With Springfield, Juniata, and NYU all set to leave the EIVA for the 2012 volleyball season, the EIVA voted to reduce its conference tournament in April to just four teams, as opposed to the six it has seen in previous years.
The old format saw the top four teams from the EIVA Tait and the top two teams from the EIVA Hay in the tournament, with the top two seeds earning byes through the first round.
The two divisions will be merged in 2012, leaving just one division in the EIVA. Each team will play a home and away match against each other, pushing the conference schedule from 10 matches to 14 matches.
The winner of the EIVA regular season will still host the conference tournament. Penn State has hosted and won the tournament 13 straight times, each year since 1999.
After being mentioned on many lists of potential candidates for Penn State's vacant men's basketball coaching position, the Altoona Mirror reports that Ron Everhart will get an interview for the job.
The current Duquesne head coach, Everhart will sit be able to sit down with Tim Curley early this week and state his case on why he should be the next Nittany Lion head coach.
Everhart is known for turning around programs, as he has done it at three different schools.
Most recently he lead the Duquesne to a 19-13 record in the 2010-11 season and tied for a fourth place finish in the Atlantic 10.
He has also been the head coach at McNeese State and Northeastern, and although he has had 20-win seasons and an NIT appearance at each school he has coached, Everhart has never been to the NCAA tournament.
Everhart was named Southland Coach of the Year in 2001 when McNeese State won a conference title and was also America East Coach of the Year in 2005 when Northeastern finished 21-10.
Everhart's history is not entirely clean however.
The NCAA reduced scholarships and Everhart was put on probation in 2009 for violations that occurred with the Northeastern men's basketball team while recruiting a Nigerian player in 2004 when Everhart was the head coach.
Stay with the Collegian for continuing coverage of Penn State's search for a new head basketball coach
The University Park Regional consists of four teams: Oregon, Fordham, Albany and Penn State. The Ducks of Oregon are the top team in the group, with No. 13 national ranking. They will play Albany in the first round, while Penn State will take on Fordham. The Regional Round is double elimination, and will proceed as follows. Two losses are necessary for elimination.
Game 1: Oregon vs. Albany
Game 2: Fordham vs. Penn State
Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
Game 4: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Gamer 2 (elimination game)
Game 5: Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 3 (elimination game)
Game 6: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5
Game 7: Rematch, only necessary if undefeated team loses Game 6 (elimination game)
Penn State vs. Fordham
Penn State (29-22-1) will begin its tournament against Fordham (41-17) -- winner of the Atlantic-10 conference. The Nittany Lions' main concern will be hitting Fordham ace Jen Mineau. The junior hurler boasts a 1.20 ERA while holding opponents to a minuscule .151 batting average. The Lions' offense has been on a tear during its five-game winning streak to wrap up the regular season, but Mineau could be a potential conundrum. Penn State's bats have been prone to short out without warning throughout the season, regardless of opponent. They scored four runs in both their games against then-No.1 Michigan earlier in the season, but were shutout by unranked Longwood just a few days later.
The Lions pitching, on the other hand, is not much of a concern. Redshirt senior Jackie Hill and junior Lisa Akamine both have tremendous numbers in the circle. The tandem gives coach Robin Petrini a lot of flexibility, for even if one struggles, rarely do both struggle in the same game.
Three things to look for from Penn State through the Regional round
1. Continued production from Kailyn Johnson, Cassidy Bell and Alyssa Sovereign -- These three underclassmen have supplied a great bulk of offensive production for the Lions this season. Because Penn State relies so heavily on their success, it is essential for them to keep hitting throughout the Lions stint in the NCAA tournament. All three have the ability to fire up the rest of the team with their prowess.
2. Response of youth under pressure -- At least seven of the starting nine players for Penn State will likely be underclassmen. Only one Lion has ever see playoff action, and that is redshirt senior Jackie Hill in 2007, her redshirt year. The Lions have played teams like Fordham and Albany, but Oregon is strong Pac-10 power. Still, Penn State has shown poise all season in the shadow of stronger opponents, so youth and inexperience probably won't be a problem.
3. Jackie Hill and Lisa Akamine -- Penn State's progress through this tournament rides on these two. Hill, especially, is no stranger to pressure, and she is probably the most competitive player on the team. She's been waiting for this for four years, and her intense but composed nature in the circle could bring out some of the best pitching of her career this weekend. It's her last time in a Penn State uniform, and Hill is not one to walk away without making some sort of statement.
