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By: Shannon Rostick, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Saturday marked the Big Ten opener for the Penn State women's lacrosse team, as they took the field against Rutgers. The Nittany Lions used a consistent offense and aggressive defense to dominate the Scarlet Knights, securing their first Big Ten victory of the year with a 16-9 win. 

The team started the first half off on a strong foot.  Penn State was scoring a goal almost every two minutes throughout the entire half, giving the girls a significant lead of 11-2 at the break. 

Kelly Daggett, Ally Heavens, Madison Cyr, Madison Carter, Steph Lazo, Jenna Mosketti, and Maggie Gallagher all scored during the half, lending a hand in their early lead and proving that there is widespread talent across the team's offensive end.

Cyr discussed how the connections between teammates had a positive impact on the success of Penn State's offense throughout the game.

"We were all working really well together and communicating, which helped us to pick up on the assisted shots," said Cyr. 

"Throughout the season we just start learning everyone's moves and what they're going to do next. It's the chemistry that the team has been building that has made us so successful," she added.  "We have been working well together and everything is starting to click, which was evident today."

Penn State could not have maintained their lead in the first half if it weren't for the joint work of the defensive end. The team's defense did a great job of forcing Rutgers' attack away from the goal, and keeping them from many scoring opportunities.

"The whole defense came out ready to play. We were really pressuring, which is something we have been really back and forth with all season and we are really working on getting that pressure out on defense," said senior defender, Erika Spilker.

Goalkeeper Emi Smith also talked about the team's defensive effort, and how it helped her to stop so many of the shots taken by Rutgers.

"I think our defense really put a body on the girls and they played aggressively on the cutters. We worked on that in practice and they forced them wide again, which was great, so I was able to get my body in front of a lot of the shots," said Smith.

In the second half, Penn State maintained the lead and continued their success offensively with Carter, Lazo, and Mosketti clinching the first three goals of the half.

Rutgers netted themselves a goal following the Penn State streak in an attempt to bring themselves back in the game, but Daggett followed up with another Penn State goal to bring back their 12-goal lead. 

Following the Daggett goal, Rutgers was able to make a late run and score six of the last seven goals of the game.

Spilker commented on Rutgers moves to shorten their lead, saying that even though PSU came out with a victory, their defense needs to work on keeping up the energy all the way through the end of the game.

Head coach Missy Doherty was overall satisfied with the performance she saw from her team throughout the game. 

"I think our defense stepped up and did well against some of Rutgers' leading scorers. Emi had some really good saves today and I think we kept a really good tempo on offense," said Doherty. 

Doherty and her players are excited to see what the rest of the season brings, as they have many tough competitors ahead and have to stay on their game as they go into the rest of the season with a 1-0 Big Ten record.

"It's going to be competitive, the Big Ten always is. We play Ohio State next weekend, who is always one of our biggest competitors, so we just want to be ready to bring our best," said Doherty.

The Nittany Lions' next contest is away at Ohio State on Saturday, April 9th, where the team will continue Big Ten play.

Patience the Key for Guers to Get Back to His Old Self

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Expectations were sky high for rising senior Greg Guers entering the 2016 season.

With the departure of leading hitter and childhood friend Aaron Novak, there was a role to be filled on the roster. Guers fit that mold seemingly well.

Guers started in every single game of the 2015 season. He was the only player to do so.

He led the team in at-bats (204), doubles (13), homeruns (8), RBIs (38), slugging percentage (.495), and even stolen bases (14). Guers was the epitome of an all-around player.

Coming off a career season, the door was open for Guers to take the reins of a promising, young squad. He had improved his numbers every year at Penn State, so all signs were pointing towards a dazzling senior campaign.

Guers knew it, his coaches knew it, Penn State fans knew it. The only problem was all of Guers' opponents knew it too.

So far in 2016 Guers' numbers have been slightly down, but that may be more of a credit to teams scouting the dangerous cleanup hitter than a knock on Gears himself.

"The word is out on Greg Guers. He's a good player," said head coach Rob Cooper. "I guarantee you if you were to see an opposing team's scouting report on Greg Guers it would say do not let him beat you. That's tough. That's tough when you're getting pitched to so fine."

After watching the damage Guers supplied to opponents last year, teams are pitching around him with soft curveballs, changeups, and sliders on the outside corner this season.

The careful approach to Guers has limited him to a .197 batting average, which ranks ninth highest on the roster. He's tied for sixth in hits (14) and his slugging percentage has dropped from last year to .286.

To flip the switch, Guers may have to adapt to the way teams are pitching him and stay more patient in the box. Instead of looking for fastballs to drive, he could change his approach to focus on staying back and going with the pitch.

"You just have to simplify your approach," Guers said. "Little by little every day you try to figure out something new and go from there. You see how your swings are during the day and reflect after with the coaching staff and see what you got to do differently."

"He's going to be fine. I'm not worried about it," Cooper said. "It was about this time last year when he really started to lock it in and put up unbelievable numbers."

Guers' late season surge last year might have been spurred by a flurry of home games. The friendly confines of Medlar Field aren't playable until nearly 20 games into the season, but Guers plays his best baseball in Happy Valley.

There are already some preliminary signs of that trend a few games into the home slate. In the four games in which Guers logged an at-bat during the home stretch, he recorded four hits, three RBIs, three runs, including a game-winning RBI against West Virginia.

It's no secret Penn State goes as Guers goes, which is mostly evident in home contests. Last year, Guers got hot during the home schedule and led the Nittany Lions to a 13-7 home record. This year, the Blue and White is 6-1 at Medlar Field and Guers is showing signs of life.

Penn State continues its home stretch this weekend with a three game series against conference foe Purdue. The Boilermakers sit in last place in the B1G with a 4-17 (0-3) mark.

Two Nittany Lion Fencers Win NCAA Individual Titles

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Story by Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-- The Penn State fencing team wrapped up its season over the weekend at the NCAA Championships. In total, 10 Nittany Lions qualified for the Championships and the team placed sixth overall. Two fencers, Jessie Radanovich and Andrew Mackiewicz returned to Happy Valley as NCAA champions following a stellar weekend of competition.

Jessie Radanovich
Radanovich, a junior, captured the 2016 NCAA title in epee with a victory over Princeton's Charlene Liu in the final round of the tournament.

"I have so much pride. I am so thankful. I don't know how to explain it," Radanovich said. "It's one of the best feelings I've ever had in my life. I am so thankful that I could represent my school as I did."

Although the collegiate season has come to end, fencing does not stop for Radanovich. In a few weeks, she will travel to Richmond to compete in the Division I Championship. The Division I Championship is an individual competition, not a collegiate-run event. The event counts toward each fencers ranking in the country. Currently, Radanovich is sixth in the nation.

"I'm excited to go because right now I am high up in the rankings for the U.S., so I just want to keep my standing high as we roll into the next year," Radanovich said.

Andrew Mackiewicz
Mackiewicz earned his second consecutive NCAA championship in sabre last weekend. The sophomore is now two-for-two in capturing national titles for Penn State.

"I will be striving for the championship every year. It's always great to win a national title, but winning it back-to-back is something special," Mackiewicz said.

He has qualified for the Senior National Team. This is a semi-professional league that competes against other countries. At 20, Mackiewicz is one of the youngest fencers on the Senior National Team. He said that mid-to-late 20s is a prime age for fencers and that there is a lot to look forward to in the future.

"I still have many things to come for me in terms of making it to the Olympics, the Senior World Championships and staying on top the fencing universe," Mackiewicz said.

Mackiewicz is currently ranked fourth in the nation. He is hopeful that he will be selected as a spotter for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. As a spotter, he will join the top two United States fencers in Rio to help them practice and prepare for their bouts. His goal is to compete in the 2020 Olympics. If chosen as a spotter, he hopes that the experience will help prepare him for the 2020 Olympics.

"It will definitely be a learning experience for me when I'm trying to go to the 2020 Olympics," Mackiewicz said.

Both Radanovich and Mackiewicz are thankful for the experiences that they've had through Penn State Fencing. They said the team is like one big family and Mackiewicz said he is proud to represent Penn State.

