By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When you ask Sharaya Musser if she ever thought that, after four years of competing as a collegiate gymnast, she'd be ending her senior year with a third trip to the NCAA Championships, she's a bit speechless.
"I don't know," laughed Musser. "It's quite the experience."
The senior Nittany Lion leaves State College today en route to her final competition of her collegiate career. After tying for second place in the all-around at the Norman, Okla. Regional two weeks ago, Musser clinched her third-straight championship berth and is headed to Los Angeles, Calif. for three days of competition.
The women's gymnastics championships welcome 12 teams and 12 all-around competitors who are not a part of a qualifying team, as well as individual event finalists. As a team, the Nittany Lions fell just two spots short of a championship berth, finishing fourth at the regional competition.
And while the 22-year-old said that she would like nothing more than for her teammates to enjoy the sunny Los Angeles weather with her, she knows that they're rooting for her all the way.
"It's bittersweet," said Musser. "Obviously I'm proud of myself for qualifying but I really want my team to come with me so that's always a downside to it. But they've been coming into the gym and supporting me through my practices and that has meant a lot to me."
This is the third year in a row that Musser will be competing as an individual at the championships, as she earned 12th in the all-around in 2011 and eighth in 2012. But the senior said that as her final opportunities wind down, she's aiming for a much higher finish.
"The goal is to finish in the top three in the all-around," said Musser. "I've just got to go out there and do my best and do what I've been doing all season. You can't control judges and scores so if you know you did your best but you don't get the scores you think you deserve then you've just got to brush that off and let it go."
In order to do so, Musser said that she has to prepare a bit differently than she might for a mid-season meet or any other competition.
"I've been trying to rest my body as best as I can in order to compete," said Musser. "We're at the end of the season so you've done your routines over and over and over, day in and day out, so it's more of a mental game than it is a physical game once you hit nationals. These past two weeks I've just been doing a lot of visualization and just keeping up with the little things."
Musser's all-around competition will begin on with a semifinal on Friday and the top four individuals from that sessions will advance to compete in the finals on Sunday.
But regardless of what kind of scores or medals Musser brings home, she said that it's nice to look back at the last four years and know that she had fun doing what she really loves to do.
"It's wonderful seeing all of my hard work paying off."
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By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State men's lacrosse (9-3, 4-0 CAA) has once again cracked the top-10 rankings, coming in at No. 9 after a 10-8 win over Towson on Saturday.
While freshman TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) paced the Nittany Lions with five goals and junior goalie Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) won the battle of two terrific goaltenders, Saturday was all about the seniors.
Kaut said the team wanted to thank the seniors for all their hard work and leadership with a win on senior day.
"On a day like this, a gorgeous day, senior day, we went out and played hard for our seniors," Kaut said. "They led us the whole way and we came out with a win."
Head coach Jeff Tambroni was proud of the production he got from the seniors. He has preached all season that senior leadership is a key component coming down the stretch, and Sanders agrees with him.
"Every team that wants to do something special in a season needs great senior leadership," Sanders said. "That's what we have so we have to keep working away."
Let's meet the seniors that have contributed to the success and growth of Penn State lacrosse.
Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.)
The redshirt senior has racked up the points during his six years at Penn State and has been one of the most prolific scorers in Penn State history. Forster has tallied 41 points this season to lead the Nittany Lions and has now amassed 132 points in 50 games career games. He is four goals from tying John Hollerbach for 10th all-time with 94 goals and two points from tying Bill Hess for 10th in points with 134.
The wily veteran played a big role in the second half against Towson, scoring an incredible no-look goal in the fourth quarter. He also got his teammates involved with three helpers, all in the third quarter.
Forster extended his point streak to 24, dating back to March 3, 2012 and has 11 career hat tricks. Tambroni lauded Forster's scoring ability, but is even more impressed with his leadership qualities.
"His leadership, poise is about as good as I've been around," Tambroni said. "He never gets rattled. Even in tighter situations he plays with the same poise as if we were up five goals or if it was a summer league game. Our guys feed off that."
Forster has had to persevere through an injury-plagued career at Penn State, but he believes it has made him an even stronger leader.
"It's been a long journey and its sad it's coming to an end with the last home game here," Forster said. "It means a lot and it should be very memorable."
Majoring in business, he still isn't sure what he will do after leaving Penn State, but remains focused on the rest of the season. Forster couldn't pinpoint one special memory, but highlighted the time he spent with his teammates.
"I'm thankful for all the friendships I made through all the years I've been here," Forster said. "I met a lot of good guys and made a lot of great friendship here. Hopefully this game will be my favorite memory."
Travis Crane (Parkville, Md.)
Sharing captaincy duties with Forster, Crane has made a big impact for the Nittany Lions both on the field and in the locker room. Tambroni is proud of the way he and Forster lead the team and presented themselves as players and people.
"As a worker, very few guys are at his level," Tambroni said of Crane. "He comes to practice and comes to weights every day and gives absolutely everything he has."
Crane said he was honored to be named captain and that it was a great way to end his Penn State career.
"Knowing that the players and coaches have a lot of respect and trust in you to lead the team in the right direction, it's an absolute honor to be in this position," Crane said.
A transfer after his sophomore year, Crane has been one of Penn State's most consistent midfielders on the defensive end. Before his last home game, Crane said he was excited for the opportunity to wrap up his career playing in Happy Valley against a Towson school that is only five minutes away from his hometown.
"I'm really looking forward to playing them and a CAA opponent and we want to continue being undefeated in the CAA," Crane said before the win against Towson. "I'm looking forward to playing with all these [seniors] in our last home game."
Crane said that spending time with his teammates was something he will never forget. His favorite memories from his career were wins against two top-10 opponents.
"Beating Notre Dame my junior year was my favorite moment," Crane said. "Then probably this year beating Denver in the Moe's Southwest Classic was a big win as well."
Crane just finished a graduate school program in education leadership and said he will be working in New York City as a corporate stockbroker starting this summer.
Danny Henneghan (Beverly Hills, Mich.)
While not playing the flashiest position on the team, Henneghan has been crucial to Penn State's success during his four years as the main faceoff man. He finds his name in the Penn State record books, ranking sixth all-time in faceoff percentage and is two ground balls away from 10th in Penn State history with 202.
Henneghan said that looking back as a freshman, he never thought his last game would come. He was excited about the senior day festivities, but also knew that the team still has a job to do.
"Now that it's here, it's cool to be here with all these guys, my fellow seniors," Henneghan said. "At the end of the day we want to make sure we're prepared first as a class, and as a whole team. We just want to take care of business on the field."
Henneghan's mindset since he was a freshman has completely changed, and he said he is much more invested as a lacrosse player and a student of Penn State. He said the past four years are something he will always remember.
"It's becoming an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life," Henneghan said. "Where I am now as a senior, it was everything that I hoped it would be. It's something I will be able to cherish and look back on in years to come."
There have been many high points in Henneghan's career, but his favorite has family ties dating back to practicing faceoffs in his backyard with the person who introduced him to lacrosse.
"My freshman year getting to play with my older brother was very special," Henneghan said. "I think having an opportunity to play with him because it is something I was never able to do. Getting to come here and play on a Division I college team was something I will remember for the rest of my life."
Henneghan, a business major, has no set plan for after school, but joked saying, "My goal is to make a lot of money."
Nick Dolik (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.)
After struggling in the beginning of his senior season, Dolik has become an offensive force during Penn State's seven-game winning streak, scoring six goals and dishing out five assists. Tambroni admires the way Dolik never got discouraged and continued to work his way into the offense.
"Instead of going in a different direction and feeling sorry for himself as a senior, he got right back to work and has never looked back," Tambroni said. "I think the correlation between Nick's success and our team's success is very fair."
Dolik kept a business-like attitude heading into his last home game with Penn State. He finished the game with a goal and an assist. Dolik noted that there has been a major transformation in fan support throughout his four years.
"I feel like this year we have our home team fans and it's really exciting," Dolik said. "Everyone comes out and when we get a good day...it's exciting. I think it's growing a lot from my freshman year to now. There are so many more fans so it's fun and it's on the rise."
While it has been a successful season for the senior last hoorah, Dolik said there is still a higher potential that the team can reach. The team is expecting more from one another and Dolik said that relationship with his teammates is something he will always remember.
"Hopefully we have more good experiences coming up," Dolik said. "Just getting to know the guys and becoming that tight group has been awesome. All the little experiences in the locker room and games and whatnot. You remember scoring goals and games, but I'll just remember being with the team and those experiences."
Dolik described his Penn State experience as a growing process and one that he is very fortunate to have had. He wants to finish out the year strong before graduating and moving on to life after lacrosse.
"I'm trying to worry about the season," Dolik said. I'm looking to work out east somewhere. Hopefully I find a job and might work up in New York City maybe in insurance or something like that."
Drew Roper (Columbus, Ohio)
Roper has enjoyed his career at Penn State. Although scoring just two goals, they both came in pivotal games for the Nittany Lions. He scored a game-tying goal in the Nittany Lion's 4-3 overtime win at Notre Dame last season and the eventual winning goal in a 8-3 victory at Towson. This season, Roper has one assist in two games played.
Roper was excited for his last home game and to wind down an eventful Penn State career. He said that through the coaching changes and the 100th year of Penn State lacrosse that he has enjoyed the ride.
"We never thought this moment was going to come, and it won't hit us until after it happens," Roper said. "I'm happy I'm with this group of guys for the last home game together."
Roper played extended minutes on senior day and deservingly so. Roper made a key pass on freshman TJ Sanders' (Orillia, Ont.) fifth goal. He also caused a turnover in the final seconds to seal the win for Penn State, earning praise from his coach.
"There's a guy (Roper) who was on the bench for seven or eight games," Tambroni said, "and he makes a big play there at the end of the game. We were thankful to come away with a win in the last regular season home game."
Roper is proud of the way the team has prepared and displayed hard work throughout the season, and attributes the team's success to Tambroni and the coaching staff.
"Coach came in two and half years ago and we've been working up to this point," Roper said. "We have to attribute it to all the hard work that we've done in the past few years coming from a different coaching staff. It's all paying off this year and hopefully we keep improving."
Roper said that beating Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. was his favorite memory. He is a finance major and still figuring out his plans for after graduation.
Eric Davidheiser (Vashon, Wash.)
The senior midfielder has dressed in 11 games, taking five shots and scooping up two ground balls. Davidheiser said that while others may be taking the last home game as the end, he is looking forward to continuing to be part of the Penn State family and is proud of his teammates.
"Obviously we still have games left this season, but even after this season we will still be part of the Penn State Lacrosse family," Davidheiser said. "We talk about leaving the place better than we found and I think this senior class has done that. This team has fought through adversity and showed what the Penn State way is."
Davidheiser admitted that it is sad that he won't see his teammates every day, but looking back at his experience, he is proud of the way his team always raised to the occasion.
"Each one of us has our own story and our own path that got us here," Davidheiser said. "That has made us so much stronger because we have these outside stories to draw from and think on how we can do things differently. As a whole, this class with the experience that we've had has the opportunity to turn bad experience to good."
Davidheiser, like many of his other teammates, said that he will always remember the upset over No. 2 Notre Dame last season. He said he was proud to see one of his best friends, Drew Roper, score such a big goal in the game.
Davidheiser is an Economics major and is moving west to Seattle, Wash. to take a job as a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual.
Conor Baucum (Chevy Chase, Md.)
Baucum has appeared in five career games for the Nittany Lions, including two this season against Binghamton and Saint Joseph's.
Growing up 30 minutes away from Towson, Baucum said that it was special having the Tigers be the team he ends his home career against. He knows that it is not the end and hopes that the team can keep winning this season.
"It's huge to have this be the celebration of our four years," Baucum said. "Even when I'm gone from here, I know I'll be coming back for games and I'm excited to be part of this family."
Baucum said that the relationships he made throughout his career are something he will remember for the rest of his life. He said that the win at Notre Dame was special to him, but for other reasons than his teammates.
"For me, the Notre Dame win was different," Baucum said. "My best friend was on Notre Dame and that was the only time we ever faced each other since high school. Both of us being goalies, it was special and that was the only time I've ever beaten him."
Baucum is a Communications Arts and Sciences major and hopes to go into advertising after graduation.
David Spadacene (Bethel Park, Pa.)
Spadacene transferred to Penn State after spending two years at Presbyterian College. He has not suited up for Nittany Lions in his two seasons, but is still a major contributor in the locker room.
He said it is a sad experience going into the last game, but will cherish the time he had with his teammates.
"Being in the locker room at 5 a.m. on Friday mornings with the boys," Spadacene recalled as his favorite memory. "That anticipation going into workouts or practice and being with everyone and knowing it's that early in the morning and everyone is working hard is something I will always remember."
Spadacene is a Labor Studies Employment major and still has no plans for after graduation.
John Cugini (Springfield, Pa.)
Another transfer, Cugini spent two years at Denver University before coming to Penn State. Cugini has not seen playing time during his two years at Penn State, but recalled being accepted with open arms by his teammates as his most memorable moment.
"My favorite memory is becoming a member of the team," Cugini. "It was really exciting to finally be able to play with all these guys. Just finally joining the group and being accepted at first was very memorable."
Cugini is proud of what he and the team have accomplished during his brief time at Penn State.
"It's sad, but exciting to know that we made it to this point of senior day because as a freshman you think it so far away," Cugini said. "It's sad, but it's an accomplishment that I made it this far."
Majoring in Biology, Cugini hopes to get his degree and enter a helping profession.
Schmitt is the team manager for the Nittany Lions and is bittersweet about the last home game. Although he will miss being around the team, he feels that the senior class is leaving Penn State a better place than when the class came in.
Schmitt said that the standards of Penn State lacrosse have drastically changed from when he came in as a freshman. He credits the coaching staff for continuing to raise the bar and that the sky is the limit for the program moving forward.
"I think it's amazing to see from a strategic management point of view," Schmitt said. "The goals that this program has set for itself and being able to achieve some of those things and still set higher and lofty goals have been phenomenal."
While playing the last home game last weekend was special, Schmitt will always remember all the fun and success the team had on the road.
"Just being on the road and bonding with the guys," Schmitt said. "Our record on the road is incredible. The time and comradery having meals and being on a set schedule with everyone together, we have had a lot of success. It's attested to the togetherness of the program and how we hold ourselves when we leave campus."
Schmitt will get his degree in Hotel Restaurant Institutional Management. After graduation, he will be working for a fast-casual restaurant group called the Taco Truck in the New York City area. Schmitt will be starting out in a management position of a brand new restaurant and hopes to grow with the young company.
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Two of the 21 names on the Penn State softball roster have lit up just about every box score since the season started.
Both names belong to athletes who are quick on the base-paths, smart at the plate and swing left-handed. They also wear double-digit jersey numbers that just happen to have the same two single-digit numbers in them, 21 and 12, and they both have long blonde hair.
Senior Cassidy Bell and freshman Macy Jones have been getting it done in all facets of the game for the Nittany Lions.
Take a look across the stat sheet for the start of this 2013 season and you'll see that the two are at the top in almost every offensive category. Bell leads the team with a .462 average on 42 hits, 36 RBIs and 16 homeruns. Jones follows next in suit hitting .355 in a team-high 93 at-bats with 22 hits, 20 RBIs and four homeruns.
"They are both competitors," said their head coach Robin Petrini. "They want to win and they'll do anything in their power to make it happen and I think that their teammates expect that out of them at this point."
Over the past three seasons Petrini said that she has watched Bell grow into not only one of the best softball players to come through the Penn State program, but also one of the best in the country.
