UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
The seventh-seeded Nittany Lion women's volleyball team (28-5) travels to Des
Moines for a showdown with Hawaii (28-1) in the NCAA regional semifinals on
Friday at 8:30 p.m. (Live coverage on ESPN3).
The winner of the Penn State-Hawaii match will move on to face either No. 2 Minnesota (28-4) or Illinois (21-12) on Saturday in the regional final at 6:30 p.m. live on ESPNU.
"Well, it's always great to still be playing this time of year," head coach Russ Rose said. "We look forward to playing against a great opponent in Hawaii. We've played against each other a number of times over the years. Their performance last weekend; coming back and beating TCU, and then beating the SEC champion Texas A&M, 3-0, on their home court was a clear indication that they are playing great volleyball this time of year."
Penn State enters the weekend after knocking off Howard (3-0) and Dayton (3-1) inside Rec Hall in the opening two rounds of the tournament. The Nittany Lions last met Hawaii in the 2009 national semifinals. Penn State is 5-0 against the Rainbow Wahine all-time.
Under the NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament began its current 64-team setup, the Nittany Lions have advanced to the third round of the tournament 13 straight years. The Lions have played in the regional finals in eight of the last nine seasons.
The NCAA field has been trimmed to 16 teams. Penn State's quest for a return to the national semifinals goes through Wells Fargo Arena this weekend. First up is a clash with Hawaii on Friday.
Take a look through preview content to get ready for the regional round of the NCAA Tournament.
VIDEO: NCAA Regionals Preview Video
Regional Semifinals Statistical Rundown
Feature Story Corner
Nittany Lions Head To Regionals
By Sam DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-- The Penn State women's volleyball team is headed to Des Moines for the NCAA Regionals after defeating Howard and Dayton this past weekend.
The road to the national championship starts with a match against Hawaii on Friday night. If the Nittany Lions defeat the Rainbow Wahine, they will move on to face the winner of Minnesota-Illinois on Saturday. The winner of that match advances to the national semifinals.
"All of the teams at this point are good. There are 16 teams left and everybody has to win two games to get to the Final Four," head coach Russ Rose said. "That's what the is intent for all of the volleyball teams and players."
Setter Bryanna Weiskircher, who is playing in her first NCAA Tournament after redshirting last season, said she's excited to have made it to this point in the tournament.
"Our team has been working really hard all year long and we have a great group of kids that have great versatility in all aspects of the game," Weiskircher said. "We control our own fate at this point. Coach always says, it's not who we play, it's how we play. And it's a great opportunity for us."
Hawaii is 28-1 on the season and has the best winning percentage in the country. The Rainbow Wahine advanced to the NCAA Regionals after defeating TCU and Texas A&M last weekend. Penn State head coach Russ Rose said he is looking forward to playing Hawaii, a familiar foe.
"It's always great to be playing this time of year and we look forward to playing against a great opponent in Hawaii. We've played against each other a number of times over the years," Rose said. "Their performance over last weekend and coming back to beat TCU and being able to beat the SEC Champion, Texas A&M, 3-0 on their home court was a clear indication that they're playing great volleyball this time of year."
Rose also understands the level of competition that the Rainbow Wahine brings to the court.
"They've got great size. The middles are big. They've got great right side players and their two left side players are really good ball handlers. They're a physical team," Rose said.
Hawaii plays in the Big West conference. Rose said that some people may underestimate Hawaii because of this, but their record shows that they can play.
"When somebody only has a number one [in losses] after their name, you know they're really good. It doesn't make a difference what conference you're in," Rose said. "It's hard to be successful in a rally-sport [like] volleyball and certainly they play a lot of teams that have great tradition and care about the sport at their institution. I'm sure we'll have our hands full with a really good volleyball team."
Penn State's Russ Rose and Hawaii's Dave Shoji are two of the best coaches in collegiate volleyball. They are the only two coaches with more than 1,000 wins in NCAA Division I women's volleyball.
Shoji has 1,178 wins in his 41 seasons at Hawaii. Rose is the all-time leader in wins in NCAA Division I women's volleyball with 1,189 wins in 37 seasons.
Rose said that when he was doing his graduate work in the late 70's, Shoji's team was one of the teams he tried to model his thoughts about the game after. Today, the two have a great relationship.
"I don't look at it as me against Dave, we've known each other for a long time. We'll want to beat each other during the match and whoever wins will wish the other good luck," Rose said.
Minnesota, the Big Ten champion, will face Illinois on Friday night. Penn State defeated Illinois (21-12) in their only meeting of the season in October.
Minnesota is 28-4 and is coming off two tournament wins against Jackson State and Marquette. This season, Penn State split with Minnesota (each team won one match). Rose noted the strength of Minnesota's team this year.
"The freshman setter, next to Carlini (Wisconsin), I thought she was the best setter in the conference this year. They had a great season, a great performance," Rose said.
Rose also said that there's an advantage to playing a Big Ten team in the tournament.
"One of the benefits of going to a Regional with two other Big Ten teams is you don't have to kill yourself on scouting because you're at least familiar with those two teams," Rose said.
Courtney's Impact Deep at Penn State
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Co-captain Megan Courtney played in her final match at Rec Hall last Saturday evening as Penn State defeated Dayton in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
After the match point was scored, the handshakes between the Nittany Lions and Flyers were finished and the waves of appreciation were given out to the fans in the crowd, Courtney was the last person to jog off the court.
The Dayton, Ohio, native finished her home-court career with a win and an advance in the tournament, but Courtney has left a defining impact on the history of the Penn State women's volleyball team that will always help to inspire future Nittany Lions.
"I don't want to regret anything [in the tournament]," said Courtney. "I don't want to say 'What if?' I don't want to let me team down. I don't want to let the coaching staff down, so it's not necessarily what can I do, it's what can I do to help everyone else around me because when I'm helping people around me, then other people can help those around them. It's 'what can I do to make everyone else better?'"
Before attending Penn State, Courtney was already receiving numerous accolades in high school. She was named the Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year, weighed in ats the fourth-ranked overall recruit in the nation and led her team, the Archbishop Alter High School, to the Final Four State Championship three times as a three-year captain.
But when head coach Russ Rose first noticed Courtney, she was not even halfway through high school. Courtney was only 15 years old when she playing against All-Americans, who won four-straight national titles, during a Penn State volleyball summer camp.
"I first saw Megan when she was between her freshman and sophomore year of high school, and she was at camp playing with a roster of players that are now playing for USA Volleyball, and went on to win national championships," said coach Rose. "She was playing with them, and you would have had a difficult time, if you were the outsider, picking the 14- or 15-year-old out of those people. Her volleyball IQ has always been great."
Since starting her entire collegiate career under head coach Russ Rose, Courtney's volleyball IQ has only continued to grow to make her into one of the most versatile volleyball players in collegiate play.
In her freshman year, Courtney participated in all 36 matches, and started in 35 of them. Through practice, she was able to develop textbook blocks, passes, serves and swings to notch honors for: Big Ten Freshman of the Year, AVCA Mideast Region Freshman of the Year, Big Ten All-Freshman Team and more.
But this was only the beginning for Courtney. Since her arrival to Penn State, she has helped lead the Nittany Lions to three straight appearances in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament, as well as, back-to-back national championship titles in 2013 and 2014. She was named the Most Outstanding Player from last year's NCAA tournament.
"Fortunate for us, last year, during the final four, Courtney stepped up, and was recognized as the MVP of the final four," said coach Rose. "You know, that sums it up. She wasn't recognized by the Big Ten, but she went on and did great things on the big stage."
During her final season of volleyball, Courtney's list of honorees and achievements is still lengthening. She currently has 1,130 kills and 1,107 digs recorded in her career, and is only the eighth player in the history of Penn State to reach a 1,000 double-double.
If it wasn't for coach Rose's constant support and push to be the best, Courtney would not be where she is today.
"I'm hard on Megan because Megan can handle me being hard on Megan," said coach Rose.
In a mere two weeks, Courtney will be graduating from Penn State, but she still has more to prove in the rest of the tournament and her career.
Courtney and her fellow seniors are going for their third consecutive national title this season. She has the resume and biography to prove what she is capable of, but her biggest motivator for succeeding and ending her collegiate volleyball career at a high level is to play to win.
"We have the most national championship experience on our staff and in our gym, so that, especially with a team full of sophomores and freshmen playing big roles, it's comforting, but it doesn't guarantee anything," said Courtney. "I think that when situations do get tough, when we are put in a position with our backs against the wall, it's a good chance for us to push back and say 'We've been here before, we've come out on top. This is what we did in that circumstance, maybe this will work. If not, what is it that we've got to do to change it.' ...Our biggest motivation is that we don't want to feel that emotion of losing again. Winning the national championship is great, but it's the losing that really stings."
Next season, the 6-foot-1, brown-haired, outside hitter with the pink ribbon in her hair will not be in the Penn State starting lineup, but Courtney's hard work and success is something that won't be forgotten anytime soon.
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