Recently in Women's Volleyball Category

Blog - Maggie Harding, November 20, 2012

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Well it was an exciting weekend for Penn State sports all around! Our football team came away with a Big Ten win, the women's soccer team won their playoff match in a nail-biter Sunday night, and we finished the weekend with Coach Rose's 15th Big Ten Championship! OneTeam!

The flight to Indiana was pretty uneventful, other than everyone not havingHarding_Maggie (H-11-MS)340.jpg class this week, so we didn't have to worry about doing much homework. The gym at Indiana is pretty small, so we had to create our own energy and take control of the match. Indiana played hard but we won 3-0 and flew off to West Lafayette. A bunch of us crammed around a TV in the hotel lobby to watch the end of the Minnesota-Nebraska match. With Minnesota's win, we were officially Big Ten champs, so we were all excited. But we knew Purdue was a very good team and that we would have to be very prepared to play them. Also, we knew Purdue was trying to pack Mackey Arena for the match, so we had to be ready for a big crowd rooting against us. They ended up getting a big turnout, although the fans weren't as loud and rowdy as some places we play. The team got really fired up when we had some questionable officiating calls, and we won the match 3-1. It was a really good experience getting to play there though, since Mackey Arena is one of the four sites for regionals this year.

We got back to State College that night, and are looking forward to a whole week at home. It is such an awesome feeling to not have class! Lots of the team's family members will be traveling to Happy Valley this week for Thanksgiving, so it will be really fun getting to see all of them. And senior night is on Saturday, I don't want to believe it! Kristin and Marika are two of my best friends and they have given so much to the Penn State Volleyball program. The team won't be the same without them!

Until next time--

Maggie Harding

VIDEO: 2012 Women's Volleyball Big Ten Title Interviews

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Juniors Katie Slay and Deja McClendon talk about Penn State clinching its ninth Big Ten title in the past 10 years.  The Nittany Lions return home on Wednesday night for a match against Ohio State inside Rec Hall (7 p.m.).  The Lions also take on Michigan State on Saturday at 8 p.m. in the regular season finale.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Lacey Fuller - Nov. 16, 2012

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Salutations planet Earth. This is Lacey. It has been nice spending most of November playing in Rec Hall and not being on the road. Last weekend we faced both Illinois and Northwestern. Traditionally these teams play really hard against us, so we had an intense week in the gym preparing.

On Thursday Illinois practiced in the morning while we were sitting in class getting our academia on. 4900606.jpgAfter a long day of getting educated, we had a brief practice and got some touches before the game. Following this ritual, game-day practice we watched film and ate Rotelli's. Eating is my favorite. My typical Rotelli's plate will consist of 2 slices of pineapple, no salad, and spaghetti. My second plate will then typically consist of several bread rolls. Traditionally I will consume about seven rolls but sometimes I'll challenge myself and go for that eighth or 12th roll. Lastly I went for three cookies, compliments to Mrs. Courtney.

After the meal we had to get focused and warm up for the game. We were all anxious to play after a good week of practice. Illinois played hard, but we ended up winning the game in three. We had a really good serving game, which was good because we have struggled this season with serving.

After the win we were ready for our Saturday game against Northwestern. I was especially excited to play the wildcats because my former high school teammate, Katie Dutchman plays in the middle. They dug a lot of balls and played well, but we ended up winning the game. Coach always emphasizes how hard Northwestern plays and we were ready for them to make great plays.

It was good getting two solid wins but now we need to prepare for a tough weekend in Indiana. Hopefully we play well and claim the Big 10 title. We shall see. Over and out.

Taking the Lead: Ariel Scott

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By Kelsey Detweiler, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When a team prepares to play against Penn State, it makes sure to watch out for the blue and white jersey with the number one on its back.

The girl wearing it stands at around 6-foot-4 and is most dangerously found wading toward the right side of the net.

8264787 (1).jpegShe's got a weighty swing and big block, and she's not afraid to use them.

On the Nittany Lion roster, she's listed with the name 'Ariel Scott'. But her coaches and her teammates like to shorten her first name to just one letter, making her more commonly known around State College as just 'A. Scott'.

The junior right side hitter has become a stronghold for the Penn State offense and a silent leader on the court this season. As a co-captain, Scott has taken on the role of being one of the most reliable athletes in the starting rotation.

"I think she's a very intimidating player," said teammate and fellow junior Deja McClendon. "She's a tremendous presence. She hits a heavy ball and I think that when people see that, they're afraid. I think she's done a really good job of being a leader."

