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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.





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

By Gabby Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- At the beginning of the 2014-2015 season, Penn State women's basketball head coach Coquese Washington said one of her main priorities was "to get to know the team." With only one senior this season, the Nittany Lion roster was full of underclassmen, which meant new talent and new personalities that Washington needed to braid into the Penn State women's basketball fabric.

Out of the gate, the Nittany Lions were putting up an impressive fight against opponents, despite being a young, inexperienced team. The pre-season WNIT Tournament showed the potential of this team, as two of four losses were determined by a single basket. This mentality of continued growth played out throughout the season, a mentality their record didn't necessarily reflect.

Towards the middle of the season, the Nittany Lions were becoming more aggressive inside the paint and getting better at shot selection. Redshirt sophomore, Sierra Moore and freshman Lindsey Spann were offensive powerhouses, successfully making it into each column of the scoring table. The dynamic duo finished atop not just the scoring chart, but the steals and three-point column, too. This leadership in the scoring position remained steadfast all season, setting the pace for what is likely to be a more successful season next year.

"What I like to see is continued growth," Washington said. "We started to do some good things as we closed out the season. I really want to see our post-game continue to be a bright spot for us next year and to see us grow in our ability to create easy shots."

With the graduation of senior Tori Waldner, the Nittany Lions lose one of their tallest centers on the roster. The 6-foot-5 Lady Lion is leaving behind some big shoes to fill, shoes that junior Candice Agee had started to fill during the end of the season. Agee, who stands at 6-foot-6 has been a strong post player for the Lady Lions, as she led the team in offensive rebounds and blocked shots. Sophomore Kaliyah Mitchell stepped up this season, too. Mitchell is aggressive, a skill that has helped her draw fouls, get the rebound and break up the opposition's scoring drive, as she finished the season with an average of 1.5 steals a game.

"Some of our incoming freshman will definitely fill some of the gaps that we have," Washington said. "Shot opportunity will definitely be a big area for us. I just want to see us build off of where we finished this season. Between April and August we have to make some big steps, individually and collectively as a team."

As the team closes out a rebuilding year, the record doesn't reflect how the team has grown since the pre-season WNIT tournament. Wins and losses define tangible success, but that doesn't always influence or create an environment for a team to get better. The upcoming off-season will be a crucial time for the Lady Lions to come back to the drawing board and adjust, even more, to their roles on the court.

"We just need to learn to rely on each other," Agee said. "We just need to work on figuring out when and how we can get the ball to each other on areas of the court where we can be successful. That comes with knowing each other, and we will only get to know each other better."

"Individual leadership is important," Washington said. "You have to start working and improving now. You're not always going to be in the gym with your teammates or a coach. It isn't always going to be spoon-fed to you; you have to put in lots of time to get better. We talk to them about having individual responsibility. You have to make time to get in the gym and get better."

Coach Washington has been through a similar situation before. When her 2010-11 roster fell short in the NCAA tournament, they were in the gym working shortly after. That season lit a fire under the Lady Lions; it pushed them to get better, to work harder

The following year, the 2011-12 team won the regular season Big Ten Championship, achieving the same success the next two seasons as well.

"I think this group is hungry," Washington said. "They want much better results next year. I have seen this before."

Her faith in this team and their talent has never faltered. If there is one thing the Penn State community knows for sure it is this: Coach Washington knows how to harness drive and passion for the game, something no win or loss column can accurately illustrate.

Here's to looking forward to the 2015-16 season. 

 

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. - Battling to the last second, Penn State fell, 68-65, to Indiana in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday night. 

The Lady Lions and the Hoosiers took turns getting numbers on the board for a high-energy and aggressive start, an energy that lasted all 40 minutes.

"We're a very competitive team. So we always come out fighting, and we're going to fight to the end, whether win or lose," said sophomore Sierra Moore.

The Lady Lions did just that with less than a minute left in the first half, a clutch Alex Harris layup followed by a Peyton Whitted jumper cut Indiana's lead to seven (38-31).

When the second half begun, it was clear that both teams were going to leave everything out on the court. An exciting half followed as Penn State answered back, bringing the difference within two with a minute left in the game.

Unable to execute, Penn State attacked to the very last second as Indiana found a momentum that brought the final score to 68-63.

