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Mackiewicz Caps Successful Collegiate Career

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By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Four-time All-American Andrew Mackiewicz capped his collegiate career with a semifinal appearance on the final day of the NCAA fencing national championships.

Mackiewicz finished rounds four and five Sunday with a 16-7 record to qualify for the semifinals. It was Harvard fencer Eli Dershwitz who stopped him from reaching the championship bout.  Dershwitz earned a perfect 23-0 overall record and eventually went on to claim the 2018 national title in the saber.

Even though he didn't get the result he was hoping for, Mackiewicz, who said he never even imagined winning a national title when he got to Penn State, is at peace leaving Happy Valley knowing he gave it everything he had.

"Being my last year, I wanted to give it my all on the strip," Mackiewicz said. "I wouldn't want it any other way, obviously everyone wants to win but there's ups and downs and I think [Dershwitz] did really well out there and deserved it today."

Mackiewicz's teammate in the saber, junior Karol Metryka also achieved success Sunday, with a seventh-place finish in the tournament. Metryka ended rounds four and five with a 15-8 overall record, earning All-America honors as well as a spot on the podium.

Metryka placed ninth in the NCAA tournament his sophomore season in addition to a first-place finish in Mid-Atlantic/Southern Regionals. The junior also earned two third place finishes at Regionals this year and his freshman season.

With Mackiewicz departing, he feels confident he is leaving the future of the team in good hands, especially with a skilled fencer like Metryka behind him.

"[Metryka] is very devoted to the sport," Mackiewicz said. "He's one of the top guys in region competition and he's going to continue to improve."

With the honor of hosting the NCAA Championships, teams from across the country filled Penn State's Multi-Sport facility for the four-day event For many senior Nittany Lions, like Mackiewicz, it meant one final time to wear the blue and white in front of a home crowd. 

During his time as a Nittany Lion, Mackiewicz won two NCAA national titles as both a freshman and a  sophomore. The senior is also leaving with three Mid-Atlantic/Southern Regional Championship wins.

Although Mackiewicz's fencing career will certainly continue past Penn State, the Olympic hopeful says nothing will compare to his last collegiate bout.

"I am very happy for myself that I was able to give everything I got today in front of a home crowd," Mackiewicz said. "Everyone has been supporting me for so long and I'm very glad to make them happy with my performance."

Moving forward, Mackiewicz hopes the team can continue to develop and reach new heights after he graduates.

"There's a lot of improvement, that means that the team can still strive to do better," Mackiewicz said. "Obviously we always want to win and from here the team has to focus. Hopefully I left the team on a good note and everyone works hard. I'm really looking forward to the success the team has individually and as a team in the future."

Nittany Lions Make Push on Day Three of NCAAs

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After two days of women's competition, it was time for the men to take center stage at the NCAA Fencing National Championships Saturday. A full slate of bouts started at 9 a.m. and went well into the afternoon, encompassing epée, foil and saber events.

The latter featured two Penn State standouts, both with NCAA experience in the past. Senior Andrew Mackiewicz has already won the national championship twice in saber. Junior Karol Metryka reached the NCAA Championships last year, now looking to get to the top this time around. 

Despite the prior experience of participating at the sport's highest level, it's hard not to marvel at the challenge of the path these fencers face to potentially win a national championship. 

"It's a little nerve-wracking," Mackiewicz said. "It's different from other competitions in that it's longer. You have to be so laser-focused and consistent bout after bout. If you lose one, you can't let it get to you and you just have to keep moving forward."

The saber competition consists of 23 bouts for each fencer, 15 taking place Saturday and eight Sunday, with the four best athletes advancing to the semifinals Sunday afternoon. There are 24 fencers in the competition, meaning everyone will fence against each other one time. 

The competition comes at a fast pace, with each bout only lasting about two or three minutes, which elevates the need for mental strength and the ability to treat each bout as its own entity without overthinking anything.

"You have the best fencers in the country here and they're all competing at such a high level that it can be draining," Mackiewicz said. "We're all in good shape and we've all been training all year and are capable of doing the same thing. At the end of the day, it comes down to who can mentally tough it out."