The regular season is now over and the Nittany Lions are riding a hot streak into the NCAA Tournament. Recently, many of the student-athletes were honored with awards from the team and from the NCAA. They are listed below along with some thoughts on their seasons.
Penn State Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year -- sophomore Kailyn Johnson (1B)
This was an easy one. On a team that struggled offensively all season long, Johnson shined. She led the team in batting average, on-base percentage and runs batted in. It seemed like every time she stepped up to the plate, she was going to do something productive. Whether it was working out a walk or crushing the ball over the right field fence, she found a way to get the job done. In so many tight games this season, the Lions might not have made the NCAA Tournament without her.
Penn State Defensive Players of the Year -- redshirt senior Jackie Hill (P) and sophomore Cassidy Bell (CF)
Hill was Penn State's heartbeat this season. She took the rubber in some capacity nearly every game, stifling the opposition's bats. She was sixth in the Big Ten with 18 wins and a 2.12 ERA. Bell was a force in center field, reeling in balls all over the grass. She had only two errors on the whole season through 51 putouts and six assists, tied for least on the team (for a starting position player) with catcher Kasie Hatfield. Bell also had a solid season with the bat, leading the team in hits, extra-base hits, home runs and slugging percentage from the lead-off spot.
Penn State Most Improved Player -- freshman Kasie Hatfield (C)
The use of Hatfield was one of coach Robin Petrini's more intriguing moves this season. The freshman got off to a very slow start at the beginning of the year, sitting most games in favor of junior catcher Danee Collett. Hatfield would see occasional at-bats when coach Petrini put in her defensively in the later innings, but that was the limit of her playing time. When Collett's struggles persisted through the first half of the season, Petrini made a change. Starting with the Lions' series against Pittsburgh at the end of March, Collett got most of her at-bats as a designated player or a pinch-hitter, while Hatfield started all but one game behind the plate (Kent State). No less, Petrini stuck her in the cleanup spot, baptizing her by fire. Hatfield never achieved superstar numbers in her new role, and would probably have been better suited batting lower in the order. Nonetheless, she caught fire in the last six games of the season, batting .277 with three RBI in that span. It should be interesting to see how she responds to the pressure of the NCAA tournament Friday.
Big Ten Freshman of the Week (May 9-15) -- freshman Alyssa Sovereign (RF)
Sovereign had a great freshman year, batting fifth in the lineup in just her first season. But she handled the bat and patrolled right field as if she had been playing NCAA softball for four years. She always seemed to know just when to get that big hit. She goes into the NCAA tournament batting .455 with five RBIs through her last four games. Sovereign is poised to have a breakout season as a sophomore next year. Kailyn Johnson did just that, and the numbers don't lie -- their statistics as freshmen are eerily similar.
The Nittany Lions have won three of their last four Challenge games, but the challenge itself won’t be easy.
For the first time since 2001, the Penn State men’s basketball team will clash with Boston College as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge presented by DICK’s Sporting Goods. The meeting will take place on Nov. 30 in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Before last season’s 62-39 loss at the hands of Maryland in the Bryce Jordan Center, the Lions were in the midst of a three-game winning streak in the Challenge with victories over Virginia Tech (2007), at Georgia Tech (2008) and at Virginia (2009). After the win over Virginia, Penn State became the first ever Big Ten program to win Challenge games in three consecutive seasons.
This will be the Lions' first ever Challenge meeting against Boston College. The two teams have faced off 11 times before with the Eagles holding a 6-5 series advantage, including a 2-2 home record against the Lions. The last meeting occurred in 2001 in Chestnut Hill with the Eagles earning an 88-65 victory.
The Eagles will come into the meeting riding a five-game winning streak, including a win over Indiana in Chestnut Hill during last year's Challenge.
With a 4-6 record in 10 Challenge appearances, the Lions are tied with Purdue, Michigan and Minnesota for the sixth-best Challenge record in the Big Ten. Wisconsin is the Big Ten leader with six Challenge victories.
Last year, the Big Ten posted a 6-5 record in the Challenge, winning the event for the second-straight year.
