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The Lions met the media prior to a 90-minute practice on the NCAA hardwood in Maples Pavilion. Check out some sights and sounds from practice and hear from a number of Lady Lions as the team prepares for the Cardinal.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Throughout the 2014 NCAA Tournament you can follow along with all of the
happenings and latest news here in the Tournament Headquarters as the Lady
Lions continue their quest for the programs second trip to the Women's Final
The GoPSUsports.com blog team will keep you up-to-date with continued coverage of the team from opening round matchup with Wichita State through the end of their stay in 2014 NCAA Tournament.
Check back often as the coverage is updated.
Wednesday, March 19 Feature Story | First Round Game
Friday, March 21 Feature StorySaturday, March 22 Feature Story
Sunday, March 23 What to Watch | In-Game Blog | Game RecapVIDEO: Postgame Locker RoomVIDEO: Postgame Press ConferenceFeature StoryVIDEO: Practice Day PlayersVIDEO: Penn State Press ConferenceVIDEO: Florida Press ConferenceFeature StoryWhat to WatchIn-Game BlogGame RecapVIDEO: Inside the Locker RoomVIDEO: Penn State PostgameVIDEO: Florida PostgameSweet 16 Photo BlogFeature StoryVIDEO: Lady Lions Travel DayFeature StoryVIDEO: Practice Sights and SoundVIDEO: Scouting ReportVIDEO: Practice Day InterviewsVIDEO: Strength Coach Brad Pantall
Penn State practiced inside The Leavey Center on the campus of Santa Clara Friday afternoon. The Lions will participate in a preview press conference and practice on site at Maples Pavilion on Saturday. Take a look inside some sights and sounds from Santa Clara and hear from senior Maggie Lucas.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There aren't many defenses that can stop Maggie Lucas
from scoring, but when the Penn State women's basketball senior was asked how
she would describe her game on the court, it was as if she was playing 1-on-5.
"I don't know," said Lucas. "I have no idea."
Knowing Lucas, she would find a way to score if faced with the abovementioned task, but in this case we asked her teammates and coaches to describe the senior's game and got a variety of responses.
Adjectives like dedicated, fiery, intelligent and passionate, but one word that stood out above all: competitive.
On the court, Lucas' competitiveness has been a big reason that Penn State has ascended to its current heights, but she won't take any credit for that. She just flashes a smile and shrugs her shoulders. A far cry from the arm waving protagonist that took the court vs. Florida in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday inside the Bryce Jordan Center.
"That is how I have been my whole life," said Lucas. "I've always been pretty fiery [as a player]. Growing up with my older brothers, we have always been super competitive. When I get fired up during a game it is all in the heat of the moment and it's fun."
That spirit of a performer has always been a part of her, just as fellow senior Dara Taylor, who played AAU basketball with Lucas for six years and has been her teammate for the past four seasons, as well.
"She's been like that since she was 11 years old," Taylor said. "She has always been the talkative, outgoing, energetic type and I have been the calm, cerebral one that brings everyone together. She likes chest bumps and getting the crowd hyped, I like high fives and a pat on the back."
That complement of leadership styles is something that helps Penn State on the court. For every time that Lucas got the crowd amped up after a one of her Big Ten record 365 three point baskets, Taylor was there with a level headedness that refocused the team.
Lucas isn't all three pointers, however, and nothing about her is hype.
With a wrap on her left wrist and her team leading by 20 points with less than five minutes to play on Tuesday against the Gators, Lucas poked the ball loose from Jaterra Bonds and then hit the floor to collect the loose ball. She latched on and turned left and right trying to find a teammate to outlet the ball to and start the fast break.
"She is one of the most competitive players you will ever come across," said assistant coach Fred Chmiel. "She is especially intense on the defensive end, which can sometimes be overlooked in her game. She gets a lot of loose balls and steals because she is a smart player. She knows that is her way of getting some open looks and easy baskets in transition."
