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Guers' Double Sparks Nittany Lions Win Over Villanova

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9913558.jpegBy Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Even on a tough night at the plate, Greg Guers couldn't help but feel he was due for a hit.

It was the eighth inning of the Penn State baseball team's contest against Villanova, and the junior was 0-3 on the evening. Still, he found himself in a situation every batter dreams of; tie game, bases loaded, two outs.

"I was trying to get a pitch I could handle," Guers said. "We do a lot of mental game preparation, with confidence and staying with things. Even though I was 0-3, I thought, 'I'm in the biggest spot of the game right now I've got to contribute to the team.'"

After fouling off pitch after pitch, Guers finally saw a ball he liked on a 1-2 count and drove a shot to the right center gap for a double that cleared the bases and gave the Lions an eventual 5-2 win and their third victory in the past four games.

On a night in which Penn State's pitchers shined throughout, Guers gave the offense a much needed boost as the Lions threatened multiple times earlier in the game but stranded 10 runners on base.

In a way, it was fitting that Guers delivered the winning hit. Dating back to last season, the Langhorne, Pennsylvania native, has been counted on as a lynchpin in the lineup, hitting third or fourth last year and currently batting second.

While Cooper has always felt Guers is one of the most talented hitters the Nittany Lions have, he believes the designated hitter and outfielder has turned a corner since last season by improving his mental approach.

"Unbelievable, and what's really awesome about it is last year at this time he wouldn't have been able to do that," Cooper said. "He'll be the first one to tell you, he's really made a choice mentally to battle and fight and compete. I had just gotten done writing down, 'that's an unbelievable at-bat,' and he smokes a ball. Big time at-bat."

It was the second-straight game that Nittany Lions broke out offensively towards the end of the game, as they used a two huge innings in the seventh and eighth to beat Indiana 13-7 on Sunday. This time around, James Coates walked, Ryan Richter poked a single up the middle and Alex Malinsky blooped a fly ball that the right fielder couldn't catch to set up Guers at-bat.

According to Guers, the Lions were calm entering their half of the eight, yet still determined to get a run across after watching pitchers Geoff Boylston and Jack Anderson battle all night.


"We had a lot of situations to score guys today and we didn't do that but I think everyone has confidence in whoever comes to the plate in that situation," Guers said. "I was just lucky to be that guy. The dugout's fine and the dugout's pumped up for anyone in that situation.

"They've been pitching well the past week or two, so today it was great to get them a win again. We're confident in them and they're confident in us."

The Nittany Lions pitchers certainly have been on form since the team returned home last Wednesday against Canisius. Similar to that game, it was Boylston who held down the fort, even if things weren't as smooth this time.

A week after he struck out a career high eight batters in an 11-1 win over the Golden Griffins, the senior put down just three batters against the Wildcats. Regardless, he battled for 5 1/3 innings and gave up just two runs, one of them unearned.

From there, Anderson entered and looked dominant, giving up just one hit in 2 2/3 scoreless innings before freshman Sal Biasi picked up the save in the ninth.

"When you have those two guys, they're great pitchers," Boylston said of Anderson and Biasi. "Jack you see time and time again gets it done. I never had a doubt in my mind and Sal's a great arm too. There's never worry when those guys are in."

It may not have been the prettiest win, but it was a win regardless. The Lions are now 3-1 since retuning home, and Cooper said he is impressed with the fight his team has shown recently.

"We could have played better defense, could have pitched better could have hit better," Cooper said. "But to their credit, they made the choice and battled back into it and fought." 

Nittany Lions Ready to Race One Last Time in Iowa City

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10609906.jpegBy Meghan Miceli, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the 2014-'15 season drawing to a close, six Nittany Lions have the opportunity to race one last time.  After a quick turn around from the Big Ten Championships, Penn State is headed back to Iowa City for the Men's NCAA Championships.