Mackiewicz won 11 bouts Saturday to finish day one in fourth place overall in the saber. Metryka finished strong on the day, winning six of his last seven bouts to finish with nine on the day, good for ninth in the saber standings.

During one of Metryka's round two bouts, he put a fancy move on Ohio State fencer Domenick Koch to secure a touch, drawing the appreciation of Koch, who stopped and shook hands with Metryka mid-bout. This type of event is not out of the ordinary by any means. 

"That's just something that happens if it is a nice touch," Metryka said. "Everyone is trying to beat everyone else, but at the same time we all respect each other. So if you get a really nice touch, sometime they'll come congratulate you."

Another thing hardly out of the ordinary is yelling. A lot of yelling. The student-athletes yell after almost every point, and for a few different reasons.

"You pour your heart into this. Every touch, you want that touch so bad and you get amped up and you use your voice." Mackiewicz said. "It's kind of a way to persuade the referee as well to get him to know that it was your touch." 

Besides influencing the referees, it gives the athletes a much-needed boost of energy.

"It's about pumping yourself up too so that you're more into the bout and emotions are a little more into it," Metryka said.

The fencers aren't the only ones yelling, as the tournament setup allows for fans to be right up front next to the action, making for a loud and live environment. 

No school benefits more from this than Penn State, who, with the tournament being essentially a home event, naturally drew a large contingent of Blue and White faithful. 

"If the fans are giving you a lot of energy and voice, you definitely feed off of it and use that energy throughout the day. It keeps you amped up for your bouts," Mackiewicz said. 

"Obviously, you're going to win some and you're going to lose some, having 23 bouts in two days. If you're losing, the crowd definitely helps you get back in it quickly," Metryka said. 

The event has a quick turnaround, as the athletes resume competition again tomorrow morning. While Mackiewicz and Metryka are both in the top 10 at the moment, there is always room for improvement.

"I just need to be more consistent." Mackiewicz said. "I gave up four bouts today and at least two of them I think I shouldn't have. If I win all of them tomorrow, I should be fine in terms of making the semifinal and final matches."

Moss Earns NCAA Runner Up Finish

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State freshman Zara Moss closed out a standout rookie season with an NCAA runner up finish in the women's saber. Check in with Moss as she reviews the year, her transition to collegiate fencing and a look ahead to next year. 


Moss Highlights NCAA Day One

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A swell of emotions surrounded Penn State fencing, as the Nittany Lion women's team opened the first day of the NCAA Championships with rounds one through three at the Multi-Sport Facility.

Surrounded by their teammates, the Nittany Lions quickly shook off some opening round jitters before putting together productive performances across the women's foil, epee and saber competitions.

In the team standings, Penn State is third behind Notre Dame and Columbia after the first day of NCAA Championships action.

Of the six Nittany Lions competing on day one, four were doing so in the NCAA Championships for the very first time. Among them, junior Anastasia Kalonji and freshman Zara Moss. 

"It's been an amazing experience," Kalonji said. "It's my first NCAA's so it's really thrilling, a lot of emotions for sure. I'm glad that it's at Penn State. It's great to be able to sleep in my own bed and kind of have that home court advantage. It's really awesome."

Competing alongside sophomore Barbara VanBenthuysen in the women's epee, Kalonji didn't open the first round as well as she would have liked.

"I think it started out a little rough to be honest with three wins and four losses but throughout the day I rallied, got a few extra victories and I'm just hoping for the best tomorrow," Kalonji said.

One day one, each Nittany Lion will have seven first round bouts before moving on to four more in the second and third rounds, respectively. Headed toward her final bout of the day, Kalonji found herself feeling down, having lost each of the last two.

Behind the sound of her teammates chanting her name, Kalonji was underway against a tough Notre Dame opponent she defeated by a close 5-4 score to end her first day of NCAA action on top.

"That was definitely a tough bout, previous to that bout I had lost two bouts so I was feeling down but I was able to be fresh, to reset and really just go get it," Kalonji said. "It was an awesome bout to fence."

Currently at 13th in the individual standings behind VanBenthuysen, it's all about coming in with a fresh approach in today's fourth and fifth rounds ahead of semifinal action.

"I'm going to come in motivated and fresh and just reboot for tomorrow." 

