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Nittany Lions Clicking On All Cylinders

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By Michael Renahan, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the fifth game in a row, Nittany Lion women's lacrosse put together a strong team performance and earned a victory as they defeated the Drexel Dragons, 21-8, inside Holuba Hall on Wednesday.

Since falling to James Madison earlier this month, the Nittany Lions seemed to have made major adjustments to their game and are only getting better and better. Teams are having problems both getting on and keeping Penn State off the scoreboard.

Over the last five games, head coach Missy Doherty's squad has scored 92 goals while only allowing 41 to their opponents. Even more impressive, over their last four games the Nittany Lions haven't allowed their opponents - Rutgers, Vanderbilt, Michigan and Drexel - to score more than eight goals. That marks the longest streak of 10 goals or less for Doherty's defense since her team did it during a five-game winning streak in the 2011 season.

"Our JMU loss was a really tough loss," Doherty said after Wednesday's game. "And there was a huge change in our team after that, just from an energy side and goal side. It's been great to see them come out and start teaching themselves how to be a dominant team."

In Wednesday's win over Drexel, the Nittany Lions carried over the momentum from Saturday's win and scored the first six goals not even five minutes into the game. The movement of the ball was outstanding and it freed up players for scoring opportunities. The Nittany Lions entered the half with a 12-5 lead, and looked poised for a big second half.

Penn State opened the second half with a 7-1 run to widen the gap.  Along with the strong offensive pressure, we saw the defense put forth another great effort. They generated 13 caused turnovers and kept the Dragons offense out of rhythm time and time again.  As Doherty pointed out after the game, with the offense being so successful, it's hard for a defense to find its stride, but the Nittany Lions did just that despite the obstacles.

"It's hard when you are scoring a lot, and you're on offense a lot, its hard to keep your [defensive] rhythm going," Doherty said. "When you have one shot at defense every couple minutes it's hard to get in rhythm. We didn't really find a good rhythm there in the second and first half. But they adjusted well and sometimes attack bails out the defense and [defense] bails out the offense. And today the offense did a great job of creating the tempo for the game."

Three Nittany Lions in particular were playing extremely well for the girls in blue and white. Sisters Mackenzie and Madison Cyr finished their day with a combined nine points. In her last five outings, Madison has been exceptional for the Nittany Lions, scoring 15 goals and assisting on five more. The two sisters have had well-documented success and, according to them, it isn't an accident.

"We just play really well together," Mackenzie Said. "We mesh. We just get each other's glitches and what each other wants and how each other plays and we communicate really well, so that works."

The other NIttany Lion to continue her strong play is senior defender Lauren Purvis. She had a single game career-high five caused turnovers in the win, giving her a team-leading 20 caused turnovers on the season.

The Nittany Lions now turn their attention to a showdown with American Lacrosse Conference Rival No. 4/5 Florida in Gainesville. In order to keep the ball rolling, the Nittany Lions will need to continue to play at this high level and keep up their offensive and defensive pressure.

"Florida is always a huge rival of ours and it's really tough to play down there," Doherty said. "So we just want to be ready for another ALC game, and it's going to be a great matchup for us to really show where we are in the season."

Last season, the Nittany Lions battled the then-No. 2-ranked Gators at home and earned a victory. The game is fresh in the mind of the Nittany Lions as they start to prepare.

"I think we are all really excited because we had a huge win against them last year when they were ranked No. 2," Madison Cyr said. "I just think we are rally excited to play them again and see how well we do."

Game time is set for noon on Sunday. 

Nittany Lions Making Good Progress During Spring Drills

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The first six sessions of Penn State's initial spring season under the direction of head coach James Franklin have been marked by progress.

The Nittany Lions completed their sixth practice of the allotted 15 on Wednesday inside Holuba Hall.  Penn State will practice eight more times leading up to the culmination of spring drills on April 12 at the Blue-White Game inside Beaver Stadium.

So far, the team is excited about the strides that have been made on a daily basis.

FB_Spring Blog_Practice 6.jpg"It's been awesome," senior guard Miles Dieffenbach said.  "You kind of can't get a feel for the coaching staff until you get on the field with them and see what they are really like.  They are awesome.  They are super enthusiastic.  They love the game, love our team and are really excited to be here."

Starting with a clean slate, the Nittany Lions have had the challenge of learning new systems installed on both sides of the ball.  Offensively, 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Christian Hackenberg thinks the first two weeks have been highlighted by improvement.