Coming off a seventh place finish at Big Tens, the Nittany Lions have spent the past three weeks preparing for this meet and making the appropriate changes to their training. The main focus for NCAAs will be strong morning swims in order to score in finals.

"We are focusing on getting a second swims in our races," said senior Nate Savoy.  "We know we have to swim really fast in the morning in order to do that."

The NCAA competition is the most selective meet in college swimming.  In order to participate, swimmers must reach or surpass a specific time standard. At the beginning of the season, time standards are released for each event, which are referred to as "A" and "B" cuts. In order to receive an automatic invite to the meet, a swimmer must achieve an "A" cut.  Once conference meets are finished, swimmers with "B" times are then invited based on their ranking in an event.  Typically the top 37-40 swimmers in each event receive a bid for NCAAs.

Two swimmers who qualified individually for Penn State are senior Nate Savoy, and junior Shane Ryan.  Both Savoy and Ryan have qualified for NCAAs in years past, and have led the Nittany Lions in points this season.

Savoy will be competing in the 100 and 200 backstroke, which he placed second in at the Big Ten Championships.  Savoy is also the current record holder for the Nittany Lions in the 200 backstroke.

Ryan qualified in the 50 and 100 freestyles, as well as the 100 backstroke.  At Big Tens Ryan took home a bronze in the 50 freestyle and a gold medal in the 100 backstroke.  He also had the eighth fastest time in the 100 freestyle.

The four other Nittany Lions to compete at NCAAs are: senior Kyle Madley, junior Matt Grillo and sophomores Bob Bantley and Andrew Schuehler.  The trio will participate in Penn State's relays alongside Savoy and Ryan.

Last year Penn State had its best finish in over a decade, finishing 17th place.  The Nittany Lions were within 10 points of their finish at the 2001 NCAA Championships, which was their strongest in history.

This year the Nittany Lions look to improve upon that finish, and are focusing on scoring big in relays.

"We have a good chance to score in our relays which will be huge points for the team," said Savoy.

Relays rack up the most points for teams.  A first place finish in a relay is worth almost double the points as a first place individual event.  Strong relay performances can make a huge difference on a team's total score as well where they finish in the meet.

Currently, the Nittany Lions are seeded in the top 20 for the 200 and 400 medley relays and the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.

Live results for the meet can be found online at hawkeyesports.com throughout the duration of the meet.

VIDEO: Spring Practice Sights and Sounds

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Competition has been the name of the game for the Nittany Lions as they work through week two of spring practice. Head coach James Franklin noted during his pre-spring press conference that with it being year two for the team in the coaching staff's system, he expects a competitive atmosphere every time the team sets foot on the field. With three practices complete, including one in full pads, the Nittany Lions are living by the program's No. 1 core value - compete in everything you do.

"We're making an emphasis on our four core values, which you have heard over and over again," Franklin said. "Last year there was some memorizing the positive attitude, great work ethic, compete in everything you do, willing to sacrifice, but we weren't really living them. I want to make sure that we're living the core values, not just reciting them, [and] thinking what they mean to you and the program. That's been an emphasis for us."

During the next three weeks, we will take you inside practice with sights and sounds from spring ball. Today, defensive coordinator Bob Shoop gives the fans a taste of what it's like to work through a drill on the practice field with the Nittany Lions.

Penn State will practice in full pads on Wednesday afternoon and again on Saturday morning.




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

Nittany Lions Clicking at Right Time

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By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After opening the season losing their first six matches, the scale has tipped in the Nittany Lions' favor.

No. 8 Penn State (10-9, 4-0 EIVA) enters this weekend's conference home slate against Princeton and NJIT riding a six-match winning streak. Simply put, the team is clicking at the right time.

"The season is nothing more than an evolution of improvement," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "If you can get everyone improving at a good rate...you're always going to be getting a little bit better."

Exceptional leadership and elevated play from the veteran players is an integral part of the Nittany Lions being able to turn the corner this season. Aaron Russell's torrid pace, along with Taylor Hammond's setting and Connor Curry's passing has jumpstarted play. Plus, Matt Seifert is not only back to full strength, he's also back to making an impact on the floor.

