Recently in Women's Volleyball Category

VIDEO: Lee and Clarke Talk Black History Month

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the second of a three-part video series, Penn State women's volleyball student-athlete Simone Lee sits down with men's gymnastics student-athlete Leroy Clarke to talk Black History Month and diversity throughout the entire Penn State Athletics community.

Throughout the entire month of February, Penn State Athletics is proudly sharing the stories of its African American student-athletes and coaches who have helped shape Nittany Lion history. View more here.


VIDEO: Lee & Rhodes Talk Black History Month

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  In the first of a three-part video series, Penn State women's volleyball student-athlete Simone Lee sits down with track and field student-athlete Tichina Rhodes to talk Black History Month and diversity throughout the entire Penn State Athletics community. 

Throughout the entire month of February, Penn State Athletics is proudly sharing the stories of its student-athletes and coaches who have helped shape Nittany Lion history. View more here.

SAAB Hosts Lip Sync Battle to Benefit THON

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Filling the HUB-Robeson Center Freeman Auditorium with Penn State students and Nittany Lion student-athletes, the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) hosted its second annual lip sync battle Wednesday evening.

In a full for the kids effort, the annual event benefits THON, Penn State's Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon to support pediatric cancer.

Featuring musical lip syncing acts from 11 different Penn State Athletics programs, months worth of planning and preparation finally came together in an energetic evening for a tremendous cause.

"I think it just bring out more of the sense of community that we really already have in athletics," track and field sophomore and lead event coordinator Tess Kearns said. "We're so strong all together but to be able to something for THON and see the impact that it's making every year - if we could just raise that number even a little bit on final reveal, that would be all the difference."

From lip sync covers ranging from Justin Beiber mixes to Beyoncé, Sia and School of Rock, the event, which was open to all to attend, brought laughs throughout the night with guest judges featuring director of student-athlete welfare and development Liz Johnson, director of Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, John Affleck and Penn State Blue Band drum major Jimmy Frisbie. 


Penn State women's volleyball highlighted early with their Justin Beiber mix, followed up with women's soccer's rendition of Sia's "Chandelier" midway through the program. 

"SAAB THON is my favorite thing in the world," said SAAB THON chair Angela Widlacki, a member of the Nittany Lion women's soccer team. "Being able to come out here and see this huge crowd, it means so much to us and I know it meant a lot to our family the Messina's." 

Men's hockey and defending SAAB lip sync battle champion wrestling closed out the evening lip syncing to a pair of movie tunes featuring "Zach's song" from School of Rock and "Breaking Free" from High School Musical. 


With the final scores tallied, the panel of judges voted Penn State women's soccer duo of Widlacki and Liisi Vink-Lainas in the top spot this year to earn the golden microphone. Men's hockey finished second, while wrestling claimed the third-place finish.

2016 NCAA Tournament Preview Content Central - Regionals

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 16 Penn State women's volleyball's journey through the NCAA Tournament is headed to the road as the Nittany Lions travel to Lincoln, Nebraska to square off against the top-ranked Huskers in in the NCAA Regional Semifinals at noon ET Friday, Dec. 9 on ESPNU.

"The opportunity to still be playing in the second weekend is something that's available to a limited amount of teams," head coach Russ Rose said. "We're happy to still be playing we certainly have a challenging opponent in playing Nebraska at Nebraska." 

Last week, the Nittany Lions (24-9) swept past LIU Brooklyn in the first round before taking down Pittsburgh in four sets to advance to the round of 16. Although regular conference opponents, Penn State and Nebraska (29-2) have not met in the tournament since the 2008 NCAA National Semifinals.

The winner of the Penn State/Nebraska matchup will move on to the round of eight, taking on either No. 8 Washington (28-4) or Arizona (20-14) in the NCAA Regional Finals Saturday, Dec. 10 at 4 p.m. on ESPNU.

With the original field of 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament teams narrowed to just 16 remaining squads, Penn State is poised to make its 14th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Regional Semifinals, a streak that stands as the longest in tournament history. The Nittany Lions have also made appearances in eight of the last 10 NCAA Regional Finals.

Take a closer look at the Nittany Lions as they head to the NCAA Tournament Regionals.

VIDEO: NCAA Tournament Press Conference - Regionals

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: No. 16 Penn State at No. 1 Nebraska
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A CLOSER LOOK: Features & Highlights

No. 16 Penn State Set for No. 1 Nebraska
By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After defeating LIU Brooklyn in three sets and Pittsburgh in four sets in the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Penn State has advanced to the NCAA Regional Semifinals. 

In the first and second rounds of the tournament, the Nittany Lions competed against two teams they didn't see in the regular season. However, this coming Friday, the matchup is the opposite as No.16 Penn State (24-9) will take on No. 1 Nebraska (29-2) for the third time this season at the NCAA Regional Semifinals. 

No. 1 Nebraska
The Huskers are seeking back-to-back national championships after defeating New Hampshire and TCU in the first and second rounds of the tournament last weekend. They were crowned this year's Big Ten champions after finishing off the regular season with an 18-2 record in conference play.

"Nebraska is the defending national champion so they're especially confident at home," head coach Russ Rose said. "They're strong in each of the positions...Nebraska just had six players selected to the AVCA All-Region team."

In the regular season, Penn State fell to Nebraska in both matches. The two teams first met in November when top-ranked Nebraska visited Rec Hall and the Nittany Lions rallied back from a 2-1 deficit to force a fifth set, but ultimately fell short. Less than two weeks later, Penn State traveled to Lincoln, but lost in three sets. 

"We played there a few weeks ago, so we're familiar with the facility and the quality of the opponent, Rose said." 

While first serve is set for noon, Nebraska set the single-season average home attendance record in collegiate volleyball during the regular season with more 8,600 attendees. 

"Playing at Nebraska is really tough because it's a huge gym with about 8,000 people in there and they're all rooting against you, so I think we learned that we need to start out strong and win the serve-pass game," junior Heidi Thelen said. "If we come out and play as a team and play together, we can do this. We're just really excited to go and have another opportunity to play there." 

The last time Penn State and Nebraska played in the NCAA Tournament dates back to the 2008 NCAA national semifinals, when the Nittany Lions battled to a five set win (25-17, 25-18, 15-25, 22-25, 15-11) in Omaha. Penn State went on to win its second straight national championship that year, while also hosting LIU Brooklyn in the first round. 

Elite Coaching
Penn State's Russ Rose and Nebraska's John Cook are two of the top coaches in collegiate volleyball. Rose entered the year as the winningest coach in NCAA DI women's volleyball, atop the all-time coaching charts, before improving his career total to 1, 213 wins and 195 loses in his 38th season. Cook entered the year at No. 6 all-time, having improved his career record to 658-62 with a 497-64 mark at Nebraska.

The two programs have combined for eight of the last 10 NCAA titles.

"We're two teams that know how to win and how to compete to win a national championship," Thelen said. "It's going to be super tough and they're the defending national champions and we won two, two years before that. It's going to be a grind, close and tough, but I think we're all really excited and we've been pumped up all week."

Cook is in his 16th season as head coach for Nebraska and was recently named the Big Ten Coach of the Year by the coaches and media, his first time earning the honor since the team joined the Big Ten. He has led the Huskers to three national championships - in 2000 defeating Wisconsin, in 2006, defeating Stanford and in 2015, defeating Texas. 

"The quality of the players that they have is very high," coach Rose said. "The coaching is very good and the support of the university is very positive so they're aware of where they should be with the talent that they have. They're a challenge for everybody."

No. 8 Washington vs. Arizona
If the Nittany Lions defeat the Huskers, they will move on to face the winner of No.8 Washington-Arizona in the NCAA Regional Finals Saturday. 

Eighth-seeded Washington earned the Pac-12 title finishing the regular season at 26-4, 16-4 in conference play. The Huskies swept their first two opponents, Texas A&M-C.C. and Kentucky, to advance to the round of 16. 

Arizona swept Cleveland State in the first round of the tournament and shocked No. 9 Michigan State with an upset in five-sets last Saturday. The Wildcats went 18-14 in the regular season and 10-10 in conference play to finish seventh, before earning their fourth consecutive at-large selection to the tournament.

"The [older] players that have been there and have experienced the national championship, so it's just really cool to be there because I haven't been there yet and makes me want to be there even more to experience all these things," sophomore Keeton Holcomb said. "They know what it takes to get there and that's something I want to do so I can help the younger players coming in as well and get to the same spot because I think it's a fun experience and it means a lot." 

Veterans Propel Penn State to NCAA Regionals
By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Behind a balanced offense from the upperclassmen, the Penn State defeated Pittsburgh in four sets (20-25, 25-16, 25-13, 25-18) in the NCAA second round Saturday night in Rec Hall.

"It was a really competitive match," head coach Russ Rose said. "Pittsburgh is a great opponent and when we lost the first game, it was clear that they were more prepared to play at the onset than we were, but it steadied out. It was a good match. They played really well and they should be congratulated on a great season."

Juniors Simone Lee and Haleigh Washington led the offense with 14 kills apiece, with Washington hitting at a .462 efficiency. Junior Ali Frantti finished second on the team with 11 kills, hitting at a .308 clip.

"We played together well and we had three people with double digit kills. that gave us the balance that we needed," coach Rose said.

Lee recorded four kills early in the first set to stamp her name in the Penn State record book, as she moved into the top three on the single season kills list during the 25-point rally scoring era. Lee has 485 kills on the year and is 36 kills away from tying for second all-time.

The Nittany Lions knew they had to regroup the second set, having dropped the opening frame, 25-20. Lee opened up the scoring in the second set with a kill, before pounding another to spark an 8-4 scoring streak early on in the second set.

"Pittsburgh's good so it's hard to win 3-0 all the time," coach Rose said. "We didn't hit for a good efficiency in the first and they hit for a really high one. In the second game, we were a little better and they cooled off significantly. It's two good teams battling. That's what it is. That's what happens in the NCAA Tournament."

Lee also helped out defensively finishing second on the team with nine digs and two blocks. Washington powered the blocking unit with five blocks.

Penn State also knew that they had to build on their momentum from the second set win, and that's exactly what happened in the opening of the third set.

Washington and Detering teamed up for a big block that opened up a 7-2 run for the Nittany Lions. Washington led the offense for most of the set and eventually hammered a kill for set point.

"The start of the first match, we were all a bit high on our block," Washington said. "We came out of the halfway point in the first and we made the adjustment a lot lower because Pittsburgh's contact point is low, really strong and very aggressive. So if we just bring the contact point down on our blocks and just make sure we're low and over, that was the big adjustment that we made [from the first set], and it worked." 

2016 NCAA Tournament Preview Content Central

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w_volleyball_blog.jpgUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the 27th consecutive season, Penn State women's volleyball is set to welcome a trio of teams to the court in Rec Hall for the opening two rounds of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

The No. 16 Nittany Lions (22-9) will square off against Northeastern conference champion LIU Brooklyn (16-14) at 7:30 p.m. in Rec Hall, with Atlantic 10 conference champion Dayton (30-1) and Pittsburgh (24-8) meeting in the earlier round one matchup at 5 p.m. 

The winner of the Penn State-LIU Brooklyn outing will advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament to play the winner of the Dayton-Pitt match, Saturday, Dec. 3 at 6:30 p.m. 

One of just two teams in the nation to make an appearance in all 36 consecutive NCAA Tournament events, Penn State enters the matchup with a 30-5 all-time record in opening matches of the tournament. The Nittany Lions have not surrendered a single set to a first-round opponent since 1989, with straight set wins to advance to the second round of play in their last 26 consecutive round one victories. 

Earlier this week, four Nittany Lions earned Big Ten postseason honors as juniors Simone Lee and Haleigh Washington were both named unanimous selections to the All-Big Ten team. Redshirt freshman Tori Gorrell and Kendall White also earned All-Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors. 

Lee and Washington are atop the team standings in kills per set and blocks per set, respectively with each of the two juniors among a group of Nittany Lions who already have experience as members of Penn State's 2013-14 back-to-back NCAA championship teams.

Tournament time has finally arrived in Happy Valley, kicking off Friday at Rec Hall. Take a closer look at the Nittany Lions and this year's tournament as they head into postseason play. 

VIDEO: NCAA Tournament Press Conference

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: No. 16 Penn State vs. LIU Brooklyn

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A CLOSER LOOK: Features & Highlights

Penn State Looking Ahead to First Round of 2016 NCAA Tournament
By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since its inception in 1976, the Penn State women's volleyball program has been the standard for hard work and success in collegiate volleyball. In addition to 16 Big Ten Championships, the Nittany Lions have proved themselves to be the top team in the country seven times with NCAA national championships in 1999, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014.

The Nittany Lions capped off the 2016 regular season with a 22-9 overall record, 13-6 in Big Ten conference play. After closing out the regular season on a three-match winning streak, Penn State earned the No. 16 seed in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

Penn State is one of the only two programs in the country to have been selected to participate in all 36 NCAA postseason tournaments since it began in 1981. During that time, the Nittany Lions have racked up a 92-28 all-time record, including 12 appearances in the NCAA national finals. 

A Look Into the Tournament
The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences led all leagues with eight teams selected from their conferences to compete in the championship tournament. 

In the 64-team field, where the top-16 teams are seeded, three of the top four teams belong to the Big Ten. For this year's tournament, No. 16 Penn State is joined by seven other Big Ten squads: No. 1 Nebraska, No. 2 Minnesota, No. 3 Wisconsin, No. 9 Michigan State, No. 12 Michigan, Ohio State and Purdue.

"The Big Ten season was incredibly challenging this year with three teams that were taking turns in being ranked the top team in the country," head coach Russ Rose said. "It was a grind for all the teams and even the teams toward the top. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the Big Ten teams have success because I think the conference was really strong this year." 

Outside of the Big Ten teams, there are three schools that Penn State played during the regular season - No. 6 Stanford, No. 7 North Carolina and Howard. The Nittany Lions fell to Stanford in three-straight sets early in the season in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge. In the third match of the season, North Carolina gave Penn State its first loss by defeating the Nittany Lions in a five-set thriller. Moving forward, Penn State got back into the swing of things and defeated Howard in straight sets to win the Penn State Invitational. 

"It's a grind," junior Simone Lee said, looking toward tournament time. "It's hard. It's tough. There Aare going to be upsets, knockouts and teams that you're not expecting to make it further than you thought. It's all about keeping a positive attitude and maintaining a mental focus no matter who you have to play or who is across the net. You're focused on your team and what you can do to make the team better at all times." 

