UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Six members of the Penn State women's volleyball team (30-3, 18-2) earned nine Big Ten postseason awards, as announced by the conference on Tuesday (Dec. 2). The Nittany Lions are well represented on all three conference teams, while freshman Haleigh Washington has earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.
Seniors Micha Hancock and Nia Grant earned unanimous selections to the All-Big Ten team while freshman Haleigh Washington joined the duo on the All-Big Ten squad. Redshirt junior Aiyana Whitney and freshman Ali Frantti picked up All-Big Ten honorable mention accolades. Frantti and Washington also earned a spot on the All-Freshman team. Senior Lacey Fuller rounded out the group as Penn State's sportsmanship honoree.
Washington is Penn State's 12th Nittany Lion in program history to garner Freshman of the Year honors. Penn State has claimed the individual honor in four of the last five years with current Nittany Lions Hancock and Courtney each earning the laurel in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
Both Penn State and Wisconsin led the way with three All-Big Ten selections, while Purdue and Nebraska tallied two apiece. This year's All-Big Ten squad features 14 student-athletes from eight different programs within the conference.
Hancock earned her fourth consecutive postseason honor, as she's earned a spot on either the All-Big Ten team or the Big Ten All-Freshman squad each year. This year, she picked up five conference Setter of the Week awards, while also earning her second career AVCA DI National Player of the Week award (9/30). Hancock rewrote several record books during the 2014 regular season with her outstanding performances from the endline.
She enters postseason play with 109 aces on the year, averaging a national-best 1.02 per frame. Her single-season mark ranks first on the Penn State list and is just four shy of matching the league record, which was originally set by Minnesota's Sharon Oesterliong in 1989. Her 363 career aces stands alone atop both the Penn State and Big Ten all-time lists. In addition to her stellar serving, she's directed the offense to a .351 hitting percentage, which ranks first nationally and leads the Big Ten. She's also paced three of her top attackers to .363 hitting or better, including Grant's national-best .456 hitting percentage and Washington's league-high .473 attacking clip.
Grant garnered her first career postseason conference accolade after leading the conference and the nation in hitting percentage for most of the season. Her team-high .456 hitting efficiency presently leads both the conference and the nation. Defensively, her 0.95 blocks per set ranks second on the team. With 442 career blocks, a she rank 14th on the Penn State all-time list, and is just 58 blocks shy of becoming the ninth Nittany Lion in program history to reach the 500 blocks plateau. Earlier this season, she was selected as the Big Ten Player of the Week after helping the Nittany Lions to the Villanova Classic title with double-digit kills in three-of-four matches during the undefeated week.
Whitney also earned her first career postseason award having emerged as one of Penn State's top attackers throughout the season. Having started every single match during the regular season, she posted 12 double-digit kill performances, leading the team in kills on 10 occasions. Her .363 hitting percentage currently ranks third in the conference. She was recently honored as the Big Ten Player of the Week (11/17) after helping PSU to a pair of straight set wins against Iowa and Minnesota. She notched a match-high 16 and 17 kills, respectively, while also adding six blocks in the win against the Golden Gophers.
Frantti and Washington burst on to the scene this year as two standout members of the Penn State incoming freshman class that was tabbed No. 1 nationally by PrepVolleyball.com. A three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week, Frantti highlighted the season with a double-double performance at then-No. 2 Stanford with 22 kills and 11 digs. She closed out the regular season leading the team with 3.33 kills per set on .320 hitting, which ranks 13th in the Big Ten standings. Starting every match, she led the team in kills 14 times during the regular season.
Despite missing the first few weeks of the season, Washington wasted no time earning her way into the starting lineup for the Nittany Lions. With a team-high .473 hitting percentage, her attacking clip leads the Big Ten. The three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week also earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors following a pair of career-high performances in two victories against then-No. 17 Ohio State. Aside from her offensive numbers, she also leads the team with 1.22 blocks per set, which ranks eighth in the Big Ten standings. Having led the team in the category eight times during the season, she posted multi-block performances in 12 of her 15 conference matches.
Penn State earned the No. 5 seed in the 2014 NCAA tournament and will host the first and second rounds of the event Dec. 5-6. The Nittany Lions open tournament play against Siena Friday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. in Rec Hall. Dayton and American will meet in the earlier match, which is set for 5 p.m. The winners of both matches play in the second round Saturday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Rec Hall.
All-session tickets for the 2014 NCAA tournament first and second rounds at Penn State are now on sale. All-session tickets are priced at $12 for adults and $10 for students and youth ages 12 and under. Groups of 20 or more may purchase tickets at a discounted rate of $8.
Fans can purchase tickets by calling 1-800 -NITTANY or by visiting the Athletics Ticket Office in the Bryce Jordan Center from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.