Recently in Women's Volleyball Category
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The second-seeded and Big Ten champion Nittany Lion
women's volleyball team (30-2) travels to Lexington, Ky., for a showdown with Michigan
State (23-11) in the NCAA regional semifinals on Friday at 5 p.m. (Live
coverage on ESPN3).
The winner of the Penn State-Michigan State match will move on to face either No.
7 Stanford (26-5) or No. 10 Minnesota (29-6) on Saturday in the regional final
at 4 p.m. live on ESPNU. The Nittany
Lions split with the Spartans during the regular season, winning at East
Lansing, but dropping the conference opener at Rec Hall. Penn State's 3-1 setback to Michigan State
was its lone loss during conference play.
The Lions swept Minnesota in 2013, winning 3-2 in Happy Valley and 3-0
Penn State enters the weekend after sweeping LIU Brooklyn and Utah inside Rec
Hall in the opening two rounds of the tournament. The Lions have won 33 of their last 36
sets. Penn State enters the weekend
attacking at a .314 clip, led by All-Big Ten outside hitters Ariel Scott (3.18
kills/set) and Deja McClendon (2.92 kills/set).
Since the NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament began its current 64-team setup,
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 12 of the 15 seasons.
The Big Ten Conference has been tremendous throughout the 2013 season. Having seven 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, Michigan
State and Minnesota in the Lexington Regional, Nebraska plays American in the
Lincoln Regional and Illinois, Purdue and Wisconsin are all still alive in the Champaign
The NCAA field has been trimmed to 16 teams.
Penn State's quest for a return to the national semifinals goes through
Memorial Coliseum this weekend. First up
is a clash with Michigan State on Friday.
VIDEO: NCAA Regionals Preview
Regional Semifinals Statistical
Feature Story Corner
From the eyes of head coach Russ Rose
Lions to Face Michigan State in Regionals
By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's volleyball team defeated
two teams last weekend that they hadn't seen this season. This weekend,
however, will be very different. The Nittany Lions will face a very familiar foe
in the NCAA regional semifinals on Friday.
No. 2 Penn State (30-2) will play Michigan State (23-11) for the third
time this season on Friday. Minnesota, another Big Ten squad, is also still
alive in Penn State's quarter of the bracket. This means that there is a
possibility that the Nittany Lions will face the Golden Gophers on Saturday.
Having already played these teams this season helps in match preparation, head
coach Russ Rose says.
"[Seeing these teams again] removes the communicating with other schools
trying to find information on [teams]," Rose said. "We played [Michigan State] a month ago. We are at least
familiar with them, as well as Minnesota."
The Big Ten has seven teams left in the tournament, which is the most of
any conference (PAC-12 has four). Rose said the strength of the Big Ten comes
from its challenging schedule.
"These schools are a lot tougher having played back to back nights
against good teams on the road, on football weekends, and tough travel
conditions. I'm a big believer that the conference makes us all stronger.
Everybody [in the Big Ten] cares," Rose said.
Rose said without even factoring in the fact that Michigan State beat
Penn State at home earlier in the season, Michigan State proved its talent
after beating Kentucky at Kentucky in the second round of the tournament. He
said the Spartans are a good team because of how they are put together. The
team plays hard and they are coached very well.
"They had some great wins this year and one of those was beating us when
we were No. 1 in the country. I shouldn't have to say much to our players about
the strengths and merits of playing Michigan State," Rose said. "The record
this year is 1-1, so this match gives [the teams] the opportunity to play
another match. And Deja needs to upgrade her winning record in the state of
Although the Nittany Lions have seen the Spartans play before, they know
it will be a challenge facing off against the talented players on the Michigan
Senior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski has tallied 400 kills this season.
Rose said she is a "terrific offensive player." Senior middle blocker Alexis
Mathews has 139 blocks this season and touches close to 11 feet. Rose said that when Mathews is "on", it
causes the team a lot of problems.
"In the first match [against Michigan State], [Chloe] Reinig was very
good. In the second match, [Allyssah] Fitterer was somebody that we didn't have
an answer for, so I think they're all good," Rose said.
This year's tournament is the last shot for the seniors. Rose said that
the seniors have a lot invested in this program, even those who haven't played
"Maddie Martin has won some matches for us during her career when she
was healthy and we need her. Erica Denney is a really good volleyball player
with a great mind who has run into some physical challenges. And Maggie
Harding, nobody cares more about what we've got going on," Rose said.
It's an win or go home postseason event, and Rose knows it will be a challenge
against a familiar Big Ten foe.
"It's how you play, not who you play. When you get to a Regional, all of
the teams are hungry, all of the teams are putting behind that they're tired or
that they're sore, or that they have academic woes to worry about," Rose said.
"Everybody is fired up about the possibility of competing for a National
The Nittany Lions will face the Michigan State Spartans at 5 pm on
Friday in Lexington, Ky. (ESPN3).
