No. 5 Women¡¯s Volleyball Clinches Fourth Straight Outright Big Ten Title
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA.; November 25, 2006 - The fifth-ranked Penn State women¡¯s volleyball team swept Northwestern (30-21, 30-27, 30-22) Saturday night to clinch its fourth consecutive Big Ten title and its 10th in 16 years since joining the league. Even more, this championship made history as the squad became the first-ever to win four straight outright Big Ten titles. The Nittany Lions improve to 29-2 and end the conference season with an 18-2 record while the Wildcats fall to 14-15 and 8-12 in league action.
¡°It¡¯s a great acknowledgement for the players to win four straight Big Ten titles,¡± said head coach Russ Rose. ¡°At the beginning of the year I said that there was enough parity in the league that the winning team could lose two or three matches.¡±
Penn State also captured four consecutive Big Ten titles from 1996-99 but shared the 1996 crown with Michigan State and the 1997 title with Wisconsin. The only other program to win more than two consecutive league titles was Illinois, whose 1986-88 teams captured three solo titles.
The Big Ten title was Penn State's 50th overall conference championship or tournament title since starting Big Ten competition in 1991-92. The Nittany Lions won a school record six Big Ten crowns in 2005-06 and women's volleyball and women's soccer (season/ tournament) have added three titles this fall.
Prior to the match, seniors Kris Brown, Ashley Fidler and Cassy Salyer were honored for their contributions to the Penn State women¡¯s volleyball program.
Freshman Megan Hodge (Durham, N.C.) led Penn State against Northwestern with 18 kills on .367 hitting as sophomore Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio) provided 13 kills. Junior Melissa Walbridge (Yardley, Pa.) and senior Cassy Salyer (Aurora, Colo.) both tallied eight kills as sophomore Christa Harmotto (Aliquippa, Pa.) chipped in seven. As a team, the Nittany Lions attacked at a .352 clip while holding the Wildcats to hitting .180.
Freshman setter Alisha Glass (Leland, Mich.) dished out 47 assists and added three kills and seven digs as Hodge recorded her ninth career double-double with a match-high 11 digs. Junior Kate Price (Fraser, Mich.) chipped in seven digs and Fawcett and senior Ashley Fidler (Wauconda, Ill.) both posted six digs.
Penn State outblocked Northwestern, 11.0 to 8.0, led by Fawcett, Walbridge, Harmotto and Glass, who all provided four blocks.
Lindsay Anderson led the Wildcats with 12 kills as Julie Purcell posted 11.
Kills from Fawcett and Hodge, a Harmotto ace and a block by Fawcett and Walbridge put the Nittany Lions ahead 11-7 in the first game. Kills by Hodge and Walbridge along with a solo Fawcett stuff extended the score to 20-15 and another Fawcett putaway made the score 23-16. The squads traded points before a Salyer kill, an ace from senior Kris Brown (Wooster, Ohio) and a Northwestern attack error ended the game, 30-21.
Game two remained even early on with a Glass solo block and a double block by Glass and Harmotto putting Penn State ahead 15-13. Out of a Wildcat timeout, a Hodge ace continued the run. Following a Northwestern kill by Brittney Aldridge, a Fawcett kill sparked a 5-0 Nittany Lion run to put them ahead 21-14 capped by a Walbridge and Glass block. The ¡®Cats fought back to within one at 24-23 before a Hodge kill halted the run. The squads traded kills twice and an NU kill from Lindsay Anderson evened the score at 26-26. A solo Harmotto block and a Hodge kill put Penn State back on top, 28-26, and the squads traded errors before a Fawcett kill ended the game, 30-27.
The Nittany Lions came out of the gates in the third game on fire, going ahead 10-3 aided by seven kills. Putaways from Walbridge and Hodge pushed the score to 16-8 and a Harmotto and Hodge block made it 18-8. Another Harmotto kill put Penn State up 22-12 and a Salyer kill made it 24-17 before a Fawcett kill and Northwestern attack error ended the game, 30-22.
Penn State now awaits the NCAA Selection Show, which airs between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. Sunday on ESPNews. The first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament will be held at campus sites on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 1-2 with the Regionals taking place Dec. 8-9 at four sites (Austin, Texas; Gainesville, Fla.; Seattle, Wash.; Honolulu, Hawaii). The NCAA Championship Semifinals and Final are Dec. 14-16 in Omaha, Neb., at the Qwest Center.
For more information on the Penn State women¡¯s volleyball team, please visit www.GoPSUsports.com.