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VIDEO: James Franklin Practice Update - Akron Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin provided an update to the media following Wednesday's practice session at the Lasch Football Complex. The Nittany Lions meet Akron on Saturday at noon inside Beaver Stadium (ABC/ESPN2).




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2014 Opponent Previews - Akron

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Akron | Beaver Stadium | Noon | ABC/ESPN2

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions welcome MAC foe Akron to Beaver Stadium for the first home game of the 2014 season on Saturday. Get to know the Zips in this week's scouting report.

Terry Bowden, who is in his third year leading the Zips, has a record of 7-18 in Akron. Akron went 5-7 overall and 4-4 in the Mid-American Conference last year.   The Zips return 39 letterwinners and 15 starters from a year ago.

akron-logo_blog.jpgAkron began its 2014 campaign with a 41-0 victory over Howard.  The Zips gained 513 yards of total offense and held the Bison to just 216.  Quarterback Kyle Pohl earned MAC East Offensive Player of the Week honors after completing 22-of-35 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns.  He also led the team with 48 yards rushing on seven carries.  Running back Jawon Chisholm added 21 yards and a score on nine carries.  Sophomore Mykel Traylor-Bennett caught four passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns.  Imani Davis, L.T. Smith III and Austin Wolf each had a receiving touchdown.

Senior linebacker C.J. Mizell recorded a team-high 10 tackles, eight solo, and recovered a fumble.  Defensive end Nmesome Okafor made seven stops, 1.5 for loss and was one of four Zips to record a sack.  Linebacker Justin March forced a fumble.

Akron looks to improve on offense after ranking 108th in scoring last year, averaging just 20.2 points per game.  They also ranked 106th in total yards, averaging 342 per contest.

Pohl, a junior, was named preseason Third Team All-MAC by Phil Steele after completing 56 percent of his passes in 2013 for 2,438 yards, with 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.  Chisholm, a Harrisburg native, rushed for 869 yards and eight touchdowns last year, while averaging 4.6 yards per rush.  Chisholm also contributed 211 yards and a touchdown on 27 receptions.  Junior Conor Hundley also returns to the backfield after gaining 425 yards a year ago.

Junior Zach D'Orazio leads the receiving corps after catching a team-high 42 passes for 567 yards and four touchdowns in 2013.  Fransohn Bickley, a speedy 5-foot-6 receiver, caught 39 receptions for 407 yards and two touchdowns.  Smith, 6-foot, and Traylor-Bennett, 6-foot-3, will also be top targets for Pohl.

The Zip offensive line includes two seniors and three juniors.

Akron ranked 73rd in scoring defense in the FBS and 59th in total defense in 2013. 

Defensive end Nordly Capi and nose guard Cody Grice were named Second Team All-MAC in the preseason by Phil Steele, while tackle Se'Von Pittman was selected for the Third Team.  Capi recorded 31 tackles, 4.5 for loss and two sacks in 2013, while Grice had 32 stops, 7.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks.  Pittman, a sophomore, transferred from Ohio State.

Akron fields a stout linebacking corps, with four returning that all placed among their top six tacklers last year.  Jatavis Brown, a junior, led the team with 107 stops, 57 solo and 6.5 for loss.  He also had two sacks and two forced fumbles.  March, a senior, added 80 tackles, 4.5 for loss, and three interceptions.  Mizell made 7.5 stops for loss in 2013, while Dylan Evans had six.

The Zips start a pair of seniors and a pair of juniors in the secondary, with corner Bryce Cheek and safety Johnny Robinson having starting experience.  Robinson picked off two passes and broke up two in 2013.

Kicker Robert Stein, a junior, converted on 9-of-16 attempts with a long of 51 yards last year, while junior punter Zach Paul averaged 43 yards per punt last year. Freshman Tom O'Leary is listed atop the depth chart at kicker for the Zips.

Penn State is 4-0 on the field all-time against Akron.  The schools last met in 2009, when the Nittany Lions earned a 31-7 on-field win.


What Terry Bowden is saying about Penn State:


"We're excited to be going to Penn State and be playing such a great football program. (James Franklin) is one of the outstanding coaches in America and his staff. They're a great program and it's a great opportunity for us and our players to go into a great venue."

"(Hackenberg) has a rifle arm. He's got explosive abilities and can make big plays. If you give him enough time to throw the football, he's going to rip you apart. We'll have to really have a great plan to slow him down a little."


