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

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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 welcome No. 5 Wisconsin to the Bryce Jordan Center for an 7 p.m. tip.

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

Nittany Lion Women Look to Remain in Top Three at Big Ten Championships

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9423877.jpegBy Meghan Miceli, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "Top three always has a nice ring to it and we always like to be better," said head coach Tim Murphy with a smile while speaking about the Women's Big Ten Championships.

The Nittany Lions have arrived in Columbus, Ohio, and are anticipating four days of fast swimming.

"They're prepared, they're ready to go," explained Murphy. "They're anxious, but that's okay, we're saving that energy for race time."

The women's team wrapped up their regular season with a 10-1 record, their only loss coming by a few points to Michigan in November. The Nittany Lions will have an opportunity to revisit the Wolverines this week.

"We're up against a lot of stiff good competition, we have to respond to that," said Murphy.

Last year the Nittany Lions captured a third place finish at Big Tens, behind the defending champions, Wisconsin and runner-up Indiana.

"We need to swim aggressive and swim smart. We want to be under control but we want to be a little bold with what we try to do," said Murphy. "As opposed to having the competition impact us, we want to have an impact on the competition."

One of the biggest differences between last year's Big Ten Championships and this year is allowing the C Final to score.

Historically, only the top 16 finishers from prelims (the top two heats) were in a position to score in finals, even though the top 24 finishers were invited back for a second swim.

While allowing the top 24 to put points on the board gives the opportunity for more swimmers to add to their teams score, Murphy does not believe it will sway the outcome of the meet. He does however believe it will impact the atmosphere.

"It's going to give some people a chance to score who have not in the past and it's an incentive to make it back," explained Murphy. "I think it's going to add to the level of excitement, across the board, that's a given."

While swimming is often conveyed as sport focused on individual races, it is actually very team oriented.  The Nittany Lions consider themselves a family and each team member plays an important role in contributing to the team's overall performance.  

"We're supportive of one another and we have fun competing and practicing against each other," explained senior Carolyn Fittin. "We have developed a great team dynamic throughout the year and I think that's really going show at Big Tens."

The atmosphere at Big Tens has an excitement level of it's own.  For many swimmers, it is the culmination of a grueling a season and a final opportunity for best times and to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

For the Nittany Lions the goal is to stay focused and ready to race.

"We need to just take care of ourselves and swim really tough," said Murphy. "There's going to be three, four, people going into the wall at the same time.  The difference is going to be who gets their hand on the wall first in those situations."

With tough competition and evenly matched teams across the Big Ten, this year's competition is shaping up to be a fight to the finish.

The meet kicks off this evening with the 200 medley and 800 freestyle relays.  Individual events begin on Wednesday and continue through Saturday. 

Newbill Leaving No Doubt He is Among Nation's Best

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10791881.jpegFeature by Matt Allibone, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK. Pa. - Take a look at both last season's first-team All-Big Ten selections and this year's preseason team, and it's hard not to feel puzzled.

Not because any of the choices aren't excellent players deserving of recognition, but because there seems to be one player near the top of the conference's stat sheet missing-- D.J. Newbill.

Newbill has played for the Penn State men's basketball team for three years and has led the Nittany Lions in scoring each season. If that doesn't impress you, consider that he is leading the conference in points-per-game this year (20.8), finished second last season (17.8) and fifth the year before that (16.3).


Despite the accomplishments, you rarely hear the Philadelphia native named when the best players in the nation are being discussed. At the same time, his importance has never been doubted inside his own program.

"D.J. Newbill should be in every conversation," head coach Patrick Chambers said. "It's nice that he's a [Senior CLASS Award] finalist, which is great and he deserves that but he's not in many conversations and he needs to be and he should be. He's carrying a team and he's scoring in a variety of ways."

Newbill's scoring isn't just the result of piling up points against non-conference competition either. He's averaged 18.6 points against Big Ten opponents the past two seasons with a terrific 20.3 mark this season. In 32 conference games dating back to last season, the guard has reached double-digits 29 times.

Still, scoring stats only tell part of the story when it comes to Newbill. His play last year helped the team's win total improve by six games and the Lions are already 15-11 this season with five regular season games to go, one win away from matching their 2013-'14 total.

The 6-foot-4 guard's role has also expanded over his career to the point that it's hard to refer to him as any one position. While he began as a point guard and still regularly handles the ball, he spent most of last season playing shooting guard and now spends plenty of time at small forward.

Regardless of what position number is attached to him, Newbill is clearly the motor that makes the Lions go. Apart from scoring, he leads the team in assists (3.1), steals (1.3), 3-point shooting (37 percent) and is third in rebounds (4.8). As Chambers puts it, he does everything but "fly the plane and drive the bus."


"He's a tremendous leader and he's been playing multiple positions," Chambers said. "And he's defending now the best player on the other team and he's rebounding the basketball. He's done everything for us. Without D.J. Newbill, wow, it'd be scary."

Although his senior season is nearing its end, Newbill has kept his foot on the accelerator. Already the seventh leading scorer in the nation, the team captain doesn't let a practice go by without badgering Chambers about what he still needs to work on.

Along with asking questions and meeting with the coaches during his free time, the team's leading scorer has also become a film room junky, often studying tape to break down his own game.

"His leadership is incredible because he knows he doesn't know everything and he's still developing into a leader," Chambers said. "He's willing to pull up tape.  Normally a best player is not doing that. He spends a lot of time with me in my office, which is probably smart but a lot of times guys think they know it all already and he's very open, very honest, very coachable. He wants to get better, studying film more. Little things like that."


Those little things include spending as much time as possible with his younger teammates, who all praise him for his leadership abilities.

This year alone, he has helped true freshman point guard Shep Garner grow into an everyday starter, sophomore Geno Thorpe become a more complete player and one of the conference's best defenders, and junior transfer Devin Foster turn into a contributor off the bench.

"I learned so much from [D.J] and it's been quick, like five months, six months," Garner said. "I ask him any type of question under the sun, call him any time of night and he's there for me."

"I've learned a lot from him, just the way he approaches everyday, practice or the game," Foster added. "He brings it all. He's the best player. Some best players don't give it their all but he does. He's someone to look up to. This is his last go-around so I try to do everything he tells me so I can help him be better in his career."

As happy as Chambers is to see his best player mentor his younger ones, what impresses him the most is the way the three-year starter acts around everyone else in his life. A respectful and soft-spoken guy off the court, Newbill treats all people the same, a quality that his coach believes is more important than how well he can shoot a basketball.

"He's the most humble guy I ever coached," Chambers said. "He treats the managers better than anybody. Again that might sound silly, but to me running a program, we want to treat everybody the same. From President [Eric] Barron all the way down to the last manager and he does it better than anybody. I think those are great qualities to have in life."


Nittany Lions Welcome No. 5 Wisconsin on Wednesday
Continuing a string of four home games in a span of five contests, the Nittany Lions (15-11, 3-10 Big Ten) welcome No. 5 Wisconsin (22-2, 11-1 Big Ten) to the Bryce Jordan Center on Wednesday night (7 p.m. on BTN).

Following a heartbreaking 76-73 loss to No. 19 Maryland on Saturday, the Lions have plenty of motivation leading up to the showdown with the Badgers. Chambers noted during his weekly press conference on Monday that the team is as close as it has ever been to a 40-minute game. For the vast majority of the past three weeks, Penn State has played consistent on both ends.

It's been said throughout the Big Ten season, but all the Lions need is the ball to bounce their way in the clutch moments of a game.

"I think we are playing hard and I think we are competing at a high level, other than Ohio State, so I think we are getting closer and closer to that 40-minute game," Chambers said. "We have five games left, (we need to take it) one game at a time, one practice at a time. We've got to be the best team that we can be."

The Lions arguably played their best offensive half of the 2014-'15 season at Wisconsin during the first game of the conference slate on Dec. 31. Penn State shot 64 percent inside the Kohl Center during the first half of an 89-72 victory for the Badgers.

The Badgers have clearly established themselves as one of the top teams in the nation during an impressive conference run. Wisconsin's lone Big Ten loss came on the road at Rutgers without All-America candidate Frank Kaminsky. The Badgers have won eight-straight games, with seven of those wins coming by 10 or more points.

"They are a really good team," Chambers said. "Offensively, we played really well for 20 to 25 minutes (at Wisconsin)...We have to play defense like a team against Frank (Kaminsky), against Sam (Dekker), against Nigel Hayes and against Josh Gasser. They are all capable of getting 20, so we have to do our job."

Kaminsky enters the game averaging 17.6 points per game, while Dekker (13.0) and Hayes (12.4) also come in averaging double-digits. As a team, the Badgers are shooting 48.4 percent from the field for the season and averaging 73.4 points per game.