"Penn State Fencing has been known for always being a respected team. We've always had amazing talent," Mackiewicz said. "For me, it's a great honor to be a part of team that has so much talent within it. Being able to give back to the team is also a great experience for me."

Spring Football: Defensive Line Embracing Opportunity to Grow

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That is the word Penn State defensive line coach Sean Spencer used to describe his group of players as the Nittany Lions work towards the 2016 season.

It will be a new-look group of "Wild Dogs", as Spencer affectionately calls his position group, when the season commences on Sept. 3. With change comes great opportunity for a young, talented corps of players making up the rotation of the Nittany Lion defensive line.

Gone are three of the defense's most productive players from 2015. All-American Carl Nassib, the nation's leader for tackles by a defensive tackle in Austin Johnson and two-time All-Big Ten honoree Anthony Zettel will be playing in the NFL come September.

The trio accounted for nearly half of the team's tackles for loss (45.5 of 106.0) and more than half of the sack total (26.0 of 46.0) last fall. Additionally, the group commanded the position room and set the tone for how the defensive line needed to work each time it stepped onto the field.

The mindset for 2016 has not changed, though, and the group's tenacious attitude has skipped a beat. The unit just has some new faces leading the tightly-knit pack.

"The atmosphere in the room is different because we don't have those three guys anymore," said junior Garrett Sickels. "They set the standard. Now, it's on me, Evan (Schwan), Curtis (Cothran), Parker (Cothren) and Antoine (White) to really set the standard. I think the camaraderie we have as a unit is something that stands out. The older guys are very close. And we've really taken the young guys and brought them along. We are a really close unit."

The rapport each member of the group has with one another is something that stands out when you see it go to work on the practice field. The defensive linemen genuinely enjoy going to battle alongside one another each time they step up to the line.

"There isn't really one person in the group who has had a lot more playing time than another," said redshirt sophomore Antoine White. "We are all similar age. We are all on the same page. We know what the standards are. We know what Coach Spencer expects from us. And I think our communication has been great this spring. The chemistry stands out."

That type of chemistry often lends itself to production on the field. While the group of defensive linemen for 2016 may be relatively new in the eyes of the fans, it is an experienced unit that is anticipating an expanded role.

"It's funny because a lot of people were saying the same thing about the defensive line a couple years ago," said Sickels. "It's the same thing this year. We have guys who have played a lot, but in a little different role. We have Torrence (Brown). We have Curtis (Cothran). We have Antoine (White). Now, these guys are in a bigger role and really contribute. Now, it comes down to developing the young guys for depth."

Sickels has the most game experience of the bunch, having played in 25 of the last 26 games and starting 12 contests at end last season. He made 35 tackles, tallied 5.0 tackles for loss and made 3.0 sacks as a true sophomore in 2015. The New Jersey product worked on his first step and got a step quicker during the winter conditioning period.

"I've never been a big vocal guy. I've always been the type of guy who works on all of the little things and tries to lead by example," said Sickels. "I feel like we have a good group of guys who really set the pace for practice and show the others how to perform at practice every day."

Alongside Sickels, Evan Schwan is a face to watch in 2016 as a leader of the unit. The lone senior in the group has appeared in 30 career games, and he is ready to embrace an opportunity to be an impact player. The list goes on with Torrence Brown on the cusp of breaking out after making 5.5 tackles for loss in limited snaps last fall.

The combination of juniors Parker Cothren and Curtis Cothran, along with White, will make up the leaders at the tackle positions. White, who lost 13 pounds of fat and gained 12 pounds of muscle over the winter, tried to be a sponge during his time working with Johnson and Zettel, but now, he's ready to take another step forward.

"I think the biggest things I learned from those guys were patience and how to evaluate film," said White. "They spent a lot of time looking at film so that they could let the game come to them and not try to do too much out of their element. They played with such confidence. And that's something they left behind the rest of us in the room."

Cothren is primed to be a focal point at the heart of the defense with his blend of size and speed. His fellow defensive linemen appreciate how much the 6-4, 302-pound tackle can do for the rest of the defense.