"I think that we have really bought into the system," Hackenberg said.  "We've gotten to meet.  We've gotten to see what each position coach expects out of us.  I think that you can see with each practice that we are getting a little better and a little better at the little things and the intricacies on the offense.  We're just looking to build on that.  I think it is really impressive how quickly we have progressed, and we are really excited."

Establishing timing and cohesiveness within the offense is the ongoing task the Nittany Lion offense will work on between now and the start of training camp in August.

"Hackenberg has done really well with the offense," Dieffenbach said.  "He's really starting to get things down, along with the wide receivers and running backs.  I'm pretty with how things are going so far."

Defensively, senior linebacker Mike Hull and junior cornerback Jordan Lucas know the unit has a long way to go, but both believe the defense has gotten significantly better in a short period of time.

"We have improved a ton," said Hull.  "The defenses are getting a lot easier.  They are becoming more natural.  The communication is definitely there.  Coach (Bob) Shoop has done a great job taking it step by step with us."

"There are going to be some growing pains because it is a new system, but we have a lot of smart guys on the field who know football," Lucas said.  "The system allows us to play.  We don't have to think as much.  We can go out there and play."

Whether it be developing the timing on offense or playing effectively within the defensive scheme, improvement is marked by chemistry on the field.

"We really want to just continuing building our offense and our defense," Dieffenbach said.  "We want to have a good feel for the schemes (by the end of spring).  Practice takes time, and you have to build the chemistry on the field."

Coach Franklin established core values for the program during his introductory press conference in January.  He said that the Nittany Lions would compete in everything they do.  That starts from the moment any player steps onto the practice field.

"It is a competition in everything we do," Lucas said.  "Whether it be one-on-ones, pass-blocking, team drills, everything is a competition.  That's how we treat it.  If we don't win, we are going to get you the next drill that we are doing."

"The intensity level is 1 million percent," Dieffenbach said.  "They have been super intense practices, but that is good because it brings the best out of guys and it will only make our team better."

On both sides of the ball, the Lions practice with the mindset that they want to win everything.

"We are all competitors at heart," Hackenberg said.  "We want to go out there and compete.  Each practice, each drill and each rep is an opportunity to do so.  It has really been made a focal point, and we love it.  It makes practice a lot more interesting, and you are really focused on that rep.  And that helps you in the grand scheme of things."

The competitive nature on the field will only help the Nittany Lions set the tone for how they want to play during the regular season.

"I really like the intensity from the coaches and their enthusiasm," Hull said.  "I think we have gotten a lot out of the practices so far.  I think what we have established thus far is really going to help us come fall."

In addition to practices being ultra-competitive, the sessions move at a swift pace.  From the moment any player steps onto the green surface of the practice field, he is running.

"The pace is very, very fast," Dieffenbach.  "We were used to that with some of our old practices.  But these ones are extremely high-paced.  We get our conditioning done during practice running from drill to drill.  There is no walking on the field."

The warp speed during practices will only help the Nittany Lions prepare for tempo any opposing team throws at them in the fall.

"I love it because it is only going to help us during the games," Lucas said.  "It helps us work on our communication and it helps us play fast."

While the Nittany Lions still have nine more chances to get better this spring, they are excited about the opportunity in front of them as they build towards the start of the 2014 season.

"I like that we are very young.  We have some guys who have quite a bit of experience with our tight ends and running backs, especially," Hackenberg said.  "I'm super excited about it.  We're in our infancy of learning this offense.  The spring game will come.  Then we will have the whole summer to work on our own with 7-on-7s together, and then camp will be here.  I think we have an opportunity to do something special.  We are really excited about it."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Seniors Cap Off Home Careers With Sweet Win

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By Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Four years ago three current Penn State Lady Lions were in this same exact position they faced Tuesday night: on the brink of the Sweet 16 and home court second round game standing in the way.

In 2010, the Lady Lions fell to DePaul, forever forging an unpleasant memory in the brains of then Lady Lion freshmen Maggie Lucas, Talia East and Ariel Edwards.

Prior to the 2013-14 season, that group knew they would get a chance at redemption and they seized that opportunity on Tuesday night against No. 11 seed Florida.

The No. 3 seed Lady Lions topped the Gators, 81-63, to clinch the program's 13th trip to the Sweet 16 and in the most fitting fashion it was Lucas, East and Edwards, as well as transfer and fellow senior Dara Taylor that led the way.

"It means the world," Lucas said of advancing to the Sweet 16. "We're just so excited about this win and to be able to share it with our fans. I think back to my freshman year and it's just a whole lot better of a feeling to advance. I'm very excited."

In their last game at the Bryce Jordan Center, those seniors left a lasting image.

Lucas scored 22 points and made four three pointers. She pumped up the crowd and played with the raw emotion that only she can bring to the floor.

Taylor added 22 points of her own, four assists and two steals while being the catalyst of a Penn State defense that forced 20 Florida turnovers. She was a flash of speed that even the quick footed Gators couldn't contain.

Edwards shot efficiently from the floor, per usual, going 6-for-12 from the field and tallying 18 points and East notched nine points and seven rebounds. While both posing major matchup problems for the smaller Florida lineup.

Penn State won the game exactly the way they wanted to, starting from the defensive end. Not only did they force 20 Florida turnovers, but they converted them into 33 points. That's exactly how Coquese Washington wanted to win the game.

It couldn't have been any better of a performance from Washington's four seniors and it produced an emotional scene after the game.

"It's not bittersweet," Washington said when asked about the final home contest for her seniors. "It's just sweet. It's really, really, really sweet. It's like dark chocolate with caramel sweet.

"I'm happy for them. Their freshman year we lost in the second round on a last second play. They have really used that moment and that feeling from their freshman year. That was motivation for them to get better and to improve and to elevate the program.

The moment was one to relish for Washington, her staff and all of the Lady Lion players.

"To come full circle your senior year and have that same moment because what we just witnessed, is a really good way to close your playing at home and playing in this arena."

It was even more of a special night for Dara Taylor who fit right into this senior class upon transferring and perhaps in the most important game of her career, had a career day, literally.

Taylor's 22 points are the most of her career and also gave her 500 career assists between her time at Penn State and Maryland.. Taylor watched two NCAA tournaments without being a key contributor, one at Maryland as a freshman and Penn State's Sweet 16 berth while she sat out during the 2011-2012 season.

Now, she finally was a main contributor and a main reason why her team will be in Palo Alto to play Stanford next weekend.

"It's an amazing feeling," Taylor said. "When they went to the Sweet 16 two years ago, I actually wasn't playing, so this will be my first Sweet 16 and I'm really excited. Since I stepped on campus, to see how hard we've all worked and to see it all come together at this point is really amazing."

The Lady Lions now have the chance to carry on that momentum and get a marquee program win on Sunday against Stanford in the Cardinal's home gym at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN2.



Lions Grateful for Dominican Republic Experience

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By Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It may be the offseason for the Penn State women's soccer team, but that doesn't mean that head coach Erica Walsh and her players haven't had plenty on their plates.

Apart from the usual training and recruiting that come every spring, the Nittany Lions participated in a different type of exercise recently when they traveled to the Dominican Republic over spring break.

Spending their time off from class far from State College, the Penn State players were able to scrimmage with the Dominican Republic U20 team while holding classes and soccer clinics for the nation's children.

"It was an incredible experience to spend six days with these people in that environment," Walsh said. "To watch the Dominican players respond to (the Nittany Lions) and see how excited they got to have our team there was a win-win for everyone."

Although the trip included plenty of soccer, Walsh took the trip as an opportunity to spend less time analyzing her player's performances, and more time observing the relationships between them.

Not only was it the first time the Nittany Lions had traveled together where the focus wasn't to win at all cost, the cultural differences and the lack of technology forged a bond between the players that Walsh hadn't previously seen.

"It was arguably the best bonding experience that I've been a part of," Walsh said. "Without the use of technology it's amazing how that changes how people interact. I saw relationships being built between people that I've rarely seen together."

Having spent most of their time since their season ended in November participating in a rigorous weight training and condition regime, the trip gave the Nittany Lions the chance to get back on the field and see game action against the Dominican's best young players, even if the contests were just for fun.

When they weren't spending time with each other or practicing with the U20 team, the Nittany Lions were keeping busy with perhaps the most rewarding part of the trip, giving back to the Dominican community.

For the Blue and White, this meant not only holding soccer clinics for Dominican children in the seventh and eighth grade, but also taking the time to visit their schools and teach them English.

"I think (the classroom) was where the win-win was felt the most," Walsh said. "Watching the way our players responded to the smiles in the room and the opportunity to share."

One player who had a unique perspective of the trip and teaching the children was sophomore forward and Costa Rica native Raquel Rodriguez, who had the chance to be back in an environment similar to the one she grew up with.

Not only did Rodriguez's fluency with Spanish help her communicate with the Dominican children, she also enjoyed being able to let her teammates see a different side of her.

Generally one of the more soft-spoken players on the team, Rodriguez took the trip as an opportunity to grow as a leader on and off the field, as she felt more accustomed with the Dominican lifestyle than the rest of the Nittany Lions.

"I think (my teammates) saw a part of me that they didn't know because the environment stimulated things that I can't show (at Penn State)," Rodriguez said. "It was cool to see how they reacted to a different culture."

Over the course of the week, the Nittany Lions enjoyed being able to explore the country's sights such as the Los Tres Ojos (The Three Eyes) cave and get back into the flow of playing soccer, but their favorite memories of the trip will be the moments they spent with the Dominican junior high school students. 

To be able to take time to benefit kids who are less fortunate then they are both in the classroom and on the soccer field is something that the Nittany Lions won't soon forget.

"We held a couple of soccer clinics and we could see the looks on the kids faces and tell they were having fun," Rodriguez said. "In other countries the resources aren't available the way they are in the United States and impacting those kids was really cool."

If anything, the trip caused Rodriguez and her teammates to take a moment to think about how lucky they are to have the opportunities that they have at Penn State.

Not every school has student athletes that are able to go on a trip like the one the Nittany Lions just went on, and players could not be more thankful to their families and friends who made it possible.

"It made me have so much more pride for my team and my school," junior midfielder Kindrah Kohne said. "It shows what a great opportunity Penn State can give us."

From Walsh's standpoint, seeing her players take full advantage of the trip made her even more proud of them, and reaffirmed her belief in the attitude of her team moving forward.

"The players are very fortunate but they recognized how special this was and that's what was so neat about it," Walsh said. "Watching them soak up every moment of it was amazing." 


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By Tyler Feldman, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Starting games strong and finishing games strong has been a focal point all season long for Penn State women's basketball head coach Coquese Washington.

Last night the No. 3 seed Lady Lions (24-7) listened and executed. Penn State played a well-balanced and full 40 minutes to chomp the No. 11 seed Florida Gators (20-13), 83-61, at the Bryce Jordan Center to advance to the Sweet 16 for the 13th time in program history.

"One of the things that has been really good about this team is that they embrace and play in the moment," said Washington. "So tonight, I think they were really focused on executing the game plan."

After both teams took the first few minutes of play to settle in to the NCAA Tournament second round matchup, Penn State caught fire, going on a 13-2 run to open up a commanding 17-4 lead with just over 12 minutes left in the first half.

Defense, which was an emphasis for the Lady Lions going into the game against a quick Gators team, was the catalyst for Penn State's early run. The Blue and White scored 11 points off of five turnovers during that stretch.

"We wanted to get as many [points off turnovers] as we could get," said Washington. "We didn't put a number on it...We just wanted to be active defensively, contest shots, and make them play faster than maybe they wanted to play. Some nights that results in turnovers; other nights it just results in missed shots. Tonight it resulted in turnovers because we had active hands, and that helped us get points in transition."

Senior guard Dara Taylor was a big reason why the Blue and White led, 43-32, at the half. She scored nine of her 22 points through 20 minutes of play to pace the Lady Lions.

"I think our defense played a big part in [my scoring]," said Taylor. "We were able to get out in transition early and my teammates found me in the open floor. They ran the floor hard and I was able to get some easy buckets early and it kind of just flowed after that."

Penn State started the second half where they left off in the first half. The Lady Lions went on a 17-4 run to lead by 24 points, 60-36, with under 15 minutes to play.

Big Ten Player of the Year Maggie Lucas finished with 22 tallies, nine of which came in the second half, but it was her team's defense that impressed her most.

"I felt like everyone was very active defensively and really embraced their role this game of defending hard," said Lucas. "We were really focused on transition defense and I thought everybody down the line did a great job tonight and I'm really proud of my teammates."

However, after going up by 28 points, the Gators used a 17-4 run to cut Penn State's lead to 73-58.

"I thought our defense was pretty good and the way we wanted it to be about 35 to 36 minutes of the game and that was enough," said Washington. "They went on a 17-4 run in the middle of the second half and we kind of lost our poise at that point. We got it back and that's what is important."

Seniors Ariel Edwards and Talia East added 18 and nine points, respectively, as the four Lady Lion seniors combined to score 71 out of the team's 83 total points.

More importantly, the Lady Lions won the transition game, outscoring the Gators 33-11 in points off turnovers and 19-9 in fast break points.

"I think it's probably the most complete game we've played all season in terms of beginning to end effort and focus," said Washington. We were good a t executing what we wanted to do and I'm really proud of the team that they were able to do that in this moment and in this environment."

With the win, Penn State advances to the Sweet 16 to face the No. 2 seed Stanford Cardinal (31-3) in Palo Alto, Calif. Tip-off is slated for 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.



English's Will Defines Penn State's Fourth Straight Title

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By Matt Allibone,, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Penn State wrestling team celebrated its fourth-straight national championship Saturday night in Oklahoma City, the majority of the attention was focused on the two men who brought home individual titles for the team, David Taylor and Ed Ruth.

With Taylor having just earned his second undefeated season and individual national title, and Ruth having become the program's first three-time national championship, this certainly was no surprise. For the team however, there may have been no wrestler more valuable than the third senior in the Nittany Lion lineup, James English.

9862001.jpegEnglish has been at Penn State for six years, yet this past weekend was his first appearance at the NCAA Championships. He missed two entire season due to injury, had to pay his own tuition after being granted a sixth season of eligibility, and wasn't inserted as a starter until two weeks before the Big Ten tournament. 

None of that matters now. With an incredible performance in the NCAA Championships, English earned himself a seventh-place finish and All-American status, an outcome that seemed improbable a few months ago.

"I'm just glad I never stopped fighting and after six years I was finally able to make it here," English said. "This is what my goal was and it's great to be able to accomplish that."

Few athletes in any sport can claim to have gone through as much adversity as English has in his career. He sat out his entire freshman campaign, fought for two years to make the starting lineup, missed the 2011-'12 season following shoulder surgery, and then was relegated to backup duty for Andrew Alton last year.

Though the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility, few expected him to come back. Even head coach Cael Sanderson, long his biggest supporter, was surprised when English decided to return to the team.

"This is a kid who shouldn't wrestle. He's going to have neck and back problems his whole life," Sanderson said. "He came back for a sixth year and I wasn't sure why because he's always hurt."

Despite the doubts, English never considered not coming back to Penn State. Even having already earned his degree, he knew he had unfinished business.

Determined as he was, the setbacks just continued to come for the York, Pa., native, as nagging injuries once again limited him to just two early season dual meets, which he lost. With Alton set to return from his own shoulder injury and freshman Zack Beitz exceeding expectations, English seemed to be the odd man out.

"He probably didn't wrestle somebody live (in practice) all year outside of a coach," Sanderson said. "As the season went along, I had kind of written him off."

Nobody would have blamed him for throwing in the towel on his career, but English, the only wrestler on the team whose time at Penn State precedes Sanderson's tenure as coach, kept coming back for more.

After getting healthy enough to compete in open tournaments late in the regular season, English beat both Alton and Beitz in wrestle-offs to earn himself the postseason stating spot at 149.

A sixth-place finish at the Big Ten tournament earned English a bid in the NCAA tournament, where despite being unseeded, he managed to defeat 12th-ranked Dylan Cottrell of Appalachian State in the opening round.

When a hard fought 4-3 loss to eventual national champion Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern) ended his dream of winning the tournament, English refused to hang his head, knowing his team needed him to produce points in the consolation rounds.

"You can't dwell on (losing) because it's not going to do you any good," English said. "I just had to make the best of any situation I had and keep fighting the whole time."

English continued to fight on, winning two straight against Christian Barber (North Carolina) and Ryan Lubeck (Wisconsin) before clinching All-American status with a huge 6-4 overtime victory over 10th-ranked Zach Niebert of Virginia Tech.

After falling to Edinboro's David Habat in the consolation quarterfinals, English saved his best performance for last, taking down 2013 national champion Kendric Maple of Oklahoma, 2-1, to finish in seventh, and more importantly, keep the Nittany Lions ahead in the team race over Minnesota.

"If there's one way to describe how I wrestled out there, it's just fight the whole way through," English said. "Cael told me after the match that I made him so proud and that means the world to me."

On a team filled with some of the biggest names in college wrestling, English entered his lone NCAA Championships appearance as Penn State's least notable wrestler and left it as one of the surprise stars of the weekend.

Taylor, who made sure to hug English as he exited the floor following his victory over Maple, couldn't have been happier for his teammate.

"When you talk about a guy who lives his life the right way and has had some very unfortunate things happen to him, James English is the first guy that comes to mind," Taylor said. "He works unbelievably hard, and now he's an All-American. That's pretty special."

English's accomplishments may not match those of Taylor and Ruth in terms of wins and accolades, but there is no doubt that his run to reach All-American status has secured him a place in Penn State history.

"It really is unbelievable," Sanderson said. "He gutted out some wins and that's bigger than wrestling and bigger than winning championships." 

Nittany Lions Set to Compete in NCAA Championships

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By Chelsea Howard, Student Staff Writer
As the first season under head coach Tim Murphy comes to a close for the men's swimming and diving team, the athletes will have one more chance to compete at the highest level of the sport as they travel to Austin, Texas, for the 2014 NCAA Championships.

Coming off of a strong showing at Big Tens and taking huge steps in the right direction, the Nittany Lions have spent the past three weeks making adjustments to ensure they will be ready to compete in one of the toughest competitions of their careers. The athletes will be taking what they learned from Big Tens, working on their technique, and solidifying their race plans before competing against the best in the nation. 

Shane Ryan will be one swimmer to keep an eye on while he competes in his first NCAA's. After historic performances at Big Tens in his individual events, the sophomore has made a name for himself and got people in the swimming community talking.

"It definitely got my name out there. Before I went to Big Tens, there was no mention of where I would stand in the mix so that really got me riled up. Going into NCAA's, my name is out there and I think we really made a statement at Big Tens that Penn State is coming to NCAA's and we're coming in with a fight," Ryan said. 

In order to qualify for this highly competitive meet, the swimmers had to swim to certain times in order to be considered for the event. All year, the swimmers are aiming for an "A" cut hoping to automatically qualify for the meet.

The NCAA releases time standards at the beginning of each year with "A" and "B" cuts. If the swimmer goes equal to or faster than the "A" cut, then they will automatically have a spot to compete in the NCAA Championships.  However, if the swimmer goes a "B" cut, they are not guaranteed to make it into the meet. Swimmers with "B" cuts must wait until all of the conference meets across the country are over to see if they will be invited to the meet based on how they rank compared to others in the event.

Qualifying for the meet individually are swimmers junior Nick Ankosko, Ryan, and junior Nate Savoy. In addition, the swimmers competing in the relay events are James Wilson, Shane Austin, Scott Heil, and Mathew Stasiunas.

Here's a closer look at each of the swimmers and where they rank in their individual events going into this national level meet.

Nick Ankosko

-        200 Freestyle - 54th

-        500 Freestyle - 26th

-        1650 Freestyle - 32nd

Ankosko swam in his first NCAA Championships last year where he competed in the 1,650 Freestyle and was a part of the 800 Freestyle Relay. With this experience, he will be competing in the 1650 again as well as the 200 Freestyle and 500 Freestyle. At Big Tens, the East Brunswick, N.J. native finished sixth overall in the 500 Freestyle and broke his own school record in prelims. The junior made the C final in the 200 Freestyle at Big Tens and finished 18th. On the last day in Michigan, Ankosko was the top finisher for the Nittany Lions in the 1650 Freestyle where he brought back an 11th place finish. Building off of a strong Big Tens, Ankosko looks to compete in his second NCAA's of his career and is invited in with "B" qualifying times.

Shane Ryan

-        50 Freestyle - 17th

-        100 Backstroke - 1st

-        100 Freestyle - 4th

After swimming in his first Big Tens, Ryan will now make the transition into representing Penn State in his first NCAA Championship. After putting up some of the best performances the Penn State program has seen historically, the sophomore enters NCAA's ranked first in the 100 Backstroke. This is a feat that separates Ryan from the rest of the swimmers and only a few athletes can accomplish this throughout their careers. The sophomore won the 100 Backstroke at Big Tens in route to being the first swimmer to stand on top of the podium since 2003. After this performance, his time automatically qualified him for NCAA's. In the 100 Freestyle on the final day of Big Tens, he won another individual title, setting the Penn State school record, Big Ten Championship meet record, and the overall Big Ten record. He enters NCAA's with an NCAA "A" qualifying standard.