Round One
The quest for an eighth national championship title begins on Friday against Northeastern conference champion LIU Brooklyn (16-14) at 7:30 p.m. in Rec Hall. Penn State holds a 7-0 all-time record against LIU Brooklyn, meeting for the first time since the 2013 NCAA Tournament where the Nittany Lions claimed a 3-0 win. 

"LIU Brooklyn has a good collection of young players with a couple of international players, and I know that we will have to address the excitement and the nerves of the opponent," coach Rose said.

If the Nittany Lions were to advance to the second round, then the two possible opponents are Dayton and Pittsburgh.

Penn State and Dayton (30-1) could meet for the third straight season in the tournament, with Penn State leading the series, 3-1. Dayton recently captured its league-record 11th Atlantic 10 Championship title after winning 97 percent of their matches this year, the highest in the country.

Pittsburgh (24-8) is making its first appearance in the tournament since 2004 after the Panthers won 10 of their last 11 matches. The Nittany Lions have a 30-17 advantage in the series against Pittsburgh.  

"We're familiar with some of the opponents," coach Rose said. "We scrimmaged with Pittsburgh the last few springs so we're familiar with them and know that they beat two of the teams we lost to this year. We played Dayton the last two years in the NCAA tournament and we played LIU in the past. We're looking forward to the weekend, and we're hoping that we can play at the highest level."

In The Bracket
Coach Rose always stresses the importance of focusing on one match at a time, and that advice is essential for this postseason. It takes six perfect matches to win a national championship, and each match gets tougher with every round.

In the bracket, the No. 16 Penn State women's volleyball team is joined by No. 1 Nebraska, No. 8 Washington and No. 9 Michigan State in the top left quarter. This year is a little different because the regionals are no longer at predetermined sites. The top surviving seed in each quarter of the brackets gets to host the regionals on Dec. 9-10.

No. 1 Nebraska
The Huskers are the defending national champions as well as this year's Big Ten champions after finishing off the regular season with a 27-2 record. Their only two losses this season were to Ohio State and Minnesota, who snapped the Nebraska's 14-match winning streak last week.

Head coach John Cook was named the conference's coach of the year by the coaches and media, his first time earning the honor since the team joined in the Big Ten. Libero Justine Wong-Orantes earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second consecutive season.

Penn State dropped both matches against Nebraska this season. Back in November, top-ranked Nebraska visited Rec Hall and the Nittany Lions were able to take the Huskers to five-sets but fell short at home. A mere 12 days later, Penn State headed to Lincoln, Nebraska for a rematch but the Nittany Lions lost in three sets.

Nebraska leads the all-time series, 17-10, and the two programs have combined for eight of the past 10 NCAA titles. 

No. 8 Washington
If Penn State makes it to the quarterfinals, a potential opponent is eight-seeded Washington.

The Pac-12 Champion Huskies finished the regular season at 26-4 and went 16-4 in Pac-12 play to win the conference title for the third time in the past four years. Junior outside hitter Courtney Schwan was named Pac-12 Player of the Year.

No. 9 Michigan State
The Spartans went 3-1 in their last three matches, but had an overall record of 24-8 and 13-7 in Big Ten play. When Michigan State visited Happy Valley, the Nittany Lions swept the team in three sets.

SENIOR FEATURE: Krause Reflects on Penn State Journey
By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It has always been in senior Taylor Krause's blood to attend Penn State. Her mom's entire side of the family were Nittany Lions, and she could never imagine herself going to any other school. 

"It was just part of the family process," Krause said. "Pretty much everyone goes here and it's something that is part of the family. We have supported every sport our whole life, so to actually be here and to be on the team has been an unbelievable experience."

Krause started playing volleyball at a young age, but she was a little skeptical and nervous about the sport at first. After attending more practices and playing in more matches, she started to fall in love with the sport. 

The Allentown, Pennsylvania native was a four-year letterwinner and team captain at Parkland High School. She helped guide Parkland to three conference titles, three district titles and one state championship throughout her scholastic career. 

Now a senior caption on the squad, all of this led her to not only be a Nittany Lion, but to also be a member of the Penn State women's volleyball team.

"The program and the dynasty that goes along with the program is why I came to Penn State," Krause said. "Everything that makes up this program and everything that the alums have worked for to make Penn State such a proud university is everything that I want to be a part of, and I am so grateful to be part of it."

As a freshman, Krause made her collegiate debut for Penn State in the season-opener against Syracuse. In her sophomore year, Krause made an appearance in 20 matches, including nine Big Ten matches as well as the NCAA title match against BYU.

"My favorite memory would be winning two national championships with my best friends," Krause said. "It just shows how hard we worked and that working hard does pay off and it comes full circle." 

Krause made the biggest impact in her junior year, playing in 53 sets in 25 matches throughout the season. She posted a career-high 10 digs against Minnesota and helped the team in the NCAA tournament against Howard and Dayton.

"Taylor has really grown as a person and she's become so much more mature and responsible," senior Carley Muller said. "It's nice to be able to know that I can rely on her, whether that be on the court or off the court. On the court, if I touch the ball, I know that Taylor is going to run for the ball and do everything she can to pop it back up, and off the court, I just know that if something goes wrong or if I'm not doing well, then Taylor is going to be there no matter what, and that's always nice to know."

With all her accomplishments, Krause was named one of the captains for the 2016 season. Not only has she been helping the other defensive specialists in the back row, but she's also been getting the freshmen adjusted, like her sister, Kristen Krause.

"There's no words to describe [playing with Taylor]," freshman Kristen Krause said. "It's an incredible experience to be able to share time, not only on campus and go through college with her, but to also play the sport that we love together."

Taylor has been a great mentor for her sister throughout the season.

"She always gives me little things when I'm not doing something right," Kristen Krause said. "She always right there to help me out, and outside the court, we spend time together every single day. We make sure I am on top of my schoolwork and she's making sure that I have a great college experience."

She has also been helping the other freshmen understand Penn State volleyball.

"She's been doing a really nice job in instilling what Penn State volleyball means and all of our mottos and lessons that we go on [to the freshmen]," Muller said. "She's grown up as a Penn Stater and I think it's helpful to have somebody in the program, at the top, that knows what's going on and can be able to help the freshmen know what we do here." 

Though Taylor has been having an excellent volleyball career, having Kristen by her side has only made it better.

"It's been an awesome semester," Taylor Krause said. "It's always nice to have a little piece of home with you wherever you go, and hopefully, playing with her, she realizes how lucky she is to be here and what an honor it is to play for Penn state. I couldn't be more grateful to have her here in my last season."

Majoring in elementary education and minoring in special education, Krause will be graduating in December. 

"I know she's going to be a teacher, and I think she's going to be the best teacher and her future kids are going to be lucky to have her," Muller said.

Throughout her four years at Penn State, her teammates have helped Krause to be the player that she is today. Alongside them, head coach Russ Rose has gotten Krause to grow not only her volleyball IQ but also as a person off the court. There are infinite lessons she has learned but the most valuable thing she is going to take away from her career is to value the time at Penn State. 

"Don't take anything for granted," Krause said. "It goes by so much faster than you think and everyone says that so you don't really realize it until your senior year. So every time you come in the gym or every time you go work out at camp, give it all your got. Make sure you're giving your hardest effort day in and day out." 

Muller Looks Back on Penn State Career

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By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When senior Carley Muller was in seventh grade, she visited family friends in the Philadelphia-area and had the opportunity to visit Penn State's campus. As soon as she stepped foot onto University Park, she knew that Penn State was her dream school. She loved it so much that the 2,500 miles away from home didn't present any sort of hesitation in her decision.

"In my junior year of high school, I was contacted by coach Rose and I pretty much immediately accepted it as soon as they offered me," Muller said. "It's definitely been life changing and I've become a different person entirely because of it. I think being so far away from my family, I've had to grow up a lot more than I thought I ever would and just do things on my own. Its been a really cool experience to see the person I've become from senior year of high school to my senior year of college."

Muller succeeded in high school, just like she's doing at Penn State. In her senior year of high school, she earned the Bay League Libero of the Year honor and led the team to two first-place finishes at the Pacific Northwestern and SCVA 17 Open tournaments.

At Penn State, Muller made her collegiate debut as a Nittany Lion in the 2013 season opener against Syracuse during her freshman year. Since then, Muller has only continued to grow. In her sophomore year, the Manhattan Beach, California native made 14 appearances on the court including five Big Ten matches and two NCAA Tournament contests. Contributing in the back row, she recorded a career-high performance against Mississippi State last year, leading the team with two aces and five digs.

"Carley has grown as a person and as a volleyball player," senior Taylor Krause said. "She's learned to read the game so well and she offers a lot of good advice to everyone who's on the court and even when she's playing on the court. She knows the game so well and it's beneficial to those around her. She's developed to be such an amazing individual and I'm excited for her future." 

With all these amazing moments in the last four years as a Nittany Lion, including Penn State winning the national championship in 2013 and 2014, it can be hard to find a favorite instant, but there's one that sticks out the most for Muller. 

"There's been a lot of really good moments, but my favorite one is where I turned to give Aiyana Whitney a high five in the national championship match during the second intermission timeout, and I went to give her a high five, but she was already trying to go to the locker room and it was caught on television. Totally my favorite moment," Muller said.

Aside from her work on the court, Muller has been succeeding in the classroom. During her time as a Nittany Lion, she has earned 2014-15 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar accolades as well as consecutive Academic All-Big Ten honors. 

Majoring in public relations and minoring in business, Muller will be graduating from Penn State come December. In February, she will be working at a recruiting and staffing firm in Los Angeles, and she has volleyball to thank for that.

"Volleyball has forced me to come out of my comfort zone and speak to a lot of different people," Muller said. "Penn State volleyball isn't just about volleyball. It's about being with the community and connecting with boosters and everyone here. I think that has been really helpful in changing who I am as a person." 

The support from her best friends have also helped her. Muller has been playing with Krause and Laura Broerman since their first semester together. All three of them hold the same position at defensive specialist, but that doesn't stop them from being the best they can be.

"It's actually not what people think it is. We all try to help each other and I think we're better because of it," Muller said. "We have to leave what happens on the court there and just separate the two, and I think that makes us stronger people - to be able to compete against your best friends is a really special experience and it's not easy, but it's been fun." 

Broerman can see just how valuable it is to be playing alongside best friends.

"Carley is someone who sees the court really well and can easily tell you what you're doing wrong or well, so even if you don't ask her 'What am I doing wrong here,' she has some insight for you, something to help you better your game," Broerman said.

Along with Krause and Broerman, Muller will be recognized on senior night when Penn State takes on Illinois Saturday, Nov. 26 at 8 p.m. in the final regular season match of the year. While she has already put together a great career, there are just two things she would tell her freshman year-self.

"Don't ever take any moment for granted and don't take anyone that you've played with for granted because they are the people you will always remember."

And that's the final goal for Muller this season.

"I want to leave this program knowing that I helped at least one person and changed them as a player or person, knowing that I was able to help them mature," Muller said. "That's been a goal of mine this season, to really help out the freshmen and show them the way. That's what I would like to leave here knowing.

As senior day approaches, catch up with Penn State Muller, Krause and Broerman as they reflect on their time at Penn State and look ahead to the critical Big Ten matches this weekend at Rec Hall.

Frantti Leads Nittany Lions to 20th Win of the Season

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By Jack Milewski, Student Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Ali Frantti played arguably her best match of the season to help the Nittany Lions to their 20th win of the season, as Penn State topped Purdue in three sets to complete the season sweep of the Boilermakers.

Frantti led all players with 14 kills on 24 error-free swings, doing so in emphatic fashion, with one of the more efficient performances of the season, finishing with a .583 hitting percentage. Frantti was joined by Nittany Lion Simone Lee, who also finished with 14 kills to tie the match-high mark.

The Nittany Lions put down 50 team kills in the victory, marking the most in a three set match so far this season. Penn State also accumulated a .386 team hitting percentage, thanks largely in part to the errorless play of Frantti.

"I thought we passed really well, so we were able to run a three option pass," Frantti said. "Our middles were able to hold the block very well tonight so that gave me some room to take a few good swings."                            

Frantti was errorless on the attack for the first time since the first match of Big Ten play against Rutgers. For the fifth time this season, Frantti led the team in kills, but maybe more importantly, it came in the later portion of the season as Penn State is just two games away from the end of the regular season. Not only was the win convincing, but more importantly for the Nittany Lions, it answered a disappointing showing at Nebraska just a few nights earlier.

"It was huge for us," Frantti said. "It was a great answer and momentum changer heading in to the last part of our regular season and then the postseason." 

Though Frantti led the charge, she was not the only Nittany Lion to help Penn State to its 40th 20-win season in program history.

As mentioned, Lee was also an offensive force for Penn State, but Tori Gorrell had a perfect night too, posting 11 kills with no errors on a match-high .733 hitting efficiency. In terms of a team victory, Penn State put together one of its most balanced performances to date in Big Ten play, a sign that good things could be on the horizon for the Nittany Lions come NCAA Tournament time. 

The Nittany Lions are set to close out their season with two more Midwestern opponents, as they welcome Northwestern and Illinois for a Friday, Saturday series this weekend. The Nittany Lions swept past the Wildcats on the road near the end of September, but will host the Illini in the only meeting of the season on Senior Night Saturday at Rec Hall. 

Thelen Adjusting to New Role

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By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer    

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Junior Heidi Thelen has been a middle blocker throughout her entire volleyball career, which began in seventh grade.

However, since the beginning of this season, that's no longer the case.

Thelen changed positions and is now a right-side hitter for the Nittany Lions.

"It's a good move for her," head coach Russ Rose said. "There are times where I think we'd be better if we had Heidi in the middle because of her ability to block, but having to put the team together with the roster that we had, I thought that that was the move what could still incorporate her hitting off one foot and two feet, and I think she's done well. Some of the matches that we've played really well are the matches she's played well in."

This season, Thelen has already recorded 148 kills, averaging 1.74 kills per set, with a hitting percentage of .281. She's also notched 66 total blocks for the season, which is third-best for the team. One of her most notable matches this season came when then-No.14 Penn State defeated then-No.1 Minnesota in five sets at home in Rec Hall. During that match, she tied for second-best with 14 kills on .367 hitting.

Most recently, in the five-set thriller against No.1 Nebraska last Friday evening at Rec Hall, Thelen recorded five kills and four blocks. The following match against Iowa, Thelen brought out four strong kills, hitting at a .333 clip, while also recording two blocks.

"I thought she would be a better combination over on the right," coach Rose said. "She's a good block, so I think she's transitioned from a position to another position that's slightly similar very well...she's done a nice job."

Middle blockers are constantly on their toes. They always have to be ready to hit, or build a block and stop the opposing middle hitter. On the other hand, the right side hitter is usually a jack-of-all trades, as they are play in both the front and back row. The skillsets between the two are a bit different, but Thelen has been adjusting well to it.

"[The hardest thing] is probably timing with hitting because for middle blockers, you have to be up in the air quick, so sometimes, I'm leaving too early or before Abby sets the ball, so timing has been the biggest part," Thelen said. "We needed someone on the right side and having two quick hitters, me and Tori, at the same time, we can run slides and run cross-plays. I think I'm a decent blocker, so having the right-side block against the left side hitters, who gets set the most, that's an advantage."

But Thelen isn't going through the transition alone, her teammates are helping her along the way.

"My teammates talk to me a lot," Thelen said. "Abby and I go into the gym early a lot just to work on timing. Kendall [White] is really good about telling me what I should be doing on my block, so I like hearing the players, like if I'm giving too much line or other things."

Thoughout the changes, Thelen has continued to make a big impact for the Nittany Lions. In the matchup with then-No.3 Minnesota, Thelen logged six kills, hitting .333, while recording two blocks and two digs. Against then-No.4 Wisconsin, she had five kills on .267 hitting percentage and three blocks.

"I like [the right side]," Thelen said. "[The transition] has been tough. I've been a middle my entire life and now, timing is different, blocking is different, so I've had to work on it a lot, but I like it," Thelen said.

With only six more matches this season, including a three-game road swing beginning with trips to Maryland and Ohio State this weekend, there is still ample amount of time to continue to learn more skills.

"Heidi has a great attitude, works hard and wants to be good," coach Ross said. "She always says, 'say it to me,' which is what I like, that she always identifies that I should be direct with her, tell her the good and the bad equally and not feel like I have to beat around the bush with her. I think that's good. She keeps learning. We play against these really good teams, she sees areas where she needs improvement, and that's part of the process of development for players as well as teams."

Blocking Puts Penn State Back on Track

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By Jack Milewski, Student Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The latest string of adversity this season for the Nittany Lion women's volleyball team had come in the form of four matchups against opponents ranked in the top 20.

Three of those matches were against teams who at one point this season had, or still occupied the number one spot in the national rankings. Despite a setback against the No. 1 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers Friday, Penn State snapped its four-game losing streak with a dominant performance against Iowa Saturday afternoon at Rec Hall.

The Nittany Lions seemed determined to quell their losing streak, as they dominated Iowa from start to finish with only minor blemishes along the way. If the first set was any indication, a 25-11 win, the Nittany Lions didn't want Iowa to hang around at all. The tone was set within the first five points, as Penn State charged out to an early 5-0 lead, led by four blocks in the scoring streak. 

"We did a much better job of blocking early," head coach Russ Rose said. "We did a much better job blocking throughout the match." 

The Nittany Lions did block early and often, totaling 14.0 team blocks in the match and seven in the first set alone. Iowa seemingly had no answer for the Penn State defense. Individually, Haleigh Washington was on top of her game as she contributed 10 of the team's 14 blocks, for just her second double-digit blocking performance of her career. Bryanna Weiskircher totaled six blocks to match a career high mark.

"I think that the middles did a good job closing to us and we listened to the scouting report," Heidi Thelen said. "I thought the pin hitters did a good job too and we just blocked well all game." 

The blocking was certainly the focal point of the match Saturday and despite the loss, it was a standout component Friday as well, with Penn State totaling 12.0 team blocks against the top-ranked Cornhuskers. 

Along with the defensive presence at the net, Kendall White had arguably one of her finest weekends at the libero position. The freshman standout totaled 45 digs over the span of the two matches, punctuated by a 32-dig performance against Nebraska. White's 32 digs are the second-most in a five set match in program history during the 25-point rally scoring era and the first time a Nittany Lion has logged a 30-plus dig performance since Alyssa D'Errico did so at Minnesota Nov. 27, 2010. 

White has been a solid presence all season long in the back row, but this weekend she seemed to be more in control and more effective than usual. 

"She always plays hard," Rose said. "I think she has done a very good job for us and she is getting better."

The win against the Hawkeyes will certainly have the potential to serve as a catalyst for Penn State in their final six games of Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions currently sit at 18-7 on the season with a 10-4 record in Big Ten outings. Slotted at fifth in the conference standings, Penn State is a spot behind both Minnesota and Michigan State. The Nittany Lions hope to use the win Saturday to gain momentum heading into the last chunk of the regular season.

"We had a four-match losing streak and Iowa had probably a five match winning streak in the conference," Rose said. "It's good to have a victory and hopefully the players will rest and get their minds right because we have another tough weekend coming up."

Penn State is back in action once again next weekend, as they travel to Maryland and Ohio State. The Nittany Lions and the Terrapins meet at 8 p.m., while first serve from Columbus, Ohio will be at 7 p.m. 

Broerman Finding Success Back on the Court

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By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Redshirt junior Laura Broerman missed the 2015 season due to an injury. Nevertheless, head coach Russ Ross provided her an alternate way to participate with the team, moving her from the volleyball court to press row to do the team's radio color commentary for every match, home and away, on

"It's weird because going into the commentary, I was not excited about it at all," Broerman said. "I was kind of moping a little bit from being hurt and not being on the court, but as the season went on, it got a lot more fun."

Now in her senior season, Broerman is finally back where she feels best - on the volleyball court.

"Coming off an injury like that, especially your third one, when the doctor tells you, 'Hey, if this happens again, you're done. Your athletic career is over,' it shocks you and makes you really appreciate every single hour of practice you put in every week. I try not to make many off-plays because you never know when it could be over. It could be over next week if something bad were to happen, so I'm not taking anything for granted."

Though Broerman didn't physically play last season, her volleyball IQ and mental skills improved throughout all the matches. The radio broadcast provided a fresh experience for her to see the game in a new perspective. 

"I was able to see things that I would have never saw [on the court] before," Broerman said. "It's so nice to be on the bench now and when I see those things, I can communicate to people on the court during a timeout, or when I'm on the court, I can communicate to our left front or our center and just kind of see the game from a completely different angle."

The 5-foot-2 defensive specialist has been using this season to make up for what she wasn't able to perform on the court while she was injured. Already, she has been helping the team make key plays this season, especially in recent matches.

Last week against Ohio State and Michigan, Broerman recorded five digs in both outings.

"She really appreciates her role on the team and once you get it taken away from being able to play, you really get to find how much you love the sport and I can see that this year," senior Carley Muller said. "Laura is striving to be the best person she can be for our team and by doing radio last year, she picked up a lot more information about the game and even this year, I can see that she reads much better than she ever has before."

Broerman is one of the nine defensive specialists on the team, but she has a specific focus in strong serving. She has recorded five service aces this season, with a season-high three against Rutgers. 

"She's always confident in her serves," Muller said. "When she comes in, she's not afraid to make a play and she's not afraid to run into people or do something crazy, and that's definitely what we need coming off the bench."

Being a defensive specialist is a difficult position because you always have to be on your toes and ready for the ball. It's even harder when there are numerous talented players competing for limited spots, but Broerman doesn't let that mess with her focus.

"It means a lot [to get called in]," Broerman said. "Whenever you go in, it's a little confidence boost because you know coach Rose has the faith in you to go in there and do well because coach doesn't put people in just to put people in - he puts people in to make a difference, to go out there and make a play that maybe someone wouldn't have made before, so he's not handing out charity. When he puts you in, he wants you to do well."

For all four years, playing alongside Broerman is Muller, a senior defensive specialist, as well as Broerman's best friend. They created a strong connection after being freshmen-year roommates. 

"She's grown on and off the court [since last season]," Muller said. "She's one of the most focused and funniest people I know. She's one of my best friends and it's really nice to be around her and be able to see her find herself through college." 

It may seem strange to be best friends with someone you have to compete against, but it's motivational for both Broerman and Muller. 

"You would think that because there are so many of us competing for these very limited sports, we'd all hate each other, but all my best friends are in the same position as me, and I love them to death," Broerman said. "It's a two-way street and we're honestly out there for the team. We're the backrow kids and I just love being together."

Despite surgeries and injuries, playing Penn State volleyball was a dream she always wanted.

"I was a late recruit in, so it was a really hard decision because I could have gone somewhere and made an impact right away, or I could go to Penn State and be the absolute best that I could be, and that's what I wanted," Broerman said. "I didn't necessarily care if I was going to be on the court or going to be in the libero jersey - I wanted to take my skills to the absolute next level. I wanted to show my parents that all the money in club volleyball, high school volleyball and everything else was worth something. I wanted to prove it to myself and to everyone that had doubted me."

Broerman has shown that it's possible to bounce back from an injury, even during senior year. As the Nittany Lions continue their season, she hopes to continue to serve a tough ball, improve every match and be completely confident in everything she does. But Penn State volleyball is something she will remember for the rest of her life, the highs and the lows. 

"It means a lot to be on the team," Broerman said. "Never in a million years would I have thought I would be wearing a jersey with Penn State on the back. It still gives me the chills. I look around Rec Hall during the National Anthem, and I get the chills and a little sad, but it's awesome."


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