"Parker is a guy who doesn't say much, but when he gets on the field, he comes of the ball ready to strike," said Sickels. "He gets a lot of push. He's going to play a big role on this defense and help everyone out around him. He will make our defense a lot stronger."

The defensive line is reaping the benefits of the swift practice pace being set forth by the offense. The unit enjoys the challenge, and it knows the remainder of spring practice is a time to get better.

"The offense is playing at a much different pace, and I think that is challenging the defense and our tempo," said White. "That's really helping us grow as a unit."

The sky is the limit for the Nittany Lion defensive line. The unit has a great deal of growth in front of it, and the Lions are hungry to improve.

"It's definitely a time when you see things a lot differently in an increased role," said White. "It's something a lot of us are really enjoying. I'm learning from the guys around me. The guys around me are learning a lot, as well. I just feel like we are in a great room right now."

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


By: Shannon Rostick, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- There is endless talent on the Penn State women's lacrosse team.  With a winning record of 8-2, it is clear that the girls are doing something right. Senior goalkeeper Emi Smith knows that her team showcases incredible talent and leadership, and it's all across the board, not with just one or two players. 

One may think that the upperclassmen are the true leaders of the team, seeing as they have more experience than the younger players, but Smith says that just is not the case.

"We don't really have specific leaders. It's not just if you're a senior then you are a leader," Smith said.  "I think every single player contributes to the leadership we have on the team."

She also said that she does not see the underclassmen as younger players, but that she sees all of the players on the team on an equal level.

"I don't see them as younger girls, I see them as my teammates. I play with them every day in practice and I know that they can push it on the field during the game and they want to be out there," said Smith.

The younger members on the team have really been proving themselves on the field lately. Freshman Madison Carter has garnered a number of honors already this season and has 24 goals on the year. Sophomore Katie O'Donnell has also been an asset to the team, earning herself a hat trick in Wednesday's game against Drexel, bringing her total up to 23 goals this season.

Smith praised the younger players down on defense and said that she tries to positively reinforce her teammates to help them succeed.

"I think that me responding positively toward them on the field pumps them up and gives them confidence," she said.  

Smith said that she doesn't focus on the age of the girls helping her to defend the goal. She tries to focus more on tracking the ball, instead of worrying exactly who is on the field at any given time.

She also talked about the defense as a whole and the help they gave her during the Drexel game, a 14-5 PSU win. After an off week, the practice the team put toward their defense showed, and Smith praised her teammates' ability to fend off Drexel's attempts on goal.

"Our defense forced them wide and I had a lot of off-angle shots. I love off-angle shots just because they are easier to save," said Smith.

Smith mentioned that her teammates pushed her to do her best in the game, by inspiring her with the work they put in during the game. 

"They all did a great job," she said.  "I was in the mindset that my teammates forced them wide for me so I'm going to save the shots for them."  

The offensive end of the field has also been proving themselves lately, especially fellow senior Jenna Mosketti. Mosketti was a huge contributing factor in Wednesday's game, doing a great job of winning the draw and adding herself to the list of four players to get hat tricks against Drexel.

When asked about Mosketti's offensive game, Smith had only positive things to say, even when she talked about her ability to get the ball past her in the cage. 

"I love seeing Jenna play. Every time I see her at the draw I just know she's going to get it," said Smith.  "Her shot is amazing too. In practice she turns it a certain way that makes the ball go a totally different way than I could even predict, making it right by me."

Smith has a lot love and respect for her teammates, and that's evident in the positive way she speaks about the group. 

Team unity and communication has certainly been one of the many reasons Penn State has seen so much success this season, and when it's seen coming from the upperclassmen of the group it does even more for the team.

The Nittany Lions will take the field once again at home on Saturday, April 2 at 1:00 p.m. against Rutgers.

Haley Extends Hitting Streak as Lions Sweep Mid-Week Games

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11830347.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Jim Haley stole the show in the mid-week games by extending his hitting streak to nine games while lifting Penn State baseball to wins on back-to-back nights. Haley drove in two tallies in both games with an RBI double against Youngstown State and an RBI triple against Binghamton.

Penn State vs. Youngstown State (6-1):
Haley had the first big play of the night hitting a double into left field in the bottom of the third. Runners Nick Riotto and Conlin Hughes touched home plate receiving the first two tallies of the game.

The Diamond Lions continued putting numbers on the board as Greg Guers got on base with a bunt single, later stealing second. Tyler Kendall's RBI single allowed Haley to get the third tally, and Jordan Bowersox's ground double gave Guers in the fourth.

Guers continued the scoring streak with a homerun to right center in the bottom of the fifth, extending the Nittany Lions' lead to 5-0.

Starting pitcher Eli Nabholz kept the Penguins scoreless until the top of the fifth. Youngstown State gained a tally after a bloop single by Billy Salem, with teammate Lorenzo Arcuri touching the plate.

Nabholz allowed only two hits and had three strikeouts, receiving his first win of the year.

"I felt good. Once you get going even if it's a little chilly, little windy, break a little sweat, and your body heats up; you're fine," said Nabholz about pitching in cooler conditions.

When asked if there has been any pitching adjustments over the past couple of games, Nabholz said that there has.

"Early on in the season I felt that I was struggling a bit," Nabholz said. "Working with our coaching staff and trying to attack hitters. It seems to be working a bit and try to keep going with that." 

Dakota Forsyth came in as the relief pitcher at the top of the sixth, and remained until the end. This also became his first save of the year.

The Nittany Lions gained their final tallies with Guers hitting an RBI triple, after Haley got on base with a walk, making the final score 6-1 Penn State.

Penn State vs. Binghamton (5-2):
In the second game of the mid-week, Nick Riotto kicked things off with an RBI walk after being hit by a pitch. He continued to add two more tallies to the scoreboard with an RBI reached on fielder's choice in the bottom of the fourth (2-1), and an RBI single into right field in the sixth (5-1). Both runs were scored by Bowersox.

Haley was again a power hitter with two RBIs off of a triple into right center, driving in the third and fourth tally by Christian Helsel and Riotto.

"Just an approach to the plate, putting my foot down early, hands back, and just see the pitch. I think that's working for me right now and I feel really good at the plate," said Haley about his nine game hitting streak.

So far that approach is to aim for right-center or middle to right-center field. Haley said that if a ball runs in, he'll pull to the left. When it comes to his comfortable hitting spot in the field, he has no preference.

"This is my third year here, I've batted in every spot," Haley said.

"I'm proud of our kids for coming to the park and putting forth a good effort for another," said head Coach Rob Cooper about the night's win. "I'm also proud of our kids cause if you look at where we were three week ago, for us to be an even table and be 12-12 right now, it says something about the progress these guys are making."

When asked about Haley's winning streak, Cooper said to 'knock on wood' in the hopes for it to continue.

"Jimmy has always been a guy that has number-one unbelievable confidence at the plate. He loves to compete and then he also a really, really smart effect of an approach," Cooper said. "He goes up there with a plan, doesn't deviate from that plan. Unless the pitcher makes him do it."

Cooper continued saying that Haley trusts his approaches and abilities to help get those power hits.

The Nittany Lions finished the game beating the Bearcats, 5-2. The winning pitcher was Nick Hedge after tossing five and a third innings with allowing just one earned run.

The next series will take place this weekend at Medlar Field at Lubarno Park against Purdue, making this the second conference series of the season. The first game will be Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Nationals in Sight as Nittany Lions Head to Regionals

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11830301.jpegBy Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions are one step away from their goal of the season: make it to Nationals.

The team will travel to Ann Arbor on Saturday to compete in the NCAA Regional in an effort to secure a top-two spot and a spot in the NCAA Championships field.

"Every year at this meet, all 36 teams know they have to finish first or second, otherwise their season is over," Penn State head coach Jeff Thompson said. "So, you could have the greatest season ever and set all kind of school records, and if you're not first or second, your team is going to be crying at the end because they didn't go to nationals."

For its designated region, Penn State is a No. 5 seed entering the meet. Ahead of the team are No. 1 Auburn, No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Stanford and No. 4 Eastern Michigan. Auburn is ranked sixth in the country, Michigan is ranked seventh and Stanford is 18th.

"This is going to be a tough task for us as a No. 5 seed," Thompson said. "But, we are probably the scariest five seed in the whole country considering what we have done in the last weeks of the season."

If the Nittany Lions do not secure a first or second placement as a team, some of the gymnasts may still advance to Nationals to represent Penn State individually. The top two all-arounders of the tournament that are not on either of the top two teams advance to Nationals, along with individuals who win an event.

Some Nittany Lions to watch for are Nicole Medvitz and Briannah Tsang.

Medvitz had a stellar year on the balance beam, never recording a score lower than a 9.800 since the third meet of the season. Medvitz shined in her routine at the Big Five Qualifier posting a near-perfect score of a 9.975.

"There might be somebody who is perfect, but probably not," said Thompson. "Nicole came close to perfect at the Big Five. She got one perfect score, but not from the other judge. But they don't have to be perfect to be good, have fun or enjoy what they are doing."

Tsang is a threat as both an all-arounder and on the vault. Tsang has posted an all-around score of 39.300 or higher five times this season and shared the all-around title in the team's meet against Nebraska. On the vault, Tsang won the event for the first three meets of the year and hit her season-best score of 9.900 against Southern Connecticut, Temple, West Chester and West Virginia.

The No. 5 ranked Nittany Lions head into Regionals with excited nerves and the goal of qualifying to the National Tournament.

"The biggest thing I'm looking forward to is to see these girls continue to mature," Thompson said. "We look like we are peaking at the right time. What does that look like? That's what I want to see. That's exciting."

The Nittany Lions will compete at 6 p.m. on Saturday.


By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With only a few days until the Nittany Lions travel to Columbus, Ohio to compete in the Big Ten championships, Penn State is getting ready to try and make program history as back-to-back Big Ten champions.


Since winning the title last year, the men's team dreams of bringing home back-to-back championships and are staying strong and focused to complete their goal.


For his first time competing in the Big Ten, freshman Michael Burns is preparing himself for a whole new experience.


"To prepare we're doing a lot of work on routines and staying healthy," said Burns. "I'm expecting us to go out there and do our job, we're not going to do better than what we have been doing in practice but I think if we do as well we'll get the job done."


"We know the importance of ironing out the little details in practice so that's what we're focusing on right now," continued Burns.


Burns, just like senior Trevor Howard, is actually returning to their native state of Ohio.


"It'll be pretty bittersweet having my last time step on the map for Penn State be in my hometown, " said Howard.


Howard, who is one of the leaders on the team, came up huge for the Blue and White last year with his performance.  He helped Penn State score a 436.700, edging out Illinois (436.100) and Michigan (434.750) to claim first place.


This year, Howard is aiming to three-peat on the still rings. If he accomplishes this, he will be the second Penn Stater in the program to complete this task.


"I always train my hardest," said Howard. "I want to make sure I can come in clutch for my team and it motivates me to perform at my best level."


"This is my last time competing and I've learned a lot on the way to getting here, I think we have a good mindset heading into this competition," said Howard.


Veterans Benjamin Cooperman (sophomore) and Dominic Difulvio (junior) also enter the competition with experience.


"Last year we showed that if we fight until the end, anything can happen and I think that first place trophy will really motivate us to complete our goals," said Cooperman.


"There's nothing like competing in that championship environment since It's so different than the regular season," continued Cooperman. "The pressure is higher but I think that brings out some of our best work as a team."


Upperclassman Difulvio also enters the weekend with high hopes of bringing back the gold to Happy Valley.


"It's a pretty crazy contest in the past so I'm expecting nothing less," said Difulvio. "I'm prepared to keep our team hyped throughout the contest cause we've learned that when you want to have fun-that's when you compete your best and that's what will help us win the best."


"Coach always tells us we need to do our jobs, nothing more and nothing less and that's how we'll be victorious," continued Difulvio.


The Big Ten championship will start on April 1 and continue on until April 2. Starting time is 7:00 p.m. ET.

Spring Football Position Breakdown - Defensive Line

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Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions held their seventh practice of the spring season on Wednesday afternoon. Throughout spring practice, GoPSUsports.com will break down each position on the depth chart. Today, we focus on the defensive line.

The Defensive Line

Players Returning-Newcomers/Lost:

Who's Back:
Torrence Brown (Jr./So.), Ryan Buchholz (So./Fr.), Kam Carter (So./Fr.), Colin Castagna (So./So.), Curtis Cothran (Sr./Jr.), Parker Cothren (Sr./Jr.), Kevin Givens (So./Fr.), Shareef Miller (So./Fr.), Ryan Monk (So./Fr.), Evan Schwan (Sr./Sr.), Garrett Sickels (Sr./Jr.), Antoine White (Jr./So.), Robert Windsor (So./Fr.)

The Breakdown:
11828537.jpegThe Penn State defensive line will have big shoes to fill in 2016. Replacing the production of Austin Johnson, Carl Nassib and Anthony Zettel is no small task. The trio of future NFL prospects accounted for 45.5 of Penn State's 106 tackles for loss and 26 of the team's 46 sacks in 2015.

But coach Sean Spencer and a young group of talented Nittany Lions are up for the challenge and are already laying the groundwork for a productive 2016 season along the d-line.

Beginning on the outside, senior Evan Schwan, junior Garrett Sickels and sophomore Torrence Brown return as the most experienced defensive ends. Schwan is the lone senior on the defensive line and will be looked upon as a leader of the group in 2016. The Harrisburg product has appeared in 30 career games. In an increased role, Schwan made 21 tackles last season for the Nittany Lions and is primed for a much bigger impact in 2016.

Sickels played the best football of his Nittany Lion career at the end position opposite Nassib last season. The New Jersey native was quietly one of the more productive players on the Penn State defense last fall. A starter in 12 games, Sickels made 35 tackles, tallied 5.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks, in addition to recovering two fumbles and forcing one fumble. In total, he has appeared in 25 of Penn State's last 26 games and will bring a great deal of leadership and productivity to the defensive line again in 2016.

One of 17 redshirt freshmen to play in 2015, Brown is on the cusp of becoming a breakout player for the Nittany Lions. Brown tallied 11 total tackles, including 5.5 hits for a loss and 1.5 sacks in his first season on the game field for the Lion defense. Hailing from Alabama, Brown's productivity will likely increase as he spends more time on the field for the Lions at defensive end.

A trio of young players will add depth to the defensive end position in 2016. Sophomore Colin Castagna and freshmen Ryan Buchholz and Shareef Miller all made big strides during the winter and are primed to be key figures in the defensive end rotation in the fall.

Shifting to the interior of the defensive line, there is great opportunity for a host of young players to emerge as the primary playmakers at defensive tackle. With Johnson and Zettel graduated and prepping for the NFL Draft, the door is open for leaders to emerge this spring.

Redshirt junior Parker Cothren, redshirt junior Curtis Cothran, who is shifting inside from defensive end and redshirt sophomore Antoine White return as the most experienced players. At 6-4, 302 pounds, Cothren is poised to be at the heart of the Nittany Lion d-line. Appearing in all 26 games during the past two seasons, Cothren has made 24 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and one sack in his time on the field. The junior is ready to take on a much bigger role for the Lion defense in 2016.

Cothran has found a home at defensive tackle after spending his first two seasons on campus at defensive end. He made a career-high 16 tackles and appeared in all 13 games last season. White played in 10 games as a redshirt freshman in 2015, tallying 12 stops, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack in the first action of his career. Both Cothran and White will be counted on for leadership and production when the Lions take the field in September.

One of the bright spots during spring practice thus far has been the emergence of redshirt freshmen Kevin Givens, Ryan Monk and Robert Windsor. All three players made significant gains in the weight room. Keep an eye out for the trio of young talent as the Lions continue to evolve at the interior of the defensive line.

Pound for pound, the defensive line unit is likely the strongest on the team. Castagna led the squad in winter testing on the bench with a max out of 465 pounds. Givens (410) and Monk also benched more than 400 pounds. Castangna was second in the power clean at 365 pounds, while Windsor power cleaned 360. Givens set a team-high with a 635-pound squat, while White finished at 600 pounds.

The Nittany Lion defensive line practices with great intensity every single day. That comes from Coach Spencer, who sets the bar high when it comes to effort and attitude. The young, yet talented corps of D-lineman is eager to learn. The group has high expectations for the 2016 season, but the defensive line knows it has work to do.

Quoting Coach Spencer:
"I think Garrett (Sickels) and Evan (Schwan) are the leaders of this group because they've played a lot of football. And quietly coming on is Torrence (Brown). Those three guys are doing a very nice job. I would say collectively, these guys are eager and ready. They are eager. They want to be great. But there is a price to pay to be great. We aren't there yet. It's a process to put in the work ethic to be like the guys who were before them. It's just a process, and these guys are eager."

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Lions Primed for Big Ten Play

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's lacrosse team (6-3) has completed the non-conference matchups on its schedule, but many more challenges lie ahead as the team prepares for its first Big Ten matchup of the season. The Nittany Lions travel to Ohio State (5-5) this weekend to face the Buckeyes on Sunday.

Coming off a superb win against No. 1 Denver, the Nittany Lions returned to practice Wednesday afternoon with renewed enthusiasm for the second half of the season.

"Today was our first practice this week and the energy was really upbeat," said senior midfielder Tommy O'Neill. "The coaches gave us a couple days off and that let us recharge and refocus and now we're just looking forward to Ohio State."

With the team's attention toward Ohio State, the upset is still not off their minds. As motivational as it is, head coach Jeff Tambroni pointed out that the team needs to use that confidence gained from last week's win and continue to carry it into conference play.

Tambroni will be looking toward his players this weekend to keep the focus that was so essential for their win against teams like Harvard and Denver.

"I think the word perspective is extremely important," said Tambroni. "I think it has little to do with what our coaches say and I think it has more to do with how our leaders respond and who our opponent is. The combination of those two things creates a quick landing back on the ground and I think it's going to require a great deal of focus but it also provides a great deal of focus."

Tambroni is expecting the veterans of the team to set the tone for the rest of the week in practice as well as the tone of the game Saturday. He noted how upperclassmen leading by example is sometimes much more effective than anything a coach can say to a player.

Starting conference play, Tambroni explained how it's a clean slate for all teams and an opportunity for the Nittany Lions to come out strong.

As the Nittany Lions gain momentum into this weekend, Penn State is prepared to face its first Big Ten foe of the season, Ohio State. The Lions fell to the Buckeyes last season 10-8 and are looking to even the score.

Consistency on defense will be essential for the Nittany Lions, as the Buckeyes have a threatening midfield and offensive unit.

Sophomore goaltender Will Schreiner has observed how the Nittany Lions defense has developed this season and explained how they will have to be on their toes this weekend.

"Over the past couples weeks everyone's been stepping up," said Schreiner. "Definitely in the defensive end everyone has stepped up, even freshman Chris Sabia. I think communication has definitely increased over the past two or three weeks, definitely last week we communicated extremely well. We've also been switching it up really well."

Defense will be the key for the Nittany Lions heading into the second half of the season, but with players across all grades stepping up to challenge opponents Schreiner is confident the defense is ready for whatever Big Ten opponents throw at them.

Looking ahead to the rest of conference play, the Nittany Lions will host Maryland (6-2), Johns Hopkins (5-5), and Michigan (3-5) all within the next month, while also traveling to Rutgers (7-2) April 22.

The Nittany Lions host Maryland and Johns Hopkins, the reigning Big Ten Champions, in back-to-back weekends. Not having to travel for two weekends in a row is something small that Tambroni hopes will help his team, even if it just means a little extra motivation of playing in front of a home crowd. 

The Nittany Lions will also appear on television for all remaining games this season. This weekend's game will be aired on ESPNU, with remaining games broadcasted on Big Ten Network.

Successfully wrapping up their non-conference schedule with an upset over the No. 1 team in the country, the Nittany Lions now look ahead to the most challenging part of the season: conference play. Each team in the Big Ten brings something unique to the table and the Nittany Lions are looking forward to testing their skills and bringing home some victories.

Penn State faces off at Ohio State this Saturday at noon. The game will be aired on ESPNU.