Recently in Swimming & Diving Category

Francis Earns Top Spot in NCAA

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11497050.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewksi, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Casey Francis turned in a record-setting performance over the weekend as she touched first in the women's freestyle mile race during the men's and women's swimming and diving invitational where the Nittany Lions swept UConn and Princeton at McCoy Natatorium.

Francis had a strong lead throughout the entire race, finishing at 16:05.37 and breaking the Penn State and McCoy Natatorium record. Her training partner, Katelyn Sowinski, was right behind her touching second at 16:25.78. The two swimmers now have the fastest times in the country so far, with third place belonging to Minnesota swimmer Sam Harding at 16:36.33.

"This week was a really hard week in practice, but I felt good the whole week and felt confident going into the meet," Francis said. "I thought I was going to do somewhere close to my best time, but didn't know that it was going to be that fast."

Earlier that event, Francis referred to the updated times on the board and saw that the fastest pool record time for the mile was 16:21. With that time in the back of her mind, she knew that she needed to be as fast or a little better.

"I thought, 'Ok, that's a pretty fast time,'" Francis said. "I was hoping for a 16:21 or better, and then to look up at the board and see a 16:05, I was just in shock."

With the mile race being the longest competition of the entire weekend, Francis said that this was nothing compared to other races she has competed in. Francis participates in open water swimming that has 5k and 10k races.

"The 10k takes [about] two hours," Francis said. "When we practice, we are practicing for two hours straight. So 16 minutes wasn't that bad."

When it came down to the actual competition, Francis said she felt at home being in lane five. This lane is special to Francis, for it is the lane she practices in everyday. During those practices, Francis and Sowinski work hard in preparation for races such as this.

"During practice, we're pretty much together the entire time. Some days, [Francis] will be on her game and I'll be the one trying to catch her. Other days it'll be the other way around," Sowinski said. "We try to push each other. Depending on the day, it sets it up for what it's going to be like at those big time races."

The time that these two swimmers spend training together pays off with big rewards at the end. Sowinski said that after she saw Francis earn that title, she couldn't have been happier.

"We've been working our butts off the past few weeks. Coming here and being able to continue [to] race each other, push each other, and see each other success is really cool," Sowiniski said. "I know it inspires both of us and encourages us to continue to work hard."

As for her own time in the mile free, Sowinski said that she was a little surprised by the final mark.

"I wasn't expecting to go that fast. Everyone was up and cheering the whole time which helped pushed me," Sowinski said. "Some of your best races you feel the worst, and then they end up working out."

For assistant coach Doak Finch, seeing the hard work that the two swimmers have put in to reach this milestone is a great sight to see.

"It's fantastic, it's great for them to get the recognition," Finch said. "They come here and put in the work. What we're putting together this year, it's special. They are working together as a team and the success it just going to continue to grow upon itself." 

Swimming Senior Spotlight - Part One

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11488881.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the 2015-2016 season halfway complete, seniors on the men's and women's swimming and diving teams have plenty to look forward to during the next few months. The Nittany Lions have a total of 14 senior swimmers, all whom are anticipating graduation with each passing day.


Swimmers Haley Sinatro, Chelsea VanderWeele and Jon Seiferth, were the first bunch of seniors to look back and share how being a part of this program molded their college experience in a continuing series on GoPSUsports.com.

Q: What has your overall experience at Penn State been like?
Sinatro: "It's been a blast, I've had so many opportunities just from swimming alone and academics. I made some great friends and couldn't have picked a better university to go to."

VanderWeele: "It's been really positive, I've had opportunities to do different things with and outside the swim team. I feel incredibly blessed on that aspect, I don't think I could see myself anywhere else."

Seiferth: "Amazing, way better than I expected. I never thought that I was going to come to Penn State, I thought I was going to go somewhere South or out West, I didn't want to be this close to home. Coming [to Penn State] was definitely one of the best decisions of my life."

Q: How do you think you have improved over the years?
Sinatro: "I think the main way that I have improved is through my attitude. Just having more fun and approaching each meet with a racing mentality."

VanderWeele: "Swimming, I feel like I have improved my times, but I've also developed a new mentality for the sport itself. When you're in high school, you might be one of the top scorers. When you get here, you're competing on a higher level. You kind of get a new perspective and I've grown from that.

"I've never been one to shy away from trying new things and I think being here only amplified that [by] getting involved with things outside of swimming. Overall it's been a good growth."

Seiferth: "I'd say I finally got my time management under my belt. It took a couple of years, but after having to be forced to do it with swimming, school, homework, sleep and socializing on top of that.

"I definitely got better in the pool, I've seen lots of improvements. My times have dropped each year, even in the first year when we had a different coaching staff."

Q: What is one of the main things you have learned throughout your college career?

Sinatro: "At the end of the day, we take care of each other. Everyone has an off day, in and out of the pool."

VanderWeele: "As cliché as this sounds, it is probably to never give up and try a second time. I think it's very easy to get discouraged when you're training 20 hours a week. With swimming, you only have two big meets in the year, so you put all this pressure on it and it's easy to get stuck on one bad race."

Seiferth: "I would say, don't put things off, do things as soon as you can. With swimming, it's letting the coaches know, 'Hey I have something coming up, is there anyway we can work something out?'

"With school, getting your homework done as soon as you get it or studying as soon as you find out the information. There have been too many times that I put it off until the end. It's such a close call and your sweating bullets just trying to get things done, and it's not a fun time."

Q: What are your future goals? Post-season and/or post-graduation.
Sinatro: "I plan on taking a gap-year, doing something in the medical field before I hopefully attend medical school."

VanderWeele: "I'd like to stay involved with sports. I'm currently a marketing major and would like to do something in sports marketing. I'd love to work with the Paralympics or Wounded Warriors and do events planning for either organization."

Seiferth: "I would like to attend medical school. I've taken the MCATS once, didn't score as well as I wanted [to], but I'm going to go back and take them again. Once I do, I'm going to hit it hard and try to get it out to as many schools as I can. I had originally thought of Osteopathic medicine, but I'm keeping an open mind. If I had to choose one now I'd probably be a primary care physician.

"I'm also talking to Naval recruiters. I'd like to do officer training for the Navy, it has always been a dream of mine. The Naval Academy was [originally] my first choice over Penn State, but the application process was so long a grueling, it didn't work out."

Q: As a senior, how have you helped the younger teammates throughout the season?
Sinatro: "I have four years of experience of big meets. When [their] struggling in the pool, I hope that I am someone that the younger teammates can come to and ask for advice and be a positive influence on deck. Practice is hard, so joking around is definitely necessary. "

VanderWeele: "Just being there. There are a lot of seniors this year and I think it's different from any year before since I've been here. It's kind of overwhelming for the underclassmen because you have so many people you can go to. You can ask any one of the seniors a question and get 12 different answers.

"I think being someone that they're comfortable talking to, being a role model, encouraging them, helping them stay on top of thing and being as a mentor is the biggest thing about being a senior."

Seiferth: "I think I've instilled some advice in them. I've definitely helped a lot of people get themselves on the right track. Keeping the team positive and motivated, trying to get that tradition, keeping all traditions going.  I've really helped carry those on from upperclassmen and then bringing them to the underclassmen and newbies." 

Ackman Shares Pan American Medals with Coach Murphy

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11458504.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the 2015-2016 season started for the men's and women's swimming and diving teams, one swimmer decided to bring something extra for head coach Tim Murphy.

Alyson Ackman, one of the three swimmers to participate in the 2015 Pan American games this summer, brought her gold and bronze medals that she won with team Canada to provide a boost of confidence and aspiration for her teammates this season.  

For Ackman, competing in her home country was a thrilling and motivating experience for the 2015-16 season. Upon finding out that she was taking home hardware for her efforts, all she could think about was the energy from the competition.

"I was a ball of excitement, I was kind of hurting still from the race, but it is just fun being up there with my team especially representing Canada," Ackman said. "The initial rush was being up there, having cameras on you taking your picture, I felt like it was paparazzi. It was a really cool experience."  

Ackman said she didn't decide to give Coach Murphy her gold and bronze medals until after she came back to Penn State.  Though her initial plans were to place the medal with the rest of her Big Ten awards, Ackman felt that the medal would be a good representation of the program and all that it can do for the swimmers.

"Having them in [Coach] Tim's office kind of reminds me that this is Penn State that I'm training with, it's the coach that is really helping me achieve my goals and hopefully it reminds him that I have high goals for myself and high goals for this team," Ackman said. "I'm really hoping that the medals up there not only to show [Coach Murphy], but anyone who goes in there and sees them in his office, that we are an international competing team, and that we are all on the same playing field."

When first hearing about Ackman's accomplishment, Coach Murphy could not have been more proud.

"It's rewarding to get the news because you knows how much work, time and effort, and how much it means to them," Murphy said. "It's almost a secondary thing that they are Penn State, but from an individual standpoint you are just real proud of their accomplishment."

Murphy said that being able to swim at an elite pace at a given place and a given time is not easy. Seeing that Ackman could excel and contribute to a team effort means that much more to the growth of the squad.

"I get pretty fired up and experience pure joy when I watch an athlete that I've had the honor to work with to do something exceptional," Murphy said. "I've had the pleasure of having somebody medal in the Olympics and other international competitions, and I get the same rush every time it happens. It's the reward of watching somebody do something that they didn't know they could do or something exceptional that is the rewarding part. When it's on a larger platform I think what happens in that it gets noticed more, but I think the button that it pushes for me is the same."

Murphy added that no matter what the platform of the competition may be, the feeling is always the same. He appreciated the fact that Ackman wanted to share the medals with him and the rest of the team, proudly displaying them with the rest of his achievements.

The Nittany Lions will take on UConn and Princeton in their next home meet Nov. 13-14 at McCoy Natatorium. 

Coaching Q&A with Coach Murphy

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11443312.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the season continues, the men's and women's swimming and diving teams are working hard to reach their goal of participating in the 2016 NCAA Championships. With the guidance of head coach Tim Murphy, the Nittany Lions are poised to have another record-breaking year. 

Since Murphy joined the program in August 2013, the Nittany Lions have grown in each season. His first campaign with the Lions included a total of 20 records that were broken within the program and 19 swimmers in the 2014 NCAA Championships.

Heading into the bulk of the team's 2015-16 season, the head coach opened up about coaching philosophies and how his techniques look to improve the teams' performances. His inspirations and goals are just a small part as to what drives the team to success.

Q: What is behind your "step-by-step" coaching philosophy and getting to that next step?
Murphy: "The beginning of the season is really about developing a skill set and that's from a technical standpoint of knowing what you are doing to create speed or maintain speed from a developing capacity standpoint, in terms of a skill set in the way that you train.

"We have specific objectives, on specific days. There is always a technical component, there's always a methodology to the main set, and there's always a speed component. Sometimes that speed component is developing maximum speed, and some of it's maintaining your stroke at different speeds."

"We really try to put the first part of the season together developing capacities in the different types of training that we do, developing speed at the different capacities and control in different capacities. The back half of the season comes more about putting those pieces of the puzzle together.

"We spend a fair amount of time in the beginning of the season getting them to do things a certain way. Then, adding the volume to that. You have to have those pieces of the puzzle in order to put them together.

"From a team standpoint, the team dynamic is something that when you get it right, it is powerful. When you get it wrong it kind of lets the air out of the balloon.

"As we go along, each individual has a responsibility. When they show up to work out, they show up to deck, they interact with their teammates both in the pool [and] out of the pool; it's based on the values that their presence has to make the people around them better.

"There is both a responsibility there, a commitment there, and really a focus of doing things in a certain way that create an environment that is very competitive, very challenging. But has a level of respect and support within that. The way we go about doing things as a team and the way they go about doing things individually makes everybody better.

"The philosophy is to create an environment that's going to exceed or [maximize] that intensity for when we want to put it all together. Doing that in a step-by-step process. It's a lot of work, it's a lot of time, but we just got to make it count."

Q: What are your thoughts on the physical aspects of coaching versus the mental aspects?
Murphy: "You can't really ignore either one. You have to develop the physical components; it's all about going faster. The mental part, we talk a lot in practice about putting yourself in a race. So that they are connecting with what they are going to have when the races go up: the intensity, the excitement, [and] the environment.

"Not every practice, but their level of focus has to be such that. Six weeks from now, they are not the same swimmer. They develop technically in the water about the way they go about doing their strokes, understanding their tendencies; their strengths and their weaknesses.

"There has to be a level of focus that matches with the intensity. [That way] when we get to our competitions, we can kind of relax a bit, as opposed to trying to step it up. Usually when you're a little relaxed, you perform a little bit better. It doesn't mean that you're not intense, and your not focused, it just means that you try to find that zone where you're performing and not just trying to do too much."

Q: Who and what are your coaching inspirations?
Murphy: "First, I'm inspired by any athlete that I have in the water on a daily basis. They've told me that they want to do big things, they told me they want to be a part of this program and value what we are trying to do here. Their actions demonstrate that [at practice.]

"I know how [badly] they want to swim fast, I know how [badly] they want to beat people. That is jet fuel for me. I don't need caffeine in my coffee or anything else to get me going.

"I've been extremely fortunate to have worked with awesome teachers and coaches at every level. From people who teach you to learn how to swim, summer club, high school, YMCA, USA swimming, and Olympic swimming.

"I start with my summer club coach who told me I should go out for the swim team. It was probably because of her that motivated me to do that. The educators I had at West Chester University, and the mentors that I've had; if I could bring a little bit of them on deck with me every day, then I'll probably end up doing a good job.

"I try to honor them every day by walking out on deck, and doing the kinds of things that they taught me how to do. Then keeping my education going, so that I continue to learn from the other coaches that I work with."

Q: What is the main thing you have learned as a coach over the years?
Murphy: "I've learned that what's most important is what's in front of me. What I'm doing with the team, small group, or individual on a daily basis; I've learned that it's the students and the athletes [that are] what's most important. It's not what I know, it's what I am able to teach.

"I continue to learn that there are things that I still don't know. I continue to learn that there are things that I didn't know, I didn't know. I'm fortunate to have a relationship with coaches that are both younger than my age and a lot older than me so that if I needed to get on the phone and make a call to ask them something, they would give me their thoughts.

"I think it's a matter of doing a good job with what's in front of you, maximizing the opportunities, and being ready for any athlete at any point in time: physically, technically, emotionally."

Q: Are you looking to break anymore program records here?
Murphy: "That's always the goal, keep rewriting. You always want to see that happen. There are some good ones up there, so we got some work to do."

Strong Effort by Women's Team Headlines Home Opener

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11415082.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was a tough competition against Virginia Tech Friday at McCoy Natatorium as the men's and women's swimming and diving teams battled in Penn State's home opener.

Behind a superb effort from senior Melissa Rodriguez, the Nittany Lion women's team cruised past the Hokies by a score of 183-114.

Rodriguez had a pair of great performances, touching first in both of her individual competitions. She beat the Hokies with a 1:02.75 in the 100-yard breaststroke and tallied a 2:13.81 in the 200 yard breaststroke. Teammates Haley Sinatro (1:04.32) and Monika Gonzalez-Hermosillo (2:18.60) were behind her, placing third in the respective events.

"I didn't expect that at all," Rodriguez said. "I've been injured for the past few weeks, coming back, I wasn't sure what was going to happen."

Rodriguez was excited to be able to pull a big win for the Nittany Lions. This was her best in-season time so far.

"The win was important, I like the way we swam," said head coach Tim Murphy. "The women swam tough. We made some progress in that area. "

Energy filled McCoy Natatorium throughout the home meet. The crowd was decked out in pink T-shirts that were provided at the doors in support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

"It adds a different element," Murphy said. "I think the breast cancer awareness adds a little more to it. There was some good energy on the deck, in the pool, and in the stands. It was really nice to see."

With the win, the women's team improved to 4-0 on the season. On the men's side, the Nittany Lions fell to 1-2 on the year. The Hokies topped the Lions by a score of 178.5 -118.5.

"[Virginia Tech] had more guns than we did," Murphy said. "We had some breakthroughs and got a lot out of this meet."

With the majority of the men's team being underclassmen, Murphy said that each meet becomes more of a learning process and is an awakening for what the swimmers need to work on next.

"I think in a lot of different races, people got themselves into the race and they got more out of it," Murphy said. "I think some people learned that they need to get themselves up in the race from the get go."

Freshman Rory Lewis continued his strong rookie campaign by gaining a big lead in the 200-yard butterfly. Lewis was ahead of the pack during the entire race, touching first at 1:49.24. Teammate and senior captain Jon Seiferth was shortly behind, touching second at 1:51.88.

"I was looking for a little more competition honestly," Lewis said. "It was good [to win] and get that."

Another swimmer making a big debut was freshman Tomer Zamir. The NCAA officially cleared Zamir earlier this week, allowing him to compete for the first time as a Nittany Lion. Zamir placed in the top three for all of his singles races, placing third in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly. 

"That was really nice," Murphy said. "He's been sitting around waiting to find out, and I think it was a real good boost for him to finally get in and race, be a part of the team. I think it was a big boost for the men."

Coach Murphy said that he hopes the teams will take that energy and attitude from Friday's meet and bring it in to the next one. The Nittany Lions will head to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan and Virginia in a dual-meet on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. 

New Faces for the New Season

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11405880.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The men's and women's swimming and diving teams take on Virginia Tech Friday in their first home meet. As the upperclassmen and coaches anticipate with excitement to return to McCoy Natatorium, the newcomers anxiously await to feel the atmosphere of a home competition for the first time.  

The Nittany Lions have a lot of new faces this season after recruiting 19 freshman swimmers, 13 of them for the men's team.

Freshmen Rory Lewis and Monika Gonzalez-Hermosillo have already set the stage in their debuts against Georgia Tech and Emory by receiving the Big Ten Swimming Freshmen of the Week awards earlier this season.

Gonzalez-Hermosillo had a total of five finishes in the top five rankings for individual competitions. She placed third in the 200 freestyle and fifth in the 200 individual against Georgia Tech, and won the 200 breaststroke against Emory. This helped guide the women's team to their first victory of the year.

Though the men's team fell short to both competitors in the tri-meet, Lewis was able to standout for the Nittany Lions by placing in the top three for all eight of his competitions. He had first touch in the 400 freestyle, second in the 100 butterfly, and third place finishes in both the 200 freestyle and 400 medley relay against Georgia Tech. Lewis also placed second in the 100 freestyle against Emory.

"It was a wake up call for me to see how fast Georgia Tech was," Lewis said. "I think I did pretty well overall and felt that I did a good job supporting the team."

This was the first time that two Nittany Lions have won the Big Ten award at the same time. Gonzalez-Hermosillo is the first Penn State swimmer for the women's team, while alumni Shane Ryan was the most recent recipient of the award for the men's team back in November 2012.

As for head coach Tim Murphy, there is nothing but positive reactions about the young team and how they are performing so far.

"I'm very pleased with their effort," Murphy said. "I think they have done a fairly good job adapting to a new situation. "

The coach spoke highly about the swimmers and the excitement he had to work with them. With most of the men's team being underclassmen, Murphy said this factor did not change the way coaching would be handled this season. The coach said he treats every year the same and looks at things from a long-term standpoint.

"This is a learning process, step-by-step," Murphy said. "I want to see them swim with some attitude and some purpose. I want them to take what happens back into the training pool, continue to get better and continue to learn continue to train and grow in their understanding of what we are trying to get from them from a technical stand point."

Coach Murphy even acknowledged how the upperclassmen are handling, and helping, their young teammates.

"I really appreciate the way the upperclassmen, especially seniors, have set the tone for those guys," Murphy said.  "I think we have a good track record of the upperclassmen looking out for the underclassmen. [Seniors] Matt Grillo, Jon Seiferth and Tim Maurer have all in their own way set a good tone this year."   

For swimmers like Lewis, and the rest of the team, Murphy said he expects to see energy amped up a bit on Friday.

"It's the second opportunity, and now that it's at home, it should really get their juices flowing," Murphy said. 

Nittany Lions from Around the World

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11387767.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After coming off of last weekend's tri-meet against Georgia Tech and Emory, the men's and women's swimming and diving teams showed more than just their Penn State pride. This season, the Nittany Lions have a total of seven international students, each one of them representing their own home around the world.


Senior Alyson Ackman, junior Taylor Cameron, and senior Matt Grillo are among the group representing Canada. Both Ackman and Grillo are from Quebec, while Cameron is from Ontario. Grillo remembers back to the acclimation when he was a freshman.


"It was an adjustment phase," Grillo said. "I knew it was something I wanted to do and I was pretty dedicated to getting acclimated to a new environment. It was tough to get used to at first, but it helped shape me as a person."


By being some of the upperclassmen in this group, they are used to the transition and are more than willing to help out any of the new teammates. Grillo said he likes to make himself a personal list of things he would have wanted help with and uses that for the incoming freshman.  


"It was hard for me during my freshman year, especially with the culture and the language," said senior Melissa Rodriguez. "Everything was different with the training, and the school, and how people interact."


Rodriguez, along with teammate Monika Gonzalez-Hermosillo, represented Mexico in the 2015 Pan American games. Rodriguez placed fifth in the 200-meter breaststroke. She currently holds the top mark for Penn State in the 200-yard breaststroke.


"It was fun, I had my other teammates [Gonzalez-Hermosillo] and I saw Alyson [Ackman] there," Rodriguez said. "We got to meet a lot of people from other countries, it was great."


As for freshman Machiko Raheem, being the new kid on the block comes naturally. Raheem said that she was born in Sri Lanka, but has moved to multiple countries, including Singapore and New Zealand, making her used to getting to know other cultures.


"Penn State was different, it's college, it's not regular school," Raheem said. "I had to get used to the size of the place and the number of people. Everyone is friendly and the team has been very helpful."


After talking to multiple coaches, it was one of her sister's old coaches that recommended Penn State and influenced her final decision.

"He is the kind of person that once he says something, you know he's right," Raheem said. "I looked up Penn State and it's an incredible school both academically and swimming. I spoke to the coaches and they were really nice, and kind." 


Things were a little different for 21-year-old Tomer Zamir. As an Israel native, Zamir spent three years in the Israel Defense Forces. Most of the recruiting done for Zamir was done through Skype conversations. So far, the transition from being in defense forces, to becoming a Nittany Lion, has been an overall good experience.

"I'm a freshman and only being here a month, I'm having a really good time," Zamir said. "All my friends seem like really good friends, even without being here for a long time."


When it came down to choosing a school to continue his swimming career, deciding on Penn State and transiting here was simple.

"The recruiters helped me with everything before coming over [to the United States,]" Zamir said. "I knew that Penn State was a good school and that made the choice easier for me."

"I think they add to what we are doing from our program's standpoint," said head coach Tim Murphy. "They're good students, good athletes and are committed. They add value to our program."

Coach Murphy spoke highly of the international swimmers, seeing the way they are prepared to come to practice and compete in the meets is a pleasure to work with. Murphy said that after the teams' last meet, the thing to look forward to and work for is postseason during the latter stages of the season.

"It's more of a work in progress thing," Murphy said. "Of course we want to beat people at meets, but we are looking more at a standpoint of training."

Murphy said that he is looking forward to next week's meet against Virginia Tech. This will be the first home competition of the season for the Nittany Lions.

"We'll see how we react to being at home and to a competitive standpoint," Murphy said. "We'll try to develop the pieces of the puzzle and at a certain point in the season, we will be putting those pieces together."

Nittany Lions Set to Open 2015-16 Season in Atlanta

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11368843.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The men's and women's swimming and diving teams are heading to Atlanta for their first tri-meet of the season against Georgia Tech and Liberty on Friday. The Nittany Lions will stay in Atlanta and continue their season-opening weekend with a dual meet against Emory on Saturday.

The offseason was full of pre-Olympic trial hype with swimmers such as Katie Rowe and Tim Maurer, with both earning bids for the men and women's U.S teams. Women's captain Alyson Ackman competed in the 2015 Pan American Games this July, helping her native country Canada win the bronze in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay.

"Pan American games was amazing," Ackman said. "To hear Canada cheering for us was just absolutely thrilling and motivating for this year coming up for 2016."

Other Penn State swimmers competing in the games were Melissa Rodriguez and freshman Monika Gonzalez-Hermosillo, who swam for Mexico.

"I think it's great to know that all of us can represent different countries on a bigger field, but can still represent Penn State," Ackman said.

While the summer games helped Ackman prepare herself for upcoming competitions, being a captain this year is a whole other role. Along with co-captain Jon Seiferth, the senior swimmers are ready to fulfill their leadership roles by helping teammates out, welcoming new swimmers and new assistant coach Matt Hurst. Hurst joined the Nittany Lions this summer after spending 12 years with Southern Connecticut State.

"It's going to be a challenge being a leader of 30-some people, especially with the boys included," Ackman said. "I think my leadership role doesn't have that much more of an impact of anyone else's role on the team. I think it's really important for me to take that extra stride to make sure everyone communicates and is on the same page."

"Leadership and prior knowledge, incoming freshman have a lot of questions and I'm always trying to help them out as much as I can," Seiferth said. 

The Nittany Lions have a total of six incoming freshman for the women's team. Along with Gonzalez- Hermosillo, other international students include Aleksandra Tulacz, who was born in Gdynia, Poland.

Upcoming meets that the swimmers are looking forward to are tri-meets, including one against Big Ten rival Michigan and Virginia. Seiferth said there is more motivation this year to try to change the finishing scores and have an overall improvement in competing.

"I'd like to see our place in the Big Ten go up," Seiferth said. "There is motivation to do a lot more and try harder to get that higher place. "

The Nittany Lions will have their first home meet against Virginia Tech Friday, Oct. 16 at 4 p.m. 

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.