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Balance Improves as Penn State Heads Toward Big Ten Play

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9440242.jpegBy Jack Milewski, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. -Penn State women's volleyball teams have always had standouts. As one of the most storied programs in collegiate volleyball, the Nittany Lions have developed some of the nation's top talent in the game. This year's Penn State team is not without standouts, but if this past weekend is any indication, a balanced attack might be the best way for Penn State to find success.

The Nittany Lions swept the Penn State Invitational, playing some of their better volleyball this season on the way to straight set victories against Rhode Island, Howard and Clemson. Led by a balance of offensive fire power in all three matches, Penn State had at least two Nittany Lions with seven or more kills. In two matches (Clemson, Howard), the Nittany Lions had at least three with seven or more kills.

"When it comes to offense, we really wanted to move the ball around," setter Abby Detering said after Friday's match. "Simone [Lee] has been fantastic for us but we have so many good hitters that we don't lose much if we spread it around. That's my mentality going in to the games, is to try to open up and spread the ball around."

Lee has been the focal point of the Penn State offense throughout the first four weeks of the season, but the past couple of weeks, the emphasis on getting multiple arms involved has paid dividends for Penn State.

"I think Haleigh [Washington] and Heidi Thelen had a great match," head coach Russ Rose said after Saturday's match against Clemson. "Heidi has been taking some good swings and Haleigh had a very efficient match."

Thelen, a middle converted to right side, had 21 kills on .447 hitting in three matches this weekend, swinging with authority. Washington had 27 kills for the Nittany Lions and recorded a .610 hitting clip across the tournament.

The added emphasis on a balanced attack has fueled an early season rejuvenation for the Nittany Lions. After starting the season 2-3, the Nittany Lions regrouped with six straight wins. It hasn't just been the result that has been positive, but the energy and continued improvement from Penn State has been a breath of fresh air as well.

"I thought the crowd was great and we had very good energy," Rose said following Saturday's match. "When we were 2-3 I didn't know how ready we would be to head into Big Ten play, but were playing better and we feel better about the way we have been playing. I'm pleased with where we are right now." 

The Big Ten regular season will come in a hurry for Penn State as they have just a few days of rest before heading to Rutgers for their first conference match up. Though Penn State has improved, by the same token, the Big Ten will present a whole new challenge in terms of competition.

"We like where we are, but we can be better," Rose said. "I think the players understand that and want to be better as well."

With Big Ten play, comes a gauntlet of eight teams teams ranked in the top 25 nationally, including Penn State. Historically one of the best conferences in collegiate women's volleyball, Penn State will have to dig deep in the upcoming months.

"For the next 10 weeks we play two games a week that hold the same weight," said Rose. "It will be tough but we like where we are."

Penn State travels to Rutgers Wednesday, Sept. 21 with first serve scheduled for 7 p.m. in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Kendall White Brings Experience to the Back Row

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By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Freshman Kendall White never really thought about playing volleyball when she was younger. She thought she was too short in comparison to the other players on the court. However, that all changed when her older sister, Sloane White, got recruited to play volleyball.

"My older sister played volleyball at College of Charleston in South Carolina," White said. "She's a lot taller than me, so when she was about 12, she was recruited to play volleyball and I went to all of her tournaments. I started playing volleyball because of her when I was eight years old and just fell in love with it from there."

Ever since the 5-foot-five freshman stepped on to the volleyball court for the first time, she has been making a name for herself on each court she's ever played on. During her four years of high school at Cathedral in Indianapolis, Indiana, she was a four-year letterwinner and concluded her career with a school-record 1,546 digs. She led the Fighting Irish to a 36-0 record as well as the Class 4A state championship in her senior year as the team's libero and captain. This was the first Indiana 4A team to have an undefeated season. In addition, in 2015-16, she was selected as the Indy Star Player of the Year, Cathedral's High School Female Athlete of the Year and Indiana's volleyball Gatorade State Player of the Year.

"My high school season was amazing," White said. "They helped me so much going into [Penn State's] team because that was probably the best team as a unit I have ever been part of. We were all so happy together and we used each other's personalities differently and each other's strengths so when someone was messing up, someone would rise to the occasion. That's helping me a lot here because that's exactly what the team needs - we need people to rise to the occasion when other people aren't rising to the occasion. We need to work on team unity. We all love each other so much on this team, and we're all really good friends, and I think it's awesome. I think we can develop our team unity like that team did, and we can fight back in games and tough situations and just move on to grow as a team." 

The Nittany Lions are only eight matches into the season, but White has already started to become a staple in the back-row for Penn State as she wears the opposite colored-jersey in each match as the starting libero. In the season-opener, White made a phenomenal collegiate debut, leading the team with 16 digs against West Virginia. 

"You'd think it would be overwhelming at [Rec Hall], but with all the people in there, I loved it," White said. "I absorbed the energy. I thought it was amazing. I thought the crowd and cheering made me want to perform better and being surrounded by all my teammates...It was awesome -  I enjoyed it so much." 

This season, she already leads the team with 106 digs and recorded a career-high of 22 digs in the match against Stanford. Even though White holds a smart court presence, she believes that she still has a lot to work on for this season.

"I want to do whatever is possible for the team in order to win," White said. "I'm going to go out there no matter if I'm playing bad or if I'm playing well to make sure I keep the energy high and help the team through attitude because I think we can use that no matter what the situation is. Specifically, I just want to work hard on defense and be the top defender this weekend, hopefully, and the season, but I have to get better in order to do that."

None of this would have been possible without the help of her teammates, especially the upperclassmen. They're there for her 100 percent of the time, and they're all constantly helping all the freshman get adjusted to not only the volleyball court, but also to classes, the professors, campus and everything else.

"I like playing with Kendall a lot," junior Lainy Pierce said. "She's taken up a huge role as a freshman and I think she's carrying herself really well and playing a really good game right now...She really cares about this program, and would do anything for it. I think she's a true leader."

Besides being a defensive specialist for Penn State, White is known to her teammates for her bubbly personality, which helps the team in many ways on the court.

"I think Kendall is really loud, and that's kind of her tone," Pierce said. "She's not afraid to speak her mind, which is great to have somebody like that on the court, but she also knows where she stands and who she is on the team, and we need a leader like that this year."

Outside of volleyball, White loves to use her energy by talking, hanging out with friends and meeting new people. When she has time to herself, she's binge watching "Gossip Girl" on Netflix, and when the season is over, White plans to volunteer at a nursing home like she did in high school.

"My grandma used to be at a nursing home, and I loved visiting her. I love helping elderly people and being around them, so that's definitely something I want to do in my future," White said. 

But right now, White's focus is on Penn State volleyball, and she wouldn't have it any other way.

"[My experience] has been great," White said. "The girls are amazing and the level of competition that we play at is awesome. It's exactly what I wanted an exactly what I came here for. I love it."

Nittany Lions Eager For Next Opportunity

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By Jack Milewski, Student Staff Writer

BOULDER, Colo. - The bar is set exceptionally high when it comes to Penn State women's volleyball. As is human nature, reaching that bar cannot always be obtained. Despite a disappointing road trip results wise, the Nittany Lions can still take some positives out of their first trip to Boulder in program history.

Penn State, participating for the third year in a row in the Big Ten/ Pac-12 Challenge, was unable to earn a road win against either the Colorado Buffaloes or the No. 9 Stanford Cardinal. The Nittany Lions, who have had turnover on both their coaching staff and in their starting lineup, are still working through some early season adjustments.

Despite the losses on Saturday and Sunday, associate head coach Salima Rockwell feels that the Nittany Lions are close to turning a new page early in the 2016 season.

"Obviously you game plan for a different outcome and you never prepare for what happened," Rockwell said after the match against Stanford. "All we can do is focus on what we did well in these matches and move forward from there."

One aspect of the Nittany Lions' game that was noticeably different on Sunday in comparison to Saturday was the level of competition. After looking flat at times against Colorado, Penn State showed fire and grit against the ninth-ranked Cardinal.

"I definitely think our level of competition was higher," Rockwell said. "I thought our communication on the court was better as well. It's good to see that growth in certain areas but we are still looking to play better. You can tell that in the locker room too, I think the girls would go out and play again tomorrow if they had the chance."

Though volleyball is a team sport, certain individuals shine through on a consistent basis. Newcomer Kendall White has been that bright spot for Penn State early on.  As a freshman, White has already established herself as a vocal presence both on and off the court and one of the leaders on the team. White, the libero for the Nittany Lions, has totaled 78 digs (4.11 per set) in just five games. The dominance in the back row is impressive and the coaching staff has taken notice.

"I thought Kendall White has been one of our best players so far this season," head coach Russ Rose said. "She has done very well so far for us and we expect it to continue."

Both the stats and performances from the young libero speak for themselves, but arguably what is more impressive is the way that White has already stepped up to be one of the leading voices on the floor.

"We're lucky to have her," Rockwell said. "She's doing an amazing job and Coach [Rose] always says that leaders emerge. That's exactly what Kendall is doing. That's one of the reasons why we recruited her. She's tough and she competes all the time and that is Penn State Volleyball."

Penn State will look to flip the script on the road next weekend traveling to Syracuse, N.Y. for a three match tournament. The quick turnaround will give the Nittany Lions just two full days home in State College before returning to the road, meaning the focus needs to continue to be high for the team.

"It's always a challenge getting back, but the team is used to it," Rockwell said. "The biggest thing is that we get a lot of rest and get ahead on school work so that we are fresh and ready to go."

Penn State will face Siena on Friday at 10 a.m. before taking on Hofstra and Syracuse on Saturday. 

Nittany Lions at 2-1 after Penn State Classic

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Nittany Lions Win Two, Lose One in Penn State Classic
By Anita Nham, Student Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - The No. 9 Penn State women's volleyball team has started the 2016 season 2-1 after sweeping West Virginia (25-13, 25-13, 25-17) and Georgia Southern (25-13, 25-12, 25-7), but falling to No. 19 North Carolina in five sets (25-16, 22-25, 25-21, 23-25, 11-15). The Tarheels were crowned winners of the Penn State Classic this weekend.

Though the Nittany Lions fell short in their final match of the tournament, their constant determination and two victories would not have been possible if it weren't for the guidance and leadership from the returning veterans.

Junior Simone Lee powered the offense throughout the weekend recording double figure in kills in two of three matches. Lee notched 10 kills against the Mountaineers on Friday evening, eight kills against the Eagles and 23 kills against the Tarheels on Saturday.

"I thought Simone was a hammer the whole [Saturday] night," head coach Russ Rose said. "I thought Simone was taking big swings all night long, and I thought that that was really cool for her."

Lee's 23 kills against North Carolina was also a career-high for her. In addition, she added 10 digs for her first career double-double.

"[The career-best] is a positive coming out of the game...but it shouldn't be just one person getting all the kills," Lee said. "I'm happy to see that I got a career-high of 23 kills, but it's about all of us. It's about all of us working hard together, all of us spreading the offense. It can't just be one person getting every single swing. I think in practice, that's what we need to work on."

Junior Haleigh Washington also made an impact this weekend registering10 kills, three blocks and a .714 hitting efficiency against West Virginia on Friday evening. In the match against Georgia Southern, Washington finished with a team-high five blocks and tied for second with seven kills. Saturday evening, Washington continued to help the team, tying for second on the squad with 11 kills and five total blocks.

Nonetheless, numerous underclassmen and newcomers marked their collegiate debut in a big way this weekend. Freshman Kendall White led the team with 16 digs in her collegiate debut against the Mountaineers and a career-high of 17 digs against the Tarheels. Junior Abby Detering handed out a team-high 29 assists on Friday evening and 23 assists in the opening set against the Tarheels.

Following the season opening win against the Mountaineers, Rose had positive things to say about White and Detering's performances.

"I thought we received a really good effort from two newcomers," Rose said. "I thought Kendall [White] did a good job passing and playing defense, and Abby [Detering] did a nice job moving the ball around and getting a few kills at the net."

A loss at Rec Hall was not what the Nittany Lions were looking for, but they're using it as a stepping stone to see what they need to work on for their upcoming matches.

"Obviously, it's not a good feeling to lose, especially on home court in front of all the people that support us for many years," Lee said. "I think what we need to do is, it's not about talking about it's go time. Coach always talks about it. It's our decision when we step into the court for practice about whether or not we're going to go to the ball, going to take big swings, going to be there for our teammates or going to play together. It's time, and that's what we need to do. It's a terrible feeling to lose. It's a terrible feeling to lose at home, and I don't think anyone wants to experience that again."

Penn State is back in action next week, traveling to Boulder, Colorado for a pair of tough Pac-12 matchups. The Nittany Lions meet Colorado first before taking on No. 11 Stanford in the final match of the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge.

BLOG: Fall Sports Media Day in Review

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While the Penn State Fall Sports season may have kicked off with women's soccer in action last week, Nittany Lion fans got a unique perspective from the annual athletics Fall Sports Media Day.

Coaches and student-athletes from seven different Penn State programs set to compete this fall met with members of the media to talk 2016 and their expectations for the upcoming year.

Check out some highlights and links to videos, transcripts and extra coverage from today's event. 

Women's Volleyball
Entering his 38th season at the helm of the program, Nittany Lion head coach Russ Rose is ready to open another year in Rec Hall. Welcoming eight newcomers this season, Rose will also return First Team AVCA All-American Haleigh Washington and AVCA All-America Honorable Mention Ali Frantti. 

Not only did the current team enjoy watching Penn State alums Christa (Harmotto) Dietzen and Alisha Glass earn a Bronze medal with Team USA at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

"I was pleased for Alisha to be able to lead the team and I was happy for Christa being named captain of the team," said Rose. "To me it was great every night to be able to watch Penn State players whether it be the men playing for Team USA or a couple of guys I remember being at Penn State who were playing with the Mexican volleyball team." 

Press conference video

Periscope session with Haleigh Washington

BLOG: Fall Sports Media Day in Review

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While the Penn State Fall Sports season may have kicked off with women's soccer in action last week, Nittany Lion fans got a unique perspective from the annual athletics Fall Sports Media Day.

Coaches and student-athletes from seven different Penn State programs set to compete this fall met with members of the media to talk 2016 and their expectations for the upcoming year.

Check out some highlights and links to videos, transcripts and extra coverage from today's event. 

Women's Volleyball
Entering his 38th season at the helm of the program, Nittany Lion head coach Russ Rose is ready to open another year in Rec Hall. Welcoming eight newcomers this season, Rose will also return First Team AVCA All-American Haleigh Washington and AVCA All-America Honorable Mention Ali Frantti. 

Not only did the current team enjoy watching Penn State alums Christa (Harmotto) Dietzen and Alisha Glass earn a Bronze medal with Team USA at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

"I was pleased for Alisha to be able to lead the team and I was happy for Christa being named captain of the team," said Rose. "To me it was great every night to be able to watch Penn State players whether it be the men playing for Team USA or a couple of guys I remember being at Penn State who were playing with the Mexican volleyball team." 

Press conference video

Periscope session with Haleigh Washington

VIDEO: Athletes Volunteer at 2016 Special Olympics Pennsylvania Summer Games

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - More than 2,000 athletes from across Pennsylvania are on Penn State's campus this weekend to participate in the 2016 Special Olympics Summer Games.

The Opening Ceremonies took place on Thursday inside Pegula Ice Arena, kicking off a weekend of competition. Student-athletes from a host of Penn State teams will volunteer at the Summer Games over the weekend.

Members of eight Penn State teams greeted the Olympians as they entered Pegula Ice Arena on Thursday evening, taking photos and cheering them on in anticipation of the Summer Games.

Take a look through some photos and video of Penn State athletes volunteering at the Summer Games.

Photo Gallery: Special Olympics Opening Ceremony

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Penn State Athletics THON 2016 Coverage

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IMG_9032.JPGUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Athletics was heavily involved with the 44th IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) held at the Bryce Jordan Center over the weekend.

THON's 708 dancers began standing at 6 p.m. on Friday and did not sit down or sleep until Sunday at 4 p.m. to raise awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer in the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Since 1977, THON has partnered with The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital with one goal in mind: conquering childhood cancer. To date, more than $136 million has been raised by THON. THON revealed a fundraising total of more than $9.7 million for 2016 with 96 percent of THON's all-time funds being donated directly to Four Diamonds. 

Each year, more than 15,000 Penn State student volunteers dedicate their time to THON, making it the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Members of Penn State's Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) were active participants in THON, and led run several fund-raising activities once again this year including sending solicitation letters to friends and family and a lip sync competition. In addition to generating financial support for THON, SAAB also provides emotional support to its THON children, Isabella Messina and Colton Buckley, and their families throughout the year.

Four Penn State student-athletes are represented SAAB as dancers in THON 2016: Liisi Vink-Lainas (Wynantskill, N.Y.) and Angela Widlacki (Naperville, Ill.) of women's soccer, Emily Rivers (Washington, D.C.) from women's tennis and Matt Zanellato (Burke, Va.) from football.

"This means the world to us. As athletes you are given a platform that a normal student might not have," said Zanellato. "It's one of those things that when you come in as a freshman, you know that you will have that platform for a few years. I wanted to make the most of it. I realized that THON was something special to me when I came to Penn State. I wanted to use my platform as best I could."

Additionally, Angela Connors and Jessica Spellman from the Lionettes squad and from Penn State cheerleading Kenny Fuhrman, Paige Gentry, Jordan Hinkle, Kylie Tobasco and Mike White danced in THON.

Within Penn State Athletics, strategic communications student assistants Emily Hesidence and Kate Brandell were also among the dancers at THON, as well.

Check out the extensive coverage from THON 2016 weekend.

Friday - 6 p.m. - THON 2016 Begins
The 46-hour dance marathon kicked off at 6 p.m. on Friday evening when the 708 dancers stood. They will remain on their feet until Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m.


Saturday - 9:30 a.m. - Student-Athlete Interviews
With Bryce Jordan Center buzzing with energy during the 16th hour of THON 2016, spent some time with student-athletes and THON dancers Liisi Vink-Lainas  and Angela Widlacki of women's soccer, Emily Rivers, from women's tennis and Matt Zanellato from football. Representing Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB), the group is thrilled to carry the Penn State Athletics banner as dancers in the 2016 THON. Take a look at some of their remarks from the floor at the BJC.

THON 2016_Blog 2.jpg
Saturday - 2 p.m. - Football Hosts THON Explorers Event
Approximately 40 members of the Nittany Lion football team welcomed approximately 30 THON Four Diamonds children and their families to a special event inside the Lasch Football Building on Saturday afternoon as part of the THON Explorers program.

The THON event in Lasch is circled on the calendar for the Nittany Lions every year. The THON families gathered inside the home of Penn State football to take photos, get autographs, participate in athletic stations, tour the facility with the Nittany Lions, eat ice cream from the Penn State Creamery and take a group photo.

The Nittany Lions formed a high-five tunnel for the families upon entry into the building before the student-athletes took the families around the football facility. Take a look at the THON Explorers event at the Lasch Football Complex on Saturday.

Football THON Explorers Event

Saturday - 6 p.m. - Student-Athletes Participate in Athlete Hour
Athletes from several teams on campus spent times with the THON Four Diamonds children inside the IM during athlete hour on Saturday.  Here are a few snapshots and video highlights from the event.

Athlete Hour Photo Gallery

Saturday - 11 p.m. - Football Wins Pep Rally Dance Competition
One of the THON highlights every year comes on Saturday night when the teams of Penn State Athletics hop on stage and compete in a dancing competition during the annual pep rally. In all, 12 different teams competed in the 2016 version of the dance-off.

The pep rally included a speech from former Nittany Lion football great Devon Still and his daughter Leah.

As for the dance competition, the football team claimed top honors in the men's side of the action, while the reigning national champion women's soccer team took top honors on the women's side. The two teams then battled in a dance off, with the football team earning the bragging rights as the 2016 THON Pep Rally dancing champion.

We have highlights of every team dancing on Saturday night at THON. 

THON 2016 Pep Rally Photo Gallery

9185732.jpegTHON 2016 Pep Rally Full Dances
Football (Men's & Overall Champion) 
Women's Soccer (Women's Champion)
Men's Fencing
Men's Golf
Men's Gymnastics
Men's Hockey
Men's Rugby
Men's Soccer
Men's Tennis
Men's Volleyball
Field Hockey
Women's Golf
Women's Gymnastics
Women's Hockey
Women's Rugby
Women's Volleyball

Sunday - 11:30 a.m. - VIDEO: Coach Franklin Addresses THON 2016
Head coach James Franklin took the stage of THON 2016 on Sunday morning to urge the dancers on in the final hours of the 46-hour dance marathon.  Franklin's message epitomized what THON's mission has been since it started in 1977.

"This is special. What you guys do is what Penn State is ultimately all about," said Coach Franklin.

Take a look at his full remarks.

James Franklin at THON 2016 Photo Gallery

4:14 p.m. - THON 2016 Raises $9.7 Million
For the second-straight year, THON's fundraising efforts raised more than $9.7 million. The grand total for THON in 2016 was  $9,770,332.32 for fight against pediatric cancer.  Congratulations to everyone involved in THON 2016.  Here is a look at the reveal from Rec Hall prior to Penn State wrestling's bout against Oklahoma State. The Nittany Lion faithful in Rec Hall let out a big cheer as the total was unveiled.


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VIDEO: THON 2016 Pep Rally - Women's Volleyball

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NCAA Volleyball Tournament Content Central: Lions Head to Regionals

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w_volleyball_blog.jpgUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The seventh-seeded Nittany Lion women's volleyball team (28-5) travels to Des Moines for a showdown with Hawaii (28-1) in the NCAA regional semifinals on Friday at 8:30 p.m. (Live coverage on ESPN3).

The winner of the Penn State-Hawaii match will move on to face either No. 2 Minnesota (28-4) or Illinois (21-12) on Saturday in the regional final at 6:30 p.m. live on ESPNU.

"Well, it's always great to still be playing this time of year," head coach Russ Rose said. "We look forward to playing against a great opponent in Hawaii. We've played against each other a number of times over the years. Their performance last weekend; coming back and beating TCU, and then beating the SEC champion Texas A&M, 3-0, on their home court was a clear indication that they are playing great volleyball this time of year."

Penn State enters the weekend after knocking off Howard (3-0) and Dayton (3-1) inside Rec Hall in the opening two rounds of the tournament.  The Nittany Lions last met Hawaii in the 2009 national semifinals. Penn State is 5-0 against the Rainbow Wahine all-time.

Under the NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament began its current 64-team setup, the Nittany Lions have advanced to the third round of the tournament 13 straight years. The Lions have played in the regional finals in eight of the last nine seasons.

The NCAA field has been trimmed to 16 teams.  Penn State's quest for a return to the national semifinals goes through Wells Fargo Arena this weekend.  First up is a clash with Hawaii on Friday.

Take a look through preview content to get ready for the regional round of the NCAA Tournament.

VIDEO: NCAA Regionals Preview Video

Regional Semifinals Statistical Rundown

NCAA Tournament_Round III_Hawaii.jpg

Feature Story Corner

Nittany Lions Head To Regionals
By Sam DelRosso, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-- The Penn State women's volleyball team is headed to Des Moines for the NCAA Regionals after defeating Howard and Dayton this past weekend.

11550774.jpegThe road to the national championship starts with a match against Hawaii on Friday night. If the Nittany Lions defeat the Rainbow Wahine, they will move on to face the winner of Minnesota-Illinois on Saturday. The winner of that match advances to the national semifinals.

"All of the teams at this point are good. There are 16 teams left and everybody has to win two games to get to the Final Four," head coach Russ Rose said. "That's what the is intent for all of the volleyball teams and players."

Setter Bryanna Weiskircher, who is playing in her first NCAA Tournament after redshirting last season, said she's excited to have made it to this point in the tournament.

"Our team has been working really hard all year long and we have a great group of kids that have great versatility in all aspects of the game," Weiskircher said. "We control our own fate at this point. Coach always says, it's not who we play, it's how we play. And it's a great opportunity for us."

Hawaii is 28-1 on the season and has the best winning percentage in the country. The Rainbow Wahine advanced to the NCAA Regionals after defeating TCU and Texas A&M last weekend. Penn State head coach Russ Rose said he is looking forward to playing Hawaii, a familiar foe.

"It's always great to be playing this time of year and we look forward to playing against a great opponent in Hawaii. We've played against each other a number of times over the years," Rose said. "Their performance over last weekend and coming back to beat TCU and being able to beat the SEC Champion, Texas A&M, 3-0 on their home court was a clear indication that they're playing great volleyball this time of year."

Rose also understands the level of competition that the Rainbow Wahine brings to the court.

"They've got great size. The middles are big. They've got great right side players and their two left side players are really good ball handlers. They're a physical team," Rose said.

Hawaii plays in the Big West conference. Rose said that some people may underestimate Hawaii because of this, but their record shows that they can play.

"When somebody only has a number one [in losses] after their name, you know they're really good. It doesn't make a difference what conference you're in," Rose said. "It's hard to be successful in a rally-sport [like] volleyball and certainly they play a lot of teams that have great tradition and care about the sport at their institution. I'm sure we'll have our hands full with a really good volleyball team."

Coaching Legends
Penn State's Russ Rose and Hawaii's Dave Shoji are two of the best coaches in collegiate volleyball. They are the only two coaches with more than 1,000 wins in NCAA Division I women's volleyball.

Shoji has 1,178 wins in his 41 seasons at Hawaii. Rose is the all-time leader in wins in NCAA Division I women's volleyball with 1,189 wins in 37 seasons.

Rose said that when he was doing his graduate work in the late 70's, Shoji's team was one of the teams he tried to model his thoughts about the game after. Today, the two have a great relationship.

"I don't look at it as me against Dave, we've known each other for a long time. We'll want to beat each other during the match and whoever wins will wish the other good luck," Rose said.


Minnesota, the Big Ten champion, will face Illinois on Friday night. Penn State defeated Illinois (21-12) in their only meeting of the season in October.

Minnesota is 28-4 and is coming off two tournament wins against Jackson State and Marquette. This season, Penn State split with Minnesota (each team won one match). Rose noted the strength of Minnesota's team this year. 

"The freshman setter, next to Carlini (Wisconsin), I thought she was the best setter in the conference this year. They had a great season, a great performance," Rose said.

Rose also said that there's an advantage to playing a Big Ten team in the tournament.

"One of the benefits of going to a Regional with two other Big Ten teams is you don't have to kill yourself on scouting because you're at least familiar with those two teams," Rose said.

Megan Courtney's Impact Deep at Penn State
By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Co-captain Megan Courtney played in her final match at Rec Hall last Saturday evening as Penn State defeated Dayton in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

11550792.jpegAfter the match point was scored, the handshakes between the Nittany Lions and Flyers were finished and the waves of appreciation were given out to the fans in the crowd, Courtney was the last person to jog off the court.

The Dayton, Ohio, native finished her home-court career with a win and an advance in the tournament, but Courtney has left a defining impact on the history of the Penn State women's volleyball team that will always help to inspire future Nittany Lions.

"I don't want to regret anything [in the tournament]," said Courtney. "I don't want to say 'What if?' I don't want to let me team down. I don't want to let the coaching staff down, so it's not necessarily what can I do, it's what can I do to help everyone else around me because when I'm helping people around me, then other people can help those around them. It's 'what can I do to make everyone else better?'"

Before attending Penn State, Courtney was already receiving numerous accolades in high school. She was named the Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year, weighed in ats the fourth-ranked overall recruit in the nation and led her team, the Archbishop Alter High School, to the Final Four State Championship three times as a three-year captain.

But when head coach Russ Rose first noticed Courtney, she was not even halfway through high school. Courtney was only 15 years old when she playing against All-Americans, who won four-straight national titles, during a Penn State volleyball summer camp.

"I first saw Megan when she was between her freshman and sophomore year of high school, and she was at camp playing with a roster of players that are now playing for USA Volleyball, and went on to win national championships," said coach Rose. "She was playing with them, and you would have had a difficult time, if you were the outsider, picking the 14- or 15-year-old out of those people. Her volleyball IQ has always been great."

Since starting her entire collegiate career under head coach Russ Rose, Courtney's volleyball IQ has only continued to grow to make her into one of the most versatile volleyball players in collegiate play.

In her freshman year, Courtney participated in all 36 matches, and started in 35 of them. Through practice, she was able to develop textbook blocks, passes, serves and swings to notch honors for: Big Ten Freshman of the Year, AVCA Mideast Region Freshman of the Year, Big Ten All-Freshman Team and more.

But this was only the beginning for Courtney. Since her arrival to Penn State, she has helped lead the Nittany Lions to three straight appearances in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament, as well as, back-to-back national championship titles in 2013 and 2014. She was named the Most Outstanding Player from last year's NCAA tournament.

"Fortunate for us, last year, during the final four, Courtney stepped up, and was recognized as the MVP of the final four," said coach Rose. "You know, that sums it up. She wasn't recognized by the Big Ten, but she went on and did great things on the big stage."

During her final season of volleyball, Courtney's list of honorees and achievements is still lengthening. She currently has 1,130 kills and 1,107 digs recorded in her career, and is only the eighth player in the history of Penn State to reach a 1,000 double-double.

If it wasn't for coach Rose's constant support and push to be the best, Courtney would not be where she is today.

"I'm hard on Megan because Megan can handle me being hard on Megan," said coach Rose.

In a mere two weeks, Courtney will be graduating from Penn State, but she still has more to prove in the rest of the tournament and her career.

Courtney and her fellow seniors are going for their third consecutive national title this season. She has the resume and biography to prove what she is capable of, but her biggest motivator for succeeding and ending her collegiate volleyball career at a high level is to play to win.

"We have the most national championship experience on our staff and in our gym, so that, especially with a team full of sophomores and freshmen playing big roles, it's comforting, but it doesn't guarantee anything," said Courtney. "I think that when situations do get tough, when we are put in a position with our backs against the wall, it's a good chance for us to push back and say 'We've been here before, we've come out on top. This is what we did in that circumstance, maybe this will work. If not, what is it that we've got to do to change it.' ...Our biggest motivation is that we don't want to feel that emotion of losing again. Winning the national championship is great, but it's the losing that really stings."

Next season, the 6-foot-1, brown-haired, outside hitter with the pink ribbon in her hair will not be in the Penn State starting lineup, but Courtney's hard work and success is something that won't be forgotten anytime soon.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony



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