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VIDEO: Meet the Newcomers - Part I

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Meet the Newcomers - Part II

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com sits down with four of the Nittany Lion women's volleyball newcomers in the first of a two-part series. No. 1 Penn State opens its 2014 season on Aug. 29 against TCU inside Rec Hall.




Barbour Eager to Lead Penn State Athletics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

 


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

Looking Back at the Top Events from 2013-'14

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

2014 Coaches Caravan - Pegula Ice Arena Kick-Off Event

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VIDEO: Kick-Off Event Press Conference | Photo Gallery: State College

2014 Coaches Caravan Registration

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the first time in its three-year history, the Penn State Coaches Caravan kicked off on Thursday evening with an event on the University Park campus.

Before a crowd of more than 425 enthusiastic Penn State fans and alums, head coaches James Franklin, Bob Warming and Russ Rose headlined the opening night of the 17-stop Coaches Caravan that will take place throughout the month of May.

9976484.jpeg"It means a lot to our players to play in a town where everyone is extremely supportive of them," Franklin said of the hometown crowd.

The evening opened with an hour-long reception where Franklin, Rose, Warming and Nittany Lion basketball coach Patrick Chambers, along with football assistant coaches Bob Shoop, Brent Pry, Josh Gattis and Charles Huff, mingled with the attendees.

The program portion of the event took place on the ice inside Pegula Ice Arena, the sparkling home of Penn State Hockey.  Warming, who led the Nittany Lion men's soccer team to its second-straight Big Ten title and NCAA Tournament berth in the fall, took the microphone first.  While describing the location of his office and the elite company he is around inside Rec Hall, Warming kept things light.

"The first door you come to is Russ Rose (in my hallway)...the next door on my hallway is Cael Sanderson...the next doorway down is Erica Walsh...And then there is me," joked Warming.

Warming discussed the principles his program lives by - Recruit. Develop. Retain. Graduate.

"Its never about the coach...It's about the student-athlete," Warming said.  "It's always about helping them achieve their dreams.  It's always about helping them achieve their goals and become educated men to help our society."

When Warming sat down, Rose was introduced to a standing ovation from the State College crowd.  Fresh off leading the Nittany Lion women's volleyball team to its fifth national championship in seven years, Rose received a rousing cheer from the hometown crowd.

"We are coming off a great season.  It's incredible to be in a position to win a national championship," Rose said.

Always quick-witted, it took Rose no more than 10 seconds to have the Pegula Ice Arena crowd roaring with laughter.  A 35-year veteran as a Penn State head coach, Rose has an undying passion for the University.  Each time he speaks, Rose's feelings for Penn State are pure.  He believes in the success of the University, its student-athletes and the head coaches leading the 31 teams on campus.

"I've been here for 35 years...we've got some of the finest coaches in the country," Rose said.  "Our coaching staff across the board right now is unbelievable."

Rose's remarks transitioned into the newest member of the Penn State coaching family.  Franklin has been on the job for just shy of four months.  After signing a strong recruiting class in February, the newest leader of Penn State Football led the Nittany Lions through a productive spring practice period.  In his time at Penn State, one thing has stood out to Franklin since day one.

"The thing that makes Penn State special...it's about the people," Franklin said.  "The support we get is unreal."

Franklin is thrilled to get out on the road during May to meet Penn State fans from all corners of the state and region.  Since he took the job, Franklin has talked about how proud he is to be the head coach of the Nittany Lions.  His words were genuine in every sense on Thursday night in Pegula.

"For a lot of people, this is a job," Franklin said.  "This is personal for me.  This means the world to me.  For a guy growing up in the state of Pennsylvania to come back and be the head football coach at Penn State is unbelievably special."

Working to build an elite program on and off the field, the top items on Franklin's list for a successful Penn State football program include graduating every player, winning games and impacting the region and state in a positive way.  With a tireless approach to every facet of the day-to-day operation, Franklin and the football staff will work to make the fan base proud each and every day he is on the job, which he hopes is a long time.

"I love that the expectation here is for the head coach to be here for 80 years," Franklin joked.

The Caravan will hit the road on Tuesday to begin the first travel week.  Sold out crowds in York (lunch) and Hershey (dinner reception) will greet Franklin, Warming, Coquese Washington and Erica Walsh on Tuesday.


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VIDEO: Coaches Caravan Press Conference - State College

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2014 Coaches Caravan kicked off inside Pegula Ice Arena on Thursday.  Take a look at the event's press conference featuring head football coach James Franklin, head men's soccer coach Bob Warming and head women's volleyball coach Russ Rose.





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Penn State Athletics THON 2014 Coverage

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Athletics was heavily involved with the 42nd IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) held at the Bryce Jordan Center this weekend.

A record 711 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.  THON raised a record of more than $13.3 million in 2014.  To date, more than $110 million has been raised by THON.

