No. 5 women's volleyball hosts No. 15 Illinois

October 10, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- No. 5 Penn State women's volleyball (16-2, 4-1) wraps up its first weekend of conference play at home with a Big Ten matchup against No. 15 Illinois (11-5, 3-2) Saturday, Oct. 11 at 4 p.m. in Rec Hall.

Earlier this week, Penn State captured its 14th straight-set victory of the season in a midweek matchup against No. 24 Northwestern. With the victory, PSU earned its fourth win of the 2014 season against a ranked opponent. Redshirt junior Aiyana Whitney and junior Megan Courtney powered the offense with a pair of double-digit kill performances in the win.


* The Nittany Lions opened the 2014 Big Ten slate with four straight matches on the road. PSU tallied a 3-1 mark during the road swing, picking up wins against two top-20 teams (No. 5 Wisconsin, No. 17 Minnesota). Penn State dropped a 3-1 win at No. 8 Nebraska before rebounding with a 3-0 win at Iowa.

* Penn State squares off against its seventh ranked team of the season when it welcomes the Fighting Illini to Rec Hall Saturday afternoon. PSU has compiled a 4-2 record against teams ranked within the AVCA Top 25 this season.

* Averaging 1.07 aces per set, senior Micha Hancock has established herself as the nation's leader in the category for the fourth consecutive week. With 63 aces in 2014, the PSU all-time record-holder has tallied 317 aces in her career in the Blue and White.

* As a team, the Nittany Lions are averaging 1.98 aces per set, which ranks first in the Big Ten and second nationally.

* Penn State's .355 hitting percentage leads the nation and ranks first in the Big Ten as four attackers are currently hitting .318 or higher on the year, led by senior Nia Grant's .488 hitting clip which ranks third nationally and first in the conference. PSU is also out-hitting its opponents, .355-.129.

* PSU moved to No. 5 in the AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll this week after spending the last four consecutive weeks ranked third. Prior to the No. 3 positioning, Penn State was slotted first for back-to-back weeks.

* The Nittany Lions are among seven teams from the Big Ten conference to be featured in the AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll and one of three squads within the top 10.

Penn State owns a 49-1 advantage in the all-time series against Illinois, having posted a 22-2 mark vs. the Illini at home in Rec Hall. The Nittany Lions captured wins in both meetings last season capturing at least a share of the 2013 Big Ten title in the most recent outing in Rec Hall Nov. 23, 2013.

Including a perfect 8-0 mark in 2014, Penn State owns a 554-32 (.945) all-time record at home in Rec Hall. Following a straight-set victory against No. 24 Northwestern, the Nittany Lions hold a 250-18 (.933) mark in Big Ten matches on the court in Rec Hall. Only three Big Ten teams have defeated the Nittany Lions on their home court three or more times including Ohio State (5), Michigan (3) and Michigan State (3). Penn State has posted unblemished records in Big Ten play at home in seven of the last 10 years, while also winning 94 of the last 96 conference contests at Rec Hall.

Leading the team in digs in 16 of 18 matches this season, senior libero Dominique Gonzalez highlighted last weekend's Big Ten season opener with her third 20-dig performance of the season before following with a season-high mark of 26 digs in a 3-1 win at No. 17 Minnesota. Having broken into the conference standings two weeks ago, she presently leads the squad with 3.76 digs per frame, which ranks 10th in the Big Ten.

With 1,141 wins, head coach Russ Rose is atop the NCAA DI all-time wins record, having previously tied current Hawaii head coach Dave Shoji for first on the all-time list earlier this week. The two active head coaches have traded the top spot throughout the season. Both Rose and Shoji are the only two NCAA DI head coaches with more than 1,000 career wins. The two are each one of three active NCAA head coaches in all three divisions to have more than 1,100 career wins.

Additionally, Rose owns the all-time record for NCAA DI career winning percentage, having posted a career clip of .864 in the past 35 seasons. In 2013, head coach Russ Rose earned his 1,107th victory with a straight-set win at Northwestern, moving him into sole possession of second place on the NCAA DI career wins list. With the triumph, he passed former UCLA head coach Andy Banachowski, who previously owned the record.

Six freshman have made their collegiate debuts for Penn State in the last six weeks, including Ali Frantti, Heidi Thelen, Simone Lee, Lainy Pierce, Haleigh Washington and Skylar Dykstra. All ranked within's top 10, Frantti, Lee and Washington are already making solid contributions this season.

Averaging a team-high 3.30 kills per set on .318 hitting, Frantti has started every match for the Nittany Lions in 2014. Lee ranks fifth on the squad with 111 kills on the year, averaging 2.27 per set on .242 hitting. Frantti and Lee have each recorded more than 100 kills in their rookie campaigns. Despite missing the first two weeks of the season, Washington's averaging 2.45 kills per set on .489 hitting, having played in 27 sets. Frantti's highlight of the season came with a double-double performance at then-No. 2 Stanford with 22 kills and 11 digs. Lee capped off a productive weekend in Palo Alto, Calif. as well with her second double-digit kill performance of the season with 11 kills against UCLA. Lee followed that with a team-high 12 kills in the Big Ten opener against Wisconsin.

Pierce saw time on the court during key points of the match against the Cardinal, tallying her first collegiate ace. Washington made her rookie debut in the Villanova Classic, finishing third on the team with six kills on .545 hitting against Yale, adding a solo stuff. She made her Big Ten debut on the road last weekend at Iowa, registering a pair of kills and a solo block.

Penn State has earned 14 of its 16 (88%) victories this season in straight sets. Within those 13 sweeps, PSU has held five teams (Iona, William & Mary, Eastern Illinois, DePaul, East Carolina) to less than 40 total points scored in a single match. Last season, the Nittany Lions earned 23 of their 34 victories in 3-0 sweeps.

Penn State hits the road next weekend traveling to Purdue and Indiana for another weekend of Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions take on the Boilermakers Friday, Oct. 17 at 8 p.m. before squaring off against the Hoosiers Saturday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. Friday's matchup at Purdue will broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.   

Last Updated October 10, 2014