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
The 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
Feature Story Corner
Familiarity Surrounds Lions in Louisville Regional
By Anita Nham, GoPSUSports.com 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
"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
"[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
"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
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
Excitement and Energy Fueling NCAA Regionals
DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
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.
Senior 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
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."
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