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By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State offense was in need of a spark to get things rolling in the second game of a doubleheader against Robert Morris Wednesday evening.

The Nittany Lions had already dropped the first game against the Colonials 3-1, a game that saw them only amass three hits.

Enter Alyssa VanDerveer, who in the third inning hit a two-run homerun to provide that spark and jumpstart a six-run inning for the Lions. Penn State (11-14) went on to win the game 8-5.

The homerun was VanDerveer's team leading fifth of the season, and eighteenth of her career. It was overdue for the sophomore catcher, who before that had gone 0-for-3 over the span of the two games, including one strikeout and an RBI fly out.

"Sometimes in hitting you can be off a little bit, and in game one you could just tell she looked off," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "So for her to come back and calm down and get that hit I was happy with her.  She just kept battling and she competed the entire day; I was really proud of her [today]."

The inning started with what Lehotak calls a "cheat base hit": junior Shelby Miller hit a pop up right behind the pitcher, and a miscommunication between the second basemen and shortstop let the ball drop.

"Really I think that was just the momentum switch for us just to pour it on," Lehotak said. "They kind of got back on their heels at that moment and sometimes in the game we just need something to go your way, and that went our way."

With Miller on base, VanDerveer headed to the plate. She only needed to see three pitches before she found the one she liked and sent it to centerfield, where the ball hit the top of the wall and bounced over.

From there, Penn State had RBIs from Rebecca Ziegler, Macy Jones and Mollie Sorenson to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 7-2 lead going into the fourth inning. The Nittany Lions finished the game with ten hits from seven different players.

Jones has been one of the most productive players for the Nittany Lions this season; her 31 hits on the year rank number two on the team, just behind Miller's 33.

"She has been one of our most consistent players all year," Lehotak said. "To me, it's the mentality that she brings to the plate. I think it's that senior mentality of 'I've been there, done that'. Even if she has a bad at-bat she comes back stronger." 

The offense struggled throughout the first game of the evening, but it wasn't for lack of effort. Nearly every player connected with a pitch, but their hits were going straight to the fielders who were able to turn the easy out.

"In the first game, we only had three strikeouts. We had some really good hits, just right at people and sometimes the game just goes that way," Lehotak said. "Eight inches to the left or right it could be a tie ball game, but I tip my hat to them, they definitely beat us game one."

The Nittany Lions start conference play this weekend when they travel to New Jersey to take on Rutgers in a three game series starting Friday. Lehotak is ready for the challenges that the Scarlet Knights and the rest of the Big Ten will bring for the team in the remainder of the season.

"I like where we're at heading into conference [play]. The Big Ten Conference is brutal and some crazy things can happen in conference," Lehotak said. "It's a three game series on the road, which is always tough. But I think we're getting better, and I keep telling the kids that at some point, the way they're playing the game is going to pay off for us, so hopefully it'll pay off heading into this weekend against Rutgers."

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By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  Macy Jones was just looking for a good pitch to hit.  It turns out that pitch was one she would deposit over the wall.  Penn State was down a run early on Sunday against Hofstra, but Jones crushed a two-run home in the third inning run to put State up 5-2, a lead they would never relinquish. 

The Nittany Lions won the game 10-2 in five innings, improving to 10-13 on the year.  Yet Jones, who homered in two of the three games in the home stand, was modest after the game when talking about going yard.

"I just did my best and it went over," she said. 

After losing both games of a doubleheader on Saturday, the offense was clicking Sunday afternoon.  Head coach Amanda Lehotak decided to try a new tactic with the pitchers which helped result in a victory.  Lehotak had a new pitcher in the circle each inning, and that helped keep the Pride on their toes.  Jones was a big fan of the strategy.

"I love it. I hope we do it a lot more, with such a big pitching staff, 6 pitchers is kind of unheard of in softball, that can all throw solid innings, so I think if we use all of us like we did today it's going to be really good."

"As a hitter you want to see a pitcher multiple times so you can get used to seeing what they're throwing, so it really throws the other team off," Jones added. 

A big key for Penn State Sunday was the ability to put the ball in play, especially late in counts.  In the 4th inning, an error and two hits loaded the bases.  Lexi Knief then singled with the bases loaded, knocking in two runs, and a fielding error on her hit brought home a third PSU score.  Putting the ball in play put pressure on the Hofstra defense. 

"Sometimes you just have to put the ball in play especially with two strikes.  You'll hear our kids say two for you, one for us, meaning just make them make a play, make them catch-throw-catch, and today it worked in our favor," said Lehotak. 

Jones believes in the importance of forcing the opponent to make plays with their gloves.

"It's really important, especially if its on the ground, because they bobbled the ball a lot when we put it on the ground and that allowed us to score a lot more runs.  That's a big part of what we try to work on."

Of course, playing at Beard Field helps out as well as the Blue and White try and find their footing early on in the season. 

"It's so much better just for travel.  That was probably one of the most energetic, best, athletic day that we had on a Sunday all year because Sundays are a grind.  It's hard to win on Sundays. That's why we call it championship Sundays because it's all mental, but for our kids to sleep in their own beds for a week and not have to worry about flying and packing again it was pretty amazing," said Lehotak. 

After playing three games in two days, Penn State will have the luxury of having Monday off, something that is mandatory in the NCAA.  Tuesday will be a preparation day for Robert Morris, who comes to State College for a doubleheader on Wednesday.  Thursday will be a hitting day in practice, and then the team will hit the road to play a weekend series against Rutgers.  Conference play will take over for the rest of the season, as it is "go-time" in the Big Ten for Lehotak's squad from here on out.  

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By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Spring has finally sprung in State College, and nothing makes that more obvious than the start of the home slate of Penn State softball's season.

Already almost halfway through their season, the Nittany Lions return home this weekend after four consecutive weeks on the road, which saw them travelling to Florida three times and Mississippi once. They face Hofstra in a three game series, which starts with a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.

Head coach Amanda Lehotak is just as excited as any player about being back at Beard Field and finally having some home field advantage.

"It's the most amazing feeling, you have no idea," Lehotak said. "Finally being on your own field where you train everyday, to play in front of your fans where Penn State means everything to us is a great feeling and we can't wait." 

Her players share a similar sentiment about finally being at home, especially when it comes to the toll that travel can take after extended periods of time.

"We're really excited just to not have to travel those long hours and then being really tired," said senior Macy Jones. "And to play on our home field and what we're comfortable with in our cages and all that, it's going to be really nice."

No travel means that the team will be able to focus more on their preparation leading up to the series. It also means that they will be in the comfort of their own equipment and facilities.

"We have a little more time [to prepare] because we're not spending so much time traveling," said junior pitcher Marlaina Laubach. "It gives us a little more time to be at home, stay comfortable, we can hit in our own cages just like we do on game day. We can practice everything pregame but do it here on our field, so it's exactly like it's going to be on game day."

Playing at home will mean playing in much colder temperatures than the team has seen this season. With expected highs of 43 and 37 degrees on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, there's no counting out the affect that the weather will have on the game.

"It's kind of one of those things where you're either freezing or you're hot and about ready to pass out from the heat, so that's kind of the fun about being an outdoor sport," Lehotak said. "It's just the good thing is, whatever you're playing in so is your opponent. It does change things, sometimes it's hard to grip a bat or the ball type of thing, but we still have to play the game."

For Jones, gearing up for her last season at Beard Field is more exciting than it is sad. One reason is the amount of home games on the schedule this year.

"I'm not really sure if we have more home games than we've had in the past, but I just feel as though we do have a lot more home games," Jones said. "There are a lot of exciting things that we're doing this year so for it to be my last season it's a good thing and it's exciting." 

As the home opener gets closer, Lehotak is ready to see the fans at Nittany Lion Softball Park cheering on the team.

"I just think the atmosphere, the energy, playing in front of your fans and your friends, it's very different," Lehotak said. "We had a lot of come from behind wins last year and I put that a lot of because of our fans."

 

 

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By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - The Nittany Lions hit the road for one final tournament this weekend, as they head down to Oxford, Miss. to play in the Red and Blue Classic.

The trip will be the fourth weekend in a row that Penn State travels well outside of State College. All that travel can take a toll on a player's body, but the team is doing all that they can to stay fresh between games.

"It's pretty exhausting at times, but [I've] done it for four years now so I'm kind of used to it in a way and I can expect it," said senior Reina Furuya. "It's a lot of time management in terms of academics, working out, getting your recovery in and all that." 

Fellow senior Christy Von Pusch agreed, joking that "it's so much fun to travel in and out of State College." The pitcher also noted that while it may not be as difficult for the seniors, the underclassmen were in for a surprise. 

"Honestly, it's my fourth year so I'm used to it but I think that it's definitely shocked some of the underclassmen," Von Pusch said. "It's always rough, no matter how much you do it. Coming back to school and only being here for four days and then having another 12-hour travel day is exhausting, but I think our team has done a really good job of pushing through it and trying to stick to our game plan and doing what we do best."

With six games coming up on this trip (the team will also travel to Starkville, Miss. to face Mississippi State after the tournament), head coach Amanda Lehotak is ready to give her team a well-deserved break once they return home.

"We're going to get back Wednesday and give them a couple of days off and fire up for our home series against Hofstra," Lehotak said. "I know I'm a minority, probably, amongst coaches, but I actually thoroughly believe in rest, and we're kind of beat up, so I'm looking forward to the kids staying home, watching TV, sleeping in their own beds and getting ready for the second half of their season."

With the road trip being a little longer than usual, the team will use the upcoming spring break to their advantage. Those extra days on the road will give their bodies a break from the normal wear and tear.

"We have a few extra days but it's spring break so it won't be too bad," Furuya said. "We'll do extra reps when we can, but it's also a recovery time for us, so overall it won't be that different for us than usual."

Throughout the first couple of weeks, Lehotak has been pleasantly surprised with how well her pitching staff has been performing. With a combined 2.77 ERA amongst the six pitchers, Lehotak has high hopes for the rest of the season.

"They have done a phenomenal job managing the games," Lehotak said. "It's been really fun to watch the growth of Von Pusch coming on her senior year. To see the maturity of Marley [Laubach], she's really starting to shut it down and she's finally embraced who she is as a pitcher. [Madison] Shaffer and [Madison] Seifert are doing a good enough job as freshman. So I think our pitching staff has been a much-wanted surprise and they've been great."

Von Pusch credits the internal rivalry amongst the pitchers, who are all fighting for that starting position, as a big reason they are doing so well in the circle.

"Everyone wants that starting spot, even though we are pitching as a staff and we have that mentality, so I think that us fighting, it's sort of a competition within us and that is making us all great," Von Pusch said. "We're still able to pitch as a team going into games so that's definitely been one of our strongest aspects this year."

As the Nittany Lions head down South one final time, Furuya said the team is looking to get to the point where they can click on all cylinders before conference play starts up at the end of March. 

"We're just still trying to find the groove. We haven't really been strong in all assets at the same time so we're still working to find that momentum and go into Big Ten with a good feel."

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By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a slow opening weekend at the "Kick-Off Classic," the Nittany Lions exploded for 33 runs a week later at the Dolphin Invite in Jacksonville, going 4-1 on the weekend.

The shift in momentum came from a more relaxed team that found a way to capitalize on runners in scoring position.

"[I saw] the ability to calm ourselves in pressure situations," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "Our opening weekend, we had runners in scoring position and opportunities, but we were trying to be too big and win the game on one hit, where this weekend it was back to what we do well."

Leading the flurry of runs was starting catcher Alyssa VanDerveer, who had a team-high 6 RBIs. Lehotak wasn't seeing anything new from her, but rather she saw VanDerveer playing as if "she was back to her old self."

"Opening weekend, she had opportunities, but she was so big if you watched her swing," Lehotak said. "This weekend, to me, she really cut down her swing and did what she does well, which is shorten up and put the ball in play. When she stays within herself, stays balanced, she has a weekend like she did this past weekend."

VanDerveer credits not only her patience, but also the rest of the lineup for her impressive weekend. Batting at the bottom of the lineup has its perks when the rest of the team is getting on base.

"It helps having hitters earlier in the lineup getting on base and being able to move them in," VanDerveer said.

Senior Lexi Knief is hoping that the calmness and the ability to score runs that the team displayed in Jacksonville will carry over into Orlando. 

"Mostly we were just staying really calm. The first weekend we went out there, I wouldn't say we had the jitters or anything, but we might have been pressing a little too much. But this weekend we just came back to practice, we stayed calm and we did what we normally do," Knief said.

Lehotak is looking for the momentum of four wins to carry over into the Citrus Classic in Orlando this weekend. With games against Yale, Fordham, Notre Dame and North Florida, Lehotak is up for the challenge of another tournament on the road. 

Despite the successful weekend bringing the team back to .500 on the year, Lehotak knows that her team is not playing their best softball. And even so, she's okay with that.

"We're still not playing great ball, which I don't want us to play great ball yet," Lehotak said. "Pitching wise, we're still giving up way too many walks. Offensively, even though we went 4-1 this weekend, there are some things we would like to do better. Early in the game, we kind of got away from our plan when it wasn't going our way. I would like us to stay within our plan."

The Citrus Classic will be the last tournament for the Lady Lions in Florida. But with weather still hovering around freezing in Happy Valley, the team won't be able to take the field at Nittany Lions Softball Park anytime soon. They'll have a trip down to Mississippi over spring break before they can play on their home field on March 19th.

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By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a weekend filled with triumph and disappointment, the Nittany Lions headed home to Happy Valley from Florida hungry for their next chance to prove themselves.

That chance comes this weekend, when Penn State travels back down to the Sunshine State to participate in the Jacksonville Tournament. The Nittany Lions enter the tournament 1-4 on the season, but head coach Amanda Lehotak isn't letting that damper her players' spirits.

Making their second big road trip in under a week, Lehotak has had her team's own performance be the main focus in practice, and hasn't spent too much time worrying about their upcoming opponents.

"Our focus is just on us," Lehotak said. "We do a little preparation for the teams we're playing this weekend without the team even knowing. But really this past weekend we played well but there was things that we failed in our game so we just really focused on Penn State this week." 

There was a lot to learn from the "Kick-Off" Classic in Boca Raton, but the main takeaway for junior Shelby Miller is that this team still has a lot to prove to itself and to the competition.

"We feel like we have something to prove that we did not prove [last weekend] and we're very excited to get back out there," Miller said. "[Last weekend] was a big learning experience, we obviously know we didn't do as well as we should have. We know that this weekend we really have to execute on different things and do our jobs more than we did last weekend." 

Penn State struggled offensively throughout the tournament, including a tough outing against Wright State when they averaged two runners on base every inning and couldn't get big hits to bring them in. Despite the struggles, the pitching staff kept the Nittany Lions close in all their games.

"We've said all along that to reach our goals this year we had to have good pitching," Lehotak said. "Typically in the past our offense has kept us in the games, so it was fantastic to see our pitching keep us in the games and it was just ironic that it was our offense that couldn't do it for us. We tell our pitchers all the time they don't need to win a game for us, they need to manage a game for us and they did exactly that this week."

Freshman pitcher Madison Seifert notched her first collegiate win when the Lions defeated Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) in their third game. While it was exciting for her to get the win under her belt, she was the third pitcher to come in for the Nittany Lions and credits the entire pitching staff for helping her get there.

Lehotak loves what she's seeing from her pitchers, and is hopeful that they will build upon their performances as the season continues.  

 "It helps [with their mentality] a lot," Lehotak said. "This is probably the most confident pitching staff I've seen since I've been here, which is huge." 

As the Nittany Lions get ready for their second trip down south, Lehotak has faith that her team will get back on track.

"We're right there, we're knocking on the door. We're confident and taking it one step at a time. As a coach, it's difficult to see them not get their goals in for this weekend, but we have 49 games left."

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By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State is getting ready to kick off the season down in Florida, where the team will take part in their first of the season's three Florida tournaments this coming weekend. 

The Kick-Off Classic in Boca Raton, Fla. will begin Friday, when the Lions take on Wright State and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) in a doubleheader.   SIUE and Tulsa will take the diamond against the Blue and White on Saturday, and the team will play Florida Atlantic on Sunday before heading back to State College.  All of these teams have RPIs of 75 or lower. 

"I try to create a good balance. I really try to never play a team about 75 in the RPI," said head coach Amanda Lehotak on the upcoming schedule. 

Lehotak feels the same way when scheduling preseason tournaments for her team. 

"When you go to tournaments, you're kind of stuck with who else is in the tournament but typically I look for tournaments that have the same philosophy that we do," Lehotak said.  "We don't want anyone higher than 75 just because a bad loss is a lot more killer than a good loss, and the fact that we have to be tough and we have to know what its like to grind day in and day out going into the Big Ten."   

At the end of last season, FAU was 35th in RPI ranking, while SIUE was 49th and Tulsa came in at 73rd, aligning with coach's philosophy. 

The players also are excited to play outside and against some top competition.  After only practicing outside three times so far this season, which Lehotak jokingly called "a new record," it will be a nice change of pace for the team. 

"The warm weather obviously is going to be a good factor for the team going in and we're all just really excited to go in and actually play someone besides ourselves," said senior Macy Jones.  "Our preseason is really going to get us ready for the Big Ten because it's a lot of mid-majors that are at the top of their conference and they know how to win, so being able to play them and compete against them is really going to prepare us."

A key for Lehotak is having a strong February to not only kick off the season right, but to also put the team in position to make the postseason. 

"It puts us in go-mode right away.  We don't have the reputation and have yet to prove the fact that those teams should be afraid of us," she said.  "I like the fact that it tests us right away and gives us good competition to see where we're really at.  To go to the postseason, you have to have a decent to good February, so I like the fact that were being tested." 

There is a familiarity factor for the Nittany Lions with the upcoming tournament, as they went 3-2 in last year's Kick-Off Classic.  Lehotak said the umpires usually have a wide strike zone, so the pitchers are preparing for the tournament using that knowledge.  She also says she is excited to see what her new freshman hurlers can do on the mound. 

"Offensively and defensively I feel like we know exactly what were going to get. The thing I'm most excited for is our pitching staff," she said.  "I think coach [Sarah] Sigrest has done a fantastic job, and our pitch calling seems much better, so I'm excited to see our returners under her guidance what they can do.  I'm really excited to see the two freshman [Madison Seifert and Madison Shaffer] take the mound and see if they're ready to leave their mark on the program."

Going from closed gym to open field is not without its challenges.  It can be difficult to judge a ground ball on turf, and try and field that same ground ball on a dirt and grass infield. 

"One of the biggest challenges as an infielder is going from turf to grass," Lehotak added.  "On turf you get all the perfect hops and you know exactly where the ball is going. When you go to different outdoor fields the dirt is always different, the conditions are different and on top of that you have the sun. I think those are the major challenge but we are excited to get down to above freezing temperatures."

 

Despite the challenge, the team is ready to roll and seemed very excited at practice on Wednesday to get the season rolling.  After the Kick-Off Classic, Penn State will go back down to Florida and play in the Jacksonville Tournament starting February 19th, where they will take on Georgetown, Pittsburgh and Jacksonville.

VIDEO: 2014-15 Year in Review with Sandy Barbour

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour to review a superb 2014-15 season for Penn State Athletics.





Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: 2014-15 Season Highlights

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's 2014-15 season was one marked by excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community. GoPSUsports.com takes a look back at the campaign in a season highlight reel.


Commemorating 25 Years of Penn State and the Big Ten

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Penn State has won 92 Big Ten titles, including 21 in women's soccer (16 regular season).



By Tony Mancuso
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just four months into his tenure as commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, Jim Delany recalls an idea brought to the table by former Illinois President Stan Ikenberry.

It was October of 1989 when Ikenberry, who spent time as a senior administrator at Penn State earlier in his career, broached the thought of adding an institution to the Big Ten for the first time since Michigan State was invited to become a member in 1949.

The Big Ten then began a formal research process of an institution that would bridge a Midwestern league to the East.

The Pennsylvania State University was on the table for discussion as a superb academic institution with a rich tradition in athletic success.

Delany, whose sister attended Penn State as a graduate student, didn't need much convincing. He knew the level of potential a partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten could foster.

"The Big Ten hadn't changed in many, many decades, but I thought if the opportunity to expand presented itself it was a no brainer," Delany said earlier this week. "Excellent academics. Excellent athletics. And pointed towards the East Coast, I thought there was a lot of potential there. That was my recommendation at the time."

The process moved forward with the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten institutions discussing the topic before news broke just before the holidays in December of 1989 that Penn State could be on its way into a new conference. Under the direction of athletic director Jim Tarman at the time, Penn State had been competing as an independent in football for more than a century, and the rest of the department had been a member of the Atlantic 10 since 1976.

When the news initially surfaced, women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose, who along with field hockey coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss are the two current Penn State head coaches who were on staff in 1989, was giving a presentation at the annual women's volleyball coaches convention (AVCA) about the importance of NCAA Tournament at-large bids for teams in smaller conferences.

"I remember talking in front of the group about the importance that not all of the at-large bids go to the bigger conferences and that there were good teams in other conferences even though they didn't have the same notoriety, said Rose. "We have a lunch break. I turn on ESPN at lunch, and I see that Penn State is going to be a member of the Big Ten. I come back. I say to some people that I would like to retract what I said about at-large teams."

The formal process concluded with a vote in Iowa City on June 4, 1990, at which time Penn State was officially accepted as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Twenty-five years have passed in a partnership that allowed both the University and conference to reach unprecedented heights on the field and in the classroom.

"From a broad perspective, at the time, my view was that it was a tremendous fit for both sides. And history has proven that," Delany said. "With all the other expansions around the country, I'm not sure there was one that benefitted both institution and conference as much as this did, largely because of the characteristics of Penn State were so well matched with the characteristics of the Big Ten."

The positive news zipped throughout campus shortly after the vote in Iowa.

"I remember hearing about the announcement from Mary Jo Haverbeck, from the Sports Information office," said Morett-Curtiss. "She told me about us going in and how it was going to have a major impact for women's athletics at Penn State."

It was an announcement that changed the landscape of funding and development for all of Penn State's 28 programs at the time, and it was a day Morett-Curtiss remembers quite well.

"Ironically, I had gone for a run that day on the trails near Sunset Park and as I'm running, I see someone walking in front of me and it was Joe Paterno," Morett-Curtiss said. "And it was that day, so I said to him, 'hey what's going to happen?' He said, 'I think this is going to be a really good thing for Penn State and the exposure all of the programs are going to get.'"

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The women's volleyball program captured Penn State's first Big Ten title in 1992, marking volleyball's first of 16 conference crowns.

 
Penn State's teams felt the impact of the Big Ten conference almost immediately.

"What it did for us when we joined the Big Ten is that it No. 1 it resulted in a reassessment of the levels of commitment we had to the various programs," Rose said. "We became fully funded when we joined the Big Ten. Prior to that, we were not fully funded. And we were not fully staffed. Entering Big Ten, collectively, for all of the sports resulted in us having a new commitment from the University to try and be competitive. From a volleyball perspective, we had been competitive prior to that, but playing in the Big Ten in women's volleyball made us better because the level of competition was better than we were experiencing in the Atlantic 10."

At the time, women's volleyball had just one assistant coach on the staff alongside Rose and nine scholarships to field a roster. Joining the Big Ten boosted the program to full funding and 12 scholarships.

"As I look at it now, we could have had some great teams if we had funding in the early years," said Rose. "That was just the way that it was.  When you take a job, that is the job you took. When we joined the Big Ten, a lot of us got a better job without having to move. But it's way more competitive. Recruiting is a lot different than what we had experienced in the Atlantic 10."

The same can be said for what Morett-Curtiss experienced within the field hockey program.

"The financial support from a scholarship standpoint was huge right away," said Morett-Curtiss. "And knowing our field that we were going to build was going to be a first rate facility."

The investment for success around the Big Ten stood out during Penn State's transition. Every institution and athletic program strives to be the best. It's a trait that has not changed during the department's 25 years as a member, and it's something that will be a trademark of the Big Ten for decades to come.

"The level of commitment to being good across the conference, everybody cared," said Rose. "I don't believe every conference across the country has that sort of commitment in all of their sports. I think that is one of the things that makes the Big Ten really unique. If they offer it, they care and they want to be relevant."

Penn State's time in the Big Ten has been marked by excellence in the classroom and on the field of play. In all, Penn State's programs have accounted for 92 Big Ten championships from 15 different programs - 76 regular season and 16 post-season. Additionally, more than 170 student-athletes have accounted for nearly 300 individual Big Ten titles.

Penn State student-athletes have earned more than 5,000 Academic All-Big Ten recognitions since it joined the conference, with its three highest totals during the past three years, led by 296 in 2012-13.

"Penn State's entrance into the Big Ten not only changed the intercollegiate sports landscape, it also changed our academic landscape and our future. Our size, our academic reputation and our athletic tradition matched up well with Big Ten schools," said Penn State President Eric Barron, who also noted that all Big Ten schools are flagship universities for their states. "The academic side of the Big Ten is known as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the institutions together have annual research expenditures topping $10.2 billion -- more than the Ivy League and the University of California System combined -- and they educate a total of nearly 600,000 students. The benefits from being part of such an outstanding and prestigious organization with such an expansive footprint across the nation are immeasurable."

The women's volleyball program earned Penn State's first Big Ten crown during the 1992 season, just one year after the team began competing in the league. The title marked the first of Penn State's superlative 16 Big Ten titles in women's volleyball, in addition to seven NCAA Championships since 1999.

Like women's volleyball, the women's soccer program has been a benchmark of success in conference play. The program became the department's 29th varsity sport in 1994. Since then, Penn State has won an unprecedented 16 conference titles, including a string of 15-straight from 1998-2012.

The football program claimed the Big Ten title in its second season of competition during an undefeated Rose Bowl championship campaign in 1994. Coach Joe Paterno's '94 squad became the first Big Ten team to ever post a 12-0 record. The '94 crown marked the program's first of three Big Ten championships to date (2005 and 2008).

The fall season of 2005 stands out as a monumental period in Penn State's history within the conference. Nittany Lion teams clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days. The list included field hockey, football, men's soccer, women's soccer and women's volleyball. Since the fall of 2005, Penn State teams have won 51 Big Ten championships (5.1 titles per year in a 10-year span).

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Penn State clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days during the fall of 2005, including one for the women's volleyball team.



It's impossible to quantify how the partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten altered the recruiting landscape for the teams on campus and how the recruiting gains equated to success on the field of play. But pitching a world-renowned education with an elite conference affiliation cultivated relationships with premier student-athletes.

"The name recognition was big for football, but when you see how many of the Universities and programs have been successful on a national level, I think that has greatly helped," Morett-Curtiss. "Exposure for all of the Universities within the conference has helped us all grow. Combining the academic side of what these Universities have with the athletics, it's a very powerful combination when we go out recruiting student-athletes."

A big piece to the exposure of Penn State teams during the past 25 years was the launch of the Big Ten Network on Aug. 30, 2007. More than 800 Penn State sporting events have aired live on the BTN since it launched. The benefits of the conference's TV network, which is in more than 60 million homes,  increased visibility across the country for the department in a way that cannot be measured.

"The Network was a major step for us," Morett-Curtiss. "Just having the opportunity to have games on TV so that little girls can watch and learn about the sport. It's helped, not only exposure for the program, but it's helped the sport grow. It's just a phenomenal avenue for us to showcase our University and the sport."

The BTN's impact goes back to what Rose talked about as one of the immediate impacts his program felt - funding. Not only did the BTN infinitely increase exposure for Penn State teams, it has played a paramount role in increased revenues for each institution.

"Certainly, the Big Ten Network has been instrumental in generating funds for the Universities and the conference and the bowl revenue sharing has resulted in more money for all of the schools and the conference," said Rose.

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In 2008, Penn State captured its third Big Ten title in football en route to a trip to the Rose Bowl.

 

While the competitive atmosphere is intense between teams across all of the conference's sports, each member institution understands that the individual success aids in the growth of the collective conference.

"I think the relationship has been a really positive one," said Rose. "There are a lot of similarities between the various Universities."

"Everybody in the Big Ten shares what they do and why they do it; best practices," said Dave Baker, Associate Athletic Director for Business Operations. "We share lots of ideas, at least from the business manager and ticketing perspective. We learn things from one another. And there aren't secrets. We all work together and try to help each other out...We all don't do things the same way. We all have limitations, but we are all looking to help one another out for the betterment of the conference.

"Some people would find it hard to believe that people in the Big Ten root for other Big Ten teams in the postseason, but we do. We follow what is going on...It is a cooperative spirit and a partnership."

Baker is one of just a handful of Penn State administrators and coaches who have been with Intercollegiate Athletics during the past 25 years. That list includes Jan Bortner, who was head coach of the men's tennis team in 1990 and has since transitioned into a role as an associate athletic director. Among the key changes Baker felt from the business operation centered on travel. Bus trips were the norm for Penn State teams in the Atlantic 10, but the geography of the Big Ten led to more plane travel.

A quarter century has passed since initial discussions of a new relationship took place and bonds were formed. Many things have changed significantly for Penn State, the conference and intercollegiate athletics nationwide, but it's been 25 years marked by growth stemming from a vision in 1989.

"Pennsylvania is a very important state. It served as a bridge to the East for us. It made our football offerings stronger," said Delany. "It has been excellence with national championships in a variety of sports. And I have always felt that the 1994 Penn State team was the best team in the country; no disrespect to Nebraska. When you look at the players that team had (five first team All-Americans on offense) and what that group accomplished. That team was the national runner-up. That was a tremendous football team. I've seen some very good basketball teams both on the men's side and the women's side. And obviously, the wrestling and volleyball programs have been dominant on the national scene."

Penn State has won a total of 27 national championships since joining the Big Ten, including three in 2013-14, and the department's collective success speaks for itself.

By no means was the integration in 1990 an easy one, but the partnership between the University and Big Ten is a match that enabled both sides to mutually prosper in a way neither side could have envisioned when the formal vote concluded 25 years ago today.


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The wrestling team began a string of four-straight Big Ten titles in March of 2011.





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