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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For his fifth year in the program, Penn State's men soccer veteran Kyle MacDonald sets a positive example both on the field and in the classroom.


MacDonald is a true representative of what "success with honor" means in Penn State Athletics. He's a quiet leader on the team while also majoring in architectural engineering in the Schreyer's Honor College.


"Kyle's role is an amazing model for every freshman that comes into this program. Between his work ethic in the classroom and his dedication on the field, he's a guy you point to and say 'that's how you do it if you're a Penn State player,'" said head coach Bob Warming. "He's a great representative of Schreyer's, and a great example of the athletics program here at Penn State."


Although he's extremely dedicated to his academics and the team, MacDonald tributes his teaching staff and coaches for helping him succeed in both.


"It's tough to keep the balance but I have a great coaching staff and faculty to achieve my goals both academically and on the field," said MacDonald. "It's a lot of forward thinking and time management on my end. I like to be proactive and have a plan going into each week to make sure I can get everything done."


After Penn State, MacDonald either wants to pursue a soccer career or start his professional career as an architect.


"After school I'll try and play soccer as long as possible whether it's as a career or recreational, however my end goal is to become an architect and design sports facilities," said MacDonald.


Having a clear vision for the future, MacDonald reminisces about how he grew up playing soccer and also grew up a fan of Penn State. Since he was three, he's always had a family connection to the sport.


"I grew up with the sport, I have three older sisters who played soccer and with my dad coaching the teams I grew up on the sideline kicking the ball around watching them play," explained MacDonald.


"One of my sisters, Jillian, went to Penn State about eight or nine years ago and we kind of developed into a Penn State family after the fact so it's great being able to play soccer at Penn State with growing up a fan."


Known for always being able to set up a scoring shot for his teammates, MacDonald also tributes this forwarding thinking strategy of always thinking ahead when he's on the field.


"The coaching staff always preaches that we need to be thinking two or three plays ahead, so I think that same mind set translates both in academics and when I'm playing," said MacDonald.


For the last two seasons, MacDonald has scored his only career goals during each Mack Brady games which honors the late Mack Brady. Mack was the son of Christian Brady, who is the Dean of the Schreyer Honor College.


The Mack Brady Game is a special game for Penn State Athletics since it not only is a remembrance of a young boy's life but also helps raise money for the fund named in his honor.


"It's an important game for the entire Penn State and Centre County soccer community. Me personally being a Schreyer scholar, I take a special dedication to the game because Brady is a member of this soccer community," said MacDonald.


Not only is Sunday's match in honor of Mack Brady, but it also is the first Big Ten match for the regular season.


"We have a bunch of returning players who have experience in Big Ten play and some who this will be their first match. We have a talented team this year and I'm excited to see how the game unfolds," said MacDonald.


MacDonald will help lead the charge as the Blue and White take the field against Indiana for the third annual Mack Brady Game. The match is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 13.

2015 Gameday Live - Penn State vs. Buffalo

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live, interactive coverage of the 2015 Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions open the 2015 home season with a clash against Buffalo inside Beaver Stadium. Follow along for live updates from gameday.

Live Blog 2015 Gameday Live - Penn State vs. Buffalo

2015 Photo Blog - Penn State vs. Buffalo

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live coverage of the 2015 Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions open the 2015 home season with a clash against Buffalo inside Beaver Stadium. Follow along for photos from gameday.


By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After losing so many experienced players, the next era of Nittany Lions are stepping up to continue the program's winning ways. Stephanie Hussey is doing that, whether she wants to admit it or not. 


Hussey has always been one of the younger players since her youth playing on various teams in Florida.  Her high school, Ronal Reagan High School, did not even have a field hockey program.  She had to find other ways to hone her skills.


Between eating empanadas, watching basketball and soccer and sailing, Hussey played for many travel field hockey teams, including the Surf Miami Field Hockey Club and the Miami Field Hockey Flamingos.


Current assistant coach Stuart Smith coached Hussey on one of her teams in Florida.  Even more ironically, coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss led the U-19 team Hussey played on, a team she suited up for when she was only seventeen years old. 


The National team Hussey played for traveled to her home country, Argentina, where many family members and friends were able to see her play.   


"Playing for the U-19 Team was a dream come true," said Hussey.


After her decorated pre-college career, Hussey decided to take the next step and play her college field hockey at Syracuse University, but after two years she decided she wouldn't continue her career wearing Orange. 


"There's a fit for everyone and sometimes it just doesn't fit for you...when it feels right, it feels right," said the senior.


Coach Morett-Curtiss didn't even have to recruit the talented forward/midfielder to her program.  Because of the former relationships with the head coach and Stuart Smith, it was an easy call for Hussey to move to Happy Valley.


'"I knew the people I needed to work with," said Hussey.


It certainly was the right decision.  She has enjoyed a Big Ten tournament championship and has been a goal scoring machine, notching two already this early in the campaign. 


Hussey has always been one of the younger players on all her stops on different teams because of her talent even saying this is one of the weird times she is actually one of the oldest on a team.


With her age and experience, it would only be natural that she would be a captain on a team that starts four freshmen. 


Before the games, she always has something to say to the team to get them ready for play.


"I'll say before the game after we finish pregame warmups and stretching and grab our sticks with about 13 minutes left before the game, that's when I get [the team] together and tell them to just focus on their skills," said Hussey who needs to set an example for all the younger players on the team.


"I think she and Haley [Kerstetter] do an equal job [leading], I'd like to see Hussey play with a little more confidence because she has high quality skills, but I think sometimes she overthinks the game.  You just want to just go out and enjoy the game, because she does have that passion and is doing an incredible job," said coach Morett-Curtiss.

The media certainly has a lot to do with the team's motivation this year.


"One of the things I told the team before the UVA game was there's a ton of articles [about] what we used to be, but there's not a ton of articles about us now.  They're all about the players we lost so we need to make them write articles about who we are now," Hussey said after Thursday's practice.


Hussey will be trying to join former teammate Amanda Dinunzio in a quest to play for the U.S. National Team, and there is one x-factor that could help her not only lead this year's Penn State team but land her on the U.S. Team - her ankle bracelet.


"I wear a little bracelet on my right ankle since I was four years old; I haven't missed a game without it," said Hussey.


Maybe it will be the ankle bracelet that leads the Blue and White to the promised land this season. 


Nittany Lions' Top Recruiting Classes Proving Their Worth

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11308736.jpegBy Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In head coach Erica Walsh's first eight seasons at Penn State, the Blue and White has reached the NCAA Tournament each year and secured the Big Ten regular season title in all but one.

With Walsh at the helm, the Nittany Lions are in the conversation to win it all every single year.

It's one thing to build a solid foundation of players and make a run at a championship every so often, but few have had the consistent success Walsh has displayed during her tenure at PSU. The single most important factor in maintaining a powerhouse year in and year out is recruiting, and Walsh has proven she's among the best in the business.

Of course, she has some help. Assistant coach Tim Wassell, who deals primarily with the goalies, heads the strong recruiting team. This will mark his sixth season with the Nittany Lions.

"Tim is as good as I've ever seen," Walsh said. "He's played a huge role in the success of our recruiting. Since he joined our staff you've seen the improvement in our recruiting classes. I will give him 100% credit for what he's done in that area."

"You can't get better coaches than our staff," said freshman Kaleigh Riehl. "That was a big factor in choosing to come here. When I came, the girls were very welcoming and obviously I had watched them play many times and it was just a great team and a great environment."

In such a competitive day and age in college soccer, it's absolutely imperative to snag top recruits each and every year. One weak class can hinder a program, so offseason work is becoming more and more vital to success during the season.

In each of the previous two years, Walsh and associate head coach Ann Cook and Wassell have reeled in the No. 2-ranked recruiting class in the country, according to TopDrawerSoccer. This year's class boasts nine talented and fearless players pulled from all over the globe.

"I think the personality of our current players is what sells this place," said Walsh. "We're able to pull kids from all over the country and all over the world. We're competing against the best schools right now, so we can't take any days off."

Another key factor in college recruitment is whether or not a recruit's game translates to the college game. Number 2-ranked classes don't mean anything until the players lace up their boots and prove what they can do on the field. Part of this transition depends on how well the coaches and upperclassmen prepare younger players for a faster and more physical game, and part of it is finding players who fit the Penn State mold.

"With all things being equal, the character piece is the number one component that we value and emphasize in our recruiting," Walsh said. "We believe that Penn State is the best place in the country to play college soccer and we have consistently shown that we are able to attract the top players from around the world due to the environment and experience that we are able to offer our student-athletes. When you spend five minutes with our current student-athletes it is easy to see the quality of character that they represent  and we look forward to sustaining this standard of excellence."