The last three Challenges have been decided by a 6-5 mark and seven of the previous 12 have been decided by one game. Before the 2009 season, the ACC had won the first 10 Challenges. Since 2000, the ACC with 10 and Big Ten with 9, have combined for 19 Final Four appearances and six national titles.
All 12 games in the 13th annual Challenge between the two basketball conferences will be televised by a combination of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3.com. Tip times and television arrangements will be announced at a later date. Nine of the 12 games in the 2011 event will feature first-time Challenge meetings. The 2011 Challenge will begin on Tuesday, Nov. 29 with six games.
The 2011 Big Ten/ACC Challenge schedule (times are to be determined):
11:35 And that will do it folks. The Lions have their championship hopes dashed on their home court by rival Ohio State. Thanks for being here with us, and be sure to tune in to ESPN2 for the national title match between No. 3 OSU and No. 4 UC Santa Barbara
11:33 Keho and Heine with a big block and a lift by Goas puts OSU one point away from advancing the the National title match.
11:29 If you're watching on TV, there's really not much to say after that last sequence. Sunder gets blocked, stays alive, gets the kill. Mars gets a huge block to take a 21-20 lead in the fourth set. Rec Hall is fired up and the loudest its been all season. The players are loving it as OSU calls TO.
11:26 Comfort comes up with a huge dig, Goas wins the joust at the net and OSU calls a timeout leading 19-18.
11:23 Big OSU dig and a kill by Klanac puts the Buckeyes up 19-16. This could be all she wrote for the Nittany Lions season...
11:19 Olsen stepping up his game, like we said, they need him to win this match. Sunder with a match high 15 kills.
11:16 Lion student section cheering "Free Tattoos," in reference to the Ohio State football team's recently controversy about receiving benefits from a tattoo parlor in exchange for merchandise. Lions down 13-11 in the fouth set, call timeout.
11:12 Sunder is starting to play with that fire this team needs. Lions lead 9-7 after an OSU error.
11:08 Evenly played set so far, Sunder had a big kills and a a controversial call over a ball that hit the antenna. 5-4 Lions.
11:01 OSU wins the set 25-22, leads the match 2-1. Sunder needs to put this team on his back if they want to move on the finals Saturday.
10:59 Buckeyes pulling away with the set after a poor swing by Sunder. 23-20 OSU.
10:52 Goas puts down the emphatic kill off the overpass and the Lions lead 18-17 in the set. Goas is fire up, showing his colors as always, taking a jog down the sidelines and trying to get the crowd pumped up.
10:49 Lions trail 16-15 after an OSU timeout. The "We Are" chants intentionally drowned out the "Let's go Bucks" chants a few seconds ago.
10:43 Lions trail 13-10, Hendries back in the game. They'll need him as an offensive weapon to win this match. Olsen needs to get back in as well, if he does he could be a difference maker.
10:37 Mostly back and forth action so far. Goas setting a little better, giving Comfort some more touches. Mars serving very well tonight, in what he certainly doesn't want to be his last match.
10:30 Del Valle saw that illegal back row attack all the way. Look at the ref right after the point and the Lions get the point to tie the match at 1-1.
10:29 After Sunder was blocked, Turko gets a kill to put the Lions up 24-23.
10:27 PSU calls timeout after two OSU points to make the match 23-22 Lions.
10:25 Hendries takes a good swing and gets his first kill of the night, then a Klanac error puts the Lions up 23-20 in the second.
10:21 Lions get a call on a net violation after looking for a carry and a service fault earlier in the set, now lead 20-18 as OSU calls timeout.
10:19 Lions and BUckeys tied at 18. When Sunder is getting blocked constantly, it makes the rest of the team feel their Superman is coming down to earth. Sunder puts up a big block though, getting some life back in the team.
10:13 Wolf finally gets another kill, he's seen a ton of balls from Goas tonight. 12-12, we knew PSU wasn't going down without a fight, but OSU just seems to be the better team right now. Big block by Turko and WOlf gets some life back in the building, then a solo block by Turko makes the match 14-12. Timeout OSU, the Lions not going down quietly.
10:09 The Lions had a lead...and now it's gone. They seem to be slipping into the same problems they had in the first set. They can't seem to be able to find the OSU court. Is that Goas' fault or his hitters'? 7-6 OSU. They have the skill and ability to get out of the funk, though.
10:00 Well that wasn't pretty if you're a Nittany Lion fan. They lost the first set in convincing fashion, 25-18. Goas making some poor setting decisions (said Rutgers-Newark coach Karl France). The Lions need to bring more of a physical edge to the second set and figure out a way to beat the OSU block.
9:56 The Lions CANNOT beat the Buckeyes' block. Everything -- Wolf, Comfort, and even Sunder -- was being denied.
9:50 The Lions come within two on some big kills from Sunder but Comfort can't seem to be able to beat the OSU blockers. And just as I say that, Kegerreis comes in for Comfort. 19-13 Buckeyes. Timeout PSU.
9:44 The Lions find themselves in an early hole here. The Buckeyes went up 3-0 and are currently up 10-5. Ohio State came to play today. They're blocking balls and getting kills, playing sound all around.
OSU player to watch: Shawn Sangrey. The junior opposite was battling illness the last time these teams faced off and looks to be at 100% for this match. He had 335 kills this year and averaged just under 4 kills per set.
PSU player to watch: Dennis Del Valle. The senior could be playing in his final match as a Nittany Lion. He is the Lions' all-time leader in digs and was named the most outstanding player of the EIVA tournament.
It was a good sign for the Penn State women's gymnastics team.
Anyone walking into the White Building gym on Thursday afternoon during finals week would have seen three gymnasts — Whitney Bencsko, Alex Stine and Natalie Ettl, three of the four members of the team's newest senior class.
Benckso, named captain for the second straight year at the team's award banquet last week, spoke of the pride she felt at keeping her role as captain.
“It’s awesome to know that the girls still look at me as a leader," Bencsko said. "It’s an honor that I guess I proved myself and just did a good job and they saw that. I think it’s awesome."
Benckso also made sure to emphasize she and her fellow captain Ettl won't be the only leaders of the team.
They'll be assisted by their strong class, which also includes Daryl Konsevick, and the closeness the four seniors have developed.
"We always talk about the bond that we’ve formed amongst the four of us and we recognize it, Benckso said. "We know that as a group of four it’s not going to be just me and Nat [Ettl] leading this team, it’s going to be the four of us."
With the senior class providing united leadership, and a talented new freshman class, the team has big goals next year.
And with three of the team's seniors already in the gym preparing for next year, and every member of the team except two gymnasts staying in State College to work out over the summer, those goals seem well within the realm of possibility.
“We’re coming in every day and just trying to do the best we can to make our senior year the best that it can possibly be," Ettl, the team's newest captain said. "We want to come out of here with a possible Big Ten championship and making it to nationals and super-six, so we’re going to do everything we can as a senior class to lead the other classes below us to what this team can truly accomplish."
Ettl and Stine will be working to recover from leg surgeries over the summer, but they still intend to come back stronger than ever.
“I’m really excited for next year," Stine said. "With Nat [Ettl] and I with these surgeries, hopefully we’ll be able to come back better than ever. Whitney, she’s going to train in here hard every day, I know she’s pumped about next year. We’re just all ready to have a great senior year and we’re going to do everything we possibly can this year to make sure that happens.”
Bencsko was the only gymnast in the gym on Thursday actually able to work on her routines, and she was doing exactly that. Bencsko is notorious on the team for working hard, and said she has success next year in mind right now.
"We’re looking forward to a really strong year," Bencsko said. "I think the coaches definitely look up to us and are going to ask for our opinions and give all four of us a say in making our senior year the best year that we’ve had yet. So we’re all excited and we look forward to what’s to come next year."
All of the team's seniors are looking to excel next year, and lead the team to NCAA nationals.
And with only one year left in their collegiate careers, they're happy to enjoy every moment as it comes.
"We’re ready to have some fun and just enjoy our last year here at Penn State," Ettl said.
8:56 The Gauchos pull of another stunning upset and defeat the Trojans 3-1, (29-27, 24-26, 25-25, 25-18), to advance to the Championship game.
8:50 USC looks sluggish. They're down 20-14 here in the fourth and possibly deciding set and are only five points away from defeat. The match isn't over yet, though, as the Trojans pull to within five at 20-15.
