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A Balancing Act: The Tori Waldner Story

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10480482.jpegBy Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After winning their third consecutive Big Ten title and posting a 24-8 record, the Lady Lions graduated four seniors, leaving them with only one returning starter for 2014-'15.

Enter Tori Waldner.


A senior forward, Waldner is taking over the helm of the Lady Lions' leadership this season, a role that fellow teammate Peyton Whitted believes she has always owned.

"Tori (Waldner) has always been someone we look up to," Whitted said. "I don't think that this year will be any different."

Over the past three seasons, Waldner has seen action in almost every game, starting every game last season. This Lady Lion basketball team is young, but head coach Coquese Washington is looking to Waldner to "balance" her role as a leader along with working on her game.

"She's doing a great job of being vocal without being too focused on other people and not focusing on herself," Washington said. "She's done a great job of leading my example, with effort and communication."

Leading By Example
Waldner's leadership precedes her career in the blue and white. The Milton, Georgia, native was chosen to the All-Region 6AAAAA honors team as a scholastic senior and junior, while earning the 2009 and 2010 Defensive Player of the Year Award. She led her team to a regional championship and berth into the state championship playoffs, making it to the elite eight.

"If I am the only starter coming back, I need four other people with me," Waldner said. "I am willing to do whatever it takes to get everyone ready for the season."

Waldner is a leader off the court, as well. Aside from her contributions in the classroom, she is involved outside of basketball, when time permits. This year she was voted to serve on the homecoming court, an accomplishment she said sparked a desire for her younger teammates to join other clubs and organizations.

"Coach is really into helping us and encouraging us to accomplish things outside of basketball," Waldner said. "She helps us become great women and people, which is important because all of this comes to an end at some point."

Experience
The Lady Lions made it to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen last year, a feat that Waldner contributed to during her efforts during the regular season and postseason. Her experience in tournament play will help leverage her leadership on the court. With the loss of Maggie Lucas, Ariel Edwards, Talia East and Dara Taylor, Waldner has big shoes to fill at the helm of Penn State's offensive and defensive schemes. Last season, she finished fifth on the team in scoring with 155 points (4.8 ppg), 179 rebounds (5.6 rpg) and 32 blocks. She is ranked 10th in program history with blocks per game.

"My experience, being a leader and being vocal is what I hope will help the team," Waldner said. "Coach says I know what I am doing on the court now, helping them and communicating what I am doing will help them adjust to the game."

Confidence
It was obvious at media day on Monday that both Waldner and Coach Washington are confident in this team, despite how young the group is. With several new pieces on the roster, along with a strong sophomore class, the future looks bright for the Lady Lions.

At practice, Waldner has been lending a hand to helping out with the freshman. Her style of play is something all young players can learn from, as she has had three seasons to develop as a collegiate player.

"Everyone has something special to bring to the court," Waldner said. "When we scrimmage, they show up. They will do the same in the game." 

Sights and Sounds from Lady Lions Media Day

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Members of the media filled the Bryce Jordan Center Monday as the Lady Lions held their annual media day.

Coquese Washington met with the media prior to an open gym on the Bryce Jordan Center hardwood where players and coaches spoke about the upcoming season. The Lady Lions host IUP Sunday at 2 p.m. for an exhibition contest before the regular season begins Friday Nov. 14 against Towson.

Take a look through some news and notes from media day.

Young Players All Around
After losing four starters from one year ago, the Lady Lions are moving into a new season with a lot of youth. The roster is filled with players that have starting experience, some that are moving from role players to starters and some that are new to the Lady Lion roster. This brings a little uncertainty for Coquese Washington and her staff simply because players are still developing and progressing, unlike past years where there were veteran players at the helm.

However, even with youth and inexperience on the roster, the expectations haven't changed for Washington and her team.

"Our expectation is simple: we're going to get better every day, every week, every month of the season," Washington said. "We want to play our best basketball by the end of the season. Our expectations are to win. Those are our expectations and they don't change."

Washington said that she has talked to Penn State women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose and learned from his illustrious and successful career and used that as a guide for this season.

"How we do those things, what it looks like on the court may change depending on our personality from year to year, but the expectations certainly don't change," she said. "I've learned that from my Russ Ross. He tends to win championships like I eat popcorn, so I kind of listen when he talks."

Finally Playing
Two players that are a part of the youth movement for Penn State, Lindsey Spann and Sierra Moore, came in highly touted to the Lady Lions last season but had to miss 2013-'14 due to an injury and transfer rules, respectively. For Moore, being healthy but not being able to play was tough, but now she's solely focused on contributing in her redshirt sophomore season.

"I'm very excited," the Duke transfer said. "It's been a long time since I've been on the court [in a game situation] and I'm excited to play with this team. We're young and we're ready to go and we're fiery."

Moore was a McDonald's All-American guard coming out of high school. Fellow guard Spann was also highly recruited, but suffered an injury during summer practice in 2013 forcing her to miss her first season at Penn State. Healthy and ready to go, Spann is expected to fill in nicely at the guard position.

Both players have a unique bond together since they sat and watched from the bench side-by-side for an entire season. They were a visible force of energy from the sidelines and now get to bring it on the court.

"[Moore] is one of my best friends on and off the court," Spann said. "We have a really close bond and we love playing together. We both feed off the energy one another generate; it'll be exciting."

New Assistants Bring Added Energy
Itoro Coleman and Jocelyn Wyatt are new to the Lady Lion coaching staff this season. Coleman, former head coach at Clemson, was an assistant under Washington from 2008-'10 before taking the job at Clemson. Wyatt is in her first season in Happy Valley after previously coaching at Georgia State as an assistant.

Both coaches fit the Lady Lion bill being energetic and having a fun side to their coaching style. Washington said just three weeks into practice their impact is already being felt.

"Jocelyn [Wyatt] and Itoro [Coleman] are both having a really strong impact on our [program]," Washington said. "In practice, their energy level and attention to detail are certainly paying off. I think that's part of our growth. That's why we're seeing the team come together and get better over the past few weeks."

Coleman is helping specifically with the frontcourt players, who echoed Washington's sentiments and said that her knowledge has helped them grow and see the game better.

"As a group, she's helped us with rebounding and she's made us play smarter," center Tori Waldner said. "We're using our energy to get rebounds in specific ways. We're focusing on where the ball as it is coming off the rim. It's not the effort that she's worried about; it's more how we play the game intellectually."

The Lone Senior
Waldner is the only senior on the Lady Lion roster and the only player to be a part of the past three Big Ten tournament championships. She has been mentioned by all members of the team and staff as one of the team's biggest leaders this season and although it may be odd having just one senior on a roster, Waldner has embraced the role.

"It's pretty cool," Waldner said. "Being the leader is awesome, especially since a young group that is really enthusiastic about learning. I've been enjoying my experience with them and coach [Coquese Washington] has, too. We've been getting a lot better with experience in scrimmages and getting more playing time."

Washington said having a player like Waldner on the roster is critically important, especially with such a young team.

"She's doing a really good job of being vocal without being too focused on other people and not really focusing on herself," Washington said. "What I mean by that is she's sometimes out there with a freshman and three sophomores, so there's a lot of [messing] up that's going on.

If she spends so much time trying to make sure everybody else is doing what they're suppose to do, she would run the risk of not being able to make sure she's in a position to make plays."

VIDEO: Season Preview with Coquese Washington

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com sits down with head coach Coquese Washington to preview the 2014-'15 season.

VIDEO: Lady Lions Hold First Practice of 2014-'15 Season

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Monday marked the first day of practice for the Penn State Lady Lions in the 2014-'15 season. Coquese Washington addressed the media before practice and was all smiles when talking about her new-look and young team for the upcoming season.

Washington knows it will be a challenge to replace Lady Lion mainstays Maggie Lucas, Dara Taylor and Ariel Edwards, among others, but is excited for the challenge ahead.

"There's a different level of anticipation and different level of uncertainty but that's the fun part," Washington said. "Getting a chance to figure out what our identity is going to be, who's going to step up and who's going to emerge and how our roles are going to be defined are the exciting parts about this year."

Tori Waldner is the lone senior on the roster, coupled with six sophomores and one junior. Redshirt senior Brianna Banks is not eligible to play in the 2014-'15 season after transferring from Connecticut.

Penn State also has a transfer that will be eligible to play this season in forward Dominique Brooks. Brooks transferred to Happy Valley after playing two seasons at Trinity Valley Community College. Pair Brooks with redshirt freshman Lindsey Spann, who missed last season with an injury, and redshirt sophomore Sierra Moore, who had to sit out 2013-'14 due to transfer rules, and the Lady Lions have three newcomers Washington expects to make immediate contributions.

At the start of the season, Washington says her team may be inexperienced but it is fun working through those challenges.

"It's fun trying to get them to understand what they can do and to establish and develop their own identity and not have to worry about trying to be like teams in the past," Washington said.

"They want to be their own team and create their own identity while still having and maintaining and even elevating the success that we have had on the court in the past."

On the court is not the only place fans will see new faces for the Lady Lions. Washington brought in two new assistant coaches in Jocelyn Wyatt and Itoro Coleman. Wyatt previously spent four seasons at Georgia State before coming to Penn State.

Coleman is no stranger to Lady Lion basketball as she served as an assistant at Penn State from 2008-'10. She then spent three years as the head coach at her alma mater Clemson before returning to the Blue and White.

"It's felt like home ever since I came back because I a m just familiar with the surroundings and the people here and they have made my transition so easy," Coleman said.

Penn State starts the 2014-15 campaign with an exhibition against IUP on Nov. 2 before opening the regular season against Towson on Nov. 14.

Barbour Eager to Lead Penn State Athletics

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10191947.jpeg
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 18th of August cannot come soon enough for Sandy Barbour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

 


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

Looking Back at the Top Events from 2013-'14

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the calendar begins to shift towards the start of the 2014-'15 athletic season, GoPSUsports.com wanted to take a look back at a tremendous campaign for Penn State Athletics.

Fueled by national championships from women's volleyball, wrestling and fencing, Penn State accumulated a record point total in the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup in 2013-'14.

Penn State's three NCAA Championships are its most since winning three in 1999-2000. Penn State student-athletes, who have an 88 percent graduation rate, won a school record-tying and conference-best eight Big Ten titles in 2013-'14 and 16 over the past two years, easily topping second place Michigan (9) in combined titles the last two years.

Take a look back at some of the top events from a stellar Penn State sports season.


Men's Hockey: Oct. 11, 2013 - Penn State 4, Army 1 (First Game in Pegula)

HKY_Pegula_First Game.jpgIt was a night fans in Hockey Valley had been dreaming of for years. The Nittany Lion men's hockey team christened the state-of-the-art Pegula Ice Arena with a dominant performance before a boisterous sold out crowd on opening night for the 2013-'14 season.

At 8:14 p.m., the puck dropped in the first game inside Penn State's sparkling new home for hockey.

Nate Jenson owns the honor of tallying the first goal for the Nittany Lions in Pegula. He took a feed from Taylor Holstrom early in the first period and beat Army goalie Rob Tadazak to the high corner, glove side. Just as Jensen scored, the crowd of 6,370 exploded and Zombie Nation blared through the speakers.

An early third-period two-on-one shorthanded goal from Curtis Loik and a breakaway goal from David Goodwin would spark the same reaction. Leading 3-1, Eric Scheid notched a last-second empty net goal to seal the first win in their inaugural game in Pegula.

Hockey Valley could not have any been prouder of its team following the 4-1 victory, and the student section made that very clear. The Roar Zone was full song from the moment it walked into the building 90 minutes before faceoff.

The Nittany Lions went on to win four games inside Pegula Ice Arena during their first Big Ten season. The list of victories included a thrilling 4-0 win over Michigan and a 4-2 triumph over Ohio State during conference play.



Football: Oct. 12, 2013 - Penn State 43, Michigan 40 (Beaver Stadium)

FB_Robinson Michigan.jpegDown by 34-27 at its own 20-yard line with 50 seconds on the clock and no timeouts, Penn State found itself in a difficult situation in sold out Beaver Stadium against rival Michigan.

The stakes were simple. Drive down the field and score a touchdown or the game was over.

True freshman and 18-year old signal-caller Christian Hackenberg jogged onto the field to lead the offense during the 2-minute drill with the game on the line.

On first down at the 20, Hackenberg connected with Robinson, who dragged his toe just inside the sideline paint in front of the Penn State bench for a 14-yard gain.

One play later, it was Brandon Felder's turn.

Hackenberg's toss to Felder in front of the Michigan bench covered 29 yards and set up another first down at the Michigan 37-yard line.

Two plays later, Robinson returned to the spotlight with the play of the game.

Hackenberg fielded Ty Howle's snap and looked to Robinson, who was lined up wide on the left side of the formation. Robinson stuttered in the first 10 yards of his route, attempting to freeze the Michigan defensive back. As he regained full speed, Hackenberg's pass was in the air.

Robinson skied over the Michigan defender and plucked the ball at the highest point in his jump before falling to a rest at the 1-yard line.

Hackenberg finished the drive off with a plunge into the end zone, capping off a five-play, 80-yard game-tying touchdown drive that covered just 23 seconds on the clock.

The teams exchanged blows in the overtime frames before Bill Belton became the hero. Belton trotted into the north end zone of Beaver Stadium for a game-winning touchdown in the fourth OT, capping off an epic comeback and a victory that will live in Penn State history for decades.



 
Women's Volleyball: Dec. 21, 2013 - Penn State 3, Wisconsin 1 (Championship Match)

WVB_Title.jpegPenn State's road to the national semifinals in Seattle was not an easy one in 2013. After knocking off LIU Brooklyn and Utah inside Rec Hall to open the NCAA Tournament, the Nittany Lions traveled to Kentucky for the regional round of the 64-team tournament.

Penn State rallied from 1-0 down to defeat Michigan State in the regional semifinals, which set up a showdown against seventh-seeded Stanford for a trip to the national semifinals.

The Lions and Cardinal battled to a fifth set in what evolved into an epic clash among two of volleyball's heavyweights. Penn State trailed Stanford 9-6 in the fifth before head coach Russ Rose used a timeout. Out of the break, the Lions were not going to be denied.

Penn State scored the next six points in the decisive set on the way to punching a ticket to the national semifinals in Seattle.

Playing in the NCAA semis for the 11th time in program history, Penn State rolled over Washington (3-0), which was playing just four miles from its campus, with a truly dominant performance.

The national title match, the Lions' ninth all-time appearance, was next. Facing off against Wisconsin in the first all Big Ten national final, Penn State jumped out to a hard-fought 2-0 lead before the Badgers rallied to make it 2-1.

Wisconsin took a 23-20 lead in the fourth and was just two points from forcing a fifth set, but the Lions were not done. A service error from the Badgers made it 23-21. With ice water in her veins, ESPY nominee Micha Hancock stepped to the service line. The junior delivered four potent jump serves, two of which dropped for aces, before senior Deja McClendon's kill clinched the program's sixth national title and fifth in the last seven years.

In six NCAA Tournament matches this season, the Nittany Lions dropped just four total sets.


 
Men's Basketball: Jan. 29, 2014 - Penn State 71, Ohio State 70 (Value City Arena)

MBB_Newbill_Craft copy.jpgThe Nittany Lion basketball team trailed Ohio State, 59-48, with 7:58 to play in Columbus after Buckeyes capped off a 10-2 scoring run.

Penn State never panicked, largely thanks to a dominant performance from D.J. Newbill down the stretch.

A pair of buckets from Jordan Dickerson and two free throws from Newbill set the score at 62-59, Buckeyes, with 2:20 to play.

Newbill then fielded a long pass moving right to left across the floor from Frazier before burying a corner three, which tied the game at 62-62 with 1:08 to go. Ohio State scored the next three points to make it 65-62.

Newbill answered in the form of a second clutch 3-pointer with 11.0 seconds to play.

After Ohio State's final possession in regulation came up empty, the game headed into overtime.

The Buckeyes took a 70-67 lead on a pair of Lenzelle Smith Jr. free throws in the extra frame, but Newbill was not done.

The Philly product snaked through the Ohio State defense for a lay-in with 45 seconds to play, pulling the Lions to within one (70-69). The Buckeyes turned the ball over on the next possession, setting up an inbounds play with 13.2 seconds.

Tim Frazier inbounded to Jordan Dickerson, who handed the ball off to D.J. Newbill in front of the scorer's table. Down one with 11 seconds to play in overtime as he crossed halfcourt, Newbill raced to the right side of the floor.

The Philly native wanted the ball in his dominant hand. With one of the Big Ten's top defenders an arm's length away, Newbill began his move with 5.4 seconds on the clock.

After one power dribble to his right, he sent the ball to his left hand under Aaron Craft's extended right arm. Newbill took one more power dribble with his left hand before elevating at the right elbow with 3.5 seconds on the clock.

The ball never touched the rim as it sailed through the cylinder to give the Lions a 71-70 victory. Penn State's win at Ohio State was its first since 2001.



Women's Basketball: March 1, 2014 - Penn State 77, Michigan 62 (Bryce Jordan Center)

WBB_Big Ten.jpegTo put it simply, Senior Day couldn't have gone any better for Penn State's four seniors in 2014.

Maggie Lucas, Talia East, Dara Taylor and Ariel Edwards all were double figure scorers on a day where they were honored with friends and family in attendance as the team claimed its third consecutive Big Ten title with a 77-62 over Michigan.

Edwards led the Lady Lions with 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the field while Lucas, East and Taylor added 17, 16 and 11 points respectively.

Penn State had control of the game from start to finish as they shot 54 percent from the field, missed just one free throw on 19 attempts and collected seven blocks and 11 steals.

The group of seniors combined for 65 of the team's 77 points; epitomizing their leadership during their time at Penn State in their last regular season home game.

That was expected from a group of four leaders who ensured a team of seven freshmen didn't miss a beat coming off of two-straight conference titles heading into the season.

Edwards, Lucas and East left Penn State as one of the winningest classes ever. They finished with 101 wins, good for second in program history. Taylor was at Penn State for 75 of the 101 wins after transferring from Maryland.

With all of the championships, accolades and wins, it was a perfect way for Lucas, East and Taylor to complete their Penn State careers.

Penn State's third-straight Big Ten title put the Lady Lions in elite company with Iowa and Ohio State as the only programs in the conference to win three or more consecutive conference crowns. The title also fueled the Lady Lions' second run to the Sweet 16 in past three years.




Wrestling: March 22, 2013 - Nittany Lions Clinch Fourth-Straight NCAA Title

WR_Title.jpegPenn State's reign over the college wrestling world continued in March when the Nittany Lions captured their unprecedented fourth-straight NCAA team title in Oklahoma City.

Fueled by NCAA individual crowns from seniors Ed Ruth at 184 pounds and David Taylor at 165 pounds, the Lions celebrated on the sport's grandest stage inside Chesapeake Energy Arena as the 2014 national champions.

By no means was the fourth title an easy one for the Nittany Lions, who edged Minnesota by 5.5 points in the final team standings. Following a victory from Ruth at 184 pounds, the Lions pulled ahead of the Gophers by 1.5 points after two championship bouts.

Minnesota suffered setbacks in its two national title bouts, with the second coming in the ninth match of the evening. As the 157-pound bout ticked to zero on the clock, the white-clad Penn State fans rose to their feet to celebrate the program's fifth national championship.

But the work was not quite done for the Nittany Lions, as Taylor was on deck in the final championship match of night against Oklahoma State's Chris Perry.

You could not have scripted a better way for Taylor's career to end in a Penn State singlet than the way it did on Saturday night. The epitome of a team player, Taylor's imprint on the program goes far beyond his stellar accolades. He didn't miss a match at the national tournament because he wanted to support his fellow teammates. On Saturday morning, he did not need to be at the arena, but he was the first to greet fellow senior James English as he came off the mat after his critical win in the seventh-place match at 149 pounds.

Thanks to another dominant performance, Taylor finished off his collegiate career with a victory in the final match of the national tournament, an individual national title and a team title. 

Taylor and Ruth played a paramount role in Penn State's fourth-straight title, but the Nittany Lions will remain atop the NCAA wrestling mountain because of a hard-fought team effort in the 2014 NCAA Championships.



Fencing: March 23, 2014 - Nittany Lions Clinch 13th NCAA Title

FEN_Title.jpegNo program in Penn State's illustrious sports history has won more national titles than the fencing team. Under the direction of interim head coach Wes Glon, Penn State mounted a furious charge on the final day of the NCAA Championships in Columbus to clinch its 13th national championship.

As a team, Penn State finished the competition with 180 bout victories, toppling Princeton in second-place (159 victories), and St. John's in third (156 victories).

Individually, sophomore Kaito Streets claimed the 2014 men's saber NCAA title. Streets became the 13th individual champion for the Nittany Lions in program history.

In the team race, the Nittany Lions were neck and neck with Princeton throughout much of the competition. The Lions began pulling away from the Tigers on day three of the competition. Penn State clinched the program's third title in the past six seasons on day four.

Streets held the number one spot in the men's saber event heading into the final competition. He knocked off Ferenc Valkai from St. John's to become an individual champion.

Glon has been with the Nittany Lions for 29 seasons, and he has seen all 13 national titles. But the 2014 crown marked his first as the leader of the program.




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

2014 Coaches Caravan Day I - York and Hershey

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York Photo Gallery | Hershey Photo Gallery

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

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

Stop No. 2 - York (Penn State York)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Stop No. 3 - Hershey (Hershey Lodge)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Coaches Caravan Miles Traveled:
Day 1 - 165 miles


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

Lady Lions Prepare Student-Athletes For Next Phase

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By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With 15 Lady Lions reaching the WNBA since 1997 - four in the past two seasons - it is clear that Penn State's women's basketball program, led by head coach Coquese Washington, has become a developmental pit stop for players with professional aspirations.

Last year it was seniors Alex Bentley and Nikki Greene who were drafted into the WNBA. This year, senior guard Maggie Lucas was selected by the Phoenix Mercury with the 21st overall pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft, and senior guard/forward Ariel Edwards signed a free agent contract with the Tulsa Shock.

"You want to see them grow. You want to see them mature. You want to see them develop," said Washington. "By the time they're seniors they're already itching to get out the door because they're ready for new challenges...It's really gratifying to know that they're ready for the next phase."

For Lucas and Edwards, each has taken a unique path to reaching identical dreams: the WNBA.

Maggie Lucas

They call her "Machine Gun" Maggie for her quick and accurate jumper. The senior guard, who finished her career second on the Penn State scoring charts with 2,510 points, traveled back home to Philadelphia to experience the draft with her family and closest friends.

Once her name was called by the Phoenix Mercury with the 21st pick in the draft, Lucas and those with her were finally able to take a deep sigh of relief.

"It was a great moment to hear my name called in the WNBA draft," said Lucas. "It's been something I've been dreaming about my whole life. I'm super excited, but I have a lot more work to do. I have to go out there [Phoenix] for training camp and there's still a lot of work ahead of me, but I'm very excited at this moment."

In her senior campaign, Lucas finished second in the Big Ten in scoring at 21.0 points per game. The star guard also shot an incredible 94.9 percent from the charity stripe, good enough for second in all of NCAA Division I women's basketball and the second highest free throw percentage in school history.

Over four years donning the blue and white, Lucas achieved the Big Ten and Penn State record with 365 career three-pointers.  Moreover, Lucas is the lone player in Penn State history to accumulate 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists and 200 steals.

"It's going to be hard to leave this place," said Lucas. "I'm going to miss it a lot."

Ariel Edwards

The versatile Edwards really came into her own during her senior campaign, achieving personal bests in nearly every statistical category, while also becoming the 36th player in Penn State history to become a member of the 1,000-point club.


Despite her name not being called during the 2014 WNBA Draft, on Tuesday Edwards signed a free agent contract with the Tulsa Shock.

"I was extremely excited," said Edwards. "I was at the point where I wasn't sure if I was going to get a call at all, and I was thinking more towards playing overseas. Then I got that call, and I was really, really excited because it has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl."

During her senior season, Edwards had her most prolific year on the hardwood. She averaged 15.7 points per game en route to a first team All-Big Ten selection.

Edwards has the ability to score anywhere on the court, inside or on the perimeter. Scoring aside, she was also a force on the boards, averaging 5.7 rebounds per game. Such a versatile presence has the Tulsa Shock excited about her signing.

"Ariel has had a great career at Penn State and I look forward to seeing her in camp," said Fred Williams, head coach of the Tulsa Shock. "Ariel had a terrific senior year at Penn State. She's a powerful presence in the post and can help us in our interior area."

Building 'Elite' Program

Since arriving in Happy Valley back in 2007, Washington has turned the Penn State women's basketball program into a national contender.

Relationship building and player development speak volumes as to why Washington and her players have been able to achieve so much success both on and off the court.

"Coquese takes great individual players and puts them together to make a great team," said Edwards. "It speaks to the fact that she is great at developing players."

For Washington, this past year's senior class is one to remember, not just because two reached the WNBA, but because of their impact on the future of the program.

"Their [the senior class] impact on the underclassmen is undeniable," said Washington. "They showed them the way. They showed them what it takes and how hard you have to work to be a great team. Their impact on our recent history was helping us elevate a program that was invisible nationally just prior to their arrival into one of the nation's elite. That's a pretty cool legacy to have left."

 

--LADY LIONS--

VIDEO: Lady Lions Season Review Press Conference

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Coquese Washington and the Lady Lion players met the media on Wednesday to review the 2013-'14 season.  Penn State won its third-straight Big Ten title and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second time in the past three seasons.  Take a look.


VIDEO: NCAA Regional Semifinal Postgame at Stanford

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PALO ALTO, Calif. - Head into the locker room following Penn State's setback to Stanford in the NCAA Regional Semifinals on Sunday afternoon.  The Lady Lions finish the 2013-'14 season with a 24-8 mark. Watch postgame remarks from seniors Talia East and Maggie Lucas.