Recently in All-Sports Blog Category

By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- From 1939 through 1976, legendary men's gymnastics coach Gene Wettstone led Penn State to nine NCAA championships, 13 Eastern Intercollegiate Gymnastics League crowns, over 200 meet victories, 35 individual national titles and 13 Olympians, while enriching the image of gymnastics on a campus that was better known for its football program.

With such outstanding accomplishments, the new gymnastics complex is being named the "Gene Wettstone Gymnastics Complex" to honor Wettstone, the record-holder for most NCAA team championships in men's gymnastics.

"It's a great tribute to Gene who really was Mr. Gymnastics," said head coach Randy Jepson. "Gene took gymnastics here, from really nothing, to the premiere sport at Penn State, aside from football. People would fill the arena at Rec Hall and basketball was never filled nor was wrestling, so he just did an outstanding job of promoting gymnastics and won more national championships than any other coach. He's a great, great coach."                              

Phase one of the complex is finished and phase two is in progress. The finished complex will showcase Wettstone's achievements throughout his 36 seasons as well as the success of the men's gymnastics program for nearly seven decades. There will be different displays throughout the lobby of the complex, including a wall dedicated for national champions, a wall for Olympians, an area for the Nissen-Emery winners and a curved trophy case for all the national championship trophies and accolades.

"It's an honor to [Wettstone], but to our guys, it's great to showcase the accomplishments of our teams over the years," said Coach Jepson. "We had that before, but now it's showcased in a way that is branded properly with the real amenities in today's day-and-age...It has liven this whole wing for gymnastics."

Though it's important to recognize the history of the program, the main focus is the future of men's gymnastics.

"The goal of the complex is to help secure the future for future student-athletes who want to be gymnasts, so it's a nice way to help them understand their responsibility in continuing the legacy that has been set before them, said Ira Stolzer, co-caption of the 1976 national champion men's gymnastics team. "It's a nice way to honor those that have done a nice job in representing the school and continuing the concept of excellence in classroom and excellence in athletics."

The idea for the complex came about a couple years ago, when Wettstone was approaching 100 years old. Stolzer and friends wanted to honor Wettstone and celebrate him, while helping the current gymnastics teams and the future of the program.

"We initiated the idea of naming the gymnastics workout complex after [Wettstone], so we worked with the university, went to their naming company and they agreed," said Stolzer. "Since it was during the "For the Future" campaign, we promised that we would form a committee of volunteers. We wouldn't take a disappropriate amount of time away from the development staff who were focused on the "For the Future" campaign. We wanted to make sure those funds could count towards the campaign and we formed a committee of five or six, focused on former gymnasts and family of gymnasts, and divided up the names and just got at it." 

After reaching out to former Penn State gymnasts and former Penn State gymnasts' family and friends, Stolzer and the committee were able to raise nearly $500,000 in 90 days.

"I think some guys who came to Penn State that have never given before saw an opportunity to create their own legacy in supporting an institution that they have so much to be grateful for," said Stolzer.

In addition to the celebration of Wettstone and the men's gymnastics program, it was agreed that Coach Jepson could use the funds in the best interest of the team and the success of future teams.

"What Randy decided to do, which we're really happy with, he built the new locker room for the team because they didn't have their own," said Stolzer. "Hard to believe, but they didn't have their own, so they now have a really beautiful new locker room with some nice facilities with it. Steam room, conference room."

Because of last week's Big Ten Gymnastics Championships, Coach Jepson invited the alumni to Penn State to support the team and to do the Wettstone naming celebration.

"The team won the Big Ten title and it was a great weekend," said Stolzer. "It was a great group back and a good part of [the complex] is completed, but some is not. They had renderings to show us what it's going to look like when it's done. They've done a terrific job and it's going to look wonderful when it's done."

Even though the complex was only half done, Stolzer loved everything he saw.

"It was impressive," said Stolzer. "They've done a remarkable job there and I have to admit it, I got a little choked up when I saw it. This idea really came to be with a group of guys that really believed in continuing the legacy of gymnastics at Penn State and we couldn't be prouder."

The Gene Wettstone Complex is just one example of the pride that every Penn Stater contains. 

"I think one of the most remarkable things about Penn State is Penn State's unbelievable ability to create such amazing loyalty, dedication and commitment to excellence with each and every graduating class, so when Penn Staters come back for a reunion or they come back to visit the school or they meet other Penn Starters around the country, there's an immediate prideful connection," said Stolzer. "It's really something to see and something to be part of and I'm 

just glad to be part of it."

VIDEO: Spring Practice - One-on-One with Christian Hackenberg

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With spring practice just past the halfway point, talks with rising junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg for an update on how things are going for the Nittany Lion offense. Take a look.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Lions Battle, Come Up Short at No. 3 Maryland

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

10970895.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The Nittany Lions dropped a tough 12-5 decision at Maryland on Saturday.

Taking on their second Big Ten foe, the Nittany Lions traveled to College Park over the weekend in arguably their biggest matchup of the season so far. No. 3 Maryland opened the game with several unanswered goals, giving the Lions a lot of ground to make up for.

Head coach Jeff Tambroni explained that after the first quarter, Penn State's defense had to adjust to withstand Maryland's explosive offense. The Nittany Lions also had to change strategies for getting possession of the ball. Possession time has been one of the team's biggest struggles this season.

"We just couldn't seem to get into any rhythm today and that really hurt us," said Tambroni. "Trying to stop [Maryland] before we got the ball in the offensive end is not a very good strategy."

In response to Maryland's strong start, Penn State's defense had to really batten down the hatches to keep the game close. The defense, led by senior JP Burnside, kept Maryland to just four goals in the final 45 minutes of the game. However, it was the offense's struggle to make opportunities for themselves that led to very few scoring chances.

"I don't think we played great team offense," said Tambroni. "I thought we had extremely limited possessions in the first half and maximized all we could, but in that third and fourth quarter we just couldn't adjust."

The outcome may have not been ideal, but this game proved to be yet another learning opportunity for Penn State. Now knowing what it takes to keep a top five offense at bay, the Lions will go into this week of practices with new motivation and momentum.

"I think we've got to take away the fact that we got down by a bunch and were able to come back and at least fight and make the last few quarters a competitive contest," said Tambroni. "We gotta take that as we move forward."

The Lions will take the tough road loss and use it as motivation to prepare for another trip to Maryland to play Johns Hopkins on Saturday.

Nittany Lions Down Ohio State on Senior Day

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Emotions were high this weekend in Happy Valley as the Penn State women's lacrosse team took on rival Ohio State. For the nine senior Lions, the match marked the final time they would play a weekend home game while donning the Blue and White.

The group, along with the rest of the team, wanted to come out on top for that reason. They needed to win for each other. That determination and strength ultimately led the Nittany Lions (9-3, 2-0 B1G) to a 14-13 win over the Buckeyes (10-3, 1-1 B1G) after a hard-fought 60 minutes of play.

"It's always a battle with them, all the time," said head coach Missy Doherty of Ohio State. "I mean, it's always a good game. We've had a couple hard one-point losses, and this was a great one-point win. We came up big when we needed to, and thankfully we played really well."

During the game, the senior class proved to be a consistent force. Midfielder Tatum Coffey led the way with a hat trick and an assist, captain Kelly Lechner notched two goals and Haley Ford opened the game's scoring with a tally of her own.

Doherty was proud to watch this specific class celebrate a well-deserved win after the heart and soul they put into the program throughout their years as Nittany Lions.

"The seniors did great," said Doherty. "All of them came up with some really big plays tonight. They're a class that has done great for four years, and I'm glad they finished their senior night on a good note."

Senior Maggie McCormick, the team's offensive leader, was unfortunately held pointless against Ohio State. Throughout the entirety of the match, she was face guarded by the Buckeyes, making her virtually unavailable to help her teammates.

The Blue and White tried to make quick changes at the restraining line, but these switches would only free up the attacker for a few short moments at a time. With McCormick unable to fill her usual role, the rest of the offense needed to step up and prove it could still dominate.

Leading the way for Penn State was sophomore Steph Lazo, who tallied three goals and two assists in the victory. She scored on three of her four shot attempts and was a constant presence on the field.

"I felt confident with the ball because since Maggie [McCormick] was out I guess I had to step up a little bit," said Lazo. "So, I felt confident with it and my teammates were giving me opportunities. I just took them, and I saw the open opportunities to give them. They just took it and ran with it. We finished it, and it's a great day for our seniors."

Lazo also added that even without McCormick, the team still had a number of threats. The Nittany Lions have depth, which is part of the reason they are such a dangerous team.

While the day as a whole mainly focused on seniors, Lazo also had an emotional experience as she played with her sister, Dani Lazo, for one of the final times on the team's home field.

"We had our senior day festivities before and all of us were crying in the locker room," said Lazo. "I was crying like a baby before this, but I think having her [Dani Lazo] as a senior made it more special for me too because our family is here. I just wanted to go out there and play hard for her and do my best for her."

The win was the team's closest game this season in which it emerged on top, yet it was not the first one-point match it played in. All three of Penn State's losses were decided by one goal, which made the victory over the Buckeyes on senior night all the more special.

"Missy always says we were just three points away from being an undefeated team," Lazo said. "It really sits with you and kind of motivates you. So, coming out on the winning end by one definitely kept it interesting. Like I keep saying, it feels amazing to come out on the winning end."

The Nittany Lions will take the field in Happy Valley one final time this season when they take on Big Ten opponent Michigan Thursday at 7 p.m.

Nittany Lions Win Road Match with Home Feel

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

By Tyler Feldman, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With lots of family in attendance, senior outside hitter Aaron Russell tallied 15 kills on a .700 hitting mark to lead No. 7 Penn State (13-9, 7-0 EIVA) to a straight sets road victory (25-19, 25-22, 25-13) over conference foe George Mason (9-11, 4-4 EIVA) in Fairfax, Virginia, on Saturday night.

Redshirt junior setter Taylor Hammond dished out 38 assists to lead the Nittany Lions in transition and help orchestrate the Blue and White's offense attack en route to their ninth straight win.

"Nice three-game win down here in Fairfax," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "It's always a tough place to play. I thought we did a really nice job with our pass and serve game. Our offense, Taylor did an outstanding job."

In set one, Penn State utilized a balanced offensive pursuit to keep George Mason out of system. Russell, Chris Nugent and Jalen Penrose accumulated four kills apiece to open up gaps within the Patriots defense. Add in two service aces from Russell and the Green and Gold did not have a chance.

"Well, and you got to couple that with the way we're serving and making it tough on them to side out and making it tough on the opponent to hit for high numbers," Pavlik said. "That's what gives us separation."

Russell, Nugent and Penrose all carried their rhythms from the first game into the second frame, as the three hitters combined for 14 kills in the middle set. Plus, the Nittany Lions stayed in system in the second game, siding out at 81 percent.

"We went into this match saying, hey we have to win the transition game because we were going to get some opportunities," Pavlik said. "Taylor ran the transition game very, very well. At this point in the year you like to see those stages of the game complementing themselves. I think our serving and passing is starting to really complement our offense."

In the final game, the Nittany Lions played like they wanted to get on the bus and get back to University Park as quickly as possible. Russell killed six swings on six attempts to lead the way in the third set for Penn State. The Blue and White also sided out at 78 percent to maintain a strong transition game.

"At one point Jay [Hosack] leaned over to me in game three saying on first swing side out we were hitting .470 and in transition we were hitting .420, so Taylor was doing an outstanding job," Pavlik said.

Senior libero Connor Curry added seven digs throughout the match, while middle hitter Matt Seifert converted four kills on five attempts and middle hitter Matt Callaway pushed five kills on just seven tries.

A nice contingency of Penn State fans cheered on the team inside the RAC to make the road match at George Mason feel like a home one at Rec Hall.

"It's always a great crowd here," Pavlik said. "The Penn State Maryland and Penn State D.C. area always comes out to support us really well. It's a tough place to play, but with the people in here there's a little bit of Rec Hall with us."

The team returns home to Rec Hall next Friday and Saturday to play in two EIVA conference matches against Harvard and Sacred Heart.

B1G Exposure Assists Growth of Penn State Lacrosse

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the new Big Ten conference comes huge opportunities for the Penn State women's lacrosse team, one of which is televised games. The Nittany Lions' matchup against Rutgers last weekend was featured on the Big Ten Network, and three of their final five will also be broadcasted for fans to see.

While this media attention is exciting for the team, it is also proof of the explosion of the sport. Lacrosse is growing, and it's spreading fast.

"I think it's definitely a big building block in getting more exposure to this game," captain Maggie McCormick said. "We all obviously love it. We play it, and we think we're a fun team to play. We're a high tempo team and stuff like that. So, getting those games on TV is huge for our program, and it's huge for lacrosse in general."

Head coach Missy Doherty added that not only is this media presence great for the program and the sport, but it also allows fans from across the country to tune in to games they would otherwise miss. Friends, family and alumni that live too far away to travel have the opportunity to watch and support the Lions from their own homes.

Many times, these viewers also include potential recruits. Doherty believes the additional coverage will greatly help the program bring in athletes who are excited to wear Blue and White for all the nation to see.

"For a female athlete, there's not much in your career as an athlete," Doherty said. "College is pretty much it for most sports when it comes to a high competitive level. Having that great athletic experience for most women is the college experience. So, to feel like a big deal, to be on TV, I love that for our athletes, and I love being able to tell our recruits that if they come here they'll be a big deal. It's awesome to play sports here, and it's awesome to have the exposure that we have."

Although the Nittany Lions have only experienced one televised game thus far, they did have to make some adjustments. With the coverage comes media timeouts, which in lacrosse can potentially interrupt the flow of the game.

Each half has three timeouts when the matches are featured on the Big Ten Network, meaning the game has a total of six stoppages. Nevertheless, the overall excitement of being feature on such a large stage overtakes the few disadvantages.

Plus, the Nittany Lions would never let a few minor changes alter their game. They know their identity. Penn State is always ready to compete.

"We're not a team that's going to shy away from our play and play any differently because we're on TV," McCormick said. "We like it, and we like the challenge. We like the fact that we're getting that sort of exposure."

This Saturday, No. 12 Penn State (8-3, 1-0 B1G) will take on No. 18 Ohio State (10-2, 1-0 B1G) in its second televised game this season. However, this will be the first home game for the Blue and White featured on the Big Ten Network.

Getting ready to face arguably their biggest rival, the Nittany Lions know what they need to do to have success during their first Big Ten game in Happy Valley.

"Ohio State is always a close game for us," said Doherty. "It's always a battle. They're very physical. They work very hard. It's our first year in the Big Ten, so we're not taking any of our conference games lightly for sure. Ohio State is always a good matchup for us, so we know it's going to be a battle. But, those are the kind of games you want to be in when you're playing at Penn State."

VIDEO: Inside Look at Success on the Vault

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

By Gabby Richards, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Sprinting toward a stationary object might not be something that people typically choose to do voluntarily. For the Penn State women's gymnastics team, that is something that they do best.

Vault is a tricky apparatus to master. If you don't run fast enough, you wont have enough momentum to make a full rotation. If you can't make a full rotation, you might become one with the landing mat. But, if everything goes right, this skill is incredibly impressive.

The Nittany Lions have had an exceptional season on vault, continuously putting up big numbers in the event. Heading into this weekend's NCAA Regional Championships, Penn State is ranked No. 3 on this apparatus.

"We just need to do what we do in practice," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "We stick vaults in meets. We stick vaults at practice. This tournament just needs to be an extension of that so we can put up the best score possible."

The vaults that these gymnasts perform are a continuation of a skill set that they have developed since their "club" days. When freshman gymnasts come in, they typically perform a vault, with an added skill, that they had performed before coming to college. For freshman Briannah Tsang, vault is one of her favorite events, one that she has mastered since winning the 2013 Elite Canada Vault Title.

"I love this event," Tsang said. "It is a power event and that is one of my strengths. We work really hard on this event."

Throughout the course of the 2014-15 season, various Nittany Lions have broken the ever-coveted 9.900 mark on vault, with a handful breaking a 9.925.

"We have a lot of variety to our vaults," Krystal Welsh said. "We all don't just do a Yurchenko Full. We have a lot of different skills that we are able to perform well, which helps set us apart."

The Penn State women's gymnastics team will take the floor in the NCAA Regional Championships on Saturday at 4:45 p.m. in Norman, Oklahoma.

VIDEO: Spring Practice Sights and Sounds - Wide Receivers

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion receiving corps is filled with young talent. Led by the Big Ten's leading receiver from 2014, rising sophomore DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State will field a deep group in 2015. Among some of the most improved individuals since the offseason began, true sophomores Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall highlight a corps of young, talented players to go along with veteran returnees Hamilton, Geno Lewis and Matt Zanellato.

Head inside spring practice for a look at drills led by wide receivers coach Josh Gattis. Penn State is now halfway through spring practices for 2015. Take a look.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

By Astrid Diaz, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State track and field is headed to warm and sunny Gainesville, Florida to compete in a two-day season opening extravaganza.

The Pepsi Florida Relays is the first of seven stops the Nittany Lions will make in their outdoor campaign this year and will feature over 280 college, club, and professional teams including some of the nation's top athletes.

Sophomore Ean DiSilvio and senior Shelley Black are two of 43 Penn State student-athletes headed south this weekend accompanying the likes of All-Americans Sancho Barrett, Tori Gerlach, and Dynasty McGee on the track.

On the field, All-Americans Brian Leap, Robert Cardina, Darrell Hill, and U-23 NACAC gold-medalist Michael Shuey will be among those representing the Nittany Lions.

Spring has officially bloomed and so has a new surge of motivation that has the team's adrenaline set on high.

DiSilivio will be participating in the 1500-meter run and the 3000-meter steeplechase - his first outdoor meet appearance in a Penn State uniform.

"I'm definitely a little bit nervous. I'm running a steeplechase and I've never done that before and it has barriers and water you have to jump over. I'm a little bit nervous but I'm excited too because this is what I trained through the whole year last year to do," said DiSilvio.

Black will officially open up the weekend for the Nittany Lions when she steps up to compete in the 100-meter hurdles on Friday afternoon.

"I'm definitely excited to start the outdoor season and get into the 100-meter hurdles and the 400-meter hurdles," said Black. "[I'm most looking forward to] to the 100 [meter] hurdles. I've been training a lot the past few weeks and focusing a lot on that event and I'm excited to see what I can do."

While individual goals are always on the board, the team's success is always the number one priority and coming off a long, cold indoor season hasn't put a damper on their efforts.

"I'm ready and everyone is ready to go," said DiSilvio. "It's going to be a good season."

"We're always focusing individually on improving but there's always the team aspect too and trying to get a Big Ten Championship is always a team goal...individual goals just help the team achieve that," said Black.

The meet, which will air live on the SEC Network, will feature the Nittany Lions on Friday and Saturday, April 3-4, beginning at 12:15 p.m. on Friday and continuing on Saturday morning beginning at 11 a.m.

Spring Football: Progress Highlights First Half of Practices

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

10958526.jpegSpring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions have reached the mid-way point of spring practices.

With 14 opportunities to take the practice field, head coach James Franklin and the Nittany Lions have 14 chances to get better before the spring practice period culminates with the 15th session of the spring on April 18 in Beaver Stadium at the Blue-White Game presented by AAA.

Seven practices in to the spring ball, the Lions are confident in the progress being made on both sides of the ball and on special teams. Year two in the staff's systems certainly plays a role in the team's overall step forward and comfort level this spring, but the players' workmanlike approach to winter conditioning, meetings and practices have all contributed to the step forward in 2015.

"There has definitely been a lot of progress," senior cornerback Trevor Williams said. "Our chemistry is a lot stronger. The coaches do such a good job of putting us in positions to be successful."

Spend two minutes around a Penn State spring practice and one can't help but marvel at the level of competition from everyone on the field. It starts with Coach Franklin, but each position coach, graduate assistant and player relishes in the opportunity to compete with one another on the field. As Franklin says, iron sharpens iron.

"It's so much fun to be in a competitive environment like practice," senior defensive end Carl Nassib said. "When guys are going around making plays and yelling, it psyches everyone up. No one wants to go out for practice and be dragging, so while you are out there, you want to have fun and get better. It's all about getting better."

On offense, the leader of the unit is a guy who is no stranger to the starting spot. A rising junior, Christian Hackenberg now has 25 games of starting experience under his belt. Working through spring practices for the second time in his career, the Virginia native is excited about the growth and development of each offensive grouping around him. With the offense's continued development on a unit-by-unit level, Hackenberg has spent more time this spring focused on refining specific areas in his game.

"Last year, I had my mind spread out across a lot of different things within the offense to help everyone get better, but I think now with everyone coming along and taking those steps, I can sort of focus more on myself and areas that I need to improve in," said Hackenberg. "There are always things I can do there. That's been a big focus for me. Whether it is Mondays where I focus on mechanics and footwork and then Wednesdays I work on my reads and my 'Mike' (linebacker) pointing to make sure those are sharp and on point and then on Saturday it's making sure I have everything on point with pre-snap reads, post-snap confirmation and then going out and executing."

Defensively, the mantra is clear - championship level. Yes, the Nittany Lions had a superb season on defense in 2014, but this year's unit wants to be even better. As coordinator Bob Shoop urges, the next step is for the defense to become championship-level. How does the defense get there? It starts with hard work, but confidence plays a big role.

"It's a lot of intensity. A lot of guys fly around," said Williams. "Every day, we challenge each other to make plays, create turnovers, put the offense in better spots and just work to make this defense a championship defense."

With five months separating the middle of spring practice and the first game of 2015 (Sept. 5 at Temple), the window of opportunity for continued growth is a big one. And the combination of confidence, competition and an unrivaled work ethic set forth this spring has the team and its individual units on the way to a strong start to preparations for the 2015 season.

"We are really focusing on a lot of things that we learned last year, taking the things we did well and building on them, and then taking the negatives and working on them," Hackenberg said. "I think it's a development of the process. It's been going really well."

Penn State will practice seven more times between Saturday and April 17 before wrapping spring ball up with the Blue-White game at 4 p.m. on April 18 (BTN). As has been the case in previous years, admission and parking are free for the spring game.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony