Oct. 17, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 4 Penn State women's volleyball team (14-2, 5-1) looks to extend its five-match winning streak on the road this weekend, traveling to Illinois (7-9, 3-3) and Northwestern (12-7, 4-3) for a pair of conference contests. The Nittany Lions will square off against the Fighting Illini Friday, Oct. 18 at 8 p.m. ET, before taking on the Wildcats in a Sunday matinee, slated for 2 p.m. ET.
Friday's matchup at Illinois will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network with Audrey Flaugh and Mike Wolf on the call.
MINNESOTA AND WISCONSIN IN REVIEW
Penn State improved its Big Ten winning streak to five straight after picking up a pair of wins against No. 11 Minnesota and No. 19 Wisconsin this past weekend. The Nittany Lions claimed a close 3-2 triumph against the Gophers in a mid-week match before concluding the weekend with a 3-0 win against the Badgers. Offensively, senior Ariel Scott led the team in kills, tallying 38, including a 25-kill performance against Minnesota. Seniors Deja McClendon and Katie Slay also totaled 20 or more kills on the week, led by Slay who combined for a squad-best .366 hitting clip.
On the defensive front, McClendon logged a team-high 33 digs, averaging 4.12 per frame, while junior Dominique Gonzalez registered 29 total digs. McClendon rounded out her all-around performance with eight blocks, including two solo blocks, while Slay led the team with 18 total blocks, averaging 2.25 per set.
The Last Meeting
November 8, 2012
University Park, Pa.
No. 2 Women's Volleyball Sweeps Illinois
The second-ranked Penn State women's volleyball team (24-2, 14-1 Big Ten) swept the Fighting Illini, 3-0 (25-17, 25-17, 25-14), Thursday evening at Rec Hall. The Nittany Lions out-served and out-blocked Illinois (11-14, 5-10 Big Ten) on their way to the victory.
PENN STATE VS. ILLINOIS
The Nittany Lions own a 39-8 all-time record against the Fighting Illini, dating back to Oct. 23, 1981 when the two teams first met. In the most recent pair of outings, Penn State defeated Illinois on the road in five before taking down the Illini in straight sets at home on Nov. 8, 2012. Prior to the two-game series in 2012, PSU lost both meetings involving Illinois, including a 3-0 decision on Nov. 11, 2011. The Nittany Lions have not surrendered a straight set loss to a conference opponent since.
SCOUTING THE FIGHTING ILLINI
Illinois heads into this weekend's Big Ten slate after splitting the last two matches on the road. The Fighting Illini lost a tough five-setter to then-No. 20 Purdue before bouncing back with a sweep at Indiana to move the team to 3-3 in the conference and 7-9 overall.
Jocelynn Birks is at the helm of the Illinois offense, pacing the squad with 3.95 kills per set, while setter Alexis Viliunas is leading the team with a .422 hitting clip, while also averaging 9.60 assists per set and 2.47 digs per frame. Defensively, Maddie Mayers is leading the blocking unit with 1.14 blocks per set, which ranks sixth in the Big Ten, while libero Jennifer Beltran has tallied 3.85 digs per frame, which also ranks sixth in the conference.
PENN STATE VS. NORTHWESTERN
PSU holds a 44-8 record in the all-time series against the Wildcats, having posted wins in the last 20 consecutive contests. Within the 20-match win streak dating back to Oct. 3, 2003, Penn State has posted straight set victories in 19 of the 20 outings. Inside the eight losses that the Nittany Lions have surrendered, only one has come at Rec Hall, with five occurring on the road and two at neutral sites.
SCOUTING THE WILDCATS
Northwestern enters the week looking to extend a two-match winning streak after capturing a pair of close five-set victories on the road at Indiana and then-No. 20 Purdue. With the two wins, the Wildcats improved to 3-3 in the Big Ten and 11-7 on the year. Northwestern takes on No. 17 Ohio State this Wednesday before facing Penn State in a Sunday matinee.
Stephanie Holthus is leading the NU offense averaging a team-high 4.04 kills per set, which ranks fifth in the conference. Katie Dutchman is also adding solid offensive contributions, averaging 3.00 kills per frame, with a .286 hitting clip. Freshman setter Caleigh Ryan has paced the Wildcats to a .234 hitting percentage in 2013, averaging 11.47 assists per set, which leads the Big Ten.
HANCOCK AND SLAY HIGHLIGHT BIG TEN WEEKLY AWARDS
Following a 2-0 weekend at home, senior Katie Slay and junior Micha Hancock earned a pair of conference weekly awards as Slay was tabbed the Big Ten Player of the Week and Hancock was named Setter of the Week. The selection is Hancock's second straight, while Slay's is her first of the season.
Slay earned her seventh career weekly award after leading the team with 18 blocks, averaging 2.25 per set. Slay also tallied 22 kills, registering a squad-best .366 hitting percentage. Hancock dished out 100 assists, averaging a Big Ten best, 12. 50 per frame, while also tallying 12 digs, one block and five kills.
ROSE ONE WIN AWAY FROM HISTORIC CAREER MILESTONE
The Penn State win against Yale marked head coach Russ Rose's 1,100th career victory. Adding on five more wins since hitting the mark, Rose is now 1,105- 176 all-time, which puts him just one win shy of tying UCLA head coach, Andy Banachowski's career record for second on the all-time list.
Earlier this season, Hawaii head coach Dave Shoji surpassed Banachowski's mark, to become the all-time leader in the category. With Banachowksi no longer active, both Rose and Shoji will continue to go head-to-head, battling for the top spot.
AMONG THE BEST IN THE NATION
Junior Micha Hancock is ranked second the nation in aces per set after leading the nation for the last five weeks straight, according the latest NCAA DI stats release. With a total of 41 aces this season, Hancock is averaging 0.72 per frame, which ranks first in the Big Ten.
With four aces against Eastern Kentucky, Hancock notched her 200th career service ace. Since then, she's improved her mark to 213 aces, which puts her just 22 shy of tying Ellen Hensler (1983-86) for first on the PSU all-time list.
A CLEAN SWEEP
Of the 16 matches the Nittany Lions have played this season, Penn State has finished off its opponent in straight sets 11 times, which amounts to 69 percent of the PSU victories this season. Of the 11 wins, nine of them were against non-conference foes, while two were against Big Ten opponents.
The Nittany Lions have combined for 163.0 total blocks in 2013, including 46 solo blocks. As a team, the 2.87 average per set ranks ninth nationally and first in the league. Katie Slay is leading the PSU blocking effort with 1.58 blocks per frame, which leads the Big Ten and ranks third nationally.
THAT'S SOME HEAVY HITTING
With a .461 hitting percentage on the year, senior Katie Slay is currently ranked seventh nationally in the category. Her mark also ranks second in the Big Ten conference. As a team, the Nittany Lions are hitting .314 which leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth in the nation.
NITTANY LIONS REMAIN NO. 4 IN AVCA WEEKLY TOP 25 POLL
After capturing wins in the last five consecutive matches, Penn State has remained at the No. 4 position in the latest AVCA Top 25 Coaches' Poll. The Nittany Lions have been ranked within the top five in every poll so far this 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 No. 1 ranking marks the 78th time in program history that Penn State has reached the top of the polls, having earned its first-ever No. 1 ranking Sept. 2, 1997.
Penn State returns home from the road next weekend, hosting Ohio State and Iowa in a pair of Big Ten showdowns. PSU will square off against the Buckeyes in a mid-week match Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. before taking on Iowa Saturday, Oct. 26. p.m.
Penn State will host its annual Dig Pink match to support families and victims of breast cancer. To donate to the Nittany Lions Dig Pink campaign, please visit https://www.side-out.org/cb/campaigns/campaign/6869.