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BLOG: Fall Sports Media Day in Review

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While the Penn State Fall Sports season may have kicked off with women's soccer in action last week, Nittany Lion fans got a unique perspective from the annual athletics Fall Sports Media Day.

Coaches and student-athletes from seven different Penn State programs set to compete this fall met with members of the media to talk 2016 and their expectations for the upcoming year.

Check out some highlights and links to videos, transcripts and extra coverage from today's event. 

Women's Soccer
Penn State women's soccer head coach Erica Dambach guided the Nittany Lions to its first NCAA National Championship last year. With a 1-0-1 start to the 2016 campaign having tied sixth-ranked West Virginia before beating Hofstra 3-1 last weekend, the No. 2 Nittany Lions are poised to continue their success.

As defending national champions, Dambach addressed her thoughts on how the competition might approach Penn State differently than last year. 

"We'll we certainly earned the right to have a target on our back and we've got to embrace that. I think this team has done a nice job of embracing that role," Dambach said. "We all know what it feels like to go out on a Friday night against defending National Champions. Everybody thrives in that environment, everybody gets excited. They get up for those games and we feel that." 

Press conference video
Periscope session with Nickolette Driesse

BLOG: Williams, Reserves Key In Hofstra Win

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUsports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  The damp and dreary weather cleared up just in time for Penn State women's soccer to secure the first victory of the 2016-17 Penn State sports season. The No. 2 Nittany Lions defeated Hofstra, 3-1 to complete their season opening weekend with a 1-0-1 mark. 

The scene was much different than Friday's record-setting atmosphere, where 5,791 fans watched the Nittany Lions battle to a 1-1 draw against sixth-ranked West Virginia on a picturesque evening in Happy Valley.  

With heavy rain all throughout the afternoon, the ominous clouds did dissolve in time for Penn State's 2:30 p.m. kick at home in Jeffrey Field

Things did not immediately look pleasant for the Nittany Lions as Hofstra took an early 1-0 lead less than 10 minutes in off a corner kick opportunity.

"We looked pretty sharp early on and then started to die off and had a huge impact from our reserves," head coach Erica Dambach said. "They are kind of the story that I would take out of the day, as well as Charlotte Williams, obviously. I thought our reserves were the difference in this match."

Among the stellar play from Nittany Lion reserves, lets talk about sophomore Charlotte Williams first.

Williams, who powered the team with her first career multi-goal outing, scored twice in the first half to help the Nittany Lions out of an early deficit.

With Penn State trailing the Pride 1-0, Williams found the back of the net in the 24th minute, following up a shot that hit the post with a rebound for her first goal of the season.

Seizing another opportunity, Williams scored again in the 39th minute off a set piece from nearly 20 yards out following a red card assessed to Hofstra's Rhian Cleverly.

Prior to the go-ahead goal, Williams was dialed in and ready to make the most of the chance, saying she knew where she wanted to put the ball and all that was left was to follow through.

"Today was a display of what Charlotte is capable of doing and we have felt it over the past year and now she's starting to finally believe it," Dambach said.  "She's someone who is creative as can be and she can create changes on her own -  and today she put a few in the back of the net."

Now on to just a few of the key reserves. 

With the Nittany Lions leading 2-1, redshirt junior Salina Williford placed her first goal of the season and sixth of her career in the left side of the goal past the Hofstra goalkeeper in the 84th minute to give Penn State a 3-1 advantage. Freshman reserve Laura Suero earned an assist on the goal, marking her first career point.

Following her first collegiate goal in the opener against West Virginia, freshman Laura Freigang also finished the afternoon with a career-high six shots.

After the Williford goal, the Nittany Lions did not look back, holding on to the lead to secure their first win of the 2016 campaign.

"There were a lot of positives that came out of today," Dambach said. "I think the biggest was the impact that the bench had on the play with the energy and their movement. Obviously there's fatigue from Friday night - there was a lot of excitement, but those guys came off the bench and gave us a huge lift and that's what you want from your reserves."

While excited to have led the team with a pair of goals, Williams was also quick to point out the bench impact.  

"We came from a big game on Friday playing against West Virginia with a huge presence in the stands to a game that's not as high energy from the crowds," Williams said. "But I thought that we brought it and then a lot of players who came off the bench brought a huge boost and I think that's how - it took everybody to respond."

No. 2 Penn State women's soccer remains home next week, welcoming No. 16 BYU to Jeffrey Field for a 7 p.m. matchup under the lights Friday, Aug. 26.

Among other fall teams competing on Friday night, Penn State field hockey opens its 2016 season at home at 6 p.m. against Old Dominion, while the Nittany Lion women's volleyball team kicks off 2016 against West Virginia at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall. 

BLOG: Freigang Makes Immediate Impact

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State women's soccer true freshman Laura Freigang arrived just in time to lead the second-ranked Nittany Lions to a 1-1 draw in the 2016 season opener against West Virginia Friday evening at Jeffrey Field.

Making her collegiate debut in the Blue and White, Freigang entered the match at 30:47, stepping on to Jeffrey Field for the first time in front of a record-setting crowd of 5,791 fans in attendance.

Remaining in the game at the start of the second half, it was Freigang who netted her first collegiate goal just 10:10 into the second frame to break open a tied score (0-0).

Curving just enough after her release, Freigang's shot bounced off the left post and into the goal past West Virginia keeper Rylee Foster to give the Nittany Lions at 1-0 lead.

"I was pretty lucky to be honest," Freigang said. "It [the ball] took a curve to the left and just hit the post. That was pretty close, but I'm lucky."

Prior to her impressive Nittany Lion debut, Freigang had been in the United States for less than a week, having arrived in Happy Valley on Monday, Aug. 15.

Freigang's arrival to Penn State was delayed by the Union of European Football Association (UEFA) Women's Under-19 Championship, where she was playing with the women's German Under-19 team.

Traveling from Europe to University Park was no easy task though, as she had just a few days to meet her teammates and prepare to open the season against the sixth-ranked Mountaineers.

"The transition was pretty crazy at first because there was long travel and I had a bit of jetlag for a few days," Freigang said.

Jetlag and significant travel time presented no reason to be concerned, as the Oppenheim, Germany native mentioned that she's now arrived and feeling fine, having made an immediate impact for the Nittany Lion offense.  

"I feel very welcomed and I think we have a great team," Freigang said. "I think we played a good game, we just didn't finish like we should have."

The Nittany Lions looked to hold on to the lead following Freigang's goal, but West Virginia struck back with the equalizer at 76:59. With several opportunities in regulation and a pair of overtime periods, Penn State could not convert on its opportunities seeing its season opener end in a draw.

The future is bright for Freigang though, who will return with the rest of the No. 2 Nittany Lions to take on Hofstra Sunday, Aug. 21 at 2:30 p.m. in Jeffrey Field.

"Obviously with Laura's international experience and playing with the German national team, she brings a wealth of experience," head coach Erica Dambach said. "And you could see, she stepped in there and it's as if she had been with us for months and months."

"I think she's going to find herself in a couple different positions for us and play a good role for us," Dambach added. We're going to ask her to continue doing what she did tonight."

Check out Freigang's first collegiate goal below. 

Defending National Champions Set for 2016

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUsports.com 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While some might believe the faint sound of the Penn State Blue Band practicing well into the evening signifies the start of fall, those who know Nittany Lion athletics know that it's the bright lights of Jeffrey Field that mean fall has officially arrived at Penn State.

Those lights will illuminate Park Avenue Friday, Aug. 19 as No. 2 Penn State women's soccer kicks off its 2016 campaign against sixth-ranked West Virginia at home in Jeffrey Field. Fresh off their first NCAA national championship in program history, the Nittany Lions return ready to defend their title with 10th year head coach Erica Dambach at the helm of the program.

Prior to Friday's opener, the Nittany Lions, who went 22-3-2 last year, will raise an NCAA championship banner and unveil a new championship tarp on the stands, welcoming Penn State women's soccer alums from around the nation.

We caught up with Coach Dambach and captains Brittany Basinger and Nickolette Driesse to talk 2016, the season opener and of course, Jeffrey Field.

In the meantime, here's five things to know before making your way out to Jeffrey Field to see Penn State women's soccer open the 2016 season. 

1.     Continuing the Culture
Coach Dambach mentioned that a key to the 2015 NCAA title, even with all the talent on the roster, was having the right culture. This year the focus is all about keeping with the foundation of a family environment to continue building championship culture.

2.     A Familiar Foe
The top-10 meeting between second-ranked Penn State and No. 6 West Virginia is not the first time the two teams have met. In fact, it's the 15th time in program history and the first time since the Nittany Lions knocked the Mountaineers out of the 2015 NCAA Tournament quarterfinals to advance to the College Cup. 

3.     Tough Competition
Four of five non-conference opponents on deck are teams that made the 2015 NCAA Tournament. After the Mountaineer matchup, the Nittany Lions will regroup and play Hofstra at home Sunday, Aug. 21. The Pride advanced to the NCAA Tournament Second Round just a year ago, having also played Penn State in its 2015 season opener. 

4.     There's No Place Like Home
Senior captain Nickolette Driesse says Jeffrey Field is like no other place in the world, echoing Dambach who added that there is no better feeling than walking through the tunnel on gameday. With a 215-24-10 all-time record at Jeffrey Field, the Nittany Lions tied a program-best mark with 14 home wins in 2015.

5.     Speaking of Jeffrey Field ...
Penn State women's soccer drew some of it's largest home crowds in 2015, helped out by the Park Avenue Army, the official Nittany Lion women's soccer supporter's club. Flags, chants and face paint means you can't miss this enthusiastic group that attends all home games and even a few on the road. Check them out or give them a follow on Twitter @ParkAvenueArmy. 

VIDEO: Athletes Volunteer at 2016 Special Olympics Pennsylvania Summer Games

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - More than 2,000 athletes from across Pennsylvania are on Penn State's campus this weekend to participate in the 2016 Special Olympics Summer Games.

The Opening Ceremonies took place on Thursday inside Pegula Ice Arena, kicking off a weekend of competition. Student-athletes from a host of Penn State teams will volunteer at the Summer Games over the weekend.

Members of eight Penn State teams greeted the Olympians as they entered Pegula Ice Arena on Thursday evening, taking photos and cheering them on in anticipation of the Summer Games.

Take a look through some photos and video of Penn State athletes volunteering at the Summer Games.

Photo Gallery: Special Olympics Opening Ceremony





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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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GoPSUTony

VIDEO: THON 2016 Pep Rally - Women's Soccer

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The national champion Nittany Lion women's soccer team earned the women's team title at the THON 2016 pep rally inside a packed Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday night. Take a look at the team's winning dance.

VIDEO: 2015 Women's Soccer National Champions

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Celebrate with the 2015 Penn State Nittany Lion national championship team on a special day at WakeMed Soccer Park.





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Seniors Seize the Moment to Bring Penn State First Title

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By Tony Mancuso & Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
CARY, N.C. - The Penn State women's soccer team (22-3-2) is atop the collegiate soccer world after defeating Duke (14-6-5), 1-0, Sunday afternoon to capture its first national championship in program history.


Sunday's triumph at WakeMed Soccer Park also marked the first ever College Cup victory by a Big Ten university.

"Congratulations to all the NCAA and the town of Cary for the environment that you've created today for these student athletes," said head coach Erica Walsh. "Obviously they feel like they have been treated like royalty as they deserve, they worked hard for it. We are really appreciative of everything that you've done to make women's soccer at this level treated in the fashion that they deserve. I thought it was a wonderful event."

