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NCAA Volleyball Tournament Central: Lions Open at Home

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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 Rec Hall.

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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.



VIDEO: NCAA Tournament Player Preview Interviews



VIDEO: NCAA Tournament Coach Aird Preview Interview



First and Second Round Statistical Rundown

 

Penn State

Binghamton

Record

29-2

13-17

RPI

2

250

Team Hitting Percentage

.305

.215

Opponent Hitting Percentage

.134

.218

Blocks Per Set

2.70 per set

1.8 per set

Top Attacker

Scott - 3.69 kills per set

Partaleva - 3.68 kills per set

Top Blocker

Slay - 1.39 blocks per set

Vickers - 0.88 blocks per set

Top Defensive Specialist

Gonzalez - 3.55 digs per set

Ortiz - 4.69 digs per set



 

Yale

Bowling Green

Record

18-5

21-10

RPI

66

53

Hitting Percentage

.240

.209

Opponent Hitting Percentage

.150

.182

Blocks Per Set

2.20

2.30

Top Attacker

Rogers - 3.00 kills per set

Penrod - 3.85 kills per set

Top Blocker

Wessels - .97 blocks per set

Skinner - 1.19 blocks per set

Top Defensive Specialist

Rudnick - 4.76 digs per set

Dunn - 4.41 digs per set

 


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.

8132073.jpegBut 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 night.

"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 another.

"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."  

 



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Lions Sweep Spartans in Regular Season Finale

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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 block.

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.

Thank You, Seniors!

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Mak--
You have always been someone I could talk to about anything and get advice from. You were my road roomie last year and helped show me the ropes when I was a freshman. This year especially you have meant so much to me. I know I can rely on you to laugh at my jokes, and I am glad to be your sounding board anytime! I'd say our senses of humor match pretty well, and I don't ever want you to not be around. But, I know your charm and nutty personality will land you with an awesome career and you'll do fantastic things. I will only take part responsibility in your successes :)
Love you-- Magaggie


Carp--
I consider it a privilege to have had the opportunity to play with you for three years. Not only have you taught me about the game and helped me see what it is to be a part of the Penn State volleyball tradition, your outgoing, energetic, loving personality is inspirational. But we do have a very skilled ability to harmonize our singing...minus the having voices part...you must be rubbing off. There's no one that could possibly replace you as my stretching buddy, but I will try my best to pass down your looney-ness. And you will always be appreciated.
Love you-- Farmer Ted

Marika-
You have been such a great teammate to me the years I've gotten to spend with you. You are always someone I know I can talk to. You have a great heart, and you're a hell of a player on the court. You have given me key advice at times and I wont ever forget it. I hate to see you leave, but I know you are going places and you will succeed at whatever you choose to do. You will be missed dearly but we will keep in touch, LOVE YOU TWIN :)

-Micha

Carp-
The thing I like about you most is there is nothing that can bring you down. You always are having fun no matter what it is, and I know its hard but its that great optimistic view you have. The days I cant seem to find a reason to be upbeat you're always there to lend your hand. On top of that you've been a great teammate, talking to us and giving me info from the sidelines. You are so fun to play with and I'm grateful I could learn from you, you and your positive attitude will be missed. Love you girl!

-Micha

Marika & Carp,

I know y'all always stress to all of our team that we need to enjoy and take advantage of our time hear because it goes by faster than we could imagine. I can honestly say these past two seasons have made me realize just that. I could've never imagined that the time would come so quickly for me to be writing y'alls senior thank you notes. The two of you have made such an impact on my time here at Penn State so far. Y'all have taught me what Penn State Volleyball is truly supposed to be about. The dedication and effort the two of you put into making this team better doesn't go unnoticed. Not having both of you around this team next season is going to be tough, but I know that y'all are taking the next step in bettering your lives. All that I ask is that the two of you go out into the world and make an impact on the next group of people y'all surround yourself with as you did with me. Thank you for everything!

-Dom

Carp,
Thanks for being so supportive this year. You set a great example everyday at practice by how hard you compete and how much the team means to you. Thanks for helping us as freshman find our way here at PSU and as members of the team. You were the player I was most looking forword to playing with here at PSU, and the player I enjoy playing with the most. I've learned a lot from you. I'll really miss you next year even though I won't have to worry about what I say:) Lot's of luck in the future.

-Lara

Marika,
Thanks for all the support and encouragement you given me this season. You were always looking out for us with classes and volleyball and it was good to know that you were available to help whenever we needed it, a.k.a. giving us rides over the summer:) It won't be the same without you next year. I'm going to miss you tons! Best of luck in the future.

-Lara

Carp,
You are like family to me. I have gotten to know Penn State so well over the past few years and I honestly can't think of it without you. You are such a strong and compassionate leader that I find very appealing. Some days are tough, but they seem bearable with your contagious smile and personality. You are a truly great person with a heart as large as anyone for the game. You are one to always have another's back when they are struggling, or in our case "I got your leg, I got your leg." I wish you the best of luck in your future. I love you Carp!

-Megan

Mak,
You are one of the sweetest and most down-to-earth girls I have ever meet. You have a heart of gold and you are always someone who can give great advice. Your work ethic is one that I envy and strive to match every day. A compassionate and loving combination like yourself is hard to come by. I'm going miss you so much next you. You were a great leader and I wish you the best of luck in your future. I love you Makie!

-Megan

Kristin,
When I think back on my days as a recruit it is inevitable for you to be included in those memories. You made all my visits amazing ones and I want to thank you. It is because of those times you took to help me see what PSU was all about and to make sure I had a nice time that I am here at this amazing program. You have always told it like it is to me and helped me with good advice whenever I asked for it. I admire your love and pride for our school: I really believe you embody a true Penn State heart. You will be missed! P.S. My mom still calls you "la Boricua" haha ;)

-Paulina

Mak,

I'll get right to the point, you are one of the best and most loyal teammates I have ever had. You have always been there for me no matter what. Starting with my official visit when you went to dinner with Coach and I, you let me stay in your house, and you even took me to the airport at 4 am in the morning! In spring when I got here early, you were there as well. When I got my wisdom teeth out, you and Ryan (who I will give a huge shout out for being so nice, genuine, and awesome! I am so grateful for you as well. For all your help, advice and genuine talks!) took great care of me, and let me stay in your house again. In the summer, when you refused to let us freshman walk to the track and picked us up at 6 am for every conditioning. In fall, with my injury you have always made sure to include me in everything and ask me how I am doing and trying to help in any way you can. Teaching me all about the Latvian culture and language which I am now so interested in. All in all, what I am trying to say is that you are such a genuine, great and caring person. Never afraid to stand up for what is right and for the people you care about. One of the best teammates I have ever had. So hardworking, strong and a true role model. You have touched my heart and I will miss you greatly. Lastly, I want to thank Andra and Woonie for doing an amazing job of raising such a great woman with great values and heart. Your parents have been amazing with me as well. I will greatly miss them as well and hope they come to see our games after you've graduated. I will end with a quote: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." I will never forget how you've made me feel. Thank you.

-Paulina

I consider Mak the big sister that I never had. Not only was her family more than extremely welcoming to let me into the Penn State Family, but Marika especially was there every step of the way.

From the first day of even being a recruit, Mak was the first one to shake my hand and introduce herself to me and my entire family, then following always came Carp with the big bear tackle.

As I was the last of the freshman to get to Penn State due to nationals, I missed the team vacation and trip to Mak's beach house. However Mak of course didn't forget to include me as much as she could. In fact, I remember scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook to see a picture of the entire team in NYC with a caption, " We miss you Kendall". I eagerly showed my mom and with big watery eyes said look mom! My new family, see! Don't worry they'll take care of me".

Later, once finally united with the team, Mak always joked to Lara and I, " Yay my little blondies. We've got to stick together"... and so we have!

She always took one for the team, literally, probably getting hit in the head more than anybody else and myself right there behind her. But in all seriousness, I have never met, or played with a better team player. Especially at a program like this, we are all so talented, aggressive, and eager to get our playing time that sometimes the little green monster can put blinders on us and get the better of us. Although she understands like the rest of us, that every day is always a competition, she never loses the more important fact in that, we are teammates first. Mak has always been willing to do anything for the betterment of the team... even willing to be my roommate and put up with my constant snoring and sleep talk. All kidding beside, I think she is one of the strongest most amazing girls I have ever played with and for that I am so thankful. Thank you for being one of the best senior teammates a girl could ask for. I hope one day our future freshmen can think as highly of me as I do you.
Best of Luck in the Future, I know you will go far and brighten the world with your talent and beauty.

Love you Mak!

B side Baby!

-Kenny (Kendall)

Carp-
If I had to choose one thing that I was going to take away from meeting a person like Carp it would be, "Make sure you are doing what makes you happy".

During preseason, while at dinner at her favorite, Texas Roadhouse I sat there exhausted and starving after a long 3 session day of practice. We had all had a tough day, but you would have never guessed so once you took a look at Carp beaming sitting across from me and humming along as she buttered her rolls. I kind of just stared at her, wondering how on earth this girl is literally the energizer bunny. And she asked me, "Kendall, what makes you happy?" What seems like a simple question, actually caught me off guard. I've never been asked that before. Anytime before that I might have simply said, "Well volleyball, duh." But at the time, I was hating my body, the thought of another practice, or even the thought of doing anything else but sleeping. Carp then gave some examples and rambled on about how she loves leaving fun little post it notes for people, never the boring yellow ones, but the fun shapes and fun colors, and also watching people smile when they read happy or cute text messages. "The little things you know, it's actually what get you through the big hard things".

In wraps, if there were a person I wish everyone could have or even just meet for a second in their lives, it would be Carp. I promise you, you will never walk away the same or without a smile and a little giggle in your heart.

So I would like to thank her for the best hugs, the best laughs, for all of the free and contagious smiles, and for making me feel at home and realizing that I do belong here.

While looking through some quotes, I just laughed at a couple because I could totally see her saying these...
- "It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" - A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
- "Oh, I love hugging. I wish I was an octopus, so I could hug 10 people at a time!" - Drew Barrymore
- "Cats are magical. . .the more you pet them the longer you both live."
- "Friends are like balloons, if you let them go, you can't get them back, So I have tied you to my heart....So that I will never lose you".

Luvv you Carp! - Keep shining your smile and awesomeness on this World

-Ken

Carp,
I have really enjoyed playing with you for the past 2 years. You are a great leader on and off the court, and I am going to miss your positive energy. You have been so dedicated to this program and I want to make this season last as long as it possibly can for you.

Peace and BLESSANGSS,
Lacey Ann Fuller the 1rst.

Makiii,
I am really going to miss you! You always are smiling and going hard in practice. You are the person who got me through preseason. I don't know where I would be now without our pregame eiffel towers. I hope we finish this season out with a win!

Sincerely,
LAY-C

Kristin (Carp),
I honestly can not believe it has already been three seasons playing with you. Just by being around you on the court and listening to you talk I have learned more then I could have ever imagined from a single teammate. You have been such an amazing role model for the pride and hard work that this program is all about. I know that you had your good and bad times when it came to playing but you always kept your head held high and smile on your face. You honestly don't know how much that helped me to stay positive through even the most frustrating of times.

As far as this year being your roommate I have had an absolute blast. Some of the crazy things that you Dom and I have gotten ourselves into or even the conversations we have had will be things I will never forget. I couldn't ask for a more drama free and easy going group, and it's just a perk that we have so much fun!

I am seriously going to miss you come next year. I hope that you get to do all the great things that you want to and more. You really are an amazing person and I am going to miss you both on the court and at home more then you can even imagine.

I Love You!!!!
Erica

Marika,
You are truly an incredible individual do you know that? You are one of the very few, if not the only person, who honestly could say nothing bad about any other individual. Even if you have ever right to be angry with someone you always have his or her back. That is truly the definition of a great friend. All you want to do is help in every way that you can and the energy you put forth, even when you are downright exhausted, is admirable in every way possible. I love playing with you, and girl when we are clicking we just can't be stopped! Watching you improve just from my freshman year to now has been so much fun I'm so proud of you and I honestly don't know how I will get through practice without you. I really wish you luck in everything that you plan on doing in the future and just know that I am supporting you in every way that I can. I will miss you so, so much and all I have to say is you had better come back and visit!!!

I Love You!!!!
Erica

Kristin,
To the person who always kept me smiling, next year won't be the same without you. Your positive attitude and infectious smile meant more than you'll ever know. I remember the first day I met you at a club tournament when we were in high school and your energy was just as infectious then as it is now. My parents and I fell in love with your personality that day and it has just grown more and more as the years have gone by. Practice surely won't be as comical without your inappropriate jokes and one-liners. You are the best all-around player I've ever been around and will truly miss you next year. Good luck in anything and everything that you encounter. Your next employer will be very lucky to have such a great person like you working for them.

Much love,
Maddie

Marika,
Summer days won't be the same without the struggles of putting together our pool for the backyard and the endless days of sunbathing on the lawn chairs. You are truly one of the best teammates I have ever played with. You care so much about the team and each one of us. You helped so much in my decision to come to Penn State and from then on I knew we were going to be great friends. Next year won't be the same without you but I know your going to become a great businesswoman like your mom and have many great things yet to come.

Much love,
Maddie

VIDEO: Happy Thanksgiving from Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 'Tis the season for giving thanks, and the 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.

Make sure to get out and support the Penn State men's basketball (4:30 p.m.) and women's soccer teams (7 p.m.) on Friday and the football (3:30 p.m.) and women's volleyball (8 p.m.) teams on Saturday in home games during this holiday weekend.

As a token of their appreciation, several members of teams on campus would like to say thank you and Happy Thanksgiving for the support you give them throughout the athletic season.

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.


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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, GoPSUsports.com 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, GoPSUsports.com 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, GoPSUsports.com 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."