By Mike Esse, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Monday marked the first day of practice for the Penn State Lady Lions in the 2014-'15 season. Coquese Washington addressed the media before practice and was all smiles when talking about her new-look and young team for the upcoming season.
Washington knows it will be a challenge to replace Lady Lion mainstays Maggie Lucas, Dara Taylor and Ariel Edwards, among others, but is excited for the challenge ahead.
"There's a different level of anticipation and different level of uncertainty but that's the fun part," Washington said. "Getting a chance to figure out what our identity is going to be, who's going to step up and who's going to emerge and how our roles are going to be defined are the exciting parts about this year."
Tori Waldner is the lone senior on the roster, coupled with six sophomores and one junior. Redshirt senior Brianna Banks is not eligible to play in the 2014-'15 season after transferring from Connecticut.
Penn State also has a transfer that will be eligible to play this season in forward Dominique Brooks. Brooks transferred to Happy Valley after playing two seasons at Trinity Valley Community College. Pair Brooks with redshirt freshman Lindsey Spann, who missed last season with an injury, and redshirt sophomore Sierra Moore, who had to sit out 2013-'14 due to transfer rules, and the Lady Lions have three newcomers Washington expects to make immediate contributions.
At the start of the season, Washington says her team may be inexperienced but it is fun working through those challenges.
"It's fun trying to get them to understand what they can do and to establish and develop their own identity and not have to worry about trying to be like teams in the past," Washington said.
"They want to be their own team and create their own identity while still having and maintaining and even elevating the success that we have had on the court in the past."
On the court is not the only place fans will see new faces for the Lady Lions. Washington brought in two new assistant coaches in Jocelyn Wyatt and Itoro Coleman. Wyatt previously spent four seasons at Georgia State before coming to Penn State.
Coleman is no stranger to Lady Lion basketball as she served as an assistant at Penn State from 2008-'10. She then spent three years as the head coach at her alma mater Clemson before returning to the Blue and White.
"It's felt like home ever since I came back because I a m just familiar with the surroundings and the people here and they have made my transition so easy," Coleman said.
Penn State starts the 2014-15 campaign with an exhibition against IUP on Nov. 2 before opening the regular season against Towson on Nov. 14.
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James Franklin Transcript - Oct. 7
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following a bye week, Penn State returns to action on Saturday with a primetime game against Michigan (7 p.m. on ESPN2).
Head coach James Franklin previewed the matchup against the Wolverines on Tuesday afternoon inside the Beaver Stadium Media Room.
On the heels of a productive bye week, Franklin is pleased with how the team got back to work on Sunday during the first practice of Michigan week. The Nittany Lions practiced three times last week before the players had a few days off to recharge.
"It seems like forever since we've been out there and played, and I know we're excited to get back going," said Franklin. "Guys were able to spend extra time academically, which is really important. Extra hours and study hall, it came at a really good time in terms of some exams and things like that. They were also able to get home and see their friends and family and go to high school football games and things like that, which is important."
Moving into Michigan preparations, Franklin highlighted Wolverine quarterback Devin Gardner. Without the services of leading rusher Derrick Green (clavicle), Gardner will be a focal point for the Michigan offense on Saturday night.
"The fact that he's a veteran guy and has played a lot of games, I think that shows up," Franklin said. "I think the fact that he's 6 4, 220 pounds and probably one of the more athletic guys; in terms of being able to pull the ball do you know and take off. You saw him do that a couple times the other night and was able to get to the edge of the defense and really make some positive plays for them. And that's challenging, because on defense, there's so many things that you're trying to stop, and now you have to deal with a quarterback, as well."
Two Nittany Lions along the defensive line will play in front of friends and family on Saturday. C.J. Olaniyan (Warren) and Anthony Zettel (West Branch) are Michigan natives, and neither has played a game in Michigan. Olaniyan noted on Tuesday that disciplined gap control is critical when preparing for a quarterback like Gardner. Franklin echoed what Olaniyan talked about.
"Especially with them losing their tailback, it probably shifts even more emphasis to that," said Franklin. "And it's a challenge, because every offense and every defense and every special teams has strengths, it has weaknesses, and you can't take it all away and that's what you've got to decide. You've got to decide, what are you going to take away from the defense, what's important to you and what are you going to give up."