With his outstanding performances, he left Big Tens as the first Penn State swimmer to ever be named the Swimmer of Big Ten Championships. Taking the name he made for himself at Big Tens just a few weeks ago, the Havertown, Pa. native will take his experience to represent the swimming and diving program on the national level. In addition to the 100 Backstroke and 100 Freestyle, Ryan will also compete in the 50 Freestyle. The sophomore is ranked 17th and is right in the mix to qualify for finals and see a second swim in this event. Hoping to close out a historic season on a high note, Ryan will finish out his sophomore season at NCAAs.

Nate Savoy  

-        100 Backstroke - 6th

-        200 Backstroke - 14th

-        200 Individual Medley - 45th   

Savoy enters the meet with two NCAA "A" standard qualifying times in the 100 Backstroke and 200 Backstroke. He will also compete in the 200 Individual Medley where he reached a NCAA "B" time. Savoy finished second at Big Tens in the 100 Backstroke adding to a historic night and will enter the meet seeded sixth in one of his best events. In addition, in the 200 Backstroke, Savoy was the first Nittany Lion in this event and finished fourth at Big Tens.

This will be the junior's third NCAA appearance. Last year, he was named two-time All-American and two-time All-American honorable mentions for his performances. He swam in the 200 Medley relay, which finished sixth in the nation in addition to the 400 medley relay. Individually he swam to a 14th place finish in the 100 Backstroke and 16th-place finish in the 200 Backstroke, scoring huge points for the Nittany Lions. Taking this experience and knowing what it's like to compete at this level, the Reading, Pa. native will close out another strong season in Austin, Texas.

Prelims start at 11 a.m. and finals begin at 7 p.m. each day. Follow the results as the Nittany Lions start competing Thursday, March 27. Below is the order of events for the 2014 NCAA Championship meet.

200 Freestyle Relay
500 Freestyle
200 Individual Medley
50 Freestyle
400 Medley Relay
One-meter Diving

200 Medley Relay
400 Individual Medley
100 Butterfly
200 Freestyle
100 Breaststroke
100 Backstroke
Three-meter Diving
800 Freestyle Relay

200 Backstroke
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live in-game coverage on for the No. 14/15 Penn State women's basketball NCAA second round contest against Florida on Tuesday, March 25 inside the Bryce Jordan Center.

BLOG: What to Watch  |  BLOG: Lions Prep For Gators Chomp  |  BLOG: Tournament Headquarters

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By Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After two strong second halves in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Penn State and Florida are set to clash Tuesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.

Penn State and Florida have lethal scorers in Maggie Lucas and Cassie Peoples, respectively. Both players went off for 20-plus points leading their teams to a first round victory. The two teams have faced off just twice before and have split the series.

Pregame Reading
What to Watch For - Penn State

Double T: Talia East and Tori Waldner have owned the glass this season for Penn State and statistically will match up favorably with the Gators. Florida grabs 36.4 rebounds per game compared to Penn State's 44.5 per contest. The Lady Lions also own a significant advantage in rebound margin with a 7.0 margin and the Gators' -4.3 margin. Sunday against Wichita State, Waldner and East combined for 19 rebounds.

Ariel Heating Up: Ariel Edwards' has put together two strong performances in her last two contests scoring 29 points in the Big Ten Tournament against Ohio State and 17 on Sunday against Wichita State in the NCAA first round game. Edwards shot 7-for-14 from the field against the Shockers in 35 minutes of play.

One More Time: Penn State has the luxury of playing this second round matchup at home inside the Bryce Jordan Center. It will be the final time the four Penn State seniors will suit up and play at the BJC. The Lady Lions said after the game Sunday that the home crowd drove them to erasing an 11-point deficit in the first half against Wichita State and led to a subsequent 17-0 run to start the second half.

What to Watch For - Florida

Three in Doubles: Florida's balanced scoring attack features three different players that average 10 or more points per game. Jaterra Bonds (15.6), Kayla Lewis (11.9) and Cassie Peoples (10.5) lead the way for the Gators. In the first round against Dayton, Peoples tallied 21 points and Bonds and Lewis had 15 and 11, respectively. Also against the Flyers, Carlie Needles and Ronni Williams were in double digit land with 15 and 11 points to their names. Balance has been the key for Florida all season and much of the reason why they are in the second round of the tournament.

Efficient Shooting: The Gators own a top-35 field goal percentage national at 44.5 percent. Against Dayton Sunday, Florida shot just 40.7 from the field in the first half and trailed, 32-29, at the break. That number dramatically increased in the second half as Amanda Butler's squad shot 51.4 percent during the final 20 minutes and scored 54 points.

Seeding Aside: While Florida may be the No. 11 seed in the Stanford Region, but they certainly didn't act that way in their first round matchup with Dayton. Jaterra Bonds said postgame on Sunday that seeding doesn't matter to her team and they are playing it like the number isn't even there. A Florida win Sunday would not only be an upset in terms of seeding, but also would clinch the Gators' first trip to the sweet 16 since 1998 and just the third berth in program history.


Lady Lions Prep for Gators Chomp

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By Tyler Feldman, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Playing teams from the Southeastern Conference in the NCAA Tournament is familiar territory for No. 3 seed Penn State (23-7). The Lady Lions have faced an SEC team in the second round of the postseason tournament in each of the past three seasons.

The last two years the Lady Lions faced a stiff road test against LSU in Baton Rouge, La. However, this time around, the Blue and White are the home team and take on No. 11 seed Florida (20-12) at the Bryce Jordan Center tonight at 7 p.m.

Play within the SEC typically revolves around physicality. And, although Penn State head coach Coquese Washington made note of just that yesterday afternoon, she knows that each team within the conference has its own identity.

"I wouldn't say every team [in the SEC] is the same, but I think there is one commonality, and that is the physical play and the defensive intensity," said Washington. "We know that Florida is going to be an aggressive, physical defensive team, and we'll be ready for that and we know that is what the game is going to be like."

Since Penn State played in the first game on Sunday, Washington and her coaching staff were able to focus mightily on the second game, where the Gators upset sixth seeded Dayton, 83-69.

With only a two-day turnaround, Washington's focus is on what her team needs to do, as well as practicing to be well-prepared for what the Gators bring to the table.

"We're not reinventing the wheel in one day," Washington said. "It's about being sharp with our fundamentals and being sharp with the execution of our game plan and that's what we are focused on."

Watching Florida for the second time this season, after the two teams both participated - but did not play - in the Junkanoo Jam in late November, Washington generated a long list of impressions following the Gators chomp of the Flyers late Sunday afternoon.

"They are a really aggressive team and I think they are a very good defensive team," said Washington. "They made some good adjustments throughout the game against Dayton. They play hard and are pretty relentless defensively. They don't mind bumping and [being physical] and I think having played in the SEC that's where that confidence comes from and that aggressiveness comes from."

Senior guard Maggie Lucas, who had 22 points in the win over Wichita State on Sunday, said the team's main focus will be on containing Florida's quick guards.

"They definitely look to penetrate a lot - penetrate and ditch, penetrate and score," said Lucas. "Therefore, we have to contain the ball and have a defensive focus. That is key going into the game [with Florida]."

Washington echoed the words of her standout senior.

"We have to do a good job of trying to contain their guards," said Washington. "They're small, they're quick and they're good ball handlers. Their guards are crafty and very good dribblers and they do a good job, [Jaterra] Bonds and [Cassie] Peoples, in particular, of getting in the paint and creating shots for themselves or creating shots for their teammates. And they crash the offensive glass very well, so keeping the ball out of the paint is going to be very important for us."

Penn State point guard and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Dara Taylor, is on the same page as her teammates and head coach yesterday. For Taylor, defense is the key to get past Florida and advance to the Sweet 16.

"They are a very athletic backcourt," said Taylor. "They are a typical SEC team - very aggressive on defense. They like to push the ball. They are extremely athletic and like to get up and down the court quickly. We have to play really well on defense tomorrow."

For senior forward Talia East, who was clutch down the stretch in the win on Sunday, the focus is on simply respecting the Gators.

"You cannot take any team lightly in the postseason," said East. "Everybody is a good team, especially getting down to the last 32 teams in the tournament. We are definitely not taking them lightly. We know that they are a good team, and we are definitely prepared for that."

The winner of Penn State-Florida will take on host Stanford in the Sweet 16 on March 30 in Stanford, Calif.