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Leadership Leads Nittany Lions to Successful Road Trip

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10741348.jpegBy Tyler Feldman, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Thanks to the veteran leadership of outside hitter Aaron Russell and opposite Nick Goodell, the Nittany Lions (6-9, 4-0 EIVA) earned their first two conference road wins of the season over the weekend at Sacred Heart and Harvard.

After a long bus trip from University Park to Sacred Heart, the Blue and White defeated the Pioneers (4-8, 1-4 EIVA) Friday night in straight sets (25-16, 25-11, 25-21). Then the team continued their journey to Cambridge where the Nittany Lions topped Harvard (9-5, 3-2) in four sets (21-25, 25-14, 25-23, 25-22) in a heated match Saturday evening.

"Hopefully it's the first two of many," said Goodell. "It feels good finally to see the hard work pay off."

Being on the road is not as easy as it looks. It is imperative to maintain a certain standard of balance. For Penn State men's volleyball, the preparation for an extended trip away from Rec Hall starts at the beginning of the week.

"Earlier in the week we tell them what the deal is," said Russell on mentoring the underclassmen. "For this trip, we know it's a long bus ride, tough gyms to play in and Harvard is a good team, so we just lay that out first and foremost. I just tell them how to cope with such a long trip: sleep when you can, take naps, get as much sleep at night whenever you can, and try to make yourself feel at home as possible."

According to head coach Mark Pavlik, the success that his program has achieved over the course of his 21-year regime is why his team is always ready for the road.

"It's become such an ingrained expectation with this program that we will be on long road trips," said Pavlik. "It's now the day-to-day grind. You talk about recovery. You talk about sleep. You talk about taking care of classes and making sure you spend your time wisely at those things so you can recover and get ready for the next trip."

A scheduled itinerary helps keep the team on the same page. From when breakfast is, to serve and pass, to the scouting report and film session, all the way to the pregame meal, an organized plan maintains order.

More importantly, the close quarters on the bus allows the team to come together and build a tightknit rapport.

"Cooped up with your teammates in a relatively small space on the bus, because we are so tall, we just use it to our advantage," said Russell. "We get to know each other better and are able to build team chemistry. We're having fun, and we're building relationships, too."

After both wins this weekend, the Nittany Lions stand alone atop the EIVA standings, a conference that the Blue and White has dominated over the years.

Penn State rolled past the Pioneers on Friday night. Eleven kills apiece from Russell and Chris Nugent and six digs from Connor Curry and Russell led the charge. The Blue and White hitting percentage was .403, while the Lions held Sacred Heart to just .125.

Saturday was a different story, as the Nittany Lions went into the match against Harvard knowing it would be a war. Goodell took charge though, compiling a match-high 25 kills to pace Penn State. Curry added 12 more digs to keep Penn State on its toes defensively.

According to Pavlik, his team's level-headedness led to this past weekend's stellar play.

"Level-headed is very accurate because it seemed like on Friday night Sacred Heart just folded the tents, but we didn't let up," said Pavlik. "We didn't follow their lead and say 'well, if they don't want to play, we're not going to play hard.' We kept playing hard. [Against Harvard], we hit that stretch at the end of game one where we made a couple of errors, let it get away from us, but we didn't change mentality, and we played hard through the rest of the match. It just seemed like we outplayed Harvard from about 17 or 18 on for the next three games. We had a very purposeful mindset. Nobody was getting upset at getting punched back in the nose from a good team. That's a good thing to see. We maximized some of our strengths with our serving, and we were pretty efficient with our attacking. More than anything else, we are still on an upward climb with this journey of a season. We will see where we wind up in the next couple of weeks."

Upcoming for Penn State is a bye week. The next EIVA conference match will not be played until March 27 at home against Princeton. During spring break, the Nittany Lions will be headed to the west coast for a few matches, starting with USC on Tuesday, March 10.

"We're proving that we are getting better," said Pavlik. "A season is simply an evolution of change where you hope, at the end of the year when everything matters; your change has been one of maximization and efficiency."

