Recently in Men's Soccer Category

2014 Coaches Caravan Day III - Uniontown and Pittsburgh

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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.

caravan_uniontown_1.jpg 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.

caravan_pittsburgh_1.jpg 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.

Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles

Total - 682 miles


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Coaches Caravan Day II - Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

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Baltimore Photo Gallery | Washington, D.C. Photo Gallery

VIDEO: Day I Recap - York & HersheyCoaches 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.

caravan_baltimore_1.jpgIn 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.

caravan_baltimore_2.jpg 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.

caravan_DC_1.jpg "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.

Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles

Total - 295 miles


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Coaches Caravan Day I - York and Hershey

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York Photo Gallery | Hershey Photo Gallery

Coaches Caravan Registration

HERSHEY, Pa. - The 2014 Penn State Coaches Caravan hit the road on Tuesday with a pair of sold out stops in York and Hershey to kick off the first full week of events.

The Penn State themed Fullington Trailways bus pulled out of the Bryce Jordan Center parking lot at 8:15 a.m. en route to the Penn State York campus.  Take a look through highlights from the first two stops of a six-event week on the Coaches Caravan.

Stop No. 2 - York (Penn State York)

Head coaches James Franklin, Erica Walsh, Bob Warming and Coquese Washington headlined the first stop of the road tour on Tuesday.  After a media session, the coaches took the stage for a lunch program before a sold out crowd of more than 225 enthusiastic Penn State fans on the University's York campus.

Walsh, who will enter her eighth season as head coach of the women's soccer team in the fall, opened the panel of speakers.

"It's amazing to see so many people wearing Blue and White," Walsh said.

york_blog_1.jpgWalsh proceeded to take the fans through a vivid story of what a recruiting trip is like for a prospective student-athlete.  The leader of Penn State Women's Soccer guided the crowd through a recruiting visit weekend with every minute detail of what a trip to the campus is like.  From the academic buildings the soccer program takes recruits inside to a gameday experience in Beaver Stadium, Walsh painted a remarkable picture of what campus would look like for the first time as a 17-year-old prospective student-athlete.

"That is one example of many," Walsh said at the end of her speech.  "That (camaraderie on campus) is why we have won more national titles than anyone (tied with USC) since 2007."

Nittany Lion men's soccer coach Bob Warming addressed the crowd after Walsh.  Warming opened his speech by introducing Bob Little, a member of Penn State men's soccer's 1954 national championship team, who was in the York crowd on Tuesday afternoon.

york_blog_3.jpgWarming went on to joke with the attendees that he was thrilled to see a capacity crowd so excited to see Penn State's two soccer coaches.

"We know all of you came here to see Erica and I since soccer is the most popular sport in the world," Warming said with a laugh.

Lady Lion basketball head coach Coquese Washington kicked of the first of her two stops on the Caravan with a direct message to the loyal supporters in York.

"The fans, the alums, with how much all of you support us, it trickles down," Washington said.  "The student-athletes have such an unbelievable experience.  And your support is what lets provide that for them...You are part of our team."

Franklin stepped to the microphone as the featured speaker of the afternoon.  He first joked with the crowd that after listening to Coach Walsh's description of campus that he needs to get out of his office more and see the sights of what University Park has to offer.  After all, he has been living inside his office for more than month.

york_blog_2.jpgThe new leader of Penn State Football provided an update on the team, coaching staff and recruiting as he talked about the direction of the program.  He told the crowd that he met each player on the roster for 20-25 minutes individually before the spring semester ended.  The student-athletes will return to campus for the first of two summer academic sessions on May 18.

"I've been blown away by these kids since I've been here," Franklin said.  "They are an amazing group of young men."

In addition to winning football games on the field, Franklin wants to achieve new heights in all phases of the program, including highs in team GPA, graduation rates and activity in the community.

"We came to Penn State to make a positive impact in the community," Franklin said.

Stop No. 3 - Hershey (Hershey Lodge)

Tuesday night's evening event inside the Hershey Lodge was all about the fans.  Central Pennsylvania is filled with members of Nittany Nation, and the sold out crowd in Hershey gave the four head coaches a warm welcome to cap off a great first day on the road.

