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VIDEO: NCAA Semifinals Preview with Associate Head Coach Salima Rockwell

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MATCH BLOG - Penn State vs. Stanford

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Nittany Lion women's volleyball team is set to collide with No. 1 Stanford on Thursday inside Chesapeake Energy Arena at 9:30 p.m. ET (TV - ESPN2) in the NCAA semifinals.

The Nittany Lions practiced on Thursday morning in preparation for the match against the Cardinal. previewed the match with associate head coach Salima Rockwell.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

NCAA National Semifinals Preview: Stage Set in Oklahoma City

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10630963.jpegOKLAHOMA CITY - Making its seventh NCAA semifinal appearance in the past eight seasons, the fifth-seeded Nittany Lion women's volleyball team (34-3) is primed for a matchup against No. 1 Stanford (33-1) on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2).

10630966.jpegPenn State practiced in Oklahoma City on Tuesday evening and again on Wednesday in preparation for the showdown against the Cardinal. The Nittany Lions marched past UCLA and Stanford in the regional round of the NCAA Tournament to punch a ticket to the national semifinals.

The Nittany Lions and Cardinal battled to a five-set match on Sept. 5, with Stanford notching a 3-2 victory. Both teams have improved since the early-season meeting, and head coach Russ Rose is looking forward to the matchup.

"It's great to still be playing," Rose said. "Our roster is a little different than the roster we had on the floor when we played them last. Certainly, they are much improved from the video I just saw (of recent matches)...They are setting really quick right now to the pins. And it's a veteran team."

In a matchup pitting two of the sport's best, Penn State and Stanford are the only two programs that have appeared in the NCAA Tournament during each of its 34 years in existence.

"This is Stanford and Penn State," Rose said. "They have been champions six times, and they haven't been to the final four in six years. This program is ready to get back where they have been before. They had the No. 1 recruiting class a few years ago, and these girls are juniors right now. They are hungry and very good."

The winner of the Penn State-Stanford match will move on to the national championship match against either BYU or Texas on Saturday in Oklahoma City.

"It's going to boil down to the teams that play the best; it's not always the best players," said Rose. "I think if we play our best, we have a chance. If we don't play our best, we got hot at the right time last year and had a veteran team."

Wednesday was open practice day for all four teams remaining on the draw. Penn State practiced for 90 minutes on Wednesday afternoon following a preview press conference. Take a look through Wednesday coverage from Oklahoma City as the Lion prep for their 12th 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, Micha Hancock and Nia Grant.

Stat Breakdown:

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Photo Galleries:
Travel Day | NCAA Semifinals Practice Day

Feature Story Corner:

Ending a Career Where It Started
By Samantha DelRosso, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- An emotional, motivated Micha Hancock sat at the podium on Monday afternoon inside the Rec Hall Media Room reflecting on a stellar career wearing Penn State Blue and White.

The senior setter, competing in her final collegiate matches this week, took a deep breath, as she thought about the kind of legacy she would leave behind at Penn State.

10630989.jpegHancock's accolades include AVCA First Team All-America honors, All-Big Ten honors, the 2013 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, 2013 Big Ten Setter of the Year, an ESPY nomination and much more.

But what does it all mean to her?

"It's crazy for me. I never dreamt of being at a program like this," Hancock said. "I had no idea what Penn State was about. It hasn't really hit me. I'm still saying goodbye to things here. You spend four years with most of the same girls, they're family. It's emotional for sure. I feel like a girl that had great teammates, worked hard and accomplished some cool things. I feel really blessed."

There are many 'lasts' approaching for Hancock. This weekend will be her last time traveling with the team, her last time in the national semifinals and her last time suiting up in the Blue and White. And what better place to experience these final moments as a Penn State women's volleyball player than in Oklahoma City, 14 miles from where she grew up.

The Edmond, Oklahoma, native is looking forward to ending her collegiate career at home, but said she isn't letting that get in the way of the task at hand.

"I definitely am excited. I don't really know how it feels and I'm not going to know how it feels until I step foot on Oklahoma soil again," Hancock said. "For me, the most important thing is trying to win one game at a time. It's awesome that I'm at home, but it also kind of creates a distraction. And I'm not willing for that to be a distraction for me."

She plans to keep her emotions at bay by relaxing, staying focused and taking it one day and one practice at a time. Although the stakes are higher, her mental preparation for this match does not differ from any other match.

"I am going to focus on the same routine I've been doing all season. Talking to the freshmen, talking to my team, [telling them] how important practice is, how important [the start of the game is]. Keep it normal," Hancock said.

Hancock's preparation will continue until Thursday evening, when the Nittany Lions take on Stanford in the NCAA semifinals. These two programs, rich with tradition, are familiar foes this season. Earlier in the year, the No. 1 seeded Cardinal defeated Penn State in five sets. But both teams have gained experience and Stanford will be seeing a different lineup from Penn State with the addition of Haleigh Washington in Penn State's starting lineup.  

As a senior leader, Hancock will help Washington and the other freshmen prepare for this match. She stressed the importance of letting the freshmen play their game. She plans to lead them one point at a time, by encouraging them to get excited, play with emotion and above all else, have fun.

"The final four is mostly about fun. You're there for a reason, so if you have fun, it's definitely going to help you out," Hancock said.

While many seniors' goals this week are to pass their finals and graduate this weekend, Hancock's week will be different.

"[My goal is] to win. That's basically all," Hancock said. "[My goal is] to play some good volleyball against Stanford, hopefully get the W and see what comes about whoever we play."

Hancock is scheduled to graduate this Saturday, but will be unable to attend the commencement ceremony in Happy Valley. She said considering what's ahead this week, she is not disappointed about missing her college graduation.

A fierce competitor since the day she stepped on campus, Hancock's legacy speaks for itself as she closes in on the final days of her Penn State career.

Match Day
With the Wednesday festivities over, it is now time to focus on match day in Oklahoma City. The Nittany Lions will practice mid-day on Thursday before the 9:30 p.m. (ET) first serve against No. 1 Stanford. Stay tuned for much more coverage from the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship, including live blog coverage from Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Women's Volleyball Travel Day to Oklahoma City

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The fifth-seeded Nittany Lion women's volleyball team traveled to Oklahoma City on Tuesday in preparation for Thursday's NCAA semifinal match against No. 1 Stanford.

Penn State departed the University Park Airport just after 1 p.m.  The Nittany Lions arrived in Oklahoma shortly after 2 p.m. CT before getting set for practice. But prior to the team's evening practice at the University of Central Oklahoma on Tuesday night, the Lions stopped at the home of senior Micha Hancock in Edmond.  Take a behind the scenes look at the travel day to the NCAA semifinals, including scenes from the team's visit to Hancock's home.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: NCAA Semifinals Preview - One-on-One with Micha Hancock

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - catches up with senior setter Micha Hancock leading up to Penn State's trip the NCAA semifinals. An Oklahoma native, Hancock is headed home to compete in a Penn State uniform for the final time.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

NCAA Volleyball Tournament Content Central: Lions Head to Regionals

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w_volleyball_blog.jpgUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The fifth-seeded and Big Ten champion Nittany Lion women's volleyball team (32-3) travels to Louisville, for a showdown with 12th-seeded UCLA (22-11) in the NCAA regional semifinals on Friday at 7 p.m. (Live coverage on ESPN3).

10618375.jpegThe winner of the Penn State-UCLA match will move on to face either No. 4 Wisconsin (30-2) or Ohio State (23-11) on Saturday in the regional final at 4 p.m. live on ESPNU.  The Nittany Lions have played against all three teams on the draw in the Louisville Regional this fall. Penn State owns a 4-0 record against UCLA, Wisconsin and Ohio State. The Lions swept UCLA on Sept. 6 in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge.

"We've played UCLA and Ohio State and Wisconsin, as well," said head coach Russ Rose. "It's not one of those situations where you are looking to gather information on teams that you haven't seen play at all. We are familiar with all of the teams and recognize that all of the teams are very good. We hope that they feel the same way about us."

Penn State enters the weekend after sweeping Siena and Dayton inside Rec Hall in the opening two rounds of the tournament.  The Lions have won 16-straight matches heading into the weekend. That streak includes 15-consecutive 3-0 decisions. Penn State has not lost a set since Oct. 17 at Purdue.

Since the NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament began its current 64-team setup, the Nittany Lions have advanced to the third round of the tournament all 16 years.  Penn State has played in the Regional Final match in 13 of the 15 seasons.

The NCAA field has been trimmed to 16 teams.  Penn State's quest for a return to the national semifinals goes through the KFC Yum! Center this weekend.  First up is a clash with UCLA on Friday.

"There's 16 teams left and that's just the way the weekend goes and at the end of the weekend, there will be four teams left, and your goal is to always try to be one of those four teams that's still standing," Rose said.

VIDEO: NCAA Regionals Preview Video

Regional Semifinals Statistical Rundown

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Feature Story Corner

Familiarity Surrounds Lions in Louisville Regional
By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State will be seeing an all too familiar scene in Louisville this weekend as the three teams remaining in the regional alongside the Nittany Lions are teams that they have previously played before earlier this season. Those teams include 12th-seeded UCLA, fourth-seeded Wisconsin, and Ohio State.

10618379.jpeg"We didn't know until late on Saturday night who we were playing [in the regional semifinals], so we're fortunate that we've played UCLA and we've played both Ohio State and Wisconsin, as well," said head coach Russ Rose. "It's not one of those situations where you're looking and gathering information on teams that you haven't seen play at all, you know. We're familiar with all of the teams and recognize that all the teams are very good and I hope they feel the same way about us."

After straight set victories over Siena and Dayton this past weekend at Rec Hall, fifth-seeded Penn State will meet 12th-seeded UCLA in the NCAA regional semifinals on Friday at 7 p.m.

This will be the second time that these two teams meet this season, as the Nittany Lions faced off the Bruins earlier this year in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge on Sept. 6 in California. Penn State came out with a three-set win that day.

"[UCLA has] a lot of talented players," said coach Rose. "We saw them beat a very strong Illinois team and then they had a good season in the Pac-12 that sent 10 teams into the tournament. I think it's an indication that UCLA is very good. We'll have to play well and our players are aware of that. There's no real surprises to them."

By playing UCLA again, the women's volleyball team is using that to their advantage.

"It helps [to play a team we've played before] because we know what we're good at," said freshman Haleigh Washington.

Though the knowledge on UCLA is useful, Penn State will continue to focus on adjusting their strategies and techniques against their opponents.

"[UCLA] developed just like we've developed," said Washington. "Their hitters have gotten better, smarter shots. Their serving has probably gotten more aggressive. Defensively, I'm sure their block has gotten stronger, so you can't ever just say, 'Well, we beat them once and so we can easily beat them again.'  We got to keep that in mind that they've improved and be ready to watch film and see what other coaches and teams have done against them and just adapt."

Coach Rose echoed Washington in that every team makes adjustments throughout the season.

"UCLA is the one that has to learn two new teams, Ohio State and Wisconsin, where we get to at least have some sort of familiarity," said coach Rose. "We won't have to spend as much time [learning], but all teams have changed throughout the season."

Alongside Penn State and UCLA in Louisville are two Big Ten rivals - Wisconsin and Ohio State.

The Nittany Lions defeated Wisconsin in the Big Ten Opener on Sept. 24 to start off conference play with a 3-0 win in Madison.

The women's volleyball team also defeated Ohio State in three-straight sets on Oct. 28 and Oct. 31.

Even with a familiarity factor for all three teams, the leadership and preparation from the upperclassmen remains that same.

"[The preparation from the seniors is] about the same as every weekend," said Washington. "We have a really, I don't want to say consistent schedule or regiment, but we prepare for each game the same way, whether we're playing a team like Rutgers or a team like Siena or a team like UCLA or Wisconsin, or whoever; we prepare the same way. We go hard in practice, we make sure we're doing what we need to do defensively and offensively, and seniors are telling us the same thing - work hard, do what you know how to do, and give it your all."

It will be a reunion of sorts for the Nittany Lions this weekend, but that will not be affecting their play at all.

"It's a regional," said Rose. "There's 16 teams left and that's just the way the weekend goes and at the end of the weekend, there will be four teams left, and your goal is to always try to be one of those four teams that's still standing."


Excitement and Energy Fueling NCAA Regionals
By Samantha DelRosso, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- For some Penn State women's volleyball players, they are heading to their first NCAA Regional. But for others, they are heading to their last. The expectations differ between these two groups, but their mindset is the same - be excited, bring energy, work together and win.

10618377.jpegSenior Nia Grant is looking forward to her final appearance in the NCAA regional round. As a senior, she said she feels excited, but also feels the urgency to win it all. In preparation for the weekend, Grant received advice from former teammates who, not too long ago, were preparing for the NCAA regionals themselves.

"I talked to a couple seniors from last year and they were saying how there is no better way to go out than to win the whole thing. I can definitely agree with that," Grant said. "That would be an awesome way to leave Penn State."

Grant also noted that the entire team, from freshmen to seniors, is excited and ready for the next round of the tournament. Although it's the freshmen's first time in the NCAA Tournament, Grant said they are prepared for this level of play.

"We know we have a lot of good players. And our freshmen this year are very strong minded and I'm really excited to see what they do this weekend," Grant said. "I think we're ready as a team."

Grant and her three fellow seniors have helped guide the freshmen to prepare them for the tournament. Freshman Alli Frantti said she feels confident at this point in the season, but it's the seniors that have really helped her and the other freshmen feel ready to play in the NCAA regionals.

Competing at a neutral site means there is not much crowd involvement. Grant said in order to keep the energy up without having the crowd behind them, the seniors have to do their part in bringing the energy.

"The seniors need to have energy. Haleigh [Washington] always has energy, Alli [Frantti] has energy. It just has to come from us and us wanting to keep the energy up to win," Grant said. "We can't look to anybody else [for energy]. It has to come from us."

Energy is something that the freshmen have been able to consistently provide this season. Haleigh Washington's energy and spirit on the court cannot be ignored. The freshman middle hitter said she plans to continue playing with her high level of energy to help the team in the best way she can.

"[If we are lacking energy], I have to be goofier, I have to have bigger dance moves, I have to find a way. Because there's always a way for energy to leak," Washington said. "That's the thing about energy. It's incredibly contagious."

Washington said she is excited about her first trip to NCAA Regionals because she is looking forward to seeing how the team plays together.

"I'm excited to see what the team is going to do as a whole. Not just individual performances. I'm just really excited to see how we click and mesh and mold and really come together as one unit," Washington said.

Although it's her first time competing in the NCAA Tournament, she said it feels like any other tournament to her because the preparation is the same.

"I have been playing in big tournaments forever. The game's the same, it's the same outlook, it's the same mentality. You have to be confident, you have to go into it knowing what you know," Washington said. "The number of people watching is different and the stakes are higher, so the pressure is a little different, but it's still just volleyball. It's just playing the game you love."

Head coach Russ Rose is no stranger to the regional round of the NCAA Tournament. He said being in the NCAA draw is a culmination of this season's efforts.

"You play all year long to get yourself into the tournament and then you have to navigate different challenges when you get in the tournament. I'm excited about seeing how they play," Rose said. "I respect the challenge and appreciate the opportunity to go there and do the best we can."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions Fly Past Dayton into Regional Semifinals

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10609727.jpegBy Tyler Feldman, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State has a number of talented freshmen who have transitioned well to tournament play, but when it comes to the postseason, experience matters.

Such was the case Saturday night at Rec Hall, as junior outside hitter Megan Courtney tallied 11 kills and a .440 hitting percentage to lead fifth-seeded Penn State (32-3) to a second round sweep (25-20, 25-18, 25-16) of Dayton (30-6) to advance to the NCAA regional semifinals.

Courtney, who also had six digs against the Flyers, is from Dayton, making Saturday evening's performance that much more memorable.

"I think you just need to remember what you're playing for," said Courtney. "So I took this game to heart because obviously I'm from Dayton."

Micha Hancock and Aiyana Whitney are two other veteran Nittany Lions who impacted the victory. Hancock had four kills on a .571 hitting percentage, to go along with 36 assists, eight digs and three service aces, while Whitney was a force at the net, registering eight kills on a .538 hitting percentage.

"I thought we hit well," said head coach Russ Rose. "Whenever you get in the tournament you feel fortunate when you advance.... I thought Megan hit well tonight. I thought Aiyana took some pretty good swings."

In the first set, Penn State led 24-16 and was on the brink of taking a 1-0 match advantage until Dayton clawed back to make the score 24-20. However, Whitney sealed the 25-20 win on a powerful kill set up well by Hancock.

The Flyers carried momentum into the second set, taking Penn State to 9-9, but the Nittany Lions took care of business, finishing the game on a 16-9 run to take a 2-0 lead in the match. Courtney and Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Haleigh Washington, each had five kills in the second frame to pace the Blue and White.

"We hit really well, but there were a lot of things that contributed to that," said Courtney. "I think we passed really well. I think Micha set some great balls. We controlled Dayton pretty well offensively, and I think it was easy for us to transition off of them, so that was good, too."

The Nittany Lions were just too much for Dayton in the final frame, never relinquishing the lead en route to a straight set triumph. Senior middle hitter Nia Grant punished three kills on a 1.000 hitting percentage in the last set to help the defending national champions advance to the regional semifinals.

For Rose, whose Penn State program once played in the Atlantic-10 Conference, Dayton's competitiveness and performance could not go unnoticed.

"Well I'd first like to congratulate Dayton on a terrific season, and I come from that statement having been in the Atlantic-10 Conference for a number of years and knowing how it is to represent a conference and go play other teams," said Rose.

Up next for the Nittany Lions is 12th-ranked UCLA, who defeated LIU Brooklyn in straight sets in the first round and Long Beach State in straight sets in the second round to advance. The two historic programs will meet in Louisville, Kentucky, at the KFC Yum! Center on Friday at 7 p.m.

"We'll have a little window of practice," said Rose. "Usually they give you an envelope that tells you when and where you're going. We'll be going to the Louisville regional, and last I heard, there will be a couple of other Big Ten teams there. So Ohio State and Wisconsin is in the other half of the bracket."

In regards to UCLA, a team that the Nittany Lions have played a number of times over the year, Rose acknowledges the talent that the Bruins put out on the floor every match. Penn State defeated UCLA, 3-0, in September.

If Penn State manages to move past UCLA, the Nittany Lions would face the winner of Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Blue and White is 2-0 against Ohio State and 1-0 versus Wisconsin this season.

Nittany Lions Sweep Siena, Advance in NCAA Tournament

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By Tyler Feldman, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Big Ten Freshman of the Year Haleigh Washington hit .900 and recorded a match-high six blocks and All-Big Ten team selection Micha Hancock tallied seven serving aces and 38 assists to lead fifth-seeded Penn State (31-3) to a straight-set victory (25-17, 25-10, 25-5) over Siena (19-15) in the first round of the 2014 NCAA tournament Friday night at Rec Hall. 

Penn State carried its hot play into the tournament. Dating all the way back to Oct. 17, the Blue and White has won 15 straight matches and 44 consecutive sets. 

"We really had a nice day controlling the ball," said head coach Russ Rose. "I don't think it was a match where we had to play our best, but we kept the ball in play and picked up our offense certainly in the second and third game."

With seven serving aces, Hancock now holds the Big Ten single-season record with 116 aces on the year. Minnesota's Sharon Oesterling set the previous record with 109 back in 1989.

"It's cool," said Hancock. "I want to go back on the end line and try to serve as hard as I can for the team and see what kind of cushion we can get so people are more relaxed. It's cool to get the ace thing, but it's also cool to win."

The freshman trio of Washington, Ali Frantti and Simone Lee did not let the postseason scene affect their play. In fact, they combined for 20 of Penn State's 40 total kills.

With the victory over the Saints, the Nittany Lions return to Rec Hall tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. to compete against Dayton (30-5) in the second round of the tournament.

2014 NCAA Volleyball Tournament Preview Content Central

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w_volleyball_blog.jpgMatch Notes & Preview | Live Match Video | Tournament Bracket

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the 25th consecutive season, Penn State will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament. The defending NCAA champion Nittany Lions (30-3) open the tournament against MAAC champ Siena (19-14) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Rec Hall.

10600052.jpegThe winner of the Penn State-Siena match will move on to face either American (26-6) or Dayton (29-5) on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. American and Dayton will meet in Rec Hall on Friday at 5 p.m.

For the Nittany Lions, they enter the tournament red-hot on a 14-match winning streak. Penn State has not lost a set since Oct. 17 at Purdue. The Lions have won 13-straight matches in 3-0 fashion.

Led by a quartet of seniors and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Haleigh Washington, the Nittany Lions head into the postseason with confidence.

"We always talk about it, it's go time," said senior Dominique Gonzalez. "We have six matches potentially left in the season. Everyone is excited for it. It's a dogfight in every match no matter who you are playing, and I think we are excited for that. It's tournament time for us, and that means the most. We are really looking forward to getting out there and playing in front of our home crowd."

Individually, senior Micha Hancock, senior Nia Grant and Washington were named first-team All-Big Ten earlier this week. Redshirt junior Aiyana Whitney and freshman Ali Frantti were named All-Big Ten honorable mention.

The Nittany Lions are one of six Big Ten teams in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin is the No. 4 seed, Illinois is the No. 9 seed and Nebraska is the No. 14 seed. Michigan State and Ohio State round out the Big Ten teams in the field. Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State are all in the Louisville Regional quarter of the bracket.

"We've had some great matches these past few weeks, but I think our main focus is to stay focused," Gonzalez said. "It will be competitive, and great teams are always capable of forcing you to do some things wrong and expose you. But you just need to stay composed and remain focused."

Now, it is win or go home for all 64 teams on the bracket. The 2014 NCAA Tournament begins on Friday inside Rec Hall.

VIDEO: NCAA Tournament Russ Rose Preview

VIDEO: NCAA Tournament Player Preview Interviews

First Round Statistical Rundown

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Feature Story Corner

Lions Looking Ahead to First Round of 2014 NCAA Tournament
By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since it was founded in 1976, the Penn State women's volleyball program has been a benchmark for success. In addition to 16 Big Ten Championships, the Nittany Lions have climbed the mountain of the sport six times with NCAA national championships in 1999, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013.

10439026.jpegPenn State is one of the only two programs in the country to have been selected to participate in all 34 NCAA postseason tournaments since it began in 1981. During that span, the Nittany Lions have an 83-26 record in the tournament and they will be making their 34th consecutive appearance in the contest this weekend as they take on the MAAC conference champion Siena (19-14) Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Rec Hall.