Curry Leads Nittany Lions Over George Mason

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10786024.jpegBy Tyler Feldman, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's volleyball team used nine acrobatic digs from redshirt senior libero Connor Curry as the Nittany Lions (4-7, 2-0 EIVA) swept conference foe George Mason (2-7, 0-1 EIVA) in straight sets (26-24, 26-24, 25-18) Saturday night at the South Gym at Rec Hall.

"I thought our ball control was really the key tonight," said head coach Mark Pavlik. "Connor and the passers kept us in system really well, especially in the first game when you kind of get a feel for how they're serving."

Penn State's veteran players led by example in the opening set, pushing the Blue and White to a competitive win, 26-24. Redshirt senior Nick Goodell compiled eight kills on a .636 hitting percentage and senior Aaron Russell had three timely kills and a ferocious set-winning solo block to aid the Nittany Lions in the first frame.

"It all starts with Connor and the passers.... If Taylor keeps giving me the ball, I like my chances," said Goodell.

Taylor Hammond added 14 helpers in that first set; a frame Pavlik described as a momentum changer in the match.

"They have some guys who can bring some heat," said Pavlik. "Early on, I think we figured them out, and after that, I think it was really a tribute to our passers. I thought they did a great job. I thought we got some great swings in transition."

Pavlik, who is in his 21st season at the helm of the Penn State men's volleyball program, has stressed lately the importance of strong play from his players when his team reaches the 20-point mark in a set.

Well, another battle ensued in the second frame, and thanks to seven more kills from the 6-foot-9 Russell, who finished the match with 17 total kills, the Blue and White managed to pull out the 26-24 triumph.

Penn State trailed, 24-23, when a Russell swing forced a George Mason hitting error and tied things up at 24. Then a Hammond service ace pushed the Nittany Lions ahead, 25-24. A pulverizing swing and subsequent kill near the right antenna from Russell provided the Blue and White the two sets to none advantage.

"Once we reach 20, just to take care of business," said Goodell. "Five points and out. So I think that really proved this week. That's what we've been working on in drills. I think that's what paid off."

Late in the third set a Matt Callaway solo block put the Nittany Lions up 19-16, firing up the entire South Gym at Rec Hall. The Blue and White would never look back, sweeping the Patriots in straight sets after taking the third frame, 25-18.

Defensively the Nittany Lions were stifling, holding the Patriots to a lowly .136 hitting percentage, while digging 33 George Mason swings.

Offensively the Blue and White dominated, out-killing the Green and Gold, 46-28, and out-assisting, 43-27.

According to Curry, the positive change in play was just a matter of a few points.

"Just a few points here or there," said Curry. "I mean that's really what it comes down to in the end. Volleyball is a game of errors, and like we said, we've been working on, when we get to 20-20, to be the team with the least few errors. I think that was the case tonight. We put the ball away."

Now the Nittany Lions get set to embark on a seven-game road trip, starting with Lewis next Friday, February 20. First serve is set for 8 p.m.

VIDEO: Men's Volleyball Alumni Weekend

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - takes an inside look at men's volleyball alumni weekend in Happy Valley.

Nittany Lions Continue Sweep Streak Against Erskine

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10757389.jpegBy Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's volleyball team is starting to get accustomed to quick matches.

Against Erskine on Friday night, the Nittany Lions didn't lose a set, winning three straight by scores of 25-17, 25-14, and 25-19. The victory marked the third straight sweep for the Blue and White, who defeated Saint Francis and Mount Olive in similar matches last weekend.

The Flying Fleet entered the match 7-1 on the year and played tough throughout the match, but the Nittany Lions refused to allow them to develop any rhythm. According to head coach Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik, the goal for his team was to force their opponent to play "big-boy volleyball."

"This match was really won by our physicality behind the line," Pavlik said. "We ended up serving the ball really well and it gave them trouble. There were balls being binged off of people and not great passes. The best description of it was a workman-like approach. They punched the clock, came in and we did what we had to do and got out of there."

While Erskine managed to score the first point of each set and even led 3-0 to open up the first, the Lions were able to stay focused and took control of the match every time the Fleet seemed close to starting a run.

In the first, the two teams went back and forth for the first 29 points, with Penn State holding on to a 16-13 lead. At that point, the Lions began to heat up, going on a 6-0 run in which they forced Erskine to commit four errors.