Taking a look at the stat sheets tells all for Pavlik's experienced student-athletes. Russell, who was named EIVA Offensive Player of the Week, is second in the nation with 4.72 kills per set. Hammond is tallying an average of 10.84 assists per set. Curry is leading with 2.49 digs per set.

"We're at a very good point now," Pavlik said. "Right now I think Connor is passing the best he's passed all of his career. The same could be said about Taylor's setting and decision-making. It feeds the team confidence and guys can't wait to get back out on the floor."

It's not just the seasoned players that are helping take the 2015 Nittany Lions to new heights. The underclassmen are making a name for themselves, as well.

One of those underclassmen is redshirt freshman Jalen Penrose. After tallying a career-high 19 kills versus Ohio State last Saturday, the outside hitter was tabbed Co-National Freshman of the Week.

"It's a really good feeling to know that I've been put in with the starters," Penrose said. "I've been practicing with the starters here and there. The coaches have felt comfortable with me there, and I think the guys around me have felt comfortable with me there. They've just been embracing me and vice versa. It's a really nice feeling to know that whatever unit we put out there, we give it our best and just go hard."

Despite the fact that Penrose is still adjusting to the speed of the collegiate game, Pavlik notes that the athletic redshirt freshman is starting to discover himself on the court.

"I think Jalen...has to learn how he can take his gifts and maximize them on the court," Pavlik said. "He's figuring it out...the learning curve very rarely is constantly positive...but he's also going to shine. 19 kills is nothing to sneeze at in a five-game match."

As the Blue and White stay hot, the focus is slightly beginning to turn to the postseason, a word that brings one thing to mind for the annually favored Nittany Lions.

"We'd prefer to be undefeated as much as possible. I'm sure any team wants that," Penrose said. "It's really important to win these conference matches too because it sets us up to have home advantage, one, and two, it puts us in a better position in the long run for when it comes time for playoffs."

Pavlik echoed the words of his young, dynamic player.

"I would love to have the conference championship here to where our guys can stay in their routine and play in their gym in front of their fans," Pavlik said.

In order to obtain homecourt advantage in the playoffs, Penn State must take care of EIVA foes this weekend at the South Gym at Rec Hall. Princeton on Friday at 7 p.m. NJIT on Saturday at 4 p.m.

Lions on the Diamond: Biasi Impressing Early On

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10891093.jpegBy Matt Allibone, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On a pitching staff loaded with young arms, it hasn't taken long for reliever Sal Biasi to stand out for the Penn State baseball team.

The freshman reliever has appeared seven times in the Nittany Lion's first 18 games, putting up a 2.51 ERA and registering 15 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings so far in his first season of college ball.

On Sunday against No. 21 Indiana, the right-hander gave the best performance of his young career, striking out six batters and giving up just one hit while throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings in a 5-4 extra inning loss to the Hoosiers.

While Penn State came up short, Biasi's ability to throw multiple innings (he entered in the eighth and finished off the 11th) helped the Lions save their bullpen for the second game of a double header, a thrilling 13-7 victory.

"Our first game Sunday, because of how well [the staff] pitched, we were able to keep our bullpen intact," head coach Rob Cooper said. "I think [Sal] understands the college game a little bit and understanding he doesn't have to change. We recruited him for a reason. Understanding that he doesn't have to change how he goes about things it's just continuing to get better at it. He's not afraid to go after guys and compete."

The Big Ten Freshman of the Week, Biasi said that the biggest adjustment he had make when coming to college was learning how to pitch. A star pitcher and batter at Hazleton High School in Barre, Pennsylvania, Biasi got by mostly on talent until he started working with Penn State pitching coach Brian Anderson.

So far, Anderson has stressed to Biasi the importance of placement, as well as knowing what situations work best for specific pitches.

