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A Year To Remember: Looking Back on the 2014 Season

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10601910.jpegBy Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion women's soccer team will take great pride in its efforts during a tremendous 2014 season.

Between several players earning national and international acknowledgment and the team's superb record, 2014 is a year head coach Erica Walsh and the Nittany Lions will build on as the group shifts towards next fall.


Ending the season overall with a 20-4 record and earning its 16th Big Ten title within the last 17 seasons, the Lions have a lot to be proud of this season.

Although the team's season came up just short in the NCAA Quarterfinals, the players and coaching staff have no regrets when it comes to how the team performed.

"I thought they were prepared, I thought they performed and unfortunately we ended up on the wrong side of the score line, but we left it all out on the field and I can't complain at all about this season," Walsh said. "Regardless the outcome, I think our team was peaking at the right time. The team's hard work and dedication showed the whole way through."

The 2014 team had one of the best records the program has seen in the past decade, reaching 20 wins for only the eighth time in program history.

With 11 freshmen and four seniors on the roster, the Lions excelled with consistent contributions from both youth and experience.

Freshman Frannie Crouse led the team with 10 goals in her first year at the college level.

The likes Haleigh Echard, Elizabeth Ball, Maddie Elliston, Katy Keen, Megan Schafer and Emily Ogle were among the freshmen who played significant roles in their rookie campaign.


Ogle was one of the four players on the roster to capture a NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region honors. She earned the Big Ten Freshman of the Year accolade and helped showcase the talent of the freshman class.

Although the freshman class was outstanding, the group credits the leadership of the upperclassmen for making this year so successful.

"Despite being a young team and having an abundance of freshmen, we had four tremendous seniors this year that were leaders on the team," Walsh said. "Each one of them carried a special role on the team, we're not only losing four players-we're losing four additional coaches."

What made this senior class special was how they use their drive and passion to always motivate the team to take it one game at a time.

Although Emily Hurd, Whitney Church, Kori Chapic, and Kindrah Kohne will be saying goodbye to Jeffrey Field, their impact on the team will not be forgotten. Church was named a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy Award earlier this week.

"Probably more than anything this group of seniors left on the program was their attitudes and how unselfish they were. These seniors continuously showed how often they put this team first," Walsh said.

In addition to the seniors, veterans Mallory Weber, Raquel "Rocky" Rodriguez, and Britt Eckerstrom stepped up as additional role models for the team. All three will play a paramount role in Penn State's success in 2015.

The 2014 season was especially memorable for Rodriguez, who also was able to help Costa Rica's national team make history.

Mid-way through the Penn State season, Rodriguez departed Happy Valley to play for her native country of Costa Rica. Rodriguez helped Costa Rica qualify for the FIFA Women's World Cup for the first time ever.

Both individually and as a team, the team has a lot to be proud of this year.

Through the highs and low of the season, the Lions prevailed as a family and never gave up.

"I look at it as a very successful season. I think regardless we are one of the top five teams in the country. This team made me extremely proud and gets me excited to see what the future brings," Walsh said.

Gingrich Poised to Keep Building at Heavyweight Spot

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10601874.jpegBy Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was only seconds into the heavyweight match of Penn State's dual meet against Clarion on Nov. 22, and Nittany Lion senior Jon Gingrich was already behind after giving up a quick takedown to Evan Daley.

A few years ago, a rough start like that might have been it for him. Instead, the senior kept his cool, battling back with three third period takedowns to finish off a 9-4 win.

On the surface, it may have seemed like just another win in a 44-0 blowout Penn State victory. For Gingrich, however, it was an example of how far he has come and how good he can still be.

"I think he's come a long way, just mentally with his confidence," head coach Cael Sanderson said. "In Clarion, he gave up a takedown early and didn't lose his cool or get frustrated, he just kind of battled back and did what he does."

So far, Gingrich is 3-0 and ranked seventh in the country after wrestling in all three dual meets for Penn State this season. As good as he's been, it was difficult to imagine him being in this position a year ago.

That's not to say the heavyweight never showed the ability to be a productive starter, just that he faced stiff competition. After battling with Jimmy Lawson for the starting spot throughout the 2012-'13 season, Gingrich watched his teammate get in the nod in the 2013 NCAA Tournament and keep a hold on the position through the first half of last season.

With Lawson performing at a high level and racking up a 16-4 record in 2013-'14, it seemed like Gingrich would be stuck on the sidelines for the long term. However, a knee injury to Lawson thrust him into the lineup and the Wingate, Pennsylvania, native responded by qualifying for the national tournament and winning his opening round match once there.

Now a senior, Gingrich seems poised to remain focused on the task at hand in the starting lineup. Although the past two seasons have been frustrating at times, the heavyweight always felt he'd get another shot at starting.

"I never came to be on a team to be a backup, I always wanted to be a starter," Gingrich said. "You have to believe in yourself so I did [think I'd get another chance]."

It's not like the skill and talent haven't been there. One of the more in-shape heavyweights around at a chiseled 265 pounds, Gingrich entered the season with a 58-20 career record including two dual wins over top ten ranked opponents during his sophomore campaign.

When asked if he changed anything about his approach in the offseason, Gingrich said almost exactly what Sanderson did about him. The improvements were more mental than physical.

"I know I need to ride guys and also just having the right attitude, I needed some more mental toughness," Gingrich said. "In my tough matches, like Clarion the other week when I was losing, being able to come back and win those matches instead of taking a loss, stuff like that where I'm mentally tough."

While most wrestlers would probably be pretty pleased to be ranked No. 7 a year after beginning the season on the bench, the senior has been involved in too much competition over the course of his career to get complacent.

Lawson, who captured an open tournament title at Lock Haven last weekend, seems to be rounding into form after seeing his season end prematurely last year.

As good as Gingrich has been, he knows that Lawson's own accomplishments mean that the battle for the starting spot certainly isn't over.

"I think the competition is always there," Gingrich said. "We found out the past three years it's never over. Somebody needs to hit their stride and it has to happen at the right time. So it's never over but for me, I can't focus on that, I need to focus on myself and getting better.

"I think [Jimmy and I] are friends. Obviously there's a little bit of a rivalry but overall we get along great."

However the weight plays out, Gingrich is at a class where the Nittany Lions will need significant production throughout the season. With five of last year's All-Americans out of the lineup due to graduation [David Taylor, Ed Ruth and James English] and redshirts [Nico Megaludis, Zain Retherford], Penn State needs every single one of its veterans to step up.

Gingrich certainly has the talent to do that. According to his head coach, whoever ends up getting the nod as the permanent starter at the end of the Lions lineup should be a contender deep into March.

"Out of Lawson and Gingrich, they're both potential All-Americans and guys that can score points for us," Sanderson said. "Jon has been to the national tournament now, been to the conference meet...Lawson's been to the conference meet, so you know they both have the experience and they're both big, strong kids and fifth year seniors. So that's a weight class I think either one of them can score points for us in the national tournament and win in big dual meets and that's what we need so we'll see who that's going to be."

While becoming an All-American is certainly not an easy challenge, it is a task that Gingrich believes he's up to. After taking a backseat to some of his more heralded teammates the past few seasons, he is ready to emerge as one of the leaders of the Nittany Lions.

"With David and Ed gone, we need somebody to step up," Gingrich said. "Whether it's Lawson or I, we're both seniors now and we definitely need to take that role as somebody that is getting bonus points and just being there for the other guys when they need us." 

2014 NCAA Volleyball Tournament Preview Content Central

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w_volleyball_blog.jpgMatch Notes & Preview | Live Match Video | Tournament Bracket

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the 25th consecutive season, Penn State will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament. The defending NCAA champion Nittany Lions (30-3) open the tournament against MAAC champ Siena (19-14) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Rec Hall.

10600052.jpegThe winner of the Penn State-Siena match will move on to face either American (26-6) or Dayton (29-5) on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. American and Dayton will meet in Rec Hall on Friday at 5 p.m.

For the Nittany Lions, they enter the tournament red-hot on a 14-match winning streak. Penn State has not lost a set since Oct. 17 at Purdue. The Lions have won 13-straight matches in 3-0 fashion.

Led by a quartet of seniors and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Haleigh Washington, the Nittany Lions head into the postseason with confidence.

"We always talk about it, it's go time," said senior Dominique Gonzalez. "We have six matches potentially left in the season. Everyone is excited for it. It's a dogfight in every match no matter who you are playing, and I think we are excited for that. It's tournament time for us, and that means the most. We are really looking forward to getting out there and playing in front of our home crowd."

Individually, senior Micha Hancock, senior Nia Grant and Washington were named first-team All-Big Ten earlier this week. Redshirt junior Aiyana Whitney and freshman Ali Frantti were named All-Big Ten honorable mention.

The Nittany Lions are one of six Big Ten teams in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin is the No. 4 seed, Illinois is the No. 9 seed and Nebraska is the No. 14 seed. Michigan State and Ohio State round out the Big Ten teams in the field. Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State are all in the Louisville Regional quarter of the bracket.

"We've had some great matches these past few weeks, but I think our main focus is to stay focused," Gonzalez said. "It will be competitive, and great teams are always capable of forcing you to do some things wrong and expose you. But you just need to stay composed and remain focused."

Now, it is win or go home for all 64 teams on the bracket. The 2014 NCAA Tournament begins on Friday inside Rec Hall.


VIDEO: NCAA Tournament Russ Rose Preview



VIDEO: NCAA Tournament Player Preview Interviews




First Round Statistical Rundown

NCAA Tournament_Round I_Siena.jpg
Feature Story Corner

Lions Looking Ahead to First Round of 2014 NCAA Tournament
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since it was founded in 1976, the Penn State women's volleyball program has been a benchmark for success. In addition to 16 Big Ten Championships, the Nittany Lions have climbed the mountain of the sport six times with NCAA national championships in 1999, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013.

10439026.jpegPenn State is one of the only two programs in the country to have been selected to participate in all 34 NCAA postseason tournaments since it began in 1981. During that span, the Nittany Lions have an 83-26 record in the tournament and they will be making their 34th consecutive appearance in the contest this weekend as they take on the MAAC conference champion Siena (19-14) Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Rec Hall.

"It's a really exciting time of the year for the players and the fans and the people that are caring about college volleyball," said head coach Russ Rose. "Anytime you get yourself into the NCAA tournament, you feel good about your body of work throughout the year and you hope to do something with it. I look at it as three weekends where you can make your point if you're going to be relevant and we look forward to starting the action this weekend."

The Lions finished off the season with a three-set win against then-No.10 Nebraska (25-21, 25-15, 25-16) on senior night last Saturday evening at Rec Hall. Penn State is heading into the postseason on a 14-match win streak and have won their last 41 sets.

"It's great to end the conference on a win and a big win at home," said senior Dominique Gonzalez. "[Nebraska] is a great team that plays really well and very hard, so to have such a good win against that team is a good confidence booster that lets us know that we're playing well at that point in time, but we have to continue to play well. Going into the tournament, it's a dogfight. It's six matches that you have to win to get where you want to get and win what you want to win, but we have to take it one match at a time, so our main focus is Siena for Friday's match"

Coach Rose agrees that it is important to focus on one match at a time.

"We have a 9-3 record against teams that are in the tournament, so I'm sure people have better records and I'm sure there are some people that don't have as good of records," said coach Rose. "It's also possible that there'll be upsets and you don't collect anything. We experienced all those things throughout the years and I'm looking at all three of the opponents for this weekend. I'm not looking at any of them opponents for next weekend."

The Nittany Lions are concentrating on consistency in a few key areas as the tournament looms.

"Right now, we focus on a lot of things we can control, like our ball control, the offense that we're running, things like that...Serving, passing, and defense on our aspect of things, just controlling what we can control," said Gonzalez.

Aside from the physical aspects of the game, it's important to have confidence and energy entering the matches.

"I think it's the freshmen's job to go out there, to play hard, to have fun, and embrace the atmosphere and it's kind of the older girls' job to maintain the steady mindset on the court and keep the focus," said Gonazlez. "We need players like that; we need freshmen that are fiery.

Though the team is continually looking to be the best that they can be, the players are eager for the NCAA tournament.

"I am super pumped," said senior Lacey Fuller. "[Monday's] practice went really well and you can tell that everyone is excited for the tournament. Everyone is really focused with every drill and I think we got a little more serious...Playing in Rec Hall in general is really exciting. I was sad during senior night because we've just been here for four years and to think that we'll never play in here again. Every opportunity is so big and it's really nice to have one or two more opportunities to play here this weekend."

Gonzalez echoed her teammate.

"It's unreal [to play at Rec Hall for the last time]," said Gonzalez. "I can still remember when I was 14 coming into camp and stuff like that, so it doesn't feel like it's that far off and I still can't believe that it will be our final weekend at Rec Hall."

The name of the game during tournament time is finding a way to advance, and the Lions are excited about the opportunity in front of them.

"Every year is different. Obviously you get different routes, different team you get to play, but the ultimate goal is the same...I think the goal is still to get as far as we can, win a national championship, but we realize that it's going to be tough. It's a hard road. Every team wants the same thing and they're going to go hard, just like we are. It's going to be a dogfight, but we're excited for it," said Gonzalez.




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Nittany Lions Outmuscle Virginia Tech in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

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10599027.jpegBy Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the days leading up to the Penn State men's basketball team's contest against Virginia Tech, head coach Patrick Chambers had a simple message for his players - focus on defense and rebounding.


While the Nittany Lions had held opponents to just 37 percent shooting during their 6-1 start, Chambers felt they could improve on the boards after averaging 39 rebounds to their opponents 37 in their first seven games.

Against the Hokies, the Lions' frontcourt had its best game of the season on the glass, outrebounding Virginia Tech 47-38 while gutting out a 61-58 win.

"I tell you what, in the second half, look at their statistics," Chambers said. "I feel like our [forwards] did a pretty good job. I felt like we did such a good job chesting them and walling up that they were missing those layups that they would have made in the first half. Very pleased with their effort."

Making the performance even more impressive was the number of Lions that contributed to that advantage. Four of the team's big men, forwards Donovon Jack (seven), Brandon Taylor (seven) and Ross Travis (10) and center Jordan Dickerson (eight) all grabbed at least seven rebounds.

For Travis, Penn State's leader in rebounds the past two seasons, the performance was expected. At the same time, it was encouraging for the 6-foot-7 forward to see his teammates give him the support he needed.

"It's huge man, it takes a lot of pressure off my shoulders," Travis said. "Coach is always telling me I have to get every rebound so it's nice to have some help, especially from the 7-footer (Dickerson) grabbing some boards."

Although Dickerson played only 16 minutes and scored just two points on one shot, the 7-foot-1 center consistently made his presence felt around the basket, grabbing six of his eight boards in the second half as the Lions outrebounded the Hokies 23-17 after the break.

For a player that has seen his role continue to expand since transferring from SMU prior to last season, it was a big step forward. Afterwards, Chambers said he was pleased with the junior, whose career high for rebounds entering the game was six.

"Defensively, really happy with Jordan Dickerson, he did some great things," Chambers said. "He had eight rebounds, that might be a career high."

Although he expects similar numbers from Travis, Chambers was still especially proud of the senior captain's effort. Travis scored six points in 27 minutes, but it was his six offensive rebounds that continuously helped the Lions keep their possessions going on a night in which they weren't having their best shooting game.

Those kinds of effort plays are what make Travis such an important player in Penn State's rotation. Though he may not be the most skilled guy on the roster, he brings an attitude and intensity to the court that the entire team feeds off of.

Apart from singling out Travis for his defense and rebounding, the fourth-year coach also praised him for two clutch shots he made in the first half, a 3-pointer and a putback between the 12:55 mark and the 10:22 mark that helped kick start the Lions' offense.

"He makes winning plays," Chambers said. "The tapback on the free throw line, I mean we couldn't find the bottom of the basket. He makes winning plays, he had 10 rebounds ... and his free throws are going to fall, nobody works harder than that kid. He's in the gym, he lives in the gym, he wants to be a great player and he wants to be on a winning team. You gotta let him play."

In a game that came down to a missed 3-pointer on the final possession by Virginia Tech guard Ahmed Hill, the Lions certainly weren't perfect. Still, they showed plenty of resolve by holding off a late Hokie rally to improve to 7-1 on the season.

From the 11:39 mark of the second half when Justin Bibbs hit a three, to the 5:49 mark when Bibbs finally added a pair of free throws, the Lions held the Hokies without a point. During that 5:50 stretch, the game changed from a 42-34 Virginia Tech lead to a 48-44 Penn State advantage.

"They're not pretty numbers by any stretch of the imagination. However, we find ways to win and good teams do that," Chambers said. "I think we're a good team but we haven't even scratched the surface of how good we could be."

There was one more thing that also made the game memorable. On a night in which the Nittany Lions wore pink-and-black uniforms for the second straight game to celebrate the school's original colors, the Bryce Jordan Center hosted a tremendous student crowd, which provided an excellent atmosphere for college basketball.

"What a great student section, man that fired me up," Chambers said. "I gotta give [marketing directors] LC (Loren Crispell) and Rob [Roselli] a lot of credit. That was outstanding. In my four years here that was the best crowd, the best student section I've seen. Penn State men's basketball says thank you." 

Lions Return to Big Ten Play Against Wisconsin

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A little over seven months ago, the Penn State men's hockey team battled Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal game.

The Lions hoped for a victory to ensure the continuation of their season but instead fell to the Badgers, 2-1, and watched on as their former opponent ultimately became the Big Ten champions.

These two programs will meet once again this weekend, but the Badgers now have a very different identity. While the Lions returned nearly their entire roster this season, Wisconsin worked to fill massive holes left behind by their previous senior class.

Even with this new look, Penn State is prepared for another round of intense, gritty Big Ten hockey with the Badgers.

"They're an extremely talented group that has just found some success, so they're definitely going to be ready to go," said head coach Guy Gadowsky. "I certainly don't expect we overlook them at all. They're Wisconsin, but at the same time I understand we're facing a dangerous group that's just starting to get some confidence. That sometimes is the most energetic group."

Wisconsin (1-8-1) is fresh off its first win of the season, a 5-3 victory over Ferris State, while the Lions (7-4-2) are looking to snap their first losing streak of the year.

With some major lessons learned through their losses to Michigan and Cornell, the Blue and White are working toward making corrections that will lead to more positive outcomes.

"We've been trying to hit the transition faster, but we still need to improve on limiting the odds, making bad decisions on pinches and stuff like that," junior Luke Juha said of the Penn State defense. "Just the little things, we have to clean up, but I think as a whole we've been a little more consistent. We're excited for Friday and Saturday."

It's no secret the Lions have been bitten by the injury bug as of late, especially at the forward position, which has undoubtedly made their most recent stretch of games even tougher.

In their last two outings, the Lions have been held to one goal, which is quite unusual for the team that's averaging 3.3 goals per game. This weekend, however, the Lions will get some relief as David Glen and Dylan Richard return to the lineup.

"Richard and Glen are going to play," said Gadowsky. "That's huge for us to get them back for a number of reasons. One is the faceoff circle, which we struggled with on Saturday."

Prior to their injuries, Richard notched seven points in eight games, while Glen tallied three points in his seven appearances. Gadowsky considers both individuals "identity guys" and believes they can and will give the team's offense a much-needed boost.

Despite these returns, the Blue and White will still be without defenseman Connor Varley and forwards Eric Scheid, Jonathan Milley and Zach Saar.

Saar, who has yet to play a game for Penn State this year due to an offseason surgery, is making strides in his recovery and is now practicing with the team.

"He looks good out there," Gadowsky said of the forward. "His wind is not there at all. He's really struggling with the conditioning aspect of it, as you'd expect, but he's just got such a presence. His skills are great. I mean he shoots the puck so effortlessly. To us, he looks really good."

As the healthy members of the team prepare for this weekend's series, they do so expecting a challenge. Instead of focusing on Wisconsin and what to expect from the Badgers, the Blue and White have been working diligently on their own identity, electing to refine their own talents instead.

"We don't try to change our game for anybody," said Juha. "We're just going to go out there, try to make the A+ backchecks, no odds, and play our game. Wisconsin is going to be a great team. I don't expect them to be any different than they were last year."

The Lions are 1-6 against the Badgers since the 2012-'13 season, and they are ready for that record to improve.

Not only is the team searching for improvement, but it also wants to conclude the first half of its season on a high note.

"If we can get through this and have success," said Gadowsky, "I think it's going to be a tremendous boost."

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2014-'15 Men's Hoops Blog - Penn State vs. Virginia Tech

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive coverage of the 2014-'15 men's basketball season. Tonight, the Nittany Lions face Virginia Tech inside the Bryce Jordan Center for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Live Blog 2014-'15 Men's Hoops Blog - Penn State vs. Virginia Tech
 

Spann Shining in Debut Season

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Lindsey Spann set out a plan prior to her arrival to Penn State in the summer of 2013, one that included her being on the court during her first college basketball season. However, it turned out to be the exact opposite of what she planned: sitting on the bench due to an injury that sidelined her for an entire season.

She played the waiting game, while rehabbing and training so she could be playing at a top level upon her return to the court in her debut Lady Lion season.

It's safe to say in the early stages of the 2014-'15 season this part of Spann's new plan of excelling on the court is panning out just fine.

The redshirt freshman is in the top two on the team in minutes played, points, assists, steals and free throw percentage six games into the season. She has also led the team in scoring in three of its six games and has yet to post a game without a double-digit point total.

Her head coach says the explanation of her success is simple: an unmatched work ethic.

"Lindsey is a competitor," head coach Coquese Washington said. "She killed it in the training room last year. She was remarkable with her work ethic coming back from her knee injury. It says a lot about her determination to be able to come back and step right in and not miss a beat physically."

Spann spent countless hours in the training room rehabbing and getting stronger in efforts to be ready for this season, while having to deal with the tough reality of not being able to play day in and day out.

"The hardest part about it was not being able to play," Spann said. "It was just about keeping a positive attitude and knowing that everything was going to be alright and everything happens for a reason and I had to work to get better."

Her efforts to return to the court did not go unnoticed in the Lady Lion locker room.

"You can definitely see that she worked really hard in the offseason to get back to where she is now," fellow guard Sierra Moore said. "I think she has grown more and matured more as a player even though she is a freshman on the court I think that experience of watching the game and getting to know it is an advantage as a point guard. "

Although it may not seem like it's true, there were many benefits for Spann as she sat out the 2013-'14 season, some of which are visible with her play this season.

Spann was able to watch tremendous guards and leaders in Maggie Lucas and Dara Taylor and see how they approached the game both as players and as leaders.

"I realized that I needed to bring a lot more energy and be loud and encouraging and become a leader that's demanding of what we expect of each other," Spann said.

Washington agreed.

"I think being able to watch it and see it up close gave her some perspective," the head coach said. "Lindsey is a different type of leader and different type of leader for this team. The things she picked up on were the impact that the point guard has on the team and how the point guard has to be the engine and the heart of the team."

Now, with that season behind her, Spann is taking all of her experiences and see them come full circle and Washington is not surprised with the outcome.

"She has a pretty high basketball IQ and as she's adjusting to the speed of the game and the contact of the game she's getting better and better every night out," Washington said. "She has confidence in her abilities and that's allowed her to step into the starting point guard spot as a freshman and have a measure of success."

Penn State heads to Syracuse on Thursday for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Tip is at 7 p.m.

By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA.- It was a season full of achievements for the Penn State men's soccer team.

From individuals awards like Connor Maloney winning Big Ten Forward of the Year to team ones including a No.3 national ranking in October, the Nittany Lions accomplished plenty during a 13-6-1 campaign that ended with a trip to the second round of the NCAA tournament. 

Still, when head coach Bob Warming thinks about the season, the first thing that comes to mind won't be the goals or the victory celebrations. Instead, Warming will remember how much fun he and his players had on a regular basis.

"I'll remember everything but I think the one thing that I'll ways remember is the relationships and how they developed," Warming said. "We had a lot of guys with great character on this team." 

That attitude and the mindset carried over onto the field, where Penn State opened the season with an incredible 10-0-1 run that included standout wins over Big Ten opponents Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan and Rutgers.

Along the way, the Lions attracted the strongest fan base the team has seen in years. Not only was the student section at Jeffrey Field regularly packed, a bus full of students made the four-hour trip to Maryland on Oct. 18 to watch the Blue and White take on the Terpins. 

"I'm really pleased with how our fan base has grown," Warming said. "If the timing is right, we can attract kids to our sports and it's happening. We have a great leader in (marketing director) Rob Roselli who connects so well with the fans. I think we'll continue to grow." 

Although the season ended with a disappointing 2-1 loss to Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the Lions saw young players develop, veterans leave their mark and a season will plenty of memories.

Lets take a look back at some of the most memorable moments from the 2014 campaign.

The Wolf of Park Avenue 
Perhaps no game better exemplified Penn State's overall team play than its 1-0 victory over Michigan on Sept. 28.

The victory gave senior goaltender Andrew Wolverton his school record 29th career shutout. While the 6-foot-6 goalkeeper made a signature diving save to preserve the win with eight minutes remaining, he also received terrific defensive support from his backline of Eli Dennis, Mason Klerks and Mike Robinson.

That was a theme throughout the season for the Nittany Lions. While Wolverton, the 2013 Big Ten Goalkeeper of the year and a 2014 All-Big Ten Second Team selection, was his usual stellar self, his success would not have been possible without the support of his teammates. 

"The whole team was instrumental in Andrew getting the shutout record," Warming said. "The amazing saves made by him are something I'll always remember, but I'll also remember the saves that our other players made by diving in front of balls for him." 

By the end of the season, Wolverton had nine shutouts on the year and an incredible 32 over his four years as a starter. For a team that won 13 1-0 games over the past two years, the goalie's performance was irreplaceable.

The Magical Touch of Maloney
Try to tell  Warming that he has a defensive minded team and the coach can't help but laugh.

True, the Lions were involved in eight 1-0 games this season. Still, that is simply the nature of a sport like soccer.

"The most common score in men's collegiate soccer is 1-0," Warming said. "The reality is our team can really score they're just so good at defending."

In 2014, no player in the Big Ten scored throughout the season quite like sophomore forward Connor Maloney. Not only was he named the conference's top forward, he also led the Big Ten in goals with 10 and notched five game winners.

More impressive than his scoring, however, was the way the Harrisburg native carried himself throughout the season. Even as he was emerging as a star, the 5-foot-6 striker remained humble. 

"I think Connor has grown a lot as a player in just two years," Warming said. "Last year he led the Big Ten in assists and didn't get much recognition. Now with him scoring goals people are starting to take notice and he'll continue to get better." 

A Lasting Legacy and Bright Hope for the Future
Warming has been coaching college soccer since 1976. At this point, he's used to watching groups of players graduate after four years.

However, this year's seniors, Dennis, Randy Falk, Owen Griffith, Mikey Minutillo, Robinson and Wolverton, will always have a special place in the coach's heart because of their leadership, humility and general sense of Penn State pride. 

Having only been at Penn State for five seasons, Warming has gotten to know these six players as well as any group he has ever coached. Over the past four years, they have helped Penn State capture two Big Ten regular season titles, qualify for the NCAA Tournament twice and remain in first place in the conference standings from October 2012 to November 2014.

"These seniors all wanted to make their mark on Penn State and they've done a fantastic job," Warming said. "This was a team that didn't play well on the road before they got here and now they've always done well on the road. They've been remarkable." 

Although the 2014 campaign ended earlier than they would have liked, the Nittany Lions created a plethora of memories on Jeffrey Field this season, from their 1-0 win over Ohio State on Mack Brady Day to the thrilling 2-1 victory over Hartwick in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

With six starters returning next season, Penn State should remain a force to be reckoned with in 2015.

"That's the exciting part about coaching, even if you lose just one player it makes a huge difference," Warming said. "This team is never the same, and part of the joy of coaching is seeing that evolution. I never go into any season without expectations and I'm always pretty optimistic and I want to win every game. I always feel that if the preparation is there and the work is there than that is something that we can achieve. I'm always going to believe that."

VIDEO: Defending and Rebounding Focus For Lions as ACC/Big Ten Challenge Looms

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Nittany Lion basketball coach Patrick Chambers knows that his team has just grazed the surface of its potential for the 2014-'15 season.

Looking for a fifth-straight win, Penn State (6-1) enters Wednesday night's ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup against Virginia Tech (4-2) inside the Bryce Jordan Center with two things on its mind - defending and rebounding.

"Defending and rebounding, we've got to do a much better job," Chambers said. "We've got to do a better job of building a wall being in our gaps and getting on bodies when shots go up. It's little detailed things to create better habits. Some possessions we have three guys doing the right thing, and then two guys aren't. We need to get five guys on the same page."

Offensively, the Nittany Lions have been strong through seven games in 2014-'15. Penn State is averaging 76.0 tallies per game and shooting 45.1 percent from the field. The Lions have four players averaging 9.0 points per game or more, led by 25.0 points per contest from D.J. Newbill, who leads the Big Ten in scoring.

While Chambers is undoubtedly pleased with the offensive output from the Lions, he wants to see more on the defensive end of the floor. He cited glimpses of the type of effort necessary to be successful in the Big Ten from the second half against Akron last week when the Lions limited the high-powered Zips to 21.2 percent shooting and 27 points in Penn State's 78-72 win.

"That's what I say to these guys, we have not played a 40-minute game yet," said Chambers. "We're not even close to the team that we are going to be come January. Not even close. Once we start defending and rebounding and understanding the importance of it all, I think it's even going to better for us (on the offensive end of the floor)."

By no means have the Lions been bad on the defensive end, but the coaches and players know they can play better. Opponents are averaging 70.3 points and shooting 38 percent from the field against the Lions. Penn State is plus-1.8 rebounds per game for the season.

"I think we can play better as a team in terms of rebounding," junior Brandon Taylor said. "And we need to work on playing harder. We can play a lot harder, and we can play tougher defense."

