An exciting end to the Penn State football season gives local football fans lots to look forward to, even as another bowl season goes by without the Nittany Lions.
Still, Penn State seems to add more reasons to visit Happy Valley with every passing sports season, proving that it is much more than a football school.
The blue-and-white Santa that so often popped up at football games must be excited for the holiday season in Happy Valley, as the university continues to up its game in athletic facilities and fan experiences.
The new ice hockey arena continues to pack in fans in spite of the team's struggles.
The Penn State men's hockey team is off to a 3-9 start, and will look to snap a six-game skid after their holiday break. Still, the Lions are averaging nearly 5,000 fans per game, almost 1,000 more per contest than their opponents.
The women's hockey team is also finding their way among the varsity ranks, heading into the holiday break with a 3-14 overall record. Junior Tess Weaver from Windber is joined by sophomore Jill Holdcroft from State College as local products on the Penn State roster. Both played for the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite during their high school years.
The Penn State wrestling team continues to build on its Cael Sanderson era success, as evidenced by the recent record-setting, sold out dual meet in the Bryce Jordan Center. And as the grapplers enjoyed their tournament-feel outing at the BJC, the men's basketball team prepares for a nostalgic return to Rec Hall for this week's matchup with Princeton.
It's unlikely that the atmosphere will equal that of games like the Lions' near-upset of top-ranked Indiana in 1995; but long-time basketball fans will enjoy returning to the warm campus arena where fans were so close to the action, they could literally whisper in the ears of referees and opposing players along the sideline.
The Penn State women's volleyball team, which has enjoyed unparalleled success at Rec Hall, is once again in the hunt for a national title. The second-seeded Nittany Lions should be well-prepared thanks to a tremendously competitive Big Ten season; six conference teams are still alive in the NCAA regionals.
Meanwhile, the Penn State women's basketball team has dreams of playing deep into the NCAA tournament behind Wade Trophy candidate Maggie Lucas. Lucas joined the 2,000 point club over the weekend, becoming just the fifth Lady Lion to reach the elite scoring plateau.
With their only losses this season coming against two of the nation's top teams, Connecticut and Notre Dame, the Lady Lions are holding on to a top-ten national ranking. With Penn State students heading to semester break, December is a great time to watch basketball at the BJC.
Three straight home games will get Coquese Washington's squad ready for Big Ten play, with great seats available.
So there may be no place like Happy Valley for the holidays.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.