 2014 Opponent Previews compiled by GoPSUsports.com Student Writer Paul Marboe.

Future Football Schedules Set

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With Wednesday's announcement that Army will complete the 2015 football schedule, the next three seasons of games are now set. Take a closer look at the future Penn State Football schedules.

2015 PENN STATE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

Date                 Opponent

Sept. 5             at Temple

Sept. 12           BUFFALO

Sept. 19           RUTGERS *

Sept. 26           SAN DIEGO STATE

Oct. 3              ARMY

Oct. 10            INDIANA *

Oct. 17            at Ohio State *

Oct. 24            at Maryland * (M&T Bank Stadium; Baltimore)

Oct. 31            ILLINOIS *

Nov. 7              at Northwestern *

Nov. 21            MICHIGAN *

Nov. 28            at Michigan State *

Dec. 5              Big Ten Championship Game (Lucas Oil Stadium; Indianapolis)

 

2016 PENN STATE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

Date                 Opponent

Sept. 3             KENT STATE

Sept. 10           at Pittsburgh

Sept. 17           TEMPLE

Oct. 1              MINNESOTA

Oct. 8              MARYLAND

Oct. 15            at Michigan

Oct. 22            OHIO STATE

Oct. 29            at Purdue

Nov. 5              IOWA

Nov. 12            at Indiana

Nov. 19            at Rutgers

Nov. 26            MICHIGAN STATE

Dec. 3              Big Ten Championship Game (Lucas Oil Stadium; Indianapolis)

 

2017 PENN STATE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

Date                 Opponent

Sept. 2             AKRON

Sept. 9             PITTSBURGH

Sept. 16           GEORGIA STATE

Sept. 30           INDIANA

Oct. 7              at Northwestern

Oct. 14            at Iowa

Oct. 21            MICHIGAN

Oct. 28            at Ohio State

Nov. 4              at Michigan State

Nov. 11            RUTGERS

Nov. 18            NEBRASKA

Nov. 25            at Maryland

Dec. 2              Big Ten Championship Game (Lucas Oil Stadium; Indianapolis) 
   



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VIDEO: Akron Week Player Q&As - Sam Ficken & Jesse James

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com catches up with senior kicker Sam Ficken and junior Jesse James leading up to the Akron game.





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Week Two Press Conference Roundup - Akron Week

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blog_presser_Akron.jpgJames Franklin Transcript - Sept. 2

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions return to Beaver Stadium on Saturday for the 2014 home-opener against Akron (Noon on ABC).

Head coach James Franklin previewed the week two matchup against the Zips on Tuesday afternoon inside the Beaver Stadium Media Room. Saturday will mark Franklin's first time leading the Nittany Lions onto the field in front of the Beaver Stadium faithful for a game.

"I think the first time you walk through the tunnel and you look out there and you feel the energy, probably arriving at the stadium and walking through the crowd with our new entrance that we are coming into the stadium and things like that," Franklin said. "I think those things, obviously, will have an effect. But after that, you don't really kind of think about it."

Franklin said the Nittany Lions are seeking to clean a few things up after watching the film of the UCF game, namely the turnover margin and number of penalties. He also spent some time on Tuesday discussing the running game and the areas of emphasis for the offensive line. While the group made good progress leading up to the UCF game, Franklin wants to see the group play with great consistency.

"I think for us, it's finishing. It's finishing blocks. It's making sure our communication, that we are all on the same page," said Franklin. "But more than anything, it's sustaining it; it's finishing. When you think you've blocked long enough, block longer to the echo of the whistle, those types of things. So we are going to work hard on them this week and we are going to continue to invest in the running game, and hopefully that will pay dividends on Saturday."

Another area Franklin wants to see the Nittany Lions take a jump in this week is inside the red zone. Penn State went 5-for-5 on scoring chances inside the 20 against UCF, but only one of those scores was a touchdown. Fanklin wants to see the offense put seven points on the board when the Lions are in the red area.

Collectively, teams often make their biggest jump of the year from week one to week two. In his experience at previous stops during his career, Franklin said that normally that is the case. He is looking for the Lions to take a step forward this week.

"That's our goal; to make sure that we are improving collectively and we are improving individually and if you do that, then you'll like the results," said Franklin.

Saturday's game will mark the fifth time Akron will play at Penn State. The Lions are 4-0 against the Zips. The squads last met in 2009, which resulted in a 31-7 on-field victory for the Nittany Lions.

Terry Bowden is in his third season as head coach of Akron. Bowden is 7-18 at Akron, but the Zips have won five of their last six games.


