UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.
- Penn State's 2014-15 season was one marked by excellence on the field, in the
classroom and in the community. GoPSUsports.com takes a look back at the
campaign in a season highlight reel.
Penn State has won 92 Big Ten titles, including 21 in women's soccer (16 regular season).
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just four months into his tenure as commissioner of the
Big Ten Conference, Jim Delany recalls an idea brought to the table by former
Illinois President Stan Ikenberry.
It was October of 1989 when Ikenberry, who spent time as a senior administrator
at Penn State earlier in his career, broached the thought of adding an
institution to the Big Ten for the first time since Michigan State was invited
to become a member in 1949.
The Big Ten then began a formal research process of an institution that would
bridge a Midwestern league to the East.
The Pennsylvania State University was on the table for discussion as a superb
academic institution with a rich tradition in athletic success.
Delany, whose sister attended Penn State as a graduate student, didn't need much
convincing. He knew the level of potential a partnership between Penn State and
the Big Ten could foster.
Big Ten hadn't changed in many, many decades, but I thought if the opportunity
to expand presented itself it was a no brainer," Delany said earlier this week.
"Excellent academics. Excellent athletics. And pointed towards the East Coast,
I thought there was a lot of potential there. That was my recommendation at the
The process moved forward with the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten
institutions discussing the topic before news broke just before the holidays in
December of 1989 that Penn State could be on its way into a new conference. Under
the direction of athletic director Jim Tarman at the time, Penn State had been
competing as an independent in football for more than a century, and the rest
of the department had been a member of the Atlantic 10 since 1976.
When the news initially surfaced, women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose, who
along with field hockey coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss are the two current Penn
State head coaches who were on staff in 1989, was giving a presentation at the
annual women's volleyball coaches convention (AVCA) about the importance of
NCAA Tournament at-large bids for teams in smaller conferences.
"I remember talking in front of the group about
the importance that not all of the at-large bids go to the bigger conferences
and that there were good teams in other conferences even though they didn't
have the same notoriety, said Rose. "We have a lunch break. I turn on ESPN at
lunch, and I see that Penn State is going to be a member of the Big Ten. I come
back. I say to some people that I would like to retract what I said about
The formal process concluded with a vote in Iowa City on June 4, 1990, at which
time Penn State was officially accepted as a member of the Big Ten Conference.
Twenty-five years have passed in a partnership that allowed both the University
and conference to reach unprecedented heights on the field and in the
a broad perspective, at the time, my view was that it was a tremendous fit for
both sides. And history has proven that," Delany said. "With all the other
expansions around the country, I'm not sure there was one that benefitted both
institution and conference as much as this did, largely because of the
characteristics of Penn State were so well matched with the characteristics of
the Big Ten."
The positive news zipped throughout campus shortly after the vote in Iowa.
"I remember hearing about the announcement from Mary Jo Haverbeck, from the Sports
Information office," said Morett-Curtiss. "She told me about us going in and
how it was going to have a major impact for women's athletics at Penn State."
It was an announcement that changed the landscape of funding and development
for all of Penn State's 28 programs at the time, and it was a day
Morett-Curtiss remembers quite well.
"Ironically, I had gone for a run that day on the trails near Sunset Park and
as I'm running, I see someone walking in front of me and it was Joe Paterno,"
Morett-Curtiss said. "And it was that day, so I said to him, 'hey what's going
to happen?' He said, 'I think this is going to be a really good thing for Penn
State and the exposure all of the programs are going to get.'"
The women's volleyball program captured Penn State's first Big Ten title in 1992, marking volleyball's first of 16 conference crowns.
Penn State's teams felt the impact of the Big Ten conference almost
"What it did for us when we joined the Big Ten is that it No. 1 it resulted in
a reassessment of the levels of commitment we had to the various programs,"
Rose said. "We became fully funded when we joined the Big Ten. Prior to that,
we were not fully funded. And we were not fully staffed. Entering Big Ten,
collectively, for all of the sports resulted in us having a new commitment from
the University to try and be competitive. From a volleyball perspective, we had
been competitive prior to that, but playing in the Big Ten in women's
volleyball made us better because the level of competition was better than we
were experiencing in the Atlantic 10."
At the time, women's volleyball had just one assistant coach on the staff
alongside Rose and nine scholarships to field a roster. Joining the Big Ten
boosted the program to full funding and 12 scholarships.
