Women's volleyball hosts LIU Brooklyn in NCAA First Round

The Penn State women's volleyball team begins NCAA Tournament play with five national championships to the program's credit, all under the direction of Coach Russ Rose. Credit: GoPSUsports.comAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. --  Ranked No. 2 in the nation, the Penn State women's volleyball team (28-2, 19-1) is set to make its 33rd appearance in the NCAA Women's Volleyball tournament this weekend, hosting LIU Brooklyn (23-7, 14-0) in the first round of the event Friday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. in Rec Hall.

Tournament teams Yale and Utah will each square off at 5 p.m. prior to the Nittany Lion matchup. The winners from each contest will meet Saturday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Rec Hall.

PENN STATE VS. LIU BROOKLYNPenn State owns an unblemished 5-0 advantage in the all-time series against the Blackbirds. The Nittany Lions have also recorded straight set victories in each of the five outings, dating back to the first meeting between the two teams on Dec. 3, 2005. In NCAA tournament play, Penn State and LIU Brooklyn have matched up twice in the first round and once in the second round. The most recent tilt between the two teams in the tourney was on Dec. 5, 2008.

SCOUTING THE BLACKBIRDSLIU Brooklyn enters the tournament after earning the Northeast Conference's automatic bid following their eighth conference title in the last 10 years. The Black¬birds are currently riding a 10-match winning streak having surrendered just one set to an opponent within the stretch.

Setter Vera Djuric has paced the Blackbird offense to a .240 hitting clip this year, which ranks 60th nationally and first in the conference. Annika Foit, Tamara Ignjic and Jessica Rice have all combined for the bulk of the offensive production this season, as Foit is leading the team and the conference with 4.15 kills per set, while Rice is leading both the team and the league with squad-best .342 hitting efficiency. Adriana Vinas Joy is anchoring the defense, averaging a team-high 4.40 digs per set, which also leads the conference. LIU swept all of the major NEC awards this season as Vinas Joy picked up Defensive Player of the Year honors, Djuric, who claimed Setter of the Year honors and Foit, who garnered Player of the Year honors.

NITTANY LIONS IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENTThe Nittany Lions enter Friday's matchup fresh off their 16th conference title and 10th in the last 11 years. With a 77-26 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), seven appearances in the NCAA title match ('93, '97, '98, '99, '07, '08, '09, '10) and five National Championships ('99, '07, '08, '09, '10).

A FORCE IN THE FIRST ROUNDPSU has earned the opportunity to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament 27 times since 1981, having welcomed a trio of tournament teams to the court in Rec Hall for the opening rounds of the event in the last 23 consecutive years. The Nittany Lions are 27-5 all-time in opening matches of the tourney, having posted straight-set wins in the last 23 straight first round matches. Additionally, Penn State has played in 99 total sets since its first sub-regional match against Cincinnati in 1981 and has only surrendered 14 sets to an opponent.

SIX NITTANY LIONS EARNS SEVEN BIG TEN POSTSEASON HONORSSix Nittany Lions earned seven Big Ten postseason awards, as announced by the conference this morning. Junior Micha Hancock highlighted the group with her second 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.

PENN STATE CLAIMS OUTRIGHT BIG TEN TITLEPenn State powered past Ohio State in straight sets on the way to an outright Big Ten Championship, Wednesday, Nov. 27th. The victory put the Nittany Lions in sole possession of its 16th conference title in history and 11th in the last 10 years. Senior Deja McClendon led the offense with a match-high 11 kills, adding nine digs. Junior Micha Hancock notched a double-double, dishing out 28 assists and logging a team-best 14 digs. Junior Nia Grant put down six kills on a squad-best .556 hitting percentage. PSU also matched a season-low in points surrendered in a single set, giving up just eight points in a 25-8 win in the third stanza.

HANCOCK EARNS FIFTH BIG TEN SETTER OF THE WEEK NODAfter guiding the No. 2 Pen State women's volleyball team to a pair of conference victories in the final two regular-season matches of the year, junior Micha Hancock has earned her fifth Big Ten Setter of the Week honor this season. Hancock helped Penn State extend its winning streak to 19 consecutive matches, directing the Nittany Lion offense to wins at Ohio State and No. 10 Nebraska. She highlighted the weekend with a double-double at OSU (28a/14d).

PENN STATE REMAINS NO. 2 IN AVCA TOP 25 POLLAfter posting a pair of Big Ten wins on the road to claim the Big Ten title outright, Penn State earned its seventh consecutive No. 2 ranking in the AVCA Top 25 Coaches' Poll. The Nittany Lions also picked up 15 first place votes in the poll. Prior to the No. 2 position, PSU moved between spots No. 1 and No. 4, but has remained within the top five in every poll this season.

THE BEST BLOCKING IN THE NATIONOverall, Penn State's 3.08 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 1.63 per frame, which ranks third in the nation and first in the conference.

THAT'S SOME HEAVY HITTINGMicha Hancock has paced the Nittany Lions to a .312 overall hitting percentage in 2013, which ranks fourth in the nation and leads the Big Ten. Penn State is also averaging 14.10 kills per set, which is good for 28th in the country and second in the conference. Individually, senior Katie Slay's .402 hitting efficiency ranks 24th in the nation and first in the Big Ten. Junior Nia Grant is close behind, as her .401 hitting percentage ranks 26th nationally and third in the Big Ten.

1,119 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 Bana¬chowski, who previously owned the record.

With 1,119 wins, Rose is presently eight wins shy of tying current Hawaii head coach Dave Shoji for first on the all-time list with 1,127 career victories. Earlier this season, Shoji surpassed Banachowski, taking the top spot as the newest leader in the category.

WHAT'S NEXT?It's survive and advance from here on out for the Nittany Lions. Should Penn State defeat LIU Brooklyn they will have the opportunity to play against the winner of the Yale vs. Utah match. The winner will then advance to the regional semifinals in Lexington, Ky.  

Last Updated December 06, 2013