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Nov. 17, 2007
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., Nov. 17, 2007 - For the fifth consecutive season, the Penn State women's volleyball team has captured the outright Big Ten title, sweeping Illinois (30-27, 30-22, 30-18) Saturday night at Rec Hall. The top-ranked Nittany Lions improve to 26-2 overall and 18-0 in conference action while the Fighting Illini fall to 15-13 and 7-11 in league action.
The Big Ten title is the 11th overall title for the Nittany Lions since joining the conference for the 1991 season, and the fifth consecutive outright title is unprecedented in women's volleyball in the league. So far in the last five championship seasons, Penn State has a Big Ten record of 91-7.
"It's a great feeling to win the Big Ten, but we have a lot more to accomplish," said junior middle hitter Christa Harmotto (Aliquippa, Pa.). "We have two tough matches on the road next week against Ohio State and Michigan before NCAAs begin. But tonight was very special since the Big Ten is so competitive. I'm very pleased with our performance and I'm glad we could win it again for our seniors."
Prior to the match, six seniors were honored for their contributions to Penn State and women's volleyball. Team manager Chris Raney, student assistant coach Maggie Case and student-athletes Kara Callahan, Ann Naylor, Kate Price and Melissa Walbridge earned recognition from the Rec Hall crowd.
"This was a much better effort offensively," said head coach Russ Rose, who earned his 19th career conference championship. "I thought Christa had a fine weekend and the team blocked well. You have to be happy any time you can reverse your fortunes against a team that you struggled against the first time around."
Harmotto led all players with 15 kills on .619 hitting as sophomore outside hitter Megan Hodge (Durham, N.C.) tallied 14 kills and junior outside hitter Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio) added in 10 kills. Freshman middle hitter Arielle Wilson (Broadview, Ill.) chipped in five kills on .667 hitting as redshirt freshman opposite Blair Brown (Purcellville, Va.) recorded three putaways. As a team, Penn State attacked at a .355 clip while holding Illinois to hitting .112.
Penn State also claimed the blocking battle, 16.0 to 6.0. Senior middle hitter Melissa Walbridge (Yardley, Pa.) racked up seven blocks in two games as Glass posted six stuffs, Harmotto and Brown each recorded five, Wilson chipped in four and Hodge notched three.
For Illinois, Laura DeBruler topped the squad with 10 kills as Vicki Brown notched eight. Lizzie Bazzetta dished out 29 assists and DeBruler and Ashley Edinger each recorded six digs. Brown led the blocking list with five stuffs.
Penn State jumped out to the 10-5 lead to start the match on a Harmotto and Brown block. A Harmotto kill and block from Walbridge and Glass pushed the score to 15-8 and a Hodge kill made it 17-12. But Illinois fought back, pulling within two at 21-19 on a Lion attack error and kill from Vicki Brown. A Fawcett kill put Penn State up 23-20 and the Lions maintained the slight advantage, going ahead 26-23 on a solo Walbridge block. But an Illini kill from McCulley and back to back blocks tied the game at 26-26 and Illinois took the 27-26 lead on a Bangert kill. But a Hodge kill and Holehouse service ace put the Lions back on top, 28-27, and Penn State closed out the game with a Harmotto kill and block from Harmotto and Hodge, 30-27. Harmotto posted seven kills on an errorless eight swings to hit .875 in the stanza as Walbridge recorded four blocks.
The second game remained even early on, with a Blair Brown kill and Fawcett ace giving Penn State the 13-11 lead. Illinois fought back to tie the score at 14-14 and four ties ensued before an Illini service error and a Fawcett ace pushed Penn State up 20-18. The teams traded points twice and strong serving from D'Errico and two Hodge kills aided the Lions in grabbing the next four points to take the 26-20 lead. A Fawcett kill and Callahan ace ended the game, 30-22.
Penn State jumped out on top early, going ahead 9-4 on kills form Wilson and Fawcett. Two Harmotto kills pushed the advantage to 17-9 and a block from Wilson and Brown gave Penn State the 21-11 lead. Two more Wilson kills made it 25-12 and two Harmotto kills extended the lead to 28-16 before a Wilson and Glass block and a Wilson kill ended the game, 30-18.
The Nittany Lions close out the Big Ten schedule on the road next week, facing Ohio State on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 8:00 p.m. in a match that will be televised live on the Big Ten Network. Penn State then travels to Michigan to take on the Wolverines on Saturday, Nov. 24 at 5:00 p.m. The Big Ten Network will also televise that match, but beginning at 6:00 p.m. ET.
The NCAA selection show is slated for Sunday, Nov. 25 at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPNU. The First and Second Rounds of the NCAA Championship will be held on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 30-Dec. 1 at campus sites, and Rec Hall will host one of four NCAA Regional Championships on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7-8. Friday's semifinal matches are scheduled for 5:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., with the winners of each contest squaring off on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. live on ESPNU. The winners of each of the four NCAA Regionals travel to Sacramento, Calif., for the National Semifinals on Thursday, Dec. 13, with the National Championship match scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 15.
For more information on the Penn State women's volleyball team, please visit http://www.GoPSUsports.com.