For Moss, competing in the NCAA Championships is something she has dreamed of since she began fencing at age seven.

Much like Kalonji though, a mix of emotions and nerves were present to start the day.

"Starting out I was very nervous, I had ups and downs," Moss said. "I started my first pool and I was doing very well, then I lost a bout that I felt like I should have won. I struggled for a minute but then I was able to pull myself back together. It's been a lot of emotions but I think I've been handling them fairly well." 

Moss went 4-3 in the opening round of the women's saber, but quickly regrouped to close out the day with a string of eight consecutive victories with 4-0 marks in back-to-back rounds.

Initially anxious about meetings against a pair of tough Notre Dame opponents, Moss stayed focused on her plan, keying in on the little things like keeping her steps small. 

"I was really happy because a lot of times when I'm fencing I'll get overwhelmed and I start thinking about, 'oh I have to win this or I'm not going to do well' and I just start thinking about the whole day or the whole competition," Moss said. "So I was just narrowing it down and thinking about this touch, this couple of seconds and that really helped a lot. When I won the first bout against Notre Dame, that gave me confidence for the second one."

Moss' surging second and third rounds vaulted her to second in the team standings at 12-15 on the day with a plus-25 indicator.

For both Moss and Kalonji though, it's the benefit of having a teammate competing right alongside them that helped fight through the tough moments.

"I think it's been great having a partner like Barbara, she's always very supportive," Kalonji said. "We talk to each other, we have little things we know will lift our spirits up. She's been great with that. I think that having that duo is honestly a great, great privilege in this competition and it's definitely going to keep us going for tomorrow." 

For Moss, it was junior Karen Chung, who currently sits in seventh place after day one, winning 10 of 15 bouts with a plus-22 indicator.

"Today, in my first bout she came and she hooked me up," Moss said. "Usually you hook yourself up, but she came and said, 'I got it, I got it for you.' Just to have her there alongside me where I can ask her questions and talk to her, she's been amazing. She's an amazing role model and a great person to fence alongside."

Tomorrow brings new opportunity for all the Nittany Lion women, as champions will be crowned at the end of the day. Rounds four and five are set to begin at 9 a.m. ESPN3 will have live coverage of the semifinals, which begin at 1 p.m. 

VIDEO: 2018 THON Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Among the most highly anticipated THON weekend events, check out the men's and women's fencing athlete hour pep rally dances!

Women's Fencing
Men's Fencing

SAAB Hosts Third Annual Lip Sync Battle

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As is tradition, Penn State's Student-Athlete Advisory Board hosted its third annual SAAB Lip Sync Battle to benefit THON at the HUB earlier this week.

A total of nine Nittany Lion teams put on a show in the Freeman Auditorium to benefit Penn State's annual 46-hour dance marathon, which kicks off February 16 in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Following a full slate of performances, a panel of esteemed guest judges featuring Penn State sports medicine's Dr. Roberta Millard, Mike Herr or better known around campus as, "Mike the Mailman" and Penn State cheerleader Francis Alvare made their selections.

Penn State's men's swimming team took home the golden microphone this year with their rendition of Flo Rida's "Low." Men's volleyball and women's volleyball finished second and third, respectively.

"We've been working on this since October," said SAAB THON chair Tess Kearns (track and field/cross country). "Teams started signing up right before winter break so that was a lot of fun seeing who was coming together and the acts they were doing."

VIDEO: Women's Fencing's THON 2017 Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Another highly anticipated THON event, check out women's fencing's full pep rally dance!

VIDEO: Men's Fencing's THON 2017 Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Another highly anticipated THON event, check out men's fencing's full pep rally dance! 

THON Features: O'Neill-Lyublinsky Representing Fencing

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By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As members of the Penn State community gear up to take part in THON's 46-hour dance marathon benefitting The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey, not many of more than 700 dancers also have to worry about trying to qualify for a Division I NCAA championship.

Jessica O'Neill-Lyublinsky is in the middle of a strong season as a fifth-year senior on the fencing team, also living out one of her dreams to be dancing on the floor at the Bryce Jordan Center and standing up against childhood cancer this weekend. 

"I found out [I'd be dancing] January 20th and all of my emotions came out," O'Neill- Lyublinsky said. "I wanted to scream, cry, do everything because I was so excited. Now it's only a day away and it's becoming so real."

O'Neill- Lyublinsky has served as the family relations co-chair for the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) for the past two years. Part of her role includes working directly, along with other Penn State student-athletes, with the Messina and Buckley families, who are the SAAB's THON families. However, it was a year ago she realized she needed to be out on the floor during THON weekend.

"I just kept looking at the floor and I thought, I want to be down there with all the families, all the kids," O'Neill- Lyublinsky said. "They look like they're having such a great time and I just wanted to be a part of it."

Luckily, the fencing team's competition schedule this year allows her to get plenty of rest both before and after the dance marathon. O'Neill- Lyublinsky's coaches have also been very supportive. 

"Coach said it's great conditioning," O'Neill- Lyublinsky said with a laugh.

The team usually competes in a tournament at Temple University during THON weekend, but this season the tournament has been pushed to the weekend after the event.

Free from competition, the schedule fits perfectly with THON, but O'Neill- Lyublinsky is now working on balancing her workouts, making sure she isn't too sore to dance, but still in proper shape to win bouts.

As for the mental part of not being able to rest for 46 consecutive hours, O'Neill- Lyublinsky doesn't think that will be an issue.

"Mentally, I just have been getting ready," O'Neill-Lyublinsky said. "I think all of the adrenaline is really going to come into play because I'm just ready to get out there and just do it."

A native of Westchester, New York, O'Neill- Lyublinsky wasn't truly familiar with THON until she came to campus and got involved. For most, THON is an event that really has to be seen in person to be fully understood.

"They talked about THON on my recruiting trip, but other than that, I was never here for THON because we were always traveling," O'Neill-Lyublinsky said. "The moment I decided to dance was when I finally went to THON last year and left the Bryce Jordan Center. You just can't describe the feeling and I wanted to be a part of this as much as I can be."

As Penn State students and student-athletes from all over the country and the world fill Happy Valley, the THON cause comes to life in a tangible sense throughout the year, culminating in the energetic dance marathon.

"The whole point of THON is to show what cancer cannot do," O'Neill-Lyublinsky said.

Beginning Friday, O'Neill-Lyublinsky and three other SAAB representatives will take the floor in the Bryce Jordan Center for THON 2017.

SAAB Hosts Lip Sync Battle to Benefit THON

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Filling the HUB-Robeson Center Freeman Auditorium with Penn State students and Nittany Lion student-athletes, the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) hosted its second annual lip sync battle Wednesday evening.

In a full for the kids effort, the annual event benefits THON, Penn State's Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon to support pediatric cancer.

Featuring musical lip syncing acts from 11 different Penn State Athletics programs, months worth of planning and preparation finally came together in an energetic evening for a tremendous cause.

"I think it just bring out more of the sense of community that we really already have in athletics," track and field sophomore and lead event coordinator Tess Kearns said. "We're so strong all together but to be able to something for THON and see the impact that it's making every year - if we could just raise that number even a little bit on final reveal, that would be all the difference."

From lip sync covers ranging from Justin Beiber mixes to Beyoncé, Sia and School of Rock, the event, which was open to all to attend, brought laughs throughout the night with guest judges featuring director of student-athlete welfare and development Liz Johnson, director of Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, John Affleck and Penn State Blue Band drum major Jimmy Frisbie. 

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Penn State women's volleyball highlighted early with their Justin Beiber mix, followed up with women's soccer's rendition of Sia's "Chandelier" midway through the program. 

"SAAB THON is my favorite thing in the world," said SAAB THON chair Angela Widlacki, a member of the Nittany Lion women's soccer team. "Being able to come out here and see this huge crowd, it means so much to us and I know it meant a lot to our family the Messina's." 

Men's hockey and defending SAAB lip sync battle champion wrestling closed out the evening lip syncing to a pair of movie tunes featuring "Zach's song" from School of Rock and "Breaking Free" from High School Musical. 


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With the final scores tallied, the panel of judges voted Penn State women's soccer duo of Widlacki and Liisi Vink-Lainas in the top spot this year to earn the golden microphone. Men's hockey finished second, while wrestling claimed the third-place finish.

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