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Nittany Lions Wrap Up Spring with Eye on Regular Season

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VIDEO: James Franklin Postgame Interview | VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews

Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Ideal weather conditions and 65,000 fans greeted the Nittany Lions inside Beaver Stadium during the final day of spring practice for the 2016 season on Saturday afternoon.

After a practice period marked by superb progress and installation, the Nittany Lions will head into the final few weeks of the spring academic semester and summer with a confidence. The Blue topped the White, 37-0, during a productive gameday for the Lions.

"I thought we had 15 really good practices," said head coach James Franklin. "I thought we really improved dramatically from the start of the spring to the end. Today, having 65,000 fans here was unbelievable. Overall, we had a great spring."

Penn State practiced 15 times between March 18 and April 16 before the spring season culminated with the four quarters of action inside Beaver Stadium on a sun-splashed day with a terrific crowd.

The fan support Penn State Football receives throughout a year sets it apart, and Saturday was no different. From the new-look autograph session held at stadium gates during the morning to the spring game festivities, the Nittany Lions truly embraced the opportunity to spend a day with so many loyal supporters of the program.

"Blue-White Weekend is an awesome time every year to spend time with your family and see so many fans supporting us," said offensive tackle Andrew Nelson. "We couldn't be anymore thankful for our fans and how they came out to be in Beaver Stadium for the spring game."

Offensively, the Nittany Lions took a big leap forward from the start of spring ball. Installing a new offensive scheme in a span of 15 spring practices is no small task, but the Lions worked through the paces of the process with great efficiency. Tempo was the key throughout spring drills, and the Lions are primed to pick up right where they left off on Saturday when training camp begins in August.

"I think the offense did a really good job picking up the offense this spring," said quarterback Trace McSorley. "We kept getting better every day. We came out and had a really good day in front of the fans. I thought we moved the ball well most of the day. We have some things to clean up, but we are really happy with how the day and spring went."

McSorley and Tommy Stevens steered the offense with great efficiency during spring practice. The young Nittany Lions will continue to grow with work during the summer months, but Coach Franklin is pleased with the progress made during the past month on the field and how they performed on Saturday afternoon.

"I thought the two quarterbacks did a really good job of running the offense," said Franklin. "Tommy Stevens, even though he was working with the white team against the blue defense, he really did some nice things and then late in the game we were able to get him with the blue offense and he really did a nice job. I thought Trace (McSorley) looked poised, looked confident, looked under control."

On defense, the Lions gained valuable experience at a number of spots during the first spring under coordinator Brent Pry. The Nittany Lions are replacing two big pieces at defensive tackle, but the unit made a lot of big plays this spring and got its hands on a number of balls.

"I really like the way the defense has grown," said Franklin. "We made a bunch of plays and we didn't have Nyeem Wartman-White and Brandon Bell, two of our better players. We lost some great players on the defensive line that we are going to have to replace. I'm really pleased at defensive end and our secondary. We've got some very nice depth."

Penn State will look to finish the semester strong in the classroom before the summer conditioning program begins. With a spring marked by positive growth, the Nittany Lions have a lot to build upon before fall camp begins in early August.

Saturday's spring game was the final time the fans will see the team before action commences in Beaver Stadium against Kent State on Sept. 3. The window of opportunity for growth between now and the opener is a big one for the Nittany Lions. With the foundation laid this spring, the Lions are well on their way to a strong start for 2016.

"We improved on offense, defense and special teams this spring, but where we really took a step forward is that team camaraderie," said Nelson. "We are looking forward to growing more over the summer after a very good spring."



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



VIDEO: 2016 Blue-White James Franklin Postgame Interview

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin talks with GoPSUsports.com following the Blue-White Game to wrap up a productive spring practice period.








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

VIDEO: 2016 Blue-White Postgame Player Interviews

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Blue team topped the White squad, 37-0, before 65,000 fans inside Beaver Stadium on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon. Hear from several Nittany Lions following the culmination of spring drills for 2016.





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

2016 Blue-White Gameday Snapshots

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Take a look inside the 2016 Blue-White Gameday with snapshots from a sun-splashed day in Beaver Stadium.


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By: Shannon Rostick, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- When you ask a student why they chose Penn State, you can get a countless number of answers. For freshman midfielder, Delaney Muldoon, she said it was a feeling that made her choose to become a Nittany Lion.

"I visited a bunch of schools, but once I visited Penn State's campus I just got this feeling and I knew it was the place for me," said Muldoon.

