LOUISVILLE — Penn State captured the first set, 25-21, and things were looking positive.
Then the second set came.
The No. 1 Lions (33-2) quickly found themselves in a hole and that made it difficult from the beginning. After being down 3-0, sophomore outside hitter Nia Grant gave the Lions their first point 3-1. Oregon mounted a 9-4 lead.
Things then went from bad to worse — sophomore setter Micha Hancock was down on the court and the KFC Yum! Center fell silent. The Big Ten Setter of the Year was forced to head to the bench to be evaluated and senior setter Kristin Carpenter came into the match.
It was clear that the Lions were not comfortable with the sudden change as they struggled to establish a rhythm. Carpenter’s solo stuff made the set score 11-5 in favor of Oregon, but it also pumped up the Lions who looked a little off. Both squads went back and forth and Hancock eventually re-entered the match with her team trailing 16-9. In her time off the court, the Ducks enjoyed a 7-5 advantage.
The Ducks’ lead quickly grew to 20-10 before the Lions got their feet underneath themselves and started to get back into a groove. They went on a 7-0 run before the Ducks answered with a point of their own.
Soon the Ducks were up 24-22 and had two set point opportunities, but the Lions would not quit there. Thanks to a Deja McClendon kill and two double blocks by Ariel Scott and Grant, the Lions had built a 25-24 lead of their own. Both squads went back and forth from there, each with chances to put the set away.
Knotted at 28-28, sophomore defensive specialist Lacey Fuller went back to serve, but committed a service error. With a 29-28 lead, the Ducks finally capitalized and ended the set, winning 30-28.
The match is now tied at 1-1 and whoever can take two of the next three sets will face No. 3 Texas in the national championship match Saturday night.
LOUISVILLE — Tonight could mark a first for the Big Ten conference.
Never before have two Big Ten teams met in the national championship game. It could potentially happen if Michigan (27-11, 11-9 Big Ten) can get past Texas (27-4) tonight in the first national semifinal match at 7 p.m., assuming that No. 1 Penn State takes care of business against a stingy Oregon team.
The Nittany Lions (33-2, 19-1 Big Ten) will play the Ducks (29-4) in the second national semifinal match slated to begin at 9 p.m. and will look to advance to their fifth national championship match in the past six seasons. During that span the Lions have won the national title every time they made it this far.
It’s safe to say that not a lot of people had Michigan advancing in their brackets to make it to the national semifinals, but the Wolverines are here and more than deserve the opportunity. En route to the Final Four, the Wolverines beat Tennessee, No. 9 Louisville, Michigan State, and No. 2 Stanford.
Also, the Wolverines are playing in familiar territory if you will because they had to play in Louisville in the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. After knocking out the Cardinals in the second round in what was definitely a road match for them, I think that it’s safe to say that they won’t be bothered by the Texas faithful that has made the trip up from Austin.
In the second national semifinal match of the evening, the Lions will look to continue their 12-match win streak and inch that much closer to the program’s sixth national title. They will do so in junior outside hitter Deja McClendon’s hometown of Louisville.
The Lions will look to send out seniors Marika Racibarskas and Kristin Carpenter on top, the same way that the duo entered the program. Both setters already have two national championships to their names coming from the 2009 and 2010 seasons. One more would only be fitting and would allow the tandem to leave Penn State on a high note, as three-time national champions.
OUR THOUGHTS FOR TONIGHT
Matt Bufano - Michigan wins 3-2. Penn State wins 3-1. That would set up the first time two Big Ten teams would meet in the national championship match.
Aaron Dunlevy - Texas wins 3-1. Penn State wins 3-2. This would set up a rematch from earlier this season, of which the Lions swept the Lornhorns 3-0 in Rec Hall.
LOUISVILLE -- Louisville native-turned-pride of Penn State, Deja McClendon, has already warmed up to being back in her hometown.
The former All-American, who was crowned Most Valuable Player of the 2010 national championship tournament, today found her way to more 400,000 people.
The outside hitter graced the cover of today’s Louisville Courier Journal sports page and will take center stage of the city’s KFC Yum! Center in a matter of hours when she and the No. 1 Nittany Lions face No. 5 Oregon.
Although the night’s first match between Michigan and Texas is barely even underway, there is already a large banner hanging from a pressbox which reads, “Welcome Home DEJA.”
During media day on Wednesday, McClendon said she expected such a turnout from her hometown friends and family.
“I hope it’s a humongous [crowd],” McClendon said. “I have a lot of friends that go to U of L, so hopefully they will be here for our support. Our boosters are amazing and have a bunch of them coming, as well."
In the past few days, it has appeared as if Oregon coach Jim Moore has no muzzle or censor.
Earlier in the week, the seventh-year coach admitted that he has previously intended to set star hitter AlainaBergsma more than any player.
Then on Wednesday’s media day, he revealed what he learned from last season’s upset victory against Penn State, “Zero, in terms of what we can draw from it.”
“It did a lot for this program,” Moore said. “In some ways, it did not do a lot for these groups of players. It sort of let them know that they were good.”
But what Moore and his group did last season was good, or even special -- they beat Penn State at Rec Hall.
In 2012, the Nittany Lions were undefeated on their homeground.
“That was a great environment to go into at Penn State and to go in a year ago and [win],” Moore said. “However, it has absolutely zero correlation to what’s going to go on.”
Moore talked about how despite the starting lineups being near-simliar, they were different teams, for better or worse, but both teams have returned star hitters -- DejaMcClendon and Ariel Scott for the Lions and AlainaBergsma for the Ducks.
“It’s two years removed and there really is no correlation,” Moore said. “People will say that if it’s the same lineups basically for both teams. It means nothing.”
Championship teams across all spectrum of sport are generally prefaced by a simple phrase.
No. 1 Penn State, No. 3 Texas, No. 5 Oregon, and Michigan is just …Michigan, unseeded Michigan. Finishing at 27-11, with an 11-9 in-conference record, the Wolverines are by far the most unlikely of squads to have reached the Final Four.
Despite the less-than-ideal regular season record, the Wolverines played the Nittany Lions tough back in a mid-October match, which saw the Lions sneak out a 3-2 victory.
A sea of media saw the eyes of Micha Hancock, newly crowned Big Ten Setter of the Year, light up when asked what made the Wolverines such a solid team.
“They put their heart on the floor,” Hancock said.
Hancock talked about the Wolverines’ match against No. 2 Stanford this past weekend, in which the Wolverines upset the heavily favored Cardinal.
“Watching the Stanford game, they played their best game,” Hancock said. “Their defense was off the wall. They run a fast offense, as well, so when they get the ball in transition, they were just putting it down and Stanford was having a hard time defending it.”
Hancock was not the only Lion who felt the Wolverines are a team that far exceeds its expectations.
Penn State coach Russ Rose chalked the Wolverines’ lack of being seeded within the top-16 as a reflection of college volleyball as a whole, implying the Wolverines deserved a seeded spot.
“You can only rank so many teams in the country,” Rose said. “And those of us that are in the conference know how good everybody in the conference is.”
Of the four teams still standing, the Big Ten claims two (Penn State, Michigan), while the Pac-12 (Oregon) and Big 12 (Texas) are each represented by one university.
“Everybody in the [Big Ten] conference does different things well,” Rose said. “Michigan plays really hard.”
Michigan plays tonight against No. 3 Texas, and with a win, would face the winner of Penn State vs. Oregon.
The No. 1 Nittany Lions (33-2) advance to the NCAA national semifinals after defeating the Golden Gophers 3-1 in the Elite 8. En route to the victory (25-19, 19-25, 26-25, 25-20), the Lions’ dropped their first set of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, but are now scheduled for a matchup against No. 5 Oregon on Thursday night in Louisville, Ky.
With the win, the Lions swept the Gophers this season, winning all three contests while only dropping two sets. Their appearance Thursday will mark the fifth time the program has reached the national semifinals in the past six seasons. During that span, the Lions have won the national title every time they have reached the Final Four (2007-2010).
Leading the way for the squad in their victory over the Gophers was junior right side Ariel Scott. She accounted for a match-high 25 kills and fell short of tying her career mark by two kills.