8:44 The Gauchos are up five here, 14-9, and are in complete control of this match. USC coach Bill Ferguson calls a timeout to settle the troops. If UCSB somehow wins this match AND Saturday, it could be the greatest run in collegiate men's volleyball history.
8:29 There it is. The Gauchos take the third set, 25-15, and lead the match two sets to one.
8:27 The Gauchos are cruising now. Too many mistakes for the Trojans -- overpasses, missed assignments, service errors. It's 22-14 Gauchos.
8:21 And the service errors continue to pile on for the Trojans. That last one was their 14th of the match. Santa Barbara has only four so far. They're going to need to be better at the service line if they want to win this match.
8:15 Hate to tell any Lions fans out there this but, both of these teams are better than the Lions. Us Collegian folk haven't seen teams this good all season. Of course the Lions play in the weaker EIVA, but both these squads are very skilled offensively and defensively. 10-7 Gauchos by the way.
8:05 Rumors flying around press row that Troy would go for the ace there and that's exactly what he did as he gave the Trojans the second set, 26-24. The match is tied at a set a piece.
7:58 USC may be the best team in the nation, but UCSB is playing like they are. They can hit you from any position. To compare to the Lions, it would be as if all of their attackers were at or near the caliber of Joe Sunder. 18-16 Gauchos
7:45 Back and forth so far here in the second set. Neither team seems to be able to get into a rhythm offensively. Defensively, though, both teams are playing well. Match tied at 7.
7:40 UCSB takes the first set, 29-27. Cullen Irons was the MVP of the first set, he had 4 kills and 5 digs in the set.
7:33 McKibbin, the setter for USC, is a very smart player. Keeping the Gauchos guessing here. The Trojans had a brief lead, but now the set is tied at 22
7:26 USC strong at the net coming up with some huge blocks on Menzel. Match now only 19-18 UCSB as they call a timeout.
7:22 Way too many overpasses from USC as they call a timeout. 19-15 UCSB.
7:16 Valbuena pulls the patented Ed Goas move, but as an outside hitter off the set to give the Gauchos a point. UCSB looks much more excited to be here than do the Trojans.
7:12 UCSB has come to play. Not that they wouldn't, but they look very strong to start off the match. Jeff Menzel looks like a man on a mission. He did say USC thought they would have an easy path to the Championship game and that in the Gauchos, they wouldn't get it.
USC player to watch: Murphy Troy. The ACVA Player of the Year tallied 358 kills this season, averaging 3.98 per set. With a .357 hitting percentage, he's someone the Gauchos are going to have to key in on.
UCSB player to watch: Jeff Menzel. The senior outside hitter had a team high 220 kills this season, averaging 4.31 kills per set. He hit .330 for the season and his match-high in kills was 28 against USC on April 30.
If you were led here by the Twitter, then you already know, but if you didn't know and have a Twitter, keep track of the match live here
Match can be seen live on ESPN2 starting at 7 p.m.
Penn State outside hitter Ryan Wolf won the Elite 88 Award for the NCAA Championships Wednesday at the AVCA awards banquet.
The award is given for outstanding achievement in the classroom and on the playing field and is awarded to the player with the highest grade point average (GPA) of players competing at the finals site for each respective NCAA championship.
Wolf currently boasts a 3.821 GPA and is working towards a masters degree in accounting.
The Trojans came to practice all fired up and swinging like they have all season. A lot of chatter and energy filled Rec Hall in their hour session.
Head coach Bill Ferguson's opening statement
I want to thank Bob and the committee for everything they've done for us to this point and Penn State for being the host. This is a really cool place to play, this facility is great, this room, very indicative of it. The red carpet is rolled out. A lot of history in this building, a lot of great players have played here. We're excited about being here and the surroundings about where we're playing. We're thrilled to be here, but we've got some some work to do.
Ferguson on the team's hungerafter losing Saturday to UCSB
The main thing was, it got us back in our mode of how we've prepared all year and had our success. We've had a mentality, we'd get into practice we were focused on technique or a certain aspect of what we were focusing on in the gym. Because of that match, we were doing something very similar to what we were doing in February. Most of the matches we played down the stretch of the season, to have the mindset that these guys did it was a testament to these guys.
Senior setter Riley McKibbon on being back to the NCAA Championships
Maybe last time we got caught up in the excitement and environment of the Final Four. We've been there and I think our experience will enable us to be more focused on just playing and getting down to business and not getting caught up with what's going on.
Senior outside hitter Murphy Troy on executing this weekend
There's sort of a fine line and expecting to win and believing you're going to win so we don't want to tread on that too much. But we're definitely confident with what we do. We believe we have a really good product here, and when we do things right and execute then we believe we'll be really successful.
Troy on if a loss this weekend results in a failed season
I don't think you can say that cause we've done a lot of great things. Obviously there's going to be disappointment but any of the other four teams in the NCAA tournament would feel the exact same way. We're just going to keep doing what we do and be confident in what we do.
Ferguson on learning as a coach from the past two seasons
I think the learning experience came from '10. I think we learned more lessons in '10 than '09. In '09, I think we used the term we were just playing with our hair on fire and we just played our butts off and whatever happens, happens. We were gonna be a great team at some point we just didn't know what timeline that would be. Last year it was more goal oriented, this year its more process oriented. Confidence in our process. We'll do some more film later today, we'll work on our schedule for tomorrow and go from there, it's all step by step, pretty narrow blinders. These guys have been totally focused on the process rather than the end goal.
Ferguson on playing a familiar opponent
It probably cuts our workload 30-40 percent. I know Pav and Pete have played each other two or three times already this year. I think the seedings are great, it puts an element of excitement in it for the fans.
Ferguson on the OSU-PSU matchup helping the growth of volleyball nationally
Absolutely. There's some west coast bias in volleyball. Do we play in the toughest league in college athletics? Absolutely. But that's not to say there's not too quality programs in Penn State and Ohio State, both Pav and Pete have been doing this very well for a very long time. If I had a son that was going to play volleyball I'd send him to both those places in a heartbeat. So when you think about things on that plane, I think it's great for the game. You got the cool Big Ten going on. There's nothing negative going, only good can come from it.
McKibbon on being seniors
Not really, there's definitely pressure no matter what.
Troy on being seniors
There's definitely going to be a greater hunger factor with this being our last go around, but like Riley said we're just taking it the same way we did every other time and we're going to do the best we can.
McKibbon on watching his friends from home at Stanford win a national title in 2010
Like Coach Ferguson said, we were a lot more goal oriented last year. We were worried about how we were gonna get back to the Final Four instead of taking it one match at a time, one practice at a time. Seeing them playing in the Final Four, it was definitely tough to watch. Some of my best friends were on those teams so I was happy for them. It's nice to be in the same situation as they were last year. Now it's our time.
The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos have made an incredible postseason run, one that Mark Pavlik called the best in NCAA volleyball history. The No. 7 seed in the NCAA tournament, the Gauchos knocked off BYU, Long Beach State, and USC to earn the MPSF's automatic berth to the NCAA Championships.
Coach Rick McLaughlin's opening statement
We're excited to be here and we're playing good volleyball at the right time and we want to keep that going.
McLaughlin on the magical postseason run his team has had
It's just the drive of our guys, they're competitive, they keep improving and they're improving more and more. It's not magic anymore. It's just the way we are.
Senior libero Andy McGuire on the team's progress throughout the season
We've had kind of a roller coaster year. It's been win lose win lose, we clinched the [an MPSF playoff berth] and were just waiting to get here. We've been playing with our backs against the wall, and for us eight seniors it's that motivation to not go home and that's driven us the last few years.
Senior middle blocker Scott Slaughter on making the NCAA Championship as a senior
It's pretty aweseome to be honest. Our redshirt freshman year was the only other year we ever made playoffs before this and none of us ever got the opportunity to play in it. So it's just one last drive together and let's see how far we can take it.
McLaughlin on being focused this week
Just go about business and keep this trip all business. Our jobs not done, so these guys are hungry. They're as serious as it gets.
McLaughlin on keeping the run going
Having our backs against the wall. I don't want to stop coaching them. As a group effort we want to extend it as long as we can go.
McLaughlin on Ohio St. and Penn St. playing, guaranteeing a non-west coast team in the finals, and what it will do for the growth of the sport
Those two programs have been good for a long time. It keeps expanding, and those two leagues keep getting more competitive. The MIVA is very competitive right now but the EIVA needs to get a little more competitive but it's on the way, which is great for volleyball.
Senior outside hitter Jeff Menzel on drawing USC in the first round
USC wanted a sweet ride to the finals and they're not gonna get it with us.
McGuire on playing USC
We know we'd have to go through SC at somepoint, so why not now.
McLaughlin on what the Gauchos need to improve upon
We have to block better, we let them get away with a few of their tendencies. We can serve better and defnesively we can dig a few more balls.
McLaughlin on Penn State as a host and USA Volleyball's involvement
Mark does an incredible job and promotes the sport and gets the growth going. That's what we need for men's volleyball. It's a great sport, there's a ton of interest at the younger levels and we gotta get it going on our end, from the top.
The Lions are back in the NCAA Championships for the 13th straight year, this time in Rec Hall. The last time was in 2006, when the Lions knocked off No. 1 UC Irvine before losing in the finals.
Practice was like any other this season, with the team keeping it loose and having fun at the beginning then getting down to business, all with a lot of energy.
Coach Mark Pavlik's opening statement
We're excited to host, even more excited to be a part. you're going to see a national champ with some of the players in the country at just about every position. It's going to be fun to take on our Big Ten brethren with the Buckeyes, and kind of our rubber match, so it's kind of our Big Ten Championship which leads into our national championship. You really can't ask for more.
Pavlik on the familiarity with Ohio State
There's so much video available to us, there really isn't any secrets. They know what they do we know what they do. Just wait for the whistle serve the ball up and let the best team compete hard. That's what excites me most about this semifinal. We're pretty comfortable with them, the flip side is they are with us too.
Outside hitter Joe Sunder on the familiarity with Ohio State
I think we know what our blocking assignments are and Dennis knows where to be on the court. We're kind of familiar with the hitters shots, their tendencies, it's definitely helped that we've played them a couple times already.
Pavlik on being at home
I think it's always tough to win on the road. I don't think it can hurt, but when push comes to shove at critical times of the match it's up to these guys to make plays. And if we can do that the majority of times we'll find ourselves in a pretty good position come the end of the match.
Edgardo Goas on seeing old teammates back in town
It's always good to see old friends back in town. We've been here a few years so I don't know how much advice they can give us. They're just here to support us.
Goas on the Lions practice before the press conference
Before practice we always play a game and have fun before we do drills and get serious with drills and today was no exception.
Sunder on the special court brought in for the tournament
I felt like I was jumping higher. That's all that really matters.
Dennis Del Valle on what the Lions need to do to be successful
Like Pav said, that match is going to come down to who is more consistent and who can control the ball better on their side of the net. We know what they do, they know what we do. Whoever controls the ball on their side of the court is going to be successful.
Pavlik on USA Volleyball's involvement
With the blue red scrimmage, this court has historically sat empty on Friday. It's the best men's volleyball has to offer. And hopefully next year [Southern California] takes it and runs with it and does the whole Hollywood thing to it.
The Pennsylvania volleyball community has been, supportive is probably an understatement. We've had great turnouts for the past ones. Pennsylvania volleyball, east coast volleyball wait for an event like this. So any time they get to see the top of whatever level they're going to turn out for it and I'm just happy we can bring it to them.
Goas on the team's mindset after losing to Stanford in the finals in 2010
We just want to redeem ourselves. The championship game we were so excited to just make it there and we thought we had it. Then Stanford stepped up their and won it. There's no better way to do it than here with our home crowd with our friends and family here. We just want to have a good performance this weekend and hope for the best.
Del Valle on the 2010 finals
What happened last year happened and you can't change it, like we just, moving on here we're just happy to be home and play in front of our families, our crowd and we just want to put a good show and try to win the national championship this year.
Sunder on the 2010 finals
Stanford was pretty much lights out last year playing in front of their home crowd, and they took advantage of it. We're just gonna learn from that and do the same thing.
Pavlik on the 2010 finals
It's just so much more comfortable playing at home. You see enthusiasm, you see a community that has embraced this program over the years. Hopefully we're ready to compete in that big game on Thursday night and take them along for the ride. And there's nothing like hearing the Rec Hall crowd erupt in any sport.
Sunder on making sure the younger players don't get caught up in the fanfare and hype
I think it's good to get a little caught up in it, bring more energy. But I think being at home really helps settle that down, being familiar with the environment. All this hype is going to be an advantage more than a cripple.
Pavlik on keys to winning the match
Dennis alluded to it, it's ball control. Here its maybe only three or four points. Its real difficult to close that gap. We can't get caught up in we won a point, we lost a point, we bounced a ball, they stuffed a ball, it's over, it has no bearing on the next point let's get on with it.
The Big Ten Championship and rubber match between two bitter rivals is on the line.
Ohio State was very focused at practice, not too much laughing and joking around. Pete Hanson was all business as usual, his Buckeyes are focused after getting embarrassed in Rec Hall a few weeks ago.
Coach Pete Hanson opening statement
Well clearly we're happy to be back, it's nice to be back here a third time for this event. It's something that we talked about as a goal all year long. I recall our seniors talking about it in the locker room at Stanford when we lost the NCAA semifinal to Stanford, about trying to return to this tournament and return to this point and play a little better and have some different results. It's a pleasure to be here and hopefully we'll play well tomorrow night and see if we can't have some different results.
Setter Steven Kehoe on how much it helps to be familiar with Rec Hall
I think that it helps a lot, we're a lot more comfortable not only in the gym and its surroundings but within Penn State itself. We maybe know where we're going to eat and where our team locker room is. It's a lot easier to come out of the training room and get our timing down because there's a lot of distractions away from the match itself...
Kehoe on being back in the Final Four
For us seniors this is our fifth year, this is our fourth time in the Final Four so the pressure of the match itself, there's definitely not as much pressure, we're more excited to play. We're here more for the match, we're definitely great for the opportunity but we're ready to play.
Hanson on practicing this week and preparation for Penn State
I don't think we've changed a whole lot with our practice routine we're stressed what we do, let's continue to be ourselves and do what's been successful for us in the last few weeks. You don't know your opponent till Sunday so you don't have a lot of time to prep, but it's been good for us, we're familiar with Penn State and they're familiar with us. It adds a level of comfort to everything going on this week. I don't expect Penn State to do anything different, they're a routine team. It's gonna come down to execution and who's playing well at that moment tomorrow night.
Hanson on this being a dream matchup?
I think this is really neat. Hopefully it will help get some more publication for men's volleyball particularly in this part of the country. I think this is an absolute great matchup. They've been a historic team for years and we've been trying to enhance our history.
Penn State has done a super job bringing some things besides the four teams playing here. Those are great things for the sport and we certainly need more things like that to show kids around the nation there are opportunities to play collegiate volleyball.
Kehoe on much can you take from the last match against PSU
It's one more time playing in this gym. As far as our execution it wasn't our best. I don't think it was our best performance and we're looking forward to redeeming ourselves and showing everyone what we've got tomorrow night.
Senior middle hitter Kevin Heine on the upperclassmen helping the younger players through the week
Like you said, it starts at the top and its lead by example. We have a really good team bond and everyone will fall in place and we'll be fine.
The four team NCAA Championship field was announced Sunday morning, with games set to begin Thursday night at 7 and 9 pm at Rec Hall. No. 1 USC will play No. 4 UC Santa Barbara in the first match, the same match that decided the MPSF tournament final.
The Nittany Lions received the No. 2 seed and will battle rival No. 3 Ohio State at 9. The Lions and Buckeyes have dominated their conferences, the EIVA and MIVA, over the last decade, and this seeding guarantees one non-West Coast team will appear in the finals.
The Lions and Buckeyes split their season series, with each team winning on its home floor. The Lions are 65-24-1 all-time against Ohio State, and the two schools last met in the NCAA tournament in the semifinals at UC Irvine in 2008, when the Lions went on to win their second national title.
Ticket and broadcast information can be found through goPSUsports.com's press release.
The USC-UCSB match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 with a simulcast on ESPN3.com. The Penn State-Ohio State match will be streamed live on ESPN3.com and the match will be tape-delayed and air on ESPN2 on Friday, May 6. The National Championship will be broadcast live on ESPN2 with a simulcast on ESPN3.com.
Single match tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for youth and students and $5 for groups of 15 or more. Tickets can be purchased Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center Ticket Office beginning May 2 for walk up customers. Phone orders are also being accepted via 814-865-5555 during the same hours. In addition, all-session tickets are currently on sale for the National Championship. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for youth, students and senior citizens.