No. 1 Women's Volleyball Travels to Texas for Nike Big Four
Sep 5, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The top-ranked Penn State women's volleyball team (2-0) hits the road this weekend for its first road trip of the season, traveling to Austin, Texas to compete in the Nike Big Four tournament, hosted by Texas. The Nittany Lions will matchup against the No. 6 Longhorns on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 2 p.m. ET, and return to action the next day, Sunday, Sept. 8 at 11 a.m. ET to face No. 8 Florida. All matches will be held in Gregory Gym and broadcast live on the Longhorn Network.
This season also marks the fourth and final year of the round-robin tournament between Stanford, Florida, Texas and Penn State. Regarded as one of the most highly anticipated and competitive tournament of the seasons, this year's Nike Big Four is the highest ranked in the history of the event with PSU ranked No. 1, Stanford No. 2, Texas No. 6 and Florida at No. 8.
PENN STATE INVITATIONAL IN REVIEW
The Penn State women's volleyball team kicked off the 2013 campaign in winning fashion, picking up three straight-set victories to capture the Penn State Invitational title. The Nittany Lions opened the weekend with a 3-0 win against Dabrowa, a top professional team from Poland. PSU returned the next day to claim back-to-back victories against Syracuse and No. 19 Louisville in straight sets. Junior Micha Hancock notched a match-high eight aces against the Orange, while senior Ariel Scott and redshirt freshman Paulina Prieto Cerame both recorded double-digit kills against the Cardinals.
PENN STATE VS. NO 6 TEXAS
Penn State is 11-7 all-time against Texas, having split the last two meetings between the two clubs. In 2012, Penn State swept the Longhorns 25-22, 25-21, 25-22 in the Nike Big Four event at Rec Hall. In 2011, Texas squeezed a 23-25, 20-25, 25-19, 25-14, 10-15, five-set victory in the second year of the Nike Big Four. Prior to the loss in 2011, PSU had won the last 10 matches between the two, dating back to 11/24/1990.
SCOUTING THE LONGHORNS
The defending National Champion Longhorns return in 2013 with very much the same lineup as last year's team, having lost only one senior. So far, Texas is out to a 2-1 start this season. Despite being upset, 3-1, by No. 11 Hawaii in the season-opener, the Longhorns swept UTEP and rallied past San Diego, 3-2, to close out the weekend on a high note. Senior Baliey Webster is at the helm of the offense this year, leading the team with 39 kills, having registered a match-high 19 against Hawaii. A trio of other Longhorns have posted 20+ kills this season, including Khat Bell, Haley Eckerman and Pilar Victoria. Bell is leading the team in blocking as well, having posted 17 blocks in 2013, including eight vs. San Diego.
PENN STATE VS. NO. 8 FLORIDA
The Nittany Lions own the all-time series 7-3 against the Gators. The last time the two teams matched up was in the inaugural year of the Nike Big Four event - Penn State took the match, 3-1. Florida and PSU also met in 2009, with the Lions sweeping the Gators.
SCOUTING THE GATORS
Florida enters the weekend with a 3-0 record in 2013, having also captured the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational title during its opening weekend. In a 3-0 sweep against New Orleans, the Gators hit .500, on their way to another set of victories against LIU Brooklyn and Duke. Chloe Mann is leading the Florida offense with 35 kills. Across all three games, Mann hit .630, with one error. Behind Mann is sophomore Ziva Recek, who tallied 29 kills last weekend, highlighted by a 15-kill performance against LIU Brooklyn. Mann is also leading the squad in blocking with 12 blocks. On the defensive side of things, 2011 SEC All-Freshman team honoree Taylor Unroe is leading the squad with 37 digs.
ALL ALONE AT THE TOP
Following an undefeated opening weekend, the Nittany Lions earned the No. 1 ranking in the AVCA weekly Top 25 Coaches' Poll, while also picking up top rankings in the RichKern.com and Volleyball Magazine polls. In the AVCA poll, Penn State received 50-of-60 possible first-place votes, marking the first time the Lions have claimed the top spot since the 2012 season. Last year, Penn State spent six weeks atop the standings, including five consecutive weeks from Sept. 24 to Oct.22, before earning the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, Nov. 9.
The Nittany Lions are very familiar with the No. 1 ranking though, as this week marks the 76th time in history that Penn State has reached the top of the polls, having earned its first-ever No. 1 ranking Sept. 2, 1997.
Penn State hits the road once more next weekend, traveling to Fort Myers, Fla. to compete in the Florida Gulf Coast Tournament. While there, the Nittany Lions will face off against 2012 NCAA Tournament participants Marquette and Central Arkansas, before capping off the weekend with a matchup against FGCU.
Both single-game and season tickets to all Penn State women's volleyball matches are still on sale. Fans can purchase tickets by calling 1-800 NITTANY or by visiting the Athletics Ticket Office in the Bryce Jordan Center during normal business hours. The 2013 PSU women's volleyball season is presented by Rockvale Outlets.