More than 750 Penn State fans filled the ballroom inside Hershey Lodge with great energy and enthusiasm.  The Penn State coaches all talked about how important the fan support is for the success of the sports programs in Happy Valley.

"What you guys can embrace is that we are truly a family of coaches and take the responsibility of representing you very seriously," said Washington.

caravan_hershey.jpgThe fan support, coupled with the strong relationships between the head coaches on campus, is what makes Penn State such a unique place. 

"I'm around such successful people who are at the top of their craft," Warming said.

Coach Franklin opened his evening speech by apologizing in advance that if the phone rang during the event, he was going to walk off the stage and take the call.  True to his word, Franklin stood up and walked to his right, off the stage while answering a phone call during the Q&A portion of the show.

Mid-way through the call, he turned to the crowd and led a rousing "We Are!" chant before getting back on the phone and returning to his seat on stage.

caravan_hershey_1.jpgThe overwhelming excitement from the fans in Hershey about the direction Penn State's teams are headed made it a great evening event.  The coaches are proud to represent the University, and the fans are proud to support the teams.

"I can't begin to tell you what it's been like to come back home and be your football coach," Franklin said.

The Caravan rolls south to Baltimore and Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Coaches Caravan Miles Traveled:
Day 1 - 165 miles

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Coaches Caravan - Pegula Ice Arena Kick-Off Event

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VIDEO: Kick-Off Event Press Conference | Photo Gallery: State College

2014 Coaches Caravan Registration

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the first time in its three-year history, the Penn State Coaches Caravan kicked off on Thursday evening with an event on the University Park campus.

Before a crowd of more than 425 enthusiastic Penn State fans and alums, head coaches James Franklin, Bob Warming and Russ Rose headlined the opening night of the 17-stop Coaches Caravan that will take place throughout the month of May.

9976484.jpeg"It means a lot to our players to play in a town where everyone is extremely supportive of them," Franklin said of the hometown crowd.

The evening opened with an hour-long reception where Franklin, Rose, Warming and Nittany Lion basketball coach Patrick Chambers, along with football assistant coaches Bob Shoop, Brent Pry, Josh Gattis and Charles Huff, mingled with the attendees.

The program portion of the event took place on the ice inside Pegula Ice Arena, the sparkling home of Penn State Hockey.  Warming, who led the Nittany Lion men's soccer team to its second-straight Big Ten title and NCAA Tournament berth in the fall, took the microphone first.  While describing the location of his office and the elite company he is around inside Rec Hall, Warming kept things light.

"The first door you come to is Russ Rose (in my hallway)...the next door on my hallway is Cael Sanderson...the next doorway down is Erica Walsh...And then there is me," joked Warming.

Warming discussed the principles his program lives by - Recruit. Develop. Retain. Graduate.

"Its never about the coach...It's about the student-athlete," Warming said.  "It's always about helping them achieve their dreams.  It's always about helping them achieve their goals and become educated men to help our society."

When Warming sat down, Rose was introduced to a standing ovation from the State College crowd.  Fresh off leading the Nittany Lion women's volleyball team to its fifth national championship in seven years, Rose received a rousing cheer from the hometown crowd.

"We are coming off a great season.  It's incredible to be in a position to win a national championship," Rose said.

Always quick-witted, it took Rose no more than 10 seconds to have the Pegula Ice Arena crowd roaring with laughter.  A 35-year veteran as a Penn State head coach, Rose has an undying passion for the University.  Each time he speaks, Rose's feelings for Penn State are pure.  He believes in the success of the University, its student-athletes and the head coaches leading the 31 teams on campus.

"I've been here for 35 years...we've got some of the finest coaches in the country," Rose said.  "Our coaching staff across the board right now is unbelievable."

Rose's remarks transitioned into the newest member of the Penn State coaching family.  Franklin has been on the job for just shy of four months.  After signing a strong recruiting class in February, the newest leader of Penn State Football led the Nittany Lions through a productive spring practice period.  In his time at Penn State, one thing has stood out to Franklin since day one.

"The thing that makes Penn State's about the people," Franklin said.  "The support we get is unreal."

Franklin is thrilled to get out on the road during May to meet Penn State fans from all corners of the state and region.  Since he took the job, Franklin has talked about how proud he is to be the head coach of the Nittany Lions.  His words were genuine in every sense on Thursday night in Pegula.

"For a lot of people, this is a job," Franklin said.  "This is personal for me.  This means the world to me.  For a guy growing up in the state of Pennsylvania to come back and be the head football coach at Penn State is unbelievably special."

Working to build an elite program on and off the field, the top items on Franklin's list for a successful Penn State football program include graduating every player, winning games and impacting the region and state in a positive way.  With a tireless approach to every facet of the day-to-day operation, Franklin and the football staff will work to make the fan base proud each and every day he is on the job, which he hopes is a long time.

"I love that the expectation here is for the head coach to be here for 80 years," Franklin joked.

The Caravan will hit the road on Tuesday to begin the first travel week.  Sold out crowds in York (lunch) and Hershey (dinner reception) will greet Franklin, Warming, Coquese Washington and Erica Walsh on Tuesday.

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Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Coaches Caravan Press Conference - State College

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2014 Coaches Caravan kicked off inside Pegula Ice Arena on Thursday.  Take a look at the event's press conference featuring head football coach James Franklin, head men's soccer coach Bob Warming and head women's volleyball coach Russ Rose.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Penn State Athletics THON 2014 Coverage

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Athletics was heavily involved with the 42nd IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) held at the Bryce Jordan Center this weekend.

A record 711 dancers began standing at 6 p.m. on Friday and did not sit down or sleep until Sunday at 4 p.m. to raise awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer in the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Since 1977, THON has partnered with The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital with one goal in mind: conquering childhood cancer.  THON raised a record of more than $13.3 million in 2014.  To date, more than $110 million has been raised by THON.

Several Penn State student-athletes danced in the annual dance marathon.  Representing the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) will be Maggie Harding from women's volleyball, Natalie Buttinger from field hockey, Erin Kehoe from women's soccer and Christian Kaschak from men's soccer.

Additionally, Nicole Williams and Elise Potter from the Lionettes squad and Eugene Bodden, Kali Fleckenstein, Carrie Tedesco and Ally Zimmerman from Penn State cheerleading danced in THON.

Several teams and coaches played an active role in THON events throughout the weekend, in addition to squads participating in Saturday's annual pep rally and team dance competition.

We would also like to congratulate Penn State Athletic Communications student assistant Rachel Steinberg, as she danced over the weekend, in addition to the several student assistants actively involved with THON.

Take a look through our THON weekend updates on the involvement Penn State Athletics. To donate to THON, please visit

Friday Coverage:

3:30 p.m. - Feature: Student-Athletes Set to Dance for Pediatric Cancer

Click here to read a feature on the student-athletes participating in THON 2014 - Feature Story

6 p.m. - THON 2014 Begins
The 711 dancers took their feet at 6 p.m. before an energetic crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center to begin 46-straight hours on their feet.

11 p.m. - Interview on the Floor talked with women's volleyball senior Maggie Harding on the floor about her experience during THON.

Saturday Coverage:

3 p.m. - Student-Athletes Host Make-A-Wish Families
Several teams hosted THON Make-A-Wish families on Saturday afternoon as part of the THON 2014 festivities.

More than 50 members of the Nittany Lion football team welcomed nearly 40 THON Make-A-Wish children and their families to a special tour of the Lasch Football Building on Saturday afternoon.

The Make-A-Wish event is circled on the calendar for the Nittany Lions every year.  The THON families gathered inside the home of Penn State football to take photos, get autographs, tour the facility with the Nittany Lions, eat ice cream from the Penn State Creamery and take a group photo.

Head coach James Franklin greeted the group when it arrived at the facility tour before senior Miles Dieffenbach and sophomore Akeel Lynch led families on tours.  Take a look at the Make-A-Wish event at the Lasch Football Complex on Saturday.

Photo Gallery - THON Make-A-Wish Football Event

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5 p.m. - Student-Athletes Participate in Athlete Hour
Athletes from several teams on campus spent times with the THON Four Diamonds children inside the Bryce Jordan Center during athlete hour on Saturday.  Take a look.

9:45 p.m. - VIDEO: Pep Rally Dance Competition Highlights
One of the THON highlights every year comes on Saturday night when the teams of Penn State Athletics hop on stage and compete in a dancing competition during the annual pep rally.  In all, 12 different teams competed in the 2014 version of the dance-off.

With resounding approval from a packed house in the Bryce Jordan Center, the Nittany Lion men's swimming team was named champion of the team dancing competition for the second-straight year.  We have highlights of every team dancing on Saturday night at THON. 

Photo Gallery - THON 2014 Pep Rally

Team Dances
Men's Swimming (Champions) - Full Dance
Football - Full Dance
Men's Basketball - Full Dance
Women's Volleyball - Full Dance
Men's Gymnastics - Full Dance
Women's Tennis - Full Dance
Field Hockey - Full Dance
Fencing - Full Dance
Men's Soccer - Full Dance
Women's Lacrosse - Full Dance
Women's Soccer - Full Dance
Women's Golf - Full Dance

11:05 p.m. - Student-Athlete Dancer Interviews: Hour 30 talks with THON 2014 dancers Natalie Buttinger (field hockey) and Erin Kehoe (women's soccer) during the 30th hour of their 46-hour quest at THON.

Sunday Coverage:

12:55 p.m. - VIDEO: Coach Franklin Addresses THON 2014

Head coach James Franklin took the stage at THON on Sunday afternoon, urging the dancers to continuing working hard in their final push at the 46-hour marathon.  Franklin spoke before a capacity crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center.  Take a look.

4:11 p.m. - THON 2014 Raises Record $13.3 Million
THON 2014 reached new heights on Sunday afternoon when it was revealed that this year's efforts raised $13,343,517.33 for fight against pediatric cancer.  Congratulations to everyone involved in THON 2014.  Here is a look at the reveal on the Rec Hall video board following Sunday's Penn State wrestling victory over Clarion.


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Men's Soccer THON 2014 Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Watch members of the Nittany Lion men's soccer team show off their dance moves at the THON 2014 Pep Rally.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Happy Thanksgiving from Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 'Tis the season for giving thanks, and Penn State Athletics would like to take an opportunity to say thank you to the loyal fans on Thanksgiving.

As you sit down with family and friends to eat your traditional meal while the Lions and Cowboys host their annual Thanksgiving day home games, Penn State Athletics would like to thank you, the fans, for the unrivaled support you give every team on campus.  Penn State's teams would not be the same without the greatest fans in college sports.

As a token of their appreciation, several student-athletes from teams on campus would like to say thank you and Happy Thanksgiving for the support you give them throughout the athletic season.

Nittany Lions Take Away Important Lessons from First Round Win

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By Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach Bob Warming called the first round of the NCAA Tournament the hardest match to play until the Elite Eight. Thursday night against St. Francis Brooklyn (12-6-1), his No. 16 Nittany Lions (12-5-2) hurdled that tough task and now are on their way to a second round battle with 10th-seeded UC Santa Barbara.

9482239.jpegIn true Penn State fashion, it was a hard fought defensive battle for the full 90 minutes that allowed them to escape the gritty Terriers on their home turf of Jeffrey Field for the final time in 2013.

There were two chances for the Nittany Lions early in the match that were stopped by St. Francis.  But the Lions struck in 37th minute when midfielder Drew Klingenberg and Eli Dennis connected on a goal that defined their contributions in the 2013 season for Penn State.

Klingenberg played a ball on the outside and saw the streaking Dennis who finished the cross just as he did three times in the regular season, except this tally had bigger implications.

"Any time I see Eli open I know there's a good combination play ready to happen and if he's going to put the work in I'm absolutely going to put the work in too," Klingenberg said after the match. "I saw him streaking and before you know it, it was a goal. It was an awesome play."

Warming called the sequence a world-class goal and it was exactly that.

St. Francis was just a few inches away from a world-class goal of their own in the 57th minute when junior forward Kevin Correa took a free kick from deep outside the box and nearly bent it past goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton before he hit the post.

Penn State was then able to hold off a Terrier rally late in the second half and seal a trip to the second round of the tournament and a Friday morning trip to California.

A lot is to be learned, though, from this tough first round test for the Nittany Lions. First and foremost, however, the most important thing in Dennis' mind is that they were able to play an NCAA tournament game, something only two Penn State players could say prior to Thursday's match.

"It's good to get a first round win like this because other than Jordan (Tyler) and Grant (Warming) nobody has been in a tournament game on our whole team," said Dennis. "It's nice to have a first round game especially on that was as competitive as this to set the stage for what's to come."

Coach Warming added a short bit to Dennis' statement.

"We're veterans now," he said.

That's how he wants his team to play moving forward. The biggest thing he, Dennis and Klingenberg stressed post-game is game management, something all three thought could have been improved late in the second half against St. Francis Brooklyn.

The Terriers had a few opportunities late in the final 45 minutes and that will be the focus for Penn State prior to playing Santa Barbara at historical Harder Stadium on Sunday.

"We need to slow the pace of the game down sometimes and that means instead of flying forward and taking guys into the box we have to put our foot on the ball and play it back," Dennis said. "We have to pick and choose when we want to attack and sometimes possession is better than taking a chance and potentially losing the ball."

Warming agreed, saying in a situation with the ball and the lead his team has to be more aware of where they have the ball and what they are going to do with it.

"If you're going to lose the ball, it has to be on the edges," he said. "It's too easy to counter attack when you lose the ball in the middle. We could have played around the edges a lot more. It's just the little things."

Penn State will have two full days to make those adjustments before facing off with Santa Barbara at 9 p.m. on Sunday with a trip to the round of 16 on the line. 

Playing with Heart: Howard Fulfilling His Dreams

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By Mike Esse, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As his parents looked on, Akil Howard smiled and hugged   teammates at the edge of the celebration. Then it was his turn. He took the Big Ten regular season championship trophy and lifted it high above his shoulders, enjoying the moment.

Every Penn State athlete on the field for the Nittany Lions' title-clinching victory, a 2-1 overtime thriller over Northwestern on Oct. 27, had worked hard to be there. But no one had endured quite as much as Howard: six years of soccer training, stops in two countries and three states and, finally, a heart condition that sidelined him for nearly a year.

"I would go through all of it again right now," the redshirt senior defender said. "I'm in my senior year and I would not change anything about it."

Penn State head coach Bob Warming called Howard's journey "the best story in college sports."

The Diagnosis

8162394.jpegIt was late summer of 2011, and everything was going well for Howard as he settled in at Penn State, his third academic institution since graduating high school. Prior to training with the Nittany Lions, all he needed was a sports physical exam, a simple and routine matter.

This one wasn't very simple or routine.

Testing showed Howard's electrocardiogram (EKG) was abnormal, and a subsequent ultrasound from the sports medicine team at Penn State revealed his heart was thicker than normal.

He was quickly sent to Penn State Hershey Hospital to see Assistant Professor of Medicine Eric Popjes and undergo more exams. The testing at Hershey confirmed that the heart was too thick, potentially hampering its ability to pump blood.

"He felt well and was doing well," Popjes said, "and since he had no bad family history we asked him to sit out for six months."  

Nonetheless, the diagnosis was hard for Howard to take. He had hoped to play in 2012, when he became NCAA eligible at Penn State. Suddenly, he faced the possibility of never playing soccer again, and even if he was cleared to play, he still faced the daunting task of getting back into shape.

Howard second-guessed his soccer career for the first time in his life.

"When I heard from the doctor in Hershey that I couldn't go and play right away it had me thinking a lot of what else I could do besides soccer," Howard said. "I depended on just soccer and the team and going out and playing every day as a part of bring me happiness.

"Sitting out and watching the rest of the guys play was teasing me because they were out there playing and I was not able to do much, even though I felt fine and didn't have any physical pain."