"It's a really exciting time of the year for the players and the fans and the people that are caring about college volleyball," said head coach Russ Rose. "Anytime you get yourself into the NCAA tournament, you feel good about your body of work throughout the year and you hope to do something with it. I look at it as three weekends where you can make your point if you're going to be relevant and we look forward to starting the action this weekend."

The Lions finished off the season with a three-set win against then-No.10 Nebraska (25-21, 25-15, 25-16) on senior night last Saturday evening at Rec Hall. Penn State is heading into the postseason on a 14-match win streak and have won their last 41 sets.

"It's great to end the conference on a win and a big win at home," said senior Dominique Gonzalez. "[Nebraska] is a great team that plays really well and very hard, so to have such a good win against that team is a good confidence booster that lets us know that we're playing well at that point in time, but we have to continue to play well. Going into the tournament, it's a dogfight. It's six matches that you have to win to get where you want to get and win what you want to win, but we have to take it one match at a time, so our main focus is Siena for Friday's match"

Coach Rose agrees that it is important to focus on one match at a time.

"We have a 9-3 record against teams that are in the tournament, so I'm sure people have better records and I'm sure there are some people that don't have as good of records," said coach Rose. "It's also possible that there'll be upsets and you don't collect anything. We experienced all those things throughout the years and I'm looking at all three of the opponents for this weekend. I'm not looking at any of them opponents for next weekend."

The Nittany Lions are concentrating on consistency in a few key areas as the tournament looms.

"Right now, we focus on a lot of things we can control, like our ball control, the offense that we're running, things like that...Serving, passing, and defense on our aspect of things, just controlling what we can control," said Gonzalez.

Aside from the physical aspects of the game, it's important to have confidence and energy entering the matches.

"I think it's the freshmen's job to go out there, to play hard, to have fun, and embrace the atmosphere and it's kind of the older girls' job to maintain the steady mindset on the court and keep the focus," said Gonazlez. "We need players like that; we need freshmen that are fiery.

Though the team is continually looking to be the best that they can be, the players are eager for the NCAA tournament.

"I am super pumped," said senior Lacey Fuller. "[Monday's] practice went really well and you can tell that everyone is excited for the tournament. Everyone is really focused with every drill and I think we got a little more serious...Playing in Rec Hall in general is really exciting. I was sad during senior night because we've just been here for four years and to think that we'll never play in here again. Every opportunity is so big and it's really nice to have one or two more opportunities to play here this weekend."

Gonzalez echoed her teammate.

"It's unreal [to play at Rec Hall for the last time]," said Gonzalez. "I can still remember when I was 14 coming into camp and stuff like that, so it doesn't feel like it's that far off and I still can't believe that it will be our final weekend at Rec Hall."

The name of the game during tournament time is finding a way to advance, and the Lions are excited about the opportunity in front of them.

"Every year is different. Obviously you get different routes, different team you get to play, but the ultimate goal is the same...I think the goal is still to get as far as we can, win a national championship, but we realize that it's going to be tough. It's a hard road. Every team wants the same thing and they're going to go hard, just like we are. It's going to be a dogfight, but we're excited for it," said Gonzalez.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Happy Thanksgiving from Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 'Tis the season for giving thanks, and the Penn State Athletics would like to take an opportunity to say thank you to the loyal fans on Thanksgiving.

As you sit down with family and friends to eat your traditional meal while the Lions and Cowboys host their annual Thanksgiving day home games, Penn State Athletics would like to thank you, the fans, for the unrivaled support you give every team on campus.  Penn State's teams would not be the same without the greatest fans in college sports.

As a token of their appreciation, several student-athletes from teams on campus would like to say thank you and Happy Thanksgiving for the support you give them throughout the athletic season.

VIDEO: One-on-One with Micha Hancock - Nov. 21

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - catches up with senior setter Micha Hancock. The Nittany Lions will take an 11-match winning streak into Saturday's contest at Maryland.


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