Press Conference Notes
- Franklin on the Akron offense:

"They have got nine returning starters, and the guys that jump out to us are their running back, Jawon Chisholm, who is a Harrisburg High School kid; Zach Guiser is a wide receiver; and then their quarterback, Kyle Pohl, who threw for over 62 percent, four touchdowns and zero interceptions."

- Franklin on the UCF deffense:

"Chuck Amato, their defensive coordinator, he was the defensive coach at NC State and expecting big things from them. Six returning starters which we talked about. The guy that jumps out to us is their defensive end, No. 11, Nordly Capi, their speed guy off the edge."

- Franklin on the Akron special teams:

"On special teams, Jeff Bowden, obviously a very, very experienced coach is their special teams coordinator and No. 3, their kickoff return guy is a weapon for them."

- Comment on the play of defensive ends C.J. Olaniyan and Deion Barnes:

"Both guys both played well. You look at the pressures and the sacks and how many hits we were able to get on the quarterback from our d‑line, and our linebacker and the way we were able to stop the run, I think that's probably the thing because probably most impressed with those guys is how physical they were in the running game. Obviously you would always love to get more sacks and create more pressures. I thought they both did extremely well and we want to build on that and go from there."



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By Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- This past weekend was a great one for Penn State. With victories coming from Croke Park [Football], Rec Hall [Women's Volleyball] and Jeffery Field [Men's Soccer], it was only fitting that Penn State's field hockey team earned a pair of victories this weekend, too.

Win Over Old Dominion Shines Light on Nittany Lions' Offensive System 

This weekend's matchup against Old Dominion was a familiar one, as the Nittany Lions have opened their regular-season against the Monarchs for the past ten years. This contest was evenly matched for the better portion of the first half; most of the play occurred between each of the 25-yard lines. 

"We knew that they played a lot in the middle because that is where their strength really is," head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss said. "They [Old Dominion] have a lot of strong international kids who you see just have that flare with the ball so we knew we had to protect the middle." 

By the half way mark of the first half the Nittany Lions and the Monarchs were even in shot total with each team having four shots on goal. Twenty-three minutes into the first half, Old Dominion capitalized off of a deflected shot that Monarch Katy Fuhrman played in the air. The ball went over Kylie Licata's head, giving Old Dominion a 1-0 lead with 12 minutes left to play in the first half.

"Once they scored we were like 'let's go, lets rally' and we got really pumped up," said senior forward Jenna Chrismer. "We knew we had to play our game." 

Penn State's offensive strategy has always capitalized off of their corner execution, which came in handy in Friday's contest. Three minutes after the Monarch goal, the Nittany Lions forced a corner giving them an opportunity to even the score before halftime. Chrismer inserted, the pass found Bethany Mink and in a scramble in front of the cage, Chrismer tipped it in. With two minutes left to play in the first half, Chrismer capitalized on another scoring opportunity with an unassisted goal, putting the Nittany Lions ahead 2-1.

"Jenna [Chrismer] had an awesome goal," coach Morett-Curtiss said. "That is just great effort and guts. A lot of positive things came out of this game." 

There was a change of pace in the second half as most of the play occurred inside the circle. Old Dominion outshot Penn State 12-5 but the shots went unanswered thanks to keeper Kylie Licata. The Nittany Lions were able to force more corner play, earning six corners.

The Nittany Lions walked away with a 2-1 victory. Licata made nine saves, a career best for the fifth-year senior.

Shutout Against Virginia Proves Penn State's Defensive Strategy

A pair of season and career firsts took place for Penn State in Sunday's matchup against No. 6 Virginia. Red shirt senior Natalie Buttinger scored her first career goal just four minutes into the game, giving Penn State an early lead. Six minutes later, Buttinger scored her second goal off a pass from Chrismer, putting the Nittany Lions a head 2-0.

"I was really excited to start off the game with a high tempo," Buttinger said. "We really attacked the net."

Penn State's offense dominated the first half of the game, forcing five penalty corners and earning eight shots on net. Following the half, senior and State College native Amanda Dinunzio scored off of a deflected corner shot from senior Taylor Herold, giving the Nittany Lions a 3-0 lead.

While the scoring effort of Penn State's offense was a major contribution to Sunday's win over a higher seeded Virginia, the Nittany Lion defense earned its first shutout of the season. 

"Our defense was really strong today, especially the entire second half," coach Morett-Curtiss said. "We really just couldn't find a way out [of our circle]. We told them they needed to have guts and that they had to double team and that is what they did." 

Coach Morett-Curtiss made the decision to move Penn State's leading scorer and shot taker Laura Gebhart back to the center defensive position. This decision not only highlighted the versatility of Gebhart's play, but also spoke to the leadership and experience of the fifth-year senior captain, who is just returning from playing with the US World Team.

"Her [Gebhart] experience and understanding of the tempo of the game is why we chose to do this," coach Morett-Curtiss said. "Her leadership qualities and being able to organize the team is why we made this decision. She just gives a lot of confidence to those on the field."

Another shining star in Sunday's contest was the goal keeping of Licata. In the second half, Virginia took eight shots on net and earned six late corners. Licata's versatility in the cage, especially during corner play, helped the Nittany Lions earn their first shutout of the season.

"Hopefully this shutout is the first of many more to come," Licata said. "But it wasn't just me. The forwards and defense did outstanding today. They deserve so much credit."

 Looking Ahead...

The Nittany Lions will make their way to Connecticut this weekend to take on defending National Champions, University of Connecticut, on Saturday and Quinnipiac on Sunday.

"We need to have more team attack next weekend," coach Morett-Curtiss said. "We just need to keep stepping up early and pressing the net." 


By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Entering 2014, the biggest question for the Penn State men's soccer team was who would step up as the team's go-to-guy on offense.

Two games into the season, the answer appears to be sophomore forward Connor Maloney.

Against both Oakland on Friday and St. John's on Sunday, the Nittany Lions entered halftime needing to generate more opportunities in scoreless ties. Both times, it was the 5-foot-6 sparkplug from Harrisburg that answered the bell minutes into the second halves of 1-0 and 3-0 victories, respectively.

"We're a second-half team," Maloney said after Sunday's win. "Coach [Bob Warming] has been motivating us in the locker room for the second half...I just feel so confident out there and we know we can get it done."

Against Oakland on Friday, the Nittany Lions came out of halftime having been outshot by the Golden Grizzles seven to five. It would take Maloney just seven minutes to turn the tide of the game, as he took a pass from fellow sophomore Mark Wadid and tapped it past goalie Eliot Tarney to give Penn State the only cushion they would need.

Against St. John's on Sunday, it might as well have been groundhog's day. The Nittany Lions got just one shot off in the first half in what appeared to be a defensive struggle against the Red Storm.

Once again, Maloney broke the tie with a little help from Wadid, knocking in a rebound in front of the net after Wadid initially beat his defender and had his shot blocked. Maloney would add a second goal with less than a minute remaining to put the icing on the cake for the Nittany Lions.

"[Mark and I] hope we're the tandem of the future," Maloney said. "Mark's great player and we work well together. We hope to be the future."

Back at his natural position of forward after spending much of last season playing midfield, Maloney is coming into his own as a goal scorer, with all five of his career goals coming in the Nittany Lions past seven games dating back to last season.

However, the player who led the team in assists last season is still respected by his coach more for his unselfishness than his ability to put the ball in the net.

"It's not like he's just being selfish," Warming said on Sunday. "He created another goal for us, so I think it's great. The maturity in the whole [sophomore] class in 12 months has been remarkable. Their maturity level has jumped through the roof in one year."

Apart from Maloney, the other standout of the weekend was senior striker Mikey Minutillo, who on Sunday scored for the first time since September 16, 2012 to extend the Nittany Lions lead to 2-0.

After missing all of last season, Minutillo entered this season bearing the expectation that he would bolster an offense that won seven games by a score of 1-0 last season.

In his first game back against Oakland, the San Jose, Calif. native was active all night and got off six shots, yet couldn't get the ball in the net. The bad luck looked like it was continuing on Sunday after the senior had a breakaway opportunity stopped with 21 minutes remaining.

Just three minutes later, Minutillo would redeem himself, taking a cross from Drew Klingenberg and putting it past goalie Jordan Stagmiller before being engulfed by his jubilant teammates.

"I was struggling the first half," Minutillo said. "I finally put it together and all I had to do was roll it in."

The moment certainly put a smile on the face of Warming, who had been waiting for Minutillo to get on the stat sheet.

"He needed that goal," Warming said. "As a striker you're thinking, 'when am I going to get my first one?' What I loved about it was that he hit in in with such confidence...knocked it into the back of the net like he was saying 'I'm gonna do this." 

The two wins also put goalie Andrew Wolverton into second place on the Nittany Lions all-time shutout list with 25. He needs four more to pass Greg Kinney for first place.

