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By Zach Reagan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the indoor season in the books, Penn State track and field kicks off its outdoor season this weekend.


The opening outdoor meets give Gondak and his staff an opportunity to see where the team stands and what to build on as they move along towards championship time. It will be an opportunity to see how the men's and women's teams stack up against solid track and field programs. Gondak has a strong contingent of returning athletes from last year's outdoor season. Penn State returns six 2015 NCAA outdoor qualifiers, three 2015 outdoor All-Americans, and a core group of strong veteran contributors.


"It's neat to watch the team compete for the first time," said head coach John Gondak.


The Nittany Lions will travel across country to Tempe, Arizona to compete Friday and Saturday in the Pac-12 vs. Big Ten Challenge hosted by Arizona State. Penn State is one of the four schools representing the Big Ten Conference in a competition against four schools representing the Pac-12 Conference. Conference versus conference scoring should make the meet unique as Penn State looks to display pride for the Big Ten.


The schedule of events varies a bit for the outdoor segment of the track and field season from the indoor segment. Instead of 17 events during a typical indoor meet it changes to 21 for outdoor meets. On the track, the dimensions of an outdoor track doubles to 400m after months of training on a 200m indoor track.


Additional outdoor specific events play into the hands of the Nittany Lions. Javelin throw, the steeplechase, the 100m, the 4x100m relays, and 10,000m are intriguing events to watch this weekend as athletes compete in them for the first time this year in actual competition


"I'm excited to see different events," said Gondak.


Gondak noted the Nittany Lions have six quality women javelin throwers who can compete well at the conference championship level. Each of those athletes have been training during the indoor season because there's no javelin event in indoor competition. Leader of the women's javelin group is senior multiple-time All-American Lauren Kenney (State College, Pa.). Kenney missed last outdoor season due to injury but is ready to go for the Nittany Lions after months of training.


Senior Tori Gerlach (Perkasie, Pa.) returns to compete in her signature steeplechase event. Gerlach earned a silver medal finish in last year's Big Ten Outdoor Championships.


Veteran distance runner Robby Creese (Mount Airy, Md.) and jumper Brian Leap (Bellwood, Pa.) give the Nittany Lions more depth in the outdoor season after competing unattached during the indoor season due to no indoor eligibility remaining.


Younger athletes will be important for the Nittany Lions as well. Sophomore All-Big Ten cross country athlete Jillian Hunsberger (Pittsburgh, Pa.) is returning after missing the indoor season due to injury.


In the sprinting events, freshman Dan Chisena (Exton, Pa.), last year's PIAA Class AAA Outdoor 100-meter, 200-meter and 4x100-meter relay state champion lace up the spikes alongside fellow newcomer Anton Porter (Bronx, N.Y.).


For more on Nittany Lion track & field, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com or follow the team on Twitter @PennStateTFXC.

By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the regular season officially over, the Penn State men's gymnastics team is preparing to start the Big Ten Championships.


The Nittany Lions ended the season 10-4 overall, and 3-4 in the Big Ten. Staying focused, the boys are entering the postseason determined heading to Columbus.


"I think there will be tough competition, with Ohio State being home for the competition it does add some pressure but we're really focused right now," said Penn State head coach Randy Jepson.


Last year the Blue and White took home the top prize as Big Ten champions. If they successfully keep the title, it will be the first time in the program's history they are back-to-back Big Ten champions.


"This is a completely new team than last year and with that comes new challenges and new strengths," said coach Jepson. "Being last year's champs can motivate us for sure but we are a different team so we need to adjust accordingly if we want to win it all again."


Last year, the team won after Trevor Howard's performance put them in the lead.


"Everyone wants to be that guy to bring home the win and that's what I use as motivation," said Jepson. "These guys are all capable of great things and highly motivated, each of them wants to help the team win."


Although there's plenty of talent on the team, there's also an immense amount of Penn State pride and brotherhood.


During any meet, the boys can be found cheering on one another throughout the competition.


"We learned against Nebraska that team moral is an essential. We were down that meet and turned it around to win by only a few points and I think that had a lot to do with our attitude," Jepson said.


Penn State is known for top-notch gymnastics, and the team is trying to iron out all little details before the competition.


"We've really been solid on rings, but if we can get consistency to be our key and hammer that out as we move forward I think we stand a good chance," said Jepson.


The first day of the competition starts on Friday, April 1st in Columbus, Ohio and will begin at 7:00 p.m. ET.


Other Big Ten schools competing are Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and host Ohio State.

Spring Football Position Breakdown - Wide Receivers

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Spring Practice Central

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

The Wide Receivers

Players Returning/Lost:

Who's Back:
Gordon Bentley (Sr./Jr.), Saeed Blacknall (Jr./Jr.), Irvin Charles (So./Fr.), Dan Chisena (So./Fr.), Gregg Garrity (Sr./Sr.), Chris Godwin (Jr./Jr.), DaeSean Hamilton (Sr./Jr.), Juwan Johnson (So./Fr.), Josh McPhearson (Sr./Jr.), Brandon Polk (So./So.), Tyler Shoop (So./Fr.), DeAndre Thompkins (Jr./So.)

The Breakdown:
Arguably the deepest unit on the Penn State depth chart in 2016 will be the receivers. Under the direction of coach Josh Gattis, the Nittany Lions will field a talented, diverse and athletic corps of wide outs when the season kicks off in September.

11810894.jpegThe unit boasts a great variety of skillsets and will be among the most challenging units to defend in the Big Ten because of its experience and depth. Any scouting report of the Lion receivers begins with the unit's top statistical leaders from last season in juniors Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton.

Godwin is coming off a stellar sophomore campaign where he became just the third Penn State wide receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season. A second team All-Big Ten selection in 2015, Godwin registered 69 catches for 1,101 yards and scored five touchdowns last fall. Thanks to a team-high 11 receptions of 30-plus yards, Godwin reached the 100-yard plateau in five games. With a superb blend of size, speed and strong hands, the Delaware product has made at least one reception in 25 of his 26 career games and is poised to be a focal point in the passing game again this fall.

Hamilton enters his third season on the field as the program's active leader in receptions. The Virginia native has registered 127 catches for 1,479 yards and scored eight touchdowns during the past two seasons. A crisp route runner, Hamilton is No. 7 on Penn State's all-time receptions list. Hamilton added 20 pounds of muscle to his frame during the offseason and will again be a consistent weapon for the Nittany Lions in the offense.

Fellow junior Saeed Blacknall is on the cusp of a breakout season following a superb winter in the weight room. Hailing from New Jersey, Blacknall was clocked as the team's second-fastest in the 40-yard dash during testing (4.39). The 6-foot-2 wide out has appeared in each of the past 26 games, including four starts, and has made 19 catches for 360 yards and has scored two touchdowns. With continued progress, Blacknall is primed for a much bigger role in the offense when the season begins.

Adding to the group's dynamic lineup is the duo of Brandon Polk and DeAndre Thompkins. Polk was clocked at 4.43 in the 40-yard dash this winter and has game-changing speed with the ball in his hands. The Ashburn, Va., product appeared in all 13 games as a true freshman, notching six receptions for 57 yards with a touchdown and rushing 18 times for 159 yards and a touchdown. Thompkins also appeared in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman, notching five receptions and a touchdown. Polk and Thompkins are potential impact players for the Nittany Lions in 2016.

New to the rotation in 2016 will be a pair of Lion receivers each standing taller than 6-4 and weighing more than 220 pounds. Irvin Charles and Juwan Johnson made big strides in their first fall on campus and turned heads with their efforts as key members of the scout team offense in 2015. Keep an eye on Charles and Johnson this spring as they work into the Nittany Lion receiving rotation.

Look for Gordon Bentley, Dan Chisena, Gregg Garrity, Josh McPhearson and Tyler Shoop to all provide depth to a unit that will play a host of guys each Saturday. With the increased tempo on the offensive side of the ball, the Nittany Lion receiving corps, from top to bottom, will be paramount to the team's success.