This will mark Penn State's first visit to Michigan Stadium since the 2009 season.
"We are excited about the opportunity," Franklin said. "This will be my first time going to Michigan. Looking forward to that and experiencing that and that's something we're keeping mental notes as a coaching staff because a lot of our coaches haven't been to a lot of these locations before."
Saturday's game will be the 18th game between Penn State and Michigan. It will be the first Big Ten night game in Michigan Stadium history.
Press Conference Notes
- Franklin on the Michigan offense:
"Offensively, Doug Nussmeier, who I've known for awhile, is his first year at Michigan, had been the offensive coordinator at Alabama the last couple years. They are a multiple pro offense. Obviously the quarterback, No. 98 Devin Gardner, big, strong physical guy, was really impressed with his presence at Big Ten media days. He's an impressive guy, 6-4, 216 pounds, is completing 62 percent of his passes, and is very, very athletic in terms of making plays with his feet."
- Franklin on the Michigan defense:
"Greg Mattison is one of the more veteran coaches out there in terms of experience and success, not only in college but also in the NFL. They are a 4-3 team. They will play quarters and they play a lot of quarter one and a lot of man coverage. In a lot of ways they remind me of when I used to be in the ACC and you play Florida State and they load the box to take the run away by numbers, and they press you on the outside to take what I call gimmie throws away and really make it difficult on you."
- Franklin on the Michigan special teams:
"On special teams, Dan Ferrigno, is also their tight ends coach. The guys that jump out is No. 23 again, Dennis Norfleet, their kick return guy. Right now, he's the second all time leading returner in Michigan history, and has a chance to be the leader before the end of the season."
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
The Nittany Lion basketball team opened the official practice season on Tuesday
morning inside the Bryce Jordan Center. GoPSUsports.com talked with seniors
D.J. Newbill and Ross Travis following the first practice of the season.
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By Alexis Shelton, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sibling rivalries have gone back through the history of time. For softball Head Coach Amanda Lehotak, a sibling rivalry was taken to a new level over the weekend.
Lehotak is in her second year as the leader of the Nittany Lion softball team. Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, softball has always been a passion for her. She watched her older sister, Michala Cimino, who is 10 years older than her, play and grew inspiration to be just as successful as her growing up.
"Michala is actually my hero, I've looked up to her since day one," Lehotak said. "Growing up, going to all of her games, learning from her and watching her career when she won a national championship and being her biggest fan, I've learned a lot from her."
Cimino is currently the head coach at Bellevue University, which is located in Bellevue, Nebraska. The school is apart of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics).
Over the weekend, both Lehotak and her sister met for the first time as head coaches in a friendly matchup between schools.
"The humble people inside of us say its no big deal its about the kids," Lehotak said. "But the truth is its a lot of fun we're a very competitive family. This is something we've always talked about doing and have always wanted to do. The opportunity to actually do it is very exciting."
Competitive is definitely a word you may want to use when you look at the family. The athletic director at Bellevue is Ed Lehotak, who is both Lehotak and Cimino's father.
"Knowing my father, he's probably rooting for Michala. I say that because it's his school and he's always ranked like the top athletic director in that region," said Lehotak. "We've always been raised to be the underdog and so I know he sees them as just that. I actually see them as an equal opponent however. So knowing him just for the underdog way I feel like he's secretly going for his school."
But with so much talent and skill on both sides, one may begin to wonder if there's any ribbing going on between the two.
"We've both been on our best behavior. But I think the honesty is that we want to beat the crap out of one another," laughed Lehotak.
Despite the difference between the two--Penn State being a NCAA Division I team and Bellevue being in the NAIA--Lehotak wanted to make it clear that the team would treat their guests like they were a Big Ten team as well as having a few surprises for them.
They were given just that; when the team arrived on Friday, they were given their very own special locker room as well as multiple tours throughout the Penn State campus.
"They were given a tour of the football stadium," said Lehotak. "They also got to see the football locker room as well as run Beard field."
She noted that that the bus was full of family members from the Nebraska team. They were treated as family as well; as the whole Bellevue team including the family were treated to a special trip to the creamery and a dinner as well Friday night.
"They sold out their whole bus for this special occasion. We want to hopefully give them something that they'll never forget," Lehotak said.
The two sisters faced off twice on Saturday. It was an experience Lehotak will not forget.
