Rules of the Game
Collegiate volleyball is an indoor team sport. Courts are divided into 29 ½ foot square halves, separated by a 39 inch net that is 7 feet 4 ½ inches above the floor. Each team occupies one of the court halves, and players may not cross into the opponent’s half. Penn State’s women’s volleyball team plays its home matches in Rec Hall.
Matches consist of a maximum of five games; to win a match, a team must win three games. The first team to score 25 points wins the game, but if a fifth game must be played, the first team to score 15 points wins the game and match. (Note: In all games, a team must be at least two points ahead of its opponent to win, so that if the score of a game is 24-24, then the winning team must score 26 points). A team scores a point when one of its players hits the ball over the net and the opposing team cannot return it (or returns or serves it out of bounds). A team may score a point regardless of whether one of its players is serving; this is referred to as “rally” scoring.
A team must have six players on court for all points. These players rotate positions on the court as points are scored; one player, the libero (defensive specialist), may remain in the defensive backcourt, and may (but is not required to) serve when it is her turn. Players may be substituted after each point. Players may hit/touch the ball with any part of their body. A team is allowed to hit the ball no more than three times before it goes over the net; blocking an opponent’s shot does NOT count as a hit.
Penn State Women’s Volleyball History
Penn State fielded its first women’s volleyball team in 1976. Only five years later, the team earned an invitation to the first NCAA Tournament. Along the way, the program has produced a world class coach, national players of the year, the ONLY NCCA women’s volleyball championship by a team east of the Mississippi River, 7 national championships, 27 top-10 national rankings, and a national record home winning streak. It is one of the sport’s elite programs.
Tom Tait, named in 2007 as a USA Volleyball All-Time Great Coach, was the first head coach of the Nittany Lions. In 1979, current coach Russ Rose took over and PennStatewomen’s volleyball was forever changed. Each of Rose’s teams has won at least 20 matches and earned an NCAA Tournament invitation. He has won 6 Atlantic 10 and 15 Big 10 Coach of the Year awards, 5 national coach of the year awards, was named a USA Volleyball All-Time Great Coach in 2005, and was inducted into the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Volleyball Hall of Fame in 2007. His record at Penn State is an amazing 1,266-206 (86%).
The team’s achievements rival Coach Rose’s. In eight years in the Atlantic 10 Conference (1983-90), the team won all eight conference championships and NEVER lost a conference match. Success continued after joining the Big 10 Conference, with 17 conference championships in 28 years. The 2005 team was part of PennState’s unprecedented five regular season Big 10 fall championships. All four major 2005 Big 10 individual awards (Coach, Player, Defensive Player, and Freshman of the Year) went to Nittany Lions, a first in Conference history. In 2006, Megan Hodge became the first player to be voted Big 10 Player and Freshman of the Year.
Along with Big 10 success came NCAA Tournament victories; the team has made the national semi-finals 12 times. In 1997, 1998, 1999, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, and 2014, Penn State played in the national championship game. Penn State is one of only five schools, and the only one outside of California, to have earned national titles in both men’s AND women’s volleyball (along with Long Beach State, Stanford, UCLA, and USC). The Nittany Lions also are one of only two women’s volleyball teams (the other being Stanford) to have appeared in EVERY NCAA Tournament.
In November 1995,Penn State defeated Indiana at Rec Hall; that was the first of the Nittany Lions’ NCAA-record 87 match home winning streak. One Rec Hall match that is not part of that streak is Penn State’s 3-1 victory over the USA Volleyball National Team in 1997. Their NCAA record home winning steak of 92 matches ended in 2011; their all-time home record is an astonishing 711-40 (94.7%).
The 2008 team was one of the finest in the history of the sport. They finished their national championship season with a 38-0 record, only the 4th undefeated team in NCCA women’s volleyball history, and only the 6th repeat national champion. A record 6 players were All-Americans (5 first team), Nicole Fawcett was AVCA AND Honda national Player of the Year as well as Big 10 Player of the year, and Russ Rose was national and Big 10 Coach of the Year. The team lost only two sets all season (both to Nebraska in the national semi-finals in Omaha), established records for consecutive winning matches (64) and sets (111), and is the only team to ever complete a regular season without losing a set. The 2009 team extended that winning streak to 102 matches (losing only 8 sets), the longest team winning streak in any sport in NCAA women’s history and the second longest winning streak in NCAA team history. Megan Hodge became the 5th Nittany Lion to be named Big 10 Player of the Year, and was co-winner of the Honda-Broderick Cup for national college female athlete of the year. In 2010, the winning streak reached 112 matches before a loss vs. Stanford, but the Lions eventually won their 8th straight Big 10 and unprecedented 4th straight NCAA championship. Blair Brown won the Honda Award as the women’s college volleyball player of the year (the 3rd consecutive Nittany Lion to win this award), and was a semi-finalist for the Sullivan Award (amateur athlete of the year). Arielle Wilson set an NCAA career hitting percentage record (.468). The team also was selected as the Big 10 Conference Women's Team of the Year. The 2012 team was one of 4 PSU teams to become fall 2012 regular season Big 10 champions, and Russ Rose was one of 5 PSU fall sport coaches to be chosen Big 10 Coach of the Year.
Alumnae Megan Hodge and Christa Dietzen were members of the United States’ 2012 Olympic silver medal winning team. Dietzen was also a member of the 2014 World Champion USA National Team; Dietzen and Alicia Glass were members of the bronze-medal winning 2016 U.S. Olympic Team.
In 2014, despite heavy graduation losses, the Nittany Lions won their 2nd consecutive national title, 6th in 8 years, and 7th in their history (an NCAA record). Penn State defeated previously top-ranked Stanford in the national semi-final, 3-1, and then dominated Brigham Young in the final, 3-0. The team finished with a 39-3 record, won its final 13 matches and first 3 NCAA Tournament matches by 3-0 scores, and lost only 2 sets during the NCAA Tournament.
Micha Hancock was the AVCA Player of the Year, and Ali Frantti the AVCA Freshman of the Year. Junior Megan Courtney was named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament, and Hancock and Nia Grant were AVCA All-Americans. In her last game in Rec Hall, Hancock set an NCAA Division I record for aces in a season (118) for the 25 point scoring format era. She was also a finalist for the ESPY for Best Collegiate Athlete. The icing on the cake was that the Nittany Lions won the national championship in Hancock’s hometown, Oklahoma City.
Haleigh Washington was the Big 10 Freshman of the Year, and was a 1st Team All-Big 10 selection along with Hancock and Grant.
Dietzen and Alicia Glass were members of the bronze-medal winning 2016 U.S. Olympic Team.
In 2016, the Nittany Lions finished with a 24-10 record (13-6 in the Big 10), and once again palyed in the NCAA Championship Tournament where, they advanced to the regional semi-finals in Lincoln, Nebraska, where they lost in 5 sets. The season’s highlights were the defeat in Rec Hall of then number 1 ranked Minnesota in 5 sets (Simone Lee had 30 kilss in the match), and their season-ending loss to Nebraska in the NCAA Regional Semi-finals. The match was played in Lincoln, and although Nebraska was the defending national champion and (at that time) the top ranked team in the country, the Lions won the first 2 sets and were 1 point away from sweeping the Cornhuskers on their home floor. Nebraska held off Penn State in that 3rd set, and then won the next 2 sets to advance in the Tournament. Simone Lee and Haleigh Washington were named to the All-Big 10, All-Northeast Region, and All-American 1st teams.
The 2017 Nittany Lions were the top seed in the NCAA Tournament after tying Nebraska for the Big Ten Championship. They advance to the semi-final round where, for the second consecutive year, they failed to win a match point and ultimately lost to Nebraska (eventual 2017 National Champion). The team finished with a 33-2 record, with both losses at the hands of the Cornhuskers, and ranked 3rd nationally at season’s end. Simone Lee was Big Ten Player of the Year, Haleigh Washington was Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (only the 3rd time in Big Ten history and 2nd time in Penn State history that one school swept these awards), and Russ Rose was the Conference Coach of the Year. Lee and Washington were both 1st team All-Americans, and were joined by Kendall White on the All-Big Ten 1st team and by White, Ali Frantti, and Heidi Thelen on the All-Northeast Division 1st team.
In 2019, Penn State finished with a 27-6 record, losing in the National Tournament quarter-finals to defending 2018 national champion and eventual 2019 champion Stanford. Stanford defeated the Lions twice in 2019; Penn State’s other 4 defeats came at the hands of national runner-up Wisconsin, final four participant Minnesota, national quarter-finalist Nebraska, and 2-loss Pittsburgh (the Lions handed the Panthers their only regular-season loss). Russ Rose was the Big Ten Coach of the Year, Kendall White was the Conference Defensive Player of the Year for the 2nd consecutive year, and White, Kaitlyn Hord, and Jonni Parker were 1st Team All-Big Ten selections. Hord also was named a 1st Team All-American.
Penn State’s first All-American was Ellen Crandall in 1979. Overall, they have had 70 first-team All-Americans and 84 first-team All-Big 10 selections.
Final Top 10 National Rankings
1990 (6), 1992 (9), 1993 (7), 1994 (5),1995 (8), 1996 (5), 1997-1998 (2) (2), 1999 (1), 2000 (6), 2003 (7), 2004 (7), 2005 (5), 2006 (5), 2007 (5), 2007-2010 (1), 2011 (9), 2012 (3), 2013-2014 (1) 2015 (9), 2017(3), 2018 (6), 2019 (7)
Runner-up 1993, 1997 - 1998, 1999, 2007-2010; 2013-2014
Atlantic 10 Champions
Big 10 Champions
1992 (tie), 1993, 1996 (tie), 1997 (tie),1998, 1999, 2003-2010, 2012-2013, 2017(tie)
NCAA Tournament Appearances
1981-89, 1990 (final 8), 1991-92, 1993 (runner-up), 1994 (final four), 1995, 1996 (final 8), 1997-98 (runner-up), 1999 (champion), 2000 (final 8), 2001-2002-2003 (final 8), 2004, 2005-06 (final 8), 2007-2010 (champions), 2011, 2012 (final 4), 2013-2014 (champion), 2015, 2016, 2017 (final 4), 2018-19 (final 8)
Tom Tait (1976-1978) 51-43-4
2007 USA Volleyball All-Time Great Coach
Russ Rose (1979-present) 1,293-212 (86%)
16-time Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year
16-time Big 10 Coach of the Year
5-time AVCA National Coach of the Year
2000 USOC Coach of the Year
2005 USA Volleyball All-Time Great Coach
2007 AVCA Volleyball Hall of Fame Inductee
Bonnie Bremner (1996-1999)
1996 Big 10 Freshman of the Year
1997, 1998 Big 10 Player of the Year
1996-1999 1st Team All-American
1998-1999 Academic All American of the Year
Lauren Cacciamani (1996-1999)
1999 Big 10 Player of the Year, Female Athlete of Year
1997-1999 1st Team Big Ten
1998-1999 1st Team All-American
1999 Co-AVCA National Player of the Year, Honda National Player of the Year
1998 (co-winner), 1999 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
Nicole Fawcett (2005-2008)
4-time 1st team All Big 10
2006-7-8 1stTeam All-American
2009 AVCA, Honda National Player of the Year
2008 Big 10 Player of the Year
Megan Hodge (2006-2009)
4-time 1st team All Big 10, All-American
2010 AVCA, Honda National Player of the Year
2006, 2009 Big Ten Player of the Year
2006 Big 10 Freshman of the Year
2007, 2008 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
2006 AVCA Freshman of the Year
2010 Honda-Broderick Cup Winner
2010 Suzy Favor Award Winner
Blair Brown (2007-2010)
2 time 1st Team All-Big 10
2010 1st Team All-American
2010 Honda National Player of the Year
Deja McLendon (2010-2013)
4-time 1st team All-Big 10
2010 Big 10/National Freshman of the Year
2010 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
4-time All-American (1st Team 2011)
Micha Hancock (2011-2014)
2012-2014 1st Team All-Big 10
2012, 2013 Big 10 Setter of the Year
2012, 2014 AVCA 1st Team All-American
2013 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
2011 AVCA Mideast Region Freshman of the Year
NCAA record holder for aces in a season (125)
Penn State career leader in aces (379)
Atlantic 10 Player of the Year – Lori Barberich (1983, 1984); Marcia Leap (1985); Ellen Hensler (1986); Lisa Leap (1987); Noelle Zientara (1988); JoAnn Elwell (1989); Michelle Jaworski (1990).
Big 10 Freshman of the Year – Bonnie Bremner (1996); Sam Tortorello (2002); Cassie Salyer (2003); Kate Price (2004); Nicole Fawcett (2005); Megan Hodge (2006), Arielle Wilson (2007), Darcy Dorton (2009); Deja McClendon (2010); Micah Hancock (2011), Megan Courtney (2012), Haleigh Washington (2014), Jonni Parker (2018)
Big 10 Player of the Year – Leanne Kling (1992); Salima Davidson (1993); Terri Zemaitis (1995); Bonnie Bremner (1997, 1998); Lauren Cacciamani (1999); Sam Tortorello (2005); Kaleena Walters (Defensive, 2005); Megan Hodge (2006, 2009), Christa Harmotto (2007); Nicole Fawcett (2008); Megan Hodge (2009); Blair Brown (2010); Katie Slay (Defensive, 2011), Ariel Scott (Offensive, 2012), Simone Lee (Offensive, 2017): Haleigh Washingtion (Defensive, 2017), Kendall White (Defensive, 2018)
Big 10 Setter of the Year – Micha Hancock (2012, 2013)
All-Big 10 – 42 players, including 4 who were 4-time All-Big 10.
All American - 45 players, including 5 who were 4-time All-Americans. Of these, Megan Hodge was a 4-time 1st Team All-American.
National Player of the Year – Lauren Cacciamani (1999); Nicole Fawcett (2008); Megan Hodge (2009); Blair Brown (2010); Micha Hancock (2014)
National Freshman of the Year – Megan Hodge (2006); Ali Frantti (2014)
Honda National Player of the Year – Lauren Cacciamani (1999); Nicole Fawcett (2008); Megann Hodge (2009); Blair Brown (2010).
Honda-Broderick Cup (National Female College Athlete of the Year) – Megan Hodge (2009-2010 season co-winner).
Big 10 Female Athlete of the Year – Lauren Cacciamani (1999-2010 season); Megan Hodge (2009-2010 season)
Academic All-American of the Year – Bonnie Bremner (1998).
Senior CLASS Award (Most Outstanding Senior Student-Athlete) Bonnie Bremner (1998, 1999); Christa Harmotto (2008); Megan Hodge (2009); Ariel Scott (2013).
2012 U. S. Olympic Team (silver medal) – Christa (Harmotto) Dietzen; Megan Hodge.
2016 U.S. Olympic Team (bronze medal) – Christa (Harmotto) Dietzen; Alicia Glass.