Quoting Coach Gattis:
"I'm excited about this young group. Considering that all of the guys who have been here and returning, we've got depth at the position. We've got guys that bring special skillsets. I think we've got a lot of leadership at the position given the amount of time a lot of guys have played in the past. I'm excited. I think we've got unlimited amount of potential. I think you are starting to see guys mature as football players, not just off the field but on the field as well. I'm excited about the direction we are headed in the future. And in this offense, I think it's going to allow our skill position players to get the ball in space and be the playmakers that they can be."

Lions Ready to Take On No. 1 Denver

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since the 2012 season, the Penn State men's lacrosse team (5-3) has faced No. 1 Denver (7-0) in games that have become staples of every campaign under head coach Jeff Tambroni's leadership.  

Prior to his time with the Nittany Lions, Tambroni was the head coach at Cornell where he became close comrades with Bill Tierney, who was the head coach of Princeton from 1988 to 2009.

During their years as rivals, the coaches earned each other's respect and developed mutual admiration for one another's natural coaching talent. After Tierney's departure from Princeton to become the head coach at Denver, and after Tambroni left Cornell to come to Penn State, the two started talking about the possibility of their new teams playing one another.

"When I first became head coach [at Cornell], from afar he was a great mentor to a lot of young coaches including myself," said Tambroni of Tierney. "We just happened to be at a position at Cornell to be a rival of Princeton, so we've had some great battles and that relationship grew in both ways, both in respect and he continued to be a great mentor. Then when he left we thought this was going to be a great opportunity for us, looking for games."

On March 10, 2012, these discussions became reality as the Pioneers traveled to State College to face the Nittany Lions. Although Denver won that game, it put two developing teams under new leadership on the map.

During the 2013 season, the Nittany Lions and Pioneers faced off in Jacksonville, Florida. Their first neutral site matchup, the No. 15 Nittany Lions came out on top and defeated No. 9 Denver, 15-12.

"I think foremost we played with a great deal of confidence and energy in that game," said Tambroni. "You could tell coming out of the locker room that that was a senior-laden team. We had some really good seniors on that team who led us out of that tunnel and onto that field and we played with a lot of energy on that field."

Tambroni continued to explain how the Nittany Lions were able to shoot the ball fairly well and had stable goaltending, which led to the victory. He also noted how that particular season the Nittany Lions were really able to transition the ball effectively from defense to offense. 

In the 2014 season Penn State was able to travel to Denver and gain experience out west. The Nittany Lions fell to the Pioneers, 15-11. 

Originally signing a 3-year contract to play once at home, once on neutral turf, and once at Denver, both schools had struggles with the remote location of the universities. As a continuation of their contract to play one another after 2014, both schools agreed that continuing to play at neutral sites would be best for both teams. 

Last season, the Lions faced off against the Pioneers in New York at Hofstra University. This Saturday both teams will meet again, this time in Dallas. 

Having not beaten Denver since their showdown in Jacksonville, Penn State coaches and players alike are eager to bring the energy and momentum needed to thwart the No. 1 team in the country. 

Redshirt junior attacker Matt Florence is eager to face off against his home state team. Florence, who hails from Greenwood Village, Colorado, knows several members of the Denver team from his time playing lacrosse in high school. 

"Growing up I definitely watched a lot of DU playing, a lot of my really good friends from my opposing high school, playing them it's going to be really fun," said Florence. "I've got a lot of close relationships with those guys, but really we're just trying to look at this week like any other week and are just motivated to go out there and get the win and do it with the team we have here."

Keys for the Nittany Lions this weekend will be to play with determination similar to their recent performance against Harvard, and to keep up their endurance for every minute of play. 

Tambroni noted how the Denver matchup each season is a great challenge and opportunity for the team to truly test their skills and develop as a single unit. With their first Big Ten game the following weekend after the Denver matchup, the Nittany Lions are eager to face down the Pioneers this weekend and prepare for the demanding schedule ahead. 

"I hope it's just a great opportunity for out guys coming off a tough loss to UMass to look ahead quickly and not dwell on the past of that last loss that we had," said Tambroni. "It's an exciting opportunity against a really great team, you don't have to say much to get your guys excited because they're excited to compete against a team of that caliber. Then we'll know we're prepared, whether we win or we lose, in that nine game stretch we'll have played some really good teams and then you just buckle in for the Big Ten because you know it'll be the same."

Penn State will face off against Denver on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Dallas at Gerald Ford Stadium.

Nittany Lions Regaining Competitive Edge; Poised For Stretch Run

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11812635.jpegBy Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The stretch run in any sport is synonymous with tightly contested games and the push for the playoffs.

The Nittany Lion men's volleyball team finds itself nearing that part of the season as the second half of EIVA play is set to begin. Penn State is currently 7-1 in the EIVA and have proven once again to be the team to beat.

However, recent stumbles for Penn State have seen them fall in the rankings. The mistakes that the Nittany Lion's have made in the past couple matches hadn't happened for most of the season and are something that head coach Mark Pavlik knows they cannot have during the second half of the season.

"We know we can be better, it's just a matter of stepping up and doing so," Pavlik said. "We have a lot of guys who know how to deal with adversity so I don't think it's ever been a question of if we will figure it out, just when."

Penn State gained a much needed win over UC Irvine this past Monday, snapping a four game losing streak and more importantly, beginning the stretch run of their last 10 games, with a significant victory.

Much of the struggle for the Nittany Lions in their past couple of games has been to regain their mentality of competing every single point. There were multiple signs in Monday's contest to suggest that Penn State is close to regaining that mentality.

"We had a point where we were done with how we were playing. We were in a drought and we were done with that. We needed to change what we were doing," said setter Taylor Hammond.

The Nittany Lions still know that they can do better, but the win certainly goes a long way for the team, especially against a West Coast foe who is historically a powerhouse.

"When you compete hard and you win, it kind of pushes everything else to the side," Pavlik said. "It enables you to start with maybe a cleaner mental slate and be more confident in yourself."

Pavlik also said he agrees with the sentiment that the team certainly started to regain their competitive edge against UC Irvine. Pavlik mentioned after the defeat against St. Francis that he felt his team had lost that edge, but that it started to permeate through the team psyche during Monday's match.

"I think it was definitely better," Pavlik said. "We had given up six aces through about one set and a half and I posed the challenge to our passers to just compete. I think from that point on they had one ace and it was a clean serve that clipped the line, that is the type of mentality that we need to carry with us for the rest of the season."

The rest of the season, save for the two games this weekend against Lewis and Loyola Chicago and a mid week game against Ohio State, will be against EIVA foes. Also, for a team who has been accustomed to playing at home, Penn State will have five of their remaining nine games on the road. However, despite the differences, junior Chris Nugent says there is a simple fix.

"We need to make adjustments and be comfortable making them," Nugent said. "The coaching staff tells us the right things to do, we just have to execute it."

The EIVA is a conference that Penn State has dominated for the better part of the last two decades. That being said, even though the stretch run is dominated by EIVA matches, that doesn't mean that it will be easy to finish the season for Penn State.

"The EIVA is very tough now," Pavlik said. "There are some good teams out there and they are just getting better as you can see by the St. Francis match we just played. It's no longer a league where we can go out and not play our best and win, we have to show up and compete with all these teams. I'm expecting big crowds and tough games when we head on the road to NJIT and Princeton."

With the end of the season coming up, Penn State must bear down in their quest to defend their EIVA title and ultimately play for a national championship. If Monday's match is any indication, the Nittany Lions are starting to make great strides in getting back to their competitive and never say die attitude that gave them so much success early on in the season.

Penn State takes the court next against Lewis with first serve scheduled for 7 p.m. inside Rec Hall on Friday night. 

Balanced Effort from top to Bottom Leads Lions to Midweek Wins

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11812488.jpegBy Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (9-10) recorded two wins Tuesday and Wednesday to stretch its current win streak to four games.

The Nittany Lions improved their 2016 home record to 4-1 after dropping their first contest at Medlar Field to Niagara on March 18.

In a superbly balanced effort, every single player who stepped to the plate got on base at least once over the course of both games, and nine different players recorded a hit. Five different pitchers held PSU's opponents to just six earned runs in the victories.

"When everybody's getting on base it makes the game a lot easier, and you don't have to rely on one or two guys," said senior shortstop Jim Haley. "The game goes a lot more smoothly and there's not much pressure on one person to do the job."

PSU vs. West Virginia
The Mountaineers started their 2016 campaign 10-5 before suffering a sweep to No. 6 Texas Christian immediately before visiting Happy Valley. Any thoughts of a bounce-back win were thwarted by the Nittany Lions in a 5-4 nail biter.

The Blue and White struck first in the bottom of the second inning courtesy of a Conlin Hughes RBI single. On the same play, Christian Helsel added another run thanks to an error by the first baseman.

West Virginia immediately fought back and tacked on three runs in the third inning to open up a narrow 3-2 lead.

The next inning, Nick Graham knotted up the score with an RBI double that scored Jordan Bowersox. After Graham advanced to third on a ground out, he scored on a wild pitch with two outs to regain the lead for Penn State.

The Mountaineers answered with a tying run in the fifth off a Darius Hill RBI triple, but Dakota Forsyth was able to quell the damage and prevent WVU from retaking the lead. In 2.1 innings pitched Forsyth recorded a strikeout and logged his first win of the season.

"Dakota was struggling a little bit to really stay in control of himself, and in the past that would've I think been a recipe for disaster," said head coach Rob Cooper. "He really slowed himself down and competed."

After a scoreless sixth inning, Penn State wasted no time getting aggressive in the seventh. Jim Haley led off the inning with a scorching triple to right center and Willie Burger reached base on an intentional walk.

Greg Guers, who has been struggling at the dish to start the season, got the call as a pinch hitter with one out in the frame. Guers answered that call, almost putting one over the right field fence, but the sacrifice fly was all Penn State needed to take a lead it wouldn't surrender.

Jack Anderson entered the game in the eighth and shut the door on West Virginia for a two-inning save, allowing only one hit in the process.

"That's probably as good a win as we've had since I've been here at Penn State," Cooper said. "I say that because it was an unbelievable team win against a good team. I'm really proud of our team."

PSU vs. Rhode Island
The second game of the midweek slate featured a slightly altered lineup, but the Nittany Lions didn't miss a step early on. The Blue and White jumped on URI in the second inning and tagged the Rams for four quick runs, all with two outs.

After a ground out and a fly out to start the frame, Penn State racked up four hits in the inning, including an RBI triple courtesy of Nick Riotto and a Willie Burger single that plated two more.  

Marko Boricich tossed three scoreless innings to start the game but ran into some trouble in the fourth. URI pushed two runs across in the fourth frame, and Nick Distasio entered the game for the Nittany Lions.

Distasio worked out of a jam immediately and continued to pitch 4.2 stellar innings in relief. He recorded the win to the tune of three strikeouts and no earned runs allowed.

"I thought I did well coming out of the pen," said Distasio. "The guys behind me really helped me out making some tough plays in big spots. It was a great team win overall."

"Distasio was great. He really was," Cooper said. "That's a kid that last year was in our rotation, and now he's in the bullpen and to give us a midweek lift like he did today out of the bullpen is unbelievable."

Things got a little hairy in the seventh when the Rams scored an unearned run to cut the lead to 4-3, but PSU tacked on an assuring tally in the bottom of the inning to stretch the lead back to two.

Jack Anderson was called upon for the second night in a row to shut the door and did so forcefully. The senior recorded his career high sixth save on the year and inched closer to the all-time record for most appearances in Penn State history. He's made a total of 81 appearances throughout his career, just four shy of the record of 85 held by David Lutz.

The Nittany Lions will travel to Champaign, Ill. for a three game weekend series against Illinois to begin the conference slate. The Fighting Illini sit at 8-10 on the season and have lost three of their last four contests.

Transition to Penn State No Problem For Garcia

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11812388.jpegBy Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For any student, a transition from a high school classroom to a lecture hall in the Thomas Building or in the Forum is drastic, but for freshman Sabrina Garcia, it was even more overwhelming.

Garcia was cyber schooled up until her junior year of high school. Cyber school is different from being homeschooled. As a homeschool student, your parent is your teacher. As a cyber school student, however, you still have normal teachers like any other middle school or high school setting, but the difference is you are able to move at your own pace throughout the course material online.

In Garcia's first semester as a Penn State student last fall, she was one of 700 students in a lecture hall in Penn State's biggest classroom, 100 Thomas.

"Going from that to this was a little weird at first, but it only took a week or two to get used to," Garcia said. "You really have to put yourself up front to stay focused. You have to take notes a little bit faster and really pay attention. You have to realize some professors won't individualize stuff for you, so you have to be really independent with your work. That's the difference between high school and college."

Although homeschooling and cyber schooling students seems out of the ordinary for most students, it is not is uncommon with gymnasts.

"What happens when they are between 10-14, their coach thinks they are going to go to the Olympics. They just stop going to school and they do gymnastics all day," Penn State head coach Jeff Thompson said. "Then at some point they figure out, 'Hey my kid is not even the best one in the gym let alone the best one in the state, or the region or the country. This is silly, we are going back to regular school.'"

Garcia got thrown into the gymnastics world at an older age than most collegiate gymnasts begin. At age six, an active Garcia would jump onto and off of any furniture in sight. She broke her parents' bedframe, snapped a chair or two and destroyed her families' dinner table.

Garcia's aunt suggested that she be put into gymnastics classes to have a place for Garcia to flip and run around without being destructive around the house.

As she became more involved in gymnastics, her coaches realized she had a lot of talent and Garcia turned to cyber school.

During her time as a cyber student, Garcia practiced five days a week for five to six hours, depending on the day. Of her two remaining days of the week, one was a competition day and the other was her one off day.

"On my off day, I would sleep a lot, watch movies with my family or figure out something with my friends outside of the gym," Garcia said. "But mostly, I would catch up on my sleep."

When Garcia transitioned back into high school in her junior year, she only practiced about four hours each day rather than five or six. At that point, Garcia did not need to learn more skills or develop as a gymnast; she just needed to maintain the skills she already had to be ready for college.

The only thing Garcia was not completely prepared for when entering college was being one of seven freshmen on a team with no senior guidance.

"I was tentative at first because half the team was freshmen. I think all of us freshmen are leaders throughout different aspects of our sport and team," Garcia said. "I guess I am the goofy person. I'm really weird (laughter). I'll be the one to make them laugh, whether I try to or not. I don't get things as quickly as other people and I am very clumsy. I trip a lot when I'm just running around on the floor."

Garcia enjoys being the class clown of the team and has no problem when her teammates may laugh at her confusion or a stumble on the floor.

"She's very outgoing. Have you ever watched her at meets? She's not shy," Thompson said. "And she is, I don't want to say goofy, but she has a really good sense of humor where she's fun to work with every day. When you have a kid that's very talented, great to work with and loves where she is, it's a great combination."

The Nittany Lions will be competing in the NCAA Regionals on Sat. April 2. 

11681172 (1).jpeg

By: Shannon Rostick, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Senior midfielder, Madison Cyr is coming off one of her best weeks of the season. As the leading scorer for the Nittany Lions, the leader in the Big Ten with 3.25 goals per game, and with a total of 30 goals this season, her senior year has been a huge success so far.

On Tuesday, Cyr continued her success, receiving the honor of Co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after her strong two-way play, which included netting eight goals. 

Being on midfield, Cyr has to tend to both the offensive and the defensive sides of the field, which at times can be tough to keep up with it. She says that team practices have really helped her to make sure that her skills on both sides of the field stay on par with each other.

"We split up during practice, 7-on-7, with a couple reps on attack and a couple reps on defense and from there we work on our transitions," said Cyr.

"We play with a goalie clear and have to get the ball back down to the other side of the field, which really helps to work us on both ends." 

Although she has seen much success on the field, Cyr could not do it all alone. She has attributed much of her recent success to collaboration with her teammates on the field, most recently with junior midfielder, Steph Lazo who had seven assists last week. 

"Steph works really well behind the cage. She knows when I'm going to cut, when I want the ball and when I don't. This makes it much easier to get off more successful shots on goal," said Cyr.

She also thinks that the close-knit feel of the team has been a huge contributing factor to her success and the success of the team's entire season.

"We have grown together as a team and we are learning from each other. Our team has really great chemistry, which I think helps us to play so well together," said Cyr. 

She is not the first to note how the team's chemistry has helped the team positively throughout the season, as teammates Madison Carter and Steph Lazo have also talked of how well the team understands each other and works together. 

Although the majority of their season has looked promising, there are still some improvements the girls need to make. After a disappointing loss to Stanford this past weekend, the team is spending their off week working on their weaknesses and get back on the top of their game.

"This week we are really trying to work more on our defense. We have what it takes to score, but we aren't making the one-on-one stops that we need to," said Cyr.

There is still plenty of time in the regular season for the team to work on these things, but Cyr is really wishing that they find continued success and go all the way to the end. Her hopes are for another Big Ten tournament title and NCAA tournament run to finish off her senior year.

"I'm looking forward to making it as far as we can because I'm graduating. I'm just not quite ready to give up the game and go out into the real world yet," she said.

The Nittany Lions have no intention of letting up in the next couple weeks, and they are going to fight to get back to where they were last season.

The team's next game is on Wednesday, March 30th at home against Drexel starting at 7:00 p.m.


By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State offense was in need of a spark to get things rolling in the second game of a doubleheader against Robert Morris Wednesday evening.

The Nittany Lions had already dropped the first game against the Colonials 3-1, a game that saw them only amass three hits.

Enter Alyssa VanDerveer, who in the third inning hit a two-run homerun to provide that spark and jumpstart a six-run inning for the Lions. Penn State (11-14) went on to win the game 8-5.

The homerun was VanDerveer's team leading fifth of the season, and eighteenth of her career. It was overdue for the sophomore catcher, who before that had gone 0-for-3 over the span of the two games, including one strikeout and an RBI fly out.

"Sometimes in hitting you can be off a little bit, and in game one you could just tell she looked off," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "So for her to come back and calm down and get that hit I was happy with her.  She just kept battling and she competed the entire day; I was really proud of her [today]."

The inning started with what Lehotak calls a "cheat base hit": junior Shelby Miller hit a pop up right behind the pitcher, and a miscommunication between the second basemen and shortstop let the ball drop.

"Really I think that was just the momentum switch for us just to pour it on," Lehotak said. "They kind of got back on their heels at that moment and sometimes in the game we just need something to go your way, and that went our way."

With Miller on base, VanDerveer headed to the plate. She only needed to see three pitches before she found the one she liked and sent it to centerfield, where the ball hit the top of the wall and bounced over.

From there, Penn State had RBIs from Rebecca Ziegler, Macy Jones and Mollie Sorenson to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 7-2 lead going into the fourth inning. The Nittany Lions finished the game with ten hits from seven different players.

Jones has been one of the most productive players for the Nittany Lions this season; her 31 hits on the year rank number two on the team, just behind Miller's 33.

"She has been one of our most consistent players all year," Lehotak said. "To me, it's the mentality that she brings to the plate. I think it's that senior mentality of 'I've been there, done that'. Even if she has a bad at-bat she comes back stronger." 

The offense struggled throughout the first game of the evening, but it wasn't for lack of effort. Nearly every player connected with a pitch, but their hits were going straight to the fielders who were able to turn the easy out.

"In the first game, we only had three strikeouts. We had some really good hits, just right at people and sometimes the game just goes that way," Lehotak said. "Eight inches to the left or right it could be a tie ball game, but I tip my hat to them, they definitely beat us game one."

The Nittany Lions start conference play this weekend when they travel to New Jersey to take on Rutgers in a three game series starting Friday. Lehotak is ready for the challenges that the Scarlet Knights and the rest of the Big Ten will bring for the team in the remainder of the season.

"I like where we're at heading into conference [play]. The Big Ten Conference is brutal and some crazy things can happen in conference," Lehotak said. "It's a three game series on the road, which is always tough. But I think we're getting better, and I keep telling the kids that at some point, the way they're playing the game is going to pay off for us, so hopefully it'll pay off heading into this weekend against Rutgers."

Spring Football: Post-Practice Press Conference (3/23/16)

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Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin updated the media following Penn State's fourth of 15 spring practices on Wednesday evening. The Nittany Lions practiced in outdoors for the second time on Wednesday, and the session also marked the team's second day in full pads. The team will return to the field on Friday to close out the week.

Hear from head coach James Franklin, DaeSean Hamilton and Jason Cabinda following Wednesday's practice.

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