"As I look at it now, we could have had some great teams if we had funding in
the early years," said Rose. "That was just the way that it was. When you take a job, that is the job you
took. When we joined the Big Ten, a lot of us got a better job without having
to move. But it's way more competitive. Recruiting is a lot different than what
we had experienced in the Atlantic 10."
The same can be said for what Morett-Curtiss experienced within the field
"The financial support from a scholarship standpoint was huge right away," said
Morett-Curtiss. "And knowing our field that we were going to build was going to
be a first rate facility."
The investment for success around the Big Ten stood out during Penn State's
transition. Every institution and athletic program strives to be the best. It's
a trait that has not changed during the department's 25 years as a member, and
it's something that will be a trademark of the Big Ten for decades to come.
"The level of commitment to being good across the conference, everybody cared,"
said Rose. "I don't believe every conference across the country has that sort
of commitment in all of their sports. I think that is one of the things that
makes the Big Ten really unique. If they offer it, they care and they want to
Penn State's time in the Big Ten has been marked by excellence in the classroom
and on the field of play. In all, Penn State's programs have accounted for 92
Big Ten championships from 15 different programs - 76 regular season and 16 post-season. Additionally,
more than 170 student-athletes have accounted for nearly 300 individual Big Ten
Penn State student-athletes have earned more than 5,000 Academic All-Big Ten
recognitions since it joined the conference, with its three highest totals
during the past three years, led by 296 in 2012-13.
"Penn State's entrance into the Big Ten not only changed the
intercollegiate sports landscape, it also changed our academic landscape and
our future. Our size, our academic reputation and our athletic tradition
matched up well with Big Ten schools," said Penn State President Eric
Barron, who also noted that all Big Ten schools are flagship universities for
their states. "The academic side of the Big Ten is known as the Committee
on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the institutions together have annual
research expenditures topping $10.2 billion -- more than the Ivy League and the
University of California System combined -- and they educate a total of nearly
600,000 students. The benefits from being part of such an outstanding and
prestigious organization with such an expansive footprint across the nation are
The women's volleyball program earned Penn
State's first Big Ten crown during the 1992 season, just one year after the
team began competing in the league. The title marked the first of Penn State's superlative
16 Big Ten titles in women's volleyball, in addition to seven NCAA
Championships since 1999.
Like women's volleyball, the women's soccer program has been a benchmark of success
in conference play. The program became the department's 29th varsity
sport in 1994. Since then, Penn State has won an unprecedented 16 conference
titles, including a string of 15-straight from 1998-2012.
The football program claimed the Big Ten title in its second season of
competition during an undefeated Rose Bowl championship campaign in 1994. Coach
Joe Paterno's '94 squad became the first Big Ten team to ever post a 12-0
record. The '94 crown marked the program's first of three Big Ten championships
to date (2005 and 2008).
The fall season of 2005 stands out as a monumental period in Penn State's
history within the conference. Nittany Lion teams clinched five Big Ten titles
in a span of 30 days. The list included field hockey, football, men's soccer,
women's soccer and women's volleyball. Since the fall of 2005, Penn State teams
have won 51 Big Ten championships (5.1 titles per year in a 10-year span).
Penn State clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days
during the fall of 2005, including one for the women's volleyball team.
It's impossible to quantify how the partnership between Penn State and the Big
Ten altered the recruiting landscape for the teams on campus and how the
recruiting gains equated to success on the field of play. But pitching a
world-renowned education with an elite conference affiliation cultivated
relationships with premier student-athletes.
"The name recognition was big for football, but when you see how many of the Universities
and programs have been successful on a national level, I think that has greatly
helped," Morett-Curtiss. "Exposure for all of the Universities within the
conference has helped us all grow. Combining the academic side of what these
Universities have with the athletics, it's a very powerful combination when we
go out recruiting student-athletes."
A big piece to the exposure of Penn State teams during the past 25 years was
the launch of the Big Ten Network on Aug. 30, 2007. More than 800 Penn State
sporting events have aired live on the BTN since it launched. The benefits of
the conference's TV network, which is in more than 60 million homes, increased visibility across the country for
the department in a way that cannot be measured.
"The Network was a major step for us," Morett-Curtiss. "Just having the
opportunity to have games on TV so that little girls can watch and learn about
the sport. It's helped, not only exposure for the program, but it's helped the
sport grow. It's just a phenomenal avenue for us to showcase our University and
The BTN's impact goes back to what Rose talked about as one of the immediate
impacts his program felt - funding. Not only did the BTN infinitely increase
exposure for Penn State teams, it has played a paramount role in increased
revenues for each institution.
"Certainly, the Big Ten Network has been instrumental in generating funds for
the Universities and the conference and the bowl revenue sharing has resulted
in more money for all of the schools and the conference," said Rose.
In 2008, Penn State captured its third Big Ten title in football
en route to a trip to the Rose Bowl.
the competitive atmosphere is intense between teams across all of the
conference's sports, each member institution understands that the individual success
aids in the growth of the collective conference.
"I think the relationship has been a really positive one," said Rose. "There
are a lot of similarities between the various Universities."
"Everybody in the Big Ten shares what they do and why they do it; best
practices," said Dave Baker, Associate Athletic Director for Business
Operations. "We share lots of ideas, at least from the business manager and
ticketing perspective. We learn things from one another. And there aren't
secrets. We all work together and try to help each other out...We all don't do
things the same way. We all have limitations, but we are all looking to help
one another out for the betterment of the conference.
"Some people would find it hard to believe that people in the Big Ten root for
other Big Ten teams in the postseason, but we do. We follow what is going
on...It is a cooperative spirit and a partnership."
Baker is one of just a handful of Penn State administrators and coaches who
have been with Intercollegiate Athletics during the past 25 years. That list
includes Jan Bortner, who was head coach of the men's tennis team in 1990 and
has since transitioned into a role as an associate athletic director. Among the
key changes Baker felt from the business operation centered on travel. Bus
trips were the norm for Penn State teams in the Atlantic 10, but the geography
of the Big Ten led to more plane travel.
A quarter century has passed since initial discussions of a new relationship
took place and bonds were formed. Many things have changed significantly for
Penn State, the conference and intercollegiate athletics nationwide, but it's
been 25 years marked by growth stemming from a vision in 1989.
"Pennsylvania is a very important state. It served as a bridge to the East for
us. It made our football offerings stronger," said Delany. "It has been
excellence with national championships in a variety of sports. And I have
always felt that the 1994 Penn State team was the best team in the country; no
disrespect to Nebraska. When you look at the players that team had (five first
team All-Americans on offense) and what that group accomplished. That team was
the national runner-up. That was a tremendous football team. I've seen some
very good basketball teams both on the men's side and the women's side. And
obviously, the wrestling and volleyball programs have been dominant on the
Penn State has won a total of 27 national championships since joining the Big
Ten, including three in 2013-14, and the department's collective success speaks
By no means was the integration in 1990 an easy one, but the partnership
between the University and Big Ten is a match that enabled both sides to
mutually prosper in a way neither side could have envisioned when the formal vote
concluded 25 years ago today.
The wrestling team began a string of four-straight Big Ten
titles in March of 2011.
GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. - After more than 1,300 miles
on the road, the 2015 Penn State Coaches Caravan drew to a close on Thursday
evening inside Wilkes-Barre's F.M. Kirby Center before a crowd of 300
enthusiastic Penn State fans.
More than 2,500 fans attended the 12 stops during the month of May. The
Caravan spanned across eight locations in Pennsylvania, in addition to
Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New York City and New Jersey. In all, five
different head coaches and eight football assistant coaches joined head coach
James Franklin during at least one stop since the Coaches Caravan began on May
3 in Harrisburg.
"The most important thing about the Caravan, in my opinion, is to say thank you
to everyone," Franklin said. "Going out into these communities around the
state, in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and D.C., and taking time to thank you
and let you know how much we truly appreciate the support, the commitment and
the passion you have for our great University and for our athletic programs is
The final two stops of the tour visited two areas full of Penn State followers.
Thursday's lunch stop took place in front of nearly 250 fans in the Lehigh
Valley (Breinigsville) before the final evening reception inside the historic
F.M. Kirby Center, which was built in 1938 downtown Wilkes-Barre.
The coaching lineup for day six of the Coaches Caravan featured Franklin, Russ
Rose and Cael Sanderson. A visit to a restaurant appropriately named
"Franklin's" in Wilkes-Barre, an appearance from the Nittany Lion on the bus
and more stand-up comedy from Sanderson headlined the final day's festivities
on the road.
The Wilkes-Barre stop marked the final Caravan event for Roger Williams,
executive director of the Penn State Alumni Association, who is set to retire
on June 30. Williams, who as served as executive director for 12 years, has
been an integral part of the Coaches Caravan programs since its inception in
the spring of 2012. Williams has been a superb lead off man for all 59 Caravan
stops during the last four years and his enthusiastic "We Are" chants and
incredible passion will be missed. Rose asked the fans in Wilkes-Barre to give
Williams a standing ovation for his final stop on the Caravan.
A big thank you goes out to the more than 2,500 loyal Penn State fans and alums
that made the Coaches Caravan a resounding success for the fourth-straight
spring. Like each of coaches said at one point or another during the two weeks
on the road, the support Penn State Athletics received is truly unrivaled, and
it's because of people like those who spent time attending stops on the
And again, a big tip of the cap goes out to Fullington Trailways ace driver
Gottfried Fodor, who did a superb job behind the wheel of the Caravan bus for
the fourth-straight year. Since the inception of the Caravan in 2012, Fodor has
wheeled the coaches and staff members across 6,937 miles through eight states
and the District of Columbia.
We look forward to seeing the fans back on the road in 2016. Take a look
through some photo highlights from the final two stops on Thursday.
Stop No. 11 - Lehigh Valley (Holiday Inn
Allentown - I-78) Video: Lehigh Valley Press Conference
NEW YORK - The Coaches Caravan paid its annual visits to New York City
and New Jersey on day two of the second leg on Wednesday.
After two great events in the Philadelphia area, the bus traveled north to
Midtown Manhattan for a stop inside the Edison Ballroom. Take a look through
highlights from the first two stops of the six-event second week of the Coaches
Stop No. 9 - New York City (Edison
For the second time in three years on the Caravan, Edison Ballroom on 47th
Street in Midtown played host to the Coaches Caravan stop in New York. It's
always special when the Nittany Lion contingent pays a visit to the Big Apple,
and with a superb lineup of coaches again on Wednesday - Patrick Chambers,
James Franklin, Russ Rose and Cael Sanderson - Wednesday's lunch was terrific.
On the heels of the thrilling Pinstripe Bowl victory in December, the folks in
the room gave a rousing cheer when Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour opened
the speeches by talking about the special night in Yankee Stadium.
With more than 32,000 alums in the metro area, it's shaping up to be a big year
ahead for Penn State Athletics and New York City. Chambers and the Nittany Lion
basketball team are slated to meet Michigan in a unique doubleheader at Madison
Square Garden. On January 30, 2016, the Nittany Lions will take on the
Wolverines on the hardwood and ice.
"We love coming to New York, and we hope everyone in this room makes MSG like
Yankee Stadium was during the Pinstripe Bowl," Chambers said.
In addition to the hoops and hockey games in MSG, the 2016 NCAA Wrestling
Championships are set to take place in The Garden from May 17-19. It will mark
the first time that the championships will take place in Manhattan, and
Sanderson is looking forward to a strong Penn State contingent cheering on the
Blue and White.
"That's something we are really excited about. When we saw that, we were very
excited about that," Sanderson said. "We are going to have a solid team, so we
are excited to come back."
New York is a place Coach Rose always loves visiting. It's a place he has spent
a great deal of time at, and on Wednesday he shared a great tale of a trip to
Manhattan with legendary head coach Joe Paterno. Rose said the last time he was
in town for a big sporting event was when the Nittany Lion basketball team captured
the 2009 NIT title. He traveled to the game in Manhattan with Coach Paterno and
shared about the time the two walked the streets of Midtown on the way to the
game, with Coach Paterno stopping for a hot dog while mingling with folks on
the streets of NYC.
Much of Wednesday's program felt like a comedy act, especially from Sanderson,
whose one-liners had the room roaring during his 12-minute speech. Chambers
also took some time to share a few things he has learned on the bus during the
trip. The list included that he has learned what wrestlers wear for matches are
not known as "tights", rather they are called singlets and that he was nine
when Coach Rose began his tenure at Penn State in 1979.
The quartet of coaches is a tremendous group of ambassadors for the athletic
program, and they are all individuals who love to have fun. Their personalities
feed off of one another, and the New York crowd was treated to an event filled
with laughter and insight as to why Penn State is in great hands with the current
VIDEO: New York City Press Conference
Stop No. 10 - New Jersey (Hilton Hotel
For the first time in the Caravan's four-year history, an evening reception was
held in New Jersey on Wednesday. In previous years, the Caravan visited the
Garden State and the host of Penn State alums during lunch stops.
Much like New York, Coach Chambers triggered the crowd with an opening speech that
had the room roaring with approval. He called the Nittany Lion up on to the
stage to help lead a series of cheers to get the crowd engaged and then had the Lion knock out some
Wednesday night marked the final stop for Chambers during his stint on the
Caravan this year. The leader of Nittany Lion Basketball has been part of the
events since the idea began in 2012. He is a tremendous speaker in a public
setting, and Chambers is a superbly passionate individual about his role as an
ambassador and leader for not only men's basketball, but Penn State in general.
No one has more respect for what he has accomplished at Penn State than Coach
Rose. He has led the Nittany Lions to seven national titles, including six of
the last eight years. A big piece to the volleyball team's success has been the
talent Rose has recruited out of New Jersey, including Ridgewood, New Jersey,
native and All-American Ariel Scott.
"New Jersey has been very good to the Penn State volleyball team during the
time I have been in Happy Valley," said Rose.
Sanderson followed Rose with another stand-up act with jokes about everyone on
stage. The rooms tend to laugh from start to finish during Sanderson's speeches, and he
rarely refers to his notes. As fierce of a competitor as college sports has
ever seen, Sanderson is equally as personable when he gets in front of a crowd.
That's in large part due to his love for the fan base.
"The thing that inspires me is when we get out on the road and you hear the
passion for the University and the programs we coach," Sanderson said. "That's
what makes Penn State a special place. You just see the support everywhere you
Speaking of passion, Franklin wrapped up the evening's speakers with a speech
that left everyone in the room excited for the seasons ahead. The foundation is
in place for the football program Franklin envisioned when he took the job 16
He's said from stop one on the Caravan, but it rings true every time he
addresses a crowd, "I'm more excited about the future for Penn State Football
today than I was when I got the job. Why is that? Because I believe in Penn State."
The 2015 Coaches Caravan will conclude on Thursday with stops in the Lehigh
Valley and Wilkes-Barre.
Coaches Caravan Miles Traveled:
Day 1 - 129 miles Day II - 142 miles
Day III - 444 miles
Day IV - 220 miles
Day V - 107 miles
Caravan Total - 1,042 miles
GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
PHILADELPHIA - Leg
two of the 2015 Coaches Caravan kicked off on Tuesday with a pair of stops
before two great crowds in the Philadelphia area.
The Penn State Fullington Trailways rolled out of the Bryce Jordan Center
parking lot just after 6:45 a.m. en route to downtown Philadelphia for stop No.
7 of the Caravan inside the Hyatt at the Bellevue. Take a look through
highlights from the first two stops of the six-event second week of the Coaches
Stop No. 7 - Philadelphia (Hyatt at the
Week two of the Coaches Caravan is set to be a treat for the fans in
attendance. The coaching lineup is a who's who of leaders in Happy Valley,
featuring Patrick Chambers (men's basketball), James Franklin (football), Russ
Rose (women's volleyball) and Cael Sanderson (wrestling). It's rare to have
four of the highest profile head coaches sitting in the same room and speaking
to a crowd of passionate Penn Staters.
Nearly 100,000 Penn State alums call the Philadelphia area home, and for
Chambers and Franklin the stops in Philly are a homecoming. Hailing from Newtown
Square, Chambers is always fired up to spend time talking in front of his
"It's a lot of fun to have a bunch of Philly guys with us here today," Director
of Athletics Sandy Barbour said during the program's introduction.
Chambers kicked off the coach speeches on Tuesday with some humor.
"They chose me because I have the most hair of all the coaches," Chambers
The room roared as he continued to poke fun at the other coaches on stage.
Chambers has a great deal of positivity to convey about the direction of the
Nittany Lion basketball program. From the team's finish at the Big Ten
Tournament to the program's incoming recruiting class that ranks as the
program's all-time best, the men's hoops program is on its way to a place
Chambers is excited about.
"We are taking the right steps," Chambers said. "We are headed in the right
direction. We are getting there. It is a process."
Rose followed Chambers with remarks about a University he has called home for
the past 36 years. The women's volleyball program's accolades speak for themselves,
as do Rose's individual accomplishments. But what makes Rose so unique is that
he does not care about the individual awards and honors, he cares more about
the well being of Penn State as a whole.
"When Penn State wins a championship in any of our sports, we all win," Rose
said. "It's not about individuals or individual teams. When one team wins, we
Continuing with that theme, Sanderson has set the benchmark for success in
college athletics, but never draws attention to individual accomplishments. The
process of reaching the peak of success is all about approach to Coach
"Whatever you tell your student-athletes, you tell yourself the same thing,"
Sanderson. "These guys (up here on stage) live what they preach."
Franklin is a living example of what Sanderson talked about. He has spent the
first 16 months on campus laying the foundation of the Penn State football
program. Franklin believes in the process, and he is embracing the work that
goes into being a successful program on the field and in the classroom.
"One of things we love so much about Penn State is the standard (everyone
sets)," Franklin said as he looked at his fellow coaches on stage.
All four coaches on the Caravan are tremendous ambassadors for the University,
largely because of their passion for the jobs they do. They all love the school
and know what it means to be a Penn Stater long after the time when individuals
receive their diplomas, much like the crowd in the room.
"It's part of a family and a relationship that carries on for much longer than
the four years (people are on campus). That's why it is so special," said
VIDEO: Philadelphia Press Conference
Stop No. 8 - Langhorne (Sheraton Bucks County
Hotel) Following lunch on Broad Street in Center City, the Caravan bus moved to
Langhorne for the week's first evening reception. Just four miles from the
childhood home of Coach Franklin, a crowd of more than 250 loyal fans attended
the program inside the Sheraton Bucks County Hotel. Several friends and family members of Coach Franklin, including his sister
Debbie, spent the evening with the Coaches Caravan in Langhorne. It was a
special day all around for Franklin. Visitor after visitor said hello to the
leader of the Nittany Lions during both stops throughout a day in his hometown.
At the lunch stop, Franklin's second grade school teacher waited in the photo
booth line before surprising Franklin. "It's really cool to be back here today," Franklin said. "This has been a big
part of my life, and it's really cool to be back. The Langhorne crowd was among the best thus far during the two weeks of the
Caravan. The group was engaged and lively from start to finish during the
program. Barbour opened the evening by explaining to the room how important the
"why" is for the growth and development of the department. "It all begins with the why," Barbour said. "Our purpose at Penn State is about
delivering a world class student-athlete experience for more than 800
student-athletes. You can't begin to think of four better representatives of Penn State's "why"
than Chambers, Rose, Sanderson and Franklin. Chambers has a way of making everyone in the room feeling so positive about
Penn State. He led a rousing chant at the beginning of his speech that brought
the room to a roar. He yelled, "it's a great day to be a...." before the fans in the audience
finished the remark, "to be a Nittany Lion." Chambers brings so much enthusiasm
to a room that is infectious. And when it happens in Philly, his hometown fans
Rose followed Chambers with a speech on why Penn State is truly unique as an
athletic department. Every team matters to him. Why? It's because Penn State
means everything to Rose, and that's why he has been so prideful as a leader
for 36 years.
"I want to thank you for all of the things you do and the dreams and passion
you bring to the University," Rose told the crowd.
Sanderson had the crowd in stiches with his one-liners and humor on Tuesday
evening, but like the other coaches on stage, his message and passion are
"Penn State is unique, and it's unique because of people like you," said
The Caravan heads to New York City and New Jersey on Wednesday.
VIDEO: Langhorne Press Conference Video
Coaches Caravan Miles Traveled:
Day 1 - 129 miles Day II - 142 miles
Day III - 444 miles
Day IV - 220 miles
Caravan Total - 935 miles
GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The celebration images from inside Chesapeake Energy
Arena will never get old for Nittany Lion fans across the country.
As senior Dominique Gonzalez's service ace dropped to the
floor on match point, Penn State cemented its place atop the college volleyball
world with an unprecedented seventh national championship.
The Nittany Lions (36-3) won going away in Saturday's title tilt with a truly
dominant third-set in a 3-0 sweep of BYU.
Six national championships in an eight-year span is a remarkable feat for a
program that has set the benchmark for success.
The list of accomplishments for five-time AVCA Head Coach of the Year Russ Rose
and the program is astonishing. In addition to six national titles in the past eight
seasons, the Nittany Lions have gone 42-2 in the postseason since the 2007
season. The program's cumulative record since the start of 2007 is 270-23,
which includes a string of 109-straight match wins from September of 2007 to
September of 2010.
All six national championships in the past eight years have a unique story and
transpired under unique circumstances. The first came in Sacramento
after a five-set battle with Stanford in 2007. The '08 title run featured an
epic semifinal clash with Nebraska in Omaha during an undefeated season in
which Penn State lost just two individual sets.
The 2009 season's national title match victory over Texas may go down as the
single greatest match in Penn State history, which also capped off an
undefeated season. The '10 title came with a senior class - Blair Brown, Alyssa
D'Errico and Arielle Wilson - that graduated with four national championship
rings. The '13 championship came behind a stellar group of seniors who combined
for 10 years worth of All-America honors.
That brings us to 2014.
Having graduated a 2013 senior class that featured All-Americans Deja
McClendon, Ariel Scott and Katie Slay, the Nittany Lions entered the season
with big shoes to fill. Penn State signed a standout recruiting class, but
counting on rookies to step in and produce immediately is never sure recipe for
Led by AVCA National Player of the Year Micha Hancock, the Lions opened the
season with a 16-2 mark. Still learning and growing with each passing set, the
turning point of the season came on Oct. 11 when the Lions suffered a 3-1 setback
to Illinois at home.
Five days later, the Lions battled past Purdue in five sets. They never looked
back from there.
Penn State rattled off 16-consecutive victories in straight sets en route to
the NCAA regional final match against fourth-seeded Wisconsin (3-1). The
freshman duo of AVCA Freshman of the Year Ali Frantti and Big Ten Freshman of
the Year Haleigh Washington complemented an upperclassman rotation of Hancock,
Nia Grant, Gonzalez, Lacey Fuller, Megan Courtney and Aiyana Whitney.
The Lions ousted Wisconsin in a four-set match to punch a ticket to the
national semifinals for the 12th time in program history. In a clash of
volleyball powers in Oklahoma City, the Nittany Lions rose to the occasion in
the semifinals. Behind a dominant effort from Courtney, the Lions marched past
No. 1 Stanford for a date with unseeded BYU in the national championship match.
Leading 1-0 on Saturday night in the national championship match, the Nittany
Lions weathered a charge from the Cougars in set two. Penn State outlasted BYU
for a 26-24 win in the second frame before turning up the wick in a dominant
"I thought we had a great game plan," Rose said. "I thought the players
worked really hard at executing it, and we feel great about tonight's result."
In six NCAA Tournament matches this season, the Nittany Lions dropped just two
total sets. And the end result sent the team to a late-night charter flight
home on Saturday with a championship trophy bound for Rec Hall.
"It's pretty cool," Hancock said. "What's hitting me now is I'm not
coming back to play with my girls. I've been around it for a long time. They're
like a family to me."
NCAA women's volleyball is an ultra-competitive sport with 334 teams at
the Division I level. Winning one national championship is a remarkable
accomplishment, let alone six in eight seasons.
With that in mind, the 2014 senior class will leave Happy
Valley with back-to-back national titles.
The string of success Penn State Women's Volleyball has
achieved since 2007 has raised the bar. Everyone in the volleyball world expects
the Nittany Lions to win. But that's what makes Rose such a masterful motivator.
The outside world expects Penn State to compete for the national title every
season. But Rose just works to get the most out of his players so that they are
at their best in December. Sure, there is a bit of fortune involved in a
national title run in any sport, but it is no coincidence the Nittany Lions win
on the biggest stage.
"Nothing is easy. It would be naive to think it's easy," Rose said. "But,
I don't know, I just don't know how you would compare something like this. I
think you embrace it for what it is. Just because I don't jump around and get
all excited doesn't mean I'm not thrilled. But every day it's my job to try to
make these sort of things happen."
Rose never compares national titles or thinks about past results. He looks at
each team as a unique group. But in his eyes, the titles are not about him,
they are about the players on the floor.
"It's about the kids tonight," Rose said. "Dom Gonzalez could easily
have been the MVP in my opinion for the two matches she played here. Nia Grant
was fabulous tonight. And it's a team victory. That's one of the things that
we've been really good throughout the year. It's been a good team. I wouldn't
say it's been great fun all the time. But we were good at the things we were
good at. We were in a great conference. "
Yes, Penn State will need to replace a stellar group of leaders in Fuller,
Gonzalez, Grant and Hancock for 2015, but the pool of returning talent is deep.
The future continues to shine bright for a program that has set the standard
For now, though, the Lions will celebrate a seventh national championship.
GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony