By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- A little over a year ago, Christian Brady stood on the grass at Jeffrey Field and looked out at the scene around him, many emotions running through his mind.
It was September 13, 2013. The Penn State men's soccer team had just battled California, the No. 5 team in the nation, to a 1-1 tie. For Brady however, the night was about much more than soccer.
Brady, the Dean of Penn State's Schreyer's Honor College, had lost his eight-year-old son Mack less than nine months earlier to an unexpected blood infection on Dec. 31, 2012. It was just 16 days before Mack's ninth birthday.
Mack, a huge Penn State soccer fan and aspiring goalie, was honored by the Nittany Lions that night against California, in what was dubbed "Mack Brady Night."
"The night was phenomenal," Brady said. "Obviously it doesn't get any easier, but it was incredibly powerful and emotional moment or us. It was such an incredible game."
Nearly 21 months have gone by since Mack Brady lost his life, but his legacy at Penn State is as strong as ever. This Sunday, the Nittany Lions will host the second annual Mack Brady Game when they play Ohio State at 1 p.m.
For the second straight year, Christian Brady will watch as the Penn State community rallies around him, his wife Elizabeth and his daughter Isabel.
For the second straight year, he will find comfort in the 26 players and three coaches who have become a second family to him.
For the second straight year, he will wish that his son could see everything that he has inspired.
And for the second straight year, the day will mean much more than which team winds up ahead on the scoreboard.
How 'Mack the Jeff' Began
"Last year, they ran a promotion for the game and said they wanted fans to 'Pack the Jeff,'" Brady said. "I suggested that it should be changed to 'Mack the Jeff.'"
What started as a simple suggestion, a way to encourage fans to take part in a celebration of Mack's life, didn't take long to catch on.
In the days leading up to the California game, the phrase 'Mack the Jeff' began to show up across every outlet of social media. By game time, Jeffrey Field was filled with 3,032 fans.
"It's wonderful," Brady said. "It's really humbling how folks have rallied around during this time."
Mack Brady was a child that was passionate about many things, and soccer was certainly among them.
By the age of five, Mack had fallen in love with the position of goalkeeper. It was his dream to one day suit up in goal for the Nittany Lions and later the United States Men's National Team.
After his passing, his parents knew that there was no better way to remember him than to give back to the soccer program. They established the Mack Brady Fund to support Penn State's goalkeeping program with youth clinics, new equipment and scholarship funds.
The goal of the fund? Turn Penn State into the best goalkeeping school in the country.
"We wanted to be able to inspire something more and we want to make Penn State Goalkeeper U," Brady said. "The fact that Mack has inspired this is pretty special."
In return, the Nittany Lions have given back to the Brady's as well.
Since the beginning of last season, the Penn State goalies have worn a patch on their jerseys in honor Mack.
For Andrew Wolverton, being asked to wear the patch is as high an honor as he can imagine. Higher than being named last season's Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year, and higher than one day becoming Penn State's record holder for career shutouts.
"It's a great honor, obviously, to always be playing for Mack," Wolverton said. "Every time we come out here we want to do our best but it's different when you're playing a little kid like that. You just want to get a shutout on his day."
Those types of sentiments are the one's that mean the most to Christian Brady.
"It means a lot when the players tell me how much they think about Mack," Brady said. "Coach [Bob Warming] has brought together a great group of young men who seem to appreciate this."
The Next Stage
All the sympathy in the world can't replace the void that Mack's passing has left in Christian Brady's life.
Now, almost two years later, Brady and his wife and daughter are slowly learning to live without Mack.
"Obviously we wish this never had to happen," Brady said. We're slowly living with the loss of Mack. We'd love to have him back if that was a choice. We're going to find joy in seeing the guys play and we know that if Mack could, he'd be out there cheering them on."
During the most painful times, Brady found himself lucky to have Warming to lean on. Nine months prior to Mack's death, Warming lost his 21-year old daughter Audrey in a car accident.
One thing that the two tragic events have taught both men, it is that they are fortunate to live in a community like State College, and be a part of a school like Penn State.
"What a wonderful community this is that it comes out and supports one of our own who's had a tragedy in his life," Warming said. "What sticks out to me is what a great place Penn State is and what a great place State College is. We're all in this thing together and I think people realize that."
When Brady watches the Nittany Lions take the field against the Buckeyes on Sunday, he knows his son will be with him.
Mack Brady's legacy lives on, not just with his father and the Penn State soccer team, but with every Nittany Lions fan who shows up to "Mack the Jeff."
Recently in Men's Soccer Category
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Mikey Minutillo was always supposed to be the difference maker.
After a 2013 season in which six of the Penn State men's soccer team's 13 wins came by a score of 1-0, the San Jose, Calif. native's return to the lineup after a missed season was expected to be the spark that ignited the Nittany Lions offense.