Howard dealt with the situation by staying close to the team, watching them train and play from the sidelines. Anything that would allow him to stay connected to the game.

"He was right there on the sidelines supporting us even though he really wanted to play," said Julian Cardona, Howard's high school and college roommate. "He wanted us to win and it was good to have his presence there even though he couldn't play."

When his six months were finally up, Howard went back to Hershey to get retested by Popjes' team to see if the heart thickness remained. Good news - it did not.

While the EKG was still slightly abnormal, the heart thickness dissipated and the doctors cleared him to play, while continuing to monitor him closely. He was required to monitor his heart condition via a heart monitor device he had to wear 24/7, even during practice on the soccer field.

"It was a little annoying at first, but with time I got used to wearing it," Howard said. "I had to wear it every time we trained and had to check my heart rate while I was playing and during practice. It was an adjustment at first and I had to continue to do it for a good season and a half."

The next few months weren't easy for Howard, but his life experiences groomed him for such a challenge.

"It's no surprise he kept going," said Cardona. "He just wants to play soccer and he's super gifted athletically, but more importantly has the work ethic to push through."

Big City, No Distractions

Neil and Carine Howard saw their son's love for soccer at an early age.  He slept with a soccer ball and dribbled throughout the house, putting juke moves on pieces of furniture.

The Howards are natives of the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent, where soccer is a mainstream sport. Upon moving to the United States, they found a way to pass it down to their son Akil, even while living in the Queens neighborhood of South Jamaica, a part of New York City that isn't known for the game.

"Basketball is the number one sport in my neighborhood," said Akil. "My father taught me soccer because that is when he knew when he was growing up in the Caribbean. If it wasn't for my mom and dad, I wouldn't be playing soccer right now."

As all four of Neil and Carine Howard's children did, Akil had his sights set on succeeding in the classroom, as well as on the pitch.

"That was the plan from day one," Neil Howard said. "That is what we expected it to be."

In fact, Neil laid out a very specific, if simple, plan for Akil to reach soccer success: play as much as possible, wherever possible.

Akil says the tight focus on books and soccer kept him on the right path and out of trouble.

"I was lucky enough to have (soccer) because there's so much other stuff like gang and drug-related activity that could get you in trouble," he said.

During his first two years of high school at Archbishop Malloy in Queens, he played for the New York Red Bulls Academy club team.

The Red Bulls are based out of northern New Jersey, so Howard was forced to trek through Manhattan during the peak of rush hour multiple days a week just to get to practice. It was school and soccer. Nothing else.

Then, at 16, Howard and his parents decided he would go to Faribault, Minn., to play at Shattuck St. Mary's prep school for his last two years of high school.

Howard chose Shattuck, a United State Soccer Development Academy member, because of its heralded prep soccer program, which has turned out many college and professional players. Howard began to grow as a player during his time in Minnesota, especially in the eyes of his teammate Cardona.

"He was a freak athlete," Cardona said. "He got really good at Shattuck with his left foot and in other important areas that molded him into what he is today."

After two successful years at Shattuck St. Mary's playing for the competitive U18 team starting as a 16-year old, Howard's next move was to the University at Buffalo.

Despite having offers from a number of Division I programs, Howard chose Buffalo because of its proximity and because of the ability to get in-state tuition and more scholarship money.

But his stay was short. Following his freshman year, Howard left the program to pursue a career elsewhere at a more competitive soccer venue. This time, it wasn't even in the United States.

It was in London.

Playing in the Cradle of Soccer

9474956.jpegHoward traveled to England in 2010 to Richmond University in London to get a different type of feel for the game of soccer, with hopes of playing professionally in Europe in the years to come.

The style was a little different in Europe in the way both coaches and players approached the sport. Howard took that experience and put it in his back pocket as he continued to diversify and deepen his soccer knowledge.

Through the Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy, Howard was able to play youth teams like Villareal, Blackburn and Liverpool - the best of the best in Europe. And now he was living a professional lifestyle.

"It was necessary (to play in England) because I said if I want to play soccer professionally I'm not necessarily going to be able to pick the team I go to," he said. "You're going to get sent anywhere and you just have to adjust.

"England opened my eyes to a lot of what it is to be a professional. It made me know how bad do you really want to play professionally and it showed what a career would look like."

After his first year, Howard decided he wanted to turn pro in Europe - but was denied his request to be granted a working visa.

It was a moment of mixed feelings for Howard. On one hand it was a setback, but on the other, a new chance.

"I hit a point where I missed home so much because of the time difference and I didn't have anyone there that I knew," he said of his stay in England. "At times it felt really lonely and I would call my parents and there was a five-hour time difference between England and New York and it was tough because I felt alone a lot."

He began to consider the alternatives, opportunities that would take him to State College. Through it all, Howard continued to find a way to keep playing soccer. That's what impressed the Nittany Lions' head coach.

"It's the two most important things you should have figured out by the time you get out of college," Warming said referring to Howard's journey.  "Chase your dreams and don't give up."

Getting Back, Getting Cleared (again), Getting a Degree

Upon his return to the states, Howard chose Penn State because of the potential of playing at a competitive Division I program. He walked on in 2011 and has since earned a scholarship.

After his heart ailment, and then being cleared for the start of the 2012 season, Howard had to get back in game shape both mentally and physically. Retaining his physical shape wasn't terribly difficult, but it was more difficult to get the mental processes back after almost a year of not playing a real game and more than half of a year of not training.

"I wasn't mentally ready for the game when it came to speed of play," Howard said. "I sat out for so long that when playing at a high level with the guys I was playing much slower than before.

"My feet weren't as fast because my thinking process wasn't as quick as it needed to be and I was slow on decision making as well."

With help from his teammates, strength coaches and coaching staff Howard played his way back on to the field in a limited way during the 2012 season. He appeared in 14 games notching three points in 290 minutes of play, while starting in one match.

And his time on the sidelines groomed him for his 2013 season.

"I was able to improve a lot and build a lot of team chemistry with the guys for 2013," Howard said. "The freshman back then are juniors now and we spent a lot of time together and the chemistry is built up to the point where now we play very well together."

His time out and away from the field clearly didn't help his case to get playing time in 2012, but Howard didn't use it as an excuse. Following the spring semester last May, he went down to Florida to play in a Professional Development League with Penn State teammate Andrew Wolverton. The idea was to back into the flow of playing on a consistent basis again, gearing up for a final collegiate season.

It was his last chance, after spending two years at Penn State on the sidelines and in a reserve role. Howard did everything he could to make sure he got on the pitch.

There was one thing he couldn't control, though - a trip back to Hershey Medical Center to visit Popjes and make sure everything was OK with his heart after playing on a daily basis over the summer.

At first glance, Howard's EKG again looked abnormal, so Popjes conducted an MRI of his heart in August. Howard tried to stay calm.

"It didn't show a lot of thickness in the heart muscle and the overall heart function looked OK," Popjes said. "The MRI is the best way of measuring the thickness of the heart muscle so we let him play again."

Finally, Howard had caught a break.

He paired with fellow redshirt senior defender Martin Seiler and Wolverton to create a dominant backline for Penn State, which led the Nittany Lions to a 5-1 record in conference play.

With just the NCAA Tournament remaining, the Howards have begun to reflect on their son's up-and-down soccer journey and its greatest reward.

While the fate of his senior season is yet to be determined, his parents most want to see one single sheet of paper: Howard's degree in psychology from Penn State University, something that at one point in his life wasn't a certainty.

Akil 1.jpg"That's what I am looking forward to," Carine Howard said. "We didn't want him to come home without that piece of paper. That's what our goal was and we were able to do it during soccer and still get an education."

So, back to that Big Ten trophy, the one that multiple times seemed like it would never be Howard's to lift. As they watched the scene, it looked to Howard's parents as if all of their son's trials and tribulations seemed non-existent.

"We are very proud of him," Carine Howard said. "It was a lot of hard work and dedication on his part. We just tried to support him from the beginning to the end."

Like her son's coaches and teammates, Carine knows the reason Akil has made it this far: his heart.