Defensively, Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in scoring. The Badgers have allowed just 55.9 points per contest. Additionally, the Badgers lead the conference in assist/turnover ratio at 1.7.

Each of the last five games between Penn State and Wisconsin inside the BJC have been decided by 10 points or fewer. The last four have been decided by six tallies or less. The Lions are 7-13 all-time against Wisconsin at home.

Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

By Wade Endress, GoPSUsports.com Student-Athlete Writer
This blog concludes my third trip to Seattle.  Each trip has its distinguishing memories, but our team chemistry defined the success of our first meet out west.  Despite a new coaching arrangement and a few new teammates, nothing changes the familiarity of a high-performance indoor meet.  With an emphasis on distance running, the Husky Classic creates a championship-like atmosphere.  Whether we were competing for an NCAA bid, a conference seed, or simply a personal best, the team feels the sense of urgency associated with the latter part of a season. 

I did not improve on my personal best, but I witnessed phenomenal performances from fellow teammates.  Ranging from the young freshmen learning to compete to Robby's school record in the 3000m, Seattle lived up to expectations.  Compared to the outdoor season, indoor facilities provide an intimate-like feeling. The Dempsey (Washington's facility) housed a lot of people.  Thus, large crowds cheered for every heat of every event establishing a feeling that is rather indescribable to the average person. 

Enough about the monotonous cycle of running and competing, the Pacific Northwest was beautiful.  Our hotel fell in the middle of the University District, rather than the hustle-and-bustle of downtown Seattle.  Similar to State College, the area surrounding campus contained a large variety of deli's, coffee shops, and restaurants.  We tend to indulge in the food and culture aspect of the trip more than preparing to race, but let's not share with Coach Gondak. (Joking of course) Who doesn't enjoy a change of pace? 

Nittany Lions Deliver Stellar Performance Against The Buckeyes

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10789246.jpegBy Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's gymnastics team finished off its Big Ten regular season home schedule on Saturday. While both teams united in competition, wearing pink leotards to bring breast cancer awareness, the Nittany Lions edged the Buckeyes in a 196.275-195.000 victory.

"[The Pink Meet] was an exciting day for us," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "We had a great crowd, despite the snow. I thought the girls did a really good job today."

Two gymnasts from both ends of the experience spectrum led the Nittany Lions to victory over Ohio State: senior Sidney Sanabria-Robles and freshman Briannah Tsang.

Sanabria-Robles' Leadership In All-Around Competition
In her last regular season Big Ten meet at Rec Hall, Sanabria-Robles finished in typical fashion: winning the all-around title, winning on uneven bars and tying for the title on beam.

The senior is consistent, a quality that has not only helped shape her collegiate career, but one that has inspired younger gymnasts on the team.

"As a senior, I am taking it all in," Sanabria-Robles said. "We worked really hard in the gym this week. I have learned to take it one meet at a time and do the best I can."

Speaking of "best," the Nittany Lion shined on bars and beam against the Buckeyes. After starting on vault, Sanabria-Robles knew that the next three rotations would make or break the meet. She nailed her bars combination, sticking each of her handstands and dismount. Her performance earned her a personal best of 9.875 in the event, along with the title.

"Our bars performance today was outstanding," Thompson said. "We got a little too excited on vault, so I am really proud of the team for recovering so well on bars."

Aside from her bars performance, the senior was able to finish tied for first on beam, an event she has been solid on all year. Her performance earned a 9.850 helping her to the all-around crown.

"We do our best not to think about the end result," Sanabria-Robles said. "We take it one event at a time and if everyone does their job then it will come together and we will win. If we keep doing this, we will get where we want to be, which is competing in the last day at nationals."

Tsang Sticks It, Again
If you have ever wondered why the Penn State coaching staff has been anticipating Tsang's arrival to Happy Valley, you now know why. She has delivered stellar, jaw dropping performances since the beginning of the season. Her tenacity and strength, which is evident in her approach to every event, has helped her earn three Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors this season.

"I feel really blessed to be able to go out there and do what I love to do," Tsang said.

The soft spoken, humble freshman has been one of the most consistent in the Penn State lineup. She has not only improved each week, but uses her own marks as a guide and consistently tries to beat her scores from the previous week, regardless if they are unheard of for a rookie.

"She has been this good since she got here," Thompson said. "When we got in the gym at the beginning of the season, she would do a combination and we would say, 'she is this solid and it is October.'"

