Posts tagged ‘women’s volleyball’
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
We knew that volleyball All-American Christa Harmotto was spending most of the spring semester student-teaching in England, but we didn’t know about her latest travels: Last weekend in Cairo, Harmotto starred for the U.S. Women’s National Team in a victory over Egypt. Harmotto led the Americans with 18 points won and 16 kills.
Harmotto is also the answer to a trivia question posted on the weekly women’s update on USAVolleyball.org: “Which U.S. Women’s National Team player has not been part of a losing match since Sept. 15, 2007?” Fans of the back-to-back NCAA champion Nittany Lions should have had no trouble with that one.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
A few months ago, they were winning championships as Penn State student athletes. Now, these former Nittany Lions are into (or on the verge of) promising pro careers. A story in this week’s Centre Daily Times tells us that Nicole Fawcett, the women’s volleyball All-American featured in our current cover story, is now playing professionally in Puerto Rico. Apparently, Fawcett played her first match for Tus Gigantes de Carolina two weeks ago, just hours after she landed in San Juan. “It was a little weird coming off the plane and taking an hour nap and then going and playing right away,” Fawcett told the CDT.
Closer to home, Penn State held its annual Pro Day on Wednesday. It’s sort of a smaller, localized version of the NFL combine, where pro scouts and coaches show up with stopwatches and tape measures in hand to get a close-up look at the Nittany Lions’ NFL prospects. Based on today’s coverage in the CDT and Harrisburg Patriot-News, defensive end Aaron Maybin and wide receiver Derrick Williams were sufficiently big, strong, and fast enough to solidify or improve their stock for next month’s draft.
Ryan Jones, senior editor