Scott has been able to draw attention to herself on defense as well, stepping up at the net and fronting 74 total blocks this season. That number is third-best on the Penn State roster behind only her two middle blockers, Katie Slay and Nia Grant.

"She's a threat in the front-row and the back-row so they have to be worried about her all the time," McClendon said of her team's opponents facing Scott. "That opens up the door for other players. She allows the middles to have one-on-ones and allows me to have one-on-ones and that helps in so many aspects."

The Ridgewood, New Jersey native has shined throughout all 95 sets she has played this season, tallying a team-high 346 kills on 3.64 kills per set.

So what sparked such high-level performances this year compared to last?

"I think more experience has definitely been helping me," said Scott. "My freshman year I didn't play all that much and last year was my first year that I was on the court full-time so I think the swing my second season definitely helped me a lot."

Alongside former talents of Blair Brown, Arielle Wilson and Fatima Balza, Scott's talent did not fully come to the forefront until this season. Now, the junior says that instead of relying on one or two people to generate offense, she and the Lions tend to share the wealth.

"I think this year, especially, we've been really good at scoring from all positions," said Scott. "The middles are doing really well, [Megan Courtney]'s doing really well, Deja is also good at scoring too so it definitely helps to have an all-around team."

And while Scott said that she appreciates her teammates for their offensive output, her teammates are thankful that she is as calm, cool and collected as she continues to be.

"I think she's really mellow and I really like that about her," said McClendon. "She's never too crazy or too low so I think she keeps us grounded. We need that."

The veteran knows what it is like to win a national title and what it's like to finish just shy of one.  With just four matches left in the regular season, Scott said that the Lions are doing everything that they can to keep pressing and keep challenging their opponents one at a time. 

"We have Big Tens and we're finishing Big Tens soon but that's not our final goal," said Scott. "Our final goal is a national championship so we're going to keep working harder for that." 

Second-Ranked Lions Down Illini, Wildcats in Home Weekend

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By Kelsey Detweiler, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions love to play volleyball in Rec Hall.

No. 2 Penn State picked up two more conference wins at home this weekend to extend their unbeaten streak to 21 wins on their home court. The Lions have not dropped a match in Rec Hall for more than two years now, and have won all 13 of their home matches this season.

8264787.jpegHead coach Russ Rose said that Penn State added another accolade to its list by defeating Illinois on Thursday night in Rec Hall.

"It was a Thursday night match and it was the first one we've ever had," said Rose. "It was a challenge."

But the Lions looked as comfortable as ever and completely in their element as they skated to a three-set victory of the Illini behind tough serving and solid defense. The team continued the trend on Saturday night and swept Northwestern, too.

With the pair of wins, Penn State improved its conference record to 15-1 overall and sit atop the Big Ten leader board with a three-game cushion over next closest opponent Minnesota, who comes in at 12-4.

"Let's try to be the best team that we can be and try to compete at the highest level," Rose said after his team's second win in three days.

And the Lions did just what their coach suggested.

As a team, Penn State combined for an average hitting percentage of .309 and tallied nine service aces and 20 blocks in the two contests.

Sophomore setter Micha Hancock registered three of those nine aces for the Lions. And although she wasn't the one serving up aces, junior outside hitter Deja McClendon said that being on the court when her teammate gets a big ace is a pretty big deal.

"These are our sisters," said McClendon. "When she gets an ace, I get an ace and that's what it feels like for me so I get extra pumped up."

But when Penn State isn't getting energized about aces and tough serving, they're probably smiling about another key part of the game.

"Getting a big block, no matter who it is, is definitely one of the most exciting things," said junior right-side hitter Ariel Scott.

Freshman outside hitter Megan Courtney agreed with Scott, and said that she'd take a big block over a big kill any day. Courtney had four block assists and three solo blocks on the weekend to lead her team at the net, but assured that her tough play wasn't always guaranteed.

"I think I was just feeling it," said Courtney."I try to make the best move that I possibly can. I guess coach says it a lot that you can have the best block in the world and then you just get lucky sometimes and I guess I just got really lucky."

The Lions said that they are looking to stay confident and consistent in their remaining four matches to round out their regular-season schedule and conference play. Penn State needs to win two more conference matches to claim the Big Ten title this season. 

From a Coaching Lens: No. 2 Penn State Welcomes Illini and Wildcats

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By Kelsey Detweiler, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming in at 23-2 overall with just one conference loss this season, the Nittany Lion women's volleyball team sits atop the Big Ten leaderboard with six regular season matches left to play.

In the Big Ten, the Lions lead all other teams in three specific categories. They are first in kills per set averaging 14.69, blocks per set with 2.93 and also rank as the top team to limit their opponents' hitting percentage to just .142, collectively.