The freshman stood out the most in her floor routine on Saturday. Thompson and his coaching staff have had to make her routine harder and more challenging each week. While that might sound strange, the more challenging the routine, the more energy and force Tsang can harness into her execution. At the beginning of the season, she was landing outside of the tape because she was over-rotating. Simply put: she is too strong for lower level routines.

Tsang finished her floor routine with a score of 9.925, which is not only a new personal best, but a team best, too.

Looking Ahead
Penn State travels to Pitt next weekend, where they will start the final leg of their regular season before starting to prepare for post-season qualifying meets.

"I am proud of them," Thompson said. "The judging we saw this weekend is the kind of judging we are going to see at the regional and national tournament. This way we can get in the gym and fix what we need to fix now so that they will be ready." 

Lions Look Ahead Following Weekend in East Lansing

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Leaving the confines of Pegula Ice Arena for the first time in over a month, the Penn State men's hockey team hit the road for a series against Michigan State. The Nittany Lions were confident and ready to play as they arrived in East Lansing looking to lengthen their eight-game unbeaten streak.

That confidence, however, was not enough as the team was swept for the first time this season.

The Spartans had every answer Friday night, blanking Penn State, 3-0. Despite a strong final push, the Lions (15-9-4, 7-4-1-0 B1G) also found themselves on the losing side Saturday. Michigan State (12-12-2, 6-4-2-2 B1G) grabbed its second win of the weekend by a final score of 3-2.

"Friday, we just had a mental lapse," said defenseman David Thompson. "We just didn't play our game. We knew we were really disappointed with the way we came out and played on Friday. We knew we had to get back to doing the things that made us successful through this point in the season. So, Saturday we just focused on playing Penn State hockey again."

Prior to this weekend, Penn State averaged 41.6 shots per game, a much higher statistic than the 28 shots it managed Friday night. The performance marked only the fourth time this season the Lions were outshot by their opponent, and it was the first time the team was shut out.

Saturday, the Blue and White knew changes had to be made. The Lions needed to get back to their roots. They needed to play Penn State hockey.

"I think the second game we got back to our game and responded well after how we played the first night," defensemen Connor Varley said. "We played more in their end and generated a lot more offense."

The junior opened the scoring for Penn State with a power play goal in the second period of Saturday's game. Varley's goal continued the recent scoring trend for the Lions' blueliners.

The defensemen all enjoy the freedom to join the rush when opportunities arise. Earlier in the year, they were not getting bounces, but as of late the pieces have fallen into place. The goals are beginning to come.

"Obviously, it's really exciting and unbelievable to have things going our way," Thompson said of the blueline's offensive production. "We just have to make sure that we keep doing everything possible, working hard day in and day out on and off the ice to make sure the success for us continues down the stretch here."

Even with scoring from a defenseman, the downfall for Penn State on Saturday was penalties. The Lions were called for seven throughout the game, and MSU capitalized twice.

Late in the third, the Blue and White trailed by two. Forward Casey Bailey helped bring his team within one with his 20th goal of the season, but the comeback fell short. Penn State was unable to nab the tying goal in the final seconds.

"I think we have to continue to build off last night," Varley said. "We didn't get the result we wanted, but we played better and got back to our game. So, we're going to continue to work on our game, play the way that gives us success and good things will happen."

With a dangerous Minnesota team coming to Hockey Valley this upcoming weekend, Penn State know its needs to learn from the mistakes made in Michigan. The team also knows, it needs to keep those games in the past and focus on this next series.

"We just know that it's behind us at this point," said Thompson. "We're going to watch some film. We're going to figure out some stuff and what we can do, but at the end of the day we just need to make sure we're committed. It's a huge weekend coming up here when it comes to standings and of course our place in national rankings.

"We know that Minnesota is a great team. They have been for a very long time. It's going to be a great weekend coming in here, so we need to make sure that we take some lessons from this past weekend. If we do that, we'll be able to piece it together."

Lady Lions Game Blog vs. Minnesota

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive coverage of the 2014-'15 women's basketball season. Today, the Lady Lions face off with Minnesota.

Live Blog LIVE BLOG: Lady Lions Host Minnesota
 

Despite Late Surge Lions Fall to Greyhounds

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10727154.jpegBy Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
BALTIMORE, Md. - The Penn State men's lacrosse team scored four consecutive goals in the second half, but ultimately fell short at Loyola, 8-6, on Saturday.

The beginning of the contest was a defensive showcase, with both teams' defenses keeping the other teams' offenses at bay. Loyola ended the first quarter with three unanswered goals, but the Nittany Lions didn't give up the fight.

Despite being limited by Loyola's steadfast defense, the Nittany Lions' offense created decisive opportunities for scoring in the second half. Four goals in a row brought the Nittany Lions within one goal of tying the Greyhounds, 7-6. These goals gave the Nittany Lions confidence and hope, but ultimately Loyola scored one final goal that sealed the fate for Penn State.

"I think a lot of it was just us not opening things up or playing with more fluidity, more confidence," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "We were struggling in the basics."

With more than 50 shots taken, the Greyhounds' relentless offense gave the Nittany Lions' defense fits, but goaltender Connor Darcey stood strong. Coach Tambroni, despite disappointment in the final score, was pleased with Darcey's performance overall.

"I credit Connor Darcey and our defense, they played very well today," said Tambroni. "[Loyola's] got some great shooters, especially around the first midfield, they can really bring the heat. But conversely I thought we needed to be a little bit more urgent."

Darcey, in his second game starting in Penn State's net, commanded the defense from the starting faceoff. As goalie, Darcey's position is one of leadership on the field and is extremely important in getting the defense to work together. Darcey, as well as the rest of the defense, felt the pressure during the game to keep Loyola's scoring chances low.

"I thought we played pretty well defensively," said Darcey. "We had a ton of pressure on us which was expected, we knew that going in, but I think we handled it pretty well. As we went on throughout the game we got more comfortable and we sort of felt them [Loyola] out."

Penn State had limited scoring opportunities, which made every shot on net that much more important. Despite Loyola's veteran defense, Penn State was able to come back the second half with a new determination that showed in their performance as well as on the scoreboard.

"We changed the point of attack," said Tambroni. "I think that was the biggest thing. We forced them [Loyola] to have to defend below the goal line and then above the goal line. Not until that point did we force them to have to defend anything in this direction."

Coach Tambroni highlighted the areas the team will be working on going forward, building off the momentum of their second half performance.

"The poise we had coming down the stretch was a positive and maybe we can draw off that," said Tambroni. "We need to do a better job of playing with more urgency from the get-go so we can chip away a few small pieces early so we don't have to do so much at the end of the game."

The second half momentum will be the jumping off point for Penn State's practices this week. Building momentum and keeping it consistent throughout games has been a continuous focus of the Nittany Lions. With a strong performance by the defense, the Nittany Lions look to build on this further and use this game as a learning opportunity in other areas.

"We need to go back to work Monday and start to get our flow back offensively," said Tambroni.

Although the result wasn't what the Nittany Lions were working towards, their strong performance against Loyola has given the team confidence moving forward. The team will take this week to learn and improve for their match up against Villanova on Saturday. 

Lazo Leads the Way Against Lehigh

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the snow fell in Happy Valley, the No. 10 Penn State women's lacrosse team prepared for its season opener against Lehigh. Luckily for the Nittany Lions, they didn't have to compete in the winter weather, instead taking on the Mountain Hawks inside the warm confines of Holuba Hall.

Following 60 minutes of play, the Blue and White downed Lehigh, 15-7, and saw goals from six different student-athletes. Penn State came out ready, and the team did not disappoint.

"I think overall it was good," head coach Missy Doherty said. "It was a good game for us. You know, Lehigh is really good. We hadn't seen them play before, so it was hard from a scouting sense to be ready for their particular plays. I think we adjusted well, and Emi [Smith] made some awesome saves today."

Senior Tatum Coffey opened the scoring with a goal just under six minutes into the game. The Mountain Hawks answered back with two, but the Lions were not going to back down.

At the 19:48 mark of the first, sophomore Steph Lazo pounced, tying the game at two. Just over a minute later, Lazo struck again, scoring her second of what would be five goals.

Last season as a freshman, Lazo only appeared in six games and tallied one goal. Her outstanding efforts against Lehigh showed what she is capable of, and Doherty is excited to see the sophomore coming into her own.

"She did a great job," Doherty said of Lazo. "She really worked the crease well, put her shots away. She was aggressive too, which was awesome. So, it was good to see her emerge as one of our offensive leaders."

Lazo, however, felt her success was a team effort. She knows the opportunities she had would not have come about if the entire squad wasn't playing with such determination and skill.

"I felt pretty confident with the ball," said Lazo. "Our coach, Missy [Doherty] is always like, 'Steph, catch and go. Catch and go.' So, I was just doing what she was telling me, and my teammates were setting me up. I just took the opportunity and made the most of it."

Lazo was not the only offensive leader, as Abby Smucker recorded a three-goal game and Coffey, Jenna Mosketti and Kelly Lechner all scored twice. The Lions outshot the Mountain Hawks, 25-19.

Smith also made her presence known in goal for the Blue and White as she made 10 saves in the matchup. Doherty was very pleased with the goalie's play and gave her a ton of credit for the Lions' victory.

"Every team we're going to play is going to be really difficult, and we need people to make plays," Doherty said. "Thankfully, today Emi [Smith] stepped up and made a lot of plays for us, but some days it's going to be our attack stepping up and vice versa. Overall, I think it was a good, competitive game, and it was awesome to have as our first game."

With the nerves and stress of playing the season opener out of the way, the Lions can now look ahead to what the rest of the season may bring. This team is strong, and it is determined to compete day in and day out.

"It's great to start off our season with a win," said Lazo. "It gets the ball moving, or gets the ball bouncing actually. That's what we've been saying. It's just great to come out on the winning end. It's a good way to start our season. I'm really excited for it. It should be a good one."

The Nittany Lions will take the field in Holuba Hall again Wednesday night for a 7 p.m. game against Bucknell.

Curry Leads Nittany Lions Over George Mason

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10786024.jpegBy Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's volleyball team used nine acrobatic digs from redshirt senior libero Connor Curry as the Nittany Lions (4-7, 2-0 EIVA) swept conference foe George Mason (2-7, 0-1 EIVA) in straight sets (26-24, 26-24, 25-18) Saturday night at the South Gym at Rec Hall.


"I thought our ball control was really the key tonight," said head coach Mark Pavlik. "Connor and the passers kept us in system really well, especially in the first game when you kind of get a feel for how they're serving."

Penn State's veteran players led by example in the opening set, pushing the Blue and White to a competitive win, 26-24. Redshirt senior Nick Goodell compiled eight kills on a .636 hitting percentage and senior Aaron Russell had three timely kills and a ferocious set-winning solo block to aid the Nittany Lions in the first frame.

"It all starts with Connor and the passers.... If Taylor keeps giving me the ball, I like my chances," said Goodell.

Taylor Hammond added 14 helpers in that first set; a frame Pavlik described as a momentum changer in the match.

"They have some guys who can bring some heat," said Pavlik. "Early on, I think we figured them out, and after that, I think it was really a tribute to our passers. I thought they did a great job. I thought we got some great swings in transition."

Pavlik, who is in his 21st season at the helm of the Penn State men's volleyball program, has stressed lately the importance of strong play from his players when his team reaches the 20-point mark in a set.

Well, another battle ensued in the second frame, and thanks to seven more kills from the 6-foot-9 Russell, who finished the match with 17 total kills, the Blue and White managed to pull out the 26-24 triumph.


Penn State trailed, 24-23, when a Russell swing forced a George Mason hitting error and tied things up at 24. Then a Hammond service ace pushed the Nittany Lions ahead, 25-24. A pulverizing swing and subsequent kill near the right antenna from Russell provided the Blue and White the two sets to none advantage.

"Once we reach 20, just to take care of business," said Goodell. "Five points and out. So I think that really proved this week. That's what we've been working on in drills. I think that's what paid off."

Late in the third set a Matt Callaway solo block put the Nittany Lions up 19-16, firing up the entire South Gym at Rec Hall. The Blue and White would never look back, sweeping the Patriots in straight sets after taking the third frame, 25-18.

Defensively the Nittany Lions were stifling, holding the Patriots to a lowly .136 hitting percentage, while digging 33 George Mason swings.

Offensively the Blue and White dominated, out-killing the Green and Gold, 46-28, and out-assisting, 43-27.

According to Curry, the positive change in play was just a matter of a few points.

"Just a few points here or there," said Curry. "I mean that's really what it comes down to in the end. Volleyball is a game of errors, and like we said, we've been working on, when we get to 20-20, to be the team with the least few errors. I think that was the case tonight. We put the ball away."

Now the Nittany Lions get set to embark on a seven-game road trip, starting with Lewis next Friday, February 20. First serve is set for 8 p.m.