No. 2 Nittany Lions and Spartans square off in Regional Semifinals

Penn State will face Michigan State on Friday. The Nittany Lions have won 21 straight since a loss to the Spartans on Sept. 27. Credit: GoPSUsports.comAll Rights Reserved.

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 2 Penn State women's volleyball (30-2) is set to make its 11th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Regional Semifinals this weekend, squaring off against unseeded Big Ten foe Michigan State (23-11) Friday, Dec. 13 at 5 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum. The matchup will broadcast live on ESPN3 with Nell Fortner and Melissa Lee on the call.

PENN STATE VS. MICHIGAN STATEPenn State owns a 38-7 advantage in the all-time series against the Spartans. In the most recent outing between the two teams, Penn State claimed a 3-0 victory in East Lansing. Prior to the win, Michigan State edged the Nittany Lions in a close-five setter in University Park on Sept. 27th. Penn State has won its last 21 consecutive matches since the loss to the Spartans, surrendering just 11 sets along the way.

SCOUTING THE SPARTANSMichigan State is making its second consecutive trip the NCAA Regional Semifinals and sixth in program history after defeating regional host, Kentucky in four sets. In their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance, the Spartans beat Ohio in the first round of the event before knocking off the Wildcats.

Unanimous All-Big Ten selection Lauren Wicinski and All-Big Ten honorable mention honoree, Alexis Mathews are at the helm of the Spartan offense. Wicinski's 4.45 kills per set ranks 17th nationally and second in the conference, while Mathews' .406 hitting clip ranks 19th in the nation and leads the Big Ten. Mathews' is also atop the MSU blocking unit, averaging 1.50 blocks per set, which ranks 11th nationally and second in the league. Two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Kori Moster is anchoring the defense with a conference-high 4.69 digs per set, which also ranks 74th nationally.

PENN STATE HIGHLIGHTS AVCA ALL-NORTHEAST REGION HONORSSeniors Katie Slay, Deja McClendon, Ariel Scott and juniors Nia Grant and Micha Hancock earned AVCA All-Northeast Region honors. The five join nine others from the Northeast Region squad that consists of 14 members. In addition, head coach Russ Rose was tabbed the Northeast Region Coach of the Year. The five all-region team awards brings PSU's total number of honorees to 81 in program history.

McClendon is the only student-athlete on the 14-member team to garner all-region honors in all four years. Slay and Scott both followed as the only two to earn three consecutive accolades. Hancock garnered her second straight honor, having picked up her first career all-region honor in 2012. The regional coach of the year honor is the second consecutive nod for Rose, who also earned the accolade in 2012. In 35 years at the helm of the program, he's picked up six regional coach of the year honors.

SLAY EARNS CAPITAL ONE ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICA OF THE YEAR HONORSSenior Katie Slay has earned the 2013 Capital One Academic All-America of the year award, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Slay was selected from a group of more than 40 student-athletes who earned academic all-district honors earlier this season.

Slay is the fourth different Nittany Lion to garner the prestigious award and the first PSU women's volleyball Academic All-America of the year since Megan Hodge in 2009. Former Penn State standout Bonnie Bremner won the award in 1998 and 1999, while Christa Harmotto was honored in 2008.

SIX NITTANY LIONS EARN SEVEN POSTSEASON AWARDSSix Nittany Lions earned seven Big Ten postseason awards, as announced by the conference last week. Junior Micha Hancock highlighted the group with her sec¬ond consecutive Big Ten Setter of the Year award, while seniors Katie Slay, Ariel Scott and Deja McClendon joined her on the All-Big Ten team. Head coach Russ Rose earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors.

Hancock is the only recipient of the Big Ten Setter of the Year award as she earned her second consecutive honor. Scott and Slay both posted their third consecutive All-Big Ten team honors, while McClendon notched her fourth consecutive. Senior Maggie Harding rounded out the group as Penn State's sportsmanship award honoree. Rose's honor marks his 12th career award and sixth in the last seven years.

NITTANY LIONS IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENTThe Nittany Lions are set to make their 11th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Regional Semifinals this weekend after knocking off LIU Brooklyn and Utah in straight sets. With an 80- 26 all-time record in the NCAA Tournament, Penn State has totaled 10 trips to the National Semifinals ('93, '94, '97, '98, '99, '07, '08, '09, '10, '12), eight appearances in the NCAA title match ('93, '97, '98, '99, '07, '08, '09, '10) and five National Championships ('99, '07, '08, '09, '10).

REGIONAL SEMIFINAL SUCCESSPenn State has appeared in the last 10 consecutive NCAA Regional Semifinal rounds, which is the longest active streak of regional semifinal appearances in DI volleyball. Within the last 10 years, the Nittany Lions have compiled a 7-3 record in the round of 16, going on to win a national title in four of the 10 seasons.

THE BEST BLOCKING IN THE NATIONOverall, Penn State's 3.10 blocks per set ranks first among all DI programs in the country, while also ranking first in the Big Ten. Katie Slay is at the helm of the Nittany Lion blocking unit, averaging 1.64 per frame, which ranks third in the nation and first in the conference.

THAT'S SOME HEAVY Micha Hancock has paced the Nittany Lions to a .314 overall hitting percentage in 2013, which ranks fourth in the nation and leads the Big Ten. Hancock's also paced two of the nation's top hitters to .345 or better hitting efficiency. Individually, senior Katie Slay's .404 hitting clip ranks 22nd in the nation and second in the Big Ten. Junior Nia Grant is close behind, as her .388 hitting percentage ranks 30th nationally and fifth in the Big Ten.

IT'S A BIG TEN PARTY!Seven of the 16 remaining team in the 2013 NCAA Tournament are from the Big Ten, which is an NCAA Women's Volleyball record among conferences nation¬ally. Including the Nittany Lions, PSU is joined by No 8 Nebraska, No. 10 Minnesota, No. 12 Wisconsin and No. 13 Illinois, as well as unseeded Purdue and Michigan State. Eight teams were originally selected as participants in the tournament, but Michigan failed to advance after a round-one loss to LSU. The Pac-12 originally earned nine selections to the 2013 tournament, but just three remain heading into the regional semifinal round.

1,121 WINS AND COUNTINGAfter earning victory number 1,100 against Yale earlier this season, head coach Russ Rose moved into sole possession of second place on the NCAA DI wins list with victory number 1,107 at Northwestern. With the triumph, Rose passed former UCLA head coach Andy Banachowski, who previously owned the record.

With 1,121 wins, Rose is presently seven wins shy of tying current Hawaii head coach Dave Shoji for first on the all-time list with 1,128 career victories. Earlier this season, Shoji surpassed Banachowski, taking the top spot as the newest leader in the category.

WHAT'S NEXT?Should the Nittany Lions defeat the Spartans, Penn State would advance to the Regional Semifinal round of the Lexington Regional, which is slated for Dec. 14 at 4 p.m. The matchup will ultimately decide who will advance the National Semifinals in Seattle.

Last Updated December 13, 2013