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Castaway Club by Sarah Nielsen

This summer I was given one of the greatest opportunities of my life - right up there with the opportunity to go to Penn State and play hockey :). In Minneapolis, my family is very involved with an organization called Young Life. Young Life is a really awesome group that helps teenagers see their true worth and do life. One branch of Young Life is Capernum, which is specifically designed to give "young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the chance to experience fun and adventure, to develop fulfilling friendships and to challenge their limits while building self-esteem." A friend told me they were looking for "buddies" to walk alongside campers, so I jumped in and got to hangout with my new friend, Lauren for a week at a Young Life Camp in Minnesota called Castaway Club.

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Camp is a beautiful place where each day is jam packed with various activities that Lauren and I got to do together - tubing, swimming, boat riding, parasailing, zip lining, field games, water Olympics, giant swing rides, singing, dancing, beach parties, and campfires. Many of the activities are thrilling, and I have to admit on things like the zip-line and swings, I was scared! However, Lauren is brave and wanted to do everything - her bravery and courage was inspiring and gave me the strength to do those things with her. The tag line for camp is "the best week of your life guaranteed." Even though I was not a camper, it was one of the best weeks of my life.

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Words and pictures cannot fully describe my experiences, but they can help capture the essence of our time there. I am thankful for the people I met, the opportunity I was given, and the way each camper touched me. The greatest thing I learned from this week is that all people are beautiful and beauty looks differently on everyone.

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Rising junior defenseman Bella Sutton is heading to Rome, Italy, to study abroad for the next few weeks and she will be sharing her experiences via blog posts on GoPSUsports.com.

Fourth Post (Wednesday, June 22):

Welcome back to my blog everyone! 

I would be lying if I said I wasn't happy about the school work being done for the summer, but I do miss my classmates and professors who were in Rome with me. After our closing banquet and last gelato run (in Rome, I of course will keep eating gelato until I'm back home), we went to the hotel and sat in the lobby until about 3 a.m. continuing to talk and reminisce. Now, this was great and I wouldn't  have gone back and gone to bed any earlier...But looking back it probably wasn't the smartest choice with a train to catch at 7:50 a.m. the next morning taking a classmate (Chris Tofani aka Tof) and I to Venice. When we arrived at Venice, I got out of the train station and the first thing I saw was the water, I knew I was going to enjoy my next day and a half there!

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The beautiful streets of Venezia!

Growing up with water all around me (in the land of 10,000 lakes), being close to or on the water makes me happy! My immediate smile temporarily vanished when I realized I had to carry my (probably over) 50 pound bag over five bridges to get to our hotel. Needless to say, my right arm was still sore a couple days after when we were leaving Venice so KJ don't worry, I definitely got a nice arm work out in that day!! Once we were checked in, we decided to wind (literally wind, there is no direct route in Venice) our way to St. Mark's Square. Here, we walked around and admired all the art and little kiosks Venice had to offer. Then, we decided to climb (okay, this time we took an elevator, but in our defense stairs weren't an option) up to the top of St. Mark's bell tower for a great view of the city! It was so peaceful looking over the Grand Canal and watching boats pass by, or at least it was until I nearly jumped out of my skin realizing very quickly that these bells were not just for show. They rang quite loudly for a few minutes, but everyone at the top was laughing because it had startled so many of us! As we were going down the elevator Tof said about the man running the elevator, "I wonder if he likes his job... I bet it has its ups and downs" lol! I'm not sure if I laughed harder at the joke or a minute later when he told me he stole the joke from his dad! Either way, I was happy to know that he at least could appreciate a good joke (yes, I'm referring to my cheesy jokes being good hahaha).

That night we caught ourselves walking home in a light rain, where somehow all the men in the streets who earlier had tried to force selfie sticks in our hands, magically all had handfuls of umbrellas and ponchos now! Once we made it back to the hotel, I think I immediately passed out after my very little sleep the first night! That is after I think I half slept talk my way through a phone call with my parents to let them know I had arrived safely!

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A photo of me in front of one of the many colorful streets in Burano, Venice!

The next day we went island hopping to three different islands of Venice! Our first stop, Murano, was the island known for its glass blowing, creating beautiful pieces of all kinds. We went to a factory where were able to watch two men working on making colorful drinking glasses. It was so cool to see the process behind the pretty artwork! The second island, Burano, was another ferry away. This island was known for its lace, as well as its cute, colorful, little homes and buildings squeezed up next to each other. I feel bad because my warning to Tof about him probably needing to take a few pictures for me turned into a few more than a few...He was super nice about it, and hey, I did warn him! Anyways, after exploring Burano, we visited the island of Lido. A long, skinny island where we knew there was a beach to relax at for a bit. We walked along the beach, collected some sea shells, and even found a three inch crab along the way!

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One of the many photos Tof took for me on the island of Murano in Venice!

Before getting on the ferry back to Venice, we (of course) stopped for gelato and it didn't disappoint (I don't think it ever does)! Back in St. Mark's, we decided we had to take a gondola ride because we don't know when either of us will be in Venice again. Though the gondoliers apparently don't sing anymore, we had a nice ride and we were given information about all the buildings we passed, which was interesting. Tired, and knowing we had a train to catch at 5:15 a.m. to Cinque Terre, we crashed thinking waking up would be the hardest part about the next day, boy were we wrong...Waking up wasn't awful, what was awful was hearing heavy rain on the rooftop and thunder knowing it was going to be a longer walk to the train station than it had been on the way in (I didn't think that was possible!?). We grabbed our umbrellas and I decided to wear my heavy suitcase as a backpack...and that's what marked the beginning of leg day! The bridges were one thing, but the puddles we walked through were another! Once we made it on our train we decided that if nothing else, the puddles helped clean our shoes off and we were happy to be on the train! 

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My lunch view in Manarola, Cinque Terre.

To continue leg day, once we made it to Cinque Terre (which is made up of five small, but beautiful towns on the coast), the first thing we did after checking into our hotel was an hour and a half hike between the town Monterosso and Vernazza! The views of the coast from the hike were extremely worth the climb, but I was definitely surprised my legs weren't sore the next day! We then met up with a Rome classmate and her family to eat lunch overlooking the town of Manarola, shop, relax at the beach, and later enjoyed pear stuffed pasta for dinner (this was probably my FAVORITE meal of the trip!!)!! 

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At the end of the hike there was a beautiful view of Vernazza, Cinque Terre.

The next morning we got up and took a train to Firenze (Florence). When we arrived, we went out to lunch at a really good restaurant called Vini e Vecchino near our hotel. After, we were ready to explore Florence, but unlike the day before in Cinque Terre on two feet, we explored on two wheels!! Scootering around Florence was efficient for me, as I only had one day there before flying to London, England!! Anyways, the vespas (aka scooters) were SO MUCH FUN!! I was nervous about driving it around at first, especially because I had a passenger on it with me, but I went by the motto "fake it 'til ya make it" and after our test drive our guide said he was confident in my driving!! We drove on some of the busier roads first, up to a church that had a magnificent view of Florence from the top! Then, we took winding, hilly, back roads through Tuscany which was really pretty! It was hard for me to focus on the road with the scenery around me! We finally arrived at the family owned winery part of the tour where we ate dinner overlooking the olive trees and beautiful gardens. I was so thankful that my friend Haleigh and her family took me in for the day to join them on the scooter tour!

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Posed for a photo while stopped during the Vespa tours!

Later that night, I met up with another Nittany Lion you all know, Hannah Ehresmann!!  She showed myself and my two friends from my class in Rome (Haleigh and Tof) up to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sun set over the river. This was so cool to watch and the view of the city from here was unreal! We got a nice picture in front of fake David as well!! After watching the sunset, Hannah brought us to her favorite gelato place and it did not disappoint! It was so great to see her again (I think I forgot to mention in an earlier post that I did get to see her shortly when she visited Rome!)!! 

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Hannah and I watching the sunset in Florence!

The next day (Thursday the 16th) I woke up early to catch a train back to the FCO airport in Rome so I could make my flight to London! Another day another adventure, right?! In London, I navigated the tube, checked into my hotel, and met up with my boyfriend who is studying abroad here through Notre Dame (disclaimer: I tolerate the Fighting Irish when they aren't facing the Nittany Lions ;)). Right away we decided for dinner we would make stir fry at his flat (which is what they all an apartment in London)! I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the improvement in his cooking abilities as it was a running joke previously about how he would survive next year without a meal plan. The following day I slept in late, (probably catching up on sleep from all the travel!) then when my boyfriend was back from class we walked around the streets near his flat to get lunch from a fresh food stand which they had everywhere (very different from Rome where a good meal would only come from sitting down at a restaurant...For at least an hour and a half!). Later, we ate dinner at a little cute restaurant called Andrew Edmunds (where I sported one of my purchases from earlier!). Here, I tried three new foods; the first being crab. Those who know me well, also know I'll eat just about anything... except seafood. I'm slowly trying to change that and tonight was a step in the right direction!! Sole, a type of white fish, was the next food I tried (more seafood that tasted pretty good!!). Finally, I tried lamb. My mom cringed a bit when I told her I tried that, but I thought it was all very good! 

Saturday, we went shopping with a few of his friends at a low priced European clothing store called Primark (probably a mistake on their part taking me shopping as it was hard for them to find me when they were done considering there were three floors of girls clothing)!! After shopping we walked back to his apartment. Along the way, we stopped for gelato and enjoyed the singers playing on the streets. That night we made pasta and chicken for dinner (which is funny because I have been eating amazing pasta in Italy my whole trip, but I enjoyed making it myself again!)!!  We then went with a few of his friends to the 32nd level in the Shard, which is the tallest building in Europe! The view of the river, Tower bridge, and the city in general was really pretty!! 

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The Shard in London!

After a couple of days of enjoying everything near us, the third day we were tourists for the day! Walking to the London Eye, Thames River, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and we even stumbled upon a changing of the guards! All were really fun to see, and of course, take pictures (and selfies!) in front of! That night we ate burgers topped with avocado (a personal favorite!) and stayed up late to watch game seven of the NBA Finals! I didn't care who won, but I was glad it was a close game!! On my final day in London, I woke up to explore Borough's Market, the tower bridge, and Hay's Market by the river. It was really cool seeing London for a second time and really appreciating everything it has to offer (including the well-known sites, markets, and street performers!)! 

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Probably the most touristy picture we could have taken in London!

I am now beginning my journey back home to the US (Minnesota to be specific) for the rest of my summer. This journey includes a flight back to Rome, 13 hours in the FCO airport (I'll most likely be catching up on (my guilty pleasure) the Bachelorette, facetiming Sarah Nielsen, and shopping for last minute souvenirs) , and an 10 hour direct flight back! It's definitely sad to be leaving Europe, but trust me when I say I have thousands of pictures, even more memories, a handful of new friends, and a much greater appreciation for the opportunities I have been given throughout my life because of this experience. 

Quick thanks to all those who have been reading the blog and tolerating the stories of my adventures abroad! Enjoy the rest of your summer and get pumped up for next season!! It should be a great one! 

WE ARE!! 

Third Post (Tuesday, June 14):

Wow, I can't believe three weeks went by so fast!! I just finished my last day of class here in Rome today, June 11th. However, this is not the end of my journey as I will be traveling to explore Venice, Cinque Terre, Florence, and London in the next nine days!! I am extremely excited about this opportunity, but I am sad to see most of my classmates travel home to the United States tomorrow as I reflect on yet another unforgettable week spent with them in Pompeii, Sorrento, and Meta (just north of Sorrento)! 

This past Monday we woke up bright and early to catch a train to Naples. Once we arrived we jumped on a train to Meta, where our hotel (Panorama Palace) was located on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean. Before getting on the sardine packed train, we were warned about pickpockets being especially tricky here in Naples. Luckily no one got anything stolen, but one of our professors did catch a man attempting to steal from one of my classmates and he yelled "Oh no, stop right there, I know who you are! I've seen the movies!!" Lol I'm not sure if he knew what our professor was screaming or not but it sure scared him away!! Also, I'm pretty sure he remembered that incident because when we got on the train again to visit Pompeii our teacher recognized the same man and made sure to say "Bonjurno!!" to him, making the man immediately squeeze out of our car into a different compartment. 

Anyways, upon arriving to our hotel we soon realized why it received its name, Panorama Palace, because right out front of our hotel was a breathtaking view of Sorrento to our left and high cliffs to our right with the blue sea beneath us (the latter which we took advantage of almost right after checking in). This view was particularly beautiful at sunset. The next morning, Tuesday, we went to Pompeii to visit the ruins of the town that was extremely well preserved due to the ashes of Mount Vesuvius preceding its eruption. It was so cool to get a better idea of what an ancient Roman town would have looked like along with homes of the wealthy. In these homes we were able to see baths, frescos, and mosaics still in place!! We also saw the plaster casted bodies of a few victims of Vesuvius putting into perspective how quickly the eruption took the lives of many living there. 

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Watching the sun set over the islands of Naples in Meta was a highlight of my trip!

Wednesday, we traveled to Naples to visit the National Archeological Museum where we saw the statue of Hercules at Rest as well as the Farnese Bull and then, after indulging in delicious pizza for lunch, we went to Herculaneum! Herculaneum is a small town that was also very well preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, however, because it was closer to the mountain than Pompeii was, there is even still ancient wood that remains intact! Being right on the ancient coast, when Vesuvius erupted, the people of Herculaneum fled for the water, unfortunately, that's where they found most of the bodies when excavating. I'm curious to know if anyone did escape Vesuvius' grasp. 

Thursday, we took a bus a little further south to the ancient town of Paestum. Here we saw a giant temple of Athena, the goddess of war, as well as two temples dedicated to Hera. Walking around this Roman colony south of Naples helped to give me an idea of how large the Roman Empire truly was! After viewing the museum here in Paestum and shopping a bit, we got on our train back to Rome. I was surprised that when arriving back in Rome I felt that I was back "home" because we had only been there for a week or so before this. I guess that goes to show how a place you visit can leave an impact on you no matter how long your stay. 

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Our whole group in front of the Temple of Athena in Paestum!

The next day we visited the Mausoleum of Augustus, Augustus' alter of peace, and Hadrian's Mausoleum (which is now the St. Angelo Castle). It was cool to see all the intricate designs and work put in to make these massive structures. At the top of the Castle there was a great view! However, the view wasn't as amazing as the view from the top of St. Peter's Basilica which I visited after class. After viewing the church itself and the catacombs, a few classmates and I climbed to the top of the dome. Though there were a way too many steps, the view at the top was incredible! 

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I really enjoyed the view from the top of the Vatican! It was worth all the stairs we climbed to get up!!

Finally, for our last day of class we took a bus to Hadrian's Villa about 45 minutes outside of Rome. Here, we met an archeologist who toured us around and showed us a recent excavation site! Next, we went to Palestrina to see a temple of Fortuna Primigenia and yet another incredible view!! That night we had our closing banquet at an authentic (by authentic I mean family owned with Grandma Nana who came out and gave us all hugs when we were done) Italian restaurant that was the best food by far! Our now tight knit group talked about the trip, our jokes, and how we are going to hang out once we are all back in State College! After this I conned a few of them to get Frigidarium Gelato for the last time. It was a really great way to end the trip! This group will always hold a special spot in my heart; they made this trip, walking 13 miles each day, and a lot of museums more interesting and much brighter!!

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A photo of the Nymphatorium at Hadrians Villa!

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Haleigh (one of my good friends I made on the trip) and I at the top of the Temple of Fortuna.

I hope everyone has enjoyed my blog in relation to studying abroad! I would love for you to check back next week to hear where my journey takes me! 

Ciao Roma!

WE ARE!!!

Second Post (Tuesday, June 7):

Ciao!

I'm glad you decided to check back in on my adventures abroad! As I mentioned in my last post, I was headed to the Vatican and then after that, the beach, on my past free day. We attended a mass at the Vatican in the morning and despite not understanding the Italian and Latin languages spoken, when everyone turned to their neighbor's, shook hands, and maybe gave them a hug, a light bulb went off and we all turned to each other and said "PEACE" acting as if we knew what was going on the whole time. It was a really cool experience being there, receiving communion, and attending mass in St. Peter's Square. After the outdoor mass, we were a bit concerned because we were barricaded into St. Peter's Square. However, we soon realized that the Pope was going to come through the crowd!!!

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At the beautiful St. Peter's Square!

Soon enough he came whizzing by on a car-like automobile with an open top, standing, smiling, and waving to all throughout the square as we stood on plastic chairs to see who could get the best video. Once we returned back to our hotel after this, we rounded up the rest of our group and hopped a train to a small city about an hour south of Rome called Sperlonga.  <

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The Pope wheeling through and blessing the crowd!

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The cute little town of Sperlonga :)

After a questionable cab ride later we arrived at the beach where we swam in the Mediterranean. They said it'd be pretty cold, but after swimming in the Minnesota lakes in mid-May prior to this trip, it wasn't bad at all, actually it was quite refreshing! We then watched the sunset and had dinner on the beach. For dessert I took a break from gelato (mainly from Frigidarium) and I had the BEST tiramisu for dessert. This was just last week, but oddly enough it feels like it was both yesterday and a month ago at the same time! Class keeps us pretty busy during the days with different city tours each day, my classmates are awesome and this city is amazing! 

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The BEST gelato ever! - Frigidarium

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My tiramisu from Sperlonga, which I want to go back for!!

This week during class we visited the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, the Arch of Titus, the Roman Forum, the Capitoline Hill, the Palestine Hill, and the Pantheon to name a few! It's crazy to me how much history is here and how well preserved some of these sites are after all these years. I am definitely learning a lot!

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The Roman Forum!

After class each day we have time to explore Rome! This week we went to a restaurant with karaoke, which was a LOT of fun! My teammates (and I'm sure most of you know if you've seen the pregame video) I enjoy singing/dancing in the locker room before games. Well, luckily, or unluckily for those in the restaurant, one of my classmates here in Rome shares the love of the song Fergalicious and the restaurant had that available for karaoke. So, needless to say we crushed it.

Another night we went to a Jazz club to hear live music. The musicians were so so good! If only I had played clarinet for longer than a year I maybe could've joined them! ;) Some of the group also spent one afternoon shopping on Via Cola di Rienzo to look for gifts for friends, family, and ourselves! Side note: The few guys that came along soon regretted their decision after realizing this wasn't an area of souvenir shops, but instead clothing, leather purse, and shoe shops...We may have forgotten to mention that...Whoops!

This past Saturday, June 4th, we had our second free day! We were planning on, and actually made it to Cinque Terre, which if you Google will see just how beautiful it is. Anyways, we got there and the weather was not 75 and sunny like we have been experiencing in Rome for the past week and they told us that if we tried to take the train to the first of the five cities we wanted to visit, we may get stuck there for the night due to the rain. So, we decided we better be safe, make it to class, and instead go to the Leaning Tower of Pisa!! 

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Leaning tower of Pisa!

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I found out that Pisa has more to offer than the leaning tower, and it took my breath away!

Traveling doesn't always work out the way you planned, but I was happy our group just rolled with it and had a great day eating pizza in Pisa!! 

Finally, on Sunday June 5th, we took a short train ride to Ostia, one of the major Roman Ports where the entire city of ruins is well preserved! Despite being made fun of for my Minnesotan accent on the way there, having to repeat the words dragon, about, boat, and one Coach Dawes and Ben (our equipment manager) love to tease me about, bag, the train ride was fairly quick!

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Thought of my little friend Sophie (who skates with me after games) because there were many cats hanging around Campus Martius

In Ostia, we explored the ancient ruins of the old and extremely important port city and in doing so, turned the ruins into our own jungle gym! We climbed up the stairs and to the roof of every building they allowed us, into every little crevice we could squeeze into, and probably went a little past that in order to get a better feel for the ruins as well as (obviously) some really great photos (one of which as we were stepping across a small ditch a boy in my class ripped his pants!! Let me tell you after hearing about my accent on the way there I did not hold back my laughter when, after being in the sun for a while after the fact, he said, "oh, this breeze is nice" LOL) !! 

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My jungle gym for the day: Ancient Ostia

Next week I will talk about our class trip to Sorrento and Pompeii! I hope everyone had a great weekend!! 

WE ARE!!

First Post (Tuesday, May 31):

I left May 24th in the afternoon, my mom dropped me off at the MSP airport in Minnesota and I was off!! ... Or I thought I was... The flight delay provided me with some time to work on my presentation I had to give later on in the week, however, I was worried I wasn't going to have enough time to catch my next flight out of Boston to Rome. By the time I landed and got off the plane I had 25 minutes to get to my gate. Let me just start by apologizing to anyone if they happened to see me sprinting (or running as fast as I could run with a backpack on) not only through the airport, but to another terminal where I had to go through another security line (special thanks to everyone for letting me jump the line, much appreciated)!! As I was running through the airport I couldn't help but thinking a few things, first, am I going to make this connection!? And what happens if I don't? Next, I was thinking I for sure can do this, this is what KJ (our strength coach) prepared me for. Thirdly, I was thinking, hopefully these new bright coral tennis shoes make me look fast haha. Luckily, I made the flight and made it to Rome, and so my journey begins!

I arrived on the 25th, but most of my class arrived the following day so on the 26th some of us ventured out to the Trevi Fountain! Surprised we didn't get lost and/or hit by a car because the drivers are crazy! You just cross the street whenever and cars swerve around you...If you don't cross you may lose the group! We then had our opening class "banquet" dinner at a small Italian restaurant.

The following day we visited the Baths of Diocletian, which I performed my 10-15 minute speech on and went into the Basilica of Santa Maria which was very cool! We saw the Imperial forums, Trajan's market, and Trajan's column, all for class! Later that night we went to the Vatican museum and even got to enter the Sistine chapel, which was beautiful.

Saturday May 28th, we spent most of our day at the Capitoline Hill museum and exploring underground, excavated temples!

Sunday we have our first day off and I think we will be headed to the Vatican and then the beach for some swimming and relaxing on the beach! Loving my experiences thus far in the Eternal City! Hope everyone is enjoying their summer adventures!! Check back next week for another blog post from Roma! We Are!!!

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A great view of the Roman Forum from the Capitoline Hill museum

11967767.jpgTrying to be like Lizzie McGuire at the Trevi Fountain

11967768.jpgAt this point you can tell I like panoramic shots. This one shows a great view of the city and puts into perspective the number of churches here!

Introduction Post:

Well I can inform you it's been an eventful first few days of traveling overseas, navigating Rome, and meeting my classmates for the next three weeks! Before I get in to all of that, I suppose I should introduce myself.

Hi everyone, my name is Bella Sutton and I am a defenseman on the Penn State women's ice hockey team, #11. I just finished my sophomore year at PSU less than a month ago. I can't believe I'm already considered a junior!?! Anyways, these next few weeks I will be studying ancient Roman history by traveling around Italy. I will be sharing with you some of my experiences, what I've seen, done, and knowing me, some bad jokes or puns will be included so bear with me remembering I always encourage a good courtesy laugh :)

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Rising junior goaltender Hannah Ehresmann is heading to Florence, Italy, to study abroad for the next six weeks and she will be sharing her experiences via blog posts on GoPSUsports.com.

Sixth Post (Friday, June 17):

Another week down. During the week we checked off many of our to-do's in Florence. Last Thursday, we went to the Bargello Museum and two churches nearby. One church had a wedding taking place and you were free to walk in.

Friday, I had a field trip to a winery in the Tuscany countryside and Antico Spedale del Bigallo, which is a medieval kitchen where we had a cooking class. That was so much fun. We made homemade flat bread and panzanella, which is basically Italy's version of stuffing. The lunch we were served, along with what we created, was amazing! The pasta was some of the best I have had here in Italy.

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Our cooking class at the Antico Spedale del Bigallo

That afternoon when we got back I hopped right on a train and headed to Rome. My hotel was conveniently only two blocks from Bella Sutton so I got to see her!! Roomies reunited in Rome. It doesn't get much better than that. Anyways that night I just went to dinner and then obviously had to be like Lizzie McGuire and make a wish at the Trevi Fountain.

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The Trevi Fountain

My next two days there were jam packed as we went to the Vatican City to see the Sistine Chapel, Saint Peters Basilica, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Forum, and Palatine Hill. Rome was definitely way bigger and more city-like than I expected. It was fun being there for a little bit, but after the weekend I was very happy to be back in Florence. Monday was back to reality with classes. But I also climbed the Palazzo Vecchio, which was really cool because you had an amazing view of the skyline and especially the Duomo.

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The Colosseum

Tuesday was more of a relaxing day but at night we went to Acqua al 2. There are only three of them in the world, Florence, D.C., and San Diego. Wednesday, Bella was actually in Florence, but I had another field trip. This one we went to the marble quarry where Michelangelo got all of his marble for his sculpting. We got to see how they extract the marble from the mountains. For the second half of the field trip we went farther up the mountains into a tiny city called Colonnata. They are known for Lardo here, which is the back fat of pigs. Their business was very interesting but I still couldn't get myself to try it. I got back pretty late from that so I could only meet up with Bella later at night. I took her and her two friends up to the Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sunset and then we got gelato at one of my favorite places called La Carraia.

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Bella and I on the Piazzale Michelangelo

It was cool being able to show her where I have been living and what I have been doing for the past five weeks. Unfortunately, she had to leave early the next morning. Thursday of this week I went to the church of Santa Croce and we hiked up to the Forte di Belvedere. Both were very fun and then we treated ourselves to dinner on the rooftop overlooking the Arno River.

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The Arno River

Time is ticking away here. I only have one more week of classes, including two exams, one paper, and one presentation!! So much to do, but on the bright side my parents are coming out next Wednesday and we are doing some post traveling :)

This weekend I am doing two day trips, one to Cinque Terre and another to Venice!! Check in next week for my final post about Florence!

Fifth Post (Thursday, June 9):

Another eventful weekend and week has passed. Last Thursday night I began my 12 hour journey to Split, Croatia. I am pretty sure I slept basically that entire ride, which was great because when we got there at 9 a.m. on Friday morning. We only had about an hour to get to our hostel, eat breakfast and then we had to get back on the bus for our journey up to the mountains for whitewater rafting. I had never done that before so I was interested to see what it entailed.

Once we got there they gave us a sweet git-up of a wet suit and helmet and then we were off. For about three hours we alternated between rapids and just floating down the river. We also got to do cliff diving along the way. By the time we got to the bottom, everyone was starving, but luckily they had lunch ready for us, so we ate before hopping on the bus again. That night we got to explore the city of Split. It was very pretty and chill.

Day two we took a boat cruise to Brac, one of the Dalmatian Islands. The view from the middle of the ocean looking back at Split is definitely one I will never forget. The mountains looked as if they were painted on. Plus we got to see a water plane land so that was sweet. Once we got to the island we had the whole day to just relax on the beach; boy was that much needed. That night we just went to dinner and chilled because we had an early morning the next day.

Day three we went to the Krka waterfalls. These were beautiful and we even got to swim in them. We got to spend half the day here before getting on the bus to head back to Florence.

This week I watched the sunset on the Piazzale Michelangelo again, went to the Mercato Centrale, Rose Garden, and Bargello Museum. I also unfortunately had to write a paper for my foods class. It was a reminder that I am here for school, but I have confidence that it was pretty good. This weekend I am going to Rome. So you know that means basic pictures of me making a wish at the Trevi Fountain, touring the Vatican City, Colosseum, and most importantly seeing BELLA SUTTON!!!!! She gets two nights with me so read up next week to see what adventure we have together! :) 

Fourth Post (Friday, June 3):

So I just realized I forgot to tell you all about my crazy adventure climbing up the Duomo in the pouring rain a few weeks ago. Well that was something. We had been waiting in line for about an hour and finally when we were very close to the front it just started down pouring. Luckily I had my umbrella, which is something I have learned to always have with me because you never know when it will just pour for a few minutes.

Anyways, we thought it would pass hopefully by the time we got to the top, however, that did not happen. It took us like 20 minutes to climb in very tight spaces to get to the top. At that time it was even thundering and lightning. Being at one of the highest points in Florence we decided just to take a few quick pictures and get some good looks before heading back down. I will definitely try and climb it again on a sunny day. The weather here has been unusually rainy, but next week it is hopefully going to clear up and be a nice, hot 90 degrees.

Italy has many cool museums and places you can visit; going to the Piazzale Michelangelo, Boboli Gardens, and Duomo, I have visited the Santa Maria Novella (beautiful church), the academia (real David), the Uffizi (painting of the Venus and other artworks), and walked around the Piazza della Signoria (giant gold turtle and sculptures and David and Goliath).

I feel like I am on a constant move here because there is so much to do. I did finally go shopping to Zara and to the leather market. The leather market is definitely overwhelming but amazing to see all the jackets, bags, and sandals. I definitely have my eye on a jacket. The other night I also did a cooking class. Now that was fun. We made potato souffle for an appetizer, two types of homemade pastas, and panna cotta for dessert. The pasta was the best I've had here; it is amazing how good fresh pasta tastes.

I have been crazy busy this week with classes though. We have had two field trips and two exams. The field trips were definitely better than the exams, except after one exam our professor bought us all gelato :).

For our field trips we went to the Mazzei Winery and a textile manufacturer. Both we were so cool to see how they do business here compared to the U.S. and what they have to do to gain the competitive advantage. At the winery we got to taste test a few different red wines, before they fed us an amazing, authentic Tuscany meal. It was definitely hard for the textile manufacturer to top that, but it was pretty close since they gave everyone scarfs at the end. My favorite part about the textile manufacturer is seeing the scarfs they make for Coach. We are officially half way done with our six weeks studying aboard here :( it's sad because I am not ready to leave here.

This past weekend I traveled down to the Amalfi Coast to see Capri, Positano, and Pompeii. We did have a six hour bus ride to get there, but it was a breeze since I'm used to all of our traveling for hockey. We didn't get there till about 2 a.m. Friday morning though so we went straight to bed in our hostel. They are actually pretty nice. Anyways we traveled with this company called Bus2Alps, which most students use. They plan all the traveling, housing, and activities which is nice.

Friday, we took a ferry to the island of Capri. Here we went into the Blue Grotto. If you have never heard of it, it is considered one of the natural wonders of the world. The water color there was amazing and was all over Capri. We also got a tour around the island. After the tour, we hiked to the middle of the island, walked around there and later took a gondola up to the top of the island. That was the best view I have seen since being in Italy. That night our tour guides took us to dinner in downtown Sorento. All the streets are lined with lemon and orange trees.  /p>

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Capri

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Capri

Saturday, we went to the beach in Positano. Very relaxing and warm, but it was unfortunately rocky getting down to the water. The water was refreshing though and fun to swim in. We got sandwiches here from a tiny hole in the wall. It was the best sandwich I have had here. I am still dreaming about it. 

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Positano

Sunday, we had a guided tour of Pompeii. For those who don't know what Pompeii is, it was a town that got covered by volcanic ashes in 79 AD. The ashes perfectly preserved the town. Later archeologists uncovered the town and saw how advanced the people who lived there were. They had already invented a wood fire oven, sewage system, roads, steam rooms, and so much more that people didn't know how to do/make years later. 

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Pompeii

Needless to say it was a very adventurous, fun, relaxing, and historic trip! This weekend I am heading to Croatia for some whitewater rafting and waterfalls. Look for this next week!!

Third Post (Thursday, May 26):

Wow, was this weekend fun and full of adventures. On Friday, I traveled with the program I am studying with to Siena and San Gimignano. They were both gorgeous, but San Gimignano was definitely my favorite!! In Siena, we visited the Duomo, which is known for its black and white stripes. The significance of these is that the Medici family took over most of Tuscany and wanted everything to be black and white striped. That is why all throughout Tuscany different famous buildings have this design.

While we were there we also got to climb the tower that was attached to the Duomo. The view from up there was amazing. You could see far beyond the town limits and into the vineyards of Tuscany. After that we got to check out the town square where they hold horse races every year, like how it was many, many years ago. We ended there around 2 p.m., and hopped back on our bus and got to San Gimignano by 3 p.m. San Gimignano is a very cute, quaint town that not many tourists go to since it is difficult to get to, thus making it more enjoyable. Also, here they have the world champion gelato shop called Gelateria Dondoli. The rest of the day we just got to explore there before getting on the bus at 5:30 p.m.

On Saturday, we took another day trip, but to Pisa and Lucca instead. Pisa was very touristy, but still very cool. Obviously I got some good pictures of me both holding up the leaning tower and pushing it down (see below). We also explored the baptistery, Cathedral, and cemetery here. They were all very cool. In the Cathedral they have the tomb of Saint Pisa still there with his body!! Kind of creepy, but cool that they preserved him so well. Around 1 p.m. we left there and headed to Lucca.

Lucca was a smaller and almost more family/residential oriented town. Here we got to eat lunch in the sun and then ride bikes all around and throughout the town. It was so much fun being able to explore and goof around.

Sunday, was much more relaxing. The weather was perfect, 85 and sunny by mid-day. We went to Mama's bakery for breakfast and then visited the Uffizi Gallery. The Uffizi Gallery holds tons of artwork, including the Birth of Venus and the Primavera. It took us over two hours to go through the whole thing; it was cool to see all the different interpretations artists had with Madonna and child. To top off that day, we walked up to the Piazzale Michelangelo again to watch the sunset. Once again it was amazing. I don't think I will ever get used to seeing such a beautiful sunset, or a city in general. Now time to tell you about climbing the Duomo in Florence last Thursday. Now that was something.

We were almost to the front of the line when it started down pouring. Luckily we only had to wait for 10 minutes in the rain. It wasn't that tiring to climb, but the space you had to go through was tiny, which made it difficult. When we made it to the top it was still down pouring and lightning so we tried our best to take pictures, but it just wasn't enjoyable so we went back down. Plus you can't stay up there too long because other groups need to come up. Needless to say we will be doing that again when it's sunny out. After we did treat ourselves to gelato from Eduardo's, which is a vegan and organic gelato place. It's amazing and they make homemade waffle bowls. They were to die for.

During the week we have just been shopping, walking around, trying new restaurants, eating gelato and obviously doing our school work. As of now we are planning on going to the Academia on Thursday and I also leave for the Amalfi Coast Thursday night for the whole weekend, so lots of more sightseeing to be done. We are also going to a winery for my international business class. Next post you will be able to catch all of that!

Second post (Tuesday, May 24):

Wow, this past week flew by! A lot of fun and a lot of adventures. This will definitely be a long post because I was hoping to write every two or three days, but the Wi-Fi is so spotty here that's why I am currently sitting at a cute cafe drinking a cappuccino. I definitely recommend the cappuccinos here, they are sweet and delicious! Okay so now I'll break it down for you.

I arrived in Florence last Thursday. That day we explored a little by walking through the bottom of the Duomo and then went to dinner at a place called Dante's which is right around the corner of my apartment.

Friday, I had orientation all day and then we went to Hot Pot for dinner. I got the carbonara. It was pretty good, but not the best pasta here.

Saturday, we went to the Boboli Gardens. It is pretty much just a huge uphill park with trees and cool historic buildings. It was a climb, but the view was great! It overlooked all of Florence and Tuscany vineyards on the other side. After that we went to Margartaio for dinner. We went out that night to walk around and explore the other side of the river and actually found a place called Lion's Fountain that had a Penn State t-shirt hanging on their ceiling along with tons of different US colleges. We even got to sign the t-shirt! We may or may not have gotten lost on our way home in the pouring rain for an hour, whoops. It was still very fun and throughout this past week we have gotten our bearings and know where everything is now. It's hard to believe that we were so lost at first.

Sunday, we started walking up the Piazzale Michelangelo and once again it started raining on us. It has been unusually rainy here so hopefully that changes by next week.

On Tuesday night we walked up to the Piazzale Michelangelo again to see the sunset. That was very fun and we will definitely do it a lot over these next five weeks, along with eating tons and tons of gelato. So far I have tried six different places, I think. I even had it for breakfast one morning. Classes unfortunately started on Monday. So now I'm unfortunately stuck in a classroom for 3 hours a day :( Otherwise throughout this week we have been walking around, shopping, eating, and just living life here! This weekend I am taking a day trip to Siena and another one to Pisa!

My next post will be about those adventures, along with our class field trip to the two major food markets here in Florence and climbing the Duomo in once again, the pouring rain.

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Leaning Tower of Pisa

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Leaning Tower of Pisa

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Gelateria Dondoli in San Gimignano, Italy

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San Gimignano, Italy

First post (Tuesday, May 17):

Well I made it halfway around the world. I left Minnesota at 3 p.m. on May 11th and arrived in Amsterdam at 6:30 a.m. on May 12th. No worries though the flight was only eight hours and it seemed to fly by. We were served dinner quickly after take off, with the choices of ravioli, chicken caesar salad, and grilled chicken with mashed potatoes. Of course knowing me I had to choose the ravioli because I can never turn that down.

The plane had tons of different movies and TV shows to choose from. I watched the movie "How to Be Single" staring Rebel Wilson. Very funny. I highly recommend it. Pretty much after that I just napped and listened to music. Before I knew it we were already there. It was a much better trip than driving from Penn State to Iowa State last weekend. Don't even get me started on that.

Anyways, I made it to Amsterdam and just chilled at my gate before my next flight took off.

On my next flight I sat next to the cutest old woman. This was her 15th time going to Florence. She was telling me about all the hidden secrets in Italy and also told me not to trust what the Italian boys say, even though it seems like it's from the heart. Needless to say she was very interesting.

My travel was smooth all the way to my apartment. I have an apartment with eight girls, so it will be pretty packed, but they are very nice. It is right in the city. Literally a five minute walk to the Piazza del Duomo. We went and saw that today while we were exploring. Gelato was obviously the first thing I ate when I got here. It was amazing. There are at least two gelato shops on every block. It is definitely going to take a while to get an idea where everything is, but it is very fun so far! Many more adventures to come!!

We Are!

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Boboli Gardens

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Boboli Gardens

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Boboli Gardens

Introduction post:

Hi, my name is Hannah Ehresmann and I just completed my sophomore year at Penn State. I am from Minnetonka, Minnesota, and I am a goaltender on the Penn State women's hockey team. It was a jam packed year, but very fun! The fun and adventure is continuing on as I am traveling to Florence, Italy, to study abroad for six weeks this summer. Very tough life I have, I know. However, this is my first time going overseas, so I am pretty nervous. I am flying out on Minnesota to Amsterdam and then into Florence. Praying my bag will make it there safe and sound. I'm sure it will be a little bit of a culture shock at first, but it is also a trip of a lifetime! I can't wait to see what adventures will come!!

By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Redemption won't be on the mind of the Penn State women's hockey team this weekend, at least not in the conventional sense. 

For the second year in a row, Penn State will take on Syracuse in the second round of the CHA playoffs. Last year, Syracuse knocked Penn State out with a 2-0 shutout victory. This season, Penn State is once again poised to clash with the Orange and although redemption isn't on the minds of the Nittany Lions, the drive to win is at an all time high. 

"Obviously we want to win," Shannon Yoxheimer said. "I don't know if redemption is the right word because we have put that loss behind us, but we definitely want to improve on our result from last year." 

Penn State is fresh off a series sweep of the RIT Tigers, who won the CHA playoffs last season as the sixth seed. The sweep has admittedly given Penn State a lot of momentum and also a lot of valuable experience. 

"That last game was pretty tight down the stretch," senior Jordan Pardoski said. "I think it gave us good experience to compete in that kind of situation and it will definitely prepare us for our upcoming game." 

The game will take place at the Harbor Center in Buffalo, New York. The Harbor Center is a new venue for CHA women's hockey and as Josh Brandwene explained, an exciting and fantastic location to spread the brand of women's hockey.

"I think the venue, from our perspective, is really exciting," Brandwene said. "Buffalo is a great hockey town. Were going to have great crowds and its going to be a great atmosphere. I think it's a great stage for our league to be on with how competitive it is."

The competition in the CHA is fierce no doubt and Syracuse is one of the high-powered opponents that Penn State is able to see regularly. The Orange boast three of the top five scorers in the CHA conference, so Brandwene said the focus on defense is a must for his squad.

"Team defense is always something that is very important," Brandwene said. "To put it very simply, team defense wins championships."

Despite Syracuse's skill, Penn State feels that they can combat them with the team speed that they have demonstrated all season. That speed was evident against RIT as Penn State was able to control neutral ice and both zones because of their skating ability.

"They work very hard and they are really good team no doubt," Yoxheimer said. "What I've noticed is that they don't like it when we come at them with speed so we just have to focus on that and skate harder than they do." 

Even though it is a new opponent and a new series, there are a lot of building blocks that Penn State can use from last weekends matchup to aid a strong performance this weekend. Brandwene says that the team played very well against RIT and therefore there are a lot of positive takeaways as well. 

"I was really happy with our decision making at both blue lines," Brandwene said. "We did a great job capitalizing on chances and burying them and those are things that we can use this week as well."

For Penn State, there is only one game separating them from the CHA finals. Much like last year, the stakes are high and the opponent is the same, all that needs to be different from a Penn State perspective is the final outcome. 

"We definitely want to come out with that win," Yoxheimer said. "I think the ultimate goal obviously is to do everything we can."

Puck drop is set for 3:30 p.m. on Friday as the Nittany Lions will try to make it to their first ever CHA playoff finals. 

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the second year in a row, the Penn State women's hockey team swept their way through the first round of the CHA playoffs.

The team swept two-time defending champion RIT with a 2-0 win on Friday and a 3-2 thriller on Saturday. Both games got off to a strong start for the Nittany Lions; two of their best opening periods of the season.

"I was very happy with our start on Friday," said head coach Josh Brandwene. "I was even happier with our start today, in some aspects it was better and it was great to get that goal from Laura Bowman to start us off."

Bowman netted her 15th and 16th goals of the season in the series, tying her own program record set last season. Also, with her goal on Saturday, she became Penn State's sole leader in goals scored in her career, with 42. Captain and senior Shannon Yoxheimer then netted her 42nd goal of her career as well, late in the second period to tie Bowman for the program lead.

"I have to give all the credit to my line-mates," said Bowman. "Amy [Petersen] has been my line-mate for almost 10 years and she has always been so good at setting me up. [Hannah] Bramm has been awesome this year as well, she is kind of the perfect third piece to our line, so it's really been a lot of work from them to get me to where I am."

For Yoxheimer, her unassisted goal was her eighth of the season, tying her at the top as her and Bowman now share the all-time goals scored title for this young program.

"It feels good to just contribute and to be able to be a part of this program and help it grow like it has, it's a nice feeling," Yoxheimer said.

Brandwene also had high remarks for both players who have been intricate in Penn State's success as a program.

"They are just consummate team players and competitors," said Brandwene. "I can tell you for sure that the thing on their mind is the W today and they are all about team success."

Penn State put together two solid nights of play, starting with a win Friday behind yet another stellar goaltending performance from Celine Whitlinger. Whitlinger, who ranks top 10 in the nation in both goals against average and save percentage, stopped all 20 shots she faced en route to a shutout. 

"The game started kind of slow for me," said Whitlinger who only faced two shots in the first period. "I like having more work as a goalie so when they started throwing more shots on net it was fun for me to be able to step up and help my team out."

In game two, the squad turned to Hannah Ehresmann in net. Ehresmann was backed by a strong start, which featured three goals in the first period and a half. In the third RIT came out firing, netting two early goals before Penn State called a timeout. After the timeout, the Nittany Lions settled in and got into a great rhythm to finish the game and earn the series sweep.

"Thrilled with our response after the timeout," said Brandwene. "Credit to RIT, that's a world class program there and they showed a lot of fight. Any time you can knock off the two time defending CHA champions, it's a pretty nice feeling."

Penn State is now set for another semi-final showdown against the Syracuse Orange. Syracuse defeated Penn State 2-0 last year in the semifinals to end the Nittany Lion's season. The rivalry has accelerated rapidly over the past two seasons as eight of the last nine meetings with the Orange have been decided by one goal or less.

"It's always competitive and always entertaining," said Brandwene of the match up. "We can't wait to get after it, it's going to be a lot of fun."

That CHA semi-final contest will take place this upcoming Friday, at Harbor Center in Buffalo, New York.

 

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Playoff hockey is different. Ask anyone involved with the game of hockey and they will agree with that statement.

After a hard fought come from behind 2-2 tie last Saturday at Mercyhurst, Penn State earned a College Hockey America (CHA) conference third place regular season finish - its highest in program history.  This season will also mark the second year in a row that Penn State will host the first round of the CHA playoffs at Pegula Ice Arena.

"We've been saying for a while that there is nothing better than playoff hockey," said captain Shannon Yoxheimer. "To be able to play at home as well is a really big deal for us too. Knowing that the senior week series wasn't our last home game is nice and it is always exciting to have one more series here." 

The team is even more excited after the performance that they put forth against Mercyhurst, a team that is 14-4-3 in CHA conference play. Despite a loss Friday, the 2-2 tie on Saturday showed just how much this team has grown and improved since the calendar has turned to 2016.

"I think it was one of our best team games overall," said Laura Bowman. "We stuck with each other in that second game. One of the things were working on before the playoffs is stopping in front of the net so we can get those second chance opportunities."

Only a day separates the Penn State women's hockey team from their first game of the best of three against RIT. However, a lot separates regular season play from the postseason, as Yoxheimer and Bowman know well. 

"I think it's just the excitement of the playoffs," said Yoxheimer. "When it comes to this time of the year, it is an all out overall battle. During the season it is a battle but it is even more of a fight during the playoffs."

For head coach Josh Brandwene, he said he was very pleased with the grit that the Penn State team showed during their trip to Mercyhurst. As Bowman said, the Nittany Lions were skating hard and battling for every loose puck. Brandwene says that the type of grittiness that Penn State exhibited in the matchup this past weekend is exactly the kind of fight that they need heading into the playoffs.

"Grit with a capital G during the playoffs," said Brandwene. "It's something that this team has demonstrated all year and it's something that we have gotten better and better at as well. When it comes down to it, this is one resilient group."

Despite the added emotions of the playoffs and also the added game in the now best of three series, Penn State is keeping the mentality of one game at a time heading into Friday's matchup against RIT. For the seniors on the team, this is a matchup that they have now been in 20 times since they came to Penn State. With all that familiarity, there are no secrets between the two teams.

Bowman said, "If we can play our game and skate as well as we do, I have confidence that we can win. We are just focused on Friday."

Friday marks the start of the playoffs, not just another game. Although it may seem like it, being played by the same teams on the same sheet of ice, there is always something different about playoff hockey.

"If you think about it, logically nothing changes," said Brandwene. "At the same time, it's the most fun time of the year. Playoffs in any sport are exciting and the atmosphere you have in playoff hockey, nothing can compare to it."

Game one of the best of three series kicks off at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night. Game two is set for 2:00 p.m. on Saturday and if necessary game three will be Sunday at 2:00 p.m. 

Penn State Athletics THON 2016 Coverage

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IMG_9032.JPGUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Athletics was heavily involved with the 44th IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) held at the Bryce Jordan Center over the weekend.

THON's 708 dancers began standing at 6 p.m. on Friday and did not sit down or sleep until Sunday at 4 p.m. to raise awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer in the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Since 1977, THON has partnered with The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital with one goal in mind: conquering childhood cancer. To date, more than $136 million has been raised by THON. THON revealed a fundraising total of more than $9.7 million for 2016 with 96 percent of THON's all-time funds being donated directly to Four Diamonds. 

Each year, more than 15,000 Penn State student volunteers dedicate their time to THON, making it the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Members of Penn State's Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) were active participants in THON, and led run several fund-raising activities once again this year including sending solicitation letters to friends and family and a lip sync competition. In addition to generating financial support for THON, SAAB also provides emotional support to its THON children, Isabella Messina and Colton Buckley, and their families throughout the year.


Four Penn State student-athletes are represented SAAB as dancers in THON 2016: Liisi Vink-Lainas (Wynantskill, N.Y.) and Angela Widlacki (Naperville, Ill.) of women's soccer, Emily Rivers (Washington, D.C.) from women's tennis and Matt Zanellato (Burke, Va.) from football.

"This means the world to us. As athletes you are given a platform that a normal student might not have," said Zanellato. "It's one of those things that when you come in as a freshman, you know that you will have that platform for a few years. I wanted to make the most of it. I realized that THON was something special to me when I came to Penn State. I wanted to use my platform as best I could."

Additionally, Angela Connors and Jessica Spellman from the Lionettes squad and from Penn State cheerleading Kenny Fuhrman, Paige Gentry, Jordan Hinkle, Kylie Tobasco and Mike White danced in THON.

Within Penn State Athletics, strategic communications student assistants Emily Hesidence and Kate Brandell were also among the dancers at THON, as well.


Check out the GoPSUsports.com extensive coverage from THON 2016 weekend.


Friday - 6 p.m. - THON 2016 Begins
The 46-hour dance marathon kicked off at 6 p.m. on Friday evening when the 708 dancers stood. They will remain on their feet until Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m.

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Saturday - 9:30 a.m. - Student-Athlete Interviews
With Bryce Jordan Center buzzing with energy during the 16th hour of THON 2016, GoPSUsports.com spent some time with student-athletes and THON dancers Liisi Vink-Lainas  and Angela Widlacki of women's soccer, Emily Rivers, from women's tennis and Matt Zanellato from football. Representing Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB), the group is thrilled to carry the Penn State Athletics banner as dancers in the 2016 THON. Take a look at some of their remarks from the floor at the BJC.



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Saturday - 2 p.m. - Football Hosts THON Explorers Event
Approximately 40 members of the Nittany Lion football team welcomed approximately 30 THON Four Diamonds children and their families to a special event inside the Lasch Football Building on Saturday afternoon as part of the THON Explorers program.

The THON event in Lasch is circled on the calendar for the Nittany Lions every year. The THON families gathered inside the home of Penn State football to take photos, get autographs, participate in athletic stations, tour the facility with the Nittany Lions, eat ice cream from the Penn State Creamery and take a group photo.

The Nittany Lions formed a high-five tunnel for the families upon entry into the building before the student-athletes took the families around the football facility. Take a look at the THON Explorers event at the Lasch Football Complex on Saturday.

Football THON Explorers Event



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Saturday - 6 p.m. - Student-Athletes Participate in Athlete Hour
Athletes from several teams on campus spent times with the THON Four Diamonds children inside the IM during athlete hour on Saturday.  Here are a few snapshots and video highlights from the event.

Athlete Hour Photo Gallery



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Saturday - 11 p.m. - Football Wins Pep Rally Dance Competition
One of the THON highlights every year comes on Saturday night when the teams of Penn State Athletics hop on stage and compete in a dancing competition during the annual pep rally. In all, 12 different teams competed in the 2016 version of the dance-off.

The pep rally included a speech from former Nittany Lion football great Devon Still and his daughter Leah.

As for the dance competition, the football team claimed top honors in the men's side of the action, while the reigning national champion women's soccer team took top honors on the women's side. The two teams then battled in a dance off, with the football team earning the bragging rights as the 2016 THON Pep Rally dancing champion.

We have highlights of every team dancing on Saturday night at THON. 

THON 2016 Pep Rally Photo Gallery



9185732.jpegTHON 2016 Pep Rally Full Dances
Football (Men's & Overall Champion) 
Women's Soccer (Women's Champion)
Men's Fencing
Men's Golf
Men's Gymnastics
Men's Hockey
Men's Rugby
Men's Soccer
Men's Tennis
Men's Volleyball
Field Hockey
Women's Golf
Women's Gymnastics
Women's Hockey
Women's Rugby
Women's Volleyball

Sunday - 11:30 a.m. - VIDEO: Coach Franklin Addresses THON 2016
Head coach James Franklin took the stage of THON 2016 on Sunday morning to urge the dancers on in the final hours of the 46-hour dance marathon.  Franklin's message epitomized what THON's mission has been since it started in 1977.

"This is special. What you guys do is what Penn State is ultimately all about," said Coach Franklin.

Take a look at his full remarks.

James Franklin at THON 2016 Photo Gallery



4:14 p.m. - THON 2016 Raises $9.7 Million
For the second-straight year, THON's fundraising efforts raised more than $9.7 million. The grand total for THON in 2016 was  $9,770,332.32 for fight against pediatric cancer.  Congratulations to everyone involved in THON 2016.  Here is a look at the reveal from Rec Hall prior to Penn State wrestling's bout against Oklahoma State. The Nittany Lion faithful in Rec Hall let out a big cheer as the total was unveiled.

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VIDEO: THON 2016 Pep Rally - Women's Hockey

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Goalie is arguably the most important position on a hockey team. For the Penn State Nittany Lions they have had a brick wall in net, in the form of Celine Whitlinger.

Whitlinger is part of the original group of Nittany Lions who have been with the team since it first started playing, four years ago. Whitlinger has steadily climbed her way through the ranks and the last two seasons has been a prominent figure in the net for a Penn State team that has stifled teams defensively. Whitlinger has been, and continues to be, a big part of that team defensive effort.

"We are all growing, individually and as a team," said Whitlinger. "Personally, Courtney [Drennen] has helped a lot with her coaching perspective both on and off the ice." 

Whitlinger hails from Garden Grove, California. She made the long journey to Penn State unsure of what the hockey program would hold, largely because there was still no program at the time she was being recruited, it was still an idea. Now, four years later, that same program and Whitlinger have grown leaps and bounds as they continue to assert themselves in the national spotlight.

When head coach Josh Brandwene recruited Whitlinger, he noticed the first thing that many people notice when they watch Whitlinger between the pipes for the Nittany Lions, how athletic she is, especially moving laterally.

"She has always been an incredibly athletic and thinking goaltender and you could see that in her ability back during her high school days," said Brandwene. "She is just tremendously successful, she always is competing for pucks and is very technically sound. If you put that combination together you are going to be very successful at the college level."

Whitlinger has indeed had success at the college level, but success can only come with growth at the higher levels of competition and growth is certainly something that Whitlinger has shown and exuded in her time at Penn State.

"She has grown tremendously," said Brandwene. "She has gotten better and better in her time here in every aspect of the game and it has helped her really succeed." 

For Whitlinger, she credits a lot of her success to assistant coach Courtney Drennen. 

"I think I have grown a lot," said Whitlinger. "Being a goalie, it is a very mental position and I think that Courtney has helped coach me and I have improved a lot in the mental aspect of the position." 

This season, Whitlinger is poised to set career highs in both goals against average and save percentage. With the playoffs just two games away, Whitlinger has a 1.55 goals against average and a .945 save percentage. In other words, her numbers are remarkable when it comes to goaltending norms. Brandwene attributes this outstanding season to all the hard work that Whitlinger puts in.

"She puts in the hard work," said Brandwene. "She deserves credit for everything that she is doing in puck stopping and she has great support around her. The d-core and the shot blocking forwards have been fantastic and we just continue to get better overall."

For Whitlinger, the senior goaltender does not want the season or her time here at Penn State to end. However, when it inevitably does, she will not only be remembered as one of the pioneers of Penn State hockey, but also as a consistent presence between the pipes for the Nittany Lions. 

"I think she will be remembered most for consistently competing and consistently improving," said Brandwene. 

The Nittany Lions are set to square off against Mercyhurst in a two game road swing to close out the regular season slate. Game one is set for 6 p.m. on Friday and game two for 1 p.m. on Saturday.

 

Seniors Shine on Home Ice

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was almost a storybook ending on home ice for the senior class that has led the Penn State women's hockey team since their inception as a program.

Despite a 23-15 shot advantage, Penn State fell to Lindenwood 1-0 in the final game of the series but did manage to put together a dominant 3-0 performance the night before to continue their strong play and send their seniors out with a hard fought split on home ice. For Penn State, the win on Friday marked their 10th of the season. Despite the loss Saturday, head coach Josh Brandwene was still pleased with the overall effort and praised his senior class for all they have done for Penn State as a whole.

"I am certainly very proud, and continue to be proud of this senior class for all of that they continue to accomplish and do for this program both on and off the ice," Brandwene said. "One of the things we've talked about in the locker room is the amazing job that they do representing Penn State in the work that they do."

That work that Penn State puts in, that is exemplified by the seniors and passed down through the ranks, is much more than just a work ethic on the ice. That grinding, hard-working mentality extends off the ice as well and Brandwene said he is equally, if not more proud for all that work.

"They work tremendously hard in the community, the classroom and I commend them for the tone that they have set in our program," Brandwene said.

The program has taken great strides through the careers of these seniors and Friday night was a great send off to a few of the main contributors who have been a part of the Penn State hockey family since day one.

Shannon Yoxheimer had two goals for the Nittany Lions. The senior is one of the team's leading scorers and has elevated her game down the stretch, propelling Penn State to a strong run in the last couple of weeks. Another senior who has had an equally influential impact is Celine Whitlinger and she was once again on her game Friday. Whitlinger stopped 23 shots for her sixth career shutout.

After the game Friday, Brandwene praised the hard working mentality that Penn State brought to the ice and that they regularly bring to every competition. 

"It was just a really solid business-like effort from us tonight," Brandwene said. "I'm very proud of our performance on both sides of the puck."

Six seniors were honored on Friday night from the class of 12, while the other six were honored on Saturday afternoon. For Yoxheimer and Whitlinger, they honored the school they have called home for the past four years the best way they could, with tremendous efforts on Friday. 

"It was pretty cool," Whitlinger said on her shutout. "It was special to be able to do that but it was also a total team effort." 

Even with all that was going on this weekend with the senior festivities and the possible emotions that came in to play, the mentality for Penn State's seniors was still the same, take care of business.

"This weekend is a very special weekend with it being senior weekend," said Yoxheimer. "For us it's just all about going out and competing every time we play but this was definitely really special for us."

Penn State will have one more regular season series against Mercyhurst next weekend before the beginning of the CHA playoffs. The Nittany Lions and their seniors are vocal that they don't want the season to end anytime soon. 

"We didn't want this to be our last home series," said Whitlinger. "I don't think we thought about that, we hope to be back here for the playoffs." 

Game one against Mercyhurst is set for 6 p.m. on Friday and game two is set for 1 p.m. Saturday.

 

 
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