Virginia Tech enters Wednesday's matchup having won two-straight games. The Hokies knocked off Miami (Ohio) (78-63) in their final game at a tournament in Mexico before topping Morgan State (83-63) on Sunday. Junior guard Adam Smith enters as the team's top scorer at 14.3 points per game. As a team, Virginia Tech has shot 51.4 percent from the field through six games.

Penn State and Virginia Tech will be meeting for the eighth time on Wednesday and the third time since 2007. The Hokies own a 6-1 edge in the series. The Nittany Lions are 5-8 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Penn State will again wear its throwback pink and black uniforms that debuted at Bucknell on Friday.


"I like the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. It's kind of like which one is the better conference, so hopefully we can come out with the W," Taylor said.

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Thorpe Relishing in Increased Role for Nittany Lions

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10593338.jpegBy Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When you think about the Penn State men's basketball team, chances are sophomore Geno Thorpe isn't the first player that comes to mind.

After all, he's not a starter, isn't one of the team's top three scorers, and at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds is hardly one of the biggest players on the roster.

At the same time, it's hard to argue that the Nittany Lions would be off to their 6-1 start right now if not for the efforts of the second-year guard. Arguably the best defender on the roster, Thorpe is the type of player whose contributions don't always show up on the stat sheet.

"He's been kind of like our enforcer," senior captain D.J. Newbill said. "When Geno gets in the game it's almost like a whole [different] game. He increases our intensity and he understands that we need him to come off the bench and be a big part of this team so he's embraced his role."

Although Thorpe may not be a household name the same way Newbill is, it is almost impossible not to notice him when he is on the court. One of the grittiest players around, the sophomore routinely dives for loose balls, comes up with clutch steals and generally refuses to let his man breathe when playing defense.

What really sets him apart, however, is his understanding of his role. While some players strive for the spotlight that comes with being an elite scorer, Thorpe is perfectly happy playing the part of shutdown defender as long as it helps the Lions win.

"I'm very comfortable," Thorpe said. "Last year I kind of had a similar role, but this year being older by like a year I mean I kind of know what's expected of me. So it's easier for me to just come off the bench and play my role, do my job."

As a true freshman last season, Thorpe averaged 11.8 minutes a game while coming off of the bench. In year two, the guard's playing time is up to 23.6 minutes, behind only starters Newbill, Shep Garner, Brandon Taylor and Ross Travis.

Not only has Thorpe's playing time increased, his game as a whole has also improved. After averaging just 3.2 points last year, the shooting guard has increased his scoring output to 9.0 points this season and is currently the team's fourth leading scorer behind Newbill (25.0), Garner (10.9) and Taylor (10.4).

Though Thorpe's additional scoring is partly the result of him taking more shots, he has also been extremely efficient, shooting 45 percent from the field and improving his free throw shooting from 69 percent as a freshman to 86 percent as a sophomore. He has even made four 3-pointers on the season and is shooting a respectable 33 percent from behind the arc.

"Well I worked on a lot of stuff over the summer, just trying to be consistent from three, and trying to make my game more of an all-around type of guard type of thing," Thorpe said. "So like, I see improvements in the games but really it's just about me taking smart shots and making the right plays and that's all I'm trying to do really and it makes the game easier for me."

According to head coach Patrick Chambers, developing Thorpe from an energy guy and effective defender to someone who can play in any situation required teaching him to how to harness his energy on the court while keeping his non-stop motor going at all times.

Chambers also believes the Pittsburgh native's improvement is largely due to an increased amount of time in the gym. At this point, the fourth year coach said he never sees a drop off in the team's production when Thorpe enters the game.

"Give Geno the confidence and the freedom to make plays, and I think that helps his game," Chambers said. "He knows what his role is but I think he's also, maybe D.J. has rubbed off on him, because he's getting in the gym more and shooting.

"It's just like having a starter [on the bench]. Geno is such a spark and totally changes the dynamic of the team. We have eight (possible) starters, which is great. Guys are playing quality minutes and you've got veterans. Even though Geno is only a sophomore he played quality minutes last year."

Even with his improved offense, the Lions will still look to Thorpe to be their defensive anchor in the backcourt as the season continues. While he has played that part terrifically so far, the guard knows task will get tougher once the Big Ten schedule starts on Dec. 31.

However, those types of challenges just excite Thorpe. With his older teammates providing an excellent example for him, the sophomore is determined to enhance his game as the Lions look to take the next step as a program.

"I take a lot from guys like D.J and John [Johnson]. Just trying to take smart shots and take the right shots ... not always trying to force something and just doing the right thing," Thorpe said.