"Cassidy is just on her game and when she's dialed in there's no stopping her," said Petrini. "I can't blame her for being so passionate. It's her final season and you can tell every day in practice that this year means a lot to her."
As for Jones, the freshman lefty is beginning to make a name for herself not only at the plate but also out of the circle. Jones has become the clear-cut top starter for the Lions in her first year with the team and has already thrown more than 100 innings of collegiate softball. She holds an 8-9 record overall and has hurled seven complete games.
On Wednesday evening, Jones will likely throw one of the Lions' two games against conference rival Purdue at Beard Field. Penn State has played 196.2 innings of softball so far this season and Jones has thrown 101.1 of those.
"I just really like to play," said Jones. "There's not much else to it. I like to think the game out of the circle, remember which hitters I've faced and try to figure out how I can out-pitch them in their next at-bats. That's why they call it a game."
After three weeks of Big Ten play, the Lions have one win against a conference team. However, the freshman said that a back-to-back contest on her team's home field is the perfect opportunity to add a few more to the win column.
"We have to take advantage of playing on our on dirt and we know we're a good team," said Jones. "We'll get there and we'll get the win and when we do, I think that all of the hard work that we've put in will really show."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa- When Penn State gymnast Nihir Kothari was named an All-American at the end of last season, he figured the toughest challenges of his gymnastics career were in the past.
After all, having gone from a walk-on who didn't even make the team as a freshman to one of the best still ring competitors in the country as a junior, there didn't seem to be anything else that could hold him back.
That was until one preseason practice on Oct. 16.
While practicing a rings dismount, Kothari landed awkwardly and felt a sharp pain in his right knee. A trip to the doctors confirmed that the senior had torn his ACL and both his menisci less than three months before his final season was to begin.
"It was definitely a really scary moment," said Kothari. "Initially we hoped it wasn't fully torn but as soon as I got an MRI it was confirmed."
Faced with the prospect of a nine month recovery and with the NCAA Championships only six months away, the Malvern, Pa. native wasted no time feeling sorry for himself.
Within days of his injury he was already researching ACL injuries in order to find any methods that would help him return to the mat before the season was over.
"The firs thing that went through my mind was how fast I could get the surgery scheduled," said Kothari. "I knew every day I waited was taking away from a day I could have to compete at the end of the year."
After having surgery on Nov 8, 2012, Kothari quickly got himself started on a rigorous rehabilitation plan that included numerous different workouts.
"I've done a lot of extra weight lifting as well as stuff like cross training and swimming," said Kothari. "It was a very rewarding opportunity that helped me build up an even stronger mentality."
That mentality and work ethic is what has endeared Kothari so much to the rest of the Nittany Lions.
Seeing him stay so positive in such a frustrating situation has motivated the senior's teammates while helping them keep their own struggles in perspective.
"Seeing him work his butt off just shows how passionate he his and how much he wants to help this team," said senior Tony Beck. "The drive that he has showed [during his injury] has really helped motivate us."
For Kothari, keeping a positive attitude while watching his teammates compete without him throughout an undefeated regular season certainly was not easy.
Knowing that many of the Nittany Lions younger gymnasts already looked up to him gave him the necessary motivation to fight through the frustration.
"Being a senior I knew I had to lead by example and show that this experience wasn't going to faze me," said Kothari. "I knew I had to be an inspiration to the younger guys to show them that if I can do it they can do it, too."
Through his remarkable dedication and workout plan, Kothari managed to get back on the rings on March 16 to perform an exhibition routine on senior night in Rec Hall, just over four months after his surgery took place.
With his rehab continuing to make enormous strides, the former All-American is nearly ready to compete in next week's NCAA Championships, an enormous accomplishment considering the amount of time he was originally expected to miss.
Although Kothari knows that the biggest role he will most likely have at nationals is competing in the preliminary's to give his teammates rest, the thought of helping the team in any capacity is all that's on his mind.
"Having the chance to compete and feel the pride of being a Nittany Lion is all I can ask for at this point," said Kothari. "We're looking to win [a title], so even if I can give someone else the opportunity to make it to the team finals would be so rewarding."
No matter how much Kothari is able to give the Nittany Lions in their quest for a national championship; it is clear that his effect on the program will not be soon forgotten.
"We talk all the time about giving your best but his commitment and dedication just speaks volumes about the type of person he is," said head coach Randy Jepson. "He's top notch and there's no doubt in my mind he's going to be a huge success in life."
By Mike Esse, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich. this past weekend and despite some solid efforts on the mound the Nittany Lions (7-24, 0-9) were unable to pick up their first conference win of the season against Big Ten frontrunner Michigan (20-14,7 -2).
It started on Friday night where both teams were slow offensively as Penn State held 1-0 lead heading into the eighth inning.
In the top of the seventh, Penn State broke the scoreless tie via an Aaron Novak single that scored Luis Montesinos and starting pitcher T.J. Jann delivered seven scoreless innings to put the Nittany Lions in prime position. Jann allowed just two hits with one strikeout before leaving the game after the seventh inning.
However, Michigan, the current co-leader in the Big Ten standings, found a way to get going offensively with a five run offensive explosion in the bottom of the eighth to snatch the victory from the Lions.
Penn State had eight hits in the loss, including three from Montesinos and two from freshman outfielder James Coates.
Senior Steven Hill took the mound in game two against and gave the Lions eight solid innings, but came out on the wrong side of a 3-2 decision. Hill allowed three runs on eight hits while recording four strikeouts.
The Wolverines scored all three of their runs by the end of the third inning and Hill was able to shut down the Wolverines offensively and allowed just two hits over the next five innings.
Penn State scored its first run of game two in the top of the third inning thanks to a Taylor Skerpon double that scored Alex Farkes, after he singled to left field earlier in the frame.
The other Nittany Lion run came in the top of the fourth inning after Michigan starting pitcher Evan Hill walked four Nittany Lions, with a Coates base on balls forcing Novak across the plate.
Both teams went silent after the fourth inning. Michigan's relief pitching shut down the Nittany Lions as James Bourque, Kyle Clark and Jacob Cronenworth combined for three and two-thirds scoreless innings to close out the win for the Wolverines.
Game three featured Greg Welsh and Logan McAnallen on the mound for Penn State and Michigan, respectively, but neither pitcher was able to make it out of the third inning.
Penn State tallied one run on one hit in the first inning to take their second lead of the weekend when J.C. Coban single to center field to score Elliott Searer, who reached on a fielders choice and stole a base in the inning.
Michigan responded immediately with a run of its own via three hits in the bottom of the inning. They added two runs in both the third and fourth innings, before tacking on three more in the seventh to cap the scoring at 8-1.
Penn State churned out seven hits, with Searer collecting two hits and scoring a run, to go along with five walks and one hit-by-pitch. The Nittany Lions also turned three of their four double plays on the weekend in the series finale.
Novak and Montesinos continued their steady contributions from the plate versus Michigan, combining for seven hits on the weekend. Novak had a hit in each game to extend his hitting streak to six games.
Penn State has four games at home this weekend starting with Bucknell on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. before hosting Iowa in a three game series beginning on Friday night at 6:05 p.m.
Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Nittany Lions showcased their offensive firepower in a 14-12 win against conference opponent Ohio State on Sunday at the Penn State Lacrosse Field.
On a day where four Nittany Lions were honored for their impressive careers with the program, the energy on the field was at an all-time high. Penn State had preached 'win for the seniors' all week, and the time had come to do so.
The Nittany Lions (9-4, 3-1) and the Buckeyes (6-7, 1-3) went back and forth for the first 50 minutes with nine ties. It wasn't until Mackenzie Cyr found a cutting Maggie McCormick, who beat Buckeye goalie Tori DeScenza, with just over 10 minutes left that the Nittany Lions took the final lead of the game. It was McCormick's fifth goal of the game and her team leading 33rd on the season.
"They literally just said to me, 'you gotta keep going'. It's going to be a game of runs, and anytime they score you have to match that, you can't let it get too high or get too low you have to match that consistent playing, and we were able to do that," McCormick said.
The Nittany Lions were never fazed when the Buckeyes scored a goal. They never hung their heads or doubted themselves. Instead, they took the mentality of their head coach and kept battling back. Neither team led by more than two goals throughout the game. The Buckeyes had five players score, while the Nittany Lions had six players score, and outshot Ohio State, 30-25.
"I definitely knew that we were going to have composure, and I knew that we were going to win at the end, but these freshmen are coming in and they have the same composure and they did so well. They won the 50-50 balls, and we came out on top and that was awesome," attacker Molly Fernandez said.
The senior scored the first goal for the Nittany Lions just over three minutes into the game. She finished with a pair of goals on the day, and was a vocal leader for Penn State throughout the match.
"It wasn't just a single play, everyone played so well. Everyone had each other's backs and it was just a great win all around," Fernandez said.
Fernandez, a team captain, has played a crucial role through the first 13 games of the season. She has 18 goals on the season, bringing her career total to 91.
Along with Fernandez, Kelly Lechner played a crucial role in the victory. The sophomore midfielder finished with three goals and helped control the pace of the game for the Nittany Lions. The hat trick was the third for Lechner this season.
With the win, the Nittany Lions advanced to 3-1 in conference play, the best start since 2006, and 6-0 at home. Freshman Emi Smith recorded eight saves against the Buckeyes and helped stopped their ALC foe from scoring the final ten minutes of the game.
"The tension was high. We were up by two points, the attack did amazing down there, and I honestly think that because it was so tense down there, that pumped me up ever more and I said okay, 'for the seniors let's do this'," Smith said.
Along with Smith, senior defenders Colleen Shea and Katie Guy played crucial roles in frustrating the Ohio State offense. After allowing 12 goals in the first 50 minutes, the Nittany Lions played lockdown defense and did not allow a goal in the final 10 minutes. Guy had two of the team's 11 caused turnovers, while Shea continued her stellar play limiting Ohio State's best scorer.
The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions play different styles of offense. While Penn State runs an aggressive, fast-paced offense, the Buckeyes run a slowed-down attack. The Nittany Lions' defenders adjusted well in the second half showcasing their speed and youth. Freshman Ally Heavens was assigned to cover Ohio State attacker Jackie Cifarelli the whole afternoon, and just like the coach Missy Doherty hoped, Heavens shut her down. Cifarelli had no goals and just three assists.
"It's tough, but we know that when we play Ohio State it's going be like that. It's going to be a battle," Doherty said. "They work super hard at the loose balls, and they totally beat us on that in the first half, and they're just aggressive, so no matter what lead you have, you don't really feel comfortable until the final whistle."
Throughout the game, the crowd inspired the Nittany Lions to keep battling. During the season, the crowd has been a huge factor the team. With a 6-0 record at home, Penn State has grown to love their fans and today was no different.
"It's awesome [playing at home]. It's been a great experience we had so many fans, senior day, what a great time to win. It was great," Fernandez said.
"I love it. This atmosphere is great, we had an awesome crowd today, a lot of great local teams coming out, and it's just great to see the support for our team," Doherty said.
Prior to the game, Penn State recognized its seniors in front of the home crowd. Fernandez, Guy, Shea and goalkeeper Ayla Halus were introduced with their families by their side. The four fought back tears as their teammates embraced them and thanked them for all they've done this season and throughout their careers.
"We have four seniors and starting off with Ayla [Halus], who's our backup goalie, her effort and her teamwork just epitomizes what our team is all about. She came out from field hockey to be a backup in cage and she just works her butt off every day and if we need her she is able to come in, and I don't know what we would have done without her this year. Then we have Katie [Guy] and Colleen [Shea] who have been a staple down in defense, they had some huge stops today and some great matchups. Then Molly [Fernandez] has always been consistent on offense and a good leader down there," Doherty said.
"It's kind of bittersweet. I'm definitely going to miss it, but we're playing so well, it's definitely going to be memorable. We have a fire under us and were just ready to go for postseason, ready to go for these last couple games," Fernandez said.
The Nittany Lions now prepare for their final home match of the season against Lafayette on Wednesday. The Leopards enter State College after a 15-11 defeat against American University. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at the Penn State Lacrosse Field.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- No. 11 Penn State men's lacrosse (9-3, 4-0 CAA) sent its seniors off in style with a 10-8 victory against Towson on Saturday at the Penn State Lacrosse Field.
The senior day celebrations concluded with Penn State extending its winning streak to seven. The Nittany Lions now sit alone atop the very competitive CAA going into their final two conference games.
Freshman attacker TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) lead the way for the Nittany Lions with five goals, upping his total to 33 on the season. Sanders was dangerous around the crease and also showed off his laser of a shot from range. Head coach Jeff Tambroni said that Sanders was very opportunistic in getting to scoring areas and making plays.
"I thought our guys did a good job of keeping their head up and locating him," Tambroni said. "Against a very good goalie I think he made the most of his chances. We talked a lot this week about making sure we were in a good shooting range to capitalize against this good goalie."
Senior midfielder Nick Dolik (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) celebrated his senior day with a goal and an assist on Sanders first goal just two minutes into the game. Dolik applauded the freshman's poise and preparation every day.
"He tries to improve his game every day even though he has been having success," Dolik said. "It's good to see a freshman like that stepping up. He's really grown up a lot this year."
Sanders hat trick gives him seven on the season. Tambroni said that he "can make bad offense look good" and that he has carried the offense on many occasions. But Sanders credits his teammates for his offensive success.
"I [have to] credit my teammates," Sanders said. "They are the ones who were finding me in those spots. Without them I wouldn't be able to do it."
Senior attacker Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) complemented Sanders with a goal and three assists in his last home game. Forster scored a highlight-reel, no-look goal in the fourth that Sanders had a perfect view of.
"I saw [Forster] back the guy down and I thought he was going to shoot it lefty," Sanders said, "but he spun and ripped it righty and it went under the goalie's arm. He placed it nice even though he wasn't looking."
Forster and Sanders have combined for 49 percent of Penn State's goals this season. Sanders said that he has learned a lot from Forster's experience.
"He has been right there for me from the first day," Sanders said. "He is a veteran, he's been here a while so he definitely helps me out a lot."
While Sanders performance propelled the Nittany Lions offense, the game was all about the seniors. Tamboni said that he is proud of this senior class that has been through a lot with coaching changes, transfers and injuries. He was pleased with the output from everyone in the win against Towson.
"Drew Roper (Columbus, Ohio) makes a play in this game to get TJ the ball to get us to 10 [goals] is symbolic with where these seniors are," Tambroni said. "There's a guy (Roper) who was on the bench for seven or eight games...and he makes a big play there at the end of the game."
Junior goalie Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) said that the seniors set the tone for the game and their leadership was critical in the win. Sanders echoed Kaut and sees senior leadership as a major ingredient for future success.
"Every team that wants to do something special in a season needs great senior leadership," Sanders said. "That's what we have so we have to keep working away."
Dolik said there weren't any added butterflies heading into his last home game. He was happy with the way the team performed to send the seniors off.
"As a senior I'm comfortable playing at our field," Dolik said. "It's crazy that [my senior day] is already here. I couldn't really believe it, but it was a fun one and I'm glad we came out with the win."
The Nittany Lions get back to work this week to prepare for a trip to Delaware to take on the Blue Hens Saturday.
By Sean Flanery, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio - When Penn State senior outfielder Cassidy Bell (Bakersfield, Calif.) dug her cleats in at the plate shortly after 2 p.m. ET for the first at-bat of the game on Saturday afternoon, little did she know that it would be an unforgettable plate appearance.
If this week wasn't already a week to remember for the senior, now it is. The count was two balls and no strikes, when Ohio State pitcher Olivia O'Reilly wound up. As the ball approached home plate, so did Bell's bat. It was a line drive to deep center clearing the wall just above the sign posting '220 feet.' It was homerun number 17 for Bell on the season, surpassing Jennifer Tripken's 16-homeruns in 2002, making her the single-season homerun record holder at Penn State.
"It's feel's good," said Bell. "I was just wanting to get it out of the way. Now, I don't have to worry about it anymore. I mean I tied the other one, but as long as that one is out of the way, I'm good."
However, while this record is out of the way for the senior, there are plenty more on the horizon for the slugger. With the homerun Saturday, Bell also tied Shannon Salsburg for first all-time in career homeruns in the Blue and White with 34. Only one more deep ball would place Bell as the single best homerun threat in Nittany Lion history. However, hitting homeruns isn't something the senior has ever concentrated on when stepping to the plate.
"No, I mean, it's something in the back of my mind kind of, like oh if I hit a homerun right now, but I just go up to the plate and try to get a nice solid hit," said Bell. "I've never tried to hit a homerun, they just happen, so as long as I keep hitting the ball hard and doing what I do I'll get another one."
Homeruns aren't the only thing in Bell's repertoire. The senior knows how to make solid contact and put the ball in play. With the homerun Saturday afternoon, the senior has now reached base safely in 18 consecutive games while extending her current hit streak to seven games. Bell has only failed to register a hit in five contests, 30 for 35, so far this year.
The California-native's performance in past seasons earned her a lot of respect in the Big Ten for her offensive abilities, but her statistics this season have now earned her national recognition. This past Wednesday night, it was announced that the outfielder had performed well enough this season to be named one of the Top-25 Finalist for the 2013 USA Collegiate Softball Player of the Year award.
"It feels great," said Bell. "I didn't even know that was a chance, or anything to look to. I saw the top-50 list and I was like, 'oh okay, cool.' Then I was like, 'oh, maybe top-25,' and then I saw it and was like, 'oh my gosh.' I really wasn't expecting that. There are a lot of great names on that list and I'm honored to be on it."
So far, Bell has let her offensive numbers speak for themselves and she has created an image for herself as one of the most elite players in collegiate softball. However, there are still plenty of games left on the diamond for Bell to separate herself even more in the record books.
"Try to make it better," said Bell when asked how she wanted to end her senior season. "Just keep doing what I'm doing and if a better outcome comes like just keep working hard and keep going at it. I can't wait to see how it ends."
The outfielder's batting average from last season, .423, already ranks first in the record books, and this year's average is even better at .465. Her 37 runs-batted-in this season are only 12 off the single-season record of 49. And the list goes on. There are many records within reach as Bell and the Lions play out these last 14 games. This past week may have very well been the best week of Bell's career, but this entire season will also be one the slugging senior will never forget.
"Well, it feels great," said Bell. "Senior year, everyone wants to go out with a bang and I'm on my way to do that, so I couldn't ask for a better senior year right now."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Penn State's starting linebackers are a unique a blend of youth and experience.
Senior Glenn Carson is the veteran of the group with 24 career starts. Mike Hull is the rising junior who has been in the program and done just about everything for the Nittany Lions on defense and special teams, but start. Nyeem Wartman is the talented redshirt freshman ready to bust onto the scene.
Together, the trio has meshed together during spring drills to become a cohesive unit looking to make plays and anchor the Penn State defense when the season commences on Aug. 31 at MetLife Stadium.
"I think our three linebackers that are in starting spots right now (Glenn Carson, Mike Hull, Nyeem Wartman), I believe that they are very, very good players. They're tough guys, they're smart guys, and they're instinctive players," head coach Bill O'Brien said.
Carson, who made 85 tackles in 2012, took a step forward in the weight room during the offseason. He is ready to become the next force in the middle of the Lion defensive unit. The New Jersey native is a tough, hard-nosed linebacker with the size to be a physical player in the heart of the defense.
Hull proved in 2012 that he can do anything Penn State needs him to do. While he is yet to start a game, the Canonsburg, Pa. native played an integral part in the linebacker rotation and was an ace on special teams last season. He finished sixth on the team in tackles with 58 stops. Always close to the football, Hull's highlight of the 2012 season came in the Navy game when he scooped up a loose ball and raced 74 yards for a touchdown in the 34-7 victory.
Now, given the opportunity to step into the starting lineup, the junior is evolving into one of Penn State's top players on defense.
Carson and Hull are close off the field, and they both complement one another very well on the field.
"We work really well together," Hull said. "Glenn (Carson) and I have played together. We have been in the program for a long time and we feel comfortable as a group."
"Mike and I are really good friends," Carson said. "He is a guy that I really like playing next to. He's a physical guy. He's competitive. He loves to win."
Carson and Hull are bringing Wartman up to speed in his initial action in the Penn State starting rotation. The Philadelphia native has good speed and athleticism at outside linebacker. Through four weeks of spring practice, Wartman has improved every time he has stepped onto the field. Like Hull, Wartman has the tools to be a breakout player for Penn State in the fall.
Collectively, Hull said the group is focused on making plays for the defense.
"We are definitely a lot further ahead than we were last year, mostly because Coach Butler has made it easy for us to learn assignments and keeping the scheme pretty similar," Hull said.
Familiarity with the style of defense defensive coordinator John Butler wants Penn State to play has helped the Lions approach practice this spring with instinctive play.
"You are just out there reacting; you aren't thinking about things," Hull said. "You are focused on making plays instead of worrying about where you are supposed to be."
Behind Carson, Hull and Wartman, the Nittany Lions are working to create depth at linebacker. Carson and Coach O'Brien think that process is moving in the right direction.
"We definitely need to grow a little bit more, depth-wise," Carson said. "But those guys are motivated. They had a great winter, and they have had a good spring of practices. Judging off of that, I think they are going to grow and fill into the roles that they need to."
"I do think that there's some guys behind them that can help us that have improved," O'Brien said. "Gary Wooten has definitely improved over the spring. Ben Kline has been out with a shoulder deal but he's been in non-contact type drills and he'll be back in training camp. We got a freshman coming in, in Brandon Bell that we think can help us, but there's not a lot of guys there. We certainly have to do a good job the rest of the spring and obviously over summer and into training camp of making sure that Carson, Hull and Wartman are as healthy as they possibly can be going into the opener."
The spring season has been a positive one for a collection of linebackers improving each time they step onto the field. With continued work in the film room and on the field, the Nittany Lion linebackers are poised to play a paramount role in the success of the defense in 2013.
"We are playing a lot faster. We are communicating a lot better," Hull said. "Communication is the key if you want to be a great defense."
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Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When watching Scott Rosenthal compete on the still rings, coaches, gymnasts, and fans alike can all note his incredible strength and determination. But what most don't know is growing up in Clearfield, Pa. the senior never had the finest training conditions.
Instead of letting that stop him from fulfilling his goals and reaching his dreams of starting a collegiate career, his family took a new approach that not many gymnasts can relate to.
His father built a set of rings in their garage to allow Rosenthal to get in as much practice time as possible to replace any time lost while commuting to a gym an hour away.
"My parents have always been really supportive," Rosenthal said. "Having the rings in my garage never let me miss a day of training. I originally started in Philipsburg, which is a half hour away from where I lived ...then when I was 12 years old I started getting more serious about gymnastics and went an hour away to Altoona. That's two hours out of their day."
Rosenthal's parents continued to show their dedication and support during the summer months when they would send him off to gymnastics camps to ensure he was training at the highest level possible for his age.
"I wouldn't see them much during the summer because I was at these camps, but they made every effort they could to come down to see me," Rosenthal said. "They have been fully behind me the whole way."
It was at one of these camps when Rosenthal first met head coach Randy Jepson and had the opportunity to talk about competing for the men's gymnastics team at Penn State.
"It was interesting because I was coaching here and my assistant [coach] happened to be at the camp," Jepson said. "He told me that there was this really strong kid who was there and I needed to see him so I got in my car and drove down to the camp."
When Jepson got there, he immediately saw how strong Rosenthal really was and already knew he would be a good fit for Penn State academically as he was valedictorian of his high school class.
"When he was done working out I asked him what his plans were [for college] and he said he would like to go to Penn State if he could." Jepson recalled. "I said 'well I can make that happen and it's done. You can be on our team if you want.'"
Making the transition from club gymnastics to the college level allowed Rosenthal to advance his training to an elite level.
Rather than spending an hour getting to practice and training alone in his garage, he can now train after a short walk across campus with some of the top equipment in the country.
"To go from equipment that was made in the 60's and practicing in my garage to brand new models of equipment was crazy," Rosenthal said. "Everything was so much nicer and more forgiving. To jump into an atmosphere with all of the equipment you could possibly need with some of the best coaches in the nation really just accelerated my training."
Before Rosenthal had time to consider the equipment and other resources available as factors in representing Penn State, he watched as the 2007 Nittany Lions captured a national title inside Rec Hall.
That's when he put carrying on the traditions of men's gymnastics in University Park at the top of his list of goals.
"I grew up an hour away so before I decided to come here, I went to a lot of the home meets," Rosenthal said. "In 2007 the NCAA's were [at Penn State] and I went to all three days of that. It was awesome to be in that atmosphere and watch the team win. That was the defining moment when I decided I wanted to be on Penn State's gymnastic team."
Rosenthal excelled his freshman and sophomore years as he proved to be one of the best still ring competitors out there. Reaching this status started with the strength he built starting in his makeshift garage gym and continued into the White Building training facility.
"His biggest asset is he's the strongest kid you've ever seen and you need that when you're on the rings," Jepson said. "Scott had committed himself to do whatever it was going to take to get to be as good as he could be. By the end of his sophomore year he was one of the best ring performers in the country and knocking on the door to being one of the best in the world."
Unfortunately, at the end of last summer, Rosenthal suffered a shoulder injury that would put him out for at least three months and limited the training he was capable of doing throughout most of the season.
"[An injury] really tough when you're a worker - and Scott is a worker." Jepson said. "He is used to taking turns and making things happen but with his injury he couldn't train. We've bided our time with that and he will hopefully be at his best at the end of this year."
Hoping to recreate that ecstatic environment he witnessed the last time Penn State hosted the NCAA Championships and to reclaim the national title for the first time since 2007, Rosenthal can't wait to be a part of the host team for the 2013 National Championships.
"To be on the team now and on the other side actually competing on the floor is very exciting," Rosenthal said. "It's everything I ever dreamed about as a kid watching from the stands."