All in all, the student-athletes that represent the Penn State program have been putting in the hours and putting up the numbers they need to be successful in the conference. The Lions are looking to continue that trend this week as they host Illinois on Thursday at 8 p.m. and Northwestern on Saturday at 8 p.m.

But part of the same successful program that may not always be in the forefront of a practice or a match or a statistics report are the people that sit on the sidelines in the chairs match in and match out.

Head coach Russ Rose is in his 34th year with the Nittany Lion program and said that whether his team has one mid-week match or a weekend full of matches, preparation is always key.

"Illinois is a good team," said Rose. "But I think every match is a tough match."

This season Rose said that he has been placing more focus on his team's play rather the opponents' in preparation for a match. But after a tough first half of the conference season where his team played the majority of its volleyball on the road, Rose said that he's happy to be competing at home this weekend.

"We have to take advantage of these two weeks at home after being away for what seems like five or six weeks," said Rose. "I think that's really important especially around here."

Rose is joined by assistant coaches Kaleena Davidson and Steve Aird in leading the Lions. Aird is in his first year with the Nittany Lion program and said it's important that the team understands how to get better every day.

"I think they understand the gameplan," said Aird. "Coach [Rose] works really hard at developing a gameplan that's going to be something that the kids understand going into matches. So the feedback we're getting from them is, 'Hey, we know what we're supposed to be doing.'"

The first time the Lions and the Illini met this season, Illinois pushed the match into a fifth set behind a strong offensive performance and tough blocking at the net. Penn State went on to win the match, 3-2, but not without a fight.

On Thursday, Aird said that it's especially crucial for his team to use what they've learned in the practice gym and project it onto the court.

"The key is just execution," said Aird. "The kids have watched lots of film. I think they're a lot more mature about their games and a little bit more prepared than they have been in the past and I think that's a good thing."

Blog - Megan Courtney, Nov. 6, 2012

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Hello everyone! Megan Courtney here! I hope everyone is staying warm and safe from the destruction of hurricane Sandy. Can you believe that Penn State actually closed the Courtney_Megan (H-12-MS) 6855_a.jpguniversity for a day?! Me either! I was shocked! But as my mom always says safety first! Not only was campus closed, but practice was cancelled as well! Don't get me wrong I love playing and practicing, but we could all use a day off! During this rare and unusual free time I actually got stop and just enjoy the little things. It gave me a chance to actually do things I enjoy outside of volleyball and my very busy schedule. I think I can speak for most of the girls when I say that it was truly a blessing.

But like always after our day off, practice and lifting was a lot tougher the next day. Coming off the loss to Nebraska, things were tough for all of us. But it wasn't time to focus on the things we didn't do right, but to move forward and learn from our mistakes and missed opportunities. During our week of practice we were all focused on our next opponent, Minnesota. Without a doubt, we gave them the attention they most definitely deserve. We knew they were good, and we knew what we had to do to get another W. That is exactly what we did. We were for sure tested and pushed by Minnesota, but we ended up on top after a great match by both sides. Minnesota is a great team and a tough opponent to play against so I give them the utmost respect.

On Sunday, I got the opportunity of a lifetime, to play the game I love with a group of amazing girls and a great coaching staff for nationally televised network, ESPN2. The opponent: Wisconsin. Once again, after the Minnesota game, we looked at the good things, put them in our memory banks, learned from the bad things, and turned our focus toward Wisconsin. If I have learned anything about the Big Ten this year it's that any given night a team can beat another. It is arguably the most competitive conference in the country. It really tests your skills physically and mentally. You are required to play your best every night or you could be defeated rather than victorious.

I hope to see you all on Thursday as we take on a tough Illinois team. Our game is on the Big Ten Network so be sure to come out and continue to support us and tell your friends and family about the game. It's never a bad thing to have too much support :)

Megan Courtney

A Team Effort Nabs Two More Conference Victories

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By Kelsey Detweiler, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The third-ranked Nittany Lions returned home for the first time in two weeks and made the most of it by grabbing two more Big Ten wins.

Penn State defeated No. 10 Minnesota in four sets on Friday night in Rec Hall and continued to dominate on Sunday with a sweep of Wisconsin.

8058501.jpegIt was a team effort all-around as six Lions recorded more than 10 kills, four had more than 10 digs and combined the squad tallied 17 service aces.

Junior outside hitter Ariel Scott had a standout weekend with 20 kills against Minnesota and another 14 against Wisconsin for a total of 34 kills on the weekend. She said that she and her sophomore setter Micha Hancock have been working on solidifying their connection on the court, and she was happy that it improved in two crucial conference outings.

"Just between the two of us in the past we've had some communication problems just because we're on the some side of the court," said Scott. "We're really working on working that out and I think, especially at this point in the season, it's beneficial to the whole team."

Service errors and inconsistent passing have plagued the Lions in recent matches and has been a sticking point for the team thus far. But Penn State passed well out of the back-row and kept their serves between the white lines during both matches, suffering a total of just 17 service errors in the two contests.

Junior middle hitter Katie Slay attributed the solid play to her team's ability to communicate well and really concentrate on playing good volleyball from start to finish.

"We just have to come out and play to our level on our side of the net and that's really what we have to focus on," said Slay. "Coming out of the gate we have to start strong."

Slay is not only a returning All-American but also a team captain this season. She said that she constantly reminds her teammates to keep pushing their limits and work on themselves before they worry about their opponents.

"In the home stretch we really have to focus on our side of the net," said Slay. "I know we say that a lot but it's super important because you have to have a certain level of expectation so you know what you're going to bring out on the floor."

At 12-1 in the conference with just five matches left to play in the regular season, the Lions sit atop the Big Ten leader board with a two-game advantage over their next closest competitor. The Penn State women's volleyball program has claimed the Big Ten conference crown in 14 of the last 20 seasons.

Rose said that while he acknowledges the conference success of the program over the past couple of decades, he hopes that his team's outcome this season will be determined by their own will to compete rather than its assumed expectation.

"These guys should want to win because they want to win," said Rose. "You've got to have your eyes going forward and play it out and go hard. It's been a great fall."

Penn State controls its own destiny.

Lions Return to Rec Hall, Welcome Gophers and Badgers

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By Kelsey Detweiler, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After two weeks on the road that ended in a tough loss to then fourth-ranked Nebraska, the Nittany Lions are finally back in their home gym. And man, are they relieved.

8089254.jpeg"I just love this gym and I am always so happy to come back," said junior outside hitter Deja McClendon before a practice this week. "Now it's time to go to work."

McClendon and her Lions will open up the weekend against Minnesota on Friday at 8 p.m. in Rec Hall. The team will have a day's rest and then host the Badgers of Wisconsin on Sunday at 2 p.m.

No. 3 Penn State has played 12 conference matches already this season, and with just eight Big Ten matches left in the regular season the team is looking to finish strong. The Lions hold an 11-1 record in the conference, dropping their only match to the Cornhuskers in five sets last weekend.

McClendon said that matches like the one against Nebraska aren't always the most fun to deal with immediately after, but eventually serve as motivators for her team.

Games like that where we let up and we lose, that kind of stuff really fires us up and tells us to get in the gym, start practicing, it's not over 'til it's over," said McClendon. "It doesn't matter if you've swept them once or beat them once, it's a new game."

Because the squad is more than halfway through its conference schedule, the rest of the matches that the Nittany Lions play will be against teams that they've already faced at least once this season. McClendon said that there are both advantages and disadvantages of playing a team that they've seen before.

"The second time a lot of it has to do with how your team has adjusted and I think that since [the other team] kind of knows some of our freshmen better this time around it's going to be a little bit easier for them to adjust. But it's the same with us - we've seen these serves a couple of times around so we have time to get ready for them too."

Penn State heads into the weekend at 21-2 overall and has not fallen out of the top five ranked teams since the season began in August. The team has cruised offensively for the majority of their match-ups, out-hitting their opponents by a percentage of .302 to .136 and taking 15 of their victories in just three sets.

McClendon said that at this time in the season players have a tendency to slowly break down both mentally and physically, but said that she has yet to see that in any of her teammates.

"I think as a team we've come together and we're a lot tighter," said McClendon. "[Micha Hancock]'s getting a lot better. I think she's adjusting and our middles are connecting a lot better with her right now. We've learned a lot."

Sophomore setter Hancock echoed her elder teammate's thoughts and said that at this time of the year, the Lions know what they want to do - they just have to go do it.

"This is when it really matters," said Hancock. "The last games are what determine who wins the Big Ten, who gets the good seeding and everything for the tournament so this is where we really need to focus."

VIDEO: One-on-One with Dominique Gonzalez - Nov. 1

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The third-ranked Nittany Lion women's volleyball team returns home on Friday for the first time in two weeks.  Penn State takes on Minnesota on Friday at 8 p.m. (BTN) and Wisconsin on Sunday at 2 p.m. (ESPN2). caught up with libero Dominique Gonzalez for a one-on-one to get ready for the home matches.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony