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Dec. 15, 2007
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The No. 1 Penn State women's volleyball team captured the program's second NCAA Championship tonight, winning a dramatic five-game final, 3-2, against No. 4 Stanford in Arco Arena.
The Nittany Lions won the thriller, 30-25, 30-26, 23-20, 19-30, 15-8, posting their 26th consecutive victory since a five-game loss to the Cardinal exactly three months ago. Penn State finished the season with a superlative 34-2 record, bringing the championship trophy back to Happy Valley to join the program's 1999 crown.
"We're awfully excited," stated Russ Rose, the 2007 AVCA National Coach of the Year and Hall of Fame inductee earlier in the week. "We're thrilled for our fans and everyone that cares about Penn State."
"It's an amazing feeling," said junior outside hitter Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio). "This year's team was so determined. After the fourth game we were determined to get our focus back."
After taking a 2-0 lead, Penn State saw the top-seeded Stanford rally to tie the match, 2-2. The Cardinal took a 4-3 lead in the decisive Game 5, but the Nittany Lions scored seven consecutive points to take control at 10-4. Junior middle hitter Christa Harmotto (Aliquippa, Pa.) and sophomore setter Alisha Glass (Leland, Mich.) each had two kills during the critical run.
Kills by Fawcett and freshman middle hitter Arielle Wilson (Broadview, Ill.) pushed Penn State's lead to 13-7. A block by Wilson and freshman opposite Blair Brown (Purcellville, Va.) made it 14-8. The Nittany Lions immediately seized the opportunity on their first match point, as sophomore outside hitter Megan Hodge (Durham, N.C.) delivered her 26th kill of the match, setting off jubilation among the Nittany Lions.
Penn State won Game 1, 30-25. Stanford led 15-13, but the Nittany Lions scored five consecutive points to take a 18-15 lead. The game was tied at 22-22, but Penn State took the lead for good on a service error by the Cardinal and a kill by Harmotto. A block by Fawcett made it 29-24 and she delivered the game-winning kill for the 30-25 margin. Penn State hit .263 in the opening game and Stanford hit .159.
The Nittany Lions captured Game 2, 30-26. Penn State took the lead for good on a Fawcett kill to make it 13-12. Another Fawcett kill made it 29-25 and a block by Glass and Harmotto gave the Lions the 30-26 win and a 2-0 lead. Penn State hit .525 in the game, while the Cardinal hit .357.
Stanford won Game 3, 30-23, snapping a streak of 17 consecutive winning games for the Nittany Lions in the 2007 NCAA Tournament. Penn State took its last lead at 7-6 on a block by freshman middle hitter Arielle Wilson (Broadview, Ill.), but the Cardinal took the lead for good at 9-8.
"We won the match, we won the national championship and talk to the players, they're the ones that did it."
Head Coach Russ Rose
The Cardinal won Game 4, 30-19, to force the decisive fifth game.
The national championship match was the fifth in program history for the Nittany Lions, as they also advanced in 1993, 1997, 1998 and 1999, capturing the title in 1999. Penn State defeated Stanford (15-2, 15-10, 15-7) on Dec. 18, 1999 in Honolulu, Hawaii, to give the Lions their first NCAA Championship.
Penn State improved to 54-25 in the NCAA Tournament and is one of two teams - with the other being the Cardinal - to appear in every postseason event since its inception in 1981.
The two teams met earlier this season in New Haven, Conn., with Stanford outlasting Penn State in five games (30-23, 23-30, 27-30, 30-28, 15-9) on Sept. 15. The Nittany Lions had won 25 consecutive matches since the loss entering tonight's match, including a 20-0 record in winning a fifth consecutive Big Ten Championship.
The NCAA Championship match featured eight 2007 AVCA All-Americans, including first teamers Fawcett, Hodge and Harmotto for Penn State and Bryn Kehoe, Foluke Akinradewo and Cynthia Barboza for Stanford. Penn State's Glass and Stanford's Alix Klineman both earned second team honors.
Stanford was playing less than 120 miles from Arco Arena, while the Nittany Lions traveled more than 2,300 miles to capture the program's second NCAA Championship.
For more information on the Penn State women's volleyball team, please visit www.GoPSUsports.com.