The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local Sports

December 20, 2013

Penn State seeking sixth NCAA volleyball title

SEATTLE — Whatever the result in the final, it has already been a special postseason run for 12th-seeded Wisconsin.

The Badgers are the lowest seed to make the NCAA volleyball championship match after upsetting No. 1 defending national champion Texas in the semifinals. Wisconsin (28-9) is proving that even a team without overwhelming size up front can still have success in the NCAAs.

But the Badgers made it clear Friday they’re not just satisfied with what they have accomplished heading into today’s final against No. 2 Penn State. They don’t want to be remembered as the plucky team that got hot in the tournament only to fall short in the championship match. 

“I don’t think they’re satisfied at all. I think a lot of people think they’ve been satisfied for a while now and I think the depth of their hunger is surprising some people,” Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield said. “We got in today and they seemed like the same group they’ve been the past few weeks. They know the opportunity, we all know the opportunity that’s in front of us. We’re not shying away from that. We’re not pretending that’s not there but this is a group that relaxed, that’s confident, that’s hungry. That can be a potent mixture.”

For the Badgers to cap their run it means solving Penn State (33-2) and a long history of dominance the Nittany Lions have over their conference foes and on the NCAA stage.

Today will be the ninth time Penn State has played for a national title, winning five previous championships. The Nittany Lions have won 19 of their past 21 matches against Wisconsin, including a pair of 3-0 wins over the Badgers in Big Ten play this season.

“Wisconsin always plays hard.  They may be a little bit smaller than some other teams, but they sure play hard with a lot of heart,” Penn State’s Dominque Gonzalez said. “You could see it yesterday out on the floor.  They didn’t care they were undersized at all.  They wanted to win and they fought for it. I think that’s notable in our eyes, and we’re going to have to go strong and compete tomorrow.”

The Nittany Lions are coming off one of the most overwhelming performances of the season, never letting hometown Washington into the match in a 3-0 sweep in the semifinals. It was their 24 straight victory, having not lost since Sept. 27 against Michigan State.

Getting to this stage of the tournament is commonplace for the Nittany Lions under coach Russ Rose. This will be the fifth time Penn State has played for the national title since 2007, including a run of four straight championships from 2007-10. The Nittany Lions have one of the more dynamic front lines in the country, led by Deja McClendon and Ariel Scott and a multi-talented setter in Micha Hancock, who controlled the match against Washington with her curving, left-handed jump serves just as much as her passing at the net.

“We had all the tools to be successful,” Rose said. “But you never know how players are going to develop. You never know how just the wear and tear of a season can take kids down.”

What Wisconsin will have to overcome is its lack of height at the net compared to Penn State. The Badgers were able to fluster Texas in the semifinals because the back row defense continued to keep plays alive. Wisconsin had 73 digs in the match and that allowed the Badgers’ undersized hitters extra chances to score.

The Badgers are familiar with the kind of defense they’ll need to pose the same frustrating for the Nittany Lions. It’s one of the benefits of facing a conference opponent.

“I think against any opponent we go into the mentality of being the best defensive team to step on the court,” Wisconsin’s Taylor Morey said. “So it’s a special part of our game and the Badger team, along with not only just us two, but the whole team.  We take pride in that part and we take pride in the fact we show every ball, trying to keep it off the floor, whether that’s a dig, whether that’s a pursuit ball, whether it’s a cover ball. It’s just important that we take pride in our court and the ball not hitting it.”

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local Sports
  • Pirates 0720 Pirates rally to keep sweep

    Taking the extra base was the key for the Pittsburgh Pirates in completing a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
    Andrew McCutchen hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning, Neil Walker followed with a home run and the Pirates overcame a three-run deficit to beat the Rockies 5-3 Sunday.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • LAG 0720 AAABA League playoffs: Laurel Auto Group moves closer to advancing

    Second-seeded Laurel Auto Group fell behind early against No. 3 Berkley Hills Renegades on Sunday afternoon at Roxbury Park. But Laurel’s players didn’t lose their composure.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Urtz, Pope lead AAABA League award votes

    Logan Urtz hadn’t fielded a ground ball as an infielder or swung a bat in a game for a couple seasons.
    But you can’t take the former infielder out of a starting pitcher.

    July 20, 2014

  • Dodgers Pirates Polanco, Walker lift Pirates over Dodgers

    Gregory Polanco broke out of a slump with a solo home run and a tiebreaking two-run single, lifting the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 12-7 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.
    Polanco, hitting just .133 in his previous 11 games, smacked a bases-loaded single with two outs in the sixth to put Pittsburgh in front for good.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • ACC Kickoff Football ACC schools get optimism from stability

    Welcome to the new Atlantic Coast Conference.
    It’s where a founding member is out, a fast-rising program is in, Notre Dame is there, too – sort of – and nobody else is leaving.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • aaaba 0721 Martella’s sweeps past Delweld

    A six-run rally in the first helped guide Martella’s Pharmacy to an 8-1 win over Delweld in Game 3 of their best-of-5 AAABA League semifinal series at Point Stadium, sweeping the series in the process.
    That rally also continued season-long trends for the clubs, according to their respective managers.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • warshel_0721 Warshel selecting UPJ

    For Kelci Warshel, the call to attend Pitt-Johnstown was based on the availability of her desired major – nursing.
    Taking an opportunity to join the university’s women’s track and field program was a very nice add-on and one that the Richland High graduate is ready to jump into ...
    ... Or hurdle over.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0721 Rallying Dodgers snap Pirates’ win streak at 3 games

    Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched seven strong innings, Adrian Gonzalez reached base five times and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 on Monday night.
    Ryu (11-5) joined Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in making the Dodgers the first team in the majors with three 11-game winners.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pitt picked sixth in cluttered Coastal

    Florida State was an obvious choice as a favorite in one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s divisions.
    In the other one, the pecking order was nowhere near that clear.

    July 21, 2014

  • Local Sports Briefs

    July 21, 2014

AP Video
Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel
Poll

What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide