No. 2 women's volleyball wraps up homestand

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- No. 2 Penn State women's volleyball (24-2, 15-1) looks to keep its 15-match winning streak alive this weekend, hosting RV Northwestern (16-12, 11-14) and No. 20 Illinois (14-12, 10-6) in the final two home matches of the season at Rec Hall. The Nittany Lions and the Wildcats clash Friday, Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. before matching up against the Fighting Illini Saturday, Nov. 23 at 7:30 p.m.

Fans can catch Friday's match streamed live on the Big Ten Digital Network with a paid subscription.

PROMOTIONAL SPOTLIGHT
Friday night, Penn State will host Throwback night at Rec hall, honoring old Nittany Lion school colors with free pink and black t-shirts while supplies last. Saturday's contest is Senior Night! Help us honor the careers and accomplishments of our very talented senior class, who will take to the court for their final regular-season match at Rec Hall. Free admission is available to those who bring their football ticket stubs with them to the door.

PENN STATE VS. NORTHWESTERN
Penn State holds a 45-8 advantage in the all-time series against the Wildcats, having posted wins in the last 21 consecutive contests. Within the 21-match win streak that dates back to Oct. 3, 2003, Penn State has posted straight-set victories in 20 of the 21 outings. Looking closer at the eight losses the Nittany Lions have surrendered to the Wildcats, only one has been decided at Rec Hall, with five occurring on the road and two at neutral sites.

SCOUTING THE WILDCATS
Northwestern enters the week looking to extend a two-match winning streak that moved the Wildcats to 16-12 overall and 11-4 in the conference. Last week, NU took down then-No. 18 Purdue in four sets before claiming a close five-set victory against Indiana.

Setter Caleigh Ryan has paced the Northwestern offense to a .221 hitting percentage, dishing out 11.23 assists per set, which leads the Big Ten. Stephanie Holthus is at the helm of the NU offensive production, averaging a team-high 4.10 kills per set, which ranks 36th nationally and fourth in the Big Ten. Katie Dutchman, Kayla Morin and Yewande Akanabi are also key offensive contributors, as the trio is averaging more than 2.00 kills per frame. On the defensive side, Caroline Niedospial is leading the squad with 4.39 digs per set, which ranks second in the league.

PENN STATE VS. ILLINOIS
The Nittany Lions own a 40-8 all-time record against the Fighting Illini that dates back to Oct. 23, 1981 when the two teams first met. In the last three meetings, Penn State has claimed close five-set victories in two of the matches, posting one straight-set win in between the two close contests. Earlier this season, Penn State escaped Huff Hall with a 3-2 triumph.

ROUND TWO WITH THE FIGHTING ILLINI
Illinois enters the week riding a five-match winning streak that vaulted the Fighting Illini into fourth place in the Big Ten standings at 14-12 overall and 10-6 in the league. Illinois takes on Ohio State Friday, Nov. 22 before hitting the court in Rec Hall.

Jocelynn Birks and Liz McMahon are atop the Fighting Illini offense with more than 3.10 kills per set, led by Birks, who's averaging 3.91 per frame. Birks is also tied for first on the squad with 19 aces on the year. Jennifer Beltran is anchoring the Illinois defense, averaging 4.15 digs per set, which ranks third in the Big Ten. Overall, Illinois' 14.68 digs per set ranks fifth in the conference.

SLAY COLLECTS BACK-TO-BACK BIG TEN DEFENSIVE PLAYER HONORS
Following an important 2-0 weekend on the road, senior Katie Slay earned her second consecutive Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honor. Last weekend, Slay helped No. 2 Penn State to a pair of straight-set victories at No. 14 Wisconsin and No. 11 Minnesota, which extended the Nittany Lion winning streak to 15 consecutive matches.

Slay led the Penn State blocking effort in both matches, posting at least eight blocks against each opponent, averaging 2.67 blocks per frame on the week. Against the Badgers, she put down four kills to go along with eight blocks. The next evening, she posted another eight blocks, including one solo stuff and added seven kills.

NITTANY LIONS STAY SOLID AT NO. 2 IN AVCA TOP 25 POLL
After posting a pair of Big Ten wins on the road last weekend, Penn State has earned its fifth consecutive No. 2 ranking in the AVCA Top 25 Coaches' Poll. The Nittany Lions also picked up 16 first place votes in the poll, which is two more than last week. Prior to the No. 2 position, Penn State spent two weeks ranked fourth. Penn State has been ranked within the top five in every poll in 2013.

McCLENDON BUILDING ON MILESTONE MARK
Recording 10 digs against Iowa, senior Deja McClendon registered her 1,004th career dig to eclipse the 1,000 career kills/1,000 career digs mark. With 1,500 kills and 1,052 digs, McClendon is the first Nittany Lions to reach the mark since Megan Hodge in 2009 (2,142k/1,150d) and the fifth in program history.

McClendon recently hit the 1,500 kills mark after tallying 11 kills at Minnesota. The mark ranks seventh on the Penn State all-time list, as she is now one of seven student-athletes in program history to amass 1,500 or more kills in her collegiate career.

LEADING THE NCAA IN ACES PER SET, HANCOCK ONE ACE AWAY FROM PROGRAM RECORD
Averaging 0.70 aces per set, junior Micha Hancock has reclaimed the top spot as the nation's leader in aces per set. Her mark also ranks first in the Big Ten. She has moved from first to second periodically throughout the season after leading the nation in the category for first five consecutive weeks of the season.

With four aces against Eastern Kentucky, Hancock notched her 200th career service ace. With one ace against Minnesota last weekend, Hancock matched the Penn State all-time record with 235 career aces. This weekend she is just one ace away from breaking the record originally set by Ellen Hensler (1983-86).

THE BEST BLOCKING IN THE NATION
Overall, Penn State's 3.13 blocks per set leads 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 1.68 per frame, which ranks third in the nation and first in the conference.

THAT'S SOME HEAVY HITTING
Micha Hancock has paced the Nittany Lions to a .317 overall hitting percentage in 2013, which ranks third in the nation and leads the Big Ten. Penn State is also averaging 13.87 kills per set, which is good for 49th in the country and second in the conference.

Individually, junior Nia Grant's .406 hitting percentage ranks 21st nationally and second in the Big Ten. Senior Katie Slay is close behind, as her .403 hitting efficiency ranks 26th in the nation and third in the league.

1,115 WINS AND COUNTING
After 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 Banachowski, who previously owned the record.

With 1,115 wins, Rose is presently eight wins shy of tying current Hawaii head coach Dave Shoji for first on the all-time list with 1,123 career victories. Earlier this season, Shoji surpassed Banachowski, taking the top spot as the newest leader in the category.

VOTE FOR A. SCOTT!
Ariel Scott has been selected as one of 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award. Scott was selected from a pool of 29 other candidate for the annual award that is presented to one athlete who exemplifies excellence both on and off the court. Fans are encouraged to vote on the Senior CLASS Award website until December 9, as fan votes will be combined with media and DI head coaches' votes to determine the winner at the NCAA Championship.

A CLEAN SWEEP
Penn State registered its 17th straight-set victory of the season at Minnesota last weekend, having swept its last five consecutive Big Ten opponents. Among the 26 matches the Nittany Lions have played this season 17 of the 24 victories or 71 percent have been by a score of 3-0. Of the 17 sweeps, nine of them have come against non-conference foes, while eight have been against Big Ten teams.

GOTTA PLAY THE BEST TO BE THE BEST
Among the 26 matches Penn State has played this year, the Nittany Lions have compiled a 12-2 record in matches against ranked opponents this season, which includes matches against three different non-conference teams and 11 different teams from the Big Ten.

SLAY EARNS CoSIDA ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT HONORS
Two weeks ago, senior Katie Slay was selected as a Capital One CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree, along with five other District II candidates. She will now be considered for national honors as an Academic All-American, which is presented to one outstanding student-athlete in December.

WHAT'S NEXT?
Penn State travels to Ohio State and Nebraska for its final regular season road trip. The Nittany Lions visit the Buckeyes in a midweek match set for Wednesday, Nov. 27 at 7 p.m., before taking on Nebraska Saturday, Nov. 30 at 8:00 p.m. ET. The match against the Cornhuskers will broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.   

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Last Updated November 22, 2013