From the eyes of the players
Nittany Lions Motivated to
Compete in NCAA Regional Semifinals
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Penn State women's volleyball team advanced to
the NCAA regional semifinals in Kentucky, the players are bringing more
motivation than ever to close out a strong season in the quest to bring home a
Sophomore Megan Courtney played in the tournament last year and was on
the court when the team faced a loss in the national semifinals. Having that
experience behind her has helped the outside hitter prepare for what the rest
of this tournament will bring.
Falling short of their goals last year left a feeling that they have not
been able to forget. Instead, the players have used that as their strongest
motivator as they continue to advance in the tournament.
"Last year I was happy to be in the final four and play for Penn State,
but losing in the final four and losing with the teammates that I've been with
the entire time is a feeling I never want to feel again," Courtney said.
Learning from last year's championship season, Courtney and her
teammates are determined to continue battling through the tournament to a
different feeling this time around with her teammates - a feeling of success.
"We also have teammates - like Deja (McClendon) and Katie (Slay) who
have experienced the winning and also the losing so they know what it takes and
what we have to do to get to that point and not have that feeling again,"
Courtney said. "That's basically what's driving me because that feeling is the
worst feeling in the world and they know what it's like when that feeling is
the best feeling in the world."
In order to reach that "best feeling in the world", the Nittany Lions
know that they will all have to work together as one team. They will have to
put each player into the position where they can play their best and help each
other to make the best plays, instead of relying on just one player.
"The really good thing about our program is that one player doesn't have
to carry the weight of the team all the time," Courtney said. "If Deja's having
a great day defensively, then it's my job to have a great day offensively -
it's like a give and take. If Slay is blocking well, we have to put Slay in a
position where she can do what she's good at."
After their win against Utah in the second round of the NCAA Tournament,
the players saw exactly what makes the team work together. They will use that
match to help build their confidence as they continue to advance.
"Especially for Megan who played really well in that match, I think it's
good for our younger players to be confident going into the next match,"
McClendon said. "I think for the seniors it's good to know that we can be
consistent because that's our job as older players."
For the six seniors, this tournament is their final chance to prove they
have the high level of confidence to play at their best, the consistency
between the players needed to advance, and the determination to get the job
done with this group of girls.
"There's definitely an urgency because it's our last chance," Slay said.
"This is the seniors' last chance to play with a lot of the younger girls on
our team so there's definitely an urgency because I want us to do well. I know
we can do well if we play together. It's really exciting in that regard because
the possibility for greatness is there."
As the Nittany Lions are on the road for the first time during the
national tournament, they will play Michigan State for the third time this
season. Since the players have already matched up against them during Big Ten
play, they know that the Spartans have made some adjustments, but they also
know of a few things to look out for.
"They're still a little bit different and changed a few things," McClendon
said. "But it does help knowing how we played against them in the past and what
matchups their going to go to as well as their go to player - we know her
In their last meeting against Michigan State, the Lions won, 3-0 (25-14, 25-18,
Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's volleyball team played
its final home match of the season against Utah on Saturday, and the Nittany
Lions knocked off Utah in a 3-0 sweep to advance to the NCAA regional
Sophomore Megan Courtney said she had a 'gut feeling' that the team would play
well together against Utah. She called the match Penn State's 'statement game'.
"You could see it in all my teammates' eyes. We had to show anyone
who's watching what we're made of," Courtney said. "We didn't really make a
statement game [against LIU] and I think today we all knew this had to be our
Courtney led the team to victory with her offensive efforts, tallying
17 kills on .556 hitting. She recorded four kills in the first set and five
kills in the second. In the final frame, Courtney tallied eight kills.
"When [Courtney] plays well, she can score points in a number of ways,"
head coach Russ Rose said. "I think she's one of our better blockers and
tonight she was the match's best offensive player. And I thought she passed
The Nittany Lions logged 21 more digs than Utah. Utah middle hitter
Erin Redd-Brandon said it was frustrating to take her biggest swings and have
the Penn State defense dig the balls up.
"Everyone understands how good [Penn State] is at the net, but what they are
very, very good at is their floor defense," Utah head coach Beth Launiere said.
Utah middle hitter Bailey Bateman attributed the fact that the team had
trouble reading where the set was going to go to Penn State's good
passing. She said when there's a perfect
pass, there are three or four hitters coming at the other team at once. If the
pass isn't perfect, the team is a little bit out of system and the setter is
down to two hitters or one, which makes it easier to read where its going.
"And [Hancock] is a great setter. She knows what she's doing, so it
gets a little difficult to read," Bateman said.
The No. 2-ranked Nittany Lions had an early lead in the first set,
leading the Utes 5-1 and forcing a Utah timeout, and later led Utah 13-4. In
the first frame, senior Katie Slay hit at a .750 hitting percentage and senior
Deja McClendon tallied 6 kills on .455 hitting.
