Jan. 17, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 49 Nittany Lions begin their spring season with three matches over the weekend at Penn State Indoor Center. They'll host a doubleheader on Saturday with their season opener against Cleveland State at 9:30 a.m. followed by Bucknell at 2 p.m. Penn State will have a quick turnaround as they close out the weekend against Navy on Sunday at 2 p.m.
There will be free pizza for all fans in attendance at the matches on Saturday and Sunday.
RAISE THE BANNERS
In between the Cleveland State and Bucknell matches we will have a short ceremony honoring the success of the team and specific individuals who were honored by the NCAA and ITA Atlantic Region. The ceremony will begin at 1:40 p.m. During the ceremony we will present the new banners that will hang above the courts honoring these individuals. Following the banner ceremony we will introduce the 2013-2014 team before leading into the national anthem and starting lineups for the match with Bucknell.
NEW FACES, SAME TEAM
The Nittany Lions added five freshmen to the roster for the second consecutive year. This year's additions led by Samantha Tutelman (New York, N.Y.) and Taylor Shukow (Boca Raton, Fla.), both rated nationally by TennisRecruiting.net, add more youth and depth to a Penn State squad that lost two seniors from last year's team. The Lions return eight players including six that saw action last spring. Seniors Marie-Frederique Bedard (Montreal, Canada), Carmen Sandor (Toronto, Canada) and Chelsea Utting (Peachtree City, Ga.) lead the Nittany Lions with a combined 108 singles victories and 99 doubles victories over the past three seasons. The sophomores also provide solid experience to this year's team with three having played last season as freshman including a 20-win season by Devan McCluskey (Phoenix, Ariz.) and 16 wins from Jacqueline Zuhse (Boca Raton, Fla.).
LAST TIME OUT
The Nittany Lions competed in four tournaments during the fall season including trips back to Midland, Texas for the Racquet Club Invitational and Philadelphia for the Cissie Leary Invitational. Bedard brought home the back draw championship in her singles flight and teamed with Sandor to win the back draw in their doubles flight on the final day in Philadelphia. Utting was named an alternate for the ITA/Riviera All-American Championships but did not compete in the event. The Nittany Lions finished the fall an even .500 in both singles (25-25) and doubles (10-10) play.
IN THE RANKINGS
In the first ITA Poll of the spring released on January 2, Penn State came in at No. 49. The team enters the season one spot higher than where they began last season. Last season the squad peaked at No. 30 in the team poll. No individual Nittany Lions made the season's first rankings, nationally or regionally.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
The Nittany Lions' schedule includes 13 opponents ranked in the current ITA Top 75, seven of which are Big Ten opponents. Penn State's first match against a ranked team will come on January 25 when they visit No. 19 Baylor.
SCOUTING CLEVELAND STATE
The Vikings also kick of their spring season on Saturday. In the fall, the freshmen led the way with Victoria Bensimon leading the team in singles wins with eight, and Princess Gbadamosi right behind her with seven. Cleveland State also features a trio of seniors including Kara Sherwood and Alex Power who enter the season ranked 7th and 10th all-time in Vikings history with 58 and 52 career singles victories, respectively. The team returns five players in all from last season's team that finished third in the Horizon League.
PENN STATE-CLEVELAND STATE SERIES HISTORY
The Nittany Lions have only met Cleveland State on the court once before with the Nittany Lions winning the match back in the spring of 1986.
The Bison are led by senior Elena Vidrascu who enters the season ranked 11th all-time in team history with 92 total victories. Sophomore Maria Cioffi led the Bison in the fall with a team-high eight singles victories and ten doubles victories. The Bison feature a talented group of freshman, two of which are tied with Cioffi for the team-lead in singles wins. Bucknell finished the fall with a 53-25 record in singles and 27-11 record in doubles.
PENN STATE-BUCKNELL SERIES HISTORY
The Nittany Lions are perfect 14-0 all-time against Bucknell with their most recent victory coming in 2011 when they won 7-0. In that match they swept all nine matches against their in-state opponents.
Navy enters the season, only the program's sixth, led by seniors Erin Snook and Darien Sears who hold the top two spots in the team's record books for singles victories as well as the third and fourth spots for career doubles victories. The team returns six letterwinners from last season's 25-5 team that finished second in the Patriot League. In their short history, Navy has advanced to the Patriot League Finals three times and sports an 80-22 (.784) all-time record. In the fall, Sears led the team with eight singles victories while Snook and Sam Droop led the team in doubles play with five victories a piece. The Mids roster is deep with talent containing five freshman and seven sophomores to go along with two juniors and two seniors.
PENN STATE-NAVY SERIES HISTORY
This will be the first meeting between these two programs. Although the two programs have never met, two current Nittany Lions have squared off against Mids in singles play at the ITA Atlantic Regional Championship. Last season Jacqueline Zuhse topped Erin Snook and this past fall Katherine Whiteaway (Sawbridgeworth, England) knocked off Sam Droop. The Nittany Lions hold an impressive 42-5 all-time record against other Patriot League schools.
The Nittany Lions will head out on the road for the first time this season when they travel to Waco, Texas next Saturday, January 25, to face the nation's 19th-ranked Baylor Bears. The match is set for 7 p.m.
COME CHECK US OUT!