"Learning more about pitching and location and throwing different pitches," Biasi said. "How to get guys off balance and what they're looking for in counts and how to attack them."

Although he's always been familiar with Penn State having grown up less than two hours away, Biasi said what enticed him the most about the Nittany Lions was being able to play for Cooper and having the chance to make an impact right away.

A natural competitor, the freshman relishes getting the ball in big spots, and he's glad he's on a team not afraid to put him on the mound in those situations.

"I love being a competitor and going out and facing the best guys," Biasi said. "I wanted to have an opportunity to pitch right away, so I came here and got after it as much as I could."

Coffey, Mosketti Excel in Nittany Lions' Comeback Victory

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10931321.jpeg
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Looking at the scoreboard after the first half, the Penn State women's lacrosse team knew it had another 30 minutes of play to make a difference. The No. 15 Lions trailed No. 9 Stanford, 9-6.

The game, however, was far from over. The Blue and White (7-3) came back out onto the field ready to fight and outscored the Cardinal (4-1) by six goals in the frame. The Nittany Lions took the match by a final score of 17-15.

"Stanford is really, really good," head coach Missy Doherty said. "I think they're probably the best team we've played this month. To come up with this, I think the girls really needed it, and it was a great way to kind of end this really hard stretch that we've had."

Between halves, Doherty stressed to the team that it needed to take better care of the ball. The game was well within reach. The clears just needed to be a little cleaner.

The results of the chat were undeniable. The team cleared all eight attempts following the first 30 minutes, a vast improvement that may have also been created by a change in goalie.

Junior Emi Smith replaced freshman McKenna Coyle in the cage for the final 17:59.

"We were just trying to find that spark there," Doherty said. "McKenna played well. Emi also played well, but it's just kind of looking to see if someone could give more. McKenna did a good job, and then we just put Emi in to see if she could give us a little more."

With a tighter defense in the second half, the Nittany Lion offense went to work.

Midfielder Tatum Coffey scored three goals and notched an assist. Jenna Mosketti and freshman Katie O'Donnell tallied another three goals each.

All three lead the way for Penn State, helping the team secure the comeback.

"They were great," said Doherty. "They came up big. Katie O'Donnell came up big there in the end with a couple big goals for us. But, they're competitors, Tatum and Jenna, always playing hard. Jenna gives her last limb to make a play, and you can see that on the field from the effort that she gives. And then right when we needed a little step up, Tatum provided that punch. It was really a good game overall for everybody, I think."

With everyone working together, the key to the team's success was simple, communication.

Over the course of the past week, the Nittany Lions have worked on talking to one another, motivating each other and preparing for plays that are bound to happen. It was important to start being a step ahead of the opponent.

"We went into this game, and our motto was 'Fired up feels good,'" said Coffey. "So, we just got everyone pumped up and we had so much energy today. It was unstoppable."

With 2:41 remaining in the game, Mosketti scored the tying goal. Merely 20 seconds later, the Blue and White secured the team's first lead of the game.

The final goal came with just 58 seconds left, and Penn State's fate was secured. The Nittany Lions emerged victorious.

"We've had some tough losses, so this was just a really huge win," said Mosketti. "We fought through the whole game. It was really exciting."

By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The last three months brought out some of the very best of the Penn State track and field squad, proving that Nittany Lion fans have a unique opportunity that most people do not: the ability to see student-athletes grow and improve day after day reaching the limits of the potential and then surpassing them motivated by the pride of the dear old white and blue.

Here's a look back on what the Nittany Lions accomplished this season.

"The First Meet!"

Although the indoor season began with a friendly intrasquad match where student-athletes were able to dust off, the Penn State Relay was the first meet of the year to bring in other competing schools to the Ashenfelter Indoor Track.

The meet, which is expected to be full of 'first-meet jitters', was far from disappointing.

In his first meet, senior Darrell Hill broke the school record in the shot put with a 66-2.5 throw - a foreshadowing, maybe.

The quartet of Jordan Makins, Ryan Brennan, Brannon Kidder, and Robby Creese set the meet record in the 4x800-meter relay with a time of 7.22.10.

Megan Osborne, one-fourth of the 4x400-meter relay women, won the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.69.

'We Are...Pitbulls'

The second home meet of the year, the Nittany Lion Challenge, was significantly more competitive than the first as it brought to Happy Valley top-level schools like the University of Miami and Georgetown.

Coach Randy Bungard described the Nittany Lions as pitbulls ready to attack the competition with no intentions other than winning and pushing their opponents to their absolute limits.

And that they did as Penn State pulled through winning ten events and setting two meet records.

The consistent Darrell Hill was dominant in the shot put once again with a meet record 64-5.25 throw and in the women's shot put, junior Rachel Fatherly took home the win with a meet record throw of 51-7.

The field athletes were motivated during this meet as Steve Waithe (52-1) and Brian Leap (51-9.75) both posted winning and personal best marks in the triple jump, respectively.

"My Favorite Meet of the Year"

The most anticipated, most thrilling meet of the year, the Penn State National, was up next for Penn State.

Junior Dannielle Gibson described this meet best: "All I can say is PRs, PRs, PRs!" she said.

Gibson won the triple jump event with a mark of 40-7.75 and Brian Leap took home the win for the men with a top-six NCAA and personal best leap of 52-3.75.

All the women shot putters posted personal best throws and were highlighted by the outstanding Rachel Fatherly who threw a personal best, top-three at Penn State and top-15 in the nation, 67-5.25.

To be the best, you must beat the best. So, Darrell Hill showed up once again bested his school record with a toss of 67-3.  

To keep the ball rolling, the athletes on the track didn't disappoint.

Brannon Kidder posted a top-three time in the nation of 1:47.86 in the 800-meter run and both the men and women of 4x400-meter relays took home first place with times of 3:15.83 and 3:40.43, respectively.

Senior Day

The nostalgia of graduation set in around the beginning of February at the Sykes and Sabock Challenge Cup where 17 student-athletes were recognized for their commitment to the Penn State program for the last four years.

However, senior Robby Creese didn't let the emotions get in the way of his performance as he ran an exhilarating 3:57.86 mile. The fourth best time in the country and the best ran time in the NCAA earned him the Big Ten's Men's Athlete of the week honors the following week.

The consistency of the 2014-2015 upperclassmen is so note-worthy. Head coach John Gondak describes it as "a sign of maturity".

It's Time for a Business Trip

Up next on the schedule for Penn State was their first away meet of the season where three groups of student-athletes traveled to three cities - Fayetteville, Arkansas; Seattle, Washington; and Geneva, Ohio.

In Seattle, Robby Creese ran a phenomenal 3,000-meters in 7:50.36, which broke the Penn State school record by almost four seconds.

Also, on the track, Brannon Kidder posted a sub-4 minute mile, a personal best time of 3:57.13, the No. 2 time in Penn State history.

In Arkansas, the personal records were flying everywhere.

Ahmenah Richardson moved up to fourth-best at Penn State in the high jump with a height of 5-9.75.

Megan Osborne has a personal best 200-meter time of 24.30 and the women of the 4x400-meter relay ran a season-best 3:34.90.

Rachel Fatherly, again, with a personal best indoor shot put throw of 52-2.75 and more from the field, Dannielle Gibson with a triple jump best of 41-1.50.

"What Time Is it?...It's Championship time!"

When you set the bar as high as Penn State does, it can be easy to overlook foundations and accomplishments that are on par with some of the best in the nation.

There were countless personal best performances at the championships proving that they are resilient and committed to improving leaving nothing but their all every time they step out to compete.

Darrell Hill's consistency is arguably one of the most motivating assets this team has. Several Nittany Lions mention his performance as a representation of the standards they set for themselves - believe in yourself and always work for better.

Rachel Fatherly's control and focus were so entertaining this year. She is aware of the things that help her succeed - an advantage not all athletes may have.

Brian Leap posted a personal best triple jump 52-6.75 during the Big Ten Championship. At a time where competition and stakes are as high as the conference championships, a personal best record is remarkable.

Tori Gerlach who has been quietly and diligently working all year, earned her shining moment on the podium with a first-place 5k finish joining the likes of Robby Creese and Brannon Kidder who took first and second respectively in the men's one-mile.

NCAA Championships

The officially close the season eleven student-athletes earned a trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas to compete in the National Championship.

On the men's side, the distance medley relay of Brannon Kidder, Alex Shisler, Za'Von Watkins and Robby Creese ran to a second-place finish with the No. 3 time in school history (9:32.21).

Also, Brannon Kidder (one-mile run; 4:04.48), Robby Creese (3,000-meter run; 8:06.53), Darrell Hill (shot put), and Brian Leap (triple jump) represented Penn State and finished collectively as the top Big Ten team at the championship.

Both Darrell Hill (64-8) and Brian Leap (51-4.50) made the trip to the indoor national championship for the first time in their career and recorded solid performances.

The Penn State women were represented by All-Americans 4x400-meter relay of Megan Osborne, Dynasty McGee, Tichina Rhodes and Kiah Seymour. The 4x4 finished eighth with a season-best time of 3:34.57.

Rachel Fatherly tallied a pair of top-16 finishes in her first trip to an NCAA Championship meet. Fatherly placed 11th in the shot put (52-10) and 16th in the weight throw (63-1.25).

Of the eleven competitors, nine earned first team All-America honors, an incredible accomplishment and well-earned honors.

***

These are the things that make Penn State track and field so incredibly entertaining to watch. They never give up. And the very best part of it all is that it's not over yet.

Onto the outdoor season!

Casey Bailey: The First Nittany Lion to Sign an NHL Contract

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Penn State men's ice hockey team suited up for its first Division I game in 2012, Casey Bailey was preparing for his first collegiate game. Nevertheless, a lack of experience wouldn't stop the forward from succeeding, and in the second period, the then-freshman scored the first goal in the program's NCAA history.

That day, Bailey etched his name into the Nittany Lions' history book. The forward, however, wasn't finished making history, as he became the program's first player to sign a National Hockey League contract this weekend.

Casey Bailey is now a Toronto Maple Leaf.

"It's an honor," Bailey said of joining the NHL. "I kind of had that in the back of my head coming to this school that that might be a possibility. It's always been a dream of mine to make the NHL, and now that it's all coming to life, it's pretty surreal. It hasn't really hit me yet. I'm excited to get out there."

Bailey is coming off his most successful season with the Nittany Lions. He notched a team-leading 22 goals and 40 points, went plus-11, was a Hobey Baker Award Candidate and was named to the All-Big Ten First team.

His skill had not gone unnoticed by numerous NHL teams and scouts throughout the year. But, when it came time to make a final decision on which team he would sign with, the forward knew Toronto would provide him with the best opportunities.

Now, Bailey is ready to take his play to the next level with one of hockey's oldest organizations.

"I saw an opportunity there to start my NHL career," he said regarding Toronto. "I had a nice chat with Brendan Shanahan, and I liked what he was saying about what they have coming in the future and what he saw in me as a player and it's similarities to how I see myself as a player. So, going from there, it's an Original Six. It's Toronto. It's awesome. I'm so honored and excited for the opportunity."

Even with Bailey's success at Penn State, he knows he will need to step up and put in a new level of dedication and effort to his training. He's hungry for this experience.

"Wherever they put me, wherever they can need me, I'm there to learn," Bailey said. "I'm there to learn. It's going to be a great group of guys. It's going to be a huge learning experience for me to see what I need to do this summer to prepare. So, wherever they need me, they put me, I'll be grateful."

Choosing to sign with the Maple Leafs means the forward will forgo his senior year at Penn State. The decision was bitter sweet as it means he will not have one final year to play as a Nittany Lion.

Bailey will miss the weekend games in Pegula, the students and the support. However, most of all, he will miss his the team, the guys who were willing to join a program that was slated to consistently lose.

Together, he and his teammates defied the odds and have already created a solid foundation for Penn State hockey. They've built a program.

"I have a great bond with, you know I had a class of ten plus guys with me, and just those guys and the seniors leaving this year and even the sophomores that have come in," said Bailey. "Just the guys and Pegula and the fan base and just the student body. I bleed Blue and White, and I plan to come back and finish my degree at some point. I'll definitely probably miss the guys the most."

Bailey leaves the program as the all-time leader in goals with 45, as well as in points with 80. He has left his mark on this program, loving every minute of the time he represented Penn State on the ice.

"It's incredible," he said of the university. "I mean the support the school and everybody has behind the hockey program, it's just going to keep rising. I hope I can stay a part of it in some way, and I hope that I left a good impression on everybody."

Russell, Penrose lead way in win over Ohio State

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10925764.jpegBy Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior outside hitter Aaron Russell notched a double-double (30 kills, 14 digs) and redshirt freshman Jalen Penrose added 19 kills as No. 10 Penn State (10-9, 4-0 EIVA) extended its winning streak to six matches after topping Big Ten foe No. 11 Ohio State (15-6, 7-3 MIVA) in five sets (22-25, 25-22, 25-20, 22-25, 15-9) this past Saturday night at Rec Hall.

Back on Feb. 11, the Nittany Lions lost in straight sets on the road against the Buckeyes, but thanks to Penrose's strong start and Russell's impressive finish, the Blue and White prevailed.

"We have all EIVA matches coming up, and we're feeling good," Russell said. "We definitely want to host the EIVA Tournament and go back to another Final Four."

This was a match that head coach Mark Pavlik expected between two very physical teams, noting that whoever controlled the net, won the serve and passed well would come out on top.

"When you see the guy next to you working hard and making plays...it's pretty easy to get excited and keep things flowing," Russell said.

Setter Taylor Hammond passed extremely well, tallying a season-high 61 assists. Plus, libero Connor Curry dug 12 balls to keep the Nittany Lions balanced defensively.

"It always feels good to unload on a ball," Russell said. "Credit goes to Taylor [Hammond] for putting it in the right place."

Twelve of Penrose's 19 kills came in the first two sets, while 21 of Russell's 30 kills took place in the final three frames.

"I've just been connecting well with Taylor and that [starting] unit," Penrose said. "They've been embracing me, and I've been embracing them. It's a core work."


According to the veteran Russell, Penrose has really grown and developed into a serious asset for the team.

"It's always fun to see him fly to a ball and unload on it, too...He's a big, physical guy and it's a lot of fun playing with him," Russell said about Penrose. "You can tell that he brings a lot of energy to our team."

After dropping a close set one, the Blue and White battled back to regain the lead by winning sets two and three. The Buckeyes took control and were victorious in set four, presenting a final frame to determine the outcome.

"I think the way we came out of set four is what really set us up for five," Pavlik said.

The Nittany Lions trailed in set four, 19-13, when four straight powerful serves from redshirt sophomore Andrew Roberts tilted momentum. Penn State would eventually lose the set, but carried stellar play into the final game.

"[Roberts] started the whole attitude for game five with that serving run and turning some points," Pavlik said. "Next thing you know, instead of being down by seven or eight, we're now in a three, four point game.... Andrew comes in and serves the ball well...and got us right back on track."

Penn State would side out a perfect 9-for-9 in the fifth set to win a highly competitive non-conference match.

"In order for us to turn points we need to play some defense," Russell said. "With only six blocks we have to come up with points somewhere else.... We were able to just read around our block and see the hitters pretty well."

The Nittany Lions will look to extend their winning streak and conference unbeaten streak this upcoming weekend when they host Princeton on Friday and NJIT on Saturday in the South Gym at Rec Hall.  

Nittany Lions Shock No. 21 Indiana With Late-Game Rally

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10925017.jpegBy Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Entering Sunday's doubleheader against Indiana, the members of the Penn State baseball team were as anxious to get on the field as they'd been in a long time.

Not just because their scheduled games on Friday and Saturday had been postponed because of snow. A year after being swept by the Hoosiers at home by scores of 10-0, 8-1 and 9-2, the Nittany Lions were determined to prove they could compete with the Big Ten's elite.

They knew they still wouldn't be expected to win. They knew Indiana was the No. 21 team in the country and arguably the best team in the conference.

None of that mattered to them. After battling Indiana for 12 innings in a 5-4 loss, the Nittany Lions used back-to-back thrilling innings in the seventh and eight to come back from down seven and beat the Hoosiers 13-7 in the afternoon's second game.

"I think last year at this time, our guys didn't think they were at the same level," head coach Rob Cooper said. "I think today, our guys feel like they're at the same level. I think that's the difference. They still have a lot of guys who've been to Omaha (the College World Series) so that's a good club."

After a draining first game, things started off rough for the Lions in the second contest. The Hoosiers scored twice in the first inning and tacked on five more runs to take a 7-0 lead in the fourth.

Still, the Lions never checked out of the game mentally. They scored once in the fourth and again in the sixth to cut the lead to 7-2 and set up the ensuing madness of the next two innings.

As if a switch had been flipped, the seventh inning started and the Lions couldn't make an out. Five batters would reach base on two hits and three errors as Penn State scored four runs to cut the lead to 7-6.

That was just the beginning of the excitement however. In the eighth, the Blue and White would load the bases on singles by Taylor Skerpon and Greg Guers and an intentional walk to Aaron Novak before sophomore shortstop Jim Haley cleared them with a blast to the left field fence for a triple despite having an 0-2 count against him.

"My mindset? Hit a ball like I did," Haley said with a smile. "I wasn't trying to do too much I was just trying to push a run across and he left a fastball over the pate and I took advantage of it."

By the time the dust had cleared, the Lions were entering the ninth inning with a six run lead. On an afternoon in which the Lions' bullpen was terrific in both games, Tom Mullin tossed his third scoreless inning to finish off the game and give Penn State their third win in four games.

Asked what he believed the turning point off the game was, Cooper said it was when the Lions answered a four-run Indiana fourth inning with a run of their own. While, it only made the score 7-1, the second year coach said it proved his club was still invested in winning.

"Man if I knew where that switch was I'd flip it a lot earlier," Cooper said. "It was 7-1 and our guys understood, we have to keep playing and they did. The game of baseball, man, it's a crazy game.

Penn State's first conference win of the year was played right after the first game, in which the Lions came up just short despite a terrific overall game from their pitching staff.


Starter Nick Hedge weathered a storm during a second inning in which two of the four runs he allowed were unearned, and still managed to go a total of 5 2/3 innings without giving up any more damage. Then, junior Jack Anderson and freshman Sal Biasi combined to throw 5 1/3 scoreless innings to keep the score knotted into extra innings.

Although the Hoosiers ended up tacking on a run in the 12th off of Nick Distastio, it was a very encouraging performance from a young pitching staff. In particular, Biaisi looked dominant in his seventh career appearance, striking out six batters (including five in a row) in 3 1/3 innings of work.

"Unbelievable," Cooper said. "Our guys in the first game pitched their tails off and gave us a chance to win. But if they don't pitch like that, we have no chance to win the second game because we blow our bullpen."

Now in his second year at Penn State, Cooper had already gotten the players to by into his program, but he was still looking for a signature win before Sunday. With the Lions beating a ranked opponent for the first time since April of 2012 however, he knows that his team is improving.

"I rank today up there, if not at the top because of their choice to compete," Cooper said. "I said after the first game, I said, 'guys, that's the first time since I've been here that I felt like you guys felt you were as good as anybody.' I could feel it. So that's why it ranks up."