UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2012 calendar year was one marked by
excellence and achievement from numerous Penn State teams.
As we close in on the final days of 2012, GoPSUsports.com wanted to take time
and reflect on a tremendous year for Penn State Athletics. The hiring of head coach Bill O'Brien on Jan.
6, in many ways, set a tone for the athletic department throughout the calendar
year. O'Brien's introductory press
conference highlighted a clear vision for how the football program would try to
do its part in helping the athletic department move forward as One Team.
The results speak for themselves, and all 31 Penn State teams across the
University Park campus should be recognized for their efforts in 2012. The list of achievements on the field of play,
including one national title and seven Big Ten titles, and in the classroom,
including more than 270 Academic All-Big Ten honorees, is tremendous.
The spring season included a Big Ten and NCAA title from the wrestling team for
second-straight season. Three Nittany
Lion wrestlers - Frank Molinaro, David Taylor and Ed Ruth - won individual
national titles. The Lady Lions, who
clinched a Big Ten title on the BJC hardwood in February, earned a spot in the
Sweet Sixteen for the 12th time in program history. The men's volleyball team earned a trip to
the NCAA National Semifinals for the 27th time.
The women's lacrosse team reached the NCAA Quarterfinals.
Additionally, 171 Penn State student-athletes earned Academic All-Big Ten
accolades during the winter and spring seasons.
Men's gymnastics' Miguel Pineda was named a first Academic All-American.
The fall campaign was one for the Penn State record books. Penn State won five Big Ten championships and
had five coaches selected conference coach of the year. The field hockey team (Char Morett) won the
Big Ten regular season and tournament titles, the men's soccer team (Bob
Warming), women's soccer (Erica Walsh) and women's volleyball (Russ Rose) teams
all won Big Ten championships.
Additionally, after leading the Nittany Lion football team to an 8-4
campaign, including six Big Ten wins, Bill O'Brien was named Big Ten Coach of
In postseason competition, the women's soccer team reached the NCAA College Cup
Final for the first time in program history.
The women's volleyball team played in the NCAA National Semifinals for
the 10th time in school history. The
women's cross country team captured the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional crown on its
The story was much of the same in the classroom. A fall record 100 Penn State student-athletes
achieved Academic All-Big Ten recognition this semester, including a trio of
4.0 students - football's John Urschel, women's volleyball's Maggie Harding and
women's cross country's Katie Rodden.
Football's Pete Massaro and Urschel earned first team Academic
All-America honors. Harding won the
Elite 89 Award for the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship for having the highest
cumulative grade point average of student-athletes participating in the
With so many events to choose from, narrowing down the list of outstanding Penn
State sporting events from 2012 to just 10 was a challenge, but here are your
10 nominees for the top sporting event of the outstanding 2012 calendar year
for Penn State Athletics.
From now until Dec. 28, cast your vote for the top event of the year.
Freshman phenom Robby Creese etched his place in Penn State history by becoming
just the third athlete in school history to break the four-minute barrier in
the mile run at the Flotrack Husky Classic at the University of Washington. Riding the wave of momentum following a
superb start to his first indoor track season in Happy Valley, Creese ran a
3:59.52 mile, which was the second fastest in Penn State indoor track
history. Creese joined Ryan Foster and
Larry Mangan as the only three Nittany Lions to crack four minutes.
Wrestling Clinches Second-Straight NCAA
Title March 17, 2012 - St. Louis, Mo. -
Penn State Clinches NCAA Championship
Head coach Cael Sanderson and the Penn State wrestling team reached the
mountain top of the wrestling world for the second-straight season with a truly
dominant performance at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis. The Nittany Lions mathematically clinched
their third all-time team national title during the morning session inside the
Scottrade Center on final day of competition at the three-day tournament. Penn State put icing on the cake with three
individual national champions, including senior Frank Molinaro (149), sophomore
David Taylor (165) and sophomore Ed Ruth (174), who finished the 2011-'12
season with a combined record of 88-0.
Penn State cleared second-place Minnesota by 26.5 points in the final
Women's Basketball Beats LSU for Sweet
Sixteen Berth March 21, 2012 - Baton Rouge, La. -
Penn State 90, LSU 80
When the 2012 NCAA Tournament draw was released, the fourth-seeded Lady
Lions knew their road to the Sweet Sixteen would likely include a clash against
fifth-seeded LSU on its home floor. The
Big Ten regular season champion Lions dispatched UTEP in the first round in
Baton Rouge, setting up a showdown with the host Tigers for a trip to the Sweet
Sixteen. LSU led 37-36 at halftime
before claiming a 50-44 edge in the second half. However scoring runs of 9-2 and 8-2 from Penn
State in in the second half, along with a 30-point night from Maggie Lucas
fueled the Lions for a 90-80 victory over LSU in a hostile Maravich
Center. The Lady Lion victory sent Penn
State into the Sweet Sixteen for the 12th time in program history.
Men's Volleyball Tops George Mason for
14th-Straight EIVA Crown April 28, 2012 - Rec Hall - Penn
State 3, George Mason 1
Penn State's string of success in the EIVA is unmatched. On the heels of the heels of claiming the
best record in the conference in 2012, Penn State earned the luxury of hosting
the championship match on its home floor.
The eighth-ranked Nittany Lions used 15 kills from Joe Sunder and 11
kills from freshman Aaron Russell to claim a 3-1 victory over George Mason in
the EIVA title match inside Rec Hall.
The Lions quickly built a 2-0 lead after a strong start to the match,
but George Mason answered by winning the third set. Nonetheless, Penn State erased a 12-9 Patriot
lead in the fourth set en route to the victory, automatic bid in the national
semifinals and its 27th appearance in the NCAA Championship.
Football Downs Navy for Bill O'Brien's
First Win September 15, 2012 - Beaver Stadium -
Penn State 34, Navy 7
Following an 0-2 start to the 2012 season, the Nittany Lion football team had
one of the best practices of its season on the Monday of Navy week. Penn State did not look back from there. Led by three touchdowns from standout
sophomore receiver Allen Robinson, the Nittany Lions rolled past Navy, 34-7, en
route to the first victory for head coach Bill O'Brien. The Lions led 20-0 at halftime following a
pair of Robinson scores and a third touchdown pass from Matt McGloin to Jesse
James. McGloin finished with four
touchdown passes, and sophomore Mike Hull put an exclamation point on the
victory with a 74-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in the second half. O'Brien received a shower of water when the
clock ticked to 0:00, and the win kick-started a string of five-straight
victories for the Nittany Lions.
Field Hockey Shuts Out Michigan for Big
Ten Title Sweep November 4, 2012 - Iowa City, Iowa -
Penn State 2, Michigan 0
On the heels of winning the Big Ten regular season title, the Nittany Lion
field hockey team capped off an impressive run through the postseason
tournament draw with a dominant defensive performance against third-seeded
Michigan. Standout senior forward Kelsey
Amy tallied both of Penn State's goals to lead the Nittany Lions to a 2-0
victory over the Wolverines and their second-straight Big Ten Tournament
championship. Senior goalkeeper Ayla
Halus notched three saves and earned her fourth shutout of the season. The victory boosted the Lions into hosting
NCAA Tournament competition for second time in three seasons.
Women's Cross Country Claims NCAA
Regional Title on Home Course November 9, 2012 - Blue/White Course
- Penn State Clinches NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional
There is no better motivation for a team to enter a season knowing it has an
opportunity to host postseason competition at home. When the Nittany Lion cross country team
began its formal preparations for 2012 at the end of the summer, it knew the
NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals loomed on the Blue/White Course loomed in early
November. Penn State took full advantage
of the opportunity and unseasonably warm weather to edge No. 9 and defending
NCAA champion Georgetown (61-63) for a victory.
Junior Victoria Perri and senior Brooklyne Ridder led the way with
fourth and sixth-place finishes, respectively.
The Lions went on to finish 14th at the NCAA Championships on Nov. 17.
Football Ousts Wisconsin on Senior Day
to Remember November 24, 2012 - Beaver Stadium -
Penn State 24, Wisconsin 21 OT
It would have been hard to script a better ending to the 2012 football
season. A senior class that will forever
be remembered for its commitment to Penn State had to earn ever ounce of
success it achieved, even on its special day.
After an emotional senior ceremony to honor the 31 members of the senior
class, the Nittany Lions quickly found themselves down 7-0 to Wisconsin. The Lions rallied back to take a 21-14 lead
until the final 18 seconds of the game when the Badgers sent the contest into
overtime with a late score. Sam Ficken's
leg put Penn State up 24-21 in OT before a missed field goal preserved the
Senior Day win. Defensive tackle Jordan
Hill was the star of the show. Hill was
simply not going to let the Lions be denied in his final game, notching 12 tackles
in dominant fashion.
Women's Soccer Edges Florida State in
Dramatic Fashion for first Trip to College Cup Final November 30, 2012 - San Diego, Calif.
- Penn State 2, Florida State 1 OT
After winning its 15th-straight Big Ten title, the Nittany Lion women's soccer
team etched its place in program history with a remarkable run through the NCAA
Tournament. But the string of postseason
victories will be trademarked by a soggy night in San Diego on the final day of
November. The Nittany Lions had been to
the College Cup three times before their trip to the West Coast, but never to
the College Cup Final. Senior midfielder
Christine Nairn changed that with an overtime goal that will live in Penn State
women's soccer lore forever. After
taking a 1-0 lead in the 57th minute, Penn State held on until the final 48
seconds when Florida State tied the contest in improbable fashion. Nevertheless, Penn State's senior class was
not going to let the season end. A long
pass from Maddy Evans on the right wing into the box set up Nairn's tap-in,
game-winner from six yards out, sending Nittany Lion women's soccer into the
College Cup Final for the first time in program history.
Women's Volleyball Punches Ticket to
10th NCAA Semifinal December 8, 2012 - West Lafayette,
Ind. - Penn State 3, Minnesota 1
Faced with the task of needing a third victory over the same team to earn a
spot in the NCAA National Semifinals, the top-seeded and Big Ten champion
Nittany Lion women's volleyball team entered its regional final match in
Purdue's Mackey Arena focused on the task at hand. Penn State built a 5-0 lead over
eighth-seeded Minnesota in set one en route to a 1-0 lead in the match. No strangers to adversity, though, the
Nittany Lions dropped set two and found themselves in a 23-21 deficit in the
third set. Just two points from going
down 2-1 in the match, Penn State answered.
Micha Hancock and Deja McClendon combined for four-straight tallies to
make it 25-24 before Big Ten Player of the Year Ariel Scott finished the match
with a kill, punching Penn State's ticket into the NCAA Semifinals for the
fifth time in six season and the 10th time in school history.
GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Welcome to live match coverage of the top-seeded
Nittany Lion women's volleyball team in the NCAA National Semifinals.
Take a look through the running blog from Penn State's 3-1 setback to Oregon in the NCAA semifinals inside the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.
Semifinal One - No. 3 Texas 3, Michigan 2
The third-seeded Texas Longhorns rallied from 2-1 down against unseeded
Michigan for a thrilling five-set victory in the first semifinal on Thursday
night. Michigan played a tremendous
match against the talented Longhorns, but Texas built an early lead in the
fifth and never looked back. Texas
punched its ticket to the national championship for the first time since 2009
when the Longhorns fell to Penn State in Tampa.
Set One: Penn State 25, Oregon 21 The Nittany Lions
started fast en route to a 7-3 lead before Oregon used its first timeout, but
the Ducks battled back to square the match at 10-10. From there, neither team led by more than one
tally until a crucial solo block from freshman Megan Courtney put the Lions up
22-20 late in the set. The Nittany Lions
tallied three-straight blocks to make it 24-20 before Oregon answered. Nonetheless, Katie Slay buried a kill to make
it a 5-1 run to hand the Lions a 25-21 set victory. The blocking was the difference in the first
set, as Penn State out-blocked the Ducks 6-0.
Middle hitter Nia Grant led the way with four kills on .429
hitting. As a team, the Lions hit .220
in the opening set. Set Two: Oregon 30, Penn State 28 After a strong finish
in the first set from the Nittany Lions, Oregon wasted little time grabbing a
lead in the second. The Ducks jumped out
to a 3-0 advantage out of the gate before building a 9-4 edge. On the Katherine Fischer kill that set the
score at 9-4, Nittany Lion setter Micha Hancock came down on Katie Slay's
foot. Hancock had to leave the floor for
12 points, but returned. While she was
out senior Kristin Carpenter, who was the setter on the 2012 national title
team, stepped in and did a nice job running the offense under the
circumstances. Oregon led by as much as
10 in the second before a four-point scoring burst from the Lions trimmed the
lead down to six. The Nittany Lion rally
continued, and Penn State squared the match at 24-24 on a combined block from
Scott and Grant. In all, the Nittany
Lions out-scored Oregon, 14-4 to tie the match.
Penn State had two set point chances, one at 25-24 and one at 26-25, but
the Ducks held on en route to a 30-28 set victory. Credit the Lions for a tremendous comeback in
a set where they played a large chunk without first team All-American Micha
Hancock on the floor. Nevertheless,
Oregon made big plays when it needed to and the score is tied at 1-1 heading
into the intermission.
Set Three: Oregon 25, Penn State 22 The third set opened
much like the second set ended with a tight margin on the scoreboard. Oregon stretched the lead to three points
(9-6) on a block. Oregon led by as much
as four, but the Lions did a nice job keeping the margin within striking
distance. In doing so, the Lions used
four-straight tallies to claim a 20-19 edge late in the set. However, two huge kills from Oregon outside
hitter Katherine Fischer put the Ducks back on top, 21-20, before the Lions had
an answer. A passing error made it 22-20
Oregon, and Fischer followed with another clutch kill to set the margin at
23-20. Penn State closed within one, but
the Ducks were too much down the stretch.
Leading the match 2-1, Penn State heads into the fourth set needing to
find a way to slow down Fischer and Brenner.
The Oregon duo has combined for 30 kills in the first three sets. Set Four: Oregon 25, Penn State 19 The Ducks saved their
best set for what ended up being the last set of night. Oregon came out firing on all cylinders in
the fourth, grabbing a 9-3 lead on 1.000 hitting and three aces. From there, the Ducks never looked back. The set was tied at 1-1, but that would be as
close as the Nittany Lions would get.
Oregon led by as much as 10 during the final frame. Penn State closed to within five late, but
Oregon's offensive attack was too much.
Looking at the final stats, Penn State out-blocked Oregon
19.5-10.0. However, Oregon's quick-tempo
offense led by 17 kills from Liz Brenner fueled the Ducks to their first NCAA
championship match in program history. Final Thoughts The momentum turned
in the second set on Thursday night in Louisville. The Lions had chances to close out the set
for a 2-0 lead, but Oregon made a series of big plays for the 30-28 victory. Additionally, Hancock's left leg injury
prevented her from getting off the floor like she normally does from the moment
she returned mid-way through the second set until the end of the match. Oregon took advantage of the Penn State's
rotation when Hancock was across the front line and not able to block in her
normal fashion. Nonetheless, all the
credit goes to the Ducks. They played a
superb match, making big play after big play when they needed to. Oregon setter Lauren Plum was terrific
running the offense. Scott led the Lions
with 18 kills. Hometown hero Deja
McClendon added 14 kills. The Nittany
Lions graduate two seniors who brought outstanding leadership to the program -
Kristin Carpenter and Marika Racibarskas.
The Lions return their entire starting lineup from the 2012 team,
including all four All-Americans. Penn
State finished the season 33-3 with a Big Ten title and its 10th appearance in
the NCAA National Semifinals. Coach Rose
said after the match that the team will head into the offseason and learn from
Thursday night's match and look to grow from it. Congratulations to the Lions on a terrific
season. The future is very bright for
the program moving forward.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The
top-seeded Nittany Lion women's volleyball team practiced inside the KFC Yum!
Center on Wednesday in preparation for Thursday night's NCAA National Semifinal
tilt against fifth-seeded Oregon (9 p.m. on ESPN2).
Penn State practiced for 90 minutes on Wednesday following a preview press
conference. Take a look through
Wednesday coverage from Louisville as the Lion prep for their 10th NCAA
VIDEO: Wednesday Practice & Press
Conference Highlights Take a look through some video highlights of Wednesday's practice and
pre-NCAA semifinal press conference with head coach Russ Rose, Deja McClendon,
Micha Hancock and Katie Slay.
Feature Story Corner: NCAA Volleyball Tournament: No. 1 Lions Head to National Semifinals By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the 10th time in the 36 years that
the Penn State women's volleyball program has been in existence, its team is
headed to the NCAA National Semifinal. The top-seeded Lions are up against No. 5 Oregon on Thursday at 9 p.m. in
the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky. They will be playing on the tournament Sport Court in an arena that has
more than 22,000 available seats. They will be fighting for survival in what
could be the final match of their season, or the match that advances them to
the national final two nights later. And as pressing and intimidating as all of that sounds, Penn State junior
Maddie Martin said that from here on out there isn't much to be scared of. "I think the hardest part about the NCAA Tournament is just getting to the
Final Four," said Martin. "I think once we're there, the key for us is to just
be calm and relaxed. We don't need to do anything different than what we've
been doing." This is now the fifth time that the Lions have advanced to the culminating
semifinal match in just six years. And in the four other years that they made
it that far, they went on to win four national championships. Penn State head coach Russ Rose is very familiar with everything that goes
into the final weekend of postseason Division I volleyball, as this will be his
10th trip to the NCAA Semifinal match in the 34 seasons he's been at
the helm. But as familiar as the experience is to him, Rose said that winning
the NCAA Regional match and advancing never fails to satisfy. "Certainly when you qualify for the Final Four, there's a sigh of relief
when you get that last point and you know you get to participate in that," said
Rose. "There are some players on the roster that have been there before and
it's exciting for the new players that haven't been there." But Rose said that just because he and his team know the ropes of the event
doesn't mean that they can coast into a national final. "We're not going to win unless everybody plays really well," said Rose.
"This is a team that everybody needs to play really well together and they have
to play hard and all four teams that are there are teams that have earned the
right to be there." For freshman Megan Courtney, the postseason journey is a first in her
collegiate career. But Courtney has played on the same stage before. "I was lucky enough to be an All-American out of high-school and we took a
trip down to the tournament last year," said Courtney. "They let us see how
things ran with the NCAA and the next night, the night before the finals, we
got to play an All-American match on the court." Courtney said that the experience was surreal at the time, but now she's
more anxious to compete for a trophy than to play in a big arena. "It's something that you only dream of," said Courtney. "The end goal is
still in sight but we've got to focus and hopefully we'll get that
victory." Match Day With the Wednesday festivities over, it is now time to focus on match
day in Louisville. The Nittany Lions
will practice mid-day on Thursday before the 9 p.m. first serve against Oregon. Stay tuned for much more coverage from the NCAA
Women's Volleyball Championship.
GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
For the 10th time in program history, the top-seeded and Big Ten champion
Nittany Lion women's volleyball team (32-2) will play in the NCAA National Semifinals. Penn State is set to face off with
fifth-seeded Oregon (29-4) inside Louisville's KFC Yum! Center on Thursday at
approximately 9 p.m. (ESPN2).
The winner of the Penn State-Oregon match will move on to face either third-seeded
Texas (27-4) or Michigan (23-10) in the national title match. The Nittany Lions defeated Texas, 3-0, on
Sept. 1. Penn State defeated Michigan,
3-2, in Ann Arbor during the lone meeting in Big Ten play this season.
Penn State enters the weekend after a hard-fought 3-1 win over Minnesota in the
regional final. With the match tied at
1-1, the Lions rallied from 23-21 down in the third set for a victory en route
to claiming the match. Penn State enters the weekend attacking at a .307 clip,
led by Big Ten Player of the Year Ariel Scott (3.73 kills/set) and Deja McClendon
Oregon's road to the national semifinals was not an easy one. The Ducks swept Northern Colorado and Dayton
before knocking off 12th-seeded BYU by a score of 3-1. That set up a clash with fourth-seeded
Nebraska in what was essentially a home match for the Huskers in the Omaha
Regional Final. Oregon lost the first
set to Nebraska, 25-15, before winning the next three sets to punch its ticket
to the national semifinals.
The Ducks, along with Michigan, will be making their first appearance in the
NCAA National Semifinals on Thursday night in Louisville. Penn State and Texas have been among the
final four teams on the draw a combined 18 times.
The NCAA field has been trimmed to four teams.
Penn State's quest for a return to the national championship continues
on Thursday with a bout against a talented Oregon team.
VIDEO: NCAA National Semifinal
Hear from the Nittany Lions before departing for Louisville.
National Semifinals Statistical
Team Hitting Percentage
Opponent Hitting Percentage
Blocks Per Set
3.00 per set
1.80 per set
Scott - 3.73 kills/set
Bergsma - 4.93 kills/set
Slay - 1.32 blocks/set
Finley - 0.76
Top Defensive Specialist
Gonzalez - 3.60 digs/set
Jacob - 4.46 digs/set
Opponent Hitting Percentage
Blocks Per Set
Eckerman - 4.45
Erwin - 4.20 kills/set
Bell - 1.36 blocks/set
Cross - 1.25 blocks/set
Top Defensive Specialist
Palmer - 3.44 digs/set
Morales - 3.91 digs/set
NCAA Semifinals Coverage GoPSUsports.com will hit the road with the
Nittany Lions at the NCAA National Semifinals.
Look for plenty of written and video coverage beginning on Wednesday at
media day in Louisville before the Lions meet Oregon on Thursday night on
GoPSUsports.com Media Specialist Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
The top-seeded and Big Ten champion Nittany Lion women's volleyball team (31-2)
travels to West Lafayette, Ind., for a showdown with 16th-seeded Kentucky (22-10)
in the NCAA Regional Semifinals on Friday at 5 p.m. (Live coverage on ESPN3).
The winner of the Penn State-Kentucky match will move on to face either host
Purdue (23-10) or eighth-seeded Minnesota (26-7) on Saturday in the Regional
Final at 4 p.m. live on ESPNU. The
Nittany Lions swept the Gophers at Minneapolis and defeated them 3-1 in Rec
Hall. The Lions swept the Boilers in
Happy Valley and defeated them 3-1 in Mackey Arena on Nov. 17. Penn State enters the
weekend after sweeping Binghamton and Bowling Green inside Rec Hall in the
opening two rounds of the tournament.
The Lions have won 30 of their last 32 sets. Penn State enters the weekend attacking at a
.310 clip, led by Big Ten Player of the Year Ariel Scott (3.64 kills/set) and
Deja McClendon (3.25 kills/set). Since the NCAA Women's
Volleyball Tournament began its current 64-team setup in 1998, the Nittany Lions have
advanced to the third round of the tournament all 15 years. Penn State has played in the Regional Final
match in 11 of the previous 14 seasons. The Big Ten Conference has been tremendous throughout the 2012 season. Having six teams remaining in the draw during
the second weekend of the tournament speaks volumes about the depth of the Big
Ten. In addition to Penn State,
Minnesota and Purdue in the West Lafayette Regional, Nebraska plays Washington
in the Omaha Regional and Michigan and Michigan State will collide in the Berkeley
Regional on Friday. The NCAA field has
been trimmed to 16 teams. Penn State's
quest for a return to the National Semifinals goes through Mackey Arena this
weekend. First up is a clash with
16th-seeded Kentucky on Friday.
VIDEO: NCAA Regionals Preview
Regional Semifinals Statistical
Team Hitting Percentage
Opponent Hitting Percentage
Blocks Per Set
2.9 per set
2.5 per set
Scott - 3.6 kills/set
Slay - 1.35 blocks/set
Morgan - 1.0 blocks/set
Top Defensive Specialist
Gonzalez - 3.54 digs/set
Klefot - 3.92 digs/set
Opponent Hitting Percentage
Blocks Per Set
Harms - 4.00 kills/set
Turner - 4.42 kills/set
Dixon - 1.03 blocks/set
Fisher - 1.07 blocks/set
Top Defensive Specialist
Wittman - 2.82 digs/set
Cramer - 4.18 digs/set
Feature Story Corner Top-Ranked Lions Takeoff for Regional Semifinals By Kelsey
Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's
volleyball team flew out of State College on Wednesday evening and landed in
West Lafayette, Ind., around 7 p.m. in preparation of its NCAA Regional
Semifinal matchup against No. 16 Kentucky at Purdue's Mackey Arena.
Penn State's postseason run marks the 32nd
consecutive year that head coach Russ Rose has led his team to the NCAA
Tournament. Last season, Rose and his team ended their run against UCLA in the
same round that they're competing in this weekend.
Rose said that Kentucky will be anything but an
easy team to play, but he's confident that his Lions are ready to compete.
"They're a team that, if they were in the Big
Ten, they'd be successful in the Big Ten," Rose said of the Wildcats. "It's
just the whole getting used to the surroundings and it's how you play, not who
Junior outside hitter Deja McClendon has already
made two trips to the NCAA Tournament in her time as a Nittany Lion. She said
that traveling away from her home court can be tough during the postseason, but
that she said the team is focused on the task at hand.
"We're so used to Rec Hall and we're so used to
our fans but at the same time this is what we've been working for and we've
done pretty well playing outside of our gym so far this year," said McClendon.
The Lions played in Mackey Arena less than a
month ago and defeated Purdue in four sets. In the 2012 season, Penn State is
holds an 11-1 record outside of Rec Hall.
Freshman outside hitter Megan Courtney said that
she's feeling a little bit of pressure heading into her first postseason match
on the road. But she said the in the weeks leading up to the trip, her
teammates have been helping her through it all.
"It's just another volleyball game," said
Courtney. "Inside the lines is where you've got to play it and that's what
they've been telling me - to just focus."
Courtney said that she's been following the blue
and white program for years, but never imagined what it'd feel like to be a
part of a winning tradition come tournament time.
"Growing up, aspiring to be a Penn State Nittany
Lion and watching them dominate the sport of college volleyball was just
amazing," said Courtney. "Being able to experience that yourself is totally
different. I embrace every moment I can of it and it's been awesome."
Penn State, which is 77-26 all-time in the NCAA
Tournament, is expecting a challenging match against Kentucky. The Lions enter the round of 16 with
confidence, largely due to the high-level volleyball they have been playing in
recent weeks. Sophomore Nia Grant said
that her team's postseason success in the past years resonates with their tough
work ethic and hard work every week in practice.
Grant said that she and her teammates set out to
win every set they play no matter what the circumstance.
"We have the no-mercy mentality," said Grant.
"We want to go in there and we want to win and we want to leave. No messing
GoPSUsports.com Media Specialist Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was the last match that the Nittany Lions will
play in Rec Hall this season, so they made sure to make it count.
Penn State rolled to a 3-0 victory over Bowling Green on Saturday night on its
home court in front of a postseason crowd of more than 3,400. The win gave the
Lions a second-round victory in the 2012 NCAA Tournament and puts them through
to the regional semifinals, which will be held in Purdue's Mackey Arena in West
The top-seeded Lions had the privilege of hosting both the first and second
rounds of the tournament, Friday and Saturday night, for the 23rd consecutive
Nittany Lions' head coach Russ Rose said that while he was appreciative of the
opportunity for Penn State to provide his team the ability to play on its home
court, he knows that his athletes are the ones that earned it.
"The benefit is, if you had a season that we had, it affords you the
opportunity to play at home," said Rose. "It's always better to play at home.
You work hard to have that home court advantage and you hope to be able to
defend it when you get there."
Penn State's 29-2 regular-season record and Big Ten title lent itself to just
For freshman outside hitter Megan Courtney, the weekend was the first
postseason volleyball action that she has seen at the collegiate level. After
dishing out six kills on .417 hitting and putting up a match-high nine digs
against the Falcons, Courtney said that the tournament is everything she
imagined it to be.
"It's a great environment to be able to play at home and it's just really
comforting to be able to get into the swing of things here," said Courtney. "My
teammates are just unbelievable and supportive and they just teach me the way
and I follow. It's been such a great ride so far."
The Nittany Lions continued to spread the wealth on offense and proved too much
for Bowling Green to handle. Penn State dealt 37 total kills, and the Falcons
knocked down just 18. Sophomore setter Micha Hancock was able to distribute the
ball effectively and allowed four of her hitters to record six or more kills.
Junior middle hitter and captain Katie Slay and sophomore middle Nia Grant were
two of those four, rounding out the match with seven kills each. Slay said the
moving further into postseason, the Lions need to continue working together.
"We have to have the other teams think we're a threat in the middle so that
they have one more thing to worry about so that there's not always a
double-block on Deja or Ariel," said Slay. "It's important to keep that going
from here on out."
Next, Penn State travels to Mackey Arena for the NCAA Regional Semifinals where
it will face No. 16 Kentucky on Friday, Dec. 7.
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the 36 years that their program has existed, the
top-seeded Nittany Lions have never lost in the first round of the NCAA
On Friday night, that trend continued.
Penn State played host to Binghamton in the opening round of the 2012
national tournament in Rec Hall. In front of a crowd of more than 3,500, the
Lions swept the Bearcats on .587 hitting. Through three sets, Binghamton scored
just 23 total points.
In the second set, sophomore setter Micha Hancock started behind the line
for the Lions and served for 21 consecutive points. That run puts her at
second-best in NCAA Division I history behind Mercer's Chelsea Gebben, who had
22 straight in 2006.
"I was just in a rhythm," said Hancock. "I was feeling it."
The Lions will continue their march in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday
night in Rec Hall against Bowling Green at 7:30. The Falcons defeated Yale by a
score of 3-2 on Friday night.
Penn State's junior outside hitter Deja McClendon, who tallied 12 kills on
.800 hitting, said that starting the playoff run on her home court is always
something she looks forward to.
"When tournament starts it's just a whole different vibe in there," said
McClendon. "It's amazing. Our fans are just so much a part of our game and I'm
extremely proud to play in front of them."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
For the 23rd consecutive season, Penn State will host the first and second
rounds of the NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament. The 2012 Big Ten champion Nittany Lions
(29-2) open the tournament against Binghamton (13-17) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in
The winner of the Penn
State-Binghamton match will move on to face either Yale (18-5) or Bowling Green
(21-10) on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. For the Nittany Lions,
they closed the season with eight-straight victories. Penn State's two losses both came in five
sets (vs. Oregon State on Sept. 8 and at Nebraska on Oct. 28). The Lions tallied a 15-0 mark inside Rec Hall
in 2012. In all, Penn State
enters its first round match of the NCAA Tournament having won 24 of its last
26 sets. Led by Big Ten Player of the
Year Ariel Scott, the Nittany Lions claimed 10 postseason Big Ten awards
earlier this week. Joining Scott on the
list of individual accolades - sophomore Micha Hancock was tabbed as the Big
Ten Setter of the Year, Megan Courtney was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year
and Russ Rose earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors. Scott, Hancock and Deja McClendon were named
to the All-Big Ten team. The Nittany Lions are one of seven Big Ten teams in the 2012 NCAA
Tournament. Ohio State, Purdue and eighth-seeded
Minnesota are all in Penn State's quarter of the bracket. Nebraska is the tournament's No. 4 seed. Michigan and Michigan State are the remaining
two conference teams in the draw. Now, it is win or go
home for all 64 teams on the bracket.
Penn State has 28 straight postseason matches at home. The Lions have ended the year with a national
title trophy in four of the last five seasons.
The 2012 Tournament begins on Friday in Rec Hall.
Feature Story Corner Top-Seeded Lions Prepare for Postseason Play Story By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2012 women's volleyball team won its first match
of the season on Aug. 24 with a sweep of Morehead State.
But the team that stepped on the court that night in Louisville, Kentucky
is not the same team that comes in as the No. 1 seed in the 2012 NCAA
Tournament and plays host to its first round of postseason play on Friday
"We've gelled a lot together and we just trust each other and we know
exactly what each other is capable of doing and what we all can do as a team,"
said freshman outside hitter Megan Courtney. "I think just putting it all
together finally is really coming together and it's really exciting to see."
Top-seeded Penn State hosts America East champion Binghamton in Rec Hall at
7:30 p.m. on Friday. The postseason match will be the first that Courtney plays
at the collegiate level, but she said that her teammates have already briefed
her on just how to handle the event.
"They've been telling me just to keep calm and have fun and that it's over
quick so, never to regret anything and go hard the whole time," said Courtney.
At the beginning of the season, Penn State head coach Russ Rose and his
coaching staff continually stressed the need for better serving, better passing
and a more confident offensive attack from match to match.
Assistant coach Steve Aird said that, after 31 matches, he's seen the Lions
become a team that is trusting not only its skills on the court, but also one
"I think we've been playing solid volleyball for the last few weeks," said
Aird. "Practices have been tough, competitive and the girls have been playing a
pretty high level and I feel really good about where we are right now."
Penn State has hosted first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament 26
times in the past 31 years, including the last 23 consecutive seasons. Aird
said that while he is excited to have a homecourt advantage in postseason
action, he and the Lions know that they'll be facing tough competition.
"I think the draw of the teams that we have coming to Happy Valley, it's
like anyone says - they are volleyball teams who have earned the opportunity to
play in an NCAA tournament," said Aird. "Regardless of who is on the other side
of the net for the next three weeks, if we play championship-level volleyball
we'll have an opportunity to advance."
Last year, the Nittany Lions were knocked off by UCLA in the regional semifinal
of the tournament. Sophomore libero Dominique Gonzalez said that she and the
rest of her teammates have much higher hopes for the outcome of this season.
"We realize that we want to be able to go a lot further than we did last
year and the things that we have to do are be really crisp every day in
practice and practice hard every day because we realize that one day off can be
a big deficit for us," said Gonzalez."
And the veteran back-row staple agreed with coach Aird and Courtney that
the best way for the Lions to win it all is by playing solid, team volleyball.
"I think the thing that we've stressed the most this season is being a team and
working every single day," said Gonzalez. "We have to play our best volleyball
from serving to passing to hitting to setting, everything has to be on point."
Follow GoPSUsports.com Media Specialist Tony Mancuso
on Twitter @GoPSUTony
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Megan Courtney walked into the media room wearing
her Big Ten Champions hat and sat proudly between her coach and fellow teammate.
The freshman was smiling from ear to ear.
Courtney and the Nittany Lions ended their regular season on Saturday night
with a sweep of Michigan State in Rec Hall. The freshman outside hitter notched
a team-best nine kills on .529 hitting and had five block assists and one solo
After the match, Penn State head coach Russ Rose said that his freshman's
performance was more than just satisfying.
"I thought that was the best match that [Megan]'s played since she came
here," said Rose. "She hit well, passed well and blocked especially well so I
thought that was a good match by her at a great time."
After starting in 30 of the 31 contests that her team played this year,
Courtney said that she's learned to trust her skills and the skills of her teammates
when it comes down to the wire.
"I've been playing here for a whole season now and you just get the
confidence from the girls and the crowd and the coaches and they just trust
you," said Courtney. "You know that you're good and you know you're here for a
reason so you've got to trust yourself and trust your teammates and just play
around them the best you can."
Junior middle hitter and team captain Katie Slay said that it has been
encouraging to see her young teammate grow from week to week, and that she is
just as confident in Courtney's abilities standing by her side.
"It's really exciting," said Slay. "You want to peak at the end of the
season so it's nice to have momentum going into postseason."
The finale win over the Spartans sealed the conference title for the Lions,
and the team was awarded its Big Ten Champion trophy at the end of the match.
Penn State ends its regular season with a 29-2 record overall and lost just one
conference match, to finish 19-1 in the Big Ten.
Penn State has clinched nine Big Ten titles in the past 10 years. Rose said
that, as a coach, he sets the bar high for his athletes every day and expects
them to achieve more and more as a season goes on.
"It's not easy to win a great conference and we worked hard and I'm hard on
these guys all the time," said Rose.
Courtney said that aside from gaining confidence and reassuring self-trust
in her own skills after a season of play at the collegiate level, she's also
learned what it really means to be a part of a winning team.
"We're about each other and we play for each other," said Courtney. "Going
into the postseason all we have is each other."
The Lions received the No. 1 seed for the 2012 NCAA Tournament and will
begin postseason play against Binghamton on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Rec Hall.