Penn State has won 92 Big Ten titles, including 21 in women's soccer (16 regular season).
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just four months into his tenure as commissioner of the
Big Ten Conference, Jim Delany recalls an idea brought to the table by former
Illinois President Stan Ikenberry.
It was October of 1989 when Ikenberry, who spent time as a senior administrator
at Penn State earlier in his career, broached the thought of adding an
institution to the Big Ten for the first time since Michigan State was invited
to become a member in 1949.
The Big Ten then began a formal research process of an institution that would
bridge a Midwestern league to the East.
The Pennsylvania State University was on the table for discussion as a superb
academic institution with a rich tradition in athletic success.
Delany, whose sister attended Penn State as a graduate student, didn't need much
convincing. He knew the level of potential a partnership between Penn State and
the Big Ten could foster.
Big Ten hadn't changed in many, many decades, but I thought if the opportunity
to expand presented itself it was a no brainer," Delany said earlier this week.
"Excellent academics. Excellent athletics. And pointed towards the East Coast,
I thought there was a lot of potential there. That was my recommendation at the
The process moved forward with the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten
institutions discussing the topic before news broke just before the holidays in
December of 1989 that Penn State could be on its way into a new conference. Under
the direction of athletic director Jim Tarman at the time, Penn State had been
competing as an independent in football for more than a century, and the rest
of the department had been a member of the Atlantic 10 since 1976.
When the news initially surfaced, women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose, who
along with field hockey coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss are the two current Penn
State head coaches who were on staff in 1989, was giving a presentation at the
annual women's volleyball coaches convention (AVCA) about the importance of
NCAA Tournament at-large bids for teams in smaller conferences.
"I remember talking in front of the group about
the importance that not all of the at-large bids go to the bigger conferences
and that there were good teams in other conferences even though they didn't
have the same notoriety, said Rose. "We have a lunch break. I turn on ESPN at
lunch, and I see that Penn State is going to be a member of the Big Ten. I come
back. I say to some people that I would like to retract what I said about
The formal process concluded with a vote in Iowa City on June 4, 1990, at which
time Penn State was officially accepted as a member of the Big Ten Conference.
Twenty-five years have passed in a partnership that allowed both the University
and conference to reach unprecedented heights on the field and in the
a broad perspective, at the time, my view was that it was a tremendous fit for
both sides. And history has proven that," Delany said. "With all the other
expansions around the country, I'm not sure there was one that benefitted both
institution and conference as much as this did, largely because of the
characteristics of Penn State were so well matched with the characteristics of
the Big Ten."
The positive news zipped throughout campus shortly after the vote in Iowa.
"I remember hearing about the announcement from Mary Jo Haverbeck, from the Sports
Information office," said Morett-Curtiss. "She told me about us going in and
how it was going to have a major impact for women's athletics at Penn State."
It was an announcement that changed the landscape of funding and development
for all of Penn State's 28 programs at the time, and it was a day
Morett-Curtiss remembers quite well.
"Ironically, I had gone for a run that day on the trails near Sunset Park and
as I'm running, I see someone walking in front of me and it was Joe Paterno,"
Morett-Curtiss said. "And it was that day, so I said to him, 'hey what's going
to happen?' He said, 'I think this is going to be a really good thing for Penn
State and the exposure all of the programs are going to get.'"
The women's volleyball program captured Penn State's first Big Ten title in 1992, marking volleyball's first of 16 conference crowns.
Penn State's teams felt the impact of the Big Ten conference almost
"What it did for us when we joined the Big Ten is that it No. 1 it resulted in
a reassessment of the levels of commitment we had to the various programs,"
Rose said. "We became fully funded when we joined the Big Ten. Prior to that,
we were not fully funded. And we were not fully staffed. Entering Big Ten,
collectively, for all of the sports resulted in us having a new commitment from
the University to try and be competitive. From a volleyball perspective, we had
been competitive prior to that, but playing in the Big Ten in women's
volleyball made us better because the level of competition was better than we
were experiencing in the Atlantic 10."
At the time, women's volleyball had just one assistant coach on the staff
alongside Rose and nine scholarships to field a roster. Joining the Big Ten
boosted the program to full funding and 12 scholarships.
"As I look at it now, we could have had some great teams if we had funding in
the early years," said Rose. "That was just the way that it was. When you take a job, that is the job you
took. When we joined the Big Ten, a lot of us got a better job without having
to move. But it's way more competitive. Recruiting is a lot different than what
we had experienced in the Atlantic 10."
The same can be said for what Morett-Curtiss experienced within the field
"The financial support from a scholarship standpoint was huge right away," said
Morett-Curtiss. "And knowing our field that we were going to build was going to
be a first rate facility."
The investment for success around the Big Ten stood out during Penn State's
transition. Every institution and athletic program strives to be the best. It's
a trait that has not changed during the department's 25 years as a member, and
it's something that will be a trademark of the Big Ten for decades to come.
"The level of commitment to being good across the conference, everybody cared,"
said Rose. "I don't believe every conference across the country has that sort
of commitment in all of their sports. I think that is one of the things that
makes the Big Ten really unique. If they offer it, they care and they want to
Penn State's time in the Big Ten has been marked by excellence in the classroom
and on the field of play. In all, Penn State's programs have accounted for 92
Big Ten championships from 15 different programs - 76 regular season and 16 post-season. Additionally,
more than 170 student-athletes have accounted for nearly 300 individual Big Ten
Penn State student-athletes have earned more than 5,000 Academic All-Big Ten
recognitions since it joined the conference, with its three highest totals
during the past three years, led by 296 in 2012-13.
"Penn State's entrance into the Big Ten not only changed the
intercollegiate sports landscape, it also changed our academic landscape and
our future. Our size, our academic reputation and our athletic tradition
matched up well with Big Ten schools," said Penn State President Eric
Barron, who also noted that all Big Ten schools are flagship universities for
their states. "The academic side of the Big Ten is known as the Committee
on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the institutions together have annual
research expenditures topping $10.2 billion -- more than the Ivy League and the
University of California System combined -- and they educate a total of nearly
600,000 students. The benefits from being part of such an outstanding and
prestigious organization with such an expansive footprint across the nation are
The women's volleyball program earned Penn
State's first Big Ten crown during the 1992 season, just one year after the
team began competing in the league. The title marked the first of Penn State's superlative
16 Big Ten titles in women's volleyball, in addition to seven NCAA
Championships since 1999.
Like women's volleyball, the women's soccer program has been a benchmark of success
in conference play. The program became the department's 29th varsity
sport in 1994. Since then, Penn State has won an unprecedented 16 conference
titles, including a string of 15-straight from 1998-2012.
The football program claimed the Big Ten title in its second season of
competition during an undefeated Rose Bowl championship campaign in 1994. Coach
Joe Paterno's '94 squad became the first Big Ten team to ever post a 12-0
record. The '94 crown marked the program's first of three Big Ten championships
to date (2005 and 2008).
The fall season of 2005 stands out as a monumental period in Penn State's
history within the conference. Nittany Lion teams clinched five Big Ten titles
in a span of 30 days. The list included field hockey, football, men's soccer,
women's soccer and women's volleyball. Since the fall of 2005, Penn State teams
have won 51 Big Ten championships (5.1 titles per year in a 10-year span).
Penn State clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days
during the fall of 2005, including one for the women's volleyball team.
It's impossible to quantify how the partnership between Penn State and the Big
Ten altered the recruiting landscape for the teams on campus and how the
recruiting gains equated to success on the field of play. But pitching a
world-renowned education with an elite conference affiliation cultivated
relationships with premier student-athletes.
"The name recognition was big for football, but when you see how many of the Universities
and programs have been successful on a national level, I think that has greatly
helped," Morett-Curtiss. "Exposure for all of the Universities within the
conference has helped us all grow. Combining the academic side of what these
Universities have with the athletics, it's a very powerful combination when we
go out recruiting student-athletes."
A big piece to the exposure of Penn State teams during the past 25 years was
the launch of the Big Ten Network on Aug. 30, 2007. More than 800 Penn State
sporting events have aired live on the BTN since it launched. The benefits of
the conference's TV network, which is in more than 60 million homes, increased visibility across the country for
the department in a way that cannot be measured.
"The Network was a major step for us," Morett-Curtiss. "Just having the
opportunity to have games on TV so that little girls can watch and learn about
the sport. It's helped, not only exposure for the program, but it's helped the
sport grow. It's just a phenomenal avenue for us to showcase our University and
The BTN's impact goes back to what Rose talked about as one of the immediate
impacts his program felt - funding. Not only did the BTN infinitely increase
exposure for Penn State teams, it has played a paramount role in increased
revenues for each institution.
"Certainly, the Big Ten Network has been instrumental in generating funds for
the Universities and the conference and the bowl revenue sharing has resulted
in more money for all of the schools and the conference," said Rose.
In 2008, Penn State captured its third Big Ten title in football
en route to a trip to the Rose Bowl.
the competitive atmosphere is intense between teams across all of the
conference's sports, each member institution understands that the individual success
aids in the growth of the collective conference.
"I think the relationship has been a really positive one," said Rose. "There
are a lot of similarities between the various Universities."
"Everybody in the Big Ten shares what they do and why they do it; best
practices," said Dave Baker, Associate Athletic Director for Business
Operations. "We share lots of ideas, at least from the business manager and
ticketing perspective. We learn things from one another. And there aren't
secrets. We all work together and try to help each other out...We all don't do
things the same way. We all have limitations, but we are all looking to help
one another out for the betterment of the conference.
"Some people would find it hard to believe that people in the Big Ten root for
other Big Ten teams in the postseason, but we do. We follow what is going
on...It is a cooperative spirit and a partnership."
Baker is one of just a handful of Penn State administrators and coaches who
have been with Intercollegiate Athletics during the past 25 years. That list
includes Jan Bortner, who was head coach of the men's tennis team in 1990 and
has since transitioned into a role as an associate athletic director. Among the
key changes Baker felt from the business operation centered on travel. Bus
trips were the norm for Penn State teams in the Atlantic 10, but the geography
of the Big Ten led to more plane travel.
A quarter century has passed since initial discussions of a new relationship
took place and bonds were formed. Many things have changed significantly for
Penn State, the conference and intercollegiate athletics nationwide, but it's
been 25 years marked by growth stemming from a vision in 1989.
"Pennsylvania is a very important state. It served as a bridge to the East for
us. It made our football offerings stronger," said Delany. "It has been
excellence with national championships in a variety of sports. And I have
always felt that the 1994 Penn State team was the best team in the country; no
disrespect to Nebraska. When you look at the players that team had (five first
team All-Americans on offense) and what that group accomplished. That team was
the national runner-up. That was a tremendous football team. I've seen some
very good basketball teams both on the men's side and the women's side. And
obviously, the wrestling and volleyball programs have been dominant on the
Penn State has won a total of 27 national championships since joining the Big
Ten, including three in 2013-14, and the department's collective success speaks
By no means was the integration in 1990 an easy one, but the partnership
between the University and Big Ten is a match that enabled both sides to
mutually prosper in a way neither side could have envisioned when the formal vote
concluded 25 years ago today.
The wrestling team began a string of four-straight Big Ten
titles in March of 2011.
GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY
PARK, PA.- It was a season full of achievements for the Penn State men's soccer
individuals awards like Connor Maloney winning Big Ten Forward of the Year to
team ones including a No.3 national ranking in October, the Nittany Lions
accomplished plenty during a 13-6-1 campaign that ended with a trip to the
second round of the NCAA tournament.
head coach Bob Warming thinks about the season, the first thing that comes to
mind won't be the goals or the victory celebrations. Instead, Warming will
remember how much fun he and his players had on a regular basis.
remember everything but I think the one thing that I'll ways remember is the
relationships and how they developed," Warming said. "We had a lot of guys with
great character on this team."
attitude and the mindset carried over onto the field, where Penn State opened
the season with an incredible 10-0-1 run that included standout wins over Big
Ten opponents Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan and Rutgers.
way, the Lions attracted the strongest fan base the team has seen in years. Not
only was the student section at Jeffrey Field regularly packed, a bus full of
students made the four-hour trip to Maryland on Oct. 18 to watch the Blue and
White take on the Terpins.
pleased with how our fan base has grown," Warming said. "If the timing is right, we
can attract kids to our sports and it's happening. We have a great leader in
(marketing director) Rob Roselli who connects so well with the fans. I think
we'll continue to grow."
the season ended with a disappointing 2-1 loss to Syracuse in the second round
of the NCAA Tournament, the Lions saw young players develop, veterans leave
their mark and a season will plenty of memories.
Lets take a
look back at some of the most
memorable moments from the 2014 campaign.
The Wolf of Park Avenue
game better exemplified Penn State's overall team play than its 1-0 victory
over Michigan on Sept. 28.
gave senior goaltender Andrew Wolverton his school record 29th
career shutout. While the 6-foot-6 goalkeeper made a signature diving save to
preserve the win with eight minutes remaining, he also received terrific
defensive support from his backline of Eli Dennis, Mason Klerks and Mike
That was a
theme throughout the season for the Nittany Lions. While Wolverton, the 2013
Big Ten Goalkeeper of the year and a 2014 All-Big Ten Second Team selection,
was his usual stellar self, his success would not have been possible without the
support of his teammates.
team was instrumental in Andrew getting the shutout record," Warming said. "The
amazing saves made by him are something I'll always remember, but I'll also
remember the saves that our other players made by diving in front of balls for
By the end
of the season, Wolverton had nine shutouts on the year and an incredible 32
over his four years as a starter. For a team that won 13 1-0 games over the
past two years, the goalie's performance was irreplaceable.
The Magical Touch of Maloney Try to
tellWarming that he has a defensive
minded team and the coach can't help but laugh.
True, the Lions
were involved in eight 1-0 games this season. Still, that is simply the nature
of a sport like soccer.
common score in men's collegiate soccer is 1-0," Warming said. "The reality is
our team can really score they're just so good at defending."
In 2014, no
player in the Big Ten scored throughout the season quite like sophomore forward
Connor Maloney. Not only was he named the conference's top forward, he also led
the Big Ten in goals with 10 and notched five game winners.
impressive than his scoring, however, was the way the Harrisburg native carried
himself throughout the season. Even as he was emerging as a star, the 5-foot-6
striker remained humble.
