Monday, December 20, 1999
Penn State takes
title back East
The Nittany Lions have shownBy Cindy Luis
that playing volleyball is not
just a West Coast thing
It was just a matter of time.
Five years after its men's team stunned the volleyball world by winning a national title against a powerhouse, Penn State now has a matched set of NCAA trophies. The Nittany Lions became the first East Coast team -- and only the third non-California school -- to claim a Division I women's volleyball championship by routing the most dominating team of the 1990s.
Saturday's 15-2, 15-10, 15-7 victory by top-ranked Penn State (36-1) lasted just 80 minutes at the Stan Sheriff Center. It was almost too quick for a team that had seen its two previous seasons end in disappointment after five-set marathons in the national final.
"A few points the other way (in fifth games) and, arguably, this could have been No. 3 for Penn State instead of the first,'' said Nittany Lions men's coach Mark Pavlik. "They've been so close the other times and never lost badly, never gave people the chance to say they didn't deserve to be there.
"It will be interesting to see the impact that this has. When we won (in 1994 over UCLA), I don't think there was a ton of impact locally. But this win may send a message to coaches and especially administrators that if you do things right, if you believe in your head coach, give him or her the tools to do the job, that volleyball is not just a West Coast sport.''
Penn State women's coach Russ Rose said he never understood the geography thing, anyway. It was about location, though; he felt it was all about putting his team in a position to win, year end and year out.
"You can't win if you're not in it (the final),'' Rose said after Saturday's championship match. "I was reminded before the match that I would be the first coach to lose three finals in a row if we lost again. That's one club I didn't want to belong to.''
Instead, Rose joined the elite fraternity of just nine coaches who have won the title in the 19 years of NCAA sponsorship of the sport. Penn State also joins Hawaii, Texas and Nebraska as the only schools outside of California to earn championships.
The Wahine did not make it to Saturday's match and now they are also gone from the record book in one category. When Stanford swept Hawaii in 1996 for the title, it was then the shortest match in NCAA history (91 minutes); that distinction now belongs to the Cardinal (31-3).
"I now know how Hawaii felt when we beat them in '96,'' said Stanford coach Don Shaw. "We never had a chance tonight. You get to see both sides if you're in this long enough.''
Shaw has been around the Stanford program since 1984 but had never seen his team hit in negative numbers for a match. The Cardinal was out of negative numbers just twice Saturday, the first time coming in Game 3 when a kill by Kerri Walsh put her team at .000 while trailing 6-2.
Stanford saw its first positive hitting percentage (.083) on a kill by Walsh minutes later. But Penn State's tenacious defense and strong block thwarted the Cardinal the rest of the way, resulting in a negative .008 finish (39 kills, 40 errors, 131 attempts).
Stanford avoided taking away another dubious record from the Wahine when rallying in Game 3. The fewest points allowed in a championship match is 15, the total scored by Hawaii against the Cardinal in 1996.
Stanford finished with 19 points, the third-lowest total. The second-fewest points scored (18) was by Nebraska in the 1989 final against Long Beach State at the Blaisdell Arena. Saturday was the first time the Cardinal had lost in straight sets since Aug. 23, 1997, a string of 97 matches. That last 0-3 loss came against Penn State.
Walsh, only the second four-time All-American in NCAA history, finished her brilliant career at Stanford with 11 kills, hitting .000. She and freshman teammate Logan Tom have been invited to a special tryout for the U.S. national team next month in Colorado Springs.
Penn State's Lauren Cacciamani also has been invited, along with teammate Bonnie Bremner, Hawaii's Heather Bown and Erin Aldrich from Texas. Cacciamani has declined, choosing instead to finish her degree at Penn State with an internship next semester.
Cacciamani, the 1998 final four co-MVP, had the award all to herself Saturday. She put down 20 kills, hit .318, was in on eight blocks and served for the final four points of the match.
Joining her on the all-tournament team were Bremner, Walsh, Tom, Penn State's Carrie Schonveld and Pacific's Elsa Stegemann. Stegemann became the new NCAA Tournament record holder for kills, putting down 138 in five matches, 12 more than Tara Cross did for Long Beach State in 1989.
It was the second NCAA championship for the Bremner family. Julie Bremner was the setter for UCLA's 1991 title team.
"I'm so happy for Russ,'' said Pavlik, a Penn State sophomore when Rose began coaching the women's team in 1979. "I know how hard he works and how much he believes in the kids he has. Look at the record he has over the last three years (105-4).''
The first thing Bremner said to Rose Saturday was "sorry it took so long.''
NCAA final four, Division I
Women's VolleyballYear Champion Runner-up Third place Fourth place 1999 Penn State Stanford x-Pacific x-Long Beach State 1998 Long Beach St Penn State x-Nebraska x-Florida 1997 Stanford Penn State x-Long Beach St x-Florida 1996 Stanford Hawaii x-Nebraska x-Florida 1995 Nebraska Texas x-Stanford x-Michigan State 1994 Stanford UCLA x-Penn State x-Nebraska 1993 Long Beach St Penn State x-Brigham Young x-Florida 1992 Stanford UCLA x-Long Beach St x-Florida 1991 UCLA Long Beach St x-Ohio State x-LSU 1990 UCLA Pacific x-Nebraska x-LSU 1989 Long Beach St Nebraska x-Texas-Arlington x-UCLA 1988 Texas Hawaii x-Illinois x-UCLA 1987 Hawaii Stanford x-Illinois x-Texas 1986 Pacific Nebraska x-Stanford x-Texas 1985 Pacific Stanford Southern Cal UCLA 1984 UCLA Stanford Pacific San Jose State 1983 Hawaii UCLA Stanford Pacific 1982 Hawaii Southern Cal San Diego State Stanford 1981 Southern Cal UCLA San Diego State Pacificx-Shared third place
From 1981-85, a third-place game was played