Early on in the match, both teams found opportunities to score, but each group went into the locker room at halftime looking for ways to generate better looks the goal. Penn State outshot Duke, 6-4, in the first 45 minutes.

The Blue and White came out firing in the second frame, however. Penn State sent five shots at Duke goalkeeper E.J Proctor in the span of four minutes early in the half, putting great pressure on the Blue Devil defense.

After the offensive barrage, the game slowed down and neither team formulated a shot until the 72nd minute. It was then that Penn State broke the seal.

Mallory Weber received the ball on the right side and made her way to the box. Weber methodically sized up her defender, made a swift move to her left and sent a low cross to the middle of the box. The ball sliced through the Duke back line and found Raquel "Rocky" Rodriguez on the opposite side of the goal.

With a quick side step, the Costa Rican World Cup star gained space between her defender and finished far side with her left foot to give Penn State a lead it would not let go.

"This is what I was dreaming about, to score in the final, and it is the most important thing right now," Rodriguez said. "The World Cup was great but right now was all I was thinking of and I could not be more happy or grateful. It is another dream come true. Those dreams aren't more or less they are all special and that's why they are dreams."

It was only fitting that two senior captains combined for Penn State's historic game-winning goal on a day where the third senior notched a shutout in goal.


Rodriguez led Penn State with three shots and two on goal in the match. Her and fellow senior captain Weber were responsible for five of Penn State's 11 shots in the game. The third captain, goalie Britt Eckerstrom, totaled one save and recorded the 23rd shutout of her career.

"The shutout is absolutely not all me it is the whole team," said Eckerstrom. "Starting from the top and working our way down. Frannie [Crouse] and Megan [Ritchey] and Mallory [Weber] have put in to win the ball higher up on the field and then just our back line is spectacular. Those guys put in tackle after tackle and block after block and making really awesome one-on-one blocks. It was a total team effort."

The senior trio capped off their unrivaled careers with their greatest accomplishment to date, giving Penn State its coveted first national title in women's soccer.

"During the game I was thinking about that first (championship) game (in 2012) actually and all I could think of was I don't want that to happen again," said Rodriguez. "Not today, and we still had the opportunity to fight for it and all I could think of was that. I think it fueled us and it was just in the back of my mind."

"We have worked for four years for this and to go out on this note and be the first team to win a National Championship and be that senior class it is indescribable," Weber said. "It is just such a great thing and such a high right now."

The Nittany Lions finished off a remarkable 2015 campaign with 11-straight victories down the stretch, including shutouts in the final eight matches. The Nittany Lions outscored their opponents 20-0 in the NCAA Tournament.

Since allowing two goals to Loyola Marymount in the second game of the year, Penn State went the last 22 consecutive matches without conceding more than one goal. Eckerstrom capped off her best season in blue and white in fitting fashion, as she recorded her 11th shutout of the year. Her 0.47 goals allowed average is the best of her career.

"I thought she was absolutely the best goalkeeper in the nation this year and she showed it week in and week out," said Walsh. "Obviously to win a national championship it becomes all about consistency and she made the big saves but more importantly she drove this team and made them great."

The 2015 seniors finish an unparalleled four years that should land this group atop the list of the most accomplished classes in Penn State women's soccer history.

And this group etched its place in Penn State lore as the first to claim a national championship.

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VIDEO: Women's Soccer National Championship Interviews

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CARY, N.C. - The Nittany Lions are atop the women's soccer world following a 1-0 victory over Duke on a sun-splashed afternoon at WakeMed Soccer Park. The Lions capped off a tremendous tournament run thanks to a goal from senior Raquel Rodriguez and an eighth-straight shutout to end the season. Hear from head coach Erica Walsh and the team's 2015 captains following the program's first national championship.




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