"Michala and I talk almost everyday," added Lehotak. "Some of their team punishments are probably because of me. As well as some of my team punishments are probably because of her. Drills, how we motivate our teams, she's my go to. She's the one I go to [to] say hey I messed up or I'm thinking I'm doing this well. It's really neat."
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sometimes it takes a loss to inspire a tenacious win.
After the Friday night loss to No. 1 Minnesota, the Nittany Lions adjusted accordingly to skate past St. Cloud State, 3-2, Saturday night.
"I loved the start we got off to against Minnesota, and then it became about learning a series of lessons that we went ahead and applied against St. Cloud State," said head coach Josh Brandwene. "I'm really proud of the adjustments we made."
After getting outshot as well as losing the faceoff battle, certain areas became the focus in preparation for Saturday's game.
"The biggest thing is attention to little detail and willingness to make the simple play when there is no other option," said Brandwene. "We did a fabulous job of that against St. Cloud State."
Junior Shannon Yoxheimer netted her fourth career two-goal game, including the game-winner at 6:27 in the third period. Such a performance is exactly the type of play Yoxheimer's head coach expects out of the team's captain
"Oh, great effort from [Yoxheimer]," said Brandwene. "Fabulous leadership this weekend. Played incredibly well defensively both days. Worked really hard offensively and really made good on some great chances tonight. I'm certainly very proud of her."
Going into the weekend, it was known that junior goalie Celine Whitlinger would start between the pipes against Minnesota, and freshman Hannah Ehresmann versus St. Cloud State. Whitlinger stopped 40 shots, while Ehresmann terminated 29 shots.
Overall, Brandwene was very pleased with both of their performances.
"Celine kept us in it with some spectacular saves, especially when we were on the penalty kill," said Brandwene. "Hannah Ehresmann was fantastic against St. Cloud State. Very steady, very confident, really good effort, great job on her part all the way around."
With nine Nittany Lions' hailing from the Minnesota area, this past weekend was a homecoming of sorts for those players. With emotions at a higher level than normal for the Blue and White Minnesotan skaters, Brandwene was pleased with their play, especially on Saturday.
"Great effort on all of their parts [Saturday]," said Brandwene. "Amy [Petersen] scored a goal and had great jump all night. Laura Bowman had huge penalty killing especially during that 5-on-3 with a monster shot block. Sarah Nielsen had herself a great game. Caitlin Reilly was sharp, Paige [Jahnke] and Bella Sutton, as well. Really just a great night for the whole team, especially our Minnesotans."
Next up for Penn State is a home series against Quinnipiac this upcoming Saturday and Sunday. And, according to Brandwene, specific areas will be improved upon this week in practice.
"The biggest thing we still want to improve upon is making sure that our energy and effort level remains constant from period to period. Certainly the third period against St. Cloud State was a great effort for us both offensively and defensively, and that's something that we want to build off of."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion basketball team officially
begins practice on Tuesday to kick off preparations for the 2014-'15 season.
The Nittany Lions return 11 players from last season, including five seniors. Penn State opens the season on Nov. 14 against Morgan State inside the Bryce Jordan Center (7 p.m.). GoPSUsports.com spent some time with head coach Patrick Chambers inside his office to preview what's ahead for the 2014-'15 season. Take a look.
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The players received Thursday, Friday and Saturday off from football activities during the bye. During that span, the coaching staff hit the road for recruiting trips. The group returned to a normal Sunday schedule with meetings and practice. As is the case every game week, Monday is the team's off day. Practice for Michigan will resume on Tuesday afternoon.
The Lions and Wolverines will meet for the 18th time on Saturday night when the two squads collide in Michigan Stadium. Penn State will be making its first trip to Ann Arbor since 2009. As members of the East Division, the two teams will now meet annually. The Nittany Lions hosted the Wolverines in a thrilling 4OT game last season. Penn State has won four-straight games on the field against Michigan dating back to a 46-17 victory in 2008.
Penn State and Michigan are among the storied progams in all of college football. The two schools rank among the top-12 in winning percentage and total victories in NCAA history. Both teams are also among the most ranked teams in NCAA history, according to the AP poll. Penn State and Michigan have been ranked nearly 1,400 weeks during the history of the AP poll.
The Nittany Lions collide with the Wolverines inside Michigan Stadium on Saturday (7 p.m. on ESPN2).
