Before they join the Nittany Lions next season, Penn State recruits and Springfield High School seniors Austin Kaut and Brendan Nave are finishing up their high school careers in the Pennsylvania AAAA District 1 playoffs.
After leading the Springfield to an undefeated regular season championship in the Central League, one of Pennsylvania's elite public school leagues and earning a No. 1 seed in the highly competivie District 1 playoffs, the two standout recruits have taken the Cougars to the semi-finals after picking up an 7-6 win on Saturday over No. 8 seed Hatboro-Horsham.
Kaut (pictured at right) was named the Central League Player of the Year this season, along with First-Team All League honors. Nave (pictured at left) also picked up First-Team All League laurels. The two have led Springfield to numerous top-five rankings in the state, as well as national recognition from LaxPower and ESPN RISE.
I was able to see the Cougars' quarterfinal match up against Hatboro-Horsham on Saturday and took a few notes on Kaut and Nave:
- Heart - Kaut plays with plenty of emotion. He's the backbone of the Springfield defense and when he's on, so is the rest of the defensive unit. A few saves in a row will get him fired up and psyched to stop more shots. However, a few goals allowed or defensive lapses in a row, and he you can see the frustration build in his body language. He's very intense and makes the big plays at the right time. Against Hatboro Horsham, Kaut made two of his 12 saves of the game in the final 30 seconds of the game, including a 1-on-1 opportunity right on the crease.
- Communication - Even from the top row of the grandstands, I could hear everything Kaut was saying to his defense. He barks out signals and orders to his defense and keeps his teammates focused and on top of its assignments. This kind of communication is something that not all goalies do, and really helps Kaut stand out among his competition.
- Size - Quite simply, Nave is one big kid. He stands tall among opposing attackmen and has a physical presence that can't be taught. His long wingspan causes plenty of trouble for offenses, as he can harass attackmen with vicious poke checks all day long.
- Quickness - Despite his size, Nave can still move very quickly. He rarely gets beat 1-on-1 and stays right along side shifty attackmen. He has the ability to stay in close to the cage when needed, and also jump out get right up in the faces of opposing attackmen before they can even catch a pass.
Also in attendance for the Cougars' game on Saturday was Penn State assistant coach and defense coordinator Travis Johnson. I spoke with coach Johnson about the Lions' two highly touted recruits and the strengths they'll bring to Happy Valley next season. Here's what he had to say:
On Kaut: "I think Kaut brings his stopper mentality and a fire that you'd like to have...he's got a lot of confidence in what's happening. He's been a starter here for a number of years and feels pretty good about it. Obviously they've have had a pretty good year here so far and he's a senior and trying to finish up with a state championship. I'm sure this will be a wake up call for them and hopefully he'll be able to get after his teammates a little bit for the rest of the playoffs."
On Nave: "Nave brings in a big, tall, lefty defenseman and we don't have a lefty defenseman so those are somethings we're looking forward to for next year. He's a big kid. He's 6-foot-4, closing in on 6-foot-5. He's a bit lanky and rangy right now but probably in the fall, getting in the weight room and doing all that stuff will be huge for him with getting his strength and so forth. But if you can have a defenseman that can move and stay with some guys because primarily we don't slide to attackmen, so if you can have a guy handle his man 1-on-1, that makes life a lot easier for you. Being a lefty, if you're guarding those right-handed guys, you're stength-on-strength which is nice to have."
Kaut and Nave will wait until Tuesday to take on the No. 5 seed Garnet Valley in the semi-finals of the District 1 playoffs.
The NCAA Division I Softball championship bracket was released Sunday night, and the Nittany Lions (29-22, 8-11 Big Ten) were not one of 34 teams to garner an at-large bid in the 64-team tournament.
Michigan (46-6, 18-1) -- which automatically qualified with the best regular-season conference record -- Illinois (43-6, 16-2) and Ohio State (37-12, 16-2) are the only schools that will represent the Big Ten in the tournament. All three teams swept Penn State, which finished seventh in the conference, in the regular season.
The top 16 teams were seeded and will compete at their home sites for the regional portion of the tournament, which starts Friday. The Wolverines were seeded No. 2 overall, while Illinois and Ohio State were not seeded. Comments
Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn talked to six college players who enrolled in the draft early, one of whom was Penn State's Talor Battle.
Winn also talked to Purdue's JaJuan Johnson (returning), Xavier's Jordan Crawford (leaving), BYU's Jimmer Fredette (returning), New Mexico's Darington Hobson (leaving) and Morehead State's Kenneth Faried (returning).
"After I declared, my coaches contacted the NBA [Stu Jackson's committee] to get information, and what I was told was that teams didn't have me on their draft boards. They said they talked to 16 teams, and none had me on their draft boards. I also had a phone conversation with [Bobcats coach] Larry Brown, just about the NBA and what it takes to be successful there.
"It was tough to do anything beyond that, because of the new situation this year. I was looking forward to going around the country and trying to impress multiple teams, but I was only able to do one workout -- for Portland, and it was on the last day before you could pull yourself out of the draft. So it was almost pointless [to have declared], to be honest with you. I think it would be better to go back to the old system [in which the deadline was mid-June].
"Most of the guys who were out in Portland with me, it was their only workout too, so they weren't able to get a real feeling about whether they could stay in the draft or not. Malcolm Delaney from Virginia Tech was there, so was Lavoy Allen from Temple and Mike Davis from Illinois. We did 1-on-1 stuff, 3-on-3. Afterward, they told you your strengths and weaknesses and were pretty straightforward about it on a professional level; they said I needed to get bigger, work on my ball handling and that it was in my best interests to go back to school."
Fresh off a six-game losing streak, Penn State (28-22, 7-11 Big Ten) hopes to end the 2010 regular season with two victories at Indiana this weekend. The two-game series starts at 4 p.m. Friday and concludes 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Nittany Lions have lost four consecutive conference games, two each against Northwestern (25-21, 10-6) and Ohio State (35-12, 14-2). However, both the Wildcats and the Buckeyes sit among the top four in the Big Ten standings, while the Hoosiers (12-35, 4-13) sit ninth. Penn State owns the seventh-best conference record, but could jump
Purdue (27-27, 8-10) with a sweep in Bloomington.
Indiana is coming off a split with the Boilermakers in West Lafayette, and has lost eight of its last nine contests, all against Big Ten foes.
Penn State has won 10 of its last 15 against Indiana, but the Hoosiers have the edge in the series dating back to 1977 with 41 wins to the Lions' 25. The teams split last year at Nittany Lion Field with Indiana taking the first game, 4-3, before Penn State run-ruled the Hoosiers 9-1 in six innings.
Here is the statistical breakdown between the 2010 versions of both Penn State and Indiana, with the Lions playing three more games than the Hoosiers:
Runs scored per game: Penn State, 4.02 to 2.81
Batting Average: Penn State, .263 to .241
Extra-Base Hits: Penn State, 83 to 68
Home Runs: Penn State, 24 to 19
ERA: Penn State, 2.74 to 4.73
Hits allowed: Penn State, 275 to 352
Strikeouts: Penn State, 373 to 178
Walks: Penn State, 123 to 126
Seeing that Penn State leads Indiana in all of the above statistical categories, and owns a better Big Ten record than the Hoosiers, a sweep in Bloomington to close out the 2010 regular season is certainly doable for the Lions.
Penn State will play Maryland, the 2009-10 co-champions of the Atlantic Coast Conference, in this season's Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Dec. 1 at the Bryce Jordan Center, according to a press release.
The Big Ten won the event for the first time in 11 years last season, winning six out of the 11 games played. The Nittany Lions became the first team from the Big Ten to win three consecutive games in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge last season, defeating Virginia 69-66 in Charlottesville, Va. In 2008, the Lions beat Georgia Tech, 85-83, and in 2007, they beat Virginia Tech 66-61 at the BJC.
Here's a look at the other games scheduled to be played in the 2010 Big Ten/ACC Challenge (times and television coverage will be announced later):
The season is officially over, and we'll be laying off the blog posts for a little while. But first, we're going to look back at the season one more time. So, without further adieu, here are the 2010 Above the Net awards:
Eric:Dennis Del Valle
Watching Del Valle play in the NCAAs, you could make the argument he is the best libero in the country. A perfect pass leads to a perfect set which leads to a kill. It all starts with Del Valle.
He was Mr. Consistency all season long -- the constant that glued this team together. Lipsitz, Penn State's lone representative on the AVCA's first team All-American squad, was simply outstanding in his senior season. He led the nation in hitting percentage and provided a physical net presence when the Lions needed it most.
Breakout player of the year
He was ATN's breakout player last year as well. At the end of this season, he broke out even more. He started to play more consistent and should be ready for a big season next year as the "go-to" guy.
The man behind the offense. Goas was steady and dynamic throughout the season, serving as the quarterback to a team that boasted the fourth-best hitting percentage in the nation. And all of this happened in just his second year as a starter. After a mediocre rookie season, many questioned how Goas would handle the big stage. He handled it just fine. This season, Goas established himself as one of the top setters in the nation, leaving the Lions plenty to be excited about for the next two years.
Eric: Jay Hosack
Hosack came in and quickly changed the culture and mindset of the team. PSU's domination of Cal State Northridge in the semifinals proved the Lions were prepared, and it showed a team that had bought into a new philosophy and learned the value of preparation.
Emily: Alan Mars
Start the season as an opposite hitter? Check. Take a back seat as All-American Will Price switches to your position? Check. Make the switch to middle hitter? Check. Be patient as you learn to settle into your new position? Check. Anything the Lions asked of Mars this season, he did. No questions asked. He was the ultimate team player who put in the time and got the job done -- with little fanfare. Though Mars' dedication didn't always translate to the stat sheet, his devotion and hard work were integral to Penn State's success this year.
Next year's breakout player
Eric: Tom Comfort
Comfort showed his potential against Hawaii back in January, and then he quickly cooled off. When Will Price was moved to his position, Comfort was given the opportunity to train behind a star, which is what Comfort will become by the end of next season.
Emily: Scott Kegerreis
The Lions' lone redshirt for the 2010 season is poised for an excellent career at Penn State. The young outside hitter -- whose father, Chuck, was an All-American middle hitter for the Lions in the early '80s -- spent the year developing and bulking up his wiry 6-foot-6 frame. And when Penn State loses the offensive production of Lipsitz and Will Price next year, the team will need somebody besides Sunder to step up. Kegerreis will be that guy.
Next year's MVP
Eric:Dennis Del Valle
See comments for this season's MVP. And he'll be even better next year.
Emily: Dennis Del Valle
Del Valle has already made his mark as one of the top liberos in the country. It's almost scary to think about how good he can be next year -- with three years of experience as a starter.
Eric: Edgardo Goas vs CSUN in the NCAA semifinals
The on paper MVP's for that match? Will Price and Joe Sunder. That's because of Goas. On the biggest stage, Goas set a perfect game keeping the Matadors guessing. He set Price only one more time than Sunder and they each responded with 18 kills and above .333 hitting. Goas led an offense that hit .355 on the biggest stage.
Emily:The Penn State coaching staff vs CSUN in the NCAA semifinals
The first time these two teams met didn't go Penn State's way -- at all. On April 10, the Lions were lifeless and swept by the Matadors in Northridge, Calif. The next time they met? Different story. Penn State returned the favor by upsetting Cal State Northridge in the NCAA semifinals. The difference was the scouting report. Assistant coaches Hosack and Colin McMillan -- along with manager Chris Birch -- did an excellent job collecting and analyzing video on the Matadors. And the Lions absorbed the information. "I think this is the best prepared we've been in a long time for a match," Lipsitz said after the three-set win. "We really just knew what to expect from them, from every one of their hitters."
Before we wrap it all up, here's a few interesting tidbits from this week's NCAA tournament.
1. Much has been said about the stellar performance Cardinal Brad Lawson put up in the championship match. The 6-foot-7 outside hitter was simply outstanding, posting 24 kills on .821 hitting with just one attack error. But Lawson's talents aren't limited to the volleyball court. He's also a performer. Lawson, a computer science major, has sung the national anthem before a number of Stanford women's volleyball and basketball games and even had a part in his high school's production of "High School Musical." Check out Lawson singing a special tribute to long-time Cardinal assistant coach Al Rodrigues, who passed away earlier this year:
2. Standing on the Nittany Lion sideline of this weekend's tournament was a not-so-familiar face to casual volleyball fans -- Jason Ambrose. That's because Ambrose's time at Penn State didn't go exactly as planned. The 6-foot-5 outside hitter came to Happy Valley in 2006 as a pretty big recruit out of Barrington, Ill. But, in his four-year career as a Lion, he's seen very little playing time. In fact, he rarely travels with the team to away matches. But, in Ambrose's last opportunity to wear a Penn State uniform, coach Mark Pavlik decided to have the senior travel with the team to Palo Alto, Calif. He took the place of either freshman Ian Hendries -- who was a starter for a good portion of the season -- or junior Brad McCoy. Here's Pavlik on why he made that decision:
"You can bring 14 players to the NCAAs and we needed some guys to pass in practice. And you know, Jason. He's a senior. He's put in his time. In four years he's done everything we have asked him to do, but didn't get much opportunity to get on the court. Bringing him this weekend was just something we could do for him."
3. Something to be noted: seven players on the Cardinal roster -- including four starters -- are natives of Hawaii. Two of those are Erik and Kawika Shoji, whose father, Dave, is the legendary volleyball coach for the University of Hawaii's women's team.
It Was Over When...: The Cardinal closed out the first set on a 12-7 run. The Nittany Lions were hanging with top-ranked Stanford early on. But, once the Cardinal began to create separation and secured the first-set win, they were on cruise control for the rest of the night. And No. 12 Penn State just couldn't keep up.
Player of the Match: The best player on the court had perhaps the best single-match performance in men's volleyball tournament history. And that was Cardinal Brad Lawson. On blistering .821 hitting, the 6-foot-7 outside hitter tallied 24 kills with just one attack error. The Lions -- who were initially focused on shutting down senior Evan Romero -- made several adjustments throughout the match to try and contain Lawson's hot hand. "We tried everything," Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said. "And it just didn't matter."
Stat of the Match: .495 - Stanford's hitting percentage throughout the match. Offensively, the Cardinal were so dominant that not even Dennis Del Valle's digs or a Max Lipsitz-led block could keep the Lions in it.
Surprise of the Match: Lipsitz had only 20 swings. With Penn State struggling a bit offensively, it would only be logical for setter Edgardo Goas to distribute the ball to the Lions' All-American, captain Lipsitz. But the 6-foot-7 middle -- who led the nation in hitting percentage this season -- was only set 20 times and finished the night with just 10 kills.
Quotable: "There's nothing I can really say except good job to them." - Will Price
The Nittany Lions recently held their end of the year picnic and handed out six individual awards. Let's take a look at the results:
The Nick Thiel Award (Most Improved) - Freshman goalie Dave Baker - After Baker's performance in the Lions' season opener against Robert Morris, nobody could have foreseen the season the freshman would end up having. Baker got the start against Robert Morris but lasted only 13:35, giving up 11 goals without any saves. But the freshman came on strong over the course of the year, finishing the season with an 11.56 goals against average, 116 saves and a .481 save percentage.
The Andrew Lockhart Award (Top Defender) - Junior Matt Bernier - Entering the year as an incumbent starter, Bernier did exactly what was expected of him coming into the season. Despite suffering a right knee injury against Towson, forcing him to miss the Lions' last game against Delaware, Bernier started every game on defense. The junior collected 23 groundballs on the year and added a goal as well.
The George Pittenger Award (Most Valuable Senior) and the Groundball Award - Senior midfielder Charley Henneghan - As Penn State's top faceoff man, Henneghan took home both awards in his final season as a Lion. The senior midfielder won 90 of his 150 faceoffs for the CAA's top percentage, .600. Henneghan also led the Lions in groundballs, scooping up 47 on the year.
The Friends of Penn State Lacrosse Team MVP Award and the Top Scorer Award - Sophomore attackman Matt Mackrides - Last year Mackrides was named the ECAC Rookie of the Year. Naturally, expectations were high coming into this year. But the sophomore raised the bar once again. Mackrides led the Lions with 44 points off a team-high 36 goals and eight assists. His 2.77 goals per game average was second in the CAA as well.
In a recent vote among the six coaches of the CAA, the league's postseason awards and all-conference teams were announced. Penn State had six players make the various All-CAA teams. Senior midfielder Charley Henneghan and sophomore attackman Matt Mackrides each earned first-team honors, while senior midfielder Chris Hogan, freshman attackman/midfielder Nick Dolik and junior defenseman Matt Bernier were all named to the second team. Also earning All-Rookie Team honors were Dolik and freshman attackman Billy Gribbin. Here's a full list of the teams:
Jay Card, Hofstra A Jr. Caledon, Ontario/The Hill Academy
Curtis Dickson, Delaware A Sr. Port Coquitlam, British Columbia/Riverside
Matthew Mackrides, Penn State A So. Newtown Square, Pa./Malvern Prep
Martin Cahill, Delaware M Sr. Malden, Mass./The Governor's Academy
Will Harrington, Towson M Sr. Baltimore, Md./Friends School
Brad Loizeaux, Hofstra M So. Mullica Hill, N.J./The Tatnall School
Christian Pastirik, Towson M Sr. Annapolis, Md./St. Mary's
Frank Tufano, Drexel LSM So. Hauppauge, N.Y./Hauppauge
Charley Henneghan, Penn State FO Spec. Sr. Beverly Hills, Mich./Brother Rice
Diogo Godoi, Massachusetts D Sr. Loudon, N.H./Bridgton Academy
Marc Ingerman, Towson D So. Sandy Hook, Conn./Newtown
Dana Wilber, Drexel D So. Penn Yan, N.Y./Penn Yan
Mark Manos, Drexel GK So. West Chester, Pa./Salesianum (Del.)
Colin Ambler, Drexel A Sr. Abington, Pa./Abington
Jamie Lincoln, Hofstra A Jr. St. Catherine's, Ontario/Ridley
Will Manny, Massachusetts A Fr. Massapequa, N.Y./St. Anthony's
Anthony Biscardi, Massachusetts M So. Wantagh, N.Y./Wantagh
Nick Dolik, Penn State M Fr. Bloomfield Hills, Mich./Brother Rice
Bobby Hayes, Massachusetts M Sr. Rockville Centre, N.Y./Southside
Chris Hogan, Penn State M Jr. Wyckoff, N.J./Ramapo
Adam Mojica, Hofstra LSM Jr. Springfield, Pa./Springfield
This is it. Tonight, the No. 12 Penn State men's volleyball team will take on top-ranked Stanford at the Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto, Calif. The winner will be crowned 2010 NCAA national champion. The loser will inherit the unfulfilling title of national runner-up. Tonight, it's all on the line.
Here, at Above the Net, we're bringing you a quick look at where the Nittany Lions stand heading into the match:
How they got here: On Thursday, Penn State dispatched No. 3 Cal State Northridge in the NCAA semifinals to earn a berth in tonight's championship. The match, surprisingly, was nearly flawless for the Lions. They had balanced offensive production, steady defense -- propelled by Dennis Del Valle's 17 digs -- and limited the Matadors to .193 hitting.
Why they'll win: Penn State has something to prove. This hasn't exactly been a season the Lions will want to remember. Between losing to Rutgers-Newark, falling to Ohio State at home and sloppily putting together wins over inferior opponents on a couple occasions, Penn State didn't absolutely dominate the regular season as it had in years past. But the Lions made it to the national title game. And, with a slight chip on their shoulder, they are going to try and send their two senior leaders -- Max Lipsitz and Will Price -- out with style.
Why they won't: Tonight, the Lions aren't the better team. They aren't the more consistent team. They aren't the team who performed day in and day out all season. That's Stanford. The Cardinal, all year long, have proved why they deserve to be No. 1. And tonight, they have all the motivation in the World to finish the season on top. In front of a home crowd, Stanford, with perhaps the two best players in the country -- Erik and Kawika Shoji -- will be playing emotionally for longtime beloved coach Al Roderigues, who passed away earlier this year.
Their strength: Penn State doesn't have a go-to-guy this year. There's no Matt Anderson, and there's no Matt Holt. The Lions rely on a couple guys to fill a couple different roles. And that balanced, team-oriented production could win them a national championship.
Their weakness: Their inconsistency. For stretches during the season, Penn State couldn't maintain consistent intensity. It would play lights-out one night, then sluggish and sloppy the next. In Thursday's semifinal, the Lions played fantastic volleyball. Can they show up Saturday night, too?
There's a chance the Penn State baseball team could move into first place if it sweeps the series with Iowa that begins tonight at 7 p.m.
The Nittany Lions (20-23, 7-8 Big Ten) are in position to make a move up in the standings thanks in large part to last weekend's sweep of Michigan State.
Apart from getting a chance to make noise in the Big Ten, the Lions' success against Michigan State also brought them some national attention.
Earlier in the week, Steve Snyder and David Lutz were named the Big Ten Player and Pitcher of the Week, respectively.
Snyder was also named to the College Baseball Foundation's weekly All-Star lineup after batting .667 against the Spartans. Snyder was just one of 16 players picked for the weekly honor.
Collegebaseballinsider.com named Lutz its Central Region pitcher of the week. The senior pitched a complete game in his first career start while allowing just one run in a win over Michigan State.
Catcher Ben Heath also shined against the Spartans while continuing his strong season. The junior hit two home runs against Michigan State, which tied him for the school-record with 17 homers this season.
Heath made his first appearance on the catcher power ranking on Rivals.com. After failing to crack the rankings in the first three months of the season, Heath entered the list of 10 catchers at No. 6 this week.
The junior catcher's strong offensive statistics put him near the top of the list for the Johnny Bench Award, which is given to the nation's best catcher. Heath is first among the 71 candidates in home runs (17), extra-base hits (31), total bases (129) and slugging percentage (.772). He is also second in OPS (1.229) and runs scored (47) and fourth in RBI (53).
It Was Over When...: Penn State coasted to a first set victory. After that, it was all Nittany Lions and the No. 3 Matadors just didn't stand a chance.
Player of the Match: It's hard to pick just one. Several of the Lions played outstanding volleyball Thursday night. With that said, I'm taking a cop-out and picking two. Dennis Del Valle and Edgardo Goas. Del Valle anchored the defense with a match-high 17 digs while Edgardo steered an efficient Penn State offense -- that attacked a combined .355 clip -- with 49 assists.
Stat of the Match: 3. The number of kills Cal State Northridge All-American middle hitter Kevin McKniff recorded in the match. Penn State's defense was just that solid, and that was one of the keys to its victory. "The guys did a terrific job staying disciplined with the game plan," coach Mark Pavlik said.
Surprise of the Match: Cal State Northridge didn't show up. It was the Matador's first semifinal appearance in 17 years, and one would think that would be enough motivation to come out strong and prove something. Instead, they were flat and gave Penn State plenty of opportunities to close out the win. "We looked like we haven't been here in 17 years," Cal State Northridge coach Jeff Campbell said. "And they looked like they've been here every year. We played tight and with some nerves."
Quotable: "More from a confidence standpoint, we all walked out of that match in Northridge after we lost to them in three and we knew that they didn't do anything special. We didn't execute (that night) like we're capable of doing." - Price on the differences between the first time the Lions faced the Matadors -- a Cal State Northridge sweep on April 10 -- and Thursday night's match.
What's Next: The Lions advance to Saturday night's championship match of the NCAA men's volleyball tournament where they'll face the home team -- top-ranked Stanford. Penn State is seeking its second national title in three years.
Coach Mark Pavlik and captains Max Lipsitz and Will Price met with reporters this morning in Palo Alto, Calif., to discuss the Nittany Lions' NCAA semifinal match tomorrow night against Cal State Northridge. Here are some highlights:
***The Lions feel confident.
And it's because they've been here before. Penn State -- making its 12th straight Final Four appearance -- won the national championship two seasons ago.
"We've had teams that get overwhelmed by the event," Pavlik said. "We are past that. Been there, done that, we've seen that movie before. You have to be able to sort out the things that are important, then get on the court and play as hard as you can."
*** The Golden State dominates collegiate men's volleyball.
In fact, Penn State and Brigham Young University are the only non-California universities to have won the NCAA national championship. Lipsitz -- a native of New York -- had the opportunity to play in volleyball hotbed California. But he chose to stay closer to home.
"I think the attraction Penn State has to all the East Coast talent is huge," the 6-foot-7 middle hitter said. "It is a really nice alternative to coming out to a California school for volleyball purposes. Traditionally, it has a strong volleyball program and the academics are great, so for me, I came out West and did visits, but ultimately I felt more comfortable on the East Coast."
***Pavlik said he absolutely knows why Lipsitz is a three-time All-American.
It's his freaking long arms.
"And I mean freaking in the correct usage of the word," Pavlik joked. "Freaking."
The Penn State men's soccer team is in the hunt for a head coach, and West Virginia's Marlon LeBlanc is one candidate up for consideration.
Penn State has been given permission by West Virginia to talk to the Moutaineer men's soccer head coach in regards to the head coaching job in Happy Valley. On Tuesday, West Virginia Athletic Director Ed Pastilong and Associate Athletic Director for Development Terri Hawes confirmed the action in a Charleston Daily Mail article.
Leblanc played his collegiate career at Penn State, starting in 1994. He was also a Lion assistant coach from 2001-05 under former head coach Barry Gorman. During that five-year span, the Lions went to the NCAA Tournament four times (twice to the field of 16 and once to the field of eight).
After 22 seasons, Gorman left the team on April 12, and a week later FC Dallas named him its technical director -- focusing on player development and scouting.
Isang Jacob is currently the Penn State men's soccer interim head coach and could also vie for the head coaching job permanently. He is noted for his coaching in youth leagues.
With its victory over Penn State, Delaware earned itself the No. 2 seed in the CAA playoffs. But the other four teams in the conference were in action this weekend, with a lot on the line.
Hofstra 12 - Towson 10
The No. 15 Pride handed the No. 11 Towson Tigers their first conference loss of the season on Saturday. Junior Stephen Bentz led Hofstra (9-4, 2-3 CAA) in the win, pouring in five goals. Kevin Ford also added four points off two goals and two assists.
Towson's Christian Pastirik continued his stellar season, adding four goals in the loss. In goal, Travis Love turned away eight shots. The Tigers (6-7, 4-1 CAA) matched Hofstra in each quarter but the first, in which the Pride scored four times compared to just twice by Towson.
Drexel 12 - UMass 6
The No. 13 Dragons picked up their fourth win against a top 10 team this season on Saturday against No. 9 UMass. Scott Peri's four goals lifted Drexel (10-4, 3-2 CAA) to its third conference win of the season. Adam Dennis added three goals and freshman Robert Church had three points en route to a CAA Rookie of the Week selection.
UMass' Tim McCormack stopped 12 shots in the loss and Ryan Liebel added two goals. The Minutemen (8-5, 2-3 CAA) led 3-2 after the first quarter, but a six-goal second quarter for Drexel and eight saves by the Dragon's Mark Manos in the second were too much to overcome.
Top-Four set for playoffs
After a long and crazy regular season in the CAA the top-four teams in the conference are set and ready to do battle this Wednesday. The semifinal matchups are as follows:
Drexel at Delaware - 7 p.m. - Newark, Del.
UMass at Towson - 7:30 p.m. - Towson, Md.
The Tigers were the the runaway top team in the conference, while Delaware held the tie-breaker over Drexel, having beaten the Dragons earlier in the season. UMass sealed the four-seed because of a tie-breaking win over Hofstra earlier in the year. We've seen surprises from every team in the conference this season, and there's no telling who will make it out of the semi-final round. We'll have to wait and see.
Johns Hopkins' junior attackman Kyle Wharton has 19 goals on the year, and none of them were more impressive than the one he fired in against Towson last Wednesday in the fourth quarter of a 13-6 victory. Wharton takes a pass from teammate Steve Boyle and absolutely unloads a shot on Towson goalie Travis Love, and what ensues is simply amazing. Wharton's shot rips through and puts a hole in the net, something rarely seen in lacrosse. Take a look.
Fresh off its sweep of Michigan State, the Penn State baseball team got more good news Monday as two Nittany Lions received Big Ten weekly honors.
Freshman Steve Snyder earned his first career Big Ten player of the week award after batting .632 in the Lions' four games last week to elevate his season batting average by 76 points. He also scored six runs while driving in six during the four games.
Snyder is the second Lion in as many weeks to get Big Ten player of the week after Ben Heath received the honor two weeks ago.
Senior David Lutz was also named Big Ten pitcher of the week after throwing a complete game in the Lions' 9-1 victory Sunday. That start also marked his 29th appearance of the season, which ties the school record. Lutz also threw two scoreless innings of relief Friday in Penn State's 18-7 win. Lutz is the first Lion to be named Big Ten pitcher of the week in nearly three years.
Snyder and Lutz's honors capped a historic weekend for the Lions.
Ben Heath hit two home runs Sunday to up his total to 17 this season, which tied the school record set in 1978.
As a team, the Lions outscored Michigan State 49-13 in the three games. The 49 runs were the most ever by a Penn State team in a Big Ten series. The team's five-game Big Ten winning streak is its longest since 2007.
The Lions are now 7-8 in the Big Ten and just two games back of co-leaders Michigan and Northwestern.
Collecting just two wins all season, the Lions certainly weren't hoping for a 2010 like this. Bright spots were few and far between, but above all else, Glenn Thiel's squad played hard down to the very end. Finishing its season just one win away from the CAA tournament, Penn State was very close to making something out of nothing down the stretch. Let's take a look at some key numbers from the season.
9... seniors graduating and moving on from their Penn State careers.
36... goals by Matt Mackrides. The sophomore led the team in both goals and points with 44.
44... combined goals of freshmen Billy Gribbin and Nick Dolik. The two are second and third, respectively, in goals on the team, and each earned CAA Rookie of the Week honors once this season.
0... road wins for the Lions. Penn State was 0-6 playing outside of Happy Valley, just the third time in Thiel's tenure that one of his teams went winless on the road.
57.2... percent of faceoffs won by the Lions, compared to opponents' 42.8 percent. Senior Charley Henneghan led the way, going 90 for 150 for a percentage of .600.
116... saves by goalie Dave Baker. In his first season as a starter, the freshman stopped 48.1 percent of shots and allowed 11.56 goals per game.
47... groundballs scooped by Charley Henneghan, good for the most on the team.
15... goals by Chris Hogan, after leading the team with 29 last year.
38.3... percent of man-up opportunities that the Lions scored on, compared to only 27.6 percent of successful man-ups for opponents.
7... teams on Penn State's scheduled currently in the top 20 or receiving votes for the USILA Coaches' Poll.
The end of the season always brings mixed feelings. Some are relieved to be done, others long for what might've been, while still others are simply grateful for the opportunities they had. The Lions' 2010 season was no different. Here's what some of the players and coaches had to say following Friday's loss to Delaware.
Goalie John Nichols: "I wanna say that it's nice that we got so close when we started out so bad. I think we would've had a chance in the playoffs if we won this game. No matter what happened in the first eight games of the season, we still had a chance. But it's tough tonight because it's all over."
Attackman Matt Mackrides: "I can't even put it into words, it's just really tough. Definitely the roughest season I've ever been a part of, but we stuck through it. We were together as a team the whole way. Everybody wanted it for each other. We wanted the CAA Tournament but fell a little short. Hopefully we'll get it next year.
Defensive cooridnator Travis Johnson: "It sucks. It's been a tough year record wise, but the guys have played so hard throughout and we wanted them to have the chance to play again. It would've been nice to be able to get in at least one more game and go from there, but Delaware's rolling right now. We knew it was gonna be a physical game. It's disappointing, but it is what it is.
Middie Joe Britt: "For four years, every day this was my life, and just like that ...it's a weird feeling. I love this place. I love Penn State, and it's just weird to come up short. But that's that."
Defender Earl Ross: "It's bittersweet. Obviously you don't want it to end because it's the last hurrah but at the same time, you've been putting all this stress on your body and mind for the last four years, and it's finally nice to get that weight lifted off your shoulders."
Coach Glenn Thiel: "I can't say I'm glad it's over. But we had exactly what we wanted: a chance to get into the tournament at the end. that's the nice thing about the structure of the CAA, thank goodness for that. It kept the kids hustling and aggressive and emotional. We played with high energy all year and we just gotta do a little bit better job of making less mistakes and being a little bit more precise with what we do."