The Narberth, Pa. native stepped onto the University Park campus as a scorer and according to her head coach Coquese Washington teams knew Lucas was a scoring threat before she even played a collegiate game. One thing that Washington might not have known was the work ethic that Lucas would bring with her.
That effort doesn't just show up in the games, either. Only once have I ever seen her beat onto the floor during pregame, where she puts up more shots than most teams take in a single game, and I am pretty sure Lucas has never been beat into the practice gym inside the Bryce Jordan Center.
Lucas takes pride in every part of her game and works on it throughout the season and in the off season.
Prior to her senior campaign she worked on her ball handling. She is also a tireless worker at the free throw stripe, admitting she likes to put up at between 100 and 200 free throws a day between drills so that she is tired and those free throws are 'more game like.'
"She wasn't going to let anyone put her in a box [as a player]," said Taylor. "You can see that from when she got to college to where she is now. Everyone knew she could score. They knew she could catch and shoot, but she worked hard to become a player that can put the ball on the floor and create her own shot. She wants to be the best at everything; on defense, in transition, pulling up or in the post."
That's the reason she's the only player in NCAA women's basketball history - and one of only three college basketball players ever - to average 20 points per game and shoot better than 94.9 percent from the free throw stripe. She is also one of just six Big Ten women's basketball players to accumulate 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists and 200 steals in a career.
Her desire to improve has helped her score 2,504 points, grab 536 rebounds, hand out 285 assists and amass 235 steals and is a major reason that Lucas is the two-time Big Ten Player of the Year and a consensus All-American.
"Her skill level has gone up each season," said Chmiel. "She worked on her ball handling this summer and that has come a long way [in her career]. She's always been an intelligent player, a basketball savant. She's great at seeing the court, finding open players and handling the speed and pressure of the game."
From her teammates and coaches to opposing players to the fans in the seats, it is clear that Lucas is a complete basketball player with a will to win.
She wants to beat you off the bus so she can beat you into the arena. Then, after she beats you in the gym - which she has done 101 times in 131 career games - she is going to beat you back onto the bus. If you make a two, she wants to hit a three. You hit a three and she wants to go for the four-point play.
That desire to be the best is one reason that Chmiel says being a part of the maturation of Lucas as a player and a person has been so much fun.
"It's been one of the best coaching experiences of my life," said Chmiel. "To be able to work with her and watch her grow as a player, competitor and a person has been amazing. I know she has said some nice things about me, but I've been blessed to work with her, too."
Next time she is asked to describe her game, Lucas can just use one of the words from her peers, but knowing her she will probably just flash a smile and shrug her shoulders.
By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With conference play beginning tonight at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park against Northwestern, nothing has changed for first year Penn State baseball head coach Rob Cooper.
He's still focused on the process.
"I really am not looking at a Big Ten series any different than any other series," Cooper said. "I'm excited to play at home again and get back on the field, but honestly for us to keep getting better and moving forward we can't look at this series any different than any other.
"If we don't do that then we aren't respecting the game. Baseball is a beautiful game and anyone can beat anyone at any given time."
In 2013, Penn State went 14-36 and 4-20 in conference play. This season, with a new skipper the Nittany Lions stand at 10-13 entering conference play after finishing the non-conference season with six wins in their last 10 games.
Still, Cooper is simply focused on this year and the process.
"I don't even know what our record was last year during the Big Ten schedule," Cooper said. "I know that last year's team is for last year and this year's team is a different team. It's important for this year's team to do everything it can to be in a position to go to the Big Ten Tournament."
While Cooper and his team may not be looking at it, the Big Ten is continuing to be a deeper conference each year. Indiana advanced to the College World Series in 2013 and returns a majority of its starters. The Hoosiers already sit in a four way tie atop the conference at 2-1 and 12-10 overall.
Ohio State, Iowa and Minnesota all had strong non-conference seasons and starts to Big Ten play sitting at 2-1 in the conference and 16-7, 14-7 and 13-7 overall, respectively.
Then you have Nebraska (14-10, 1-2) and Michigan State (10-10, 1-2), but have wins over then-No. 1 Oregon State at the Aramark Pac-12-Big 10 Tournament in late February.
Illinois and Purdue meet in the Big Ten opener for both team's tonight, with the Illini entering at 12-10 and the Boilermakers sitting at 4-16.
Michigan and Northwestern each opened their conference schedules last weekend and are 1-2 in conference after series losses to Indiana and Minnesota, respectively.
Cooper said he has been able to take a look at a lot of Big Ten teams already as coaches have traded scouting reports. The Nittany Lions have been able to take a look at Paul Stevens' team and know they're going to be ready to play.
goal for Penn State during the beginning of Big Ten play is to continue to
improve as they have over the past week according to Cooper.
"I'm happy with the way we played this past week," he said. "If we can make that a habit in terms of our daily approach and mindset then I like where we're at right now."
Ultimately, as Cooper stated above, the eventual goal would be to be playing in the postseason. However, per his team motto and team goals, they haven't talked about anything other than the upcoming opponent each week.
"We talk about the process and taking care of the day," Cooper said. "If I start talking about what possibly could happen during the Big Ten Tournament or the NCAA postseason then we're really not focused on today. Don't get me wrong, I really want these guys to play as long as they can but the truth of the matter is that we can't control any of that right now except for today."
This week's "today" is Northwestern, beginning tonight at 5:30 p.m. at Medlar Field.
By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a very successful last two weeks, Penn State enters its matchup with No. 4/5 Florida on Sunday riding a five-game win streak. A huge part of their success this season has been the depth of their roster. If a player gets tired, worn down, or is just having a bad day, a fellow Nittany Lion is ready to step up to the plate and compete.
This season, Lauren Purvis has done just that and has played an instrumental role in Penn State's success.
The senior has done a tremendous job of filling in on defense, and she has done it with style. Purvis has made opposing teams well aware she is out there, and she has even surprised a few coaches on her own team with her aggressiveness and quickness on the defensive end.
"It's been great," Purvis said. "When I was a freshman and a sophomore here I was kind of a midfielder but now I'm more into defense. And I've always loved defense, even when I was in high school and when I was younger because you get to read the situation then act on it.
"This has probably been the longest I have ever stayed with defense and I love it. I use to think attack was cool because you get to score all the goals and stuff but getting interceptions and groundballs is just as important, realizing that is awesome, too."
Last year, in her junior season, Purvis came on late in the year and helped sure up a defensive unit ready to lead the Nittany Lions to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. She took that experience and built on it, becoming a team-leader this season.
"She has just taken on a real impact-player role," head coach Missy Doherty said. "She has been aggressive in the things that she has been doing. She's not afraid to make plays and put herself out there and she has great speed, so she is able to come up with some awesome ground balls and interceptions. Overall, having some experience coming this year, she has been able to mark up on the opposing team's best player and come up with some awesome game winning plays."
Since being inserted into the starting lineup, a span of seven games, Purvis, a Glen Maples, Pa., native, has corralled 15 ground balls and caused 17 turnovers. Through all 10 games this season, she has 18 ground balls and 20 turnovers, both team-highs and career-highs. Purvis also leads the American Lacrosse conference with 1.67 caused turnovers.
Earlier this season against Vanderbilt the senior had four caused turnovers and three ground balls; those numbers matched her production from the entire 2013 season. The energy she has brought this season has been invaluable, and he has now fully embraced her starting role.
Part of what makes Purvis so successful is her deception. Assistant coach Brooke Matthews joked that she never sees Purvis coming, and suddenly she will knock a ball out of the air, creating a turnover and leading to an offensive possession. The closing speed of Purvis gives her a major advantage as a defender. It also allows her to recover quickly and stay with fast attackers looking to score.
"I just read the person's body language and eyes, and everyone usually does that on defense, but I hope I'm right because I'm going for this ball and if I'm not, I'm going to look like an idiot," Purvis said with a laugh. "Half the time I'm right, half the time I'm wrong, so I just get lucky sometimes, too."