That would be a theme throughout the three sets. While the Nittany Lions played a clean, disciplined game and only committed four attack errors, Erskine had 20 and hit just .118 overall.

"I thought the last seven or eight points [of the first set], all of a sudden we started to get really on-track with our serving," Pavlik said. "Any ball that came over we were putting back, we were literally running our offense at a pretty high efficiency in transition. We eventually wore them down in game one and they made their spurts in [sets] two and three early and we just settled into a, if not exciting level, a good level."

The Lions were certainly at a good level in the second, registering a .652 hitting percentage that helped them finish the match with an excellent .500 mark, high above their season mark of .254.

It was also in the second that the team's most reliable offensive player, senior Aaron Russell, began to heat up. After not finishing any kills in the first period, the outside hitter completed eight of 11 attempts in the second on his way to a team-high 12 and a .435 percentage.

"It was just kind of [junior setter] Taylor [Hammond] letting me settle in," Russell said. "I think I only had a few attempts (three) in the first too. In he next few sets I ended up with 23 total, so obviously I got settled a lot more."

Russell may have been reliable as usual, but he was not the only Nittany Lion to perform strongly on Friday. Senior Nick Goodell had seven kills, including six in the first set, Hammond was his steady self with 32 assists and sophomore outside hitter Chris Nugent tied Russell with 12 kills to go with a .526 hitting percentage.

Nugent's performance was especially pleasing for Pavlik to see, as it was the sophomore's second straight strong game, after he finished the Saint Francis match with six kills and seven aces.

"He's passing the ball," Pavlik. "And that's what we're looking for. If we can get Chris's offense and his passing can settle down and allow our offense to run as it needs to that's a bonus. We know he has a great arm, it's if his platform can keep up with it."

Having now won three straight matches (and nine straight sets) the Nittany Lions are beginning to establish some momentum after starting the season 0-6.

"I think it boost's [our confidence]," Russell said. "We've improved a lot, we're playing some good-level ball, and we're playing with some intensity so we're excited." 

Men's Volleyball Notches Weekend Sweep

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10741350.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Nittany Lion men's volleyball team is now happily relieved to be in the win column following a pair of dominant performances in Rec Hall over the weekend.

After tough losses last weekend to Loyola University Chicago and Lewis, the Nittany Lions found their groove and came home with a win Friday night against Mount Olive (N.C.). Sophomore Chris Nugent led the team Friday with 16 kills, a career-high, that helped the Nittany Lions power past the Trojans in straight sets (25-18, 25-11, 25-10).

"I tried not to focus on anything other than just playing my game," said Nugent. "You know, doing what I've been doing my whole life. It was my first home start and it was a really good experience, so it was a lot fun to play with such a big crowd and play well with our team."

Head coach Mark Pavlik was proud of the team's performance in Friday's match as well.

"We did what we had to do, we were clean, and I think that's what pleased me the most," said Pavlik.

The win came as a relief and validated the hard work the team has put in over the past few weeks. With as tough a schedule as the group had to open 2015, and even though it resulted in losses, the team had been motivated by their performances against some of the top-ranked teams in the country, including No. 1 Loyola-Chicago. Redshirt senior Nick Goodell believed the team's time for a win had come, and they took advantage of it.

"The first win's the hardest," said Goodell. "Other than that I mean we knew we were gonna get it, just we were playing some of the best competition. Since I've been here the past five years we've never had a schedule like this. And I mean we'd rather be in a different position right now but I'm glad that we played some top teams, they really exposed our weaknesses. So we're fixing what we need to and work off that."

A boisterous crowd welcomed the Red Flash of Saint Francis University to Rec Hall on Saturday night. The Nittany Lions went on to win three straight sets again (25-18, 25-18, 25-18) defeating the EIVA conference foe.

"We preach process, process, process, you do what you have to do over time," said Pavlik. "The wins take care of themselves and really I was feeling good after last weekend. The way we played against Loyola and Lewis you knew it was just gonna be a matter of time of putting things together."

On Saturday, senior Aaron Russell led the way for the Nittany Lions with 17 kills, enabling the team to take the lead in every set. Russell emphasized that the hard work the team had put in over previous weeks led to their ability to stay energized. He noted that although his individual stats on the court stood out, it was a team effort that led to back-to-back wins on consecutive nights.  

"Makes me feel like I did my job and the guys around me, everything's clicking," said Russell. "It feels good. I hope this winning streak continues."

Coach Pavlik was quick to emphasize that the team takes matches one at a time, rather than looking at winning two games in a row as a winning streak. Overall, Pavlik was pleased with the weekend's results, but was ready to move on after the team's first wins of the season.  

"As I said, the roll with the punches tour of 2015 continues," said Pavlik. "Glad we'll take this and get ready for Erskine on Friday."

Russell and Family Make Noise in Opening Home Weekend

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10722812.jpegBy Tyler Feldman, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After four straight road matches to begin the 2015 campaign, the Penn State men's volleyball team (0-6) returned to Rec Hall this past weekend to open up a five-match homestand.

Despite dropping Friday night's match to defending national champion and No. 1 Loyola (5-0) in four sets (26-28, 26-24, 23-25, 21-25), as well as Saturday evening's contest to No. 2 Lewis (6-1) in four frames (18-25, 25-18, 22-25, 20-25), senior Aaron Russell and his family positively impacted the home opening weekend.

Russell produced standout performances in both matches, tallying 14 kills in the close contest against Loyola. Then, the senior outside hitter tallied a match-high 23 kills in the competitive bout against Lewis.

He wasn't the only Russell in attendance, however. In fact, his older brother, Peter, who was the lone graduate from last year's team, as well as the rest of his family, was in attendance to cheer on Aaron and the squad.

"It was great," said Russell when asked about having his family in the stands. "Earlier this week I was texting with Peter, and he was trying to encourage me about the matches this upcoming weekend facing number one and two in our gym. He told me that 'You guys don't lose in your gym. You guys should have all the confidence in the world. You have nothing to lose.' I thought it was pretty cool to hear him say that and see him up here supporting me."

For Russell, this is not the way he envisioned the season to start, but he sees growth from his teammates each and every day.

"It's tough," said Russell. "That's something that we've been talking about every single day, every single week. We just continue to work hard to try and get that first win. I know it's frustrating to hear myself say that, but I think that we continue to get better. I think that was a different team on the court than we were last week."

Russell's parents Stewart and Marian are his two biggest fans. So much so that Stewart was the cheerleader in the stands, initiating the "We Are" chant time and time again to fire up the crowd.

According to Aaron, this comes as no surprise.

"After every match he always comes up to me and - he's been my coach since day one - so he'll always come on to the court after and just encourage me and give me some pointers," said Russell about his father. "A lot of it right now is about leadership. I'm trying to learn a lot from him."

Russell family aside, the biggest takeaway from this weekend is that Penn State's record is not reflective of the team's talent and ability. Five of its six opponents thus far are ranked nationally.

A challenging regular season slate prepares the team for postseason play. As head coach Mark Pavlik always says, "No team has ever won a championship in January."

In addition to Russell, outside hitters Nick Goodell and Spencer Sauter, as well as middle hitter Matt Callaway all displayed strong play on the court. In the two matches, Goodell totaled 36 kills, Sauter netted 18 kills and Callaway generated 19 kills. Setter Taylor Hammond added 99 assists over the two games.

"I like this team," said Pavlik. "We're not where we want to be. They haven't blown apart. There's no finger pointing. We're in this together. It's going to get better. The challenge in front of this team is to say, 'How good can you get over the course of the rest of the year?' My money is on them."

Barbour Eager to Lead Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 18th of August cannot come soon enough for Sandy Barbour.

Introduced as Penn State Director of Athletics on Saturday afternoon, Barbour is thrilled to begin her tenure as the leader of an athletic program that aspires to continue its long history of excellence on and off the field of play.

"When you spend a professional lifetime serving institutions and most importantly students, you dream about coming to a place like Penn State," Barbour said. "You dream about the opportunity to lead a program like Penn State athletics. Why? Because it represents the opportunity to have it all: Athletic excellence, academic achievement, community engagement and fiscal responsibility. So thank you, Eric [Barron]. I am absolutely thrilled, over the top excited about this opportunity and about being the athletic director at Penn State."

A graduate of Wake Forest where she was field hockey team captain, Barbour grew up on the East Coast and has always had a deep passion for Penn State University and its athletic department. That's what drew her to the position when she originally spoke with President Barron about the opportunity.

Immediately, Barbour felt a connection with the people, pride and remarkable accomplishments of Penn State University and its athletic department.

"I love the 'We Are Penn State.' I particularly love what it stands for. It stands for family," Barbour said.

Barbour desires to see national titles in all 31 sports on campus. But first and foremost, she will strive to lead a department with student-athletes who are elite performers in the classroom.

"We are athletic programs again that are all part of a university," Barbour said. "Our student-athletes will be students first, Penn State is incredibly proud of the academic performance of their students and we will continue to be."

Eager to hit the ground running when she begins her duties as athletic director in 23 days, Barbour wants to learn from everyone in the department, especially the head coaches leading Penn State's 31 athletic teams.

"Unity doesn't mean one opinion, and I actually embrace that, embrace the diversity of opinion, diversity in a variety of different ways, and I actually think that will make us stronger in our ability to move forward," Barbour said. "As I said before, I have something to learn from everybody, and I'll be doing a lot of listening."

Numerous head coaches were in attendance at Saturday's introductory press conference. The coaches and athletic department staff then had a chance to mingle with Barbour at a private reception before she boarded a flight to Chicago for Big Ten meetings. The head coaches in attendance exuded great confidence in the future direction of the athletic department.

"There is a culture, history and tradition of tremendous academic achievement at Penn State and that will continue," said head football coach James Franklin. "I know it's important to our president, athletic director and all of our coaches. That will continue. I know we'll spend as much time as we need to so we can start building."

"I am truly thrilled that Sandy Barbour will serve as the next athletic director for Penn State," Lady Lions head coach Coquese Washington said. "Sandy is a strong, dynamic and passionate leader. She is also an incredibly smart visionary and strategic thinker. It is exciting to imagine all the ways Penn State University, and Penn State athletics in particular, will be positively impacted by her leadership."

"I loved everything I heard today," head women's hockey coach Josh Brandwene said. "She has passion, vision and just a great understanding of the Penn State community. Both as a head coach and as an alumnus, I am really excited to start working with her."

Barbour will return to California in the coming days to prepare for her full-time return to Happy Valley on Aug. 18, and the new leader of Penn State Athletics is fired up to get started.

"We are Penn State. I'm all in. I'm ready to get going," said Barbour.


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Coaches Caravan Day IX - Erie

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VIDEO: Williamsport & Wilkes-Barre | VIDEO: East Stroudsburg & Lehigh Valley

Erie Photo Gallery

ERIE, Pa. - After more than 2,000 miles on the road, the 2014 Coaches Caravan drew to a close on Thursday night on Penn State's Behrend campus during a sold out evening event.

Nearly 6,300 fans attended the 17 stops, which spanned across 13 locations in Pennsylvania, in addition to Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New Jersey and New York City.  In all, 11 different Penn State head coaches joined head football coach James Franklin during at least one stop since the Caravan began on May 1 in Pegula Ice Arena.

Thursday's finale featured a new lineup of coaches, which included Franklin, baseball's Rob Cooper and softball's Amanda Lehotak.  Director of Athletics Dave Joyner joined the group, as well, addressing the crowd prior to hearing from the three head coaches. Take a look through some highlights from the final stop of the 2014 Caravan.

Stop No. 17 - Erie (Penn State Behrend)

20140522_155416[1].jpgA sold out crowd inside the McGravey Commons heard from three of the newest coaches on the Nittany Lion roster in Franklin, Cooper and Lehotak. Cooper and Lehotak each finished their first seasons at the helm of their respective programs, while Franklin will lead the Blue and White onto the field for his first game on Aug. 30 in Dublin, Ireland against UCF in the Croke Park Classic.

"The reason we are able to do the things we do and have the success in the classroom and on the competition front is because of the support and encouragement we get from our alumni and fans," said Joyner.

It may have been the last stop, but the three coaches were received with great energy and shared the visions they had for their programs. They spoke about competition, academics and representing an incredible university as a whole.

"It is an honor to represent Penn State and we all want to do what is best for this university," said Lehotak. "Coach Franklin has an incredible vision and we need to help him achieve that by packing Beaver Stadium this fall."


Thank you to the nearly 6,500 loyal Penn State fans and alums that made the Coaches Caravan a resounding success for the third-straight year.  And a big tip of the cap goes out to Fullington Trailways ace driver Gottfried Fodor, who did a superb job behind the wheel of the Caravan bus for the third-straight year.  We look forward to seeing the fans on the road again in 2015.

"This caravan has been outstanding," said Franklin. "These three weeks have really helped me build some great relationships with other coaches, our support staff, members of the media, and most importantly, our alumni and fans."

Miles Traveled:

Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles
Day VII - 130 miles
Day VIII - 261 miles
Day IX - 426 miles

Total - 2,186 miles


2014 Coaches Caravan Day VIII - East Stroudsburg & Lehigh Valley

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VIDEO: Highlights from Williamsport & Wilkes-Barre

East Stroudsburg Photo Gallery | Lehigh Valley Photo Gallery | Coaches Caravan Registration

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The 2014 Coaches Caravan rolled through East Stroudsburg and the Lehigh Valley on the penultimate day of the 17-stop tour through the region.

Wednesday's lunch stop was a special one for head football coach James Franklin, who returned to his alma mater, East Stroudsburg University.  Head coaches Rob Cooper (baseball), Guy Gadowsky (men's hockey) and Mark Pavlik (men's volleyball) joined Franklin in East Stroudsburg.  Nittany Lion basketball coach Patrick Chambers paid a visit to the Lehigh Valley event on Wednesday evening.  Take a look through highlights of the eighth day on the road.

Stop No. 15 - East Stroudsburg (East Stroudsburg University)

Coach Franklin returned to his old stomping grounds for the first stop on Wednesday.  When the Fullington tour bus exited Interstate 80 it moved past the Budget Motel, which is owned by Barth Rubin.  Rubin is the man who provided the financial backing for Franklin's scholarship to play football at East Stroudsburg.

Franklin recognized Rubin as the man who provided the opportunity to kick-start his playing and coaching careers.  A 1995 graduate from ESU (psychology), Franklin was a four-year letterman at quarterback and a two-time All-PSAC selection at East Stroudsburg. He set seven school records as a senior to earn team MVP honors and was a Harlon Hill Trophy nominee as the NCAA Division II Player of the Year. Among the records he set were for total offense (3,128 yards), passing yards (2,586) and touchdown passes (19).

"It's awesome to be home.  Since we got the job, it's been great to be able to get back here on a couple of occasions," Franklin said.  "I just felt like this made a lot of sense for the Coaches Caravan to visit.  And I thought it would be great for one of our state institutions and a place I am really proud of.  I'm glad that we were able to be here."

caravan_esu_1.jpgFranklin played under legendary head coach Denny Douds, who spent some time with Franklin on Wednesday during the Caravan stop.  Douds has been at ESU for 37 years.

"Denny has been a father figure to me for a very long time," Franklin said.  "Denny has been a mentor as a father and a mentor professionally."

"The thing that makes James special is his passion for what he does," Douds said.  "He cares so much about everything he does."

In the shadows of Eiler-Martin Stadium, more than 100 Penn State and East Stroudsburg alums filled Mattioli Recreation Center to hear from Franklin and the other Penn State head coaches on Wednesday.

"To think 20 years ago that I would be sitting here in this position right now, I would have had no idea," Franklin said.  "I think what we did do is wake up every single morning and try to be the best we could possibly be, learn and ask a lot of questions.  I've always been a passionate, driven, motivated guy."

caravan_esu_2.jpgCooper, Gadowsky and Pavlik each took time during their speeches to honor Franklin during his visit to his alma mater.   

"It's really cool to see the imprint Coach Franklin is going to leave on Pennsylvania football," Cooper said.

At the conclusion of the event, East Stroudsburg president Marcia Welsh presented Coach Franklin with a resolution of recognition for his career accomplishments.  The recognition was voted on by the board of governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

The Coaches Caravan bus paid a visit to Rudy's Tavern in East Stroudsburg before the group left town.  Franklin treated the group to the infamous pork roll and cheese sandwiches at Rudy's, one of his college favorites.