Last year's class entered Happy Valley with a bang. Frannie Crouse led the team in goals (10) en route to her earning second-team All-Big Ten honors as a freshman, while Megan Shafer tallied an impressive 17 points and six goals. Emily Ogle, who has started in every game of her young career, was awarded Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2014.

The highly touted 2015 class has already shown its No. 2 ranking is not a fluke either. Freshmen Ellie Jean and Kaleigh Riehl have started in every game so far in 2015. Riehl's 468 minutes played is the highest mark on the roster. She's been on the field for all but two minutes this season.

Five Penn State freshmen have played in every contest so far: Jean, Riehl, Charlotte Williams, Marissa Sheva, and Alina Ortega-Jurado from Wetzlar, Germany. The young group has totaled four points in the early stages of 2015.

"The freshmen have been amazing," said Ogle. "The biggest thing is keeping their composure in big spots and in big games and I think they've done that really well so far. That's going to help us big time once the postseason starts."

With both No. 2 classes now playing beside each other, the roster is littered with young, hungry talent. Underclassmen have accounted for seven out of the team's 10 goals this season. They also are responsible for 17 of the squad's 28 points.

"I think it's a pretty tall order against the quality of opponents that we're playing against, but I think these guys have stepped up" Walsh said. "We've put them in environments where they can sink or swim, and there have been moments when we definitely sink. Credit to them, they lift themselves back up but it's not easy."

The young guns face their toughest test this Friday when they take on the second-ranked Stanford Cardinal in Palo Alto.

2015 Gameday - Nittany Lions Set to Open Home Slate

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Gameday Central | Game Notes | Game Blog | Press Conference Roundup | Lions in NFL

Coach Franklin Wednesday | Terry Smith Q&A | Traffic & ADA Parking Changes

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions will begin the home portion of their schedule on Saturday at noon (ESPN2) against Buffalo in the first of five straight weeks inside the friendly confines of Beaver Stadium.

10323188.jpegAfter opening on the road at Temple, Penn State (0-1) will clash against Buffalo (1-0) to kickoff the 56th season of competition at Beaver Stadium. The Lions will be looking to get back on track following a 27-10 decision in the opener.

"We are looking forward to being back at home in front of our friends and family and our supporters," said head coach James Franklin. "I think it's going to be really, really important for our team to be in this environment, and I ask for people to be positive, I ask for people to be patient and good things are coming."

The Nittany Lions had 15 newcomers see action for the first time during the season opener at Temple. That list included 10 redshirt freshmen and five true freshmen. Additionally, seven Lions started for the first time.

Senior defensive end Carl Nassib made the most of his first career start, shattering his previous career high of four tackles with 10 stops on the day, including one sack. As a defense, Penn State tallied 15.0 tackles for loss during week one, which ranked second in the national rankings.

Offensively, Christian Hackenberg completed 11-of-25 passes for 103 yards at Temple. Sophomore wide out Chris Godwin hauled in five receptions for 81 yards to lead the Penn State receiving corps. Junior running back Akeel Lynch finished with 78 yards on 10 carries, including a 42-yard touchdown run.

Led by first year head coach Lance Leipold, Buffalo opened its season against FCS-level Albany, earning a 51-14 victory at home. The Bulls boast an experienced offensive group but lost six defensive starters from a year ago. Senior quarterback Joe Licata went 20-for-26 with 246 yards and two touchdowns in the opener.

This will mark the third meeting between Penn State and Buffalo. The series is tied a 1-1, with the Bulls winning the initial game in 1900. The Nittany Lions scored a 45-24 victory over Buffalo in the most recent meeting in 2007.

The home opener will welcome the 1959 Liberty Bowl team during its reunion weekend.
Led by Maxwell Award winner and Heisman Trophy runner-up quarterback Richie Lucas, the 1959 team earned the program's third bowl bid all-time and posted the Nittany Lions' first post-season victory in the inaugural Liberty Bowl. Penn State defeated No. 10 Alabama, 7-0, at Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia to finish with a 9-2 mark and the No. 11 Associated Press final ranking.

Penn State will also celebrate Community Heroes Day at the home opener. All community heroes (Police, Fire, EMT) were eligible for a special ticket package, which included a pre-game tailgate. Additionally, the Buffalo game is also Youth Football, Cheer and Dance day.

The home schedule is here.  Welcome to the gameday preview for the first game of 2015 inside Beaver Stadium - Penn State vs. Buffalo.

Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
1. Junior running back Akeel Lynch
is a Toronto, Ontario, native, but attended St. Francis High School in suburban Buffalo. Selected as the 2011 New York Gaorade Player of the Year as a senior, Lynch is familiar with several members of the Buffalo squad. He opened the season with a strong outing at Temple. Lynch tallied 78 yards on 10 carries (7.8 ypc) and scored a touchdown on a 42-yard scamper in the first quarter. Lynch has now rushed for more than 75 yards in four of his last five games and scored a rushing touchdown in four of the last five contests.

11309575.jpeg2. The Nittany Lions finished second in the nation with 15.0 TFLs during the opener at Temple. A big piece to that total was senior defensive end Carl Nassib. A former preferred walk-on, Nassib played his best game to date at Lincoln Financial Field. The New York native tallied a career-high 10 tackles, had 2.5 TFLs and notched a sack. A tireless worker, Nassib is poised to have a big season for the Nittany Lions along the defensive front.

"I thought Carl Nassib played really well defensively, a guy that's been as locked in and as focus and had as committed as anybody in our program," said Franklin. "I think our commitment levels is high across the board, but he's been a guy you have heard me talk about a lot for the last year and a half. I'm really proud of him and how he's played, and I expect him to continue to play well."

3. The Nittany Lions will be looking to get back on track following the Temple game. Consistency in how individuals communicate on both sides of the ball was a big point of emphasis throughout the week on the practice. Better communication lends itself to a higher level of execution.

"I thought practice was really good," said cornerbacks coach Terry M. Smith. "We feel really good about our approach to Saturday's game. Temple is behind us. We are moving forward. We are preparing for Buffalo, and I think we are going to be ready to play come noon on Saturday."

What to Watch For - Buffalo
1. Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold has a decorated career of success in college football. In his first year as a Divison I FBS head coach, Leipold previously coached at Wisconsin-Whitewater (Divison III) from 2007-14. He won six national championships during his eight seasons and compiled a 109-6 overall record. Leipold reached 100 career victories faster than any other head coach in NCAA history - at any level. Leipold's teams utilize a multiple set offense and a 4-3 defensive scheme.

2. Buffalo senior quarterback Joe Licata enters the game having thrown a touchdown pass in 13 straight contests and 27 of the 29 games he has started in his career. Licata was efficient in Buffalo's opener and is just 184 yards shy of third on the school's all-time passing list. Licata had nine of his 20 completions go to tight ends during Buffalo's win over Albany last week. Freshman tight end Mason Schreck led the receivers with five receptions for 62 yards.

3. Running back Anthone Taylor headlines the ground attack for the Bulls. Coming off a season with 1,400 rushing yards in 2014, Taylor tallied 104 yards and scored two touchdowns against Albany. Standing at 5-10, 210 pounds, the junior back is 74 yards shy of 2,000 for his career. Buffalo converted all six of its red zone opportunities into points last week, including five touchdowns and a field goal.

The Final Word:
The nation's second largest stadium, Beaver Stadium will play host to its 56th home opener Saturday. Opening in 1960, Beaver Stadium has hosted 336 games. Penn State owns a 265-71-0 overall record (78.9 percent) since the first season inside the stadium. Beaver Stadium has more than doubled in size since it moved across campus from its former site northeast of Rec Hall prior to the 1960 season. The Buffalo game will begin a stadium-record five-straight home games for the Nittany Lions. Beaver Stadium hosted four consecutive home games in 1977, 1982, 1986, 2002 and 2009, but 2015 will mark the first time in stadium history that five home games will be played in a row. Penn State has tallied 15 undefeated seasons in Beaver Stadium history, with the most recent coming in 2008. Penn State is 114-13-1 in home openers. ESPN2's live coverage of the Buffalo game begins at 12 p.m. with kickoff slated for 12:01 p.m. Beth Mowins (Play-by-Play), Anthony Becht (Analyst) and Paul Carcaterra (Sideline) will call the game.

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

By Zach Reagan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's and women's cross country teams look to build on momentum from last week's meet into the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational at the Blue-White Golf Courses Friday.


The Nittany Lions proved that they were in fine running shape for the season's opener at Lock Haven for the Dolan Duals as the men's and women's sides both won team titles. Junior Ean DiSilvio and senior Tori Gerlach took the men's and women's titles respectively. DiSilvio capped off his winning performance with a move with about 800-meters left in the race to take the victory. DiSilvio capped off his week with Big Ten Men's Cross Country Co-Athlete of the Week honors.


"Last week's meet was a good competitive effort for us," said Coach John Gondak. "It really showed us where everyone is at this point in the season."


"It allowed us to continue to prescribe to the students what their training should be and how they need to continue to improve their fitness."


The Dolan Duals women's winner Tori Gerlach is a prime example of an athlete continuing to improve her fitness. It was a different offseason for her, but in a positive way.


"It was the first summer I really got to train, usually I'm sick or hurt," said Gerlach. "I actually got to train the right way."


The team captain from Perkasie, Pa. picked up right where she left off. Gerlach impressed with an excellent 2015 outdoor track season. She posted a pair of personal-best performances in the NCAA East prelims to advance to the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 5,000-meter run. She finished seventh in the 5,000-meter run and seventh in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. At the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Gerlach finished 10th in the 5,000-meter run (16:00.28) and 14th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (10:14.79). She was also selected as a first-team All-Big Ten selection and second team All-American.


Gerlach says she brings experience as her main attribute to the team. She is the leader of a relatively young group on the women's side. She was impressed with how the team as a whole raced after not competitively racing in months. She looks to continue her success at a "pretty challenging course" in her opinion


"We (the upperclassmen) know all the little tricks," said Gerlach about the advantages of racing at Penn State's home course.


Gerlach said the team hasn't been on the course yet this year but a lot of the older girls know what it's like. As a senior leader Gerlach has a lot of course knowledge to pass on to her younger teammates.


The Big Ten Women's Cross Country Freshman of the Year Elizabeth Chikotas finished in third-place in last year's Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational. Fifth-year senior Matt Fischer won the individual title in the men's race. Penn State won both team titles in the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational on a cold rainy day against several nationally ranked teams.


The Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational is no ordinary meet for Penn State cross country athletes. This event is named after long-time Penn State coach and 2001 USTCA Hall of Fame inductee, Harry Groves. Groves spent nearly forty years at the helm of the men's program, beginning in 1968 until retiring at the conclusion of the 2006 track and field season. Groves was named national Coach of the Year on five occasions, and is a 26-time Regional Coach of the Year honoree. Throughout his coaching career, Groves coached 11 American record holders and 21 national champions. On the international level, 14 Groves-coached athletes made Olympic teams. Groves has also made numerous international appearances of his own, including a trip to Barcelona, Spain, where he served as an assistant coach of the 1992 Olympic staff. 


Also, the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational gives Penn State the opportunity to compete with some of the best cross country programs in the country on their home course. The field for this year's Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational includes nationally ranked teams such as No. 3 Syracuse (men), No. 10 West Virginia (women) and No. 13 Michigan (men).


The Nittany Lions will start the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational with the women's 6k at 5:30 p.m. and the men's 5.2 mile race at 6:15 p.m. Before the collegiate races, the high school competitions will begin with high school girls starting at 4:00 p.m. followed by high school boys at 4:45 p.m.


After the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational, the Nittany Lions will be training for a few weeks until their next meet at Louisville, Ky. for the Greater Louisville Classic Oct. 3. The race at Louisville will also serve as a beneficial course preview for the NCAA Championships, which are scheduled for November 21.



Buffalo Week Q&A - Terry Smith

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions open the home season on Saturday with a matchup against Buffalo at Beaver Stadium (12 p.m. on ESPN2).

Leading up to the home opener, defensive recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach Terry M. Smith talked with the media on Thursday to preview the game. Take a look at a Q&A with Coach Smith.

Q: How do you think the squad came out of the Temple game emotionally?
Smith: "I thought we've had a really good week of practice. I thought the guys have been flying around. We've had an emphasis on communication. We've done a really good job with that. We have some younger players who are in there getting more reps than they did last week. And I thought practice was really good. We feel really good about our approach to Saturday's game. Temple is behind us. We are moving forward. We are preparing for Buffalo, and I think we are going to be ready to play come noon on Saturday."

Q: How has the defense worked on communication this week at practice?
Smith: "The thing that makes our defense go is the communication. We have to have 11 guys on the same page playing the same defense. Often times when you are in big stadiums, you can't verbally communicate. So you have to use signals. That's where we had a couple breakdowns last week. Through practice, we've overemphasized it. We have it fixed and we are ready to go for Saturday."

Q: What did John Reid show you in camp that helped him move up the depth chart so quickly?
Smith: "He's a really smart kid. He picked up the system really quickly. He's a driven and competitive kid. He competes at a high level. He came from a big-time high school program in St. Joe's Prep. He's used to competing at a high level. His skillset is really good. He's going to continue to get better for us with each rep he takes on the field."

Q: What did you see from Grant Haley throughout camp and how did Grant not playing Saturday impact the defense?
Smith: "Grant is clearly one of our better corners on the team. We are hoping that he will be ready to go on Saturday. He brings some experience. He brings us some speed, athleticism and competitiveness. He's one of our smarter players on the defense, as well. We really miss him. He gives us added depth to the numbers that we have at the corner position right now. He's clearly one of the better guys at that position. We need his presence and experience on the field."

Q: What have you seen from Buffalo on film that you have to be prepared for on defense?
Smith: "Well, clearly, the quarterback has a lot of experience. He's passed for more than 6,000 career yards. He's had 60-plus TDs. He's had a lot of game-time experience. It's not going to be anything new for him to come out and execute under a new system and a new staff. Looking at them from last week, they executed pretty flawlessly. They've got some weapons on the perimeter. The running back ran for 1,400 yards last year. There are weapons that we have to make sure we know where the guys are."

Q: What is it about Buffalo QB Joe Licata that has made him so productive?
Smith: "A couple things stand out. He's got poise in the pocket; a presence in the pocket, and he stands tall. He's a pretty accurate passer. Then No. 2, he runs their system. They have a lot of plays where they have a run called, but they can also pull the ball and throw it to a single receiver. He seems to have grasped that system really well. He executed it flawlessly in the game against Albany last week."

Q: What sort challenge does that type of quarterback present to the corners?
Smith: "We have to be really disciplined in staying in our coverage. He's a quick ball-faker, so he handles the ball really well. We just have to stay in coverage and be disciplined. We can't get caught trying to trigger into the run game. We have to make sure that we stay into coverage. We saw in their game last week that they threw a quick slant when the corner got sucked into the run game and all of a sudden it was a touchdown. We just have to make sure that doesn't happen."

Q: Being a former player, how can you relate to the current players and the expectations around the program after a game like last week's?
Smith: "Playing here, I played on Joe Paterno's first losing team. I experienced one of maybe the lower points in Penn State Football. You always draw on your experiences as a player and try to teach your players certain things and certain aspects of how to handle it. No one wants to go out and lose a game. But those things happen. That's the beauty of sports. The life lessons that are taught here are so valuable as you go from being a young man to being a man by the time you leave college. You draw on your experiences and try to help our guys."

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

Weiskircher Gaining Confidence with Each Match

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11308187.jpegBy Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Setter Bryanna Weiskircher had big shoes to fill at the start of this season. Coming in as the setter behind three-time All-America setter Micha Hancock was no easy task. But through training and with the help of her teammates, Weiskircher is on her way to starting a legacy of her own.

The foundation of her college career began many years ago in Rockford, Illinois. She comes from a volleyball family, as her parents and three siblings each had a volleyball career themselves.

"Although I started [playing volleyball] in fifth grade, I grew up around [volleyball]. I was in the gym all of the time," Weiskircher said. "I was always the kid underneath the ball carts during my sister's practices."

In her early years as a volleyball player, she was as a middle hitter. She then moved to the outside until she was on a 15 and under club team. After that, she played on both the right side and as a setter. But it wasn't until her senior year of high school that she became solely a setter.

Her nine years of volleyball led her to continuing her career at Penn State. Weiskircher committed to Penn State during her sophomore year of high school on her third visit. The volleyball program, the academics and the Penn State atmosphere helped make the decision easy.

"I just completely fell in love with the school. Everything about it," Weiskircher said. "Playing under the legend of Russ Rose and carrying on the tradition that is Penn State volleyball is just amazing."

She spent her first year as a redshirt freshman, running the "B-side" offense at practice and working to make the "A-side" better. She watched and learned from Hancock from the other side of the net.

"[Micha] showed me how tough she was," Weiskircher said. "She showed me that [setting] is about making the hitters be the best that they can be and making an impact in any way you can. Whether it's from the service line, setting, blocking, or defense. "

In her five matches in the lineup this season, she has averaged 9.6 assists per set and has had five aces, eight kills and eight blocks. She led the Nittany Lions to victory against then No. 2-ranked Stanford last weekend and has helped the team achieve a 5-0 record on the season.

Head coach Russ Rose said Weiskircher has been gaining more confidence with the players that she is playing with and has adjusted well to playing at the collegiate level.

"She's progressing. She has a really good serve, she's a good blocker and her hands are good," Rose said. "One of the great intangibles of a good setter is the ability to make others better and the ability to take a bad pass and make a good set. That is why we practice everyday."

Another important aspect of being a setter is strong communication. It is crucial that a setter communicates with the hitters. Setters must understand where the hitters want the set, how they want the set and if they are ready for the set. Outside hitter Aiyana Whitney said Weiskircher has done a great job of communicating and gains more confidence everyday.

"Naturally, when any young player comes into a program like this, it takes a minute to find your feet. Through the communication from the hitters, I know sometimes it can be super overwhelming for a setter at any program, much less this one," Whitney said. "She's done a really good job working with us, trying to be as communicative as possible with us, as well as listening to what we need from her."

Weiskircher hopes to continue progressing with each practice and to continue winning as a team. But above all, her goal is to get the offense going during every match.

"Being able to spread out the offense is always great. Having four hitters with over ten kills is amazing and having that makes it so much easier for me."

Weiskircher and the first-ranked Nittany Lions hope to remain undefeated through this weekend as they travel to Sound Bend for the Golden Dome Invitational. They will first face Eastern Kentucky on Friday at 6 p.m. On Saturday, Penn State will take on Mississippi State at 10 a.m. and Notre Dame at 7 p.m.  

Kendall Pierce Impacts Team and Community On and Off the Court

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11308066.jpegBy Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - From the moment that senior Kendall Pierce played in her debut collegiate volleyball game as a defensive specialist against Morehead State in her freshman year at Penn State, Pierce has made a dynamic impact on the team.

Pierce played in 18 matches her freshman year, and 35 matches her sophomore year, including the NCAA title win against No.12 Wisconsin. Last season, she took action in 37 matches, where she helped lead the Nittany Lions to their seventh national title, and she was honored as a 2014-15 Big Ten Distinguished scholar.

This season, Pierce has already taken a step forward from last year in the first five matches. She was recently nominated as a candidate for the 2015 Senior CLASS Award.

But Pierce recognizes that there is more to life than athletics, and she is actively displaying that by being involved within the community while excelling in volleyball.

"I think the community has helped me a lot in this position with this program," said Pierce. "I see how important it is, and I think it is a big thing of what Penn State is all about. I love the community and I love the people that are involved. I think there is so much more outside of athletics that if we can connect, it's really important to us."

Pierce will be the co-president for Athletes Take Action, a program where Penn State student-athletes visit local middle schools to talk to sixth graders about the dangers of bullying and how to prevent, report and take action against it. The student-athletes go to the students' homeroom classes, and they interact with the sixth graders by working on lesson plans and teaching them how to stand up for each other and to stop bullying.

"[This year], I will be writing out the lesson plans and getting all our student athletes involved in that," said Pierce. "I usually help with a lot of the special events, like how we as athletes can interact with the community and anything we can do with our team."

In addition, Pierce is involved in SAA, as known as the Student Athletic Advisory board. The board contains a number of student-athletes that work hard at exceeding on their competition fields, in the classroom as well as in the community.

"I was the treasurer for SAA last year, so I did a lot of outreach community events," said Pierce. "I will be graduating in December, so I'm no longer on the board officially, but I will be helping with them...I'll be doing a lot of prepping for this year, in terms of transition notes from the positions that I was in for others."

Pierce also volunteers with State College's Special Olympics.

This offseason, while Pierce was working on her defense, passes and serves, she also had a summer internship at The Village Atrium of Penn State with the assisted living.

"I fell in love [with my internship]," said Pierce. "I worked in the recreation department, and I fell in love with working with the residents and the elderly, and I could see my future in that...We did a lot of therapy to work with the residents on memories, on movement and their day-to-day living. We visited them a lot and we did little activities and crafts with them. It was a really nice working position where I got to connect with other human beings, which was really special."

Pierce will graduate in December. And in less than four years, she has accomplished so much, but none of it would have been possible if it wasn't for her time at Penn State.

"If I didn't choose [Penn State], I would always think 'What if?' in life, so this is my 'What if, go get it, see how it turns out,' and it's been the best. I wouldn't do it any other way," said Pierce.