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Coaches Caravan: Day III - Lancaster and Harrisburg

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Photo Gallery: Lancaster | Photo Gallery: Harrisburg


CAMP HILL, Pa. - The Coaches Caravan capped off the first leg of the 12-stop tour with visits to Lancaster and Harrisburg on Thursday.

A capacity crowd of 330 fans greeted head coaches Bill O'Brien, Cael Sanderson and Russ Rose for a luncheon at Penn Square in Lancaster.  The bus then loaded up for a 50-minute drive to Camp Hill for the week's final stop before nearly 550 enthusiastic attendees.  In total, more than 2,100 fans and alums took part in Caravan stops during week one.  Take a look through some highlights on day three at two visits to the heart of Nittany Nation.

Stop V - Lancaster (Marriott at Penn Square)
A sold out crowd of 330 enthusiastic Penn State fans and alums greeted all three coaches on the docket for Thursday's lunch stop with a warm, standing ovation reception.  Five-time NCAA champion women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose joined the Caravan for the final day of the initial leg.

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Sanderson kicked off the panel of speakers with high praise of the other two leaders on stage with him.  The wrestling offices are just down the hall from the women's volleyball offices inside Rec Hall, and Sanderson told the crowd that when he sees Rose and how he runs his program, he uses it as motivation for leading the wrestling program.

"Coach Rose is a tremendous asset for Penn State," Sanderson said.

"What he (Coach O'Brien) has done for the University is unbelievable," Sanderson went on to say.

Nestled in the heart of wrestling country, Sanderson took the opportunity to tell the fans to take advantage of the opportunity to see talents like David Taylor and Ed Ruth wrestle during their senior seasons.  Sanderson said that elite athletes like those two do not come around too often.

Rose took the microphone second and echoed Sanderson's remarks about the cast of coaches on stage at the Caravan stops on Thursday.  He joked that his team's 109-match winning streak during the program's unprecedented string of four-straight NCAA titles pales is just a number alongside Sanderson's 159-0 mark as a collegiate wrestler.

The Nittany Lion women's volleyball team will kick off a European tour on Saturday.  Rose said he is looking forward to how his team works during the offseason.  The Lions kick off the trip in the Czech Republic and cap things off in Italy.

One of the great things about the Caravan is seeing how the coaches interact with one another.  All three leaders were truly genuine in their remarks directed at one another.  Sanderson and Rose both praised O'Brien for his leadership of the program during the past 15 months.  O'Brien's feelings are mutual for the other two coaches.  He and Sanderson shared stories and exchanged coaching philosophies throughout the bus travel on Thursday.

"It's very humbling to share the stage with Russ Rose and Cael Sanderson," O'Brien said as he opened his speech.

The trio of coaches in Lancaster was among the seven Penn State leaders who earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors during the 2012-13 season.

"[Penn State] is a great place to be.  Our coaching staffs are really strong in a lot of areas," Rose said.

VIDEO: Lancaster Press Conference with Coaches O'Brien, Rose and Sanderson



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Stop VI: Harrisburg (Radisson Camp Hill)

Following a luncheon before a capacity crowd, the Caravan rolled into the Harrisburg area for an evening program in Camp Hill.  Nearly 550 guests congregated inside the Grand Ballroom at the Radisson to hear O'Brien, Sanderson and Rose address the crowd on Thursday night.

caravan_harrisburg1.jpg The first week of the Caravan ended with a night fun night of entertainment for the fans in Harrisburg.  The largest crowd of the week was a lively, engaged group from start to finish during the speeches and Q&A, largely thanks to another sterling performance from leadoff man Cael Sanderson to kick-start the program.

After drawing a huge crowd and shaking countless hands during the pre-event reception, Sanderson had the audience in stiches with one-liner after one-liner during his speech.  Among many quick-witted moments, he got the crowd into a standing ovation contest, as he called it, to see how many times he could get the crowd to give O'Brien a standing ovation during his own speech.

All three coaches fed off of one another at both stops on Thursday, but Sanderson and O'Brien were a comical matchup on stage throughout the evening in Harrisburg.  O'Brien answered Sanderson's stand-up act later during his speech by ribbing the wrestling legend for losing a grand total of three matches from high school through college (He was a combined 286-3 in high school and college.)

"Come on, Cael. You could have done better than that (laughter)," O'Brien said.

With the crowd roaring, Rose took the microphone and said," Cael's on fire!"  The Nittany Lion women's volleyball head coach went on to tell the crowd that the individuals in the room understood what the true meaning is behind being a Penn Stater.  The 34-year veteran also knows a thing or two about what Penn State is all about with its success on the field of play and in the classroom.

"I've been there a long time, and I love being there," Rose said.  "I'm not going anywhere."

"When you talk about Penn State around the country, you just want people to see what people are like in a room like this," O'Brien said.

The Penn State community is special to all three coaches.  Without a doubt, they all had fun joking with one another on stage Thursday night, but there is no question how each coach feels about the place they call home and the people who support the Blue and White.

"If you have that support before the success that's how you get the success, and that's what we have at Penn State," Sanderson said.

"A roomful of energetic, passionate Penn Staters, this is what it's all about," O'Brien said.    


VIDEO: Harrisburg Press Conference with Coaches O'Brien, Rose and Sanderson


caravan_harrisburg2.jpgcaravan_harrisburg3.jpgcaravan_harrisburg4.jpg Miles Covered on Day One - 203 miles
Miles Covered on Day Two - 147 miles
Miles Covered on Day Three -
254 miles
Caravan Total -
604 miles

The Caravan resumes on Tuesday with stops in Williamsport and Allentown.


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


VIDEO: Nittany Lions Active Off the Court at THON

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion women's volleyball team played an active role at THON 2013.  Seniors Kristin Carpenter and Marika Racibarskas were among the 710 dancers who were on their feet for 46 consecutive hours to help fight pediatric cancer.

Additionally, members of the team hosted a Make-A-Wish event with Four Diamonds families, the team visited THON children at athlete hour and danced in the annual THON Pep Rally.  THON 2013 raised a record $12.34 million in the fight against pediatric cancer.

VIDEO: Women's Volleyball THON 2013 Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Watch several members of the Nittany Lion women's volleyball team show off their dance moves at the THON 2013 Pep Rally.

THON 2013 raised a record $12.34 million in the fight against pediatric cancer.  Congratulations to the more than 700 dancers who stood for 46-straight hours over the weekend and to all those involved with the fundraising efforts.





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

Penn State Athletics THON 2013 Coverage

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Athletics was heavily involved with the 41st IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) held at the Bryce Jordan Center this weekend.

More than 700 dancers began standing at 6 p.m. on Friday and did not sit down or sleep until Sunday at 4 p.m. to raise awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer in the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Since 1977, THON has partnered with The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital with one goal in mind: conquering childhood cancer.  THON went to new heights on Sunday when a record of more than $12.37 million was raised for 2013.  To date, more than $100 million has been raised by THON.

Several Penn State student-athletes spent 46 hours on their feet in the annual dance marathon.  Representing the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) were Kristin Carpenter from the women's volleyball team and Annie Abdo from the field hockey squad.  Katlyn Elliott from women's golf and Marika Racibarskas from women's volleyball represented Penn State Hockey this weekend.


Additionally, Perry Hammershlag and Nicole Symeonides from the Lionetts squad and Paige McManus and Nicole Camporeale from Penn State cheerleading danced in THON.

Several teams and coaches played an active role in THON events throughout the weekend, in addition to squads participating in Saturday's annual pep rally and team dance competition.

We would also like to wish GoPSUsports.com student writers Matt Allibone and Kelsey Detweiler, along with Penn State Athletic Communications student assistant Angelis Lau the best of luck as they dance over the weekend, and the several student assistants actively involved with THON.

From start to finish, take a look through the updates from the involvement Penn State Athletics had in THON over the weekend on GoPSUsports.com. 

Friday Coverage:

4:45 p.m. - VIDEO: Pre-Dancing Interviews with Student-Athletes
Just over one hour from beginning the quest of spending 46-straight hours on their feet, we caught up with Marika Racibarskas from women's volleyball and Katlyn Elliott from women's golf for their final thoughts before the start of THON 2013. 


5 p.m. - VIDEO: Coach Chambers Addresses Crowd, Donates $14,200
Head coach Patrick Chambers pledged to donate $10 to THON 2013 for every student in attendance at Penn State's clash against Iowa on Thursday night in the Bryce Jordan Center.  On Friday evening, just before heading to the airport with the Nittany Lions for their trip to Michigan, Chambers addressed the crowd at THON and presented a check for $14,200.  Take a look.


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Saturday Coverage:

8 a.m. - VIDEO: Hour 14 Interviews from Penn State Athletics Dancers

GoPSUsports.com caught up with women's volleyball student-athletes and 2013 dancers Marika Racibarskas and Kristin Carpenter just before 8 a.m. on Saturday morning for an update on how things were going 14 hours into the 46-hour dance marathon.  Additionally, we talked with GoPSUsports.com student writer and broadcaster Kelsey Detweiler, who is also dancing, for an update.  In addition to an interview, we asked all three what time they felt like it was.  Dancers are normally asked to avoid looking at the clock, and they rarely know what time it is.  Take a look at an hour 14 update from three Penn State Athletics representatives dancing in THON for the fight against pediatric cancer.


2 p.m. - VIDEO: Football Hosts THON Make-A-Wish Event
Seventy members of the Nittany Lion football team welcomed 28 THON Make-A-Wish children and their families to a special tour of the Lasch Football Building on Saturday afternoon.

The Make-A-Wish event is circled on the calendar for the Nittany Lions every year.  The THON families gathered inside the home of Penn State football to take photos, get autographs, tour the facility with the Nittany Lions, eat ice cream from the Penn State Creamery and take a photo in the locker room.

Head coach Bill O'Brien spoke to the group after it received the facility tour and signed autographs with the THON kids.  Take a look at the Make-A-Wish event at the Lasch Football Complex on Saturday.

Photo Gallery - THON Make-A-Wish


4:10 p.m. - PHOTO - Teams Participate in Athlete Hour
Student-athletes from across Penn State Athletics spent time with THON families and children inside the practice gym of the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday afternoon for Athlete Hour.


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10:10 p.m. - VIDEO: Pep Rally Dance Competition Highlights
One of the THON highlights every year comes on Saturday night when the teams of Penn State Athletics hop on stage and compete in a dancing competition during the annual pep rally.  In all, 11 different teams competed in the 2013 version of the dance-off.

With resounding approval from a packed house in the Bryce Jordan Center, the Nittany Lion men's swimming team was named champion of the team dancing competition, largely thanks to its use of a prop pool to create a swimming scene mid-dance.  We have highlights of every team dancing on Saturday night at THON.  Take a look.

Photo Gallery - THON 2013 Pep Rally


Sunday Coverage:

12:55 p.m. - VIDEO: Coach O'Brien Addresses THON 2013

Head coach Bill O'Brien took the stage at THON on Sunday afternoon, urging the dancers to push through the "fourth quarter" of the 46-hour marathon.  O'Brien spoke before a capacity crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center.  Take a look.


4:12 p.m. - VIDEO: THON 2013 Reveal - $12,374,034.46
THON 2013 reached new heights on Sunday afternoon when it was revealed that this year's efforts raised $12,374,034.46 for fight against pediatric cancer.  Watch a truly inspiring moment in front of a capacity crowd in the Bryce Jordan Center during the revealing of this year's total.  Congratulations to everyone involved in THON 2013.


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

Vote for the Top Penn State Sports Event of 2012

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2012 calendar year was one marked by excellence and achievement from numerous Penn State teams.

8416786.jpegAs we close in on the final days of 2012, GoPSUsports.com wanted to take time and reflect on a tremendous year for Penn State Athletics.  The hiring of head coach Bill O'Brien on Jan. 6, in many ways, set a tone for the athletic department throughout the calendar year.  O'Brien's introductory press conference highlighted a clear vision for how the football program would try to do its part in helping the athletic department move forward as One Team.

The results speak for themselves, and all 31 Penn State teams across the University Park campus should be recognized for their efforts in 2012.  The list of achievements on the field of play, including one national title and seven Big Ten titles, and in the classroom, including more than 270 Academic All-Big Ten honorees, is tremendous.

The spring season included a Big Ten and NCAA title from the wrestling team for second-straight season.  Three Nittany Lion wrestlers - Frank Molinaro, David Taylor and Ed Ruth - won individual national titles.  The Lady Lions, who clinched a Big Ten title on the BJC hardwood in February, earned a spot in the Sweet Sixteen for the 12th time in program history.  The men's volleyball team earned a trip to the NCAA National Semifinals for the 27th time.  The women's lacrosse team reached the NCAA Quarterfinals.

Additionally, 171 Penn State student-athletes earned Academic All-Big Ten accolades during the winter and spring seasons.  Men's gymnastics' Miguel Pineda was named a first Academic All-American.

The fall campaign was one for the Penn State record books.  Penn State won five Big Ten championships and had five coaches selected conference coach of the year.  The field hockey team (Char Morett) won the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles, the men's soccer team (Bob Warming), women's soccer (Erica Walsh) and women's volleyball (Russ Rose) teams all won Big Ten championships.  Additionally, after leading the Nittany Lion football team to an 8-4 campaign, including six Big Ten wins, Bill O'Brien was named Big Ten Coach of the Year.

In postseason competition, the women's soccer team reached the NCAA College Cup Final for the first time in program history.  The women's volleyball team played in the NCAA National Semifinals for the 10th time in school history.  The women's cross country team captured the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional crown on its home course.

The story was much of the same in the classroom.  A fall record 100 Penn State student-athletes achieved Academic All-Big Ten recognition this semester, including a trio of 4.0 students - football's John Urschel, women's volleyball's Maggie Harding and women's cross country's Katie Rodden.  Football's Pete Massaro and Urschel earned first team Academic All-America honors.  Harding won the Elite 89 Award for the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship for having the highest cumulative grade point average of student-athletes participating in the championship.