Several Penn State student-athletes danced in the annual dance marathon.  Representing the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) will be Maggie Harding from women's volleyball, Natalie Buttinger from field hockey, Erin Kehoe from women's soccer and Christian Kaschak from men's soccer.


Additionally, Nicole Williams and Elise Potter from the Lionettes squad and Eugene Bodden, Kali Fleckenstein, Carrie Tedesco and Ally Zimmerman from Penn State cheerleading danced in THON.

Several teams and coaches played an active role in THON events throughout the weekend, in addition to squads participating in Saturday's annual pep rally and team dance competition.

We would also like to congratulate Penn State Athletic Communications student assistant Rachel Steinberg, as she danced over the weekend, in addition to the several student assistants actively involved with THON.

Take a look through our THON weekend updates on the involvement Penn State Athletics. To donate to THON, please visit THON.org.


Friday Coverage:

3:30 p.m. - Feature: Student-Athletes Set to Dance for Pediatric Cancer

Click here to read a feature on the student-athletes participating in THON 2014 - Feature Story


6 p.m. - THON 2014 Begins
The 711 dancers took their feet at 6 p.m. before an energetic crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center to begin 46-straight hours on their feet.

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11 p.m. - Interview on the Floor
GoPSUsports.com talked with women's volleyball senior Maggie Harding on the floor about her experience during THON.


Saturday Coverage:

3 p.m. - Student-Athletes Host Make-A-Wish Families
Several teams hosted THON Make-A-Wish families on Saturday afternoon as part of the THON 2014 festivities.

More than 50 members of the Nittany Lion football team welcomed nearly 40 THON Make-A-Wish children and their families to a special tour of the Lasch Football Building on Saturday afternoon.

The Make-A-Wish event 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, tour the facility with the Nittany Lions, eat ice cream from the Penn State Creamery and take a group photo.

Head coach James Franklin greeted the group when it arrived at the facility tour before senior Miles Dieffenbach and sophomore Akeel Lynch led families on tours.  Take a look at the Make-A-Wish event at the Lasch Football Complex on Saturday.

Photo Gallery - THON Make-A-Wish Football Event



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5 p.m. - Student-Athletes Participate in Athlete Hour
Athletes from several teams on campus spent times with the THON Four Diamonds children inside the Bryce Jordan Center during athlete hour on Saturday.  Take a look.




9:45 p.m. - VIDEO: Pep Rally Dance Competition Highlights
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 2014 version of the dance-off.

With resounding approval from a packed house in the Bryce Jordan Center, the Nittany Lion men's swimming team was named champion of the team dancing competition for the second-straight year.  We have highlights of every team dancing on Saturday night at THON. 

Photo Gallery - THON 2014 Pep Rally



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Team Dances
Men's Swimming (Champions) - Full Dance
Football - Full Dance
Men's Basketball - Full Dance
Women's Volleyball - Full Dance
Men's Gymnastics - Full Dance
Women's Tennis - Full Dance
Field Hockey - Full Dance
Fencing - Full Dance
Men's Soccer - Full Dance
Women's Lacrosse - Full Dance
Women's Soccer - Full Dance
Women's Golf - Full Dance


11:05 p.m. - Student-Athlete Dancer Interviews: Hour 30
GoPSUsports.com talks with THON 2014 dancers Natalie Buttinger (field hockey) and Erin Kehoe (women's soccer) during the 30th hour of their 46-hour quest at THON.



Sunday Coverage:

12:55 p.m. - VIDEO: Coach Franklin Addresses THON 2014

Head coach James Franklin took the stage at THON on Sunday afternoon, urging the dancers to continuing working hard in their final push at the 46-hour marathon.  Franklin spoke before a capacity crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center.  Take a look.



 
4:11 p.m. - THON 2014 Raises Record $13.3 Million
THON 2014 reached new heights on Sunday afternoon when it was revealed that this year's efforts raised $13,343,517.33 for fight against pediatric cancer.  Congratulations to everyone involved in THON 2014.  Here is a look at the reveal on the Rec Hall video board following Sunday's Penn State wrestling victory over Clarion.

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VIDEO: Women's Volleyball THON 2014 Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Watch members of the 2013 NCAA champion Nittany Lion women's volleyball team show off their dance moves at the THON 2014 Pep Rally.




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Feature: Student-Athletes Set to Dance for Pediatric Cancer

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By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This weekend the Penn State community will once again come together at the Bryce Jordan Center and stand in support of the fight against pediatric cancer at the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON).

The dance marathon, better known as THON, is a 46 hours no-sitting, no-sleeping event held every February where over 1,500 Penn State students will come together to try and give children and families fighting a battle with pediatric cancer the best weekend of their lives.

9729889.jpegSince 1977, when THON partnered with the Four Diamonds Fund at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center, it has raised over of $101 million to benefit the fight against childhood cancer.

In 2013, the dance marathon raised $12.3 million, the highest total to date.

THON is one of the most prime examples of Penn State tradition and excellence and it requires hard-working, dedicated individuals to carry on the legacy.

Few things represent tradition quite like Penn State student-athletes who day in and out put in hours of work and service to represent the resiliency and honor of Penn State Athletics.

They dedicate just as much time to the community as they do to their sport through charities, camps, and organizations like The Student Athletic Advisory Board (SAAB).

This year, four student-athletes will represent SAAB on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center as dancers: senior Erin Kehoe of women's soccer, senior Maggie Harding of women's volleyball, sophomore Christian Kaschak of men's soccer, and redshirt junior Natalie Buttinger of field hockey.

Due to their heavy time commitments to academics and the athletic department, being a student-athlete and a dancer is a very difficult task to achieve. SAAB dancers must raise a minimum of $2,000 to be considered for a dancer position.

"I had to call friends and families from everywhere to help me raise money," said Kehoe. "Because of our season, it is difficult for us to be involved in committees and organizations so the fact that Penn State has allowed us to be a part of this is incredible," said Kehoe.

"I'm a senior so I am done with work outs and that's why I am able to be a part of this now," said Harding. "This is my one opportunity."

Luckily, coaches and teammate are supportive and understanding of the athletes' participation.

"Coaches have been very supportive. They allow you a week off and as many days as needed to rest and recover," said Kehoe. "They understand THON and even if you're not a dancer, [they know that] the team as a whole has a huge role in THON with athlete hour and the pep rally."

Their teammates, who, for Kehoe and Harding, have become like family, also play a huge role in the morale of the dancers. Both athletes agree that their teammates are one of their best support systems.

"They are always there for me," said Kehoe. "They know how to bring me up and keep me going."

Throughout the weekend, student-athletes play a significant role in the celebration and in the lives of the Four Diamonds families. They participate in a pep rally and an "athlete hour" on Saturday where they spend quality time with the children and their families.

"We are lucky enough to have interactions with the kids during athlete hour," said Kehoe. "We get to do arts and crafts and play soccer and football with whatever families show up."

"[Athlete hour] is an absolute blast. It's also great because it's one of the few teams that the team comes together to do something other than volleyball," said Harding. "We want to give them a weekend that they can just forget about everything and live it up."

Student-athletes are tremendous role models and inspirations for the children but what many people don't realize is THON and Athlete Hour are just as inspiring for the hosts as it is for the participants.

"Being a part of this is indescribable. It makes me feel very honored that they look up to us and want to hang out with us," said Harding. "Just because we are athletes they want to spend time with us and they love us. It's incredible."

"It was so amazing to interact with babies and young kids...and relating my childhood to theirs. I can't imagine going through what they are going through and how strong they are," said Kehoe. "It puts me to shame. All my little things that I think are so hard...they do so much more and have to go through so much more."

This weekend will be an unforgettable one for every individual participating in THON. There will be laughter and sadness and, undoubtedly, colossal amount of joy.

SAAB and the entire athletic department will be well represented on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center with a total of 10 student-athlete, dance team and cheerleader dancers standing For the Glory, For the Honor, and, most importantly, For the Kids.

"I would like to thank every single person that puts time and effort into THON and everyone that makes this possible," said Harding. "The support from everyone for the dancers is great, but it's not about me or us. It's about making [the kids'] lives better, at least for the weekend,"

"We talk about One Team but this is what it's really all about. This is what being One Team really means."

NIttany Lion Women's Volleyball Sets the Standard

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VIDEO: 2013 National Champions

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Two days have passed since the 3-1 victory over Wisconsin at KeyArena in Seattle, but the image of Deja McClendon burying the championship-clinching kill and ensuing celebration will never get old.

McClendon's final point as a Nittany Lion solidified Penn State's fifth national championship in the last seven years and a record-tying sixth NCAA title overall.

9564139.jpegThe list of accomplishments for five-time AVCA Head Coach of the Year Russ Rose and the program is truly astonishing.  In addition to five national titles in the past seven seasons, the Nittany Lions have gone 36-2 in the postseason since the 2007 season.  The program's cumulative record since the start of 2007 is 234-20, which includes a string of 109-straight match wins from September of 2007 to September of 2010.

All five national championships in the past seven years have a unique story. 
The first came in Sacramento after a five-set battle with Stanford.  The '08 crown featured an epic semifinal clash with Nebraska in Omaha during an undefeated season in which Penn State lost just two individual sets.  The 2009 season's national title match victory over Texas may go down as the single greatest match in Penn State history, which also capped off an undefeated season.  The '10 title came with a senior class - Blair Brown, Alyssa D'Errico and Arielle Wilson - that graduated with four national championship rings.

That brings us to 2013.

After an injury to setter Micha Hancock in the 2012 NCAA semifinals hindered the Lions in a 3-1 setback to Oregon, Penn State entered the season hungry to get back to the national semifinals.

The Nittany Lions opened the season with victories over Syracuse and Louisville before dropping a five-set match at Texas in the Nike Big Four Tournament.  The Lions won the final seven non-conference matches of the season before opening Big Ten play against Michigan State on Sept. 27 in Rec Hall.

The Spartans took a 2-0 lead in the Big Ten opener.  Penn State answered with two-straight set victories to send the match into a fifth.  But the Spartans prevailed, handing the Nittany Lions just their fourth loss in Rec Hall during Big Ten play in the past 10 years.

The season turned on that night, though.

"I didn't think we wouldn't be able to win the national championship because of that match, but that a lot of them needed to look at why they were unable to play their best at a key time at home against a really good opponent," Rose said.

9564143.jpegOne night later, the Lions powered past Michigan with a 3-1 victory.  They never looked back from there.  Penn State won 19-straight matches to close out the regular season en route to winning its 10th Big Ten title in the last 11 seasons.

The season closed in a strong fashion.  Rallying from one set down in front of a sold out crowd at Nebraska, the Lions stormed to a 3-1 victory in Lincoln.  Winning on the road in a tough environment sent Penn State into the postseason with a great deal of confidence.

Wins over a LIU Brooklyn and Utah opened Penn State's 32nd-straight NCAA Tournament appearance.  The Lions and Stanford remain the only two teams to have played in every postseason since the tournament began in 1981.

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

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

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

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

9564147.jpegSaturday night's national title match, the Lions' ninth all-time appearance in the final, was next.  Facing off against Wisconsin in the first all Big Ten national final, Penn State jumped out to a hard fought 2-0 lead before the Badgers rallied to make it 2-1.

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

In six NCAA Tournament matches this season, the Nittany Lions dropped just four total sets.  And the end result sent the team to a red eye charter flight home on Saturday night with a championship trophy bound for Rec Hall.

NCAA women's volleyball is an ultra-competitive sport at the Division I level.  Winning one national championship is a remarkable accomplishment, let alone five in seven seasons.

With that in mind, the 2013 senior class will leave Happy Valley with two national titles.  And what makes this year's team so unique is that the Lions got so many contributions from so many different players.  Sure, senior starters Ariel Scott, Deja McClendon and Katie Slay played a central role in leading the Lions to the title, but it was a collective effort from everyone on the roster and staff.

The string of success Penn State Women's Volleyball has achieved since 2007 has raised the bar for expectations.  Everyone in the volleyball world expects the Nittany Lions to win.  But that's what makes Rose such a master at leading the program.

The outside world expects Penn State to compete for the national title every season.  But Rose just works to get the most out of his players so that they are at their best in December.  Sure, there is a bit of fortune involved in a national title run in any sport, but it is no coincidence the Nittany Lions win on the biggest stage.

9564149.jpeg"I want to win every game we play," Rose said.  "So you want to get into situations where you can compete for a national championship.  I thought we had a team last year that could have won it.  We finished second numerous times that I thought we should have won it.   So we work hard.  Everybody works hard.  It's not lucky that you get yourself into this situation and you have to really appreciate it."

Rose doesn't like to compare national titles.  He looks at each team as a unique group.  But in his eyes, the titles are not about him, they are about the players on the floor.


"They're for those individuals on that team that they'll have the rest of their life to look back on the journey that existed and the hard parts that existed with it because I don't want it to be easy.  I want it to be hard," said Rose.

The players on the 2013 roster watched Megan Hodge, Christa Harmotto, Nicole Fawcett and Alisha Glass set the stage for a dominant run through the college volleyball world when they were in high school.  When they signed to play at Penn State, they didn't feel pressure to win national titles, they just wanted to carry on the tradition of excellence.

"I think it's more just of a tradition, and that's why we came here," said junior Dominique Gonzalez.  "We were getting recruited right around that time Coach was talking about, all those great players who came through the program, and they just left a great mark for us, and we just want to follow in their footsteps."

"You watched those girls when we were younger playing final fours and winning national championships," Scott added.  "And when you're a volleyball player, that's what you strive to do.  You want to go to the best programs and play and be the best player you can be."

With a strong corps of talent returning in 2014 and a superb recruiting class coming into the program, the future is very bright for Penn State women's volleyball.

For now, though, the Lions are setting the standard for success as they celebrate a fifth national championship in seven seasons.



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

VIDEO: NCAA Championship Post-Match Press Conference

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VIDEO: 2013 National Champions


SEATTLE - Head coach Russ Rose, senior Ariel Scott and juniors Micha Hancock and Dominique Gonzalez address the media after Penn State won its sixth NCAA championship with a 3-1 win over Wisconsin on Saturday.




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