"It's always good to have a nice little lead, it gives you a little bit
of comfort," junior libero Dominique Gonzalez said. "But you can't relax because
you know these teams play really good teams all season long and they're capable
of coming back."
In the second frame, Penn State was off to another good start with a
five-point lead before Utah called a timeout. The timeout sparked a small
offensive run for the Utes, but Penn State came back with a 6 point run, making
the score 14-5. The Nittany Lion offense continued to dominate through the end
of the set with a final score of 25-15.
Penn State came out strong again in the third set, giving the Nittany
Lions a four-point lead in the beginning of the frame. Utah came within two
points of Penn State at 5-3, but kills from Courtney and Scott and an ace from
senior Maddie Martin advanced the score to 12-6. Utah continued to fight at
17-10, but the Nittany Lions could not be stopped. The final four points of the
set were kills by Courtney. The final score was 25-11.
This was the final match in Rec Hall for the Penn State seniors. McClendon
finished with nine kills and a match-high 16 digs. Senior Ariel Scott tallied
eight kills and senior Katie Slay led the team in blocking with five blocks.
Penn State will play Michigan State on Friday in Lexington, Ky., in the
NCAA regional semifinals.
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since 1981, Penn State has had the opportunity to
host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament inside Rec Hall 27 times. The Nittany
Lions have welcomed tournament teams for 23 consecutive years taking away the
stress of traveling to start the postseason.
"I'm always grateful Penn State puts in a bid so that we have a chance to
host. I'm appreciative of the fans that come and I'm appreciative of the band
that plays," head coach Russ Rose said.
Not only does hosting give the Nittany Lions home court advantage, but it
also give the seniors one more opportunity to play on the court they have grown
to love over the past four years.
"I told the seniors I thought today's match was their senior night," Rose
said. "I was really pleased with how those guys stepped up and played well.
Deja (McClendon) finished off her last match in Rec Hall in a real positive
The outside hitter had a strong night against Utah where she led the team
with 16 digs and registered the teams' second highest number of kills with
9. However, coming into the lineup four
years ago, McClendon didn't have much experience in the back row.
"It's great for Deja to lead the match in digs," Rose said. "I think it's
the evolution of her game that she's a much more complete player and was
willing to commit to the things she needed to do to get better."
After going through countless practices and matches in Rec Hall since her
freshman year, McClendon was able to end her last match there on a high note
before heading to her home state of Kentucky for the regional semifinals.
"It's a great feeling," McClendon said. "It's sad though and just unreal.
I'm glad I had these guys to share it with."
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The wait for the NCAA tournament to begin is finally
over as the women's volleyball team opened up the first round defeating
LIU-Brooklyn in front of a home crowd and a packed student section in Rec Hall.
The Nittany Lions won in three straight sets (25-21, 25-21, 25-14). Junior
Micha Hancock started the night off with a service ace. She finished the night
with four aces and 32 of the teams' 38 assists.
In the second set, junior Nia Grant played a huge role in blocking where
she made two block assists. After the third set, Grant led the Nittany Lions in
blocks for the night with one solo block and six block assists. Senior Katie
Slay was right behind her as she registered one solo block and five block
assists, in addition to adding eight kills to the offense.
At the end of the third set, Penn State led LIU-Brooklyn 24-14 when senior
Maggie Harding scored the match point and ended the set with a service ace. The
fans in Rec Hall erupted as the Nittany Lions advance to the second round of
the NCAA tournament.
"I thought it was a match where Long Island played really hard and they do
the things that they do well," head coach Russ Rose said. "I thought Katie
(Slay) did a nice job hitting and blocking and I thought Micha (Hancock) was
serving well tonight. I was really happy Maggie could come in as a senior and
score an ace in the NCAA match. That was one thing I enjoyed this evening."
Earlier in the evening, Utah defeated Yale with a four-match win (27-29,
25-15, 26-24, 25-16). With the win, Utah advances to
play the Nittany Lions in the second round. One thing Penn State will have to
look out for is their blocking. Against Yale, they registered 12 blocks as a
"They're a good blocking team," Rose said. "I thought they blocked really
well and Yale really competed. They're coming from the conference that have the
most number of teams in the NCAA tournament so they're going to be a tough
opponent for us."
Follow the Nittany Lions as they continue their journey through the NCAA
tournament where they will take on Utah at 7:30 on Saturday night in Rec Hall.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
For the 24th consecutive season, Penn State will host the first and second
rounds of the NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament. The 2013 Big Ten champion Nittany Lions (28-2)
open the tournament against LIU Brooklyn (23-7) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Rec
The winner of the Penn State-LIU Brooklyn match will move on to face either Yale
(20-4) or Utah (20-12) on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
For the Nittany Lions, they enter the tournament red-hot on a 19-match winning
streak. Penn State's two losses both
came in five sets (at No. 1 Texas on Sept. 7 and vs. Michigan State on Sept.
27). The Lions tallied a 14-1 mark
inside Rec Hall in 2013.
In all, Penn State enters its first round match of the NCAA Tournament having
won 28 of its last 31 sets. Led by a
trio of seniors, the Nittany Lions claimed seven postseason Big Ten awards
earlier this week. Individually, junior Micha Hancock was tabbed as the Big Ten
Setter of the Year and Russ Rose earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors. Seniors Ariel Scott, Deja McClendon and Katie
Slay, along with Hancock were named to the All-Big Ten team.
The Nittany Lions are one of eight Big Ten teams in the 2013 NCAA
Tournament. Nebraska is the No. 8 seed,
Minnesota is the No. 10 seed, Wisconsin is the No. 12 seed and Illinois is the
No. 13 seed. Michigan, Michigan State
and Purdue are the remaining Big Ten teams in the draw. Minnesota, Michigan State and Penn State are
all in same quarter of the draw (Lexington Regional).
Now, it is win or go home for all 64 teams on the bracket. The 2013 NCAA Tournament
begins on Friday inside Rec Hall.
VIDEO: NCAA Tournament Player Preview
First Round Statistical Rundown
Feature Story Corner
From the eyes of Coach
Taking One Match At a Time
Story By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
After a successful week traveling to Ohio State and Nebraska, the Nittany Lions
closed out their final matches of the regular season on a high note, giving
them the confidence they need to enter the NCAA tournament.
The Nittany Lions have put in over five months of dedication and hard work
while keeping in mind their ultimate goal - to win a national championship.
With the tournament starting at Rec Hall this weekend, it's their chance to
capitalize on that goal. However, the players have to remember that they can
only focus on one match at a time.
"Now the brackets have been announced for the NCAA tournament and it's time to
shift gears like the other 63 teams in the country and prepare for the
tournament," head coach Russ Rose said. "You have to play well to advance and
you have to play one opponent at a time. You can't start looking at future
opponents, we have to focus on the team you have in front of you."
After winning 19-straight matches, it's clear that the players know how to work
together as a team. Coach Rose stressed that it's more important to play good
volleyball than it is the number of matches the team has won in a row.
Coming off the Nebraska match and knowing the
stress of travel, Rose was excited to see that distractions were not an issue
for the Nittany Lions while competing on the road.
"The Nebraska match was a really good match because it was two really evenly
matched teams playing in a partisan crowd, but it wasn't a partisan crowd for
us. It was good because we were able to handle the additional distractions.
Knowing that we have one weekend at home and if you're fortunate enough to
advance, then you're playing on the road. We have to be able to have success in
certain environments," Rose said.
Knowing that they could handle the atmosphere on the road at Nebraska will help
the players as they advance through any challenges the tournament may present.
"That gives the players a little more confidence that they can handle tough
situations," Rose said. "You're always going to have tough situations with the
NCAA. It's never going to be an easy situation where you go out there and
overpower people. Everyone has challenges and we're not going to be immune to
The players, especially the senior class, which helped capture the 2010
national title, have learned from these challenges throughout their career.
They know what is expected of them and how to help guide those who have not
been through the process.
"The expectations are really high here," Rose said. "They know that while
they're here - you play the preseason to get yourself ready for conference play
and then conference play prepares you for NCAA tournament. NCAA's are a sprint.
The persons and team that win the tournament will have won six matches. That's
what our focus is."
Entering the tournament, Penn State is ranked no. 2 in the AVCA Coaches Poll.
However, Rose does not take that for granted.
"I don't look at it as we're ahead of anyone," Rose said. "Texas and us have a
long streak and Missouri has a 30 match winning streak. We need to worry about
the opponent on the other side of the net and focus on them and not look
Heading into the first round of the tournament where the Nittany Lions, the
players will rely on their preparation from throughout the year and won't make
many changes to their practice regime.
"We'll get the NCAA balls we'll have to play with and I know the players will
have to focus on academics so we won't go really long. We'll focus on some
things today and try and fix some of the team things that Nebraska exposed we
weren't really good at," Rose said.
The team is eager for what is ahead.
"We've played Long Island before and I expect their team to be really
competitive. The other half of the bracket is Yale, who we played earlier in
the year and Utah, who came from the conference who has provided the most teams
in the NCAA this year."
With preseason and conference play behind them, the Nittany Lions will take
what they have learned this season and put it to the test throughout the
competition during the tournament while taking advantage of being on their home
From the eyes of the players:
Nittany Lions Kick Off Postseason This Weekend
Story By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
Pa. - November quickly came and went, as did the Penn State women's volleyball
regular season. The Nittany Lions will begin the NCAA Tournament this weekend
on their home court against Long Island-Brooklyn on Friday.
LIU won the Northeast Conference this year with a 23-7 record. Long Island
outside hitter Annika Foit has tallied 369 kills this season, while Penn
State's leading attacker, senior outside hitter Deja McClendon, has tallied
The LIU program is familiar with the atmosphere in Rec Hall. This will be the
fourth time that the Blackbirds have played at Penn State in the NCAA Tournament.
They were defeated by Penn State in 2005, 2006, and 2008.
Although LIU is not ranked in the top 25, the Nittany Lions are not overlooking
their opponent's talent.
"One of the most important things is that coach always comes into the game
thinking that this is going to be the toughest game we play," McClendon said.
"He makes us think that so when we get out there, we don't underestimate
anybody that we play. It keeps us on top of our stuff."
The match on Friday night puts a lot of pressure on junior setter Micha Hancock
because this postseason is the last shot for the senior class, but it's a "fun,
anxious pressure," she said.
"I know that we're a talented group and I know that if we play well, we're
going to be hard to stop. So it's just up to us. We have to put it out there on
the court," Hancock said.
This senior class has three years of experience in the NCAA Tournament,
including being part of a national championship team in 2010. Having experience
can be to the team's advantage because the players know what to expect out of
the tournament. Senior middle hitter Katie Slay said this year's postseason
feels different for these seniors, however, because they are the ones setting
"Our freshman year, when we were the young ones, there were older people on the
team with lots of experience, and we were able to relax and do whatever they
did and just follow their lead," Slay said.
"Now that we're the experienced players, it's our job to set the tone
for the team and keep everyone relaxed. It's important that we put our
experience to work."
McClendon said playing tough matches this season, like the match against
Nebraska last weekend, has prepared them for the postseason because playing in
a gym with a large crowd against a good team is very similar to how the
tournament is. The Nebraska match taught the team a valuable lesson just in
time for the post season.
"[The Nebraska match] was important for us because we were down by a couple
points and we didn't give up. We could have easily just said, 'Okay, next
game.' But we grinded it out and we stuck in it, and we ended up tying the game
and then winning both of those third and fourth sets," Slay said. "That was a
really good learning experience for us."
The team is feeling confident heading into the postseason after playing a tough
Big Ten season, but the players know that they still have to work hard because
they will playing talented teams in the tournament.
"We haven't reached our peak yet, and that's the biggest thing for us because that
means we still have a way to go to get better. But at the same time, we've done
a lot better playing the group, team game," McClendon said. "At Nebraska, we
played our best team-volleyball, where not all of us played great, but at the
same time, we all stepped up at certain points in the match and then we won the
The No. 2-ranked Nittany Lions kick their postseason off against LIU on Friday
at 7:30 p.m. in Rec Hall.
"It's our last [NCAA Tournament]. We want to go out with a bang," senior Ariel
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Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
'Tis the season for giving thanks, and Penn State Athletics would like to
take an opportunity to say thank you to the loyal fans on Thanksgiving.
As you sit down with family and friends to eat your traditional meal while the
Lions and Cowboys host their annual Thanksgiving day home games, Penn State
Athletics would like to thank you, the fans, for the unrivaled support you give
every team on campus. Penn State's teams
would not be the same without the greatest fans in college sports.
As a token of their appreciation, several student-athletes from teams on campus
would like to say thank you and Happy Thanksgiving for the support you give
them throughout the athletic season.
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When the six seniors first came to Penn State and went through preseason
their freshman year, they never thought they would make it through four years.
However, with senior night here - the four years went by fast as it's a
bittersweet time for the players who started playing
the sport at such a young age.
With only four
regular season matches left in their collegiate careers, these seniors want to
end their senior year the way that they started their freshman year - with a
"It's a full
progression and evolution for them," head coach Russ Rose said. "All of those
guys have had a major impact on the program. Despite the fact I'm hard on them
all the time - soon they'll be done. We're graduating three people who have
started for four years. We haven't had that many kids who have started for four
years in the 35 years I've been here."
Take a closer look
at each of the senior's journey through their
collegiate career as a Nittany Lion and their
thoughts as their time comes to a close.
8 Erica Denney
Coming out of high
school as a member of an undefeated team (31-0) and traveling to the 2009 World
Championships as a member of the youth national team, Erica Denny faced an
injury and took a redshirt her freshman year. In her second year with the
Nittany Lions, she made her collegiate debut against Rutgers where she
registered a kill. During both her sophomore and junior years, she earned Academic
All-Big Ten and continued her junior year appearing in six matches and nine
sets. The Colorado native recorded her first start against DePaul in 2012.
15 Maggie Harding
Maggie Harding came
to Penn State from just a few miles away. As an active member of the Student
Athlete Advisory Board and captain for the season, Harding has proven to be one
of the strongest leaders on the team. At the NCAA Semi-finals Championship last year, she earned the Elite 89 Award after having
the top GPA of all of the student-athletes at
because it's a big time of the year and we have a lot coming up, but it's
bittersweet. I've been watching Penn State volleyball since I was five, so
knowing it's coming to an end is pretty tough. But knowing I was a part of it
and contributing what I can to the program is pretty cool."
All-Big Ten honors during her sophomore and junior year, Maddie Martin has
proven to be another strong leader in the senior class for the underclassmen to
follow. Making an immediate impact her freshman year, she played in 20 matches
and 29 sets. The outside hitter reached a career high hitting percentage at
Indiana in 2010 at .600. Her first two kills were against Villanova and she took
that momentum into a strong sophomore season where she played in 33 matches -
starting in 24 of them. During her junior season, she registered 51 kills, 14
aces, 71 digs and eight blocks. With only a few matches left, the Tampa, Fla.,
native cannot believe how fast the four years have gone by.
"It's weird - you
think during your freshman year while you're going through preseason that it's
never going to end. Looking back on it now - it went so fast. (Playing under Russ
Rose) is cool; he's such an amazing person and such an amazing coach. Knowing
we've played for a legend is just a great feeling."
The outside hitter
from Louisville, Ky., did not waste any time getting
adjusted to the college volleyball scene as she was named the 2010 AVCA
Division I National Freshman of the Year and started in all 37 matches. She was
also the only freshman to earn a spot on the 2010 AVCA All-American team.
McClendon continued to develop into the player she is today through her
sophomore year adding 2011 AVCA First Team All-America to the list of honors
and was the Unanimous Preseason All-Big Ten. During her junior year, she kept
her competitive edge going as she set a career high hitting percentage of .800
against Binghamton. She also hit a career high of 29 digs at Michigan proving to
be a versatile player. The outside hitter has made 247 kills and 239 digs this
season giving her an impressive total of 1,500 kills and a career total of
1,052 digs with four matches left before championship season.
"It doesn't feel
real - it's a sad moment but at the same time it's a good time to look back on
everything we've accomplished and where we want to end the season. There were
points where we were really low and points where we were really high and to see
us where we are now it's just crazy that we did
finish this together. That's probably one of the most important parts for me -
that we've been through thick and thin together."
1 Ariel Scott
Known as A. Scott
to the team, the outside hitter has developed into one of the key players for
the Nittany Lions. During her freshman year, she played in 20 matches gaining
experience early in her collegiate career. She went into her sophomore year and
was named AVCA Third Team All-America and Unanimous First Team All-Big Ten. The
New Jersey native was second on the team with 418 kills for the 2011 season.
Scott added even more honors to the list making AVCA First Team All-American
and Big Ten Player of the Year with her strong performances during her junior
year. She set a career high of 85 attacks against Stanford during that season.
Registering 244 kills so far this season, Scott totals 1,274 kills for her
"It's really crazy
seeing how far we've come. It's bittersweet because we made it, but it's kind
of sad too since it's our last home game. Freshman year going from preseason
not knowing if we're going to make it, being the hardest thing we've ever done
and then winning that year. For me I went from not playing to being on the
court so it was definitely a big development year for me."
16 Katie Slay
four years as a Nittany Lion, she has proven to be one of the most consistent
and dependable players for the team. Her freshman year, she started in 11
matches and played in 23 where she totaled 54 kills and a hitting percentage of
.404. Her sophomore year, she did not hold anything back as she was named AVCA
Second Team All-America and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. She also hit
career highs with 16 kills against Wisconsin in 2011. During her junior year,
the Raleigh, N.C. native continued to put up impressive defensive performances.
She made a career high of 12 blocks against Michigan. This season, she has
added 19 solo blocks and 132 block assists to her career totals giving her 74
solo blocks and 497 block assists and a total of 571 blocks throughout her
"It's exciting - senior year I've just been trying to soak it all in.
Freshman year we just did whatever the upperclassmen did. I remember playing in
the national championship match and it didn't feel like a huge deal - I didn't
feel stressed out because the upperclassmen were dancing in the locker room and
doing whatever we usually did before any other match. As we've gotten older, we
had to set the bar for the team. We're the one's who have to put out a
Story By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior Katie Slay has just four matches left in the
regular season of college career. Throughout her four years at Penn State,
blocking has been her strongest suit.
For the second week in a row, Slay was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the
Week. In the matches against Wisconsin
and Minnesota, she had a total of 16 blocks, eight against each team. She
averaged 2.67 blocks per set. She is leading the Big Ten in blocks per set
(1.68) and ranks third in blocking nationally.
"[Blocking] is the main thing that I feel I can contribute. In every match,
[blocking] is equally important because it helps set up our whole defense,"
Slay said. "The diggers can play around the block when it's set up well, so I
think it's always a big factor."
The middle hitter has been working on her step approach this season to
improve her blocking.
"I've tried to work on not making false steps, so just waiting to move until
the setter sets the ball. That's something I've been trying to work on, that
way I can do a better job of getting more hitters and to set up a double
block," Slay said.
The team as a whole has been very strong defensively. The Nittany Lions
(24-2) are leading the conference in blocking. Head coach Russ Rose said the
team is dominant in blocking because of the size of the team.
"You have to put your team together with what you have. We have some
good-sized kids, so blocking is more important to us than if we were really
small and quick," Rose said. "It's something we spend time on and we recognize
that it's something we need to be better at."
The No. 2 Nittany Lions will face Northwestern on Friday. Blocking will important,
as Slay says it is in every match.
Northwestern (16-12) is on a two-game winning streak, having just defeated
No. 18 Purdue and Indiana last weekend. The team is ranked seventh in the Big
Ten. In their last matchup, Penn State defeated the Wildcats in three sets, but
the team has changed its lineup around.
"Everything is different. Northwestern has change their lineup a bit, but the
thing I've always like about Northwestern is that they are very bright. I've
always liked the fact that they play really hard," Rose said. "I think [Head
Coach] Keylor [Chan] does a really good job. They've got some kids that take
big swings and to me, they don't get down when things go bad."
Catch the match at Rec Hall on Friday at 7 p.m. (Big Ten Network- Student U).
On Saturday, the Nittany Lions will take on the Fighting Illini for the
team's annual Senior Night, to honor the six seniors on the team this year.
Senior night can be an emotional celebration, but the team plans to remain
focused throughout the game.
"We all know that we are playing good teams this weekend. Illinois is
ranked now and Northwestern received votes for the Top 25 poll, so we're
playing good teams," Slay said. "That should be motivation enough to stay
focused. Senior night is a little bit of a distraction, but at the same time,
its only as much as you make it."
Penn State last faced No. 20 Illinois in mid-October and defeated the Illini in five sets. The team is ranked fourth
in the conference and is currently on a five-game winning streak. Rose said
Illinois has three or four "terrific" attackers that Penn State also recruited.
Rose noted that the team is in a good position to finish the season on a
high note, but "it's never that easy," because Penn State's opponents are
playing for something, too.
"It's not like [Illinois] is going to say, 'Oh, great. It's senior night
for these guys, let's lay on our back and get a belly rub.' Illinois is in
fourth in the conference right now," Rose said. "[They are] still concerned
about making sure they're over .500 so that they are eligible. They're between
being eligible and being a Top 16 seed. That's how good they are."
Rose has been watching film on both Northwestern and Illinois, and is not
looking past this weekend.
"We're not thinking of anything other than being ready to play this
weekend. I'm not thinking about the tournament," Rose said.
The Illinois match is slated for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Rec Hall.
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Born just 30 miles away from State College in
Lewiston, Pa., Maggie Harding originally had no intentions of coming to Penn
State. However, after making the realization that she could still branch out
and do her own thing, she knew she couldn't pass up the opportunity to play as
a Nittany Lion.
"A lot of kids from my high school come here, so I wanted to go away and do
my own thing," Harding said. "But through the recruiting process, I would
always talk to Coach Rose and he gave me the opportunity to play here. I knew
if I made the effort to get to know other people and be my own person I could
still do that while coming to Penn State. You don't get that opportunity
anywhere else, so I knew I couldn't turn it down."
Four years later, there's no question as to whether or not she's branched
out and been her own person. Playing an integral role as a part of the team and
acting as Treasurer with the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) all while
maintaining a 4.0, Harding has never passed up an opportunity to get involved
beyond the volleyball team.
"I basically live with my team, which is great and I love it," Harding
said. "But when you meet athletes from other teams, you see a different
perspective on campus and on their sport and their majors. I love getting to
see how different we are but at the same time how similar in why we are here -
that we are Penn State athletes and that we represent our school along with so
many other people when we compete."
Her involvement both on and off the court have led to Harding's development
into a strong leadership role, which makes it easy for the younger players to
look up to her.
"She's involved in a lot of things, she has a 4.0, she's an incredibly hard
worker," head coach Russ Rose said. "If people elect to not follow that sort of
individual, then they must have some challenges themselves. All of the things
Maggie does are things that would warrant people's respect."
Coach Rose named Harding captain for this season, but it's not just about
one person on the team with a title. It's about several players coming together
and leading by example through their experiences.
"Leaders emerge, captains are appointed," Rose said. "When you have five or
six older players they should be responsible for what the needs of the team are
- we shouldn't have a person who steps up and reminds the team what it is to be
a college athlete or what they're responsibilities are, but certainly Maggie is
a really good role model and a person that takes those sort of things really
With Harding's passion and devotion to the sport, the title wasn't as
important to her as making an impact on the team she's grown to love.
"I was very honored when coach named that," Harding said. "I told him it
didn't matter to me what the title was. I didn't care if he named me captain or
not - I was obviously going to do the same stuff. Everybody on the team has something
to contribute and that's what he felt like giving me so I'm just honored."
The leadership she shows in front of her teammates definitely doesn't go
unnoticed. Even before sophomore Lacey Fuller was on the team, she noticed how
invested in the program she was.
"When I was a recruit, I remember her going out of her way to make me feel
comfortable," Fuller said. "Maggie is a selfless person and is always trying to
help the team. She comes to practice with energy and if were not doing well
she'll bring us together and try to get us back on track. She's very invested
in our team and every player and just wants the best for all of us."
Like many players on the team, academics have become a priority for Harding
since coming to Penn State. Last year at NCAA national semifinals Harding was
the recipient of the Elite 89 Award. The award was given to honor the
student-athlete who has the highest cumulative grade-point average and is
participating at the finals for each of the NCAA's 89 competitions.
"It was really neat," Harding said. "I work hard in school, but everyone on
our team definitely does. For me, it wouldn't have happened if my team didn't
make it to the Final Four. It was an honor for me, but my whole team is what
made it happen."
Achieving the Elite 89 Award, attending high school at State College Area
High School just minutes away from Penn State, and her involvement in SAAB all
make her a unique student-athlete. But adding the fact that 10 of her relatives
attended the same university makes her unlike any other student-athlete. Of her
10 relatives, four of them were also athletes.
"It's awesome to be able to say my grandpa, my step-grandpa, my great
uncle, my dad were all on teams here and just to be a part of that. When you're
here as a student-athlete now, you feel part of a big student-athlete family,"
Harding said. "Knowing that they were a part of that family too makes it pretty
neat to follow in their footsteps."
Knowing the history behind the program and having the opportunity to
contribute to the future of the program has been the most rewarding experience
"There are 38 years of women who played before us and we know that they all
played in South Gym on the same floorboards, the same nets. We're doing the
same drills as these women who came before us and built the program who put the
banners up that we look at everyday," Harding said. "So just being a part of
that tradition and history and hopefully adding whatever I can to contribute to
it for the future is the best part."
With three years and a few months of playing as a Nittany Lion behind her,
the season coming to a close is a bittersweet feeling.
"I like my major and I'm excited to move on and start a career, but I've
been playing volleyball since fifth grade so it's sad," Harding said. "I grew
up watching it here so getting to play here has been so cool. Knowing that I
always got to be apart of it and when I move on, I'll still have been a part of
it - so that's awesome."
By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Nia Grant's improvement this season cannot be
ignored. The junior outside hitter went from not starting matches to being the
leading hitter in conference matches in the Big Ten. Last weekend, Grant
recorded a .727 hitting percentage against Purdue.
Grant's improvement has not gone unnoticed amongst her teammates, either.
"Lately, Nia has been really good at scoring points for us and bringing
energy. Hopefully she keeps doing that. It has really helped us out," junior
defensive specialist Lacey Fuller said.
Grant said she has improved on her consistency the most this season. She
has been working on keeping her game at the same level all of the time, rather
than being high and low through the match. She added that collectively, the
team has shown improvement in being more consistent throughout the entire match.
"We're learning how to finish games. Before, we would start the game well
and then drift off, but I think we've been starting games well and ending games
well," Grant said.
Penn State women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose is hopeful that Grant will
continue to be as aggressive this weekend.
"Nia has made really good strides. She is serving well, she makes plays in
the back row, and she's leading the conference in hitting," Rose said.
The Nittany Lions (22-2) will match up against No. 14 Wisconsin on Friday
night in Madison. Wisconsin is 8-6 in the Big Ten. Penn State is 13-1. The
Badgers are coming off a conference win against Iowa. Rose said the team is an
incredibly aggressive, defensive team that is playing well with an offensive
"Wisconsin's back row is the best defense in the country. They always have
two or three kids on the floor that are just great defensive players," Rose
said. "You have to be patient. You have to weather the storm of them making
great plays and keeping the rally alive and doing the things that have enabled
them to have a good season."
The No. 2 Nittany Lions will face No. 11 Minnesota on Saturday night at
8:30 in Minneapolis. The Golden Gophers are 10-4 in the Big Ten, and are 9-1 at
home. Minnesota lost to Nebraska last weekend. Rose said he is sure that the
Gophers will be playing better this weekend, with a game plan that's different
than the last time they played Penn State.
"Minnesota was a game out of second place last week (playing with Nebraska
for second place). We played Minnesota last year in the finals of regionals to
go the Final Four, so we know how good Minnesota is, how good the players are
and how difficult it is to play on their home court," Rose said.
Rose and Grant agreed that blocking is the aspect of Grant's game that
needs the most work. Blocking will be crucial this weekend against both
Wisconsin and Minnesota. When the Nittany Lions take on Minnesota, they will
have to come prepared to block Minnesota senior middle hitter Tori Dixon. Dixon
has tallied 346 kills this season.
"The last time we matched up with Minnesota, Dixon, who is an incredible
talent, manhandled (Grant) a little bit. I'm interested to see if Nia puts in a
different effort this time," Rose said.
"I think everybody is going to come at us with a little bit of aggression,
but we should be doing the same thing to everybody," Grant said.
Her goal for this season is likely to match many of her teammates'.
"I just want to win a national championship. Whatever I have to do to make
that happen, that's what I'm willing to do," Grant said.