Nittany Lions feeling at home
Penn State is 30-2 at Rec Hall in NCAA tournament matches
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. » Penn State coach Russ Rose is just one of those old-fashioned guys.
He hasn't quite got the hang of them, but has figured out that e-mail is just a typewriter with a memory.
At State College, Pa.
» No. 7 Hawaii (27-6) vs. No. 10 Missouri (26-8), 11 a.m. HST
» No. 2 Penn State (31-2) vs. No. 15 Tennessee (23-8)
» Tomorrow's winners, 11 a.m. HST
Radio: Live, KKEA (1420-AM)
TV: Live, KFVE (Ch. 5)
He believes that changing from traditional scoring to rally scoring in 2001 didn't alter the basics of the sport. The keys are still serving and passing.
The NCAA tournament?
He plays the hand that was dealt because one can only control what is controllable. Seeding, travel, opponent ... even an injury such as the season-ending one for freshman All-Big Ten middle Christa Harmotto ... is out of a coach's hands.
"It's just nice to be playing this time of year," said Rose, whose Nittany Lions are the tournament's No. 2 seed. "There are a lot of teams that aren't.
"It's helpful to be at home but, while there are less disruptions in our routine, there are lots of distractions when you're at home."
Things were pretty routine for Penn State last week as the Nittany Lions swept through their opening matches against SUNY-Binghamton and Long Island. However, Rose knows this week will be tougher, with 15th-seeded Tennessee on Friday and, potentially, Hawaii on Saturday.
"For us to get out (continue to next week's final four), we have to play well," said Rose, who recently earned his seventh Big Ten Coach of the Year honor. "Last week, I think we could have played poorly and still not lost. Now, we have to play well if we're going to win. At this point of the tournament, for any team, if you play poorly, you're going to lose.
"We've been healthier. Losing Harmotto changed the chemistry of the team, changed my plans for San Antonio (final four site). But when somebody can't play, you have to figure out who can."
After Harmotto (2.96 kills per game, 1.50 blocks per game) went down Nov. 21 at Iowa, the Nittany Lions regrouped behind senior All-American setter Sam Tortorello and freshman hitter Nicole Fawcett. In last week's two matches, Fawcett had 35 kills without an error; she set an NCAA tournament record last Saturday by hitting .889 (16 kills, 0 errors, 18 attempts).
Tortorello became the Big Ten career assist leader Saturday, her 40 assists against the Blackbirds gives her 6,027; she also had her 49th career double-double with a match-high 12 digs.
Junior opposite Cassy Salyer has replaced Harmotto in the middle. Salyer had a combined 15 kills in two wins over Hawaii early this season, including 10 in the five-game win in Honolulu.
Penn State is one of the five opponents among 117 that has a series edge over Hawaii. The Nittany Lions improved to 3-0 against the Rainbow Wahine with wins at the AVCA/NACWAA Showcase on Aug. 27 (3-0) and the Hawaiian Airlines Classic on Sept. 2 (3-2).
"We're not even looking at Penn State," Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said. "We are concerned with Missouri, a very solid team with good size and a good setter.
"We didn't have our best practice, but that's to be expected after a tough travel day (Monday). And we're still coming down from the high of winning at Texas. Tomorrow will be better. We know we're going to have to play as well as we did at Texas to win here."
Shoji dropped by Rose's office yesterday morning to chat, but declined to help out with grading papers. Rose teaches a class in Ethics and Issues of Athletic Coaching.
"Can't believe he's still teaching," Shoji said.
After his teaching job was done yesterday, Rose went back to being the student. The tape on Tennessee had just arrived and "we don't know a lot about them, other than they beat Minnesota last week," he said. "I've read some things on the Internet, that they're real scrappy, big in the middle, two left-handers and run a different (offensive) system than when they began the season.
"Hawaii is certainly a team that everyone has to worry about right now, after they were able to beat Texas at Texas. We know Hawaii is playing well and that they're very motivated. But I'm more worried about my team right now and if we see Hawaii then we'll worry about them."
Penn State will play tomorrow's second match, something else Rose had no control over. He prefers playing first and then scouting the second match, although last week when playing the second match against Binghamton, he skipped scouting the LIU-Cornell opener in favor of watching the NCAA women's soccer tournament semifinal on TV between Penn State and Portland. (Penn State swept LIU the next night, 30-11, 30-27, 30-8).
There are two other things with which the traditionalist Rose took issue. One, the NCAA requires the use of a SportCourt surface, which has been laid down on Rec Hall's beautiful wood court.
Two, gone is the old Rec Hall scoreboard where players names were put up by hand, a la the Wrigley Field scoreboard. Rec Hall, the third-oldest building on the PSU campus, was renovated earlier this year.
"I like it," Rose said. "It's now volleyball-specific, all the lines on the court are volleyball lines. And the lighting is terrific.
"We have new bleachers, they took out the drop-ceiling which covered the original beams. There's a state-of-the-art scoreboard that's nice, although I do miss the old one."
Rec Hall is the same age as Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. Paterno was born Dec. 21, 1926, the same year the gym was built.
"Although JoePa could have been born in 1826," Rose joked.
No. 2 seed Penn State (31-2)
Coach: Russ Rose (27th season, 859-153)
NCAA Tournaments: All 25
Tournament record: 45-23. (30-2 in Rec Hall)
Getting here: Penn State swept SUNY-Binghamton and Long Island to advance to its seventh regional in 10 years.
Series: vs. Tennessee, leads 5-3
About the Nittany Lions: Penn State has won its last 25, with the only losses in the season opener to Stanford 3-2 at the AVCA/NACWAA Showcase in Omaha and at No. 1 Nebraska 3-0. Penn State is led by Big Ten Freshman of the Year Nicole Fawcett (4.50 kpg), an outside hitter, and conference player of the year Sam Tortorello, a senior setter. Senior libero Kaleena Walters averages 4.90 digs per game and was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
Fun fact: When Penn State won the NCAA championship at the Stan Sheriff Center in 1999, it became the first school outside of California to win both a women's and men's NCAA volleyball title. (The men won in 1994).
No. 7 seed Hawaii (27-6).
Coach: Dave Shoji (31st season, 895-156-1)
NCAA Tournaments (titles): 24th (1982, '83, '87; AIAW, 1979)
Tournament record: 58-20
Getting here: Hawaii defeated Texas State 3-0 and Texas 3-1 to advance to its 22nd regional, eighth in a row
Series: vs. Missouri, first meeting; vs. Penn State, trails 0-3; vs. Tennessee, leads 5-0
About the Wahine: Hawaii has won its last 21 matches, its last loss coming to Loyola Marymount on Sept. 23. The Rainbow Wahine are led by WAC player of the year Kanoe Kamana'o, a junior All-America setter (13.82 assists per game), and All-America senior middle Victoria Prince (3.28 kpg, 1.59 bpg). Hawaii's two left-side hitters came up big in the win over Texas with Jamie Houston putting down 20 kills and junior Sarah Mason 15.
Fun fact: Wahine reserve setter Cayley Thurlby and Nittany Lion setter Sam Tortorello began playing club ball together in seventh grade at Sports Performance in Chicago.
No. 10 seed Missouri (26-8)
Wayne Kreklow (1st, 26-8)
National ranking: 8
NCAA Tournaments: First
Tournament record: 2-0
Getting here: The Tigers eliminated Missouri State and Arkansas to advance to their first regional.
Series: vs. Hawaii, first meeting
About the Tigers: Missouri has won its last five, last losing 3-0 at Nebraska on Nov. 13. The Tigers had a school-record 14 aces, six by junior Abbie Booth, in Saturday's win over Arkansas. Missouri features several players from China, including outstanding left-side hitters sophomore Na Yang and senior Shen Danru, and two solid middles in Lisa Boyd and Nicole Wilson, who hit .714 and .538, respectively, Saturday. Senior setter Lindsey Hunter ranks in the top 15 nationally in assists (16.20 apg).
Fun fact: Out of the 16 sub-regionals last week, Missouri drew the highest attendance in the country. There were a combined 8,784 for the two nights, including 6,294 for the Missouri State contest the first night at Hearness Center. (Hawaii averaged a national-best 7,302 per match this season).
No. 15 Tennessee (23-8)
Coach: Rob Patrick (9th, 189-94)
NCAA Tournaments: 8
Tournament record: 8-7
Getting here: Tennessee swept Jacksonville State and outlasted Minnesota in five to advance to second straight regional.
Series: vs. Hawaii, trails 0-5
Fun fact: Tennessee's senior class is the winningest in the history of its program (97-31).
About the Lady Vols: Tennessee has won three straight, the streak starting with a 3-2 upset of host Notre Dame on Nov. 26. It was the first time in nine years that UT rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win in five. Tennessee has won 12 of its last 13 matches. The Big Orange are led by sophomore hitter Yuliya Stoyanova (4.15 kpg) and senior middle (Kristen Andre (3.50 kpg). Senior Amy Morris, who transferred from Penn State after red-shirting her freshman season, averages 4.69 dpg.