Taylor Gross Looks to Lead Women's Hockey Team
Oct. 3, 2012
By Sean Flanery, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- In the inaugural season of Penn State women's hockey, the Nittany Lions will look to junior forward Taylor Gross (Colorado Springs, Colo.) for both leadership and experience.
The Colorado Springs, Colo., native was named captain for the team's inaugural season. Nittany Lion head coach Josh Brandwene attributed Gross' experience as a main reason for her selection as team captain.
"The perfect blend of experience at the division one level and experience as a Penn State student athlete from last spring joining us mid-season," said Brandwene. "She's just a great leader, a great mentor and has that perfect combination of the division one experience and experience as a Penn State student athlete."
The Nittany Lion roster currently has three transfer players. Gross, along with junior goalie Nicole Paniccia and junior forward Jenna Welch transferred from The University of Connecticut. Gross is the only one of the three that joined the Penn State women's club team midway through the 2011-12 season and familiarized herself with the University for a semester.
"I wanted to come to Penn State because of their academic reputation, their environment surrounding athletics and basically their overall school spirit," said Gross. "It was something I thought would be cool to be a part of."
While Gross has the experience of the typical Division I captain, she also possesses the skill. In her first season with the Huskies, Gross tallied 23 total points, 12 goals and 11 assists, and was named team "Rookie of the Year" for the 2010-11 season.
Despite earning rookie of the year honors for the Huskies, Gross still strives to better herself as a player and teammate.
"Even though I was rookie of the year, I have always wanted to get better not just to get awards, but being able to be a contributor on my team," said Gross. "It made me work harder."
This isn't the first go-around for Gross as a team leader. The 5-foot-1 forward served as assistant captain for her 19U club team, Colorado Select. While with the club team, Gross recorded 80 points in only 38 games.
As this young Nittany Lion group, including 17 freshmen, takes the ice they will most certainly look to Gross for leadership as well as production on the ice. Coach Brandwene speaks highly of Gross' abilities on the ice as a complete player.
"Tremendously skilled player," said Brandwene. "Just incredibly savvy, great vision, great shot, great play making skills, blocks shots, plays great at both ends of the ice, and just so lucky to have her here in our program."
Gross would agree with coach Brandwene when it comes to her abilities, and she doesn't mind the extra emphasis of being relied on as a playmaker.
"I hope so," said Gross. "I would consider myself a playmaker, so I think I do well at getting the puck to open people. Being able to see the ice is my biggest thing and making plays. So I really hope that I'm relied on."
While offense will be a main point of focus for the youthful lions, Gross believes the defensive side of the puck is where the Nittany Lions' offense will stem from.
"First we all have to play good team defense," said Gross. "Then I think if our main goal is to play good team defense, we will get good chances on offense."
The Nittany Lions will open their inaugural season away from Happy Valley with a weekend road trip to Vermont. Gross said the team is really buying into the current systems head coach Brandwene has been introducing in practice.
"I think the whole team is doing a really good job," said Gross. "They're definitely putting 100 percent into practice every single day and not just physically, but also mentally trying to learn the systems. Everybody is doing a really good job of that."
The team has been practicing since Sept. 22 and anticipation for the team's first game this Saturday at Vermont is only building.
"I'm so excited, I love roadies," said Gross. "Being able to be with your team and the bus ride is like eight hours, so its eight hours of bonding. It's just a lot of fun."
While the team looks forward to its first road trip and coming together as a team, Gross will look to lead by example for the young Nittany Lions. Gross said at the end of the season she won't focus on individual games. She wants to be able to look back and see total team improvement.
"I want to be able to look back and say that we constantly improved," said Gross. "Even though we played great one game, I want to say that we got better all of the time. Just constantly improving."