Tuesday night against Saint Francis, Minutillo was more of an explosion than a spark. The senior scored twice, once in the first half and once in the second, as Penn State rolled to a 3-0 victory over the Red Flash.
"[Scoring twice] is awesome and hopefully it's going to carry over into the next game," Minutillo said. "I just read the play on both of them, made good runs into the end of the box and got on the end of some good [passes]."
Early on, it was clear that Minutillo was locked in and focused, but whether he would end up on the stat sheet at the end of the game was not as certain.
Twice in the first half between the 27:00 mark to the 24:00 mark, Minutillo had great goal-scoring opportunites stymied by Saint Francis goalie Andrew Garcia.
"I think I should have put one of those away," Minutillo said. "If you put your head down you're never going to score. You've got to keep getting on the end of things."
With plenty of time still remaining, Minutillo continued plugging away. Less than five minutes later, the 6-foot-1 forward found himself on the receiving end of a pass from Drew Klingenberg near the left side of the box, though at angle that seemed implausible to score from.
However tricky it seemed, it wasn't too tough for Minutillo. He fired a shot by Garcia that ricocheted off the right post and into the net.
"Drew played a good ball and I just took a touch forward to eliminate the defenders," Minutillo said. "The defender might have got a touch on it [after I shot it] but it went to the back post, hit it and went in."
In the second half, it would take Minutillo less than eight minutes to turn what could have been another low scoring nail biter into an eventual rout, knocking a perfect pass from Riley Grant into the net. Brandon Savino would later add the first goal of his Nittany Lion career to put the icing on the cake.
While the second goal was a big of moment for Minutillo, who registered his first multi-goal game as a Nittany Lion, it was even bigger for Grant. The assist gave the sophomore his first collegiate point.
"The play by Riley was absolutely nothing short of remarkable," head coach Bob Warming said. "I told Riley in front of the team at halftime, 'you're not in for your heading ability, you're not in because you're a great defender, you're in because you're incredible on the ball...go get the ball, do something with it every time you get.' He was unreal, I thought he was terrific tonight."
As for Minutillo, Warming credited the senior's big night to a positional adjustment made before the game.
For the most of the first five games of the season, Warming placed Minutillo at the top of the Nittany Lion offense as a forward, where his job was to post up the opposing team's center back.
Looking to better utilize his speed and athleticism by getting him into open space, the reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year moved Minutillo back to attacking midfield. Obviously, the results were splendid.
"Mikey had been so caught up - and it was my fault - about posting up at the top that it hurt his game," Warming said. "Now he came back in the midfield, got a ball, laid it off and showed up someplace else...they couldn't find him. That made a big difference in the game and in his play."
Though the goals were just Minutillo's second and third of the season, Warming dismissed the notion that the performance was a needed confidence boost for the fifth-year player.
One of the most determined players on the team, Minutillo never needed more confidence. According to Warming, he just needed a change to get him going.
"I don't think Mikey has ever lacked confidence," Warming said. "He believes in himself, I believe in him and I've believed in him ever since I had him in camp when he was 13 years old. He's a great talent."
Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Penn State men's soccer head coach Bob Warming likes to compare the ascension a program makes over a number of years to someone climbing a mountain.
A year after guiding the Nittany Lions to the Sweet 16, Warming believes his team has the top of the mountain in sight. On Saturday, Penn State will face a team that has been there recently.
Indiana, the 2012 NCAA National Champions, will host the Nittany Lions at legendary Bill Armstrong Stadium in both team's Big Ten opener. Although they are coming off a disappointing 8-12-2 season, the Hoosiers have gotten off to a 3-0-1 start this year, the same as Penn State.
"We know our conference is amazing," Warming said. "The venue is going to be terrific for it. They have some super talented players. The big pieces are there and the little pieces that still cause you problems...they've got a lot of weapons."
Although the Hoosiers have graduated last year's top three leading point scorers, they return a collection of young talent. Sophomore Tanner Thompson is a dangerous playmaker who can play forward or midfield and junior Femi Hollinger-Janzen, who tied for the team lead in goals last season with five, offers similar versatility.
Sophomore goalie Colin Webb has gotten off to a fast start in his first season as the team's full-time starter, allowing just one goal in the Hoosiers first four games.
Still, the Nittany Lions have recent history on their side, having defeated the Hoosiers 2-0 in Bloomington last season.
"In the past they've played better soccer than us but I think we play a much quicker style now and they're the one's that lump it a little more," senior defender Owen Griffith said. "I think that's going to help us.
"[The atmosphere] is good and it's just like here. They've got a ton of kids lining the sideline and the band going so it's going to feel just like home, except the fans are going to be cheering for them instead of us."
Griffith had perhaps the highlight of his career last season against the Hoosiers when he scored a goal from 18 yards out to give the Nittany Lions a 2-0 lead in their eventual victory. Still, he has not forgotten how difficult an opponent Indiana has been over his four years in blue and white.
