SEATTLE - The second-seeded
Nittany Lion women's volleyball team practiced inside KeyArena on Wednesday in
preparation for Thursday night's NCAA national semifinal tilt against third-seeded
Washington (9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2).
Penn State practiced for 90 minutes on Wednesday following a preview press
conference. Take a look through
Wednesday coverage from Seattle as the Lion prep for their 11th NCAA
VIDEO: Wednesday Practice & Press
Take a look through some video highlights of Wednesday's practice and
pre-NCAA semifinal press conference with head coach Russ Rose, Maddie Martin, Dominique Gonzalez and Ariel Scott.
Meet the NCAA
By Brian Tripp, Penn State Women's Volleyball Radio Analyst
Washington Huskies: (30-2, 18-2 Pac-12 Champions)
- Captured program's third Pac-12 Championship with 18-2
- Making 12th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and fourth NCAA
semifinal in program history.
- Head Coach Jim McLaughlin led program to lone national championship in 2005
- Defeated Penn State 3-1 in 2006 NCAA Regional in Seattle and leads all-time
- Undefeated home and neutral court record this season with losses at Stanford
and at Colorado
- The Huskies are 26-0 when winning the first set this season.
- Pac-12 Player of the Year and AVCA National Player of the Year candidate
Krista Vansant posted a program record 38 kills in Washington's comeback 3-2
victory over USC in the regional finals. Vansant also amassed 30 digs. She
leads the team with 5.47 kills per set and a .352 hitting percentage this
- Washington ranks sixth nationally in aces per set with 1.73. It is the best
mark among major conference schools.
Texas Longhorns: (27-2, 16-0 Big 12
- The defending national champions are making the ninth NCAA national
semifinals appearance in program history.
- Texas holds a 75-27 record all-time in the NCAA Tournament with two national
championships (1988 and 2012).
- Defeated Penn State 3-2 (25-27, 25-17, 13-25, 25-21, 15-10) on Sept. 7 in the
Nike Big Four Volleyball Classic. Penn State's Deja McClendon led all players
with 20 kills in the match.
- Penn State leads the all-time series with an 11-8 record. The two teams met
in the 2009 National Championship match, featuring a matchup of All-Americans
Megan Hodge and Destiny Hooker.
- The Longhorns rank sixth nationally with 2.98 blocks per set. Khat Bell leads
the team with 1.35 blocks per set. Molly McCage ranks second with 1.31 blocks
- 2012 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Bailey Webster is second on the
team with 3.51 kills per set. Haley Eckerman is the team's top attacker with
4.13 kills per set and 4.75 points per set.
Wisconsin Badgers: (27-9, 12-8 Big Ten)
- The Badgers continue a trend of low seeds qualifying for the national semifinals.
Wisconsin was seeded 12th in this year's tournament and reached the
Final Four without facing a ranked opponent. Unseeded Michigan advanced to the
semifinals in 2012 and 12th seeded Florida State reached the round
of four in 2011.
- Wisconsin is making its second national semifinal appearance and holds a
33-16 record in the NCAA tournament all-time. The Badgers advanced to the 2000
national championship match, falling to Nebraska 3-2.
- The Badgers led the Big Ten in digs per set with 15.68 and ranked second in
the conference in assists per set with 13.12.
- True freshman setter Lauren Carlini anchors the Badgers with 11.15 assists
per set, 1.01 kills per set and 2.85 digs per set. Carlini was last year's high
school Gatorade National Player of the Year and this year's Big Ten Freshman of
- In its four NCAA tournament wins, Wisconsin is hitting .323 with 16.50 kills,
16.36 digs and 2.50 blocks per set.
- First-year head coach Kelly Sheffield has helped the Badgers increase their
overall win total by ten and by seven in Big Ten play from last season. He is
just the fifth coach in NCAA history to lead a team to the national semifinals
in the first season at the helm.
- Penn State was the only Big Ten team to sweep the Badgers twice this season.
NCAA Semifinals Travel Day
Feature Story Corner:
Nittany Lions Benefit from Road
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament,
the Nittany Lions saw the advantages of having a venue cheering in their favor,
but as they advanced to the national semifinals, they learned that they will
face the host team of the tournament and will have to fight against an opposing
Finishing regional rounds with wins against
Michigan State (3-1) and Stanford (3-2), No. 2 Penn State advanced to play
against No. 3 Washington. The Nittany Lions will face the Huskies in the
KeyArena in Seattle and will have to make the necessary adjustments to block
out any distractions that come along with a big crowd cheering against them.
"They won their conference and only lost two
matches. Being the home team with the home crowd is certainly going to
challenge some of our players," head coach Russ Rose said.
The Nittany Lions have always thrived off of
filling up Rec Hall, with fans in blue and white. However, when they open up
the semifinals in the KeyArena, they will be in an arena that can seat over
"Washington's earned the right," Rose said.
"They won their conference and there's still a lot of pressure on teams to
host. It takes a commitment by the university to host an event like that and
it's a pretty heavy weight on the coaches and the players."
Last Saturday, Washington rallied against No. 6
USC in five close sets (26-28. 23-25, 25-22, 25-18, 17-15). Securing the match
point for the Huskies meant that they would be returning home to continue their
"I'm sure there's a lot of relief associated
when they scored that last point at the end and they knew that they would be
going home to play," Rose said.
The arena is just five miles away from
Washington's campus, which means there will be a strong contingent of purple
filling the seats.
"I would hope that it's like our campus and
everyone has gone home," Rose said. "Volleyball fans will be there - they'll
have a lot of fans and I'm sure it will be a partisan crowd as we would expect
it to be. They have great fans that are passionate about their team that will
make a lot of noise, but I don't think they'll be as personable as the fans
that we see in the Big Ten in some of the venues along the way."
Although it may be a challenge for the Nittany
Lions, they have used the 15 road matches throughout the regular season to help
them prepare in venues where the majority of the crowd rooted for the opposing
"It makes it all the more exciting," Rose said.
"The antes a little bit higher - the kids should be thrilled about that. We've
played in matches with big crowds. This might be a bigger crowd but it's just a
different color. We've played with red as the predominant color and now we'll
Playing in a close match against Nebraska at the
end of the season proved to the players that they could handle a loud crowd
cheering for the other team. Having this experience behind them gives the
players the confidence to handle the challenge and not let it be a determining
"I kind of like playing with a little bit of
adversity," Deja McClendon said. "I think that gives you something to strive
for. You know it's just a different color out there."
Despite the dominant color of shirts expected in
Seattle, the players know the amount of support that every blue and white fan
will give as they travel to the national semifinals.
A Tough Journey Makes a Tough Team
By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A barnburner. That is how Penn State women's
volleyball coach Russ Rose described the matches in the NCAA Tournament thus
far. After rallying to defeat both Michigan State and Stanford, the Nittany
Lions are on the road again to Seattle to take on No. 3 Washington.
From a challenging Big Ten slate and plating against 16 ranked foes to a
fight-'til-the-finish fifth set in the NCAA Regionals, this tough journey has
made the team stronger.
Junior setter Micha Hancock said that the team's tough journey has taught the
players that they cannot start slow or have a lead and then give it away.
"Playing harder teams as you go along helps you as a team feel like you're
building up to your peak," senior outside hitter Deja McClendon added. "Playing
these tough matches has helped us as a team."
When the regular season ended, the Nittany Lions began the post season with
wins against LIU-Brooklyn and Utah. The following weekend, they defeated
Michigan State and Stanford.
These matches made the Nittany Lions a tougher team because they were able
to learn from the intense competition. Rose said both Michigan State and
Stanford played the game emphasizing their strengths, which caused stress for
Penn State. Rose also noted that this week in practice, the team will be
working on eliminating errors after the high number of errors made last
"We didn't play especially well in the first game against either Michigan State
or Stanford, but I also attribute that to the fact that those teams played very
well," Rose said. "We made 11 errors in the first game against Stanford. We had
23 hitting errors that we hit out of bounds or into the net, not counting the
13 balls that they blocked, so we're certainly going to address that a little
bit in practice to make sure that we value the ball a little bit more make a
little bit better decisions."
McClendon said she's noticed the amount of errors the team has made against
good teams, and reducing errors is definitely a takeaway from the Stanford match.
Hancock said after watching the Stanford film, she noticed that the team also
needs to focus on making serves. After big plays, a missed serve is a momentum
killer. Hancock said the team needs to improve on keeping the ball in play to
allow the team to play defense and get more points.
"All four of the matches that we played in the tournament to date have
stressed us out in different ways and made us play better," Rose said. "We look
forward to representing Penn State and the Big Ten in this year's final four."
Next up for the Nittany Lions is a match against third-seeded Washington on
Washington is 30-2 this season, led by offensive efforts from junior outside
hitter Krista Vansant. Against USC in the regionals, Vansant had 38 kills and 30
digs. She was also the MVP in the Pac-12.
"She's killer, she's an awesome player and these are the matches that we
look for. I can't wait to play," McClendon said. "She's an amazing all around
player and if we can get a good hand on her, I think we'll do well."
But the team is not one-dimensional. There are other players that make them
Junior outside hitter Kaleigh Nelson is the Huskies' second leading point
scorer with 352 kills this season. Rose said sophomore outside hitter Cassie Strickland
plays the game hard, has a great jump serve and has no fear in how she plays
Rose said that all of the teams that have made it thus far in the
tournament are well balanced, Penn State included.
"There have been matches where Deja or [Ariel] Scott or Katie Slay have
really stepped up, Megan Courtney has [also] had a couple of matches where she
was our key offensive player. Nia Grant did that in an earlier match," Rose
said. "When you have the ability to have multiple players who can do that, it
kind of takes the pressure off of one player who has to perform well or the
team suffers. That, to me, is one of our strengths."
Despite the tough competition ahead, Hancock said the team feels much more
confident this year going into the national semifinals.
"Our road to the tournament this year, we had to earn it," Hancock said.
"Stanford and Michigan State were two [teams] we had to battle against and we
have a lot more confidence getting to those games together and grinding it
Wednesday festivities over, it is now time to focus on match day in Seattle. The Nittany Lions will practice mid-day on
Thursday before the 9:30 p.m. (ET) first serve against Washington. Stay tuned for much more coverage from the NCAA
Women's Volleyball Championship.
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