Stop No. 16 - Bethlehem (Sands Bethlehem Event Center)

Nearly 600 fans were treated to a show inside the Sands Bethlehem Event Center on Wednesday night.  For the first time in the Caravan's three-year history, five head coaches were on stage for the festivities at stop No. 16.  After the introductions, Coach Chambers was the leadoff man to get the crowd fired up.

"I'm saying this right now.  This is going to be the best night of the Caravan," Chambers yelled.

As the crowd rose to its feet, the tunes of Pharrell Williams's "Happy" began playing.  From there, Chambers moved away from the podium and began dancing to the beat across the stage.  The other coaches on stage and the fans in the crowd erupted.

caravan_lv_1.jpgChambers is made for the Coaches Caravan setting.  He loves interacting with the crowd, and he has a knack for filling the room with energy every time he steps to the microphone.  The leader of Nittany Lion basketball spoke about the progress the program made during the 2013-'14 season, including a sweep of Ohio State for the first time since 1998.

Additionally, Chambers said that he lived in Allentown 20 years ago when he started in the workforce.  He was a medical salesman with his home region being in the Lehigh Valley.  Chambers also hinted at a possible Penn State hoops game in December at the PPL Center in Allentown, which is slated to open in the fall.

The first speech closed with Chambers urging the crowd to show unrivaled support for Coach Franklin and the Nittany Lions inside Beaver Stadium.

"Let's make sure Beaver Stadium is packed every single time his team takes the field in the fall," Chambers said.

With the sports season rapidly coming to a close, the 2014-'15 campaign is just around the corner.  Fan support in Beaver Stadium provides an atmosphere unlike anything else on campus.  The same is true for each venue in Happy Valley.  Success on the field of play is a byproduct of a number of factors, and the fan atmosphere is a big piece.

"You guys create more passion and more pride than any other University in the world," Gadowsky said.

caravan_lv_2.jpgIn true hockey player form, Gadowsky closed out the speech at his final stop in the Caravan by ripping out his front tooth and screaming into the microphone.

"Get to Beaver Stadium and rock that joint!" Gadowsky said.

Coach Franklin walked to the podium to a standing ovation.

"Now that is a hockey coach!" Franklin said.

It's rare to get the head coaches of football, men's basketball, men's hockey, baseball and men's volleyball in the same room.  The fans inside Sands enjoyed an evening of entertaining speeches.  The coaches feed off of a great crowd, and the Lehigh Valley fans were superb.

"The pride and passion within the Penn State fan base in unbelievable," Franklin said.  "All the success we are having is a credit to you."

The 17th and final stop of the 2014 Coaches Caravan will take place on Thursday evening at Penn State Behrend in Erie.  

Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles
Day VII - 130 miles
Day VIII - 261 miles

Total - 1,760 miles


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Coaches Caravan Day VII - Williamsport & Wilkes-Barre

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WILKES-BARRE - The final leg of the 2014 Penn State Coaches Caravan kicked off with a sold out lunch stop in Williamsport and a dinner event in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday.

Week three will feature a new lineup of Penn State head coaches joining James Franklin on the road.  Baseball's Rob Cooper, men's hockey's Guy Gadowsky and men's volleyball's Mark Pavlik boarded the modified Fullington bus on Tuesday morning when it rolled out of the Bryce Jordan Center parking lot shortly after 9:30 a.m.  Take a look through highlights of day seven on the Penn State Coaches Caravan.

Stop No. 13 - Williamsport (Pennsylvania College of Technology)

A sold out crowd of 270 Penn State fans filled the Field House on the Pennsylvania College of Technology campus for the first of five stops during week three.  What makes the Caravan so unique is the variety of head coaches who entertain the crowds.  With the addition of Cooper, Gadowsky and Pavlik to kick off this week, nine head coaches have now been a part of the 13 total stops.

Fresh off leading the Nittany Lion men's volleyball team to a 25-7 overall mark and a spot in the NCAA semifinals, Pavlik is on the Caravan for the third-straight year.  The men's volleyball squad battled eventual national champion Loyola to a 3-2 setback on Loyola's home floor during the semifinals.  That being said, Pavlik has firsthand experience of what a home crowd advantage can do for a team.  He can relate to Franklin's vision of a sold out stadium during every home game.

"I know what a great home crowd can do for a team.  We experienced it," Pavlik said.  "A sold out venue makes it so much more of a challenge for an away team."

williamsport_1.jpg Cooper, who finished up his first full season as head coach of the Nittany Lion baseball team on Saturday, addressed the sold out crowd following Pavlik.  The Lions made significant progress from 2013 to 2014, and Cooper is excited for what is ahead.

"Being a part of the Penn State family is unbelievable," Cooper said.  "This coaching fraternity is an amazing thing to be a part of."

It was fitting for Cooper's first stop to be in the home of the Little League World Series.  Cooper joked with the crowd that his two young sons both asked him immediately after being hired at Penn State if they could attend a game at the Little League World Series in August.

"Here we are in the epicenter of youth baseball," Cooper said.  "You know what it is like to be a part of a championship event...There are good things ahead (at Penn State)."

Gadowsky stepped to the microphone following Cooper.  Still fired up after his first season of leading the Nittany Lions inside Pegula Ice Arena, Gadowsky could not be more appreciative of what the fan base does for the men's hockey program.

"The atmosphere you created in Pegula made me a cool dad again (with my kids)," Gadowsky joked.

"The best part about Pegula is that it takes a little piece of Beaver Stadium and puts a roof over it," Gadowsky said.  "It's awesome.  I love being in there...The reason it is so addictive is because of Nittany Nation."

williamsport_2.jpgCoach Franklin headlined the 13th stop with the final speech of the afternoon.  The fan response to his message has been superb during all three weeks, and Tuesday's lunch was no exception.

"This has been great getting out here on the road and connecting with as many people as possible," Franklin said.

The bus moved east across the state to Wilkes-Barre for the first evening stop of the final leg.

Stop No. 14 - Wilkes-Barre (Genetti Hotel & Conference Center)

The second stop of the day took place inside Genetti Hotel & Conference Center downtown Wilkes-Barre.  Nearly 400 enthusiastic fans filled the Grand Ballroom on Tuesday night.  Luzerne County is home to more than 8,500 passionate Penn State alums.

Wilkes-Barre will forever have a place in Penn State hockey history.  Coach Gadowsky led the Nittany Lions to their first victory as a Division I program on Oct. 13, 2012 against American International.  David Glen's goal 38 seconds into overtime sealed the first win.  That game took place inside Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre.

"Forever, this place will have a soft place in my heart," Gadowsky said.

wilkesbarre_2.jpgIn 2013-'14, Gadowsky led the Nittany Lions to three victories over Michigan and one over Ohio State during the inaugural season of Big Ten hockey.  The fans inside the room on Tuesday are excited about Penn State hockey's future, and Gadowsky's peers are tremendously impressed with the progress the program has made in such a short period of time.

"These coaches are ordinary people who do extraordinary things with their programs," Pavlik said.

"To compete in this conference, we need all of your support," Gadowsky said.

The fan base plays a paramount role in supporting all of Penn State's teams.  Pavlik, Cooper and Gadowsky each reminded the fans in attendance of what a full Beaver Stadium every Saturday in the fall does for their programs.  The atmosphere inside Beaver Stadium during a game before a sold out crowd speaks for itself.  The same is true for Pegula Ice Arena, Rec Hall and Medlar Field, in the case of the other coaches on the Caravan Tuesday night.

That being said, the Coaches Caravan is an opportunity for the coaches to not only talk about their programs, it is a way to say thank you to the fans for their support.  Like Coach Franklin has said throughout the Caravan, the people make Penn State special.

"Penn State is like a community...It gives us an opportunity to interact with you," Franklin said.

wilkesbarre_1.jpgFranklin took time to recognize offensive coordinator and tight ends coach John Donovan and passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne, who were in the Wilkes-Barre area recruiting on Tuesday and stopped by the event to say hello to the fans.

The Caravan rolls into Coach Franklin's alma mater, East Stroudsburg, on Wednesday for lunch before an evening reception at the Sands in Bethlehem.

Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles
Day VII - 130 miles

Total - 1,499 miles

caravan bus_williamsport.jpg

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony