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Penn State’s Top 10 Sports Moments Of 2022

Happy New Year, Penn Staters!

Across James Franklin’s nine-year tenure in Happy Valley, the head football coach has remained tried-and-true to his “1-0, next game mentality,” to encourage his squad not to dwell or hang on moments of the past. 

But throughout 2022, Penn State Athletics embarked on one of its most impressive collective go-arounds in recent memory, which rightfully deserves its fair share of recognition and celebration.

In all, the Nittany Lions captured a national championship in wrestling, a Big Ten title in field hockey, and a conference tournament crown in women’s soccer to highlight the calendar cycle. 

With 2022 in the rearview mirror, let’s take a look at the 10 best sporting moments from several high-achieving Nittany Lions’ athletic programs over the last year.

10. Micah Shrewsberry’s Downs Two Ranked Opponents In First Campaign, Sends Ohio State Home In Big Ten Tournament

Before the turn of the new year heading into last January, Penn State men’s basketball boasted a mundane, five-of-five clip with a three-game COVID-19 precautionary cancelation to wrap up the 2021 slate.

From there, the Nittany Lions found their first semblance of cohesion with Shrewsberry at the helm and rattled off seven Big Ten victories, including a marquee home win over No. 19 Michigan State, heading into Big Ten Tournament action.

In Indianapolis, Shrewsberry’s crew shocked the rest of the field by edging out Minnesota in first-round play, and ultimately knocking off No. 25 Ohio State thanks to a 12-point, nine-rebound performance from program cornerstone John Harrar. 

Penn State couldn’t fend off No. 9 Purdue in the tournament’s quarterfinals, but the 69-61 defeat symbolized the program might be closer to becoming a formidable force in the conference.

9. Katie Schumacher-Cawley Carries On Russ Rose’s Legacy, Nabs NCAA Tournament Bid For 41st Consecutive Year

For 42 seasons, former Penn State head coach Russ Rose torched the NCAA women’s volleyball landscape for 1,330 victories, 17 Big Ten championships, and seven national title trophies. In 2022, however, the torch was passed to Katie Schumacher-Cawley, who took the reins from Rose after her own illustrious career in Happy Valley from 1998 to 2001.

Among all of Rose’s career-spanning achievements, his most impressive arguably consists of appearing in every NCAA Tournament since the format’s inception in 1981. Continuing the streak of unparalleled stability would prove to be a tall order for Schumacher-Cawley in year one of a program overhaul.

Behind Schumacher-Cawley’s lead, the Nittany Lions jumped out to an impressive, 8-0 start highlighted by two ranked victories over No. 11 Stanford and No. 18 Oregon. Penn State then rattled off four more wins after wrapping up its two-match Pac-12 slate but ultimately faltered in Big Ten play by concluding with a 13-7 mark.

Still, with a 26-8 regular-season conclusion, the Nittany Lions warranted a No. 4 seed distinction in the NCAA Tournament. Schumacher-Cawley helped Penn State cruise to a pair of tournament wins over UMBC and No. 21 UCF, but her star-studded group couldn’t outlast No. 2 Wisconsin, losing 3-2 in Madison to close out the campaign.

Overall, a Sweet 16 debut for the Nittany Lions under Schumacher-Cawley’s newfound control proved that the program’s excellence wouldn’t simply be limited to Rose’s tenure spent gracing the sidelines at Rec Hall.

8. Football Completes Comeback Win In Season Opener, Reaches 10-Win Mark For First Time Since 2019

James Franklin’s group failed to amass any ranked victories throughout the regular season, but its most exciting triumph came during a season-opening, Thursday night battle in West Layfayette, Indiana. 

After stringing together a mistake-free performance for the unit’s first 50 minutes against Purdue, senior quarterback Sean Clifford tossed a costly, 72-yard pick-six capped off by Purdue defensive back Chris Jefferson. With just over eight minutes left in the contest, Penn State trailed 31-28 with its back entrenched firmly against the wall. 

With 2:22 remaining and a three-point deficit, Clifford trotted onto the field with a final shot at redemption from his costly mishap. Heroically, the gunslinger orchestrated a surgical eight-play, 80-yard drive, finished off by a wheel route to Keyvone Lee for the game-winning score with 57 seconds to go. 

The campaign-opening victory sparked a five-game winning streak and a No. 9 national ranking, which was busted by a 41-17 drubbing to Michigan in the Big House. Penn State suffered another setback to No. 2 Ohio State in a late-game collapse, but secured a 10-win season for the first time in three seasons and the program’s first Rose Bowl bid since 2016.

7. Women’s Hockey Breaks Single-Season Win Total In RIT Shutout

Since the Penn State women’s hockey program’s inception in 2012, the unit had never won more than 16 matchups in a single season. But on February 19, 2022, then-fifth-year head coach Jeff Kampersol made history by leading his group to its 18th victory of the slate in a 2-0 shutout of RIT at Pegula Ice Arena. 

The Nittany Lions paced the Tigers with 42 shots and their stifling defense held the opposition to only 10 shot attempts all afternoon. Postgame, Penn State honored five seniors –– Avery Mitchell, Amy Dobson, Natalie Heising, Anna Promersberger, and Cam Leonard –– for their collective commitment to growing the program’s reach.

The groundbreaking achievement helped the Nittany Lions earn a two-seed bid in the CHA Tournament, but the group ended up dropping its semifinal matchup in a devastating 4-2 loss to Mercyhurst to round out the season.

6. Men’s Hockey Upsets No. 1 Michigan For First Top-Ranked Win In Program History

On November 5, the undefeated Nittany Lions hockey program blanked No. 1 Michigan in a dominant, 3-0 win in front of the second-highest attendance total in Pegula Ice Arena’s nine-year history. 

The rowdy, 6,445-person crowd propelled Penn State to a two-goal second period, courtesy of scores from Ture Linden and Ashton Calder behind several, calculated sequences which carved up the Wolverines’ backline. 

Moreover, the Nittany Lions didn’t just win, but they dominated one of the nation’s best units decisively. In all, Guy Gadowsky’s squad ripped off 49 shots compared to just 17 from Michigan and won 33 out of 53 total faceoffs over the affair. 

The victory catapulted Penn State well into the top-10 rankings and revived excitement back into Hockey Valley after an otherwise lackluster 2021-22 run.

5. Softball Improves Win Total, Secures First Big Ten Tournament Victory In Five Years

In 2021, the Nittany Lions’ softball program dwelled as the laughingstock of the Big Ten by winning just seven out of 41 matchups, including a 17-0 knockout punch against Indiana towards the latter half of the season. 

However, in her first season heading the program, head coach Clarisa Crowell flipped the squad’s identity on its head by leading a previously faulty group to a 32-22 record. Moreover, the group achieved a 13-10 benchmark during conference play, helping them reach the post-season, Big Ten tournament held in East Lansing, Michigan.

There, the Nittany Lions miraculously topped Indiana 2-1 and did so in walk-off fashion. Late in the eighth inning, Lexie Black ripped in a game-sealing RBI, giving Penn State its first Big Ten Tournament victory since 2017. 

Penn State was ousted by Nebraska just a day later in tournament action, but the rollercoaster season brought excitement to a program that’s been largely dormant for the past decade. 

4. Baseball Notches Its First Big Ten Tournament Win Since 2008

After concluding a much-improved 25-27 regular season run, Penn State snuck into Big Ten Tournament play by securing a No. 6 seed at the campaign’s conclusion. 

Catcher Matt Wood, who finished second in the Big Ten in batting average by hitting above the .400 mark, helped the Nittany Lions outlast No. 3 Iowa in Omaha, Nebraska for the program’s first conference tournament victory in 14 years. 

Wood blasted a three-run homer to put Penn State on top in the sixth inning, while pitchers Tyler Shingledecker and Travis Luensmann held it down on defense, combining for 15 strikeouts and only two hits. 

The Nittany Lions clinched an emphatic, 5-2 win, and moved on to the second round to face second-seeded Rutgers. 

3. Field Hockey Wins Share Of Big Ten Championship In Road Battle At Rutgers

In late-October, Penn State field hockey brought a Big Ten championship home to Happy Valley after defeating No. 21 Rutgers 3-1 on the road. With the victory, the Nittany Lions tallied their eighth Big Ten title, and finished conference play with a 7-1 mark capped off with a No. 1 seed in tournament play. 

The Nittany Lions’ 15-2 record cemented a top-three national ranking at the season’s conclusion, but a loss to highly touted Michigan in the conference tournament cost Penn State a shot at reaching a No. 1 seed title in the NCAA Tournament. 

Penn State coasted through two consecutive wins in the NCAA Tournament over Louisville and Albany, however, the high-powered unit was completely shutdown in a 3-0 defeat at the hands of UNC to conclude its historic run. 

2. Women’s Soccer Brings Home Big Ten Tournament Crown

Despite entering the Big Ten Tournament scene as a six-seed, Erica Dambach’s unit proved to be a force to be reckoned with in the postseason. For the ninth-time in program history, Penn State women’s soccer captured the Big Ten Tournament title on November 6, after defeating Michigan State 3-2.

Late in the matchup, the Nittany Lions hurdled a one-goal deficit, but just as she had her entire career, forward Ally Schlegel was up to avenging the challenging task. Over the 90-minute contest, the veteran notched two goals, including the game-winner, which warranted her with the tournament’s Offensive MVP honors.

Defensively, Penn State buckled down in goal, courtesy of keeper Katherine Asman. During the match, Asman made two critical saves on a pair of shots on goal, and she took home the Defensive MVP.

1. Wrestling Captures 10th National Title In NCAA Finals

Of course, the best Penn State sporting moment of the year was bound to hinge on the most dominant dynasty in all of athletics. 

During the 2022 NCAA Wrestling Finals in Detroit, Michigan, the Nittany Lions captured their 10th national championship in program history, and their ninth since head coach Cael Sanderson took over the squad in 2009. Penn State accumulated 131.5 points, consisting of almost 40 more than second-place Michigan’s 95-point total. 

Furthermore, not only did Sanderson’s unit take care of business as a cohesive group, but his wrestlers excelled individually on the mat. Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee, Carter Starocci, Aaron Brooks, and Max Dean all came out on top of their respective weight classes en route to securing individual national championships. 

With a final, 5-0 clip in championship duels, Penn State traveled back to Happy Valley as the only squad to go undefeated when it mattered most, even after shockingly falling to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament less than a month earlier. 

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a junior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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