Lions in the Stat Rankings
Several Nittany Lions remain among the leaders in national and conference statistical categories. Here is a weekly breakdown of Penn State players in the stat rankings:
QB Christian Hackenberg - Hackenberg is second in the Big Ten in passing yards per game at 295.4. He ranks third in the Big Ten in passing yards at 1,477.
WR DaeSean Hamilton - Hamilton is 17th nationally (first in the Big Ten) in receptions per game (7.2). He ranks 18th in the nation and second in the Big Ten in receiving yards per game at 100.4.
WR Geno Lewis - Lewis ranks 20th in the nation in receiving yards per game and second in the Big Ten at 99.0. He is third in the Big Ten with 5.8 receptions per game.
DT Anthony Zettel - Zettel ranks second in the Big Ten 1.4 tackles for loss per game.
LB Mike Hull - Hull leads the Big Ten in solo tackles per game at 6.4 and total tackles at 10.6 per contest.
K Sam Ficken - Ficken is seventh in the nation and first in the Big Ten in field goals made per game at 2.00.
Early Look at the Wolverines
The Wolverines enter the week looking to snap a three-game losing streak following a 26-24 setback at Rutgers on Saturday night. Michigan opened the 2014 season with a 2-1 mark with wins over Appalachian State and Miami (Ohio). Michigan dropped its final non-conference game to Utah (26-10). The Wolverines are 0-2 to start Big Ten play following losses to Minnesota (30-14) and Rutgers.
Running back Derrick Green leads the team in rushing with 471 yards and three touchdowns. Talented wide out Devin Funchess is the top receiving threat for the Michigan offense. Funchess has made a team-high 29 receptions for 392 yards and three touchdowns.
Devin Gardner and Shane Morris have split time at quarterback, with Gardner starting five of the six games. Gardner has completed 62.5 percent of his passes and thrown for 911 yards (5 TD, 7 INT). Michigan leads the nation in red zone offense at 100 percent to start the season.
The linebacker duo of Joe Bolden and Jake Ryan leads the Michigan defense. Bolden has 48 stops, while Ryan has 46 hits.
Saturday marks Michigan's first Big Ten night game in Michigan Stadium.
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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Connor Maloney settled himself and took a deep breath.
There was just under 24 minutes remaining in the Penn State men's soccer team's contest against Rutgers, and the star sophomore was having a frustrating night.
He and his teammates had dominated the ball possession and gotten off shot after shot, yet the game remained scoreless. To top it off, he had just been called for a yellow card after a foul.
"It hurts the team if you get out of place," Maloney said. "You've got to keep your head in the game at all times and don't let your guard down."
Keeping his focus, Maloney once again delivered for the Nittany Lions as he has so many times this season.
With the game still scoreless and less than 12 minutes remaining, the 5-foot-6 forward found himself on a breakaway after receiving a long pass from Brian James. Without panicking, Maloney deftly moved to his right to get separation from Rutgers goalie David Greczek and put the ball into the back of the net, giving the Nittany Lions their only goal in a satisfying 1-0 victory.
"I saw the ball in flight, and coach always says, 'be a beast at all times, regardless if you're small or not,'" Maloney said. "I kind of waited and [Greczek] went down right away and I took a touch past him and it was in the goal."
Maloney's game winner was Penn State's 20th shot of the game. By the end of the night, the Nittany Lions had outshot the Scarlet Nights by a whopping 22 to 5 margin.
A minute into the game, it didn't seem like the Blue and White would need more than 78 minutes to score. Just 10 seconds after the opening whistle, Maloney ripped a shot that looked good until it ricocheted off the post.
"No I didn't think it would take that long [to score]," Maloney said. "It came to me and I thought why not have a shot first play of the game."
For the rest of the first half, the Nittany Lions would create numerous chances without being able to get the ball past Greczek, who played terrific and stopped five shots in the opening 45 minutes.
Six Lions would get shots off in the first half, with Maloney (two), Owen Griffith (two), Drew Klingenberg (two) and Mikey Minutillo (four) all taking multiple attempts. By the end of the period, Penn State had shot 12 times without allowing a single shot by Rutgers.
It would take until the 55th minute for the Scarlet Nights to finally get a ball on net, when JP Correa nailed a ball that Andrew Wolverton knocked away.
"It was weird because they had three strikers that were pressuring our backs pretty good," senior midfielder Owen Griffith said. "That's just a credit to those three backs (Eli Dennis, Mason Klerks, and Mike Robinson). Everything we can do is just dedication from those guys to help Wolvie get more shutouts."
As the second half wore on and the Lions' opportunites continued to come up just short, it seemed like just matter of time before they managed to break Rutgers' defense.
Still, with the possibility of overtime looming, Griffith and his teammates knew they needed to stay focused.
"[The thought of overtime] is there, especially when you've got tired legs," Griffith said. "If we hadn't gotten them in regulation I think we would have gotten them in overtime."
Head coach Bob Warming agreed that while an eventual goal seemed likely, nothing is ever certain in soccer.
"Soccer is a funny game," Warming said. "We got 22 shots and they weren't like wild shots from 35 yards out. I don't know many college soccer teams that can play like we did tonight."
Now a member of the Big Ten, Rutgers gave Penn State the type of battle it is used to facing from its conference opponents, a low scoring, grind-it-out affair that wasn't decided until the very end.
If there was one thing that Warming was proud of besides his team, it was the performance of Penn State's fans and student section. A total of 2,532 fans turned up on a 40-degree night to watch the Nittany Lions improve to 10-0-1 on the season.
"I love our students," Warming said. "They're so funny...the guy over there in the referee uniform and shorts when it's freezing out. They kept things clean and our kids did a great job."
Six of the Nittany Lions took the first steps toward accomplishing that goal this summer when they attended the development camps of five different NHL organizations.
"I can tell you every one of them had a very positive experience," said head coach Guy Gadowsky. "They all said that they learned things. Some were a little different. Some were surprised to find out that the areas that we stress were very similar to certain teams."
In attendance at the various camps were forward Casey Bailey, defenseman Patrick Koudys, goaltender Eamon McAdam, forward Zach Saar, forward Eric Scheid and goaltender Matthew Skoff.
Koudys, a Washington Capitals draft pick, and McAdam, a New York Islanders draft pick, both joined the camps of their prospective teams. The remaining four individuals received invitations from the following organizations: Bailey from the Calgary Flames, Saar from the Capitals, Scheid from the Minnesota Wild and Skoff from the San Jose Sharks.
"I think it was a really good camp for me," said Scheid of his experience with the Wild. "It was interesting to kind of be on the ice with some professional coaches and some guys that have played pro hockey, kind of just watching them and picking their brain a little bit."
While each NHL organization structures its camp in a different manner, the opportunities available to the players in attendance are unparalleled. These student-athletes not only participated in on and off-ice training with the coaches and training staff, but they also learned the expectations that go hand-in-hand with being a professional athlete.
One of those expectations is consistency.
"Those guys that are the leading scorers, like Sidney Crosby and guys like those, they're coming to play every single night," Scheid explained. "They don't get nights off because they're needed every single night, so the biggest thing I've been trying to work on, and that I would like to see myself improve on, is just being consistent and coming to play every single night and trying to make an impact the best I can every single night. If I can do that, I think I can help our team achieve a few more victories."
A little bit further west, Skoff also learned some very important lessons and tidbits while working with San Jose's goalie coaches.
The junior, who attended an NHL development camp for the second-consecutive year, made observations and took in every tip from the Sharks' staff in an attempt to further enhance his skills. More importantly, the experience gave Skoff hope for the future.
"I think it just sets a belief that someday you could be there," said Skoff regarding the experience. "Just working on little things, like habits, and looking at the returning guys that they had play in the NHL a couple games and how they go about in practice, it's nice to look up to. To see how they model themselves in practice and in the weight room is huge. That's a huge part of the game today if you want to play at that level."
While the opportunity to train with an NHL organization's prospects teaches lessons, it also helps build confidence, which is what the Lions want to carry into this season.
"Sometimes that's what an NHL camp can do," said Gadowsky. "It can give you a lot of confidence, so everybody had a great experience. They probably learned different things, but I'm sure their confidence is greater because of it."
With the lessons learned at these NHL camps coupled with the team's experiences last season, the Nittany Lions are looking forward to all this season has to bring.
"Confidence is a good thing to have all year round," said Skoff. "I think right now, confidence with the boys is pretty good."