She was especially sure of her decision to come to Penn State and play lacrosse once she met her future teammates, who she said were very welcoming and supportive.

"After meeting the girls, who are all so down to earth, I just knew I wanted to be a part of the team," said Muldoon. 

When she finally got to Penn State, Muldoon said that her teammates immediately took in all of the new freshmen, making them feel as welcome as possible in their transition into college.

"The seniors were really awesome when we all got here. During our first week, they texted us to come over and they made us all dinner, which was so nice to be welcomed onto the team and to Penn State like that," said Muldoon. 

There is a huge transition players have to make coming from playing in high school to playing on a Division I team in college. Balancing school, practices, traveling, and games takes a lot of organization, which Muldoon says is something she has been working hard on.

"You have to plan ahead and stay on top of things, which was something I really had to get used to," said Muldoon.

"It was a hard change for me, but they do a lot to help us. We have eight mandatory study hours a week to make sure that we are always staying on top of our work."

Head coach Missy Doherty does an incredible job of ensuring that her girls do just as well as students as they do as athletes, and she has high expectations for each and every one of her players. 

Muldoon can attest to those expectations, especially coming onto a team that won the Big Ten tournament title last year.

"There are definitely some huge expectations this year, but it gives everyone the motivation to be a powerhouse team all of the time," said Muldoon

Every single player is fighting their hardest to win every game and they do their best to support each other and give the motivation that is needed to win.

Muldoon can be seen giving that motivation each game as she runs up and down the sidelines giving every player and coach a high five after any Penn State goal.

She shows such enthusiasm for her team during every game and it makes a huge difference to her teammates.

"The players always thank everyone for keeping high energy on the bench and I enjoy being one of those people to keep the players on the field pepped up," said Muldoon.

"It keeps the players in the game and hearing your teammates constantly cheering from the sides makes a huge difference."

The team is all about bonding and Muldoon said they are all very tight-knit, which is important as they spend almost all of their time together.

It is so vital for the players to create those incredible bonds in order to make a strong team and Penn State has done that with the help of their strong leaders and enthusiasm all throughout.

The one thing Muldoon said she is looking forward to in the rest of the season is that moment when everything clicks perfectly and the team is playing as one flawless unit. 

"We're really waiting for the team to click completely. It'll be kind of an a-ha moment and we'll just know that the team has clicked and that's what we are waiting for the most," she said. 

With only three games left in the regular season, we can hope that the team will find that a-ha moment that they are looking for.

Penn State has already had a good run so far this season with a current winning record of 9-4.  They hope to continue with that success and go far in the post-season play.

The Nittany Lions will continue their season this Sunday, April 17 where they will faceoff with the Wolverines at the University of Michigan, starting at 1 p.m.

2016 Blue-White Gameday Preview

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Blue-White Gameday Central | Parking Map | Parking Pass | 
Blue Roster | White Roster

Spring Practice Central 



UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions will wrap up spring drills on Saturday afternoon at the annual Blue-White Game inside Beaver Stadium, marking the culmination of a very productive spring practice season. The game will kick at 2 p.m. with tape-delayed television coverage from BTN (Saturday at 7 p.m.).

11868108.jpegPenn State has made significant progress on both sides of the ball and on special teams during the allotted practice period for spring drills. Saturday's game marks the final opportunity for the coaching staff to evaluate the team before the start of training camp in early August.

"The Blue-White Weekend is such a huge weekend here all around the University," said head coach James Franklin. "I think the spring game is a good opportunity to see how guys are going to be in that type of environment. It's important to see how guys are going to react in that stadium before the first game this year."


On the offensive side of the ball, the Nittany Lions have worked diligently to install a new scheme under the direction of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Joe Moorhead. The transition to a new no-huddle, up-tempo offense has been smooth and resulted in a great deal of big plays. Defensively, the Lions took a step forward under coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Pry. Both sides of the ball are excited about how the spring has transpired.

"I've been really pleased with the energy," said Franklin. "This week has been very good. It's easy to lose focus as you get closer to the spring game (and the end of practice), but the guys have been focused and locked in."

The Blue-White Game is a great opportunity to mimic a typical gameday environment for the Nittany Lions. While Saturday's game will be a fun way for the team to put on a show for the fans, it's a chance to work through typical game-like conditions.

"We always want to execute. The spring game is a lot of our base stuff, so we want to execute at a very high level as a team. It's a good opportunity for us," said sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley. "It's going to be fun to get out in front of the fans for the first time this spring."

The work is just beginning for the 2016 Nittany Lions, but the spring period set the tone for the rest of the academic semester and summer conditioning program. The team is optimistic about the direction the team is headed in, and the group is looking forward to getting in front of the Beaver Stadium crowd.

"We look at the Spring Game as an opportunity to show our growth," said junior wide receiver Saeed Blacknall. "We always want to continue taking steps forward, and this is the opportunity to do that at the end of the spring."

Take a look through some Blue-White items to watch as the Nittany Lions wrap up spring practice for 2016.

Autograph Session Returns
11868065.jpegThe popular pre-game autograph session returns for the third-straight year. Parking lots around Beaver Stadium will open at 8 a.m. The team will arrive at the South Tunnel at approximately 10:30 a.m. The autograph session will take place from 11:15 a.m. and 12:05 p.m., and new for this year, the Nittany Lions will be signing autographs at various Beaver Stadium gates.

The Nittany Lions will be spread out at five stadium gates by position. The breakdown is as follows:

 

Gate A -- Running Backs/Tight Ends

Gate B -- Quarterbacks/Defensive Backs

Gate C -- Defensive Line/Linebackers

Gate E -- Wide Receivers/Specialists

Gate F -- Offensive Line

 

A team poster will be available at the stadium gates, while supplies last, for the players to sign during the autograph session and for other fans attending the game. An autograph page is also included in the Blue-White Game programs that are sold in the tailgating lots.

 

The players will be permitted to sign one item per person to give as many fans as possible an opportunity to meet the squad members. The players will not be available for photographs during the autograph session.

Gates A and B will open at 12:30 p.m. in advance of the 2:06 p.m. kickoff.

Game Format
The Blue-White Game will feature regular scoring. The squad has been split into a Blue team and a White team. Quarterbacks will wear the opposite jersey color of their team (Blue team QBs will wear White jerseys; White team QBs will wear Blue jerseys). The game will have four quarters, each 12 minutes in length. All four quarters will feature a running clock. The clock will stop at each possession change and during a called penalty. There will be a media timeout in each quarter at the first change of possession after the 6:00 mark. The final two minutes of each half will have normal timing. Each team will be awarded three timeouts. There will be 20-minute halftime intermission.

Blue-White Game Rosters
Take a look through the breakdown of the roster for Saturday's game. Note that the coaching staff has been split into two groups.

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2005 Team Set to be Honored
Approximately 25 members from the 2005 Big Ten championship team will be honored on the field between the third and fourth quarters of Saturday's Blue-White Game. The 2006 Orange Bowl champion squad capped an 11-1 season with a dramatic 26-23 triple overtime victory over Florida State. The Nittany Lions marched to a Big Ten title with a 7-1 mark in conference games, which included a thrilling 17-10 victory over No. 6 Ohio State in primetime at Beaver Stadium. A last-second touchdown in Ann Arbor was all that stood between the conference champions and an undefeated season.

Levi Brown, Chris Harrell, Matt Hahn, Ethan Kilmer, Michael Robinson, Anwar Phillips, Derrick Williams and Alan Zemaitis are among the Nittany Lion greats scheduled to be back on Saturday.

Uplifting Athletes Connection
For the third-straight year, the Blue-White Game will help raise funds for Uplifting Athletes. This year, the helmets in the spring game will include an Uplifting Athletes logo on the back. Additionally, the game balls used in the Blue-White Game will feature the Uplifting Athletes logo. Five game balls will then be signed (James Franklin, 
Joe Moorhead and Brent Pry) before being auctioned off in the coming weeks with the net proceeds going to Uplifting Athletes.


Last July, the 13th Annual Penn State Uplifting Athletes Lift For Life raised more than $120,000. Last year's fundraising efforts brought the cumulative total of funds raised to more than $1.1 million to benefit kidney cancer research and the rare disease community. The 14th Annual Lift For Life will take place in July.

BTN Television Coverage
The Big Ten Network will again provide coverage of the Blue-White Game, with former Penn State standout and four-time Super Bowl Champion Matt Millen serving as the analyst for the broadcast. The game will be tape-delayed on BTN, but fans can watch it live on BTN2Go.

 

Millen is paired with play-by-play announcer Scott Graham and sideline reporter Brian Tripp. The game will air on a tape-delayed basis on BTN at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 16 and be replayed Sunday, April 17 at midnight and 10 p.m., Monday, April 18 at 11:30 p.m. and Tuesday, April 19 at 4 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

 

A defensive tackle out of Hokendauqua, Pennsylvania, Millen was an All-America selection in 1978 by Walter Camp and United Press International.

 

The game is also airing on more than 30 Penn State Sports Network radio stations across the state and in metropolitan New York City, with Steve Jones and Jack Ham on the call. ESPN Radio (1450 AM) and WBUS (93.7 FM) are the State College outlets. The radio broadcast is also available on GoPSUsports.com.



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

Hagenman Bursting Onto the Scene Earlier than Expected

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The jump from high school ball to collegiate level competition can be daunting to most young pitchers.

The hitters in college are bigger, stronger, smarter, and flat out better than anyone a rising freshman pitcher has had to face in their lives. Most, if not all, freshman pitchers take a year to work on their game in practice and, if they're lucky, occupy a bullpen slot to warm up to the college game.  

But Justin Hagenman is not most freshman pitchers.

Hagenman has come to Happy Valley and immediately asserted himself as the ace of the Nittany Lion staff in year one. The quick leap and a sharp increase in talent hasn't fazed the 19-year-old from Voorhees, N.J., one bit.

"I don't think you should ever expect a true freshman to come in and be an ace because I don't think that's fair to that kid, but you don't ever put a limit on a guy," said head coach Rob Cooper. "If you come in with the mindset 'hey I just want to be [a part of] the roster or just want to get a few innings' well then you're slowing down your growth as a player, and it's something he hasn't done. He's a guy that wants to win and wants to compete and is doing a heck of a job of it."

Cooper and his coaching staff weren't exactly going after Hagenman hard when he was in high school at Bishop Eustace. They were looking more seriously at other players on his summer team and in the area when both his high school coach and summer coach approached Cooper and urged him to take a closer look at Hagenman.

Cooper did, and it sure has paid off.

In his first year in Blue and White Hagenman has started in eight games and boasts a 4-1 record, which is tops among Penn State's starting core. Hagenman has thrown a team high 52 innings to the tune of a 2.25 ERA, and he is third on the team with 27 strikeouts in 2016.

His 52 innings pitched is the fifth highest total in the Big Ten and his 2.25 ERA ranks ninth in the conference.

"He's just a silent assassin," Cooper said. "He's a competitor that just kind of goes about his business, and you look up at the end of the game and you've got a chance to win it. He's a lot of fun to coach because he takes a lot of responsibility to make himself better, he doesn't make excuses and he wants to help Penn State win."

"My goal was to come in here and be able to start games for Penn State," said Hagenman. "Not a numbers goal but being able to keep my team in games and give them a chance to win all the games that I started."

Hagenman has done just that and more for the Nittany Lions this season. Penn State has won six of his eight starts, and his only loss was to South Carolina, which ranks third in the country at 28-6. In that game, Hagenman held the Gamecocks to just two earned runs in 5.2 innings of work.

Hagenman was heavily influenced by his father, Dan, growing up. He learned everything about the game from his dad and gives all the credit to him.

"From the youngest age he was the one that got me into baseball," said Hagenman. "He coached me throughout and he's probably my best coach to this day. He's done everything on the baseball side of it."

No matter the situation, Hagenman has competed and put his team in a position to win every game he's started. There are no nerves. This kid is simply outperforming the expectations at his age.

"I think that's one of the best things that I can do. It's the controllables," said Hagenman. "Stuff like your emotions on the mound and attacking hitters, that stuff is all something that I can control. I can't really control whether they hit it, but I can trust my stuff and being able to go right at them is something that I can do."

Go right at them he has, and hit him they haven't.

Hagenman imprinted his name as a force to be reckoned with even before the season started. During Penn State's trip to Cuba in the fall, Hagenman became the first U.S. pitcher to earn a win over a Cuban National Series team in a matchup against Mayabeque. Hagenman allowed just one run and struck out three in his historical debut for the Nittany Lions.

He hasn't taken any steps back since that day. In fact, he's only improved. Of the 198 batters he's faced so far this season, Hagenman has walked only nine. There are seven pitchers on Penn State's roster who have surrendered more walks than Hagenman, and none of them have pitched more than 44 innings.

"It's an unbelievable stat," Cooper said. "It just shows that he goes after guys and he competes. He led off an inning with a walk and you could tell he wasn't happy with it, and that's because you're not used to it. The biggest thing is he just goes out and competes, and he believes in his team behind him and he believes in his ability."

"I just try to throw strikes and get ahead in the count," said Hagenman. "I'm inviting contact, so if they want to swing that's what we're going for."

That confidence is what has brought so much success to Hagenman so early on in his career. In turn, it has brought Penn State the success it hasn't produced in a while.

Penn State (19-14) is off to its best start since 2011. The Lions' 3.31 team ERA is approximately 1.82 runs lower than last season's and ranks 32nd nationally and third in the Big Ten.

Hagenman is undoubtedly one of the biggest reasons for this resurgence, and he'll be around for quite a while longer.

"Just being myself, that's the first thing [my coaches] told me when they were recruiting me and then when I got here. They don't want me to be anything that I'm not, and that's what I've done."



Spring Football Position Breakdown - Quarterbacks

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Spring Practice Central


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions practiced for the 13th time during spring drills on Wednesday afternoon. Throughout spring practice, GoPSUsports.com has provided a break down each position on the depth chart. Today, we wrap up with the quarterbacks.



The Quarterbacks

Players Returning-Newcomers/Lost:
4/2

Who's Back:
Billy Fessler (Jr./So.), Trace McSorley (Jr./So.), Tommy Stevens (So./Fr.), Jake Zembiec (Fr./Fr.)

The Breakdown:
11865176.jpegNo unit on the depth chart faced a bigger learning curve during spring practice than the quarterbacks. Under the direction of new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Joe Moorhead, the Nittany Lions worked diligently to install a new offensive scheme that will debut in the fall.

Meetings and efforts to go about the installation process began in the winter, but the unit did not get to take things onto the field until March 18 when spring practice began. Largely, it has been a spring marked by great progress for the Nittany Lion quarterbacks. The unit has adapted to the quick pace and new scheme with great focus and work ethic.

In addition to learning the intricacies of a new offense, the quarterbacks entered the spring period replacing the shoes of the program's all-time leading passer. Christian Hackenberg will be part of the NFL Draft at the end of the month, and the quarterback position will have a new starter for the first time since the start of 2013.

Sophomore Trace McSorley returns as the most experienced player at quarterback. The Virginia native redshirted as a true freshman in 2014. The 6-foot, 199-pound signal caller appeared in seven games as a redshirt freshman in 2015. That list of games included significant time at the TaxSlayer Bowl. McSorley completed 14-of-27 passes for 142 yards and tossed two touchdown passes.

He made very good progress during the 2015 season and during winter conditioning drills. McSorley can hurt a defense with his elusive abilities with the ball in his hands. He helped lead Briar Woods High School to four state championship games, winning three titles.

Redshirt freshman Tommy Stevens has split reps with McSorley during spring practice. The Indianapolis product was instrumental on the scout team offense during the 2015 season. Now, Stevens is firmly in the mix to contend for the starting assignment following a strong offseason.

The 6-foot-4, 219-pound athlete added eight pounds of muscle to his frame during the winter conditioning period. Stevens enrolled early during the winter of 2015 and is participating in spring practice for the second time in his career. Like McSorley, Stevens has adapted to learning the new offense very well and has put together a strong spring practice period.

Billy Fessler returns for his third season in the program. A redshirt sophomore, Fessler redshirted in 2014 and did not see any game action during the 2015 campaign. The Erie, Pa., native has been instrumental in helping the Nittany Lions prepare each week and plays a critical role as a sideline signal caller for the new no huddle offense.

New to the quarterback group is early enrollee Jake Zembiec. The Rochester, N.Y., product graduated from Aquinas Institute in December and started classes at Penn State in January. After going through winter conditioning, Zembiec's experience in learning the new offense has been invaluable for his development and adjustment to the college game.

All four quarterbacks are relishing in the opportunity to steer the new no huddle attack. The tempo of the offense rests on the shoulders of the quarterbacks, and the Lions have done a superb job growing with each passing day of spring practice.


Quoting Coach Moorhead:
"I think they have been very diligent in their approach to learning the offense and applying it on the field. I think they all have a great work ethic. I think at times during spring ball they have shown flashes of what we need from the position to be successful in the fall. So, I'm very excited about the potential. I think they've made the biggest strides mentally. Going form zero understanding of the offense to getting it entirely installed in about six days, they've done a great job really understanding the material and understanding the things it takes to be successful from a mental standpoint."

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Penn State men's gymnastic team heads back to Columbus, Ohio this weekend for the 2016 NCAA Championships.

 

Being no strangers to the national stage, the Nittany Lions have won the championships 12 times already, the last one being in 2007.

 

"I've seen it all in my career," said head coach Randy Jepson. "I've had teams that dominate in regular season but then loss it in the championships, and I've had teams that battle their way to the championships and take it from behind."

 

The Lions recently came in fourth place at the Big Ten championships and bring back valuable lessons with them as they prepare for the NCAA championships.

 

"We have some things to work out still but I think we're standing at a good spot right now," said Jepson. "This is the healthiest we've been all season which is good, we're not a 100% but I'm glad we're better than where we were earlier in the season."

 

The championship breaks down into two sessions on Friday, April 15th, with the top three teams of both session I and session II competing for the team event finals on Saturday, April 16th.

 

"We've been really solid all around this year," said coach Jepson. "We've been really solid on rings and parallel bars, which is the event we've really been able to make the most gain on people in competition."

 

"High bars we've also been very solid on this year," he continued.

 

Although the team's been solid in the competition, they still aim to improve.

 

"If anything I would say we want to hit pommel horse," Jepson said.  "Not that we're bad on that event, but it's not as strong as the rest of our routines and I think if we iron that out we'll be in great shape for the competition."

 

With the Blue and White just recently competing in the St. John Arena at Ohio State University, they're well-prepared for the setting of the NCAA competition.

 

"This is our third postseason in this arena, I think the guys will be very comfortable entering the arena," said Jepson. "It plays to our benefit we've seen the setting before and know what the teams we're competing against are."

 

"We're entering the weekend expecting no surprises, but also prepared for anything."

 

With a squad full of veterans such as Trevor Howard, Alexis Torres, and Leroy Clarke Jr. leading the team the Lions are keeping their spirits high.

 

The Nittany Lions have worked hard the entire season and they'll end their 2015-2016 campaign this weekend with hopes to finish on a high note.

 

"I always tell my guys anything can happen," said Jepson. "As long as we go out and do the job we're trained to do and have fun doing it we'll be fine, we just need to stay focused on the big picture and see what happens."

 

The competition will start at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 15th and extend into Saturday with the first event starting at 7 p.m.

Lions Enter Final Weekend with Eye on Postseason

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11867240.jpegBy Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Many consider the playoffs in any sport to be the start of a new season.

The same rings true for the Penn State Nittany Lion men's volleyball team as they begin their pursuit for their 18th consecutive EIVA postseason crown. Although the team has two games remaining on the regular season schedule, the group's mentality has somewhat shifted to the upcoming season, the postseason.

"We will try out a few guys and keep them fresh," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "But if we have a group of guys playing well, we want to keep it that way and give them as much playing time before the tournament as possible."

Senior captain Matt Seifert was quoted after the teams win against Sacred Heart saying that, "This is just one step for us, we have a lot more to go to accomplish what we want." That mentality from Penn State, that the regular season is just the beginning, is an idea of how poised and ready the team is entering postseason play. Although the Nittany Lion's are expected to win the EIVA, the conference is not an easy weekend by any means, and Pavlik was quick to reiterate that point.

"We know that this conference is tough and it's getting better so we took care of the first step, but there are teams in the EIVA that can beat us and we have to be ready during the tournament as well," Pavlik said.

The regular season has been up and down for the Nittany Lions, though the needle certainly seems to be pointing up for the Penn State team who has won six of its last eight contests. Though Penn State is playing some of its best volleyball of the season, Pavlik believes that it doesn't always matter how a team is heading in to the postseason, just so long as they play well when the time comes.

"I've seen it both ways," Pavlik said. "At the end of the day I don't know if it matters one way or another because when you watch enough volleyball you have seen it happen both ways. We just have to take care of our team and make sure we are playing as well as we can."

With the win, the EIVA playoffs will be hosted here at Rec Hall. After a final month that has had Penn State traveling all over the east coast to face EIVA, the Nittany Lions will be home for as long as their season will continue. The national finals will also be held in Happy Valley. If all goes well for Penn State, the furthest the Nittany Lions will have to travel is the 20 feet from their locker room to the main court at Rec Hall. For Penn State, the lack of travel is a commodity that they don't take for granted.

"It's huge for us," Pavlik said. "The fact that we don't have to travel just takes that part of the equation right out of the picture. It is a lot to worry about travel plans on top of actually game planning so the fact that we can stay at home and rest well and play in front of our fans is a big difference."

That difference will be present for as long as the season persists for Penn State. With two more games on the road against Charelston (WV) and George Mason, the Nittany Lions have a chance to close out the season on a high note and enter Happy Valley for what they hope is a playoff run. 

 
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