The Nittany Lions fell to Hoosiers in 2012 and 2011, Griffith's first two years at Penn State. In Warming's five years in Happy Valley, the Lions are 2-3-1 against the Hoosiers.
"They're historically a really big rival of ours," Griffith said. "[Beating them last year] was a big statement for us. It's going to be a battle this year...they lost a bunch of guys but they're still looking pretty tough."
One player who will be particularly amped on Saturday is midfielder Christian Kaschak, who missed last season with a torn ACL and has never set foot inside Armstrong Stadium.
"Just hearing what the guys had to say [about Armstrong Stadium], it seems incredible," Kaschak said. "Their fan base is amazing and historically they're a tremendous team...you always want to go there and show them what we have."
Even coming off of consecutive Big Ten regular season titles, the Nittany Lions still view the Hoosiers as the pinnacle of where they want to be.
Hoosiers coach Todd Yeagley is entering his fifth year at Indiana, the same amount of time Warming has been at Penn State, and the Blue and White want to give their coach the national title their rival has won.
"Coach Warming has only been here a couple of years now and I think it's his idea to get Penn State to be one of those nationally acclaimed programs like Indiana," Griffith said. "We want to be consistently at the top of the country in soccer."
Warming Marvels at 1954-'55 Championship Teams' Reunion
Bob Warming couldn't help but think about the future last Friday as his Nittany Lions defeated Temple 1-0.
Not just the rest of his team's season, but the future of his players in general. With members of Penn State's 1954-'55 national championship team in attendance to celebrate the 60th anniversary of their first title, there were plenty of emotions being felt all night.
"I told our guys, 'I want you to think about, if we win [the NCAA Championship] this year, what will the world be like in 2074,'" Warming said. "That's when we would be celebrating again. Think about the changes that those men have seen, and that their families have seen in the last 60 years."
Fifteen players from the two teams made it back for the game, which included a halftime ceremony in front of 4,052 fans. The group was honored again the next day at Beaver Stadium during the football team's 21-3 victory over Akron.
"How special it is for them to come back and see 4,000 people in the stands," Warming said. "With this kind of atmosphere, and this kind of quality soccer and this kind of quality field. I'm just so happy that so many of them are alive and well and healthy enough to travel and come here and enjoy the game."
Andrew Stelnyk, a defender on those teams and a native Ukrainian, spoke about the experience of seeing his old teammates, as well as being back on campus.
"It's a great time to be here," Stelnyk said. "The change over here is unbelievable. All of us are getting older but the spirit is still here, there is no question about it."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Penn State men's soccer team has always been a second-half squad.
That has especially been true this season. In the Nittany Lions first two games of 2014, all four of their goals came after halftime.
On Friday against Temple, it seemed like that would have to be the case again, as the clock approached the one-minute mark of the first half with the score tied at 0.
Oh, but how quickly things can change in a minute. All it took was for Mark Wadid to loft a corner kick into the box and Owen Griffith to head it into the back of the net with 59 seconds remaining to give the Nittany Lions a 1-0 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"Coach said to make some runs into the box because he felt like I was dominating the aerial game," Griffith said. "It was good to get in there and try to get on the end of some services and luckily I got on the end of one.
"It's great [to have a lead at halftime]. We're definitely a second-half team and to have a goal in the first half was a huge confidence boost for us."
A mainstay on defense for the Nittany Lions, Griffith's header marked just the fourth goal of his career and his first since he netted the game-winner last year against Michigan on October 11.
Wadid's corner kick gave him his fourth assist in just three games this season. After a freshman season in which he scored three goals but never registered any helpers, the Ontario native is turning into one of Penn State's most reliable playmakers.
"Oh man, [the corner kick] was great," head coach Bob warming said. "Mark's good in front of the goal but he's our best server. Owen's role is to just go hunt the ball and it was a great goal."
The goal came after 44 minutes in which the Nittany Lions consistently kept the ball in Temple's zone but were unable to score. Penn State got off six shots, including a one-on-one chance between forward Connor Maloney and Owls goalie Dan Scheck that came up just short for the Blue and White.
Even with a halftime lead, the Nittany Lions continued their reputation as a second-half team. Twice in the second half they put the ball in the back of the net only to have Mikey Minutillo and Randy Falk both ruled offside respectively.
With less than a minute left, Wadid nearly gave the Nittany Lions a bigger cushion but a bullet off the sophomore's foot ricocheted off the crossbar.
"You still always win the game in the second half," Warming said. "Hitting the crossbar and hitting both posts...it was a pretty good night in this temperature and this humidity."
Once again, the Nittany Lions defense came up big. When Andrew Wolverton stopped a shot from Stefan Mueller just over five minutes into the second-half, it was the first time in 208 minutes and 57 seconds that the star goalie had had to face a shot.
"Our three other backs, Eli, Mike [Robinson] and Mason [Klerks] have been tremendous," Griffith said. "Any long ball over my head they seem to scoop up. We can also keep the ball and build out of the back which is something our teams have had trouble doing in the past."
Still, the Owls did manage to pressure the Blue and White in the final twenty minutes. Eli Dennis made an excellent clear to stop a Temple attack with 15:31 remaining and two minutes later Wolverton made a terrific save on a rocket that Jared Martinelli sent to the corner of the left net.
With his third shutout of the season, Wolverton now only needs three more to bring his career total to 29 and claim the Nittany Lions all-time record.
"I have complete confidence in Wolvie," Griffith said. "He's an unbelievable keeper."
On a night in which Penn State honored the 60th anniversary of the 1954 and 1955 national championship teams, Jeffrey Field hosted an astounding 4,052 fans, the most to attend a Penn State soccer match since August 31, 2012.
"How special is it for them to come back and see 4,000 people in the stands and this kind of atmosphere and this kind of quality soccer and this kind of field," Warming said. "I'm just so happy."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Take a glance at a stat sheet for the Penn State men's soccer team these days and you may have to search a bit to find Eli Dennis' name.
Last year, it was easy. The 6-foot-2 Dennis spent nearly the entire season playing forward and finished second on the team in goals (four), third in points (10) and third in shots (29).
Nowadays, things are a little different. While Dennis is still a stalwart for the Nittany Lions, he now plays the less glamorous but equally important position of center back on defense.
How has he taken to the change? Exactly the way you'd expect from a guy that seems to always have a smile on his face.
"It's a different mindset and I like that I've taken on more of a responsibility role," Dennis said. "In the back I have to be a more mature player and it's easy to be that player when you're one of the oldest guys on the team."
A redshirt-senior, Dennis has played nearly everywhere on the field in a career that is now going on five years at two different schools.
As a freshman at American University in 2010, the Easton, Md. native played his high school position of center midfield and finished third on the Eagles in points.
After redshirting the next year as he transferred to Penn State, Dennis played center back in 2012 before a leg injury prematurely ended his season. That's the same spot he's at now after playing offense last year.
While his impact can no longer be measured in goals and assists, it's hard to watch a Nittany Lions game and not notice the tall, aggressive figure with a no. 4 on his back making play after play on the back line. Dennis has played all 90 minutes in both of Penn State's victories to start the season.
"I'm not a big stat pounder," Dennis said. "It's always nice to see your name somewhere for scoring goals but it's still nice to see your name for stopping goals as well."
This is the second straight year that Dennis has tailored his game to fit the needs of his team.
Last year, Warming needed an experienced player up front with the majority of Penn State's forwards being freshmen. This year, the return of Mikey Minutillo and the continued growth of sophomores Mark Wadid and Connor Maloney made Dennis' offensive burden less strenuous.
The defense, on the other hand, lost starters Akil Howard and Mark Seiler to graduation and freshman Dani Marks to a torn ACL. Once again, Dennis was the one who stepped up.
"He's essential to the team," head coach Bob Warming said. "Somebody had to go back there with Dani Marks going down and I can't think of anybody better than a high-character guy like Eli to jump in."
Keeping that in mind, Dennis admitted that the pressure of playing defense does outweigh that of playing offense.
"The pressure to stop goals is tough," Dennis said. "If you don't stop a goal it looks really bad for you, and soccer is a one goal game."
Still, playing defense has given Dennis the chance to play alongside one of his best friends on the team, fellow senior and captain Owen Griffith.
Griffith has always enjoyed playing with Dennis, not just for his ability on the field but also his personality off of it.
"He's one of my best friends," Griffith said. "We can tell each other anything and it's all in good nature and great playing with him back there."
And then there's Dennis's other talent. A meteorology major, Dennis considers himself an expert at predicting storm patterns, something he showed off at practice on Tuesday when he correctly guessed how quickly a 15-minute downpour would stop, much to the amusement of his teammates and coach.
"I enjoy the weather," Dennis said with a smile. "I called this storm stopping within a couple minutes."
"He's a pretty good storm chaser," Griffith added with a laugh.
As long as
he keeps chasing defenders away from the net, things should be fine for the
Temple Preview: A look at the Owls
The Penn State men's soccer team will face some international talent
against an intrastate opponent this weekend.
Temple, the Nittany Lions opponent on Friday night, features upcoming forward Olli Tynkkyen, a member of the Finland U-19 National Team. The freshman scored two goals in the Owls 3-0 victory over Sacramento State last week.
Coming off of a 10-4-4 season, the Owls have started 1-1 and return six starters, including last year's leading scorer in junior Jared Martinelli and All-AAC defensive selection Robert Sagel.
While the Nittany Lions have the reigning All-Big Ten goalkeeper of the year in Andrew Wolverton, the Owls have a top-notch goalie of their own. Senior Dan Scheck tied a Temple school record last season with nine shutouts and allowed just nine goals in 18 games.
"We know they've got some really big-time, talented players," Penn State head coach Bob Warming said. "Those are guys you know you've got to keep your eye on."
By scoring two goals in the first half against Sacramento State, the Owls proved they can get off to a fast start. The Nittany Lions, who have scored all four of their goals this season in the second half, will need to watch out for that.
Friday night's game will mark the first time the two Pennsylvania school's have played each other in soccer since 1997, a 2-0 Temple victory. Penn State has a 39-18-8 all-time record against the Owls.
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Entering 2014, the biggest question for the Penn State men's soccer team was who would step up as the team's go-to-guy on offense.
Two games into the season, the answer appears to be sophomore forward Connor Maloney.
Against both Oakland on Friday and St. John's on Sunday, the Nittany Lions entered halftime needing to generate more opportunities in scoreless ties. Both times, it was the 5-foot-6 sparkplug from Harrisburg that answered the bell minutes into the second halves of 1-0 and 3-0 victories, respectively.
"We're a second-half team," Maloney said after Sunday's win. "Coach [Bob Warming] has been motivating us in the locker room for the second half...I just feel so confident out there and we know we can get it done."
Against Oakland on Friday, the Nittany Lions came out of halftime having been outshot by the Golden Grizzles seven to five. It would take Maloney just seven minutes to turn the tide of the game, as he took a pass from fellow sophomore Mark Wadid and tapped it past goalie Eliot Tarney to give Penn State the only cushion they would need.
Against St. John's on Sunday, it might as well have been groundhog's day. The Nittany Lions got just one shot off in the first half in what appeared to be a defensive struggle against the Red Storm.
Once again, Maloney broke the tie with a little help from Wadid, knocking in a rebound in front of the net after Wadid initially beat his defender and had his shot blocked. Maloney would add a second goal with less than a minute remaining to put the icing on the cake for the Nittany Lions.
"[Mark and I] hope we're the tandem of the future," Maloney said. "Mark's great player and we work well together. We hope to be the future."
Back at his natural position of forward after spending much of last season playing midfield, Maloney is coming into his own as a goal scorer, with all five of his career goals coming in the Nittany Lions past seven games dating back to last season.
However, the player who led the team in assists last season is still respected by his coach more for his unselfishness than his ability to put the ball in the net.
"It's not like he's just being selfish," Warming said on Sunday. "He created another goal for us, so I think it's great. The maturity in the whole [sophomore] class in 12 months has been remarkable. Their maturity level has jumped through the roof in one year."
Apart from Maloney, the other standout of the weekend was senior striker Mikey Minutillo, who on Sunday scored for the first time since September 16, 2012 to extend the Nittany Lions lead to 2-0.
After missing all of last season, Minutillo entered this season bearing the expectation that he would bolster an offense that won seven games by a score of 1-0 last season.
In his first game back against Oakland, the San Jose, Calif. native was active all night and got off six shots, yet couldn't get the ball in the net. The bad luck looked like it was continuing on Sunday after the senior had a breakaway opportunity stopped with 21 minutes remaining.
Just three minutes later, Minutillo would redeem himself, taking a cross from Drew Klingenberg and putting it past goalie Jordan Stagmiller before being engulfed by his jubilant teammates.
"I was struggling the first half," Minutillo said. "I finally put it together and all I had to do was roll it in."
The moment certainly put a smile on the face of Warming, who had been waiting for Minutillo to get on the stat sheet.
"He needed that goal," Warming said. "As a striker you're thinking, 'when am I going to get my first one?' What I loved about it was that he hit in in with such confidence...knocked it into the back of the net like he was saying 'I'm gonna do this."
The two wins also put goalie Andrew Wolverton into second place on the Nittany Lions all-time shutout list with 25. He needs four more to pass Greg Kinney for first place.
Sunday's three-goal performance also marked a change for a team that usually plays a low-scoring, defense-first style. Not that they're complaining about the sudden boom in offense.
"It's a lot more comfortable, definitely," Maloney said. "Once we got that first goal we just got going and we didn't stop. We could have kept going even longer."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's soccer team is used to being looked at as the underdog.
After consecutive years of winning the Big Ten regular season title despite being ranked fifth in the conference to start the season, the Nittany Lions find themselves in a similar situation this season. They open their 2014 schedule ranked fourth behind Maryland, Michigan State and Michigan.
At this point, preseason rankings don't affect head coach Bob Warming and crew at all. Taking other teams by surprise has become second nature to them.
"It's nice going in there with a chip on your shoulder for sure," senior forward Mikey Minutillo said. "We'll prove all these guys wrong again."
Make no mistake, the Nittany Lions have the bar set just as high. A year after going 13-6-2 and making it to the Sweet 16, the Blue and White are looking to advance even further with a lineup that is young yet very experienced.
While they have just four seniors on the roster, the Nittany Lion return seven last year's starters, as well as Minutillo, who sat out 2013, and major contributors in senior defender Eli Dennis and sophomore forward Mark Wadid.
Last year, Penn State relied heavily on a group of freshmen that included midfielder Mason Klerks, forward Connor Maloney and Wadid. With those players now a year more seasoned, the Lions will look to them even more.
"Those freshmen having the year that they did was huge for them in their development, but also for us going forward," senior captain and midfielder Owen Griffith said. "We know that those guys are going to come back and hopefully have just as good of a year if not better because they've had one more year of development with this program."
As for the seniors, it is Minutillo's return to the lineup that has Warming particularly excited. The San Jose, Calif. native started 11 games in 2012 and was cited by his coach as one of the team's standout stars this preseason.
A year after it took the Nittany Lions 11 games to score multiple goals in one game, Minutillo's return to the front line promises to make the Nittany Lions offense more potent.
Warming is also counting on the team's scoring being boosted by the continued developments of Maloney and Wadid. Maloney finished last season tied for first on the team in points with 11, while Wadid finished third on the team in goals with three.
"We didn't have any forwards [last year]," Warming said. "We've got a forward now [in Minutillo] and Connor Maloney is developing into a great forward...we've got Mark Wadid and he's going to be a goal-scoring machine when he's in there.
"We're so excited to have Mikey back with us. He's scoring goals, he looks terrific...he adds a different dimension to our team and we're excited about that."
Then of course, there's Andrew Wolverton. The reigning Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year is returning from offseason shoulder surgery but is ahead of schedule and ready to begin his fourth year as the Nittany Lions anchor between the pipes.
The most decorated player on the team, Wolverton needs six shutouts to pass Greg Kinney as the Nittany Lions all-time leader in that category after breaking the team's single-season record with eight last season.
Wolverton's teammates know how lucky they are to have the 6-foot-6 goalie on their team. Last year, Wolverton posted a 0.81 goals-against average to go along with an astounding 76 saves on 94 shots. By comparison, last year's first team All-American selection Andre Blake of Connecticut made 39 saves on 56 shots.
"He's hands down the best goalie in the nation," Minutillo said. "He's not going to let much in and that's always good as a forward to know you just need to score one and he's going to keep the rest out of the net."
The Lions know repeating as conference champions and going further in the NCAA tournament isn't going to be easy.
With last year's NCAA runner-up Maryland now in the Big Ten, the Penn State will certainly have its share of challenges. The Nittany Lions play the Terpins for the first time on October 12.
If the past two years are any indication, bigger challenges will bring forth more good results for the Blue and White.
"It's really going to raise the level of the Big Ten," Griffith said of having Maryland in the conference. "It makes it that much more difficult for us to defend our title but it's makes it that much of a challenge for us that we want to three-peat."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 18th of August cannot come soon enough for Sandy Barbour.
Introduced as Penn State Director of Athletics on Saturday afternoon, Barbour is thrilled to begin her tenure as the leader of an athletic program that aspires to continue its long history of excellence on and off the field of play.
"When you spend a professional lifetime serving institutions and most importantly students, you dream about coming to a place like Penn State," Barbour said. "You dream about the opportunity to lead a program like Penn State athletics. Why? Because it represents the opportunity to have it all: Athletic excellence, academic achievement, community engagement and fiscal responsibility. So thank you, Eric [Barron]. I am absolutely thrilled, over the top excited about this opportunity and about being the athletic director at Penn State."
A graduate of Wake Forest where she was field hockey team captain, Barbour grew up on the East Coast and has always had a deep passion for Penn State University and its athletic department. That's what drew her to the position when she originally spoke with President Barron about the opportunity.
Immediately, Barbour felt a connection with the people, pride and remarkable accomplishments of Penn State University and its athletic department.
"I love the 'We Are Penn State.' I particularly love what it stands for. It stands for family," Barbour said.
Barbour desires to see national titles in all 31 sports on campus. But first and foremost, she will strive to lead a department with student-athletes who are elite performers in the classroom.
"We are athletic programs again that are all part of a university," Barbour said. "Our student-athletes will be students first, Penn State is incredibly proud of the academic performance of their students and we will continue to be."
Eager to hit the ground running when she begins her duties as athletic director in 23 days, Barbour wants to learn from everyone in the department, especially the head coaches leading Penn State's 31 athletic teams.
"Unity doesn't mean one opinion, and I actually embrace that, embrace the diversity of opinion, diversity in a variety of different ways, and I actually think that will make us stronger in our ability to move forward," Barbour said. "As I said before, I have something to learn from everybody, and I'll be doing a lot of listening."
Numerous head coaches were in attendance at Saturday's introductory press conference. The coaches and athletic department staff then had a chance to mingle with Barbour at a private reception before she boarded a flight to Chicago for Big Ten meetings. The head coaches in attendance exuded great confidence in the future direction of the athletic department.
