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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