Posts tagged ‘women’s volleyball’
The busiest Penn State sports weekend of the semester was a bit of a letdown. There was some good news: the Nittany and Lady Lion basketball teams and sixth-ranked wrestling team opened their seasons with wins, and the No. 8 women’s volleyball team extended its Rec Hall unbeaten streak to 88 matches with sweeps of Wisconsin and No. 9 Illinois.
That was the good news.
There was disappointment but no shame as the field hockey and women’s soccer teams both fell to higher-ranked opponents in NCAA tournament play. The men’s soccer team, meanwhile, hosted the Big Ten tournament at Jeffrey Field, beating Northwestern in the opener and upsetting top-seeded Indiana in the semis to set up a meeting with Michigan in the final. We were blessed with unbelievable weather this weekend, so I took in both Friday’s semifinal and Sunday’s final.
I also took our camera; credit for whatever half-decent shots I got goes largely to our Nikon D40. Here’s one from Friday afternoon’s semifinal against IU. That’s Penn State midfielder Drew Cost (8) lining up a long-range shot. (Click to enlarge)
Jeffrey Field is one of my favorite places on campus to be in the fall. The sunsets up there can be gorgeous, and they made for some great shadows and color on the field. It’s also a nice backdrop for a fan looking contemplative over his vuvuzela.
Penn State lost the title game to Michigan, 4-1, a score that didn’t reflect how well Penn State played — the Nittany Lions actually outshot the Wolverines 23-16 on the day. Here’s one of those shots, a first-half attempt by freshman forward Jordan Tyler.
The Nittany Lions’ only goal came late in the first half, when Cost received a pass on the edge of the Michigan box, made a quick move to his right and shot low toward the far corner…
The keeper never had a chance.
The final score was a bummer, but at least the kids had a good time: That’s my son and my buddy Dave’s two boys clowning around at halftime.
Figured I’d end it with some cuteness.
The soccer team awaits confirmation of an NCAA at-large bid, to be announced Monday afternoon.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Alumni Council members got to see that second side of Rose on Friday afternoon, when he made a special guest appearance at their meeting. Sometimes Rose’s humor can be dry and deadpan, but he was laugh-out-loud funny standing at the podium in Robb Hall. The guy has the expert timing of a first-rate stand-up comic, and I can’t reproduce that here. But I hope you can still tell from these highlights that he did bring his A game:
We just wrapped up the first sports weekend of the fall semester, and in Happy Valley at least, the weather cooperated — it was beautiful up here. Results, on the field and the court, were mixed.
Down in Chapel Hill, N.C., the women’s volleyball team extended its NCAA-record win streak to 105 matches by going 3-0 at the Carolina Classic. The field hockey team, ranked 18th to start the season, opened with a 4-0 thrashing of No. 16 ODU before falling 3-0 to No. 3 Virginia. The No. 12 women’s soccer team started the season with a 1-1 draw against No. 15 Virginia before falling 2-1 to William & Mary.
Oh, and football? With the season opener just five days away, the preseason depth chart is out, but the quarterback position is still wide open. Obviously, it’s rare to be this close to the opening game and not know who’ll be under center, but as Mike Poorman ’82 points out, the fact that it could be a true freshman makes it that much more intriguing. I guess we’ll know soon enough.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
The three-time defending NCAA champion women’s volleyball team opens the season Friday at the Carolina Classic, facing host North Carolina at 8 p.m. Penn State is ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls — understandable given the team’s 103-match winning streak — but coach Russ Rose is skeptical. In an article Thursday in USA Today, the longtime Nittany Lion coach says his team is too unproven — having lost a couple of first-team All-Americans and boasting a roster with nine true freshman — to justify such a ranking. Of course, a couple of his returning players (and most of those incoming freshmen) were college or prep All-Americans last season, so maybe those poll voters know what they’re doing.
As for the tournament, Rose’s players should feel right at home in the opposing gym: The Triangle Chapter of the Alumni Association is inviting all Penn Staters in the area to meet up for a Friday afternoon happy hour before heading over to the game. If you’re within shouting distance of Chapel Hill, you’ve now got plans for Friday night.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
We knew that Megan Hodge was the best player on the best volleyball team in the nation last season — and maybe the last three seasons, all of which ended with Penn State national championships. Hodge ’10 won’t be around next year to extend the Nittany Lions’ streak of 102 straight victories, but her daunting legacy — she was a four-time first-team All-American — will be remembered for a long time. That’s all the more true after Hodge was named co-winner of the 2010 Honda-Broderick Cup, given annually to the collegiate woman athlete of the year. Hodge shares the award with UConn junior Maya Moore, start of the Huskies basketball team that has won 78 straight games and the last two NCAA championships.
There’s some good scene in this SI.com story about Hodge and Moore – arguably the most dominant individuals on the two most dominant college teams of their generation — chatting on the bus ride to Monday’s ceremony in Los Angeles, before they knew they’d be sharing the award. Afterward, Hodge said, “It kind of threw me for a loop when he said both of our names. It was definitely like a ‘Wow’ moment and unexpected, but still very exciting. It’s a very meaningful award.”
Hodge is the first Penn State student-athlete to win the Honda-Broderick award.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
One of the highlights of the Pittsburgh social scene is the annual Dapper Dan Dinner, which raises money for youth sports leagues through a dinner honoring Western Pennsylvania’s top sports figures. Among this year’s nominees for Sportswomen of the Year: the Penn State women’s volleyball team, which won its third consecutive NCAA championship in December.
The winner is chosen by a vote, so you can do your part by clicking here.
I’ve got a personal attachment to this. Dapper Dan is the charity arm of my hometown Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where I worked from 1994-2003, and while I always thought the event was great, it bugged me that the evening’s big award was Sportsman of the year. I felt like outstanding women athletes didn’t have much of a chance, and, well, I made a bit of a stink about it.
One year, I wrote a column suggesting that the committee had goofed in not choosing Suzie McConnell-Serio ’88, who had led the Cleveland Rockers on a run in the WNBA playoffs, as the winner. (I hope in making the case, I wasn’t too harsh on the winner: Joe Paterno.) One thing led to another, and since 1999, Dapper Dan has honored both a Sportsman and a Sportswoman of the Year. That’s a pretty small legacy, sure, but it’s one I’m proud of.
Here’s the volleyball team’s competition: Meghan Klingenberg, a Pittsburgh native who played for the 2009 NCAA women’s soccer champions; Pitt associate athletic director Carol Sprague, who has presided over the rise of the school’s women’s basketball team; and McConnell-Serio, now coach of the rapidly improving Duquesne women’s basketball team.
That’s an impressive list, but I don’t see anyone else with three consecutive NCAA titles.
Vote soon! Voting ends Jan. 25.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Mike Carlson, shooting for the Associated Press, got this image last night of the Penn State women’s volleyball team celebrating its third straight national championship.
It was an amazing come-from-behind win: The top-ranked Nittany Lions lost the first two sets of their match with second-ranked Texas and were on the brink of seeing their 101-match unbeaten streak—not to mention their dreams of a threepeat—come to a sudden end. But they came back to win the next two sets to even the match, then won a dramatic, back-and-forth fifth set for the title.
ESPN.com has some stories and a good video recap. Be sure to check out the fan in the video who’s standing behind Karch Kiraly and Beth Mowins, wearing a Joe Paterno mask and holding up three fingers to celebrate the threepeat. (I have no idea who he is, but I like his enthusiasm.)
But my favorite part of the video is at the very end, when Megan Hodge slams home the championship point and the players on the sideline rush the court and slide into the pile. If anyone knows of a video clip that shows more of that, let me know—I could watch that moment 50 times and not get tired of it.
Tina Hay, editor
How excellent to open my New York Times this morning and see this centerpiece sports story on the women’s volleyball team, its 98-match winning streak, its quest for a third straight NCAA title, and its one-of-a-kind coach, Russ Rose.
The reporter, John Branch, gets Rose exactly right, from his magnificent disregard for propriety to his penchant for sweaters (my husband and I have always thought the Young Men’s Shop should offer “The Russ Rose Collection”) to his low-key sideline demeanor. If you’ve ever wondered why Rose is always scribbling in a notebook rather than, say, watching the match or giving instructions to the players, this article will introduce you to his shelves of three-ring binders and arcane system of statistics.
Of course, Rose never misses anything. Assistant coach Kaleena Davidson, a former Penn State player, told the Times, “He knows everything you’d want to know. And everything you don’t want him to know.”
A subhed in the print edition sums up Rose really well: “Under Coach Russ Rose, the Penn State women’s volleyball team has not lost a match since September 2007. He will leave it to others to care.”
Enjoy the story. And weigh in on the Times’ college sports blog, The Quad, on how the Nittany Lions’ 98-game winning streak ranks in NCAA sports history.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
I knew the email would be waiting for me this morning, and so it was: A question from my Alumni Association colleague (and former Nittany Lion distance runner) Jayson Jackson ’99, wondering why I hadn’t already blogged about the women’s cross country team claiming its first Big Ten Conference title.
Here you go, Jay.
Led by senior Bridget Franek, who torched the 6,000-meter Blue/White course Sunday with a winning time of 20:03, the host Nittany Lion women edged runner-up Illinois to capture the conference crown. It was a great showing on a weekend full of them by Penn State student-athletes. Running through the highlights:
-The men’s soccer team moved into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten standings with a 2-1 win Saturday over Wisconsin. It’s been a rough couple of years for Coach Barry Gorman’s squad, but now that they’ve finally had some luck avoiding injuries, they’re reminding the rest of the league what they’re capable of.
-The women’s soccer team seems fully recovered from its slow start to the season; they’re unbeaten in eight games after Sunday’s 4-0 thrashing of visiting Purdue. I was there, and was lucky enough to see one of the nicest goals I’ve ever seen in person, at any level of soccer.
With Penn State up 2-0 early in the second half, senior left back Tara Davies made a great overlapping run, tearing nearly the entire length of the field from the left, then lofting a shot from virtually no angle into the far corner of the Purdue net. Everyone at Jeffrey Field, including the players (not least the unlucky Purdue goalkeeper) looked momentarily shocked before the crowd erupted in cheers. Davies celebrated the goal — the first of her college career, coming in her final regular-season home game — with a flipping summersault before being mobbed by her teammates.
Junior Danielle Toney, a player more accustomed to scoring, tallied her 11th and 12th goals of the season to claim the Big Ten scoring lead.
-As Lori and Jessie already documented, the top-ranked women’s volleyball team extended its own NCAA record Friday with its 88th straight victory, a 3-0 sweep of Minnesota.
-And after a slow start, the football team looked pretty good Saturday at Northwestern. Ohio State is next. The tents at Paternoville should be popping up shortly…
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Ah, the scouting report. Of everything that changed for Cathy Quilico and Alyssa D’Errico when they moved from high school volleyball to collegiate powerhouse Penn State, that’s what stands out. They’d never seen anything like it. The first time you try to read it, said D’Errico, a junior defensive specialist for the two-time defending NCAA champions, “it’s like gobbledygook.”
It’s got all of the opponent’s traditional volleyball statistics. It’s got the opponent’s tendencies broken down by every player, every rotation—the coaches watch up to 10 games of each opponent to make sure they’ve seen every single thing they can see. It’s even got statistics that Coach Russ Rose and his staff have, essentially, invented.
Nothing is left to chance, not even the presentation of the information. The team digests the scouting report in multiple ways. Via video, for the visual learners. With walk-throughs, for those who learn better by doing. And in printed form, for the players who need to see things written down.
There’s one statistic not accounted for, however: consecutive victories. And that number is astonishing: with their victory over seventh-ranked Minnesota on Friday night, the top-ranked Nittany Lions increased their winning streak to 88.
That tied them for the fourth-longest streak in any NCAA sport with one of the greatest teams in collegiate history: the 1971-74 UCLA men’s basketball team, coached by the legendary John Wooden.
Rose hates to focus on anything but the next match, but even he entertained a question about the streak, saying, “If you’re in coaching and your name is in a conversation and John Wooden is in the conversation, you pinch yourself.”
Rose and Wooden have more than the 88-game winning streak in common. Wooden was known for his undemonstrative behavior on the bench during games; he always said his job was preparing his players during practice, and that he didn’t want them to look to him for answers during a game. Rose is equally low-key; you’ll never see him jumping up and down on the sideline. He spends much of the game scribbling in a notebook, compiling the figures and trends that help him to prepare the team and make adjustments as needed.
Oh, and making sure that the players are positioned where the scouting report indicated. “If you’re in the wrong place,” Quilico said, grinning, “he will tell you. Very loudly.”
Rose and his players don’t get caught up in the hype; neither D’Errico nor Quilico has any idea how many games the team has won in a row or, for that matter, what its record is this season. (24-0, 12-0 Big Ten, for the record.) They don’t look behind. They look ahead only as far as the next game.
Friday night, that took a nearly superhuman effort. There were plenty of distractions.
It was Halloween, so lots of fans came in costume; the big winner at the “halftime” contest was someone dressed as the Pixar character WALL-E, which you can see on the left in a photo by our graphic designer, Jessica Knuth, who took all of the pictures here. The golden pharaoh in the background was also a crowd favorite. The men’s soccer team wowed everyone with a “volleyball” game during the break; the players batted the ball back and forth with their feet and heads.
And the record? Joining an elite club with the UCLA men’s basketball team? That wasn’t anything the Nittany Lions were concerned with. Quilico, a junior defensive specialist who hails from Southern California, knew only that Wooden has a basketball court named after him at UCLA. D’Errico knew that her mother, who coaches a club volleyball team, makes her players read Wooden’s insights on competition.
“He was a big reason that team was able to do what it did,” D’Errico said of Wooden. “Just like Coach is for us.”
Lori Shontz, senior editor