Sierra Moore led the Lady Lions with 18 points, notching her 21st game with a double-figure performance. She shot 9-for-13 and dished out six assists. Fellow sophomore, Kaliyah Mitchell got hot in the second half to snatch her fourth double-double this season, grabbing 10 rebounds and 13 points against the Hoosiers.

Fourty-four of Penn State points were made in the paint, 14 of which by Candice Agee

"I think that it was something that we know to do and something that we've found that is we get better shots off in the paint," said Candace Agee. "So not that it was a surprise to me. Something that we work on, something that we try to focus on doing is getting the ball inside and out."

Using their size as an advantage, Penn State outrebounded Indiana 40-29, eight of which were pulled down by 6-foot-5 Tori Waldner.

Waldner closed out her senior season by becoming the 31st member of the 500-rebound club.

"There's certainly a lot of learning, a lot of lessons that we'll take away from this season, this game, the Big Ten Conference play, said head coach Coquese Washington. "We've got the majority of the team coming back next year. So a lot of these lessons and the growth we saw over the course of the season is something we'll build."

This young team will do just that as they continue to build for next year.

 

 

 

 

2015 B1G Tournament WBB Blog - Penn State vs. Indiana

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HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive coverage of the 2014-'15 Lady Lion basketball season. On Wednesday, the Lions will meet Indiana in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament inside the Sears Centre.

Live Blog 2015 B1G Tournament WBB Blog - Penn State vs. Indiana
 

By Mike Esse, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (6-23, 3-15) and Indiana (14-15, 4-15) have played once already this season. If that game was any indication of how Wednesday's Big Ten Tournament first round contest is going to play out, both teams are in for a tight 40-minute (or more) contest.

The Lady Lions topped Indiana 79-75 at home at the Bryce Jordan Center back on Jan. 22, in a game that saw seven lead changes, including Penn State by 11 with 6:22 left and Penn State by 3 with 37 seconds left. 

"It gives us some confidence that we beat them before and we know that we have a lot of things to improve on since we played them so that just gives us a lot of confidence going into the game," guard Sierra Moore said of the win.

Indiana features guards Larryn Brooks and Tyra Buss, who lead the Hoosier scoring attack with 11.9 and 11.4 points per game. Brooks, a dynamic guard has been a major focus for the Lady Lions in their preparation for Wednesday's contest.

In January's contest, Penn State held Brooks to just eight points. Moore said that the match up will be difficult, but Penn State will be prepared for Brooks to have a performance more consistent with her season averages.

"Larryn Brooks is a really good point guard and I think Keke (Sevillian) on the defensive end does a really good job containing so just her spark out there and having a good one-on-one matchup is good and I'm really excited," Moore said.

In the home stretch of the season, both teams have become relatively balanced in the scoring category. Using the previous matchup as an example, Penn State had five players in double figures and Indiana had four. The Lady Lions saw Kaliyah Mitchell put on a masterful scoring performance with 20 points, besting Indiana's Alexis Gassion who tallied 18.

Both teams are also similar in that they have improved in certain categories since the beginning of the season. Penn State has seen better play in the post, specifically from center Candice Agee as the season has progressed. 

"I think we're going to be a more improved team all together than we were at the beginning of the year," Moore said of her team's progression. "I know that I've talked about it at every media press conference but I really believe that we are going to play our best basketball yet."

Indiana has been able to score better as a team to the point where when one player is down scoring or rebounding, another takes over. 

The matchup will be especially intriguing when you look at the inside post matchup between Indiana's Amanda Cahill and Agee.  Perhaps with the similarities at guard between Brooks and Buss and Moore, Sevillian and Spann, the post presence for either team will be the difference.


With a win over Indiana, Penn State will move on to the next round to take on Rutgers. Here is what you need to know about Penn State's potential opponents at the Big Ten Tournament this week. 