With so many events to choose from, narrowing down the list of outstanding Penn State sporting events from 2012 to just 10 was a challenge, but here are your 10 nominees for the top sporting event of the outstanding 2012 calendar year for Penn State Athletics.

From now until Dec. 28, cast your vote for the top event of the year.




7550286.jpegMen's Track's Robby Creese Breaks Four-Minute Mile
February 12, 2012 - Seattle, Wash. - Freshman Robby Creese runs 3:59.52 mile

Freshman phenom Robby Creese etched his place in Penn State history by becoming just the third athlete in school history to break the four-minute barrier in the mile run at the Flotrack Husky Classic at the University of Washington.  Riding the wave of momentum following a superb start to his first indoor track season in Happy Valley, Creese ran a 3:59.52 mile, which was the second fastest in Penn State indoor track history.  Creese joined Ryan Foster and Larry Mangan as the only three Nittany Lions to crack four minutes.





7674055.jpegWrestling Clinches Second-Straight NCAA Title
March 17, 2012 - St. Louis, Mo. - Penn State Clinches NCAA Championship

Head coach Cael Sanderson and the Penn State wrestling team reached the mountain top of the wrestling world for the second-straight season with a truly dominant performance at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis.  The Nittany Lions mathematically clinched their third all-time team national title during the morning session inside the Scottrade Center on final day of competition at the three-day tournament.  Penn State put icing on the cake with three individual national champions, including senior Frank Molinaro (149), sophomore David Taylor (165) and sophomore Ed Ruth (174), who finished the 2011-'12 season with a combined record of 88-0.  Penn State cleared second-place Minnesota by 26.5 points in the final team standings.





8416705.jpegWomen's Basketball Beats LSU for Sweet Sixteen Berth
March 21, 2012 - Baton Rouge, La. - Penn State 90, LSU 80

When the 2012 NCAA Tournament draw was released, the fourth-seeded Lady Lions knew their road to the Sweet Sixteen would likely include a clash against fifth-seeded LSU on its home floor.  The Big Ten regular season champion Lions dispatched UTEP in the first round in Baton Rouge, setting up a showdown with the host Tigers for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.  LSU led 37-36 at halftime before claiming a 50-44 edge in the second half.  However scoring runs of 9-2 and 8-2 from Penn State in in the second half, along with a 30-point night from Maggie Lucas fueled the Lions for a 90-80 victory over LSU in a hostile Maravich Center.  The Lady Lion victory sent Penn State into the Sweet Sixteen for the 12th time in program history.





7821970.jpegMen's Volleyball Tops George Mason for 14th-Straight EIVA Crown
April 28, 2012 - Rec Hall - Penn State 3, George Mason 1

Penn State's string of success in the EIVA is unmatched.  On the heels of the heels of claiming the best record in the conference in 2012, Penn State earned the luxury of hosting the championship match on its home floor.  The eighth-ranked Nittany Lions used 15 kills from Joe Sunder and 11 kills from freshman Aaron Russell to claim a 3-1 victory over George Mason in the EIVA title match inside Rec Hall.  The Lions quickly built a 2-0 lead after a strong start to the match, but George Mason answered by winning the third set.  Nonetheless, Penn State erased a 12-9 Patriot lead in the fourth set en route to the victory, automatic bid in the national semifinals and its 27th appearance in the NCAA Championship.





navyfootball.jpgFootball Downs Navy for Bill O'Brien's First Win
September 15, 2012 - Beaver Stadium - Penn State 34, Navy 7

Following an 0-2 start to the 2012 season, the Nittany Lion football team had one of the best practices of its season on the Monday of Navy week.  Penn State did not look back from there.  Led by three touchdowns from standout sophomore receiver Allen Robinson, the Nittany Lions rolled past Navy, 34-7, en route to the first victory for head coach Bill O'Brien.  The Lions led 20-0 at halftime following a pair of Robinson scores and a third touchdown pass from Matt McGloin to Jesse James.  McGloin finished with four touchdown passes, and sophomore Mike Hull put an exclamation point on the victory with a 74-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in the second half.  O'Brien received a shower of water when the clock ticked to 0:00, and the win kick-started a string of five-straight victories for the Nittany Lions. 





8416731.jpegField Hockey Shuts Out Michigan for Big Ten Title Sweep
November 4, 2012 - Iowa City, Iowa - Penn State 2, Michigan 0

On the heels of winning the Big Ten regular season title, the Nittany Lion field hockey team capped off an impressive run through the postseason tournament draw with a dominant defensive performance against third-seeded Michigan.  Standout senior forward Kelsey Amy tallied both of Penn State's goals to lead the Nittany Lions to a 2-0 victory over the Wolverines and their second-straight Big Ten Tournament championship.  Senior goalkeeper Ayla Halus notched three saves and earned her fourth shutout of the season.  The victory boosted the Lions into hosting NCAA Tournament competition for second time in three seasons.





8308722.jpegWomen's Cross Country Claims NCAA Regional Title on Home Course
November 9, 2012 - Blue/White Course - Penn State Clinches NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional

There is no better motivation for a team to enter a season knowing it has an opportunity to host postseason competition at home.  When the Nittany Lion cross country team began its formal preparations for 2012 at the end of the summer, it knew the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals loomed on the Blue/White Course loomed in early November.  Penn State took full advantage of the opportunity and unseasonably warm weather to edge No. 9 and defending NCAA champion Georgetown (61-63) for a victory.  Junior Victoria Perri and senior Brooklyne Ridder led the way with fourth and sixth-place finishes, respectively.  The Lions went on to finish 14th at the NCAA Championships on Nov. 17.





8416748.jpegFootball Ousts Wisconsin on Senior Day to Remember
November 24, 2012 - Beaver Stadium - Penn State 24, Wisconsin 21 OT

It would have been hard to script a better ending to the 2012 football season.  A senior class that will forever be remembered for its commitment to Penn State had to earn ever ounce of success it achieved, even on its special day.  After an emotional senior ceremony to honor the 31 members of the senior class, the Nittany Lions quickly found themselves down 7-0 to Wisconsin.  The Lions rallied back to take a 21-14 lead until the final 18 seconds of the game when the Badgers sent the contest into overtime with a late score.  Sam Ficken's leg put Penn State up 24-21 in OT before a missed field goal preserved the Senior Day win.  Defensive tackle Jordan Hill was the star of the show.  Hill was simply not going to let the Lions be denied in his final game, notching 12 tackles in dominant fashion.





8369918 (1).jpegWomen's Soccer Edges Florida State in Dramatic Fashion for first Trip to College Cup Final
November 30, 2012 - San Diego, Calif. - Penn State 2, Florida State 1 OT

After winning its 15th-straight Big Ten title, the Nittany Lion women's soccer team etched its place in program history with a remarkable run through the NCAA Tournament.  But the string of postseason victories will be trademarked by a soggy night in San Diego on the final day of November.  The Nittany Lions had been to the College Cup three times before their trip to the West Coast, but never to the College Cup Final.  Senior midfielder Christine Nairn changed that with an overtime goal that will live in Penn State women's soccer lore forever.  After taking a 1-0 lead in the 57th minute, Penn State held on until the final 48 seconds when Florida State tied the contest in improbable fashion.  Nevertheless, Penn State's senior class was not going to let the season end.  A long pass from Maddy Evans on the right wing into the box set up Nairn's tap-in, game-winner from six yards out, sending Nittany Lion women's soccer into the College Cup Final for the first time in program history.





8393292.jpegWomen's Volleyball Punches Ticket to 10th NCAA Semifinal
December 8, 2012 - West Lafayette, Ind. - Penn State 3, Minnesota 1

Faced with the task of needing a third victory over the same team to earn a spot in the NCAA National Semifinals, the top-seeded and Big Ten champion Nittany Lion women's volleyball team entered its regional final match in Purdue's Mackey Arena focused on the task at hand.  Penn State built a 5-0 lead over eighth-seeded Minnesota in set one en route to a 1-0 lead in the match.  No strangers to adversity, though, the Nittany Lions dropped set two and found themselves in a 23-21 deficit in the third set.  Just two points from going down 2-1 in the match, Penn State answered.  Micha Hancock and Deja McClendon combined for four-straight tallies to make it 25-24 before Big Ten Player of the Year Ariel Scott finished the match with a kill, punching Penn State's ticket into the NCAA Semifinals for the fifth time in six season and the 10th time in school history.


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VIDEO: NCAA Semifinal Post-Match Press Conference

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Hear from head coach Russ Rose, Dominique Gonzalez and Ariel Scott following Thursday's 3-1 setback to Oregon inside the KFC Yum! Center on Thursday night.


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NCAA Semifinal Match Blog - FINAL: No. 5 Oregon 3, No. 1 Penn State 1

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NCAA Semifinal Practice Day Coverage

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Welcome to live match coverage of the top-seeded Nittany Lion women's volleyball team in the NCAA National Semifinals.

Take a look through the running blog from Penn State's 3-1 setback to Oregon in the NCAA semifinals inside the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.

Semifinal One - No. 3 Texas 3, Michigan 2
The third-seeded Texas Longhorns rallied from 2-1 down against unseeded Michigan for a thrilling five-set victory in the first semifinal on Thursday night.  Michigan played a tremendous match against the talented Longhorns, but Texas built an early lead in the fifth and never looked back.  Texas punched its ticket to the national championship for the first time since 2009 when the Longhorns fell to Penn State in Tampa.

Set One: Penn State 25, Oregon 21
The Nittany Lions started fast en route to a 7-3 lead before Oregon used its first timeout, but the Ducks battled back to square the match at 10-10.  From there, neither team led by more than one tally until a crucial solo block from freshman Megan Courtney put the Lions up 22-20 late in the set.  The Nittany Lions tallied three-straight blocks to make it 24-20 before Oregon answered.  Nonetheless, Katie Slay buried a kill to make it a 5-1 run to hand the Lions a 25-21 set victory.  The blocking was the difference in the first set, as Penn State out-blocked the Ducks 6-0.  Middle hitter Nia Grant led the way with four kills on .429 hitting.  As a team, the Lions hit .220 in the opening set.

Set Two: Oregon 30, Penn State 28
After a strong finish in the first set from the Nittany Lions, Oregon wasted little time grabbing a lead in the second.  The Ducks jumped out to a 3-0 advantage out of the gate before building a 9-4 edge.  On the Katherine Fischer kill that set the score at 9-4, Nittany Lion setter Micha Hancock came down on Katie Slay's foot.  Hancock had to leave the floor for 12 points, but returned.  While she was out senior Kristin Carpenter, who was the setter on the 2012 national title team, stepped in and did a nice job running the offense under the circumstances.  Oregon led by as much as 10 in the second before a four-point scoring burst from the Lions trimmed the lead down to six.  The Nittany Lion rally continued, and Penn State squared the match at 24-24 on a combined block from Scott and Grant.  In all, the Nittany Lions out-scored Oregon, 14-4 to tie the match.  Penn State had two set point chances, one at 25-24 and one at 26-25, but the Ducks held on en route to a 30-28 set victory.  Credit the Lions for a tremendous comeback in a set where they played a large chunk without first team All-American Micha Hancock on the floor.  Nevertheless, Oregon made big plays when it needed to and the score is tied at 1-1 heading into the intermission.

Set Three: Oregon 25, Penn State 22
The third set opened much like the second set ended with a tight margin on the scoreboard.  Oregon stretched the lead to three points (9-6) on a block.  Oregon led by as much as four, but the Lions did a nice job keeping the margin within striking distance.  In doing so, the Lions used four-straight tallies to claim a 20-19 edge late in the set.  However, two huge kills from Oregon outside hitter Katherine Fischer put the Ducks back on top, 21-20, before the Lions had an answer.  A passing error made it 22-20 Oregon, and Fischer followed with another clutch kill to set the margin at 23-20.  Penn State closed within one, but the Ducks were too much down the stretch.  Leading the match 2-1, Penn State heads into the fourth set needing to find a way to slow down Fischer and Brenner.  The Oregon duo has combined for 30 kills in the first three sets.  

Set Four: Oregon 25, Penn State 19
The Ducks saved their best set for what ended up being the last set of night.  Oregon came out firing on all cylinders in the fourth, grabbing a 9-3 lead on 1.000 hitting and three aces.  From there, the Ducks never looked back.  The set was tied at 1-1, but that would be as close as the Nittany Lions would get.  Oregon led by as much as 10 during the final frame.  Penn State closed to within five late, but Oregon's offensive attack was too much.  Looking at the final stats, Penn State out-blocked Oregon 19.5-10.0.  However, Oregon's quick-tempo offense led by 17 kills from Liz Brenner fueled the Ducks to their first NCAA championship match in program history.

Final Thoughts
The momentum turned in the second set on Thursday night in Louisville.  The Lions had chances to close out the set for a 2-0 lead, but Oregon made a series of big plays for the 30-28 victory.  Additionally, Hancock's left leg injury prevented her from getting off the floor like she normally does from the moment she returned mid-way through the second set until the end of the match.  Oregon took advantage of the Penn State's rotation when Hancock was across the front line and not able to block in her normal fashion.  Nonetheless, all the credit goes to the Ducks.  They played a superb match, making big play after big play when they needed to.  Oregon setter Lauren Plum was terrific running the offense.  Scott led the Lions with 18 kills.  Hometown hero Deja McClendon added 14 kills.  The Nittany Lions graduate two seniors who brought outstanding leadership to the program - Kristin Carpenter and Marika Racibarskas.  The Lions return their entire starting lineup from the 2012 team, including all four All-Americans.  Penn State finished the season 33-3 with a Big Ten title and its 10th appearance in the NCAA National Semifinals.  Coach Rose said after the match that the team will head into the offseason and learn from Thursday night's match and look to grow from it.  Congratulations to the Lions on a terrific season.  The future is very bright for the program moving forward.




__________________________________________________________________________________


NCAA Semifinal Preview VIDEO:



Statistical Comparison:

 

Penn State

Oregon

Record

33-2

29-4

RPI

2

10

Team Hitting Percentage

.307

.296

Opponent Hitting Percentage

.127

.201

Blocks Per Set

3.00 per set

1.80 per set

Top Attacker

Scott - 3.73 kills/set

Bergsma - 4.93 kills/set

Top Blocker

Slay - 1.32 blocks/set

Finley - 0.76 blocks/set

Top Defensive Specialist

Gonzalez - 3.60 digs/set

Jacob - 4.46 digs/set



Stay tuned for live coverage from the KFC Yum! Center as the action transpires on match day in Louisville, including live updates after each set during the match.



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NCAA National Semifinals: Practice Day in Louisville

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Photo Gallery - NCAA Semifinal Practice Day

NCAA Semifinal Practice Day Quotes  


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, GoPSUsports.com 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.

 


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NCAA Volleyball Tournament Central: Lions in NCAA Semifinals

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the 10th time in program history, the top-seeded and Big Ten champion Nittany Lion women's volleyball team (32-2) will play in the NCAA National Semifinals.  Penn State is set to face off with fifth-seeded Oregon (29-4) inside Louisville's KFC Yum! Center on Thursday at approximately 9 p.m. (ESPN2).

8398883.jpegThe winner of the Penn State-Oregon match will move on to face either third-seeded Texas (27-4) or Michigan (23-10) in the national title match.  The Nittany Lions defeated Texas, 3-0, on Sept. 1.  Penn State defeated Michigan, 3-2, in Ann Arbor during the lone meeting in Big Ten play this season.

Penn State enters the weekend after a hard-fought 3-1 win over Minnesota in the regional final.  With the match tied at 1-1, the Lions rallied from 23-21 down in the third set for a victory en route to claiming the match. Penn State enters the weekend attacking at a .307 clip, led by Big Ten Player of the Year Ariel Scott (3.73 kills/set) and Deja McClendon (3.24 kills/set).

Oregon's road to the national semifinals was not an easy one.  The Ducks swept Northern Colorado and Dayton before knocking off 12th-seeded BYU by a score of 3-1.  That set up a clash with fourth-seeded Nebraska in what was essentially a home match for the Huskers in the Omaha Regional Final.  Oregon lost the first set to Nebraska, 25-15, before winning the next three sets to punch its ticket to the national semifinals.

The Ducks, along with Michigan, will be making their first appearance in the NCAA National Semifinals on Thursday night in Louisville.  Penn State and Texas have been among the final four teams on the draw a combined 18 times.

The NCAA field has been trimmed to four teams.  Penn State's quest for a return to the national championship continues on Thursday with a bout against a talented Oregon team.


VIDEO: NCAA National Semifinal Preview Interviews
Hear from the Nittany Lions before departing for Louisville.


National Semifinals Statistical Rundown

 

Penn State

Oregon

Record

32-2

29-4

RPI

2

10

Team Hitting Percentage

.307

.296

Opponent Hitting Percentage

.127

.201

Blocks Per Set

3.00 per set

1.80 per set

Top Attacker

Scott - 3.73 kills/set

Bergsma - 4.93 kills/set

Top Blocker

Slay - 1.32 blocks/set

Finley - 0.76 blocks/set

Top Defensive Specialist

Gonzalez - 3.60 digs/set

Jacob - 4.46 digs/set



 

Texas

Michigan

Record

27-4

23-10

RPI

3

31

Hitting Percentage

.322

.246

Opponent Hitting Percentage

.174

.209

Blocks Per Set

3.00

2.24

Top Attacker

Eckerman - 4.45 kills/set

Erwin - 4.20 kills/set

Top Blocker

Bell - 1.36 blocks/set

Cross - 1.25 blocks/set

Top Defensive Specialist

Palmer - 3.44 digs/set

Morales - 3.91 digs/set

 


NCAA Semifinals Coverage
GoPSUsports.com will hit the road with the Nittany Lions at the NCAA National Semifinals.  Look for plenty of written and video coverage beginning on Wednesday at media day in Louisville before the Lions meet Oregon on Thursday night on ESPN2.

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NCAA Volleyball Tournament Central: Lions Head to Regionals

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The top-seeded and Big Ten champion Nittany Lion women's volleyball team (31-2) travels to West Lafayette, Ind., for a showdown with 16th-seeded Kentucky (22-10) in the NCAA Regional Semifinals on Friday at 5 p.m. (Live coverage on ESPN3).

8386434.jpegThe winner of the Penn State-Kentucky match will move on to face either host Purdue (23-10) or eighth-seeded Minnesota (26-7) on Saturday in the Regional Final at 4 p.m. live on ESPNU.  The Nittany Lions swept the Gophers at Minneapolis and defeated them 3-1 in Rec Hall.  The Lions swept the Boilers in Happy Valley and defeated them 3-1 in Mackey Arena on Nov. 17.

Penn State enters the weekend after sweeping Binghamton and Bowling Green inside Rec Hall in the opening two rounds of the tournament.  The Lions have won 30 of their last 32 sets.  Penn State enters the weekend attacking at a .310 clip, led by Big Ten Player of the Year Ariel Scott (3.64 kills/set) and Deja McClendon (3.25 kills/set).

Since the NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament began its current 64-team setup in 1998, the Nittany Lions have advanced to the third round of the tournament all 15 years.  Penn State has played in the Regional Final match in 11 of the previous 14 seasons.

The Big Ten Conference has been tremendous throughout the 2012 season.  Having six teams remaining in the draw during the second weekend of the tournament speaks volumes about the depth of the Big Ten.  In addition to Penn State, Minnesota and Purdue in the West Lafayette Regional, Nebraska plays Washington in the Omaha Regional and Michigan and Michigan State will collide in the Berkeley Regional on Friday.

The NCAA field has been trimmed to 16 teams.  Penn State's quest for a return to the National Semifinals goes through Mackey Arena this weekend.  First up is a clash with 16th-seeded Kentucky on Friday.



VIDEO: NCAA Regionals Preview Interviews



Regional Semifinals Statistical Rundown

 

Penn State

Kentucky

Record

31-2

22-10

RPI

2

19

Team Hitting Percentage

.310

.255

Opponent Hitting Percentage

.127

.180

Blocks Per Set

2.9 per set

2.5 per set

Top Attacker

Scott - 3.6 kills/set

Billings/Wilkerson - 3.0 kills/set

Top Blocker

Slay - 1.35 blocks/set

Morgan - 1.0 blocks/set

Top Defensive Specialist

Gonzalez - 3.54 digs/set

Klefot - 3.92 digs/set



 

Minnesota

Purdue

Record

26-7

23-10

RPI

9

29

Hitting Percentage

.301

.248

Opponent Hitting Percentage

.212

.191

Blocks Per Set

2.20

2.36

Top Attacker

Harms - 4.00 kills/set

Turner - 4.42 kills/set

Top Blocker

Dixon - 1.03 blocks/set

Fisher - 1.07 blocks/set

Top Defensive Specialist

Wittman - 2.82 digs/set

Cramer - 4.18 digs/set

 


Feature Story Corner
Top-Ranked Lions Takeoff for Regional Semifinals
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's volleyball team flew out of State College on Wednesday evening and landed in West Lafayette, Ind., around 7 p.m. in preparation of its NCAA Regional Semifinal matchup against No. 16 Kentucky at Purdue's Mackey Arena.

8386438.jpegPenn State's postseason run marks the 32nd consecutive year that head coach Russ Rose has led his team to the NCAA Tournament. Last season, Rose and his team ended their run against UCLA in the same round that they're competing in this weekend.

Rose said that Kentucky will be anything but an easy team to play, but he's confident that his Lions are ready to compete.

"They're a team that, if they were in the Big Ten, they'd be successful in the Big Ten," Rose said of the Wildcats. "It's just the whole getting used to the surroundings and it's how you play, not who you play."

Junior outside hitter Deja McClendon has already made two trips to the NCAA Tournament in her time as a Nittany Lion. She said that traveling away from her home court can be tough during the postseason, but that she said the team is focused on the task at hand.

"We're so used to Rec Hall and we're so used to our fans but at the same time this is what we've been working for and we've done pretty well playing outside of our gym so far this year," said McClendon.

The Lions played in Mackey Arena less than a month ago and defeated Purdue in four sets. In the 2012 season, Penn State is holds an 11-1 record outside of Rec Hall.

Freshman outside hitter Megan Courtney said that she's feeling a little bit of pressure heading into her first postseason match on the road. But she said the in the weeks leading up to the trip, her teammates have been helping her through it all.

"It's just another volleyball game," said Courtney. "Inside the lines is where you've got to play it and that's what they've been telling me - to just focus."

Courtney said that she's been following the blue and white program for years, but never imagined what it'd feel like to be a part of a winning tradition come tournament time.

"Growing up, aspiring to be a Penn State Nittany Lion and watching them dominate the sport of college volleyball was just amazing," said Courtney. "Being able to experience that yourself is totally different. I embrace every moment I can of it and it's been awesome."

Penn State, which is 77-26 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, is expecting a challenging match against Kentucky.  The Lions enter the round of 16 with confidence, largely due to the high-level volleyball they have been playing in recent weeks.  Sophomore Nia Grant said that her team's postseason success in the past years resonates with their tough work ethic and hard work every week in practice.

Grant said that she and her teammates set out to win every set they play no matter what the circumstance.

"We have the no-mercy mentality," said Grant. "We want to go in there and we want to win and we want to leave. No messing around."


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