Women's volleyball set to face Washington in national semifinals

SEATTLE -- Making its 11th appearance in NCAA national semifinals in program history, the No. 2 Penn State women's volleyball team (32-2) is set to square off against No. 3 Washington (30-2) Thursday, Dec. 19 at 9:30 p.m. ET in Key Arena. The matchup will broadcast live on ESPN2 with Beth Mowins and Karch Kiraly on the call.

Penn State is 8-2 all-time in the NCAA national semifinals since head coach Russ Rose guided the Nittany Lions to their first appearance in the event during the 1993 season. In the last seven years, Penn State has made six trips to the national semis, going on to win the national title in four consecutive seasons from 2007-2010. Since 2007, Penn State has made more appearances in the national semifinals than any other program, leading Texas by one appearance (5). Southern California (3), Stanford (2) and California (2) are the only other teams in the nation to appear in the NCAA semifinals more than once during the span.

PENN STATE VS. WASHINGTON
The Nittany Lions are 1-2 in the all-time series against the Huskies. The two teams most recently met in the West Regional final in 2006. Washington claimed a close 3-2 win in the contest to break away with a one-match lead in the all-time series. Prior to the NCAA Tournament outing, PSU split its last two matches against UW, dropping a 3-0 decision on the road in 1992, but rebounding with a sweep in 1995 at Rec Hall.

SCOUTING THE HUSKIES
No. 3 Washington is making its fourth appearance in the NCAA national semifinals under the direction of 2013 Pac 12 Coach of the Year Jim McLaughlin, who is in this 13th year at the helm of the program. The Huskies knocked off Los Angeles Regional host USC in a close five-set battle to earn the final spot in the national semifinals.

2013 Pac 12 Player of the Year Krista Vansant is leading the UW offense, averaging 4.46 kills per set, which ranks third in the conference and 17th nationally. Vansant powered the Washington offense with 38 kills and 30 digs against the Trojans, marking the first 30-30 performance by a Husky in NCAA tournament history. Lianna Sybeldon is atop the blocking unit, averaging 1.32 blocks per set, which is fourth in the conference, while libero Jenna Orlandini is anchoring the defense with 4.15 kills per set.

REGIONAL FINAL RECAP
Seniors Ariel Scott and Deja McClendon propelled Penn State to a thrilling 3-2 victory against Stanford in the final match of the Lexington Regional. With the win, the Nittany Lions extended their winning streak to 23 consecutive matches.

Scott led the offense with 22 kills, adding eight digs, while also earning a spot on the Lexington Regional All-Tournament team. McClendon claimed Lexington Regional Most Outstanding Player honors after recording 21 kills on .316 hitting, notching a double-double with a team-high 16 digs. Junior Micha Hancock also claimed a spot on the all-tournament team, registering a double-double with 58 assists and 15 digs.

Senior Katie Slay led the offense with a season-high 10 digs, posting four solo stuffs and six block assists. Slay also tallied five of the final nine points (3 kills, 2 blocks) to bring the Nittany Lions back from a 9-6 deficit in a 15-11 victory in the decisive fifth set for the eventual win.

THE BEST BLOCKING IN THE NATION
Penn State's 3.0 blocks per set ranks first among 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 1.67 blocks 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 .306 overall hitting percentage in 2013, which ranks fifth in the nation and leads the Big Ten. Hancock's also paced two of the nation's top hitters to .355 or better hitting efficiency. Individually, Katie Slay's .404 hitting clip ranks 21st in the nation and first in the Big Ten, while junior Nia Grant's .353 hitting percentage ranks 57th nationally and fifth in the conference.

1,123 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 1,123 wins, Rose is presently five wins shy of tying current Hawaii head coach Dave Shoji for first on the all-time list with 1,128 career victories. Earlier this season, Shoji surpassed Banachowski, taking the top spot as the newest leader in the category.

SLAY NAMED CAPTIAL ONE ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICAN OF THE YEAR
Senior Katie Slay has earned the 2013 Capital One Academic All-America of the Year award, which is selected annually by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).

Slay was selected from a group of more than 40 student-athletes who earned academic all-district honors earlier this season. She is the fourth different Nittany Lion to garner the prestigious award and the first PSU women's volleyball Academic All-America of the year since Megan Hodge in 2009. Former Penn State standout Bonnie Bremner won the award in 1998 and 1999, while Christa Harmotto was honored in 2008.

WHAT'S NEXT?
Should Penn State defeat Washington, the Nittany Lions will move on to the national title match, taking on the winner of the Texas-Wisconsin match for the national championship.   

Last Updated June 20, 2014