Micha Hancock, Megan Courtney and DejaMcClendon all recorded double-doubles. Hancock had 46 assists and 13 digs, Courtney recorded 11 kills and 10 digs, while McClendon added 14 kills and 12 digs. Sophomore libero Dominique Gonzalez had seven assists to go along with her match-high 20 digs.
The Lions, as a unit, hit .237 on the night, while the Gophers were held to .177. Each squad accounted for 14.0 total team blocks and combined for 314 total attacks in the match.
Looking ahead, the Lions are 1-1 on the season against the Pac-12 and are 1-1 all-time against the Ducks. Last season the Lions suffered a 3-1 loss to the quack attack in late August.
Currently the Lions are riding a 12-game win streak and have only dropped three sets in that span.
After falling behind early in the first set (something that is practically unheard of to the 2012 Penn State women’s volleyball team), the Nittany Lions quickly regained the lead and refused to let up.
The match, which took place at Purdue’s historic Mackey Stadium, went the way of the favorite, as the No. 1 Lions delivered a drubbing to No. 16 Kentucky, 3-0 (25-18, 25-21, 25-11).
In the first set, the Wildcats tied the match at nine before beginning to pull away little-by-little. The Wildcats eventually chipped their way to a 16-13 lead before the Lions began to play with a sense of urgency and went on a 12-2 run to close out the set.
Of the last ten first-set points scored by the Lions, Big Ten Player of the Year Ariel Scott delivered four kills. As with many other matches this season, the junior turned in a standout performance, highlighted by a court-leading 11 kills. The Lions’ leading blocker was All-Big Ten selection Katie Slay, who had five total blocks.
In the second set, the Wildcats orchestrated a late surge, but ultimately it was too little, too late. Then in the third set, the Lions held a sizable advantage to the very end.
For the evening, the Lions dominated the statsheet, hitting .306 compared the Wildcats’ measly .040.
The Lions return to Mackey Stadium on Saturday to face the winner of No. 8 Minnesota versus Purdue. The winner of that match will earn a berth into the Final Four. Penn State has yet to lose a single set thus far in the tournament.
After a decisive round one victory over Binghamton Friday night, the Penn State women’s volleyball team dispatched Bowling Green in three sets, 25-15, 25-12, 25-15, in NCAA Tournament second round action Saturday night in Rec Hall.
Penn State came out of the gate slowly against the Falcons, committing six attack errors and five service errors in the first set. Although Penn State only hit .171 as a team in the first, they held the Falcons to a -.094 hitting percentage as Bowling Green only converted 42 of their attacks in the opening stanza.
Despite the Lions poor hitting, they put together a balanced attack in the first set. Ariel Scott had three kills, Megan Courtney, Micha Hancock, DejaMcClendon and Katie Slay each had two, and Nia Grant added one.
The Lions managed to clean up their game a little bit in the second though, hitting .370 as a team and committing just three errors in the set. The offensive balance continued in the second as McClendon had four kills in the stanza, while Grant and Courtney each added three, Scott added two, and Hancock and Slay had one each.
Penn State came out slowly again in the third set. Despite Hancock rattling off three consecutive service aces early, Bowling Green managed to hang around. But after being tied at 10, the Lions went on a 15-2 run to close out the set and the match in convincing fashion.
Despite many opportunities to mount a comeback, Bowling Green continually shot themselves in the foot in the third, committing six attack errors and three service errors, while hitting .000 for the set.
Scott finished as the Lions leading hitter with eight kills, while Grant and McClendon added seven, Courtney and Slay added six, and Hancock added three on the evening.
Bowling Green’s leading hitter was Danielle Tonyan with 11 kills, while Paige Penrod added five, and Kelsey Bates and Kari Glenn each added one.
"I thought we played pretty well,” coach Russ Rose said postgame. “We did what I thought we needed to do."
With the win, Penn State advances to the round of 16 where they will face 16th ranked Kentucky on Dec. 7 in Mackey Arena at Purdue University.
Kentucky beat Ohio State, three sets to one, in their second round matchup on Saturday night in Lexington.