteran coaches out there in terms of experience and success, not only in college but also in the NFL. They are a 4-3 team. They will play quarters and they play a lot of quarter one and a lot of man coverage. In a lot of ways they remind me of when I used to be in the ACC and you play Florida State and they load the box to take the run away by numbers, and they press you on the outside to take what I call gimmie throws away and really make it difficult on you."

- Franklin on the Michigan special teams:

"
On special teams, Dan Ferrigno, is also their tight ends coach. The guys that jump out is No. 23 again, Dennis Norfleet, their kick return guy. Right now, he's the second all time leading returner in Michigan history, and has a chance to be the leader before the end of the season."


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VIDEO: Men's Basketball Practice I Interviews

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion basketball team opened the official practice season on Tuesday morning inside the Bryce Jordan Center. GoPSUsports.com talked with seniors D.J. Newbill and Ross Travis following the first practice of the season.





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Lehotak Relishes Opportunity to Coach Against Sister

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10412684.jpegBy Alexis Shelton, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sibling rivalries have gone back through the history of time.  For softball Head Coach Amanda Lehotak, a sibling rivalry was taken to a new level over the weekend.

Lehotak is in her second year as the leader of the Nittany Lion softball team.  Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, softball has always been a passion for her. She watched her older sister, Michala Cimino, who is 10 years older than her, play and grew inspiration to be just as successful as her growing up.

"Michala is actually my hero, I've looked up to her since day one," Lehotak said. "Growing up, going to all of her games, learning from her and watching her career when she won a national championship and being her biggest fan, I've learned a lot from her."

Cimino is currently the head coach at Bellevue University, which is located in Bellevue, Nebraska. The school is apart of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics).

Over the weekend, both Lehotak and her sister met for the first time as head coaches in a friendly matchup between schools.

"The humble people inside of us say its no big deal its about the kids," Lehotak said. "But the truth is its a lot of fun we're a very competitive family. This is something we've always talked about doing and have always wanted to do.  The opportunity to actually do it is very exciting."

Competitive is definitely a word you may want to use when you look at the family. The athletic director at Bellevue is Ed Lehotak, who is both Lehotak and Cimino's father.

"Knowing my father, he's probably rooting for Michala. I say that because it's his school and he's always ranked like the top athletic director in that region," said Lehotak. "We've always been raised to be the underdog and so I know he sees them as just that. I actually see them as an equal opponent however. So knowing him just for the underdog way I feel like he's secretly going for his school."

But with so much talent and skill on both sides, one may begin to wonder if there's any ribbing going on between the two.

"We've both been on our best behavior. But I think the honesty is that we want to beat the crap out of one another," laughed Lehotak.

Despite the difference between the two--Penn State being a NCAA Division I team and Bellevue being in the NAIA--Lehotak wanted to make it clear that the team would treat their guests like they were a Big Ten team as well as having a few surprises for them.

They were given just that; when the team arrived on Friday, they were given their very own special locker room as well as multiple tours throughout the Penn State campus.

"They were given a tour of the football stadium," said Lehotak. "They also got to see the football locker room as well as run Beard field."

She noted that that the bus was full of family members from the Nebraska team. They were treated as family as well; as the whole Bellevue team including the family were treated to a special trip to the creamery and a dinner as well Friday night.

"They sold out their whole bus for this special occasion. We want to hopefully give them something that they'll never forget," Lehotak said.

The two sisters faced off twice on Saturday. It was an experience Lehotak will not forget.

"Michala and I talk almost everyday," added Lehotak. "Some of their team punishments are probably because of me. As well as some of my team punishments are probably because of her. Drills, how we motivate our teams, she's my go to. She's the one I go to [to] say hey I messed up or I'm thinking I'm doing this well. It's really neat."

By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sometimes it takes a loss to inspire a tenacious win.

After the Friday night loss to No. 1 Minnesota, the Nittany Lions adjusted accordingly to skate past St. Cloud State, 3-2, Saturday night.

"I loved the start we got off to against Minnesota, and then it became about learning a series of lessons that we went ahead and applied against St. Cloud State," said head coach Josh Brandwene. "I'm really proud of the adjustments we made."

After getting outshot as well as losing the faceoff battle, certain areas became the focus in preparation for Saturday's game.

"The biggest thing is attention to little detail and willingness to make the simple play when there is no other option," said Brandwene. "We did a fabulous job of that against St. Cloud State."

Junior Shannon Yoxheimer netted her fourth career two-goal game, including the game-winner at 6:27 in the third period. Such a performance is exactly the type of play Yoxheimer's head coach expects out of the team's captain

"Oh, great effort from [Yoxheimer]," said Brandwene. "Fabulous leadership this weekend. Played incredibly well defensively both days. Worked really hard offensively and really made good on some great chances tonight. I'm certainly very proud of her."

Going into the weekend, it was known that junior goalie Celine Whitlinger would start between the pipes against Minnesota, and freshman Hannah Ehresmann versus St. Cloud State. Whitlinger stopped 40 shots, while Ehresmann terminated 29 shots.

Overall, Brandwene was very pleased with both of their performances.

"Celine kept us in it with some spectacular saves, especially when we were on the penalty kill," said Brandwene. "Hannah Ehresmann was fantastic against St. Cloud State. Very steady, very confident, really good effort, great job on her part all the way around."

With nine Nittany Lions' hailing from the Minnesota area, this past weekend was a homecoming of sorts for those players. With emotions at a higher level than normal for the Blue and White Minnesotan skaters, Brandwene was pleased with their play, especially on Saturday.

"Great effort on all of their parts [Saturday]," said Brandwene. "Amy [Petersen] scored a goal and had great jump all night. Laura Bowman had huge penalty killing especially during that 5-on-3 with a monster shot block. Sarah Nielsen had herself a great game. Caitlin Reilly was sharp, Paige [Jahnke] and Bella Sutton, as well. Really just a great night for the whole team, especially our Minnesotans."

Next up for Penn State is a home series against Quinnipiac this upcoming Saturday and Sunday. And, according to Brandwene, specific areas will be improved upon this week in practice.

"The biggest thing we still want to improve upon is making sure that our energy and effort level remains constant from period to period. Certainly the third period against St. Cloud State was a great effort for us both offensively and defensively, and that's something that we want to build off of." 

VIDEO: Season Preview with Patrick Chambers

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion basketball team officially begins practice on Tuesday to kick off preparations for the 2014-'15 season.

The Nittany Lions return 11 players from last season, including five seniors. Penn State opens the season on Nov. 14 against Morgan State inside the Bryce Jordan Center (7 p.m.). GoPSUsports.com spent some time with head coach Patrick Chambers inside his office to preview what's ahead for the 2014-'15 season. Take a look.



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