"There is a culture, history and tradition of tremendous academic achievement at Penn State and that will continue," said head football coach James Franklin. "I know it's important to our president, athletic director and all of our coaches. That will continue. I know we'll spend as much time as we need to so we can start building."
"I am truly thrilled that Sandy Barbour will serve as the next athletic director for Penn State," Lady Lions head coach Coquese Washington said. "Sandy is a strong, dynamic and passionate leader. She is also an incredibly smart visionary and strategic thinker. It is exciting to imagine all the ways Penn State University, and Penn State athletics in particular, will be positively impacted by her leadership."
"I loved everything I heard today," head women's hockey coach Josh Brandwene said. "She has passion, vision and just a great understanding of the Penn State community. Both as a head coach and as an alumnus, I am really excited to start working with her."
Barbour will return to California in the coming days to prepare for her full-time return to Happy Valley on Aug. 18, and the new leader of Penn State Athletics is fired up to get started.
"We are Penn State. I'm all in. I'm ready to get going," said Barbour.
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Uniontown Photo Gallery | Pittsburgh Photo Gallery | Coaches Caravan Registration
VIDEO: Day I Recap - York & Hershey | VIDEO: Day II Recap - Baltimore & Washington, D.C.
PITTSBURGH - The 2014 Coaches Caravan capped off its first full week on the road with two stops in the western half of Pennsylvania.
Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus played host to the final lunch stop of the week. From there, the modified bus rolled north to Station Square in Pittsburgh for an evening reception. Take a look through highlights from the third day on the road for the 2014 Coaches Caravan.
Stop No. 6 - Uniontown (Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus)
The Coaches Caravan bus departed Washington, D.C., just before 7 a.m. on Thursday for a scenic trek through the Appalachian Mountains en route to Uniontown for the sixth stop on the 17-event tour during May. Thursday's stop at the Penn State Fayette campus was the first for the Coaches Caravan in its three-year existence. The scenic campus is situated in a place with superb views in every direction.
"This is my first trip here, and this place is absolutely beautiful," women's soccer head coach Erica Walsh said.
Walsh, along with men's soccer head coach Bob Warming and football coach James Franklin again headlined the final day of the first week. Walsh captivated the audience with another rendition of her visualization story of taking a prospective student-athlete on a recruiting visit.
Coaches Walsh and Warming have spent portions of the bus rides from event to event educating him on college and professional soccer. Warming used it as a lighthearted joke with Penn State Fayette crowd.
"It has been so great to be on the bus to educate Coach Franklin about the most popular sport in the world - soccer," Warming said.
Having now been on the road for three days on the Coaches Caravan, Coach Franklin has gotten an opportunity to meet fans and supporters from several areas in Pennsylvania and surrounding region. Since the day he arrived in Happy Valley, the support has stood out to him. He is passionate towards the fan base and wants to meet as many folks as possible.
"It's great to get out around the state and connect with as many people as possible," Franklin said. "The support has been the most impressive thing for me. We need your support."
With two more weeks ahead, Franklin is eager to meet as many fans as possible. The tone of his message has been constant over the first week of the Caravan. He's thrilled to be the head coach of Penn State, and he wants to make the fan base proud of the football program.
Stop No. 7 - Pittsburgh (Sheraton Station Square)
The Caravan's first week on the road wrapped up in front of 450 fans in Pittsburgh on Thursday night. Home to 56,000 alums in the greater metro area, the Steel City is home to some of Penn State's most loyal supporters. The room was filled with energy from the moment the doors opened prior to the reception at 6 p.m., and all three head coaches received a warm reception during their speeches.
Additionally, Pittsburgh area natives and assistant coaches Bob Shoop and Terry Smith joined Franklin, Walsh and Warming for the evening event. Shoop (Oakmont) and Smith (Aliquippa) recruited in the area during the day before shaking hands with countless Nittany Lion fans at the evening event. Nittany Lion great and former NFL quarterback Chuck Fusina was among the Pittsburgh area lettermen inside the Sheraton Station Square saying hello to Coach Franklin, as well.
All six stops this week featured passionate Penn State fans. The individuals sitting in the rooms listening to the coaches speak are among the undying supporters the University's athletic department has. However, Pittsburgh's rich history as a sports town, especially when it comes to football, always makes it an exciting evening event on the Coaches Caravan. Thursday's event was no exception.
The NIttany Lions will begin a four-game series with rival Pitt beginning in 2016 (Sept. 10) when the two teams meet at Heinz Field. The Penn State fan base in Pittsburgh is fired up for the team's return to the city, and it was clear on Thursday how excited the group is for the new era of the football program under the direction of Coach Franklin.
"This is your football program, not mine," Franklin said. "I am so proud to be your head coach."
Thursday was the final day for Coach Warming to be on the Caravan. The leader of the men's soccer program was terrific all week long. He was candid, lighthearted and passionate when it came to delivering a message to illustrate how much he loves Penn State and how much he enjoys the support of Nittany Nation.
The Coaches Caravan returns to the road on Tuesday for a stop in King of Prussia. Week two also includes a lunch stop in Philadelphia, dinner in Scranton, lunch in Northern New Jersey and an evening in New York City.
Day I - 165 miles
Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Total - 682 miles
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Baltimore Photo Gallery | Washington, D.C. Photo Gallery
VIDEO: Day I Recap - York & Hershey | Coaches Caravan Registration
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Coaches Caravan bus rolled south for day two of the first travel leg on Wednesday morning for stops at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
A sold out crowd of more than 230 enthusiastic fans greeted a cast of Penn State coaches, which included James Franklin, Erica Walsh and Bob Warming, in Baltimore. Take a look through highlights from the second full day on the road for the 2014 Coaches Caravan.
Stop No. 4 - Baltimore (Marriott Inner Harbor)
Wednesday's lunch stop in Baltimore marked the third-straight sold out crowd during the initial leg of the 2014 Coaches Caravan. On the heels of Tuesday's announcement that the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament is headed to the area (Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.) in 2017, the Penn State fans in the room were excited about what is ahead as the conference's footprint extends to the East Coast.
"It's so great to be in your area," Walsh said.
The 2014-'15 athletic season marks the first with Maryland as a member of the Big Ten. That being said, the 12,000 Penn State alums in the Baltimore area are thrilled to have Penn State's teams competing in Maryland on an annual basis. The Nittany Lion football team is slated to return to Baltimore on Oct. 24, 2015 when it will take on Maryland inside M&T Bank Stadium.
Coach Franklin lived on and off in Maryland for eight years, a place he calls home.
"It's awesome to be back," Franklin said.
In all, 10 players currently on the football roster or 2014 signees are from Maryland. For the men's and women's soccer programs, the story is much of the same. Walsh highlighted former Nittany Lion great and U.S. National Team standout Ali Krieger and former All-American and current National Women's Soccer League member Christine Nairn, who are both from the local area. Warming's men's soccer team has three members from Maryland on it.
Like day one on the Caravan, each coach explained how the loyal supporters of Penn State play such an instrumental role in the success of the athletic programs. Without the unrivaled support of the fan base, Penn State Athletics would not be what it is today. That's what makes the Coaches Caravan a special three weeks. It gives the coaches a chance to say thank you and provide some insight on what makes the programs tick.
"Penn State is a remarkable place for learning as a student," Warming said. "And it's a remarkable place to learn as a coach."
"Success is about being able to do the little things better than anyone else," Franklin said.
The day ended with a lighthearted question for all three coaches on the stage. A fan asked which flavor of ice cream at Berkey Creamery is their favorite. Coach Walsh said that she likes to stick with vanilla. Coach Warming likes strawberry. Coach Franklin's answer was a bit different.
"My mission is to taste every flavor," Franklin said.
Stop No. 5 - Washington, D.C. (Marriott Wardman Park)
A crowd of more than 425 fans greeted the Penn State coaches in the nation's capital on Wednesday night. The Washington, D.C., metro area is home to more than 25,000 alums. Like the Baltimore event, the individuals in attendance were fired up to see Penn State teams making annual trips to the area with Maryland joining the Big Ten.
Coach Walsh opened the evening speeches with her great visualization story of a recruiting visit. Before getting into the step-by-step process of recruiting, she had a joke for the attentive D.C. crowd.
"They usually put the key note speaker last, but we are switching things up on the Caravan," Walsh said.
Warming followed a standing ovation for Walsh with a speech to highlight his passion for Penn State and appreciation of the fans. Additionally, he informed the crowd of the exponential growth of soccer around the country. The leader of Penn State soccer spent much of the one-hour reception before the program began talking with fans about the sport.
"I love this crowd. I've talked more soccer at this stop than any other we've been to," Warming said.
Warming, who was a member of the search committee to hire the new football coach in January, introduced Coach Franklin as one of the finest men that he has ever met. Franklin then took the microphone in front of the room to a rousing cheer.
Franklin told the crowd how excited he is about the direction things are headed, largely because of the high-quality human beings that are on the team right now. Following the individual meetings with every player on the roster in the past two weeks, Franklin said he has been incredibly impressed with the student-athletes since he took the job.
"We are in a really good place right now," Franklin said. "They are really excited about the direction we are heading in."
As the fourth program drew to a close, Coach Franklin encouraged the group to return each Saturday in the fall. He was genuinely happy to be in Maryland and D.C. on Wednesday to meet another group of passionate fans.
"I include Maryland and D.C. as part of our state in the Penn State family," Franklin said.
The Caravan heads to Penn State Fayette in Uniontown and Pittsburgh on Thursday to wrap up week one of the traveling events.
Day I - 165 miles
Day II - 130 miles
Total - 295 miles
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