Recently in Softball Category
By Richard Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Softball season is quickly approaching, and the
Nittany Lions are eager to kick off their 2015 campaign. In two short weeks,
Penn State will be on the field in sunny Boca Raton, Fla. for the annual
Florida Atlantic University "Kick-Off" Tournament.
Head coach Amanda Lehotak and the Lions get a fresh start this year, and
they plan to make the most of it. There's plenty to be excited about, including
a young, tough-minded infield group.
"They're extremely athletic," said Lehotak. "They do exactly what they need
to do, which is why I trust starting them. They make all the routine plays. If
we can make all the routine plays and make a great play every now and then,
we're going to be tough to beat."
The group boasts three freshmen, three sophomores, and two juniors, giving
Lehotak plenty of options to mix and match with. Last year, seven infielders
saw time on the field, so it wouldn't be surprising to see all eight players
out there at some point in 2015.
Junior Reina Furuya, who started in every game last year, knows the
importance of depth and versatility in the infield.
"Everyone brings their own skills to the table," Furuya said. "We have plenty
of weapons and we're much more well-rounded this year. We always push each
other in practice because we know all of us are capable of starting."
Coach Lehotak has been impressed with Furuya thus far. With a lack of
experience scattered throughout the infield, it was imperative that someone took
over as the leader, and that's exactly what Furuya has done in the offseason.
"I trust her," said Lehotak. "She gets it. She studies the game and she's
always watching film. She enjoys that role and has really embraced it."
On the opposite end, the three freshmen are showing no signs of fear or
uncertainty. Most notably, Gianna Arrizurieta has been turning some heads in
"Her work ethic, her knowledge of the game and her offensive ability has far
exceeded our expectations," Lehotak said. "Offensively, we did not expect her
to have the pop that she has, or the mental toughness. That's a kid that can
strike out on 3 straight pitches and on the next at-bat hit a rocket up the
Another player to watch this year is sophomore Kristina Brackpool. As a
freshman, Brackpool started 25 games and hit two home runs while compiling an
impressive .987 fielders percentage.
"I'm looking for her [Brackpool] to have a big year," said Lehotak. "Last
year, she was our own worst enemy mentally. This year she really has matured
and worked her butt off, and she is far better mentally and physically than she
was a year ago."
"My main objective is to play solid defense," said Brackpool. "We've been
stressing it a ton this offseason. If we don't allow runs, we only need to
score one and we should win every game."
Defense has been a major point of emphasis going into the year. The Lions
were fifth in the Big Ten last year with 31 infield errors, but they are looking
"We want to be top three defensively in the Big Ten," said Lehotak. "I
think we have the talent to do it. Even if we're starting 3 freshmen in the
infield, we're sticking to that goal. Sixty percent of our practices are
strictly based on defense."
The Nittany Lions are going to have to be stout defensively to succeed in
the Big Ten, as five teams from the conference received votes in the USA
Today/NFCA Division Preseason Poll.
Furuya has been stressing the importance of defense to the younger players
"Defense is a game changer," said Furuya. "We can score 10 runs each game
and still lose every single one if we can't defend. We have to play every pitch
like it's our last."
Other strong contributors on the field include sophomores Shelby Miller and
Sam Shanahan, along with junior Maegan Tupinio. Miller was one of just four Nittany
Lions to bat over .300 last year, so expect her to carry the load offensively
while Miller leads the way defensively making just five errors in 84 chances in
2014. Freshmen Alyssa VanDerveer and Mollie Sorenson will also look to make an
immediate impact in any way they can.
There are unlimited roster possibilities for coach Lehotak, and she will be
utilizing as many different lineups as she can. The ability to rotate
infielders and sub in fresh legs when needed will be a huge advantage for Penn
State this season.
Penn State will start
the season Feb. 6-8 at the FAU "Kick-Off' Tournament in Boca Raton, Fla. as the
team plays five games in three days vs. opponents Arkansas, FAU, LIU Brooklyn,
Georgia Tech and Kansas.
By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
Pa. - With just a little less than a month left until the first game of the
2015 season, the Penn State softball team is entering the final stages of
preseason prep before traveling to Boca Raton, Fla. for its first tournament of
With a mix of new
and returning players training since the fall, the Lions are determined to
improve and are entering the season with high intensity throughout every
Returning for her
second year as head coach, Amanda Lehotak is ready to hit the ground running.
She is preparing the team for the new season and new chance to make a splash in
the Big Ten.
"I'm always eager
to start a new season," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "We were really
impressed with the team's work ethic this fall and I can already start to see
some major improvements in some of our weaker areas last year."
Last year the Lions
went 14-35 overall, but instead of dwelling on the wins and losses the team is
using them to its advantage and learning from past mistakes to grow.
"I think this group
is capable of doing great things," Lehotak said. "We have a good batch of fresh
talent being guided by our returning players. Already they've shown a constant
willingness to work hard and improve during the preseason and I'm looking
forward to see that intensity continue."
This year, the
Lions will be welcoming six new players, five freshmen as well as a junior
transfer. Mia Monopoli is expected to compete for playing time behind the plate
and is looking forward to opening day.
"I'm more excited than anything to start the season," said Monopoli. "I mean
there are obviously some nerves but I can't wait for the games to start. We've been preparing
since the beginning of the school year so it's crazy thinking the season is
this close to officially starting."
While some of the players are entering their first season as Nittany Lions,
others are returning to Beard Field ready for another slate of games.
Among the group of returning players ready to grow from last season is senior
pitcher Marissa Diescher.
"I think this year is
going to be a big year for the program," said Diescher. "We have a lot of
talent this year and I'm excited to see how everything meshes together once we
start the season. I'm looking forward to proving ourselves this year since last
year didn't end exactly the way we were hoping it would."
will be starting the season on the road in California, Florida, Mississippi and
Texas. The team won't be playing at Beard Field until March 18.
"We intend on giving it our all this season and really proving ourselves," said
Diescher. "Whether it's in a
tournament or individual game we want to always play our best."
Although the season doesn't officially start until Feb. 6, the players have
been getting both physically and mentally ready for months.
"The thing about being an athlete is you always want to get better both
personally and as a team so we never really stop training," said Diescher. "My
goal this season is to improve my individual game and help my team win as much
as I can."
As the start of the season approaches, both the coaching staff and the players
are staying focused and keeping intensity levels up during training and using
last year's upset for motivation.
"As a coach, our biggest thing is to put the team in the best position to
succeed," said Lehotak. "We see great potential these players and want to make
sure we're providing them with the proper training and confidence to play at
By Alexis Shelton, GoPSUsports.com Student Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa--- Six years ago, Megan Gibson graduated as a
student-athlete from Texas A&M. Today, she is the pitching coach for the
softball team at Penn State. Now, Gibson
was inducted into the Texas A & M Athletic Hall of Fame.
Gibson learned about her honor in a laughable way.
"I got a phone call from one of our alumni, who I believe is in the Hall of Fame
already. She called me and left a message kind of in a panicking voice saying
she needed to talk to me. It made me nervous. I called her back and she told me
I was being inducted and I was just like, what? It was a comical situation, we
laughed for quite a bit."
Becoming a successful coach wasn't easy for Gibson. There were a lot of
challenges that she faced in her four years with the Aggies.
"There was so much that happened, said Gibson. "There were a lot of firsts. My
freshman year we won the Big 12 Championship, which was the first time that
ever happened. My sophomore year was a very difficult year, we overcame a lot
and it was a lot of learning so that was our transitioning year. But, my junior
year we made our first run at the World College World Series, and my senior
year was just a great one."
Gibson has quite the history under her name, during her 2008 season, she was a
National Player of the Week, and later that year went on to become the first
Big 12 player to be named both Big 12 Player of the Year and Pitcher of the
She also led her team to win the program's second Big 12 regular season championships
as well as making it to the final series of the Women's College World Series.
Two years later, she met with current Penn State head coach Amanda Lehotak at
the University of Texas-San Antonio as an assistant coach before the duo made
the transition to Penn State in 2012.
And, Lehotak couldn't be happier to have her on board at Penn State.
"Megan brings a lot of strength to our team because honestly, she is just a
wealth of knowledge," said Lehotak. "She was an All-American because she was
one of the best hitters of our game."
"First base, outfield, pitcher. She's one of the few athletes that can teach
hitting, she can teach pitching, and she can teach defense," she said. She just
brings that championship mentality, she knows what it takes and how hard it is
to get there. She's very universal."
Gibson's decision to coach was one that changed her life.
"I stayed on for my fifth-year at A&M for a semester," said Gibson. I had
started grad school. I was really unsure of what I wanted to do. My mom
actually suggested to me that I should be a coach."
"While I was there, I figured I'd help out with the team in my free time and
there was this one girl that they asked me to help out with this one pitch. I
remember when she got her first hit she came into the bullpen and was so
excited. That was truly an amazing feeling."
After that, she went to play in a Japanese league for four years before coming
back. She went back to Tesas A&M for a short period of time as the pitching
coach before meeting Lehotak.
"She was wise beyond her years," Lehotak said. "I remember after first talking
to her on the phone. I was praying that she would come coach with me," she
When asked what it's like coaching with her, Lehotak said, "I think we've
become family. We've become a good tandem because we're similar but different.
We're similar because we understand the difference between business versus
personal. We're very good at keeping those two separate."
Lehotak also commented on how the two balance each other out.
"I'm kind of out-going and quick to react," said Lehotak. "She's more
analytical and likes to sit back and relax. We're a good balance, she can come
in the next day and tell me when I was a little too much. I think we work well
together, we have great respect for one another."
Gibson was officially inducted into the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame on
October 31, 2014.
By Alexis Shelton, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sibling rivalries have gone back through the
history of time. For softball Head Coach
Amanda Lehotak, a sibling rivalry was taken to a new level over the weekend.
Lehotak is in her second year as the leader of the Nittany Lion softball
team. Born and raised in Omaha,
Nebraska, softball has always been a passion for her. She watched her older
sister, Michala Cimino, who is 10 years older than her, play and grew
inspiration to be just as successful as her growing up.
"Michala is actually my hero, I've looked up to her since day one," Lehotak
said. "Growing up, going to all of her games, learning from her and watching
her career when she won a national championship and being her biggest fan, I've
learned a lot from her."
Cimino is currently the head coach at Bellevue University, which is located in
Bellevue, Nebraska. The school is apart of the NAIA (National Association of
Over the weekend, both Lehotak and her sister met for the first time as head
coaches in a friendly matchup between schools.
"The humble people inside of us say its no big deal its about the kids," Lehotak
said. "But the truth is its a lot of fun we're a very competitive family. This
is something we've always talked about doing and have always wanted to do. The opportunity to actually do it is very
Competitive is definitely a word you may want to use when you look at the
family. The athletic director at Bellevue is Ed Lehotak, who is both Lehotak
and Cimino's father.
"Knowing my father, he's probably rooting for Michala. I say that because it's
his school and he's always ranked like the top athletic director in that
region," said Lehotak. "We've always been raised to be the underdog and so I
know he sees them as just that. I actually see them as an equal opponent
however. So knowing him just for the underdog way I feel like he's secretly
going for his school."
But with so much talent and skill on both sides, one may begin to wonder if
there's any ribbing going on between the two.
"We've both been on our best behavior. But I think the honesty is that we want
to beat the crap out of one another," laughed Lehotak.
Despite the difference between the two--Penn State being a NCAA Division I team
and Bellevue being in the NAIA--Lehotak wanted to make it clear that the team
would treat their guests like they were a Big Ten team as well as having a few
surprises for them.
They were given just that; when the team arrived on Friday, they were given
their very own special locker room as well as multiple tours throughout the
Penn State campus.
"They were given a tour of the football stadium," said Lehotak. "They also got
to see the football locker room as well as run Beard field."
She noted that that the bus was full of family members from the Nebraska team.
They were treated as family as well; as the whole Bellevue team including the
family were treated to a special trip to the creamery and a dinner as well
"They sold out their whole bus for this special occasion. We want to hopefully
give them something that they'll never forget," Lehotak said.
The two sisters faced off twice on Saturday. It was an experience Lehotak will
"Michala and I talk almost everyday," added Lehotak. "Some of their team
punishments are probably because of me. As well as some of my team punishments
are probably because of her. Drills, how we motivate our teams, she's my go to.
She's the one I go to [to] say hey I messed up or I'm thinking I'm doing this
well. It's really neat."
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
"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
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
Eager to hit the ground running when she begins her duties as athletic director
in 23 days, Barbour wants to learn from everyone in the department, especially
the head coaches leading Penn State's 31 athletic teams.
"Unity doesn't mean one opinion, and I actually embrace that, embrace the
diversity of opinion, diversity in a variety of different ways, and I actually
think that will make us stronger in our ability to move forward," Barbour said.
"As I said before, I have something to learn from everybody, and I'll be doing
a lot of listening."
Numerous head coaches were in attendance at Saturday's introductory press
conference. The coaches and athletic department staff then had a chance to
mingle with Barbour at a private reception before she boarded a flight to
Chicago for Big Ten meetings. The head coaches in attendance exuded great
confidence in the future direction of the athletic department.
"There is a culture, history and tradition of
tremendous academic achievement at Penn State and that will continue," said
head football coach James Franklin. "I know it's important to our president,
athletic director and all of our coaches. That will continue. I know we'll
spend as much time as we need to so we can start building."
"I am truly thrilled that Sandy Barbour will serve as
the next athletic director for Penn State," Lady Lions head coach Coquese
Washington said. "Sandy is a strong, dynamic and passionate leader. She is also
an incredibly smart visionary and strategic thinker. It is exciting to imagine
all the ways Penn State University, and Penn State athletics in particular,
will be positively impacted by her leadership."
"I loved everything I heard today," head women's hockey coach Josh Brandwene
said. "She has passion, vision and just a great understanding of the Penn State
community. Both as a head coach and as an alumnus, I am really excited to start
working with her."
Barbour will return to California in the coming days to prepare for her
full-time return to Happy Valley on Aug. 18, and the new leader of Penn State Athletics
is fired up to get started.
"We are Penn State. I'm
all in. I'm ready to get going," said Barbour.
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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
Stop No. 17 - Erie (Penn State Behrend)
A 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.
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."
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
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
PARK, Pa. - Ending the season with a 6-2 loss against
Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament was not the ideal outcome for the Nittany
Lions. Nevertheless, despite this
disappointment, the small successes that have accumulated throughout the year
have had much more of an impact on the program and on its bright future.
As a first year head coach, Amanda Lehotak is proud of her team's efforts and growth this
season. The Blue and White finished with
an overall record of 14-35, going 5-18 in the Big Ten.
"From the coaching aspect,
we finished a spot higher than they did last year in the conference," Lehotak
said. "We had two less wins, but when
you're best returning hitter is .253 from a year ago and you have three or four
people hitting at .300 that have never done that before, have raised their
batting average anywhere from 90 to 100 points in a season, you're moving in
the right direction."
One of the biggest assets at
the plate for the Lions this season was sophomore Karlie Habitz, whose impressive focus and determined also shined
through in tournament play. In last
Thursday's game alone, the California native went 2-for-3, driving in one of
the team's two runs.
Throughout her 48
appearances this season, Habitz batted .309 and recorded 42 hits. Furthermore, the sophomore led the team in
home runs (4) and RBI (35).
"Karlie did what she did all
year," Lehotak said following the Ohio State loss. "She just battled. My favorite thing about Karlie Habitz at the
plate is nothing really shakes her. I
feel like she keeps the same body language first at-bat, third at-bat. She usually gets stronger as the game
goes. You always have a plan, and she
stuck to her plan and was really successful."
While happy with her own
performance, Habitz also recognizes the importance of this season for the team
as a whole. It was a season full of
learning, testing, and building, which will dramatically help Penn State in the
"I thought we improved a lot
on a lot of things," Habitz said. "Hitters
really started hitting the ball more, were more patient and had more quality
at-bats, and our defense has really gotten a lot stronger this season. We've taken some baby steps, some big steps,
but overall, I think we should be better in the future."
Habitz was not the only
sophomore to produce offensively this year, as Lexi Knief also had a standout season. The centerfielder led the team with a .372
batting average and tied for sixth in the NCAA with triples after accumulating
six in the 49 games she played.
"We went from the bottom
offensively of all of the Big Ten to being middle of the pack," Lehotak said.
"We have a couple kids that are top 10 in triples in the NCAA. We did a lot of good things individually, so
from a coaching standpoint, and the program and the future aspect, I'm very
proud of the small successes that we had.
I know they did not equate to wins, but I think that happens. As coaches, we have to continue to be better,
figure out where we went wrong as a staff, and we will do that."
Next season, Penn State will
return its top three hitters in Knief, Habitz, and Shelby Miller, meaning much of the team's offensive production will
be carried over. The three combined for a
total of 62 RBI and accounted for 45 percent of the team's hits this spring, with
a total of 137.
In addition, the Lions' top
two pitchers, Marlaina Laubach and Macy Jones, will also return to the
circle for Penn State this fall team.
With the conclusion of the 2014 season, Laubach and Jones earned ERAs of
3.64 and 5.35, respectively.
After playing hard for 49
games and leaving everything on the field, the Nittany Lions will begin to
prepare for next season, hoping to come back stronger than ever before. Penn State softball will continue to strive
for success and to proudly represent their university.
"My kids," began Lehotak, "I
appreciated how they played the game. I
thought they played the game with respect.
I thought they represented Penn State with pride and respect all year
long. We had so many improvements in so
many areas. I think the future looks
good. It's going to be a marathon. It's not going to be a sprint to get the
program where we want it and where we all want it to be at Penn State, but I am
very proud. Overall, we did a lot of
good things, and I think my kids should walk out of here with their heads held
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
PARK, Pa. - This past weekend's series marked the final regular season home stand
for the lone three Penn State seniors, Kasie
Hatfield, Liz Presto and Alyssa Sovereign.
three seniors led the Nittany Lion offense as they combined to hit 6-for-14
with two walks, two runs scored and a home run over the weekend despite Penn
State (14-34, 5-18 Big Ten) falling in all three games to conference foe Illinois
(23-25, 7-16 Big Ten).
"I'm very happy with how the seniors played today and all
season long," said head coach Amanda
Lehotak. "I thought they played with guts and character and hard work. It
was a great class. I feel very selfish in the fact that I'm disappointed I
didn't get to coach them for four years."
All three seniors recorded a hit in Sunday's regular
Hatfield, she managed to go out with a bang, crushing her second home run of
the season, in her final regular season at-bat as a Nittany Lion on Sunday.
Hatfield fouled the first pitch down the line; a ball
that Lehotak argued was in fair territory. She then looked at a changeup for a
ball. The last pitch of the at-bat was right down the heart of the plate.
Hatfield wasn't trying to hit a home run, but she put a charge into it, and the
ball flew over the wall in centerfield.
"It felt great," said Hatfield. "To go out my last at-bat
here with a home run is pretty sweet."
With that being said, senior day was Saturday for Penn
State, a special moment for the three seniors and their families.
"I loved [senior day]," said Hatfield. "My brother has
never been up here, and he came up yesterday to make it to one of my final
games and senior banquet, so I was really happy with that. "
For Presto and Sovereign, the final home stand was full
of emotions, but for Hatfield, the feeling was bittersweet.
"I think I have a different view because I am coming
back," said Hatfield. "It's just going to be weird that I'm not playing."
That's right. The senior catcher will be returning next
year as part of Lehotak's staff as a volunteer assistant. Hatfield thinks that
playing catcher will translate well into being a formidable coach.
"I'm just really excited to learn because I feel like I
know a lot about the game," said Hatfield. "I'm curious to see what exactly it
is they do behind-the-scenes."
Lehotak joked about the idea of having her senior catcher
as a coach next year.
"I think I hit my head when I agreed to that," said
Lehotak. "We're very honored that Kasie [Hatfield] is choosing to stay on.
Hopefully we can teach her a few things about the business side of softball. I
look forward to learning from her, as well."
The season is not over, yet. Up next for the Nittany
Lions is the Big Ten Tournament, which begins Thursday at Northwestern
Tenth-seeded Penn State will take on No. 7 seed Ohio
State at 2:30 ET. Penn State will try to replicate last year's upset win as an
11 seed against sixth-seeded Illinois.
"Crazy things happen in tournaments," said Hatfield. "You
never know who's going to win. We can come through, as long as we do what we're
supposed to do."
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The distance between
Penn State and Hawaii is 4,766 miles, such is the rare trip that Penn State
softball sophomores Reina Furuya and
Maegan Tupinio both decided to make
two years ago to receive a world-class education and play Division I softball.
With the average annual temperature 25 degrees higher in Hawaii than in State College, the
looming question is why make the extensive trip east to wake up to snow five
months a year rather than to the sounds of the ocean crashing up against the
soft, warm sand?
"I just like the education system on the East
Coast," said Tupinio. "It's different. My brother lives on this side of the
country, so I've been here before. I just wanted to do something different, and
I really liked Penn State. It's well known in Hawaii, so I wanted to do
something that would make the people there [in Hawaii] proud of me."
For Furuya, her answer is similar to that of
Tupinio's, but incorporates her freshman year in Happy Valley to evaluate the
"If you asked me a year ago I would've just said
academics and softball, but now that I have a year under my belt, I love it
here," said Furuya. "The whole atmosphere, including the academics and coaches,
it's just fun to be around with football and watching other sports compete,
it's just a fun college town to be around."
Three years ago both Furuya and Tupinio were
seniors in high school. And, despite growing up just 11 miles apart - Furuya in
Waipahu and Tupinio in Wahiawa
- neither really knew each other until they both decided on Penn State.
That last sentence is not entirely true.
knew of her [Tupinio]," said Furuya. "I played against her. But I never really
got to know her until I got here."
For Tupinio, her knowledge of Furuya is a
little bit different. Because Hawaii is such small compilation of islands, both
played against each other all the time.
"I definitely knew Reina more than she knew
me," said Tupinio. "She's a well-known player on the islands."
The two Hawaiians have helped each other
adapt to the different environment up along the east coast of the United
States, but the move from Hawaii to Penn State was far from a walk in the park.
"Oh my gosh! I do [miss the warmth]," said
Tupinio. "No offense, but this winter was terrible."
Keeping in touch with family back in Hawaii
has been a challenge that both have had to overcome. Each has had to deal with
the six-hour time difference to talk to their loved ones. When it's Noon here
in State College, the sun is rising in Hawaii.
Together, Furuya and Tupinio have brought
their tropical culture to Penn State, culture that is rarely experienced in
"I like just listening to the way that they
talk," said senior Kasie Hatfield. "Even
just the way they say certain words is really cool, so it's just fun to have
If you ask Furuya or Tupinio, they will both
agree that Hawaiian food is what they miss the most of home during their time
at Penn State.
"I definitely miss the food at home," said
Furuya. "I just love food so much. Here I can get burgers, fries and pancakes,
but at home I can get the Korean, Japanese, Hawaiian food. Love it."
Their teammates aren't complaining though
because Furuya and Tupinio have not only introduced them to new cuisine, but
they also have a knack for finding the best local restaurants.
"The food that they introduced to us is
really cool because they eat a lot of rice and spam," said sophomore Macy Jones. "They find the best sushi
places in State College, too, so that helps a lot."
On the field, Furuya and Tupinio's relaxed,
vacation-like mindsets have helped calm their teammates battle through
"They're actually our calming forces," said
head coach Amanda Lehotak. "So when
everybody else is bouncing off the walls, they're the ones just chilling and
going with the flow."
Penn State wasn't always a certainty.
"When I first came here I thought everything
would be so big, and I wouldn't really know people," said Tupinio.
Now, Penn State is a certainty.
"Everything here is well put together, and
everyone is very close," said Tupinio. "I feel like I am a part of a family
here, and I love it. I love the feeling of tradition and just the values that
everyone has here."
The fusion of cultures, highlighted by the
two Hawaiian sophomores has provided a balance among the team. A diverse
balance that Lehotak thinks reflects the power of college athletics.
"You get so many people from different cultures and
different areas of the country that teach everybody, whether it's about their
culture or what they are about," said Lehotak. "It's awesome."
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Road trips are never
easy, especially ones that last nearly a week. Such was the case for Penn State
(14-31, 5-15 Big Ten) who began its time away from home at Ohio State in a
doubleheader back on Wednesday and then traveled to Minneapolis, Minn., to take
on the No. 12 Golden Gophers (36-8, 14-5 Big Ten) in a weekend series.
losing both games to the Buckeyes and all three games versus the Golden
Gophers, there were positive learning points to take away from playing two
competitive conference foes.
Friday, the Nittany Lions, backed by another impressive start from pitcher Marlaina Laubach, fell to Minnesota,
1-0. The freshman hurler fell to 9-14 on the season but was terrific, giving up
just one earned run on four hits, one walk and three strikeouts.
[Laubach] wasn't missing her spots," said head coach Amanda Lehotak after Friday's game. "She was crisp. She was
attacking. She only had two or three misses that they [Minnesota] did not
The Nittany Lions
faced a tough task at the plate against star senior Golden Gopher pitcher Sara
Moulton, who went the distance while holding the Blue and White scoreless. Penn
State managed just four hits off of the ace, but according to Lehotak, her team
is hitting the ball well, but just needs a little luck.
"It's not like we aren't
putting the ball in play," said Lehotak. "We've had some shots, but everyone
has had ESPN catches against us all year. We just need a little luck. We have
no luck. We have to earn everything right now."
Friday's loss was
the Nittany Lions best-played game of the three-game series. If you look at the
box score, it would seem as if Penn State won the game, but such is a learning
experience for the young squad.
"The positives on
Friday were that we kept the game really simple and competed every pitch," said
Lehotak. "We can play with anybody. We beat them [Minnesota] in every category
- that's just the crazy game about softball - we just had one costly error."
On Saturday, the
story was a little different as the Nittany Lions lacked pitching depth and
dropped both games of the doubleheader, 9-0 and 16-2, respectively.
"Saturday was a
tough day obviously, but we did some great things," said Lehotak. "We stuck
around their All-American pitcher a little bit, which was good to see. We just
didn't have the pitching to go the distance for two [games] on Saturday."
The Golden Gophers
chased sophomore Macy Jones in Game One
of the doubleheader, scoring five earned runs off of Jones in four innings of
play en route to the win. Offensively, the Nittany Lions stuck to the game plan
but failed to register a hit off of Minnesota's ace, Sara Groenewegen.
"We just try to
make them stick to the game plan of keep it simple, hit the ball hard and put
the ball in play," said Lehotak. "There are quite a few at bats we're doing
that, and it's just - I call it 'at 'ems' disease - where we hit the ball right
In Game two of the
doubleheader, Laubach took the hill for the second time in the series to try
and quite the Minnesota bats again. Unfortunately, the Golden Gophers figured
out Laubach and chased the freshman for six earned runs in just two innings
"Going into a
second game where the opponent has already seen me once, it's important to
really focus on spots of pitches rather than trying to get strikeouts or trying
to get groundouts," said Laubach. "It's more of a spot issue just because the
teams are very competitive, so you want to try to paint the corners as much as
Being swept on the
road is not part of the game plan, but Minnesota is a strong team with great
pitching. For Penn State such an experience is one to learn from.
"This time of year
we're still learning, and I want to see us get better every day," said Lehotak.
"Defensively, pitching and offensively; there is still a lot to learn. I just
want to keep getting better. We're never going to stop learning and never going
to stop trying to get better each day."
Next up for the
Nittany Lions is a home doubleheader against instate rival Pittsburgh (15-25,
6-15 ACC) on Wednesday with the first pitch at Beard Field set for 5 p.m.