VIDEO: Megan Courtney One-on-One Interview
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Nittany Lion women's volleyball
team added another chapter to its storied legacy Thursday night on the sport's
Like clockwork, the Russ Rose-led Nittany Lions routinely find a way to peak
when the stakes are highest.
Going toe-to-toe with No. 1 Stanford, the Nittany Lions used a gritty effort to
knock off the Cardinal, 3-1, to earn a spot in the national championship match
for the 10th time in program history and sixth time in the past eight years.
Heading into Thursday's national semifinal bout, the Nittany Lions knew they
would be in for a slugfest against the top-ranked Cardinal. In five of the last
eight meetings between the two schools, the matches have gone five sets.
While it did not go five sets, Thursday's match was no different. Neither team
led by more than four tallies following Penn State's decisive 25-16 victory in
set one. But the Lions clawed their way to big swings, pivotal digs and timely
blocks en route to set victories in the third and fourth frames after Stanford
evened the match at 1-1 with a 25-23 win in set two.
"Well, as is the norm, when we play Stanford, it's always a great match
with players having to step up and make plays and grind, and every year we find
ourselves in that situation with them," Rose said.
Junior outside hitter Megan Courtney was the star among stars
on Thursday, notching 23 kills on .321 hitting, along with 16 digs and five
blocks. When the Lions needed a big play, senior setter Micha Hancock went to
Courtney. And time after time, Courtney buried kills to lift the offense.
"Playing Stanford, there's a big tradition of Penn State-Stanford, and
it goes way back further than any of us have played," Courtney said. "Coach has
really instilled us the tradition. It's a grind. Stanford is a great team. They're
the No. 1 team in the country. Well deserved."
"She had a good rhythm tonight," Rose said. "Took some great swings. Had a lot
of confidence. She took a couple of swings I'm sure she'd like to take back. But
she plays the full game. She's our best volleyball IQ individual. And the
expectations are really high for her."
AVCA Freshman of the Year Ali Frantti was also superb for the Nittany Lions,
especially early. Frantti had six kills on .750 hitting in the first set en
route to a 16-kill performance in her first outing at the NCAA semifinals.
"I thought Megan was the offensive star of the night. And Ali really
battled and did a great job," Rose said.
While Courtney and Frantti provided a boost offensively, Thursday's win was a
byproduct of the work from every Penn State player who stepped on the floor.
That's what makes this team unique and special. The Lions got contributions
from all 10 players who participated in the match. Credit the leadership from
Hancock as the team's floor general for keeping the unit focused from start to
"I thought we had a nice game plan, and sometimes the ball rolls your
way, and we had a real good effort tonight," said Rose.
Penn State is headed back to the national title match for the second-straight
season. The Lions will battle with unseeded BYU on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony