Trophies, Records Pile up for Penn State Volleyball

12/22/2009

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By Genaro C. Armas, AP Sports Writer

courtesy USA Today 


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Penn State women's volleyball assistant coach Dennis Hohenshelt didn't quite know the location of the team's latest NCAA title trophy.
The prizes for the first three titles are at the team office. The latest addition was somewhere in Rec Hall, Hohenshelt thought Monday