The senior also allows other defenders to handle their responsibilities because they know she is going to take care of hers. Part of playing defense is being aware of your fellow defenders and trusting them to get the job done. It's a trust that Purvis has earned from her Nittany Lion teammates.
For the eighth time in a row, Lauren Purvis will head out onto the field and make a start for the Nittany Lions when the team travels to Florida for a showdown against their American Lacrosse Rival Florida Gators. Just like any other ALC opponent, the play of the whole team, including Purvis, will be critical to earning a victory.
"I'm just trying to do my role on the team: playing defense," Purvis said. "We have a really strong defense, so I'm just doing anything I can."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Every time sophomore catcher Karlie Habitz is at the plate, whether it be to bat or to assist her team defensively, the Nittany Lions know they can rely on her to give them their best chance at success.
Habitz's improvements from last season offensively are undeniable. She has started in all 24 games this season and is maintaining a .333 batting average, an obvious increase from her 2013 season .210 average. Additionally, the sophomore leads the team in both homeruns and slugging.
"You've got to have some of those horses in the lineup, and I wish we had a couple more Karlies to be honest," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "It would help tremendously. She has been very consistent. I think statistically, she is averaging an RBI a game, which is almost impossible. That's a phenomenal stat that us coaches look at. That means she's just handling pressure situations well."
The catcher attributes her offensive production to her extra work this past fall. She practiced hitting and various batting techniques two or three times daily and is now reaping the benefits of her dedication.
Habitz has also helped the team in numerous ways defensively and has thrown out a total of four base stealers this season. The sophomore believes her loud and vocal personality is a major asset to the Lions, explaining that her "voice carries and brings energy to the team." Even with these positive additions to the defense, Habitz feels her main role is to calm the pitchers in pressure situations, which in turn leads to better fielding.
"As a catcher, I always just try to talk to my pitchers and make them feel comfortable," said Habitz. "I let them know, 'Hey, we have your back. Just work low in the zones, get ground balls, and let our defense play.' I mean, I just go out there and try to make them feel as comfortable as possible, especially in uncomfortable situations."
Although Habitz has had great success as a catcher and in her softball career, she admits she started playing a bit later than most.
"Everyone else around me knew what they were doing, knew how to play," said Habitz. "They put me in the outfield, and I was catching butterflies, not even paying attention during the game, facing the opposite direction."
As a result, Habitz became catcher, an attempt by her coaches to increase her overall focus. The switch has worked to her advantage, and catching is now one of her favorite things to do.
Lehotak is very impressed with the sophomore's athletic growth since the fall and truly enjoys coaching her.
"She's a fun kid to coach for the fact that you can really ride her hard, and she gets that it's just about making her better," said Lehotak. "She doesn't take it personally, and she's that kind of kid too that riding her, you don't have to prove that you're right, which is nice."
Lehotak also commends Habitz's abilities to adapt and adjust offensively in a short period of time. Habitz is willing to recognize her weaknesses and constantly works toward improvement. Lehotak believes this extra effort can be partially attributed to the addition of freshman infielder Kristina Brackpool to the team.
Habitz and Brackpool both grew up playing together in California and are close family friends. Their coach labels them as very sister-like and thinks the two really work off of one another.
"Actually, I think as much as Karlie has helped KB [Brackpool] grow up and figure out the speed of the game at this level, KB has helped Karlie work harder," said Lehotak. "They kind of hold one another accountable."
Coming from California, both Habitz and Brackpool miss the warm weather and the playing conditions their home state has to offer. Nevertheless, the Penn State cold is not a major factor that affects their play.
"It's a lot warmer [in California]," said Habitz. "That's for sure. For Kristina and I, we don't really care about outside elements. We just focus on one thing, playing ball and having fun. It's the same game. Everyone plays it hard. Everyone plays with heart."
As far as the future is concerned, Lehotak believes Habitz will continue to grow as a batter and as a catcher. There are aspects of the game both offensively and defensively the sophomore needs to work on, but Habitz's success will never come as a surprise to her coach.
"We just want to have her quality at bats keep growing by putting the ball in play, getting six pitches or more at bat, and just really being competitive," said Lehotak. "I just want her to keep being competitive offensively, and that will turn into success."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Jack Anderson isn't much of a finesse guy.
When the 6-foot-3, 210-pound right-hander is staring down opponents from the mound for the Penn State baseball team, he is usually thinking only one thing: fastball.
"I'd say about 90 percent of the pitches I throw are fastballs," Anderson said. "I just to try to throw strikes and I try to work my slider in a little bit."
It may not be the flashiest repertoire in college baseball, but for the first month of the 2014 season Anderson's no nonsense, straightforward approach has certainly been effective.
Twenty-three games into his sophomore season, Anderson has been a rock at the backend of the bullpen for Penn State, leading the team in appearances (10), wins (4), saves (2), and is second in ERA (2.05). Of the Nittany Lions 10 wins, Anderson has had a hand in six of them, and he has already pitched more innings this season (22), than he did all of last year (14.2).
The Evanston, Ill. native brushes off the fact that he has won as many games as Penn State's starters have combined, which he attributes to luck. At the same time, he said that he had a feeling entering the season that this would be a different year for both him and the team.
"I expect success every time I step out there," Anderson said. "I knew that I was in a fortunate position with the team behind me, knowing they could make plays."
A year ago, success didn't come so easily for Anderson. Though he started his freshman year off hot, not allowing a run over his first five appearances, the former Evanston Township standout experienced the typically growing pains of transitioning from high school to college, finishing his debut season with a 9.20 ERA in 14 appearances.
Spending the majority of his summer playing in Ohio, Anderson took the time to rediscover the mechanics and the confidence that made him a two-time All-Conference selection in high school.
"I rededicated myself to attacking the strike zone and getting back to the core values that I got away from my freshman year," Anderson said. "I had a lot of success over the summer and I've carried that over into the spring."
Anderson's poise late in games, along with his ability to pitch multiple innings in relief, has made him a go-to guy for new head coach Rob Cooper.
At the beginning of the season, Cooper said that it would be in the team's best interest to have a set closer, but that he wouldn't designate anyone to the job unless they proved they deserved it. It didn't take long for Anderson to separate himself from the pack as that guy; winning two of the Lions fist three games in relief.
"When you know you have a guy like that that can get outs and compete like he does it's a nice luxury to have," Cooper said. "Because of the way he throws he can throw multiple innings and back-to-back days and we're very fortunate to have him."
Cooper would like to say that he knew Anderson was the real deal as soon as he started coaching the Nittany Lions, but in reality, it took time for Penn State's new staff to have the opportunity to watch the sophomore pitch.
After spending most of his summer rediscovering his form, Anderson suffered a setback in his final summer league start, taking a line drive off his pitching hand that broke his right thumb and required surgery.
While the injury prevented him from throwing from the middle of August until the end of November, it didn't take long for Anderson to realize that Cooper wasn't the kind of coach that enabled excuses. Anderson then went about making sure that the progress he made in the summer was not lost because of the injury.
"The mental game had been a big part of changing my dynamic when I was throwing," Anderson said. "That's what coach Cooper stresses all the time."
Anderson credits the arrival of both Cooper and new pitching coach Brian Anderson with helping him fine-tune his craft with their relentless approach to coaching.
He can't promise that he will continue to lead the team in wins, but the Nittany Lions sophomore reliever feels comfortable in both in his role as the ace of the bullpen and what the future holds for Penn State baseball.
"Our coaches have been fantastic," Anderson said. "They've been really supportive of the entire team and just really helpful overall."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's basketball team traveled to Palo
Alto, Calif. to prepare for their Sweet 16 matchup with No. 2 seed Stanford on
Sunday, March 30 at Maples Pavilion. We caught up with some of the travel party
and here is what they had to say about the trip.
Keep up with all of the action from the Lady Lions' NCAA Tournament run on our Tournament Headquarters by clicking here.