T-No. 4 Seed - Rutgers 21-8  (12-6 Big Ten)
RPI - 41
Top Scorer: Kahleah Copper, 16.4 ppg
Top Rebounder: Betnijah Laney, 10.8 rpg

The Scarlet Knights enter the 2015 Big Ten Tournament for the first time as the No. 4 seed (tied with Northwestern). Fresh off a 71-60 win over Indiana, the Scarlet Knights concluded conference play with a 12-6 record. Third in Big Ten rankings, Laney averages 10.8 rpg in Big Ten play to contribute to the team's 38.5 average. Kahleah Copper leads the Scarlet Knights in scoring and at the charity line with an average of 17.4 points per game and an average 6.9 at the line per game. 

Rutgers will play the winner of Penn State vs. Indiana on Thursday. 

T-No. 4 Seed - Northwestern 22-7 (12-6 Big Ten)
RPI - 35
Top Scorer, Nia Coffey, 15.8 ppg
Top Rebounder, Nia Coffey, 8.9 rpg 

Head coach Joe McKeown's squad finished 12-6 in Big Ten play, tying with Rutgers. The most valuable player for the Wildcats, Nia Coffey leads the team in scoring (15.9 ppg), rebounding (8.9 rpg) and blocks (8.9 bpg). Averaging 73 points per game as a team, the Wildcats won eight straight games prior to a season-finale loss to Maryland on Sunday, March 1. 

Earning a double-bye, the No. 4 Wildcats will first see action on Friday in the quarterfinal round against Penn State, Indiana or Rutgers.

The No. 8 Seed - Michigan 16-13 (8-10 Big Ten)
RPI - 57
Top Scorer: Katelynn Flaherty, 14.4 ppg
Top Rebounder: Cyesha Goree, 10.8 rpg

The Wolverines finished the season 8-10 in Big Ten play after falling to Illinois on Saturday. Big Ten's Sixth Player of the Year, Katelyn Flaherty leads the team in scoring (14.4 ppg) and has sunk 71 shots from the 3-point range this season. Close behind, senior Shannon Smith averages 14.2 ppg and has made 90 from the charity stripe in conference play. 

Michigan will tip with No. 9 Michigan State in Thursday's first contest at 11:30 a.m. CT. The winner will advance on to the quarterfinals to face Maryland on Friday. 

The No. 1 Seed - Maryland 27-2 (18-0 Big Ten)
RPI - 6
Top Scorer: Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, 13.9 ppg
Top Rebounder: Brionna Jones, 9.0 rpg

Head coach and Big Ten Coach of the Year Brenda Frese lead her squad to its first Big Ten regular season title. The duo of Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (14.9 ppg) and Lauren Mincy (13.6 ppg) lead the Terps in scoring to contribute to the No. 1 scoring offense with an average 80.9 points per game in Big Ten play. 

Winning 21 straight games, Maryland enters the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 1 seed after a perfect 18-0 conference play. Earning a double-bye, the Terrapins will first play on Friday in the quarterfinal round. 

Pink Zone Inspires Lady Lions During Battle With Wisconsin

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Colors represent a lot of things in life. Whether it portrays an idea, a person, a team or a cause, colors are everywhere. Sunday at the Bryce Jordan Center, the only color one could find was pink and it represented one very important idea: life.

On second thought, represented isn't the right word, the color pink LIVED in the BJC before, during and after the ninth annual Pennsylvania Pink Zone game, whose focus is breast cancer awareness and research. In the mind of Coquese Washington, it showed the good sports can do to a community and even more so, what a community can do to sports.

"Pink Zone is a special thing because sports can be, and often is, a reflection of society and this is one of those opportunities where sports and community can collide," Washington said. "Competing at any level of sports, we are often role models and what we do in competition inspires people, but Pink Zone is a day where we get to be inspired.

We get to be inspired by what we see and the fight that we see from the survivors."

Even with bad weather on a snowy Sunday in Happy Valley, people still found their way into the BJC seats and supported 657 breast cancer survivors who came on 17 busses from 11 different states. 

A select group of survivors even had the opportunity to stand arm-to-arm in the pregame huddle where the Lady Lions pump each other up. Even though, that moment meant more to the Lady Lions than they will ever know.

"I thought it was great how enthusiastic they were and excited to run out through the tunnel with us and then get in the huddle with us before the game," guard Sierra Moore said. "It's just great that we're doing something for them today and we were playing for them."

Penn State found itself down by 16 with 1:35 left in the first half and put on a late mini-run to get the deficit down to 10 at the half. Then at halftime, as Kathy Sledge of "Sister Sledge" beautifully belted their song "We Are Family", which echoed into the Lady Lion locker room.

It's probably no coincidence that as the 700-plus survivors packed the court that the Lady Lions were set to play on just a few minutes later, that their years of battle and triumph inspired Penn State to come out strong in the second half.

After just 10-minutes of play in the second half, the game was suddenly tied at 45.

"I think we really started actually playing for them in the second half and I just can't thank them enough for coming out here and supporting us today," Moore said. 

Although the Lady Lions came up just short late in the second half falling 62-56, there was a greater effort and greater cause that everyone involved knocked out of the park Sunday.

"When you have all of that energy in the arena, it almost doesn't matter what happens with the game," Washington said. "It's just a big celebration of surviving and a celebration of fighting. One of the hallmarks of any sporting event is the triumph over adversity. That's why people file in to watch any sporting event is, 'Can they do it? Can that team do it? Can that individual do it? Can they make it happen?'"

It's safe to say that the Pennsylvania Pink Zone made it happen on Sunday and they have been since the effort was tied to Lady Lion basketball nine years ago. 

"When you bring breast cancer survivors and basketball together, the answer is yes because all of these hundreds of survivors have said, 'Yes, we have faced adversity and we can win'," Washington added. "It's just an incredible energy and every year it just gets bigger and better and it doesn't lose its power and impact."

More Than A Game: The Pink Zone Story

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8801342.jpegBy Sean Donnelly, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When the Lady Lions tipoff against Wisconsin on Sunday, they will be playing for more than just a game. The traditional blue and white uniforms will be swapped for pink, as the Lady Lions honor those in the fight of their lives against breast cancer.

Though the game takes place annually, the fight against breast cancer is a yearlong effort. The six beneficiaries that benefit from Pennsylvania Pink Zone are Mount Nittany Medical Center, Penn State Hersey Cancer Institute, Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital and Lewistown Hospital.

Through the past eight years, the Lady Lions have raised more than $1.135 million for breast cancer research. Funds that Penn State Hershey Medical Center receive from the Pennsylvania Pink Zone go to the Lady Lion Basketball Breast Cancer Research Endowment, which supports young researchers at the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute. 

"The endowment allows for scientists to complete the pilot research needed to test their theories in the lab," said Megan Weber, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center Associate Director of Community Fundraising and Cause Marketing. "And, if successful, move forward to apply for highly competitive, federal monies that are often only obtainable after successful pilot research has been completed."

Although this Sunday will be Weber's first Pink Zone Game, she is well aware of the impact that the event has had on the entire Penn State community.

"Pink Zone is an event that inspires," said Weber. "It inspires breast cancer survivors, along with their family and friends, to join together and continue raising awareness and funds for the fight against breast cancer. It inspires others who are currently battling breast cancer, and the entire Penn State community to stand by these individuals and show their support of finding a cure for breast cancer."

Through their donations, The PA Breast Cancer Coalition has been able to take breast cancer survivors on a trip to an annual educational conference, regardless of the survivors current financial situation.

"Nearly 1,000 survivors, educators, medical professionals, advocates and more gather to learn the latest in breast cancer research, treatment and support," said Pat Halpin-Murphy, President and Founder of the PA Breast Cancer Coalition. "It is truly an important event for survivors to attend, not only for the educational aspect, but also for the camaraderie that is created each year as new women become a part of the 'breast cancer family' of survivors."

Halpin-Murphy has seen the e
vent grow exponentially since her involvement began in 2007. More than 700 breast cancer survivors will be honored at halftime on Sunday. It is evident that the growth of the Pennsylvania Pink Zone's momentum shows no signs of slowing down.

The PA Breast Cancer Coalition has been instrumental in publicizing the cause in their FrontLine Newsletter, which is delivered to 55,000 households and over 27,000 email contacts in their database.

Another beneficiary of the Pennsylvania Pink Zone is the J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital. Funds received by J.C. Blair were used to purchase a digital mammography
system back in 2011. At the time, the machine was state-of-the-art at diagnosing and treating breast cancer at its earliest stage.

"More recently, funds have been used to support a breast health coordinator who provides a lot of outreach and education in the community about the importance of early detection of breast cancer," said Christine Gildea, Director of Marketing and Community Relations at J.C. Blair. "She also helps navigate women through the screening, diagnostic and treatment of breast cancer, providing information about community resources available to assist our breast cancer patients."

Gildea has seen the impact and growth of the entire event extend outside the Penn State community.

"Pink Zone has invited all surrounding communities to participate and to feel a part of it," said
Gildea.  "We now have three high school women's basketball teams and Juniata College's women's basketball team in Huntingdon County that sponsor their own 'pink' games. We fill a bus of Huntingdon County breast cancer survivors and their families each year to attend the game."

Last year, the Bryce Jordan Center was packed with 12,585 fans, 698 of which were breast cancer survivors.

"Each year more money is raised," said Gildea. "More survivors attend the game, more spectators attend the game, more community organizations throughout the region sponsor fundraising events for the cause, and most importantly, more lives are saved because of it all."

Longtime Lady Lion fan Geri Reeve is not only a student aid coordinator here at Penn State, she is also a breast cancer survivor who has been actively involved with Pink Zone since it began nine years ago. For Reeve, it was an exciting night to be honored at halftime in the first-ever event. Before halftime, the honorees had the opportunity to talk to each other about their treatment, stage, and doctors.

"From a very small group in the beginning of Think Pink, to the name changing to the Pink Zone, and now over 800 breast cancer survivors," said Reeve. "The camaraderie is still there."

After the game, survivors and loved ones are invited to meet coaches and players to take pictures and sign autographs. It's a symbolic meeting of those who share a common goal of fighting for a cure so that someday, there will no longer have to be a Pink Zone game.

"You realize just how emotional and inspiring the event is for not only the survivors, but those that are in attendance," said Reeve.

Former head coach Rene Portland helped pioneer the first Think Pink game back on Jan. 18, 2007. The Lady Lions were the first team to wear pink uniforms during a game as part of a breast cancer awareness effort. Penn State celebrated a victory on the court, honored approximately 30 breast cancer survivors at halftime, and raised over $20,000 in support of breast cancer research.

In the summer of 2011, Pink Zone at Penn State changed their name and officially became The Pennsylvania Pink Zone. The cause outgrew the reach of Penn State women's basketball, and is now able to be supported throughout the calendar year as a nonprofit organization.

As Penn State established the Think Pink game, legendary North Carolina State head coach Kay Yow, who was also battling breast cancer, became actively involved with the event. In 2007, Yow partnered with the Women's Basketball Coaches Association and The V Foundation for Cancer Research to establish the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, a charitable organization committed to supporting cancer research and helping the underserved. Unfortunately, Coach Yow passed away in 2009 after fighting the illness for more than two decades.

"
It unifies people for a common cause, and unifies Penn State with a national cause," said Susan Donohoe, who serves as the Executive Director of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. "Kay Yow has awarded over four million dollars to cancer center research, and we have been able to do that through Pennsylvania Pink Zone. We are all in this together, and play on the same team."

Since formation, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund has committed itself to raising money for all women's cancer research, along with assisting the underserved.


"
It was just a coming together of people to celebrate and unify for a cause, which was so important for Coach Yow," said Donohoe, "Those 600+ women on the floor celebrating was one of the most powerful, inspirational moments I've ever had. When they turn out the lights, the visual of the 12,000 people wearing pink for a cause was just so powerful."

Head coach Coquese Washington has also been instrumental in propelling the Pink Zone event to new heights. An outspoken, strong supporter of the cause, Washington also has a law degree, which helped Pink Zone when it applied to become a nonprofit.

"
Coach Washington's commitment to Coach Yow is truly something special," said Donohoe. "It's an extraordinary effort. When great people come together for a great cause, something extraordinary happens."

Coach Washington and the Lady Lions attend fundraising events and conferences year-round to support the event.

"Throughout the year, I come across so many people who make mention of the Pink Zone Game," said Washington. "They talk about being so excited for the Pink Zone game and coming out. It's a celebration. The survivors feel like they are treated like royalty. For one day, they get to embrace what being a survivor means. That's what it means for us and our program. We get an opportunity to celebrate the strength, courage and fortitude that it takes to battle cancer, and to have the opportunity to celebrate it with the survivors."

Senior Tori Waldner will be playing in her final Pink Zone game as a Lady Lion on Sunday. Waldner is excited about playing for a cause that she holds close to her, as well as seeing the sea of pink shirts and shakers.

"Now that more people know about it, we have more survivors coming," said Waldner. "It's great to see because I know some people diagnosed with breast cancer. Running out on the court at the beginning of the game, and we see some of the survivors beforehand and they high-five us. It just reminds you what the day is all about."

This Sunday, when a packed Bryce Jordan Center glows pink from thousands of Lady Lion fans waving their shakers, it will be in support of more than just a game. Win or lose, we are all on the same team in the fight for a cure. The Pennsylvania Pink Zone is leading the charge.

Lady Lions Focused on Finishing Strong

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10827462.jpegBy Gabby Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Two of the best guards in the country on one team make for one interesting, unpredictable Big Ten matchup. With a 20-plus points per game average between them, the Lady Lions knew they needed to work hard to contain the scoring power of Ohio State's Ameryst Alston and Kelsey Mitchell.

"I think they're two of the best guards in our conference," head coach Coquese Washington said. "Kelsey's [Mitchell] leading the nation in scoring and Amersyt [Alston] is third in our conference in scoring so they're very talented. Any time you have five people in double figures you probably have a chance to win the game. Those other players, they do a great job of playing off of [Ameryst] Alston and [Kelsey] Mitchell. Mitchell is really good at creating for herself and creating for her teammates so she's a tough cover."

The Lady Lions were the first to put points on the board, but trailed by six heading into the half, with the Buckeyes up 36-30. The pace of the game picked in the second half. The Lady Lions battled, but the Buckeyes pulled away late for an 88-70 victory.

Several Lions contributed to the team's offensive outing, including Sierra Moore and Candice Agee. Moore, who has been solid for the Lady Lions from both inside the paint and the three-point line, put up 18 points, tallying her 19th double-digit scoring outing this season.

"Sierra definitely showed a lot of fight," Washington said. "Sometimes you look up at the score board and it can be tough emotionally to play through when you're down. I thought Sierra [Moore], Tori [Waldner], Candice [Agee], and Keke [Sevillian] just kept fighting and we were able to cut the lead back to nine points, but it was a little too much. I think those three turnovers to start the half gave them a cushion that they were able to play with for the rest of the game. I did think our kids kept fighting and that was certainly led by Sierra's effort."

Agee was the most impactful against the Buckeyes, delivering both offensively and defensively in the pursuit. She not only put up 15 points, but grabbed 10 rebounds, too. But Agee was equally as effective defense, blocking two for the Lady Lions, marking her 13th-straight game with at least one swat. All season, various coaches have referenced Agee's size, and how they have to coach to her height. In the matchup against the Buckeyes, Agee was paired with another player who is relatively close in height.

"Sometimes it can be easier for tall [post players] to play against other tall [post players] than it is to play against smaller players," Washington said. I thought Candice [Agee] was aggressive and looking for her shot tonight. I thought she was working hard to get touches and Tori [Walder], in particular, did a good job of getting her touches. [Candice] did a good job getting to the free throw line tonight and converting. Getting a double-double against [Lisa] Blair and [Alexa] Hart, and they're sandwiching her and being physical, trying not to let her get position, is good. I thought she did a good job trying to have a presence in the middle and be a force."


Looking Ahead
The Lady Lions welcome the Wisconsin Badgers to the Jordan Center on Sunday for the ninth-annual Pink Zone game. This game, which honors breast cancer survivors and draws awareness to the disease that claims thousands each year, will also be the last regular season game. The Lady Lions begin Big Ten Tournament play March 4.

"As the head coach for this program, we talk about each season being its own experience," Washington said. "You have to take that experience for what it is. So coming into this season, we knew it was going to be a transition year and we knew that there was going to be a lot of growth and a lot of learning. That's what we've focused on from day one, but that's who we are as a program. Even when we're playing very well and winning championships, we focused on growing and getting better and learning lessons that will help us play our best basketball at the end of the season; whatever that looks like." 

 

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