Sunday's three-goal performance also marked a change for a team that usually plays a low-scoring, defense-first style. Not that they're complaining about the sudden boom in offense.

"It's a lot more comfortable, definitely," Maloney said. "Once we got that first goal we just got going and we didn't stop. We could have kept going even longer."

Monday Notebook: B1G Honors to Kick Off Akron Week

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10268294.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On the heels of a dramatic 26-24 victory over UCF to open the season in Ireland, the Nittany Lions are focused solely on one thing: Saturday's home-opener against Akron (Noon on ABC).

While the win over UCF is a big confidence boost heading into the remainder of the season, the only game on the schedule for the team is the one this week.

"The win means a lot to the team because it's something where we all had to come together, and we accomplished something as a group. It's a game to build on," said redshirt freshman offensive tackle Andrew Nelson.

"It means we got off to a good start, but we now focused on Akron," junior defensive end Deion Barnes said.

After practicing on Sunday, Monday is an off day for the players. The team will get back to work on Tuesday, which is also media day for Akron week.

Ficken, Hamilton Headline Big Ten Awards
The Nittany Lions received good news on Monday with the Big Ten's announcement that Sam Ficken (Special Teams) and DaeSean Hamilton (Co-Freshman) were named players of the week for their efforts against UCF on Saturday.

Ficken converted a career-high four field goals (4-for-4), including a 36-yard game-winner to lift the Nittany Lions past UCF. Monday's honor marked the third time Ficken has been selected Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week.

Hamilton made an immediate impact in his first outing as a Nittany Lion. The redshirt freshman re-wrote the record book for Nittany Lion rookies with his 11 catches for 165 yards against UCF. Hamilton took a workmanlike approach to the offseason while building a rapport with Christian Hackenberg. The duo got off to a spectacular start across the pond.

"I was just hoping to go out there and make the plays that were coming to me," Hamilton said. "And then after the first catch, I just started to get into a groove.

Hackenberg Stands Alone in 400 Club
Sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg is the only player in Penn State Football's illustrious 128-year history to reach 400 passing yards in a game. Hackenberg finished 32-of-47 for 454 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The Nittany Lion sophomore connected with seven different receivers in the victory, including three players who had seven or more catches. Zack Mills previously owned the game passing record mark with 399 yards against Iowa in 2002.

Final Numbers

Take a look through some standout numbers from the season-opener against UCF.

3,332 - The Nittany Lions tangled with UCF 3,332 miles away from Beaver Stadium, marking the furthest distance Penn State has ever played a game on the road.

454 - Christian Hackenberg set a school record with 454 passing yards in the victory over UCF.

338 - Geno Lewis and DaeSean Hamilton combined for 338 receiving yards on Saturday. Each player topped 150 receiving yards, which marked the first time in program history that two players tallied 150 receiving yards or more.

94 - Penn State now has 94 victories in season-openers. The Lions are 94-20-2 all-time in the first game of the season.

18 - Placekicker Sam Ficken noted after the game that he had to play the wind on the final field goal inside Croke Park. The wind speed during the game in Dublin on Saturday was 18 mph.

11 - There were 11 players who saw the field for the first time as a Penn State player on Saturday. The list included six redshirt freshmen and five true freshmen.

7 - Junior tight end Jesse James tallied a career-high seven receptions against UCF.

6.8 - The Penn State offense averaged 6.8 yards per play in the season-opener.

5 - Five days remain until the Nittany Lions meet Akron in Beaver Stadium.


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Freshmen Key in Opening Weekend Wins

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10267672.jpegBy Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. --The Nittany Lions kicked off their first weekend of the season with success as champions of the Penn State Classic inside Rec Hall. The team defeated TCU, Iona and William & Mary and won each match in three sets.

Much of the success came from offensive powerhouse Ali Frantti. Frantti, a freshman outside hitter, set the bar high in her collegiate debut. She was the leading scorer against TCU and Iona. Frantti also proved her blocking skills in all three matches.

Head coach Russ Rose was impressed with the freshman's performance. He said it was a "marvelous introduction" into college volleyball for her and never doubted starting her this weekend.

"Alli has been starting since she showed up. She's pretty much been on the starting side since her first breath on campus," Rose said.

In the first match against TCU, Frantti had 13 kills and hit at a .500 hitting percentage. She also had four blocks.

Frantti said that the support from the veterans helped her shake off her nerves in the first match.

Veterans like setter Micha Hancock and outside hitter Megan Courtney also led the No. 1 Nittany Lions to victory in their first match of the season. Hancock dished out 37 assists and had two kills and two blocks. Courtney had 12 kills on .556 hitting. Senior Nia Grant had seven kills and two aces.

Penn State beat the Horned Frogs in three sets, 25-10, 25-17 and 25-17, respectively.

Rose noted that blocking and serving needs improvement, but was happy with the team's first performance of the season.

"I feel fortunate that we played as well as we did this evening," Rose said.

Freshman Simone Lee also had her collegiate volleyball debut this weekend. Against TCU, she recorded six kills. Like Frantti, the encouragement from the upperclassmen helped Lee stay focused and calm throughout the game. 

"For me, going in to the back row and seeing everyone on the sidelines saying 'good job', 'keep it up', 'you can do it', they're always so encouraging and helping you no matter what," Lee said. "All the support and everything that comes with Rec Hall is just amazing."

The next match against Iona was equally as successful, as the Lions defeated the Gaels in three sets (25-13, 25-14, 25-11).

Frantti led the offense again with 11 kills, two aces, two digs and two blocks. Freshman Heidi Thelen made her debut against Iona, with eight kills and a team-high three blocks.

Again, Rose was impressed with the performance of the freshmen players.

"If you can average five or six errors per game in the first weekend of the year, with 3 freshman on the floor at times, you have to feel good not even taking into account who is on the other side," Rose said.

In the final match of the weekend against William & Mary, Penn State defeated the Tribe in straight sets (25-13, 25-12, 25-9). Freshmen Lee and Frantti and redshirt junior Aiyana Whitney, who was nine for nine in kills, led the offense in Saturday night's match.

Lee recorded 10 kills, four digs, and a block. This was her first collegiate double-digit kill performance. Frantti had seven kills, four digs and four blocks. Frantti was also named Penn State Classic Most Outstanding Player.

Rose said it was a great tournament for Frantti to kick off her college career. He said he will have an even better parameter of "how bright the star might shine" after the matches next weekend against No. 3 Stanford and UCLA.

"She had a great weekend and she plays really hard and plays with a big smile on her face. I think those things are for real, I don't think they're manufactured. That's just the way she is," Rose said.

Hancock, who made the All-Tournament team, acknowledged the performance of the freshmen and the support of the upperclassmen.

"Alli had a great weekend. She passed really well, hit well, no one backed down or curled up when the lights turned on and that's what you like to see in your teammates," Hancock said. "I think the upperclassmen did a really good job of trying to talk to them and keep them focused on what's going on; not so much of what's going on around you, but what's going on in the match."

Next up for the Nittany Lions is a trip to Palo Alto, California, to play Stanford and UCLA. 

By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off of its opening weekend with two big wins, the Penn State women's soccer team entered Friday's game against the University of Connecticut determined to keep the streak alive.


The two teams last meeting was on August 23, 2013 when the game ended in a 2-2 tie after double overtime. Both Penn State and UConn were set on not letting history repeat itself.


Penn State was able to reverse history on Friday by winning, 3-1.  A strong performance from the defense allowed just its second goal of the season.


"They [the defense] have done an unbelievable job. So far, they are the glue during the game," said head coach Erica Walsh.


One defender who stood out was senior Whitney Church. Church has been a key defender for the Nittany Lions for the since 2011, and played a full 90 minutes protecting Penn State's lead over the Huskies.


"It's always great when we can deny them any shots," Church said.


"We've had a great start to the season," she said. "It's key to make sure the chemistry on and off the field works as well. Our defense is made up of two seniors and two freshman. The seniors have to make sure we can bring the freshmen along with us and help them."


The Ashland, Va., native is a four-year starter and made her presence known at the beginning of her Nittany Lion career. She was honored on the All-Big Ten Freshman Team in 2011 and continued garnering accolades her sophomore year, being named the Big Ten Defender of the Year in 2012.


Alongside Church against UConn was freshman defender Elizabeth Ball. Ball played 76 minutes in Friday's game and was helped keep the Huskies away from the net.


Midfielder Salina Williford played solidly on Friday. The sophomore spent much of her time in UConn's end, putting three shots on goal and assisting the defensive backfield during the second half of the game.


"I feel confident with everyone behind and in front of me," Williford said. "Honestly, we just have such a great team. I feel confident with whomever I'm on the field."


A strong defense would be nothing without a focused goalkeeper. Junior Britt Eckerstrom had three saves during the match and shut out the Huskies for nearly 66 minutes.


Penn State will be taking its perfect record on the road next week at the Duke Nike Classic, facing North Carolina and Duke on ESPN 3.