Recently in Women's Volleyball Category

From a Coaching Lens: No. 2 Penn State Welcomes Illini and Wildcats

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By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming in at 23-2 overall with just one conference loss this season, the Nittany Lion women's volleyball team sits atop the Big Ten leaderboard with six regular season matches left to play.

In the Big Ten, the Lions lead all other teams in three specific categories. They are first in kills per set averaging 14.69, blocks per set with 2.93 and also rank as the top team to limit their opponents' hitting percentage to just .142, collectively.

All in all, the student-athletes that represent the Penn State program have been putting in the hours and putting up the numbers they need to be successful in the conference. The Lions are looking to continue that trend this week as they host Illinois on Thursday at 8 p.m. and Northwestern on Saturday at 8 p.m.

But part of the same successful program that may not always be in the forefront of a practice or a match or a statistics report are the people that sit on the sidelines in the chairs match in and match out.

Head coach Russ Rose is in his 34th year with the Nittany Lion program and said that whether his team has one mid-week match or a weekend full of matches, preparation is always key.

"Illinois is a good team," said Rose. "But I think every match is a tough match."

This season Rose said that he has been placing more focus on his team's play rather the opponents' in preparation for a match. But after a tough first half of the conference season where his team played the majority of its volleyball on the road, Rose said that he's happy to be competing at home this weekend.

"We have to take advantage of these two weeks at home after being away for what seems like five or six weeks," said Rose. "I think that's really important especially around here."

Rose is joined by assistant coaches Kaleena Davidson and Steve Aird in leading the Lions. Aird is in his first year with the Nittany Lion program and said it's important that the team understands how to get better every day.

"I think they understand the gameplan," said Aird. "Coach [Rose] works really hard at developing a gameplan that's going to be something that the kids understand going into matches. So the feedback we're getting from them is, 'Hey, we know what we're supposed to be doing.'"

The first time the Lions and the Illini met this season, Illinois pushed the match into a fifth set behind a strong offensive performance and tough blocking at the net. Penn State went on to win the match, 3-2, but not without a fight.

On Thursday, Aird said that it's especially crucial for his team to use what they've learned in the practice gym and project it onto the court.

"The key is just execution," said Aird. "The kids have watched lots of film. I think they're a lot more mature about their games and a little bit more prepared than they have been in the past and I think that's a good thing."

Blog - Megan Courtney, Nov. 6, 2012

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Hello everyone! Megan Courtney here! I hope everyone is staying warm and safe from the destruction of hurricane Sandy. Can you believe that Penn State actually closed the Courtney_Megan (H-12-MS) 6855_a.jpguniversity for a day?! Me either! I was shocked! But as my mom always says safety first! Not only was campus closed, but practice was cancelled as well! Don't get me wrong I love playing and practicing, but we could all use a day off! During this rare and unusual free time I actually got stop and just enjoy the little things. It gave me a chance to actually do things I enjoy outside of volleyball and my very busy schedule. I think I can speak for most of the girls when I say that it was truly a blessing.

But like always after our day off, practice and lifting was a lot tougher the next day. Coming off the loss to Nebraska, things were tough for all of us. But it wasn't time to focus on the things we didn't do right, but to move forward and learn from our mistakes and missed opportunities. During our week of practice we were all focused on our next opponent, Minnesota. Without a doubt, we gave them the attention they most definitely deserve. We knew they were good, and we knew what we had to do to get another W. That is exactly what we did. We were for sure tested and pushed by Minnesota, but we ended up on top after a great match by both sides. Minnesota is a great team and a tough opponent to play against so I give them the utmost respect.

On Sunday, I got the opportunity of a lifetime, to play the game I love with a group of amazing girls and a great coaching staff for nationally televised network, ESPN2. The opponent: Wisconsin. Once again, after the Minnesota game, we looked at the good things, put them in our memory banks, learned from the bad things, and turned our focus toward Wisconsin. If I have learned anything about the Big Ten this year it's that any given night a team can beat another. It is arguably the most competitive conference in the country. It really tests your skills physically and mentally. You are required to play your best every night or you could be defeated rather than victorious.

I hope to see you all on Thursday as we take on a tough Illinois team. Our game is on the Big Ten Network so be sure to come out and continue to support us and tell your friends and family about the game. It's never a bad thing to have too much support :)


Megan Courtney

A Team Effort Nabs Two More Conference Victories

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By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The third-ranked Nittany Lions returned home for the first time in two weeks and made the most of it by grabbing two more Big Ten wins.

Penn State defeated No. 10 Minnesota in four sets on Friday night in Rec Hall and continued to dominate on Sunday with a sweep of Wisconsin.

8058501.jpegIt was a team effort all-around as six Lions recorded more than 10 kills, four had more than 10 digs and combined the squad tallied 17 service aces.

Junior outside hitter Ariel Scott had a standout weekend with 20 kills against Minnesota and another 14 against Wisconsin for a total of 34 kills on the weekend. She said that she and her sophomore setter Micha Hancock have been working on solidifying their connection on the court, and she was happy that it improved in two crucial conference outings.

"Just between the two of us in the past we've had some communication problems just because we're on the some side of the court," said Scott. "We're really working on working that out and I think, especially at this point in the season, it's beneficial to the whole team."

Service errors and inconsistent passing have plagued the Lions in recent matches and has been a sticking point for the team thus far. But Penn State passed well out of the back-row and kept their serves between the white lines during both matches, suffering a total of just 17 service errors in the two contests.

Junior middle hitter Katie Slay attributed the solid play to her team's ability to communicate well and really concentrate on playing good volleyball from start to finish.

"We just have to come out and play to our level on our side of the net and that's really what we have to focus on," said Slay. "Coming out of the gate we have to start strong."

Slay is not only a returning All-American but also a team captain this season. She said that she constantly reminds her teammates to keep pushing their limits and work on themselves before they worry about their opponents.

"In the home stretch we really have to focus on our side of the net," said Slay. "I know we say that a lot but it's super important because you have to have a certain level of expectation so you know what you're going to bring out on the floor."

At 12-1 in the conference with just five matches left to play in the regular season, the Lions sit atop the Big Ten leader board with a two-game advantage over their next closest competitor. The Penn State women's volleyball program has claimed the Big Ten conference crown in 14 of the last 20 seasons.

Rose said that while he acknowledges the conference success of the program over the past couple of decades, he hopes that his team's outcome this season will be determined by their own will to compete rather than its assumed expectation.

"These guys should want to win because they want to win," said Rose. "You've got to have your eyes going forward and play it out and go hard. It's been a great fall."

Penn State controls its own destiny.

Lions Return to Rec Hall, Welcome Gophers and Badgers

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By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After two weeks on the road that ended in a tough loss to then fourth-ranked Nebraska, the Nittany Lions are finally back in their home gym. And man, are they relieved.


8089254.jpeg"I just love this gym and I am always so happy to come back," said junior outside hitter Deja McClendon before a practice this week. "Now it's time to go to work."

McClendon and her Lions will open up the weekend against Minnesota on Friday at 8 p.m. in Rec Hall. The team will have a day's rest and then host the Badgers of Wisconsin on Sunday at 2 p.m.

No. 3 Penn State has played 12 conference matches already this season, and with just eight Big Ten matches left in the regular season the team is looking to finish strong. The Lions hold an 11-1 record in the conference, dropping their only match to the Cornhuskers in five sets last weekend.

McClendon said that matches like the one against Nebraska aren't always the most fun to deal with immediately after, but eventually serve as motivators for her team.

"
Games like that where we let up and we lose, that kind of stuff really fires us up and tells us to get in the gym, start practicing, it's not over 'til it's over," said McClendon. "It doesn't matter if you've swept them once or beat them once, it's a new game."

Because the squad is more than halfway through its conference schedule, the rest of the matches that the Nittany Lions play will be against teams that they've already faced at least once this season. McClendon said that there are both advantages and disadvantages of playing a team that they've seen before.


"The second time a lot of it has to do with how your team has adjusted and I think that since [the other team] kind of knows some of our freshmen better this time around it's going to be a little bit easier for them to adjust. But it's the same with us - we've seen these serves a couple of times around so we have time to get ready for them too."

Penn State heads into the weekend at 21-2 overall and has not fallen out of the top five ranked teams since the season began in August. The team has cruised offensively for the majority of their match-ups, out-hitting their opponents by a percentage of .302 to .136 and taking 15 of their victories in just three sets.

McClendon said that at this time in the season players have a tendency to slowly break down both mentally and physically, but said that she has yet to see that in any of her teammates.

"I think as a team we've come together and we're a lot tighter," said McClendon. "[Micha Hancock]'s getting a lot better. I think she's adjusting and our middles are connecting a lot better with her right now. We've learned a lot."

Sophomore setter Hancock echoed her elder teammate's thoughts and said that at this time of the year, the Lions know what they want to do - they just have to go do it.

"This is when it really matters," said Hancock. "The last games are what determine who wins the Big Ten, who gets the good seeding and everything for the tournament so this is where we really need to focus."

VIDEO: One-on-One with Dominique Gonzalez - Nov. 1

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The third-ranked Nittany Lion women's volleyball team returns home on Friday for the first time in two weeks.  Penn State takes on Minnesota on Friday at 8 p.m. (BTN) and Wisconsin on Sunday at 2 p.m. (ESPN2).

GoPSUsports.com caught up with libero Dominique Gonzalez for a one-on-one to get ready for the home matches.



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Blog - Katie Slay, Oct. 30, 2012

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Hey Penn State Fans,

I hope that everyone was safe with Hurricane Sandy ripping through the east coast. I know there was extensive damage in a lot of your areas. We were lucky here in State College, and we were just hit with rain and wind.

Now to talk about volleyball! We just finished up a long two-week road trip this past weekend. Last Tuesday we traveled to Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes. They host us in their very large basketball arena. It is cool experience to play in such a large gym, but it also puts an even bigger emphasis on bring energy to the floor. Since it's not a very loud gym packed with students it's up to us to provide our own energy for the match. Iowa plays hard, and Wednesday night was no exception. They didn't let up and took good swings. After the match we were able to go straight to the plane to fly home. We're very lucky to be able to do that. It is nice to get back to class as many of us had tests and quizzes on Thursday and Friday.

Friday night we went to the endowment dinner where we were able to thank everyone who shows support to the university by endowing scholarships. It was a nice event, and we are so grateful to everyone who contributes. This university would not be what it is today competing at a high level academically and athletically without their help. Then the next morning we had practice at Rec before heading off to Lincoln.

It was game day in Lincoln when we arrived on Saturday. It was neat to see their downtown area while everyone was out and about. We were able to rest for the remainder of the evening, and catch our football game on TV. Sunday morning we had a light practice before match time and got touches. Nebraska is always a tough place to play because they have a very loyal and loud fan base. The match was intense. While we didn't win we learned both good things about our team and things to work on. We're working to keep getting better.

We're excited to take the floor again this weekend in front of our home crowd. It will be nice to have some home matches. See you all there!

Blog - Marika Racibarskas, Oct. 23, 2012

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Hello Nittany Lion faithful! What an extended road trip we have had. We have been traveling for what seems like all of October. In this week's matchup, we played at Ohio State on Wednesday and Michigan on Saturday. Going into these matches, we knew both teams would play us very tough, especially in front of their home crowd. Racibarskas_Marika (H-11-MS)315a.jpg

 

We arrived in Columbus on Tuesday after a short practice in South Gym. For many of the girls, this hotel was located right next to a favorite restaurant from home, Sonic. Although I personally didn't have a Sonic growing up, I know a bunch of the girls did and they were more than excited to get a quick taste of home. After our pregame practice the next morning in St. John arena, it was time to rest, watch film, and catch up on any schoolwork missed that day. When we arrived at the match, we knew Ohio State was more than ready to play us. This three set battle consisted of high paced volleyball. With the win, we loaded our things onto the bus and quickly flew back to State College.

 

Our flight to Ann Arbor was on Friday afternoon, just after two days of practice and classes in Happy Valley. Here we go, on the road again! It was a football weekend in Ann Arbor so there were crowds of people all over town. We practiced much earlier than normal on that morning to avoid the tailgaters and the traffic they create. Because of this, we had plenty of time to rest and prepare back at the hotel. We knew Michigan, similar to Ohio State, would play one of their best matches against us. They fought hard and we battled point after point all the way to the fifth set. The crowd was very loud creating deafening noise in the tiny Cliff Keen Arena.

 

We came out of this week with two big wins on the road in tough venues to play in. The road trip continues as we travel to Iowa on Tuesday and Nebraska on Saturday. Can't wait to be back in Rec Hall!

 

Penn State vs. Nebraska: By the Numbers

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By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The top-ranked Nittany Lions head on the road to face fourth-ranked Nebraska on Sunday at 3 p.m. The two teams are battling for recognition atop of the Big Ten Conference as well as a strong end to the regular season. Take a look at a few of the numbers heading into the match-up.

0
: Penn State has not lost a Big Ten match yet this season. The Lions hold onto an 11-0 record in the conference with nine matches left in the regular season.

2
: Nebraska has lost just two conference matches this season, which came at the hands of the Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes of Ohio State. The Cornhuskers have tallied nine other victories inside the Big Ten.

4
: This will be the fourth consecutive match that the Lions play on the road over the past two weeks. The Lions have not been away from home for this long since the beginning of conference play.

9
: Before Ohio State defeated Nebraska this past Friday night, the Cornhuskers tallied a nine-match winning streak in conference play.

12
: Nebraska head coach John Cook has been at the helm of the program for 12 years and has a pair of NCAA titles under his belt.

20
: The two teams have faced each other 20 times in their program histories. The Cornhuskers have taken home 12 wins and the Nittany Lions have claimed the other eight matches.

40
: Micha Hancock broke even in Penn State's most recent victory over Iowa and has registered 40 services aces this season. Her team has notched 107 total aces this year.

77
: Penn State has played 77 sets of Division I volleyball so far this season. They've won 15 matches in just three sets, three matches in four sets and taken just four matches to five sets.

104
: Nittany Lion junior Katie Slay continues to use her 6-foot-6 body to stop opposing offenses from being successful. The middle blocker has been credited for 104 blocks this season.

242
: Senior outside hitter Gina Mancuso tops the Cornhuskers' offense with a whopping 242 kills this year. She has been a force at the net for the Nebraska offense.

265
: Sophomore Dominique Gonzalez has become the starting libero for the Nittany Lions and has dug up 265 balls in just 22 matches played. Gonzalez has become a wall in the back-row for the Penn State defense.

1,079
: Penn State head coach Russ Rose has won more than 1,000 matches in his time with the Lions. As the leader of the program, he has only lost 173 matches in 34 years of coaching. 

Blog - Erica Denney, Oct. 16, 2012

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This past weekend, after two grueling weeks on the road, we were finally back at home in Rec Hall! We had Purdue here on Friday night and Indiana on Saturday night. All last week in practice we did the usual preparations for the competitions ahead, focusing on the game plan and fixes for our little internal problems. Leading into the Friday match we had some serious external motivation after reading articles from the Purdue newspaper saying how their players believed that they could handle us at home.  Naturally we, as the competitive people that we are, did not stand for this whatsoever. We were focused prior, as well as during the match. Our focus was on Ariel Turner, their outside and one of their best players. We kDenney_Erica (H-12-MS) 8983_.jpgnew if we could stop her it would really help us out. By the end of the match we had done just that. She only hit around a .125 showing that she had minimal impact on us. In the end we had success.

 

Saturday was the day we played Indiana. Practice early that morning was a little flat, which is never a great way to start off a game day. But we got through it. We then each spent the afternoon doing what we felt we needed to do in order to be ready to perform. Me personally? I spent the first half of my afternoon studying for an exam I had coming up and half the time resting/relaxing. Come 4 p.m. we had pregame meal. This was different than the usual pregame meal at home. This time we were fortunate enough to eat at the Nittany Lion Inn. They had everything from salad to fruit to potatoes to pork and more! It was absolutely delicious. After the meal we carried on with our usual pregame routine and into the match we went. Indiana played very well and we were our own worst enemy at points within the match. None of us were very pleased by the way we performed. However, a win is a win and now all we can do is work to be better before we play Ohio State on Wednesday.

No. 1 Lions Net Two More Conference Victories

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By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - From one night to the next, a team of Division I athletes will do whatever it takes to win a contest. And sometimes, when more than one match is played in the same weekend, a squad can perform two completely different ways and still come out with the win.

8110626.jpeg

That was the case for the top-ranked Nittany Lions this past weekend.

Penn State swept No. 17 Purdue on Friday night in Rec Hall behind a strong offensive performance and an equally strong defensive performance. The Lions hit a team average of .393 against the Boilermakers and put up 9.5 blocks at the net.

After the match, Penn State head coach Russ Rose gave a nod to his team's all-around hitting performance, good passing and effective communication.

All in all, the Lions played a clean match and made a statement against a good team.

On Saturday night, the Nittany Lions didn't play nearly as cleanly but they still came away with a victory.

Penn State dropped the first set of the night against the Hoosiers after Indiana took an early lead. The Lions went on to win the next three and take the match, but hit just .197 as a team against their Big Ten competitors.

Rose noticed the change in demeanor of his team from one night to the next too, but said he was ultimately pleased with the outcome.

"If you don't play your best and you win, you feel fortunate about that," said Rose. "You try and pick up the cues that are going to make you a better team in the future, a better teammate, and you go on from there."

And the statistics show that what held the team together was the all-around effort of the entire squad on the weekend. Collectively, the Lions put up 25 blocks, dealt eight service aces and put down 94 kills in the two conference matches. Six of the 13 Nittany Lions registered double-digit kills in the weekend as well.


"I think it's a team game and all the kids are good kids," said Rose. "They want to do well for the team, I don't any of them think it's about themselves, I think they know it's a team game."


With back-to-back wins on their home court, Penn State holds onto its top-ranked spot and improves to 8-0 in the Big Ten.

The Lions are a little more than halfway through the regular season and have 12 more matches left to play. At the end of the weekend, Rose said that he is confident that his team can handle the pressure of a Division I schedule.

"Every time we play we get some opportunities to see things we need to get better at," said Rose.

"It's a long season and when you have a team that's mentally tough with broad shoulders, they can handle all the expectations and they get better and they can keep going along."