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NCAA National Semifinals: Practice Day in Louisville

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The top-seeded Nittany Lion women's volleyball team practiced inside the KFC Yum! Center on Wednesday in preparation for Thursday night's NCAA National Semifinal tilt against fifth-seeded Oregon (9 p.m. on ESPN2).

Penn State practiced for 90 minutes on Wednesday following a preview press conference.  Take a look through Wednesday coverage from Louisville as the Lion prep for their 10th NCAA semifinal appearance.

VIDEO: Wednesday Practice & Press Conference Highlights
Take a look through some video highlights of Wednesday's practice and pre-NCAA semifinal press conference with head coach Russ Rose, Deja McClendon, Micha Hancock and Katie Slay.

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NCAA Volleyball Tournament: No. 1 Lions Head to National Semifinals
By Kelsey Detweiler, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the 10th time in the 36 years that the Penn State women's volleyball program has been in existence, its team is headed to the NCAA National Semifinal.

The top-seeded Lions are up against No. 5 Oregon on Thursday at 9 p.m. in the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.

They will be playing on the tournament Sport Court in an arena that has more than 22,000 available seats. They will be fighting for survival in what could be the final match of their season, or the match that advances them to the national final two nights later.

And as pressing and intimidating as all of that sounds, Penn State junior Maddie Martin said that from here on out there isn't much to be scared of.  

"I think the hardest part about the NCAA Tournament is just getting to the Final Four," said Martin. "I think once we're there, the key for us is to just be calm and relaxed. We don't need to do anything different than what we've been doing."

This is now the fifth time that the Lions have advanced to the culminating semifinal match in just six years. And in the four other years that they made it that far, they went on to win four national championships.

Penn State head coach Russ Rose is very familiar with everything that goes into the final weekend of postseason Division I volleyball, as this will be his 10
th trip to the NCAA Semifinal match in the 34 seasons he's been at the helm. But as familiar as the experience is to him, Rose said that winning the NCAA Regional match and advancing never fails to satisfy.

"Certainly when you qualify for the Final Four, there's a sigh of relief when you get that last point and you know you get to participate in that," said Rose. "There are some players on the roster that have been there before and it's exciting for the new players that haven't been there."

But Rose said that just because he and his team know the ropes of the event doesn't mean that they can coast into a national final. 

"We're not going to win unless everybody plays really well," said Rose. "This is a team that everybody needs to play really well together and they have to play hard and all four teams that are there are teams that have earned the right to be there."

For freshman Megan Courtney, the postseason journey is a first in her collegiate career. But Courtney has played on the same stage before. 

"I was lucky enough to be an All-American out of high-school and we took a trip down to the tournament last year," said Courtney. "They let us see how things ran with the NCAA and the next night, the night before the finals, we got to play an All-American match on the court."

Courtney said that the experience was surreal at the time, but now she's more anxious to compete for a trophy than to play in a big arena.

"It's something that you only dream of," said Courtney. "The end goal is still in sight but we've got to focus and hopefully we'll get that victory."  

Match Day
With the Wednesday festivities over, it is now time to focus on match day in Louisville.  The Nittany Lions will practice mid-day on Thursday before the 9 p.m. first serve against Oregon.  Stay tuned for much more coverage from the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship.


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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