Connor has grown a lot as a player in just two years," Warming said. "Last year
he led the Big Ten in assists and didn't get much recognition. Now with him
scoring goals people are starting to take notice and he'll continue to get
A Lasting Legacy and Bright Hope for
the Future Warming has
been coaching college soccer since 1976. At this point, he's used to watching
groups of players graduate after four years.
this year's seniors, Dennis, Randy Falk, Owen Griffith, Mikey Minutillo,
Robinson and Wolverton, will always have a special place in the coach's heart
because of their leadership, humility and general sense of Penn State pride.
been at Penn State for five seasons, Warming has gotten to know these six
players as well as any group he has ever coached. Over the past four years, they
have helped Penn State capture two Big Ten regular season titles, qualify for
the NCAA Tournament twice and remain in first place in the conference standings
from October 2012 to November 2014.
seniors all wanted to make their mark on Penn State and they've done a
fantastic job," Warming said. "This was a team that didn't play well on the
road before they got here and now they've always done well on the road. They've
the 2014 campaign ended earlier than they would have liked, the Nittany Lions
created a plethora of memories on Jeffrey Field this season, from their 1-0 win
over Ohio State on Mack Brady Day to the thrilling 2-1 victory over Hartwick in
the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
With six starters
returning next season, Penn State should remain a force to be reckoned with in
exciting part about coaching, even if you lose just one player it makes a huge difference,"
Warming said. "This team is never the same, and part of the joy of coaching is
seeing that evolution. I never go into any season without expectations and I'm
always pretty optimistic and I want to win every game. I always feel that if
the preparation is there and the work is there than that is something that we
can achieve. I'm always going to believe that."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-Less than a month ago, Brett Gravatt was a bench
player trying to fight his way into the lineup for the Penn State men's soccer
Now, he's the player that sent the Nittany Lions to the second round of
the NCAA Tournament.
During Penn State's first round game against Hartwick Thursday night,
the reserve midfielder scored the first goal of his career with 16 minutes
remaining to give the Lions a thrilling 2-1 win.
"Wow," Gravatt said afterwards. "I felt excitement, I guess. I'm glad I
Although the feat may seem impressive itself, it doesn't give complete justice
to the beauty of the sophomore's goal.
Taking the ball on the right side of the box, Gravatt separated himself
from a defender with a quick move to his left, then fired a rocket that curled
past goaltender Tom Buckner and into the top left corner of the net.
As teammates engulfed him in celebration, Gravatt simply turned and
walked towards the Penn State sidelines.
"One of my strengths is [one-on-one] so I like to go at people," Gravatt
said. "I was able to beat him inside and got the shot off and I got lucky and
it went in. I curled it pretty well and I guess I hit it pretty well."
Not only did the goal give the Nittany Lions a lead they wouldn't
relinquish, it was a moment that Gravatt had spent the entire season working
After coming back from a torn meniscus in the offseason and playing
just 84 minutes in Penn State's first 16 games combined, the Dunn Loring,
Virginia native finally got into the starting lineup during the Lions' previous
two games against Akron and Michigan State.
While the sophomore didn't enter the game until the second half against
Hartwick, he made sure his presence was felt when the opportunity arose.
"The message to the guys before the game was, 'don't blend in,
standout'" head coach Bob Warming said. "When the game is over with, know that
you've stood out in some manner, that you made a big play, that you helped your
team win and obviously Brett did that. He took advantage of a moment and helped
our team come through."
It may have been Gravatt's first tally of the season, but it didn't come
as a surprise to any of his teammates,
who are used to seeing such plays from the midfielder in practice.
"Yeah, we've seen him do that a lot," senior forward Mikey Minutillo
"All the time," midfielder Brian James added.
However, the goal was more than just a big moment for Gravatt. It was
also proved that the Nittany Lions were capable of coming from behind in the
second half with their season on the line.
After playing the Hawks to a draw in the first half despite outshooting
them eight to two, Penn State fell behind less than a minute into the second
when a scrum in front of the net produced a goal by Jhevaughn Beckford.
Down 1-0 and with only 44 minutes remaining to salvage their season, the
Lions didn't roll over and quit. Instead, they responded by continuing to
create chances in the Hartwick zone.
Just over 13 minutes after Beckford's goal, Minutillo answered for the
Lions, beating Buckner to a ball from midfielder Drew Klingenberg and tapping
it past the goalie to knot the score at 1-1.
Afterwards, the 6-foot-1 forward admitted he was nervous as he watched a
Hawks defender nearly prevent the ball from ending up in the net.
"To be honest, I was a little doubtful that it was going to go in,"
Minutillo said. "That center back came in sliding and he got a piece of it, but
luckily it had enough pace, but as it was rolling I just wanted it to go faster
and faster and thank god it did."
In total, the Nittany Lions outshot the Hawks 17 to seven in a hard
fought, physical game. What impressed Warming the most though, was seeing the
fortitude of his players after they fell behind.
Soccer is a low scoring game, and one goal can often be enough to
determine a winner. But on Thursday, the Nittany Lions overcame that and found
a way to chip away at the Hawks' defense until the game was won.
The NCAA Tournament is now in full swing, and Penn State is sure to see
another challenge when it takes on Syracuse on the road on Sunday. Still, wins
like this prove the team will not go away without a fight.
