UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A new year has arrived, which means
a few Penn State Athletics programs are ready to kick off a fresh season in the
Blue and White. Ready to return to action, Penn State's first program to open
its 2017 season at home in Happy Valley this weekend is the Nittany Lion women's
Ranked within the top 25 of the women's National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches (NACGC) preseason poll, No. 23 Penn State has elected to begin a new year with a quad meet, welcoming Bowling Green, BYU and Temple to Rec Hall for the first of five home meets this season.
Ahead of the first home season-opener this weekend, take a look at five things you need to know before heading out to Rec Hall Saturday afternoon. Penn State gets underway in the quad meet beginning at 4 p.m.
1. Senior Leaders
Among a host of returners in 2017, sixth-year head coach Jeff Thompson noted that he'll rely on his group of four seniors to take on the leadership roles for the team this year.
Highlighting the group is Emma Sibson, one of Penn State's top vaulters and floor workers her first two seasons, who had to miss the duration of the 2016 season with an injury. Nicole Medvitz will also return to anchor the team on the balance beam for another season, while also leading off the uneven bars team. Both Sibson and Medvitz competed in the 2014 NCAA national championships.
2. Another Year of Experience
Speaking of returners, the 2017 Nittany Lion roster features a total of 13 returners, which includes a group of four then-newcomers who also made appearances in 11 of 12 team outings last year.
"Any time you have all of your team back, you're going to be better than the year before," Thompson said. "We're also going to be better because this year we have kids back in the lineup who were injured last year or kids who maybe had a surgery who are now returning back to play."
Within the group of returners, junior All-Big Ten First Team honoree Briannah Tsang returns following a 2016 season which featured an appearance at the NCAA championships after tying for fourth on the floor exercise in the NCAA regionals. Tsang is one of two Nittany Lions to receive recognition on the Big Ten's Gymnasts to Watch this year.
3. Leadership Committee
New this year, Thompson and the Nittany Lions have established a leadership committee for the 2017 season, which is comprised of a representative from each class.
"We have one member of each class, so there's a senior, a junior, a sophomore and a freshman that are our leadership committee and they help make or make the decisions around conditioning, practice times, community service," Thompson said.
The Nittany Lion leadership committee also provided a few tweaks to the offseason training schedule, which has already yielded positive results. Leading up to the opener, Thompson noted that the Nittany Lions hit 27 of 28 routines in the Thanksgiving inter-squad, hitting every routine by the Christmas inter-squad.
4. "Pink Meet" Highlights Home Dates
Among a total of five home dates in Rec Hall this season, all on Saturday's at 4 p.m., Penn State will once again host its annual "Pink Meet" against Michigan State Saturday, Feb. 4, with both teams set to wear pink to support an important cause.
"The pink meet is something near and dear to their hearts, just about everyone on our team has a family member who has been touched by cancer, or breast cancer, so anything they can do to give back to not only the community, but women in general - they're so excited about it and it's one of their most favorite meets of the year," Thompson said.
5. Looking Ahead to the B1G Opener
Following this weekend's opener, the Nittany Lions will hit the road, traveling to Nebraska to take on the Huskers in their Big Ten conference opener. This year will also feature a little different format as the Huskers will host Penn State in a "Tumble & Rumble" event, which features both gymnastics and wrestling simultaneously at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.