"You know what I liked the most, is that we've had games this year where
we had a goal scored on us and for the next few minutes we were a little poor,"
Warming said. "[Tonight], I thought we stepped it up a little better. We just
kept going, kept going at them. I was really excited about that because it
means that your team has confidence and they feel they're going to win it. I
think not having that self doubt anymore is going to help us."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY
PARK, Pa.- There's not much you can throw at the Penn State men's soccer team
that it hasn't seen before.
with every starter on the team at least a sophomore and five seniors seeing
regular time in the lineup, the Nittany Lions have the experience to handle any
alone, they've enjoyed plenty highs, fought through a few challenges, and with
the NCAA Tournament kicking off this Thursday at home against Hartwick, they
feel they have the necessary experience to make a serious run.
to be great," senior goaltender Andrew Wolverton said. "A lot of guys have been
through this before and we know how to prepare, we know what it's going to be
like. It's going to be hopefully a great atmosphere here on Thursday."
the Nittany Lions won twice in the NCAA Tournament en route to a trip to the
Sweet 16. They return six starters from that group (Mason Klerks, Drew
Klingenberg, Owen Griffith, Connor Maloney, Mike Robinson and Wolverton) as
well as Eli Dennis and Kyle MacDonald, who have started for much of the season.
many players having not just played in the tournament but also having success
there, there won't be much anxiety for the Blue and White leading up to
Thursday. For the most part, it will simply be business as usual.
"I think we
have enough experience in the NCAA tournament," Maloney said. "We've got a lot
of older guys and a few new guys and I think we'll be ready and that'll get us
Out of all
the players seeing regular time for the Nittany Lions, the only ones without
NCAA Tournament experience are sophomore Brett Gravatt and junior Michael
Gonzalez, who have both recently seen time in the starting lineup.
what he advice he has given his less experienced teammates, Wolverton kept it
simple. You've got to go about your business as usual, even if there is more at
as any other game honesty," Wolverton said. "Obviously, it's got that hype and
everyone's going to be pumped up but you can't let it affect how you're going
to play you've just got to be focused."
At the same
time, Wolverton and his teammates know that Thursday's matchup against the
Hawks is more important than a regular season game. If the Lions are going to
keep playing into November, there can't be any margin for error.
off since Nov. 9, Penn State will also enter the tournament extremely fresh and
rested. With no games last week, the Lions spent the time relaxing and
participating in light exercises to keep their fitness up.
ramping up the intensity of their workouts over the weekend, the plan is spend the next few days going over the scouting report and watching
weekend, we had a couple of really tough practices, scrimmaged a lot, put a lot
of running on their legs," head coach Bob Warming said. "[This week] we'll do
our normal pregame routine that we do. Our guys are still in recovery mode,
still got some guys nursing injures so we can't do too much right now. We're
not going to lose fitness."
That extra preparation
is one thing that Lions have over the Hawks, who played last Sunday when they
defeated Georgia Southern 1-0 to win the Sun Belt Conference.
Hawks only having three days of rest in between games, the Lions will clearly
have the advantage in both recovery and training.
"A lot of
rest was key for right now," Maloney said. "We're pretty good right now, we're
coming off a lot of rest and I think we'll be ready with practice this week,
it'll be pretty light and we'll be ready.
of had dinner and just been around each other in the locker room [last week],
That just about it. A little bit of mental regeneration last week getting
primed for this week."
difference between the Lions and the Hawks is the way the two squads made the tournament.
Hawks, qualifying required overcoming a 0-6-4 start by finishing the season 6-3 and winning their last three games.
on the other hand, has been a force throughout the season and enters the game
with a 12-5-1 record. Now that the postseason is finally upon them, the Lions
are looking forward to giving their fans a little more to cheer about.
gets old, man, it never gets old," Warming said. "I had a lot of anticipation
[waiting for the bracket to be announced]. I'm really happy for our guys, I'm
happy for the body of work they've put together this year.
they're in is the body of work they've put together this year. Some teams got
hot at the end of the year, this team got in because of what they've done
throughout the year. I know they are primed to make great run at this thing."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY
PARK, Pa.- The past two semesters have been a whirlwind for Brett Gravatt.
switching schools, adjusting to new teammates and dealing with an injury, the
Penn State men's soccer sophomore has certainly had his hands full since last
19-year-old believes his transition from Akron to Penn State has ultimately gone
as well as possible.
really smooth," Gravatt said. "The players welcomed me really well and the
coaches have been really helpful and supportive."
midfielder for the Nittany Lions, Gravatt has gotten the first two starts of
his Penn State career the past two games. However, his rise from bench player
to Division I starter hasn't been an easy one.
began last year, when the Dunn Loring, Virginia native realized he didn't want
to spend the rest of his college career at Akron, where he had appeared in 11
of 22 games as a freshman.
getting released from his scholarship, Gravatt spoke to his high school best
friend, Nittany Lions backup goalie Evan Finney about potentially coming to
Penn State. Finney got him in contact with head coach Bob Warming, who told
Gravatt about the benefits of the university as a whole.
"I went to
Akron for soccer but when I talked to coach Warming, he sold me on getting a
great degree and being a part of another great program," Gravatt said. "He told
me even if the soccer thing didn't work out, I'd still be getting a great
all it took to convince Gravatt that he belonged in blue and white. Still, the
challenges didn't end there for the 6-foot-1 midfielder.
get accustomed to his new environment as quickly as possible, the former Zip
showed up in State College early in the summer to begin training. Although
things went well at first, the trouble began when he tore his meniscus.
the surgery was completed, doctors realized that his knee also contained a
blood clot. The injury caused Gravatt to miss training camp and the Lions
season opener against Oakland.
definitely difficult," Gravatt said. "I gelled pretty well in the summer before
the injury. The guys were great to me [while I was out] though. I still felt
like I belonged."
recovered, Gravatt was not handed a starting spot, as he needed to shake off
the rust and prove he could play serious minutes for a Big Ten contender.
State's first 16 games, he received just 84 minutes of playing time in seven
appearances. Finally, with the Nittany Lions playing his former squad in their
regular season finale, Gravatt was given his first start.
Akron, the former Zip was around the ball all night, getting off three shots in
a much needed 1-0 victory for Penn State.
Warming] was hinting that I was going to start," Gravatt said. "He knew I was
really excited for a game like that and that I would perform."
Gravatt started for a second time against Michigan State and is now primed to
be a key performer for the Lions when the NCAA Tournament begins next week.
credits his teammates for encouraging him when he wasn't playing. One player that
was particularly helpful was the only one who has been his teammate for all of
college, fellow Akron transfer Riley Grant.
an injury would have been tough enough without the added pressure of adjusting
to a new school in a completely different state. In Grant, Gravatt had both a
roommate and a friend to lean on and make the transition with.
really great having Riley here," Gravatt said. "It was nice to have a familiar
face when I first got here. We've had the experiences together and we're
roommates now. We're very good friends."
it was a pleasure to help his friend out during a difficult time. After all, the
Copley, Ohio native may not have ended up at Penn State if it wasn't for
Gravatt made his decision to become a Nittany Lion, he knew Grant was also
going through the process of choosing a new school. He made sure to get his
teammate in contact with Warming.
got my release, Brett always said, 'I'll talk to coach for you,'" Grant said. "
He told me how great coach [Warming] was to him and that really helped."
agreed that having Gravatt around was a huge help when he first arrived at Penn
State. Not only has his company been nice, but the determination Gravatt showed
in working his way into the lineup has been motivational as well.
[having Gravatt around] because I wouldn't have known anybody," Grant said with
a laugh. "It was a whole new beginning just like it was when we started at
one of the hardest workers I know. When he was hurt or not playing he kept his
head up and just wanted to help the team and that shows how driven he is. He's
helping us now and we're going to need him."
how much the team does need Gravatt in the NCAA Tournament, there is little
room for error for any of the players now that they are in a do-or-die situation.
challenge is something Gravatt is looking forward to. Now that he has proven
himself in Penn State's rotation, there is nowhere to go but up.
"I want to
do whatever I can to help the team," Gravatt said. "I've always been an
offensive player and coach and everyone has helped me a lot with becoming a
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK,
Pa.- After an entire season of soccer, playing three games in eight days is not
an easy task.
situation the Penn State men's soccer team faced this week. After falling to
Northwestern 2-1 in overtime on the road last Sunday, the Nittany Lions gutted
out a 1-0 overtime victory against Akron on Wednesday before hosting Michigan
State in the Big Ten Tournament on Sunday.
a double overtime game on turf in Chicago, in the cold" head coach Bob Warming
said. "We sprinted as hard as we could against Akron Wednesday and we got to
Spartans, the Lions got off 12 shots but weren't able to get a ball in the net,
falling in the first round with a 1-0 loss.
Warming said that both he and Michigan State head coach Damon Rensing agreed
that fatigue had a factor in the way the game was played.
teams having trained every day in addition to playing games since August,
November truly is the dog days of the soccer season.
factor to me, and Damon and I were just talking about it, both teams are just
tired," Warming said. "I just talked to all the guys, and I'm really proud of
all of their efforts this week, they worked hard this week and [gave] as much
as they had in them."
the entire game, both teams played with a defensive-minded approach that
prevented either team from dominating possession of the ball. After a scoreless
first half, Spartans forward Tim Kreutz ripped a shot off a volley from
18-yards out to put Michigan State ahead.
came close to tying it with six minutes remaining, when a header from Connor
Maloney off of a Brandon Savino pass went just over the top frame of the net.
and that's soccer right there for you," Maloney said. "Yeah it was frustrating
a little bit but you've got to keep playing the entire game."
losing in the conference tournament is never fun, it doesn't end the Nittany
Lions season. They still have the upcoming NCAA Tournament to end their season
on a high note.
the tournament, we're top 20 RPI (ranking), we're going to get a home game,"
Warming said. "We need some time to get freshened up. I hated to lose, but if
you're looking at the long run, maybe this gives us a better chance ... you gotta
look at the positives of it."
State will have to wait until next Monday to find out the details of its
first-round NCAA Tournament game, it is guaranteed to have this week off.
lived and breathed soccer the entire fall, some time away from the game could
be good for the Nittany Lions. According to Warming, the entire team would get
at least three days off to rest up, refocus and spend some time on schoolwork.
"One of the
most important parts of fitness is recovery," Warming said. "While everybody
else is beating each other up, we're going to get in the pool, get on the bike,
relax, play a lot of FIFA, and maybe a study a little bit would a really good
idea and then make a good run."
At the same
time, the Lions haven't given up on their goals for the season. A year after
making it to the Sweet 16, they are determined to have another successful
postseason this year.
they take the next few days to work on refreshing bodies, they will remain
hungry and itch for their next chance to get back on the field.
want it enough you'll get far in the NCAA Tournament," Maloney said. "I know
Michigan State will and I think we will too to be honest with you. Our guys got
the heart and we'll bounce back and make a deep run."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Penn State men's soccer team is approaching the
Big Ten Tournament a little differently this year.
"I've been on different sides of this thing," head coach Bob Warming said.
"We want to win the Big Ten. The statistics show that the team that loses in
the conference tournament goes deeper in the NCAA tournament. That was with the
old format ... with the new model, we might as well just go ahead and win it."
Although some teams are wary of going far in the conference tournament for
fear of being too tired when the NCAA Tournament rolls around, that isn't Penn
This year, the Lions will have four days in between games if they can get
past the Spartans. Their second game won't take place until Friday, November
"We're going right through," senior forward Mikey Minutillo said. "I think
we're going to go all the way until the end and win the conference tournament.
We're playing good and it's a bummer we didn't win the Big Ten outright but
we've still got the tournament to fall back on."
Both Warming and the players aren't going to lie. They're disappointed they
weren't able to capture their third straight conference title.
Last Sunday against Northwestern, the Lions were 100 seconds away from
securing the tie needed to win the regular-season championship before a double
overtime goal from Mike Roberge gave them a heartbreaking 2-1 loss.
Needing Rutgers to tie or beat Maryland on Wednesday in order to still pull
out a conference championship, the Nittany Lions weren't so lucky. The Terrapins
defeated the Scarlet Nights, 3-2, at the same time Penn State wrapped up its
regular-season with a 1-0 win over Akron.
"We were a 100 seconds away from winning our third one," Warming said.
"That was massively disappointing and because we played so well. It was just
disappointing how we lost.
"But to their credit, guys are back playing hard tonight (against Akron)
and we can't control [the Maryland game] and just move on to the next thing."
Penn State will also have plenty of motivation because of the first-round
matchup they've drawn.
While the Spartans won their regular season finale against Indiana on
Wednesday 3-2, they've recently endured a tough stretch of their own, having
gone 0-2-2 in four games after their win over Penn State.
"I think our guys are always itching to win," Warming said. "I think it's
going to be an incredible tournament. I told the [other Big Ten] coaches in the
conference call the other day, 'we have the best collection of goalkeepers I've
ever seen in the history of any conference I've ever been in.'"
The last time the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten Tournament was in 2005,
five years before Warming took over the program.
The mindset of the team isn't necessarily focused on ending that drought as
much as it is on proving to the Big Ten it can still play at the level it was
at earlier in the season.
Beating Akron on Wednesday was a good first step. The next step is
stringing together consecutive victories, like the streak of seven in a row
they had between Sept.13 and Oct. 4.
"We talked about it right before the [Akron] game," Minutillo said. "We got
to get this win so we can carry it right into the conference tournament."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Head coach Bob Warming
had two words to describe goalie Andrew Wolverton's performance against Akron
"Cheese and crackers," Warming said. "It was a really good night for him to do what he did."
Against the Zips, Wolverton
registered five saves as the Nittany Lions won their regular season finale 1-0.
Although that may not seem
like a huge number, the situations he made them in and the level of difficulty
proved why the 6-foot-6 senior is considered the best goalie in the Big Ten.
With 2:30 remaining and the
Lions trying to hold off a last-ditch Akron rally, Wolverton made an incredible
lunging save off of a shot from Sean Sepe before recovering in time to block
another attempt from Stuart Holthusen.
It was the second time
Wolverton came up huge at the end of a half, as he also stopped a prime attempt
from Adam Najem with 2:09 left in the first.
"It was awesome, he did a
great job today," senior forward Mikey Minutillo, who scored the team's lone
goal, said. "I told him after the game he's the reason we got the shutout. He
made three or four big saves that I haven't seen any other goalie in the nation
Minutillo was perfectly calm
as he praised his goaltender, and it's understandable why. After all, Wolverton
is the reigning Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year, and his teammates have become
accustomed to such performances.
Still, the shutout was
important for both Wolverton and the Nittany Lions in general.
After registering nine shutouts (Wolverton had eight) during their 10-0-1
start, the Lions gave up 11 goals in their next five games, which included four
While the amount of goals a
team allows doesn't fall completely on the shoulders of a goaltender, it felt
good for Wolverton to get another shutout under his belt with the conference
tournament beginning Sunday.
"Having a game like this
always helps [your confidence] but it's better for the whole team," Wolverton
said. "We got a goal and did well defensively and got a big win."
After four years of filled
with highlight reel saves, it's no wonder that Wolverton takes a humble
approach to his success.
The Nittany Lions all-time shutouts
leader, Wolverton knows no goalie can perform well without a great team in
front of him. However, it was his teammates that really needed him on
"That's just part of my job,"
Wolverton said. "Just like Mikey scoring goals, that's what I have to do to
help the team win and I was fortunate to get a hold of a few tonight."
Grant and Gravatt Thrive Against Former Team
Riley Grant and Brett Gravatt
both saw plenty of familiar faces Wednesday night.
That's because the two
Nittany Lions were on the same field as their prior teammates in addition to
their current ones, having both played for Akron as freshmen last season.
Though neither transfer has
been a regular starter for Penn State, both came up big on Wednesday against
their former team.
Gravatt started at midfield and got off three shots, while Grant came off the
bench and assisted on Minutillo's goal with 9:16 remaining in the game.
"It was a weird feeling," Grant said. "I'm glad I was able to help the team,
there's no hard feelings or anything."
Afterwards, both players spent a few minutes speaking with their former
teammates and coaches.
"We're just wishing each other the best of luck," Gravatt said. "I think we
left on good terms and we just want the best for each other."
For the two of them, the night was more about getting on the field in general
and winning than getting on the field against their old team.
Gravatt earned his first start of the season after logging just 84 minutes of
playing time in seven prior appearances while Grant spent the game against
Northwestern on the bench.
"[Brett's] been playing better and better and been training and worked hard and
he's been a good teammate," Warming said. "It was great that he got to play
against his former school and he played very well.
"I'm just happy for Riley that he's playing better. He's got some talent and
maybe the role we've had him in [at forward] is a little better than what we've
tried with him in the midfield."
The performances come at a good time for the duo. With the postseason about to
kick off, Grant and Gravatt are just happy to be contributing in any way
"It felt great," Gravatt said. "I've been struggling with my knee all season
and just trying to get fit and it just feels great to be on the field."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- For the
second straight game, it took over 100 minutes for a winner to be decided in a
Penn State men's soccer game.
A week after Michael Gonzalez gave the Nittany Lions a thrilling 2-1
victory in double overtime against Wisconsin, the Blue and White were not as
fortunate this time around, falling to Northwestern 2-1.
Entering the game needing only a tie to clinch their third straight Big
Ten title, the Nittany Lions were just 100 seconds away from a draw when
Wildcats forward Mike Roberge took a long pass and got the winning shot by
Although the loss was heartbreaking, it certainly wasn't because of a lack
of effort. The Lions got off 14 shots and rallied to tie the game after falling
behind 1-0 15 minutes in on a goal by Eric Weberman.
"I couldn't be prouder of my guys," head coach Bob Warming said
afterwards. "Northwestern can be such a tough place to play. Our guys played
with great cohesion and great organization."
A few weeks ago, the Nittany Lions may not have even gotten into
overtime in a game like that.
In back-to-back losses against Maryland and Michigan State, the Lions
fell behind early and were never able to recover. Against the No. 20 Wildcats
however, they managed to fight back, tying the game on a Mikey Minutillo goal off
of a penalty with eight minutes remaining in the first half.
In the second half, the Lions took control early on and looked poised
to break the tie. Brandon Savino, Mason Klerks and Connor Maloney all had prime
chances stopped by Northwestern goalie Tyler Miller, who played terrifically
and made eight saves.
"They really kept playing hard and battling," Warming said. "They showed
a lot of fight in them today.
"Northwestern is really organized and well coached and they just don't
give up a lot of chances. We had a couple of good ones that were just a little
One player who epitomized the attitude that Warming wants to see is
Minutillo, who scored his sixth goal of the year despite coming off the bench
for the first time all season.
Entering the season with the expectation of being one of the keys to
Penn State's offense, Minutillo was a consistent producer early in the season
yet entered Sunday having not scored since October 1 against Bucknell.
With Owen Griffith returning from an injury that kept him out of the
Wisconsin game and Gonzalez having proven himself as a capable starter on
defense, Warming moved Griffith up to forward and decided to see if Minutillo
would be a better fit as a spark off the bench.
That certainly proved to be correct, as the California native didn't
complain about the change and gave the Lions the offensive boost they needed.
On the goal, the senior had his initial attempt and first rebound blocked
before finally knocking it home on the third try.
"I thought [Mikey] could be the type of guy that could come in and
really give us a spark off the bench," Warming said. "He certainly did that."
As heartbreaking as the loss was, it doesn't end the Nittany Lions
season or their chances of winning the Big Ten title. They can still win the
conference if Rutgers can win or tie against Maryland on Wednesday.
The Lions could still wind up playing Northwestern again in the
conference tournament, and at the very least their effort today gives them the
confidence that they can play with the Wildcats.
"We are all really disappointed in the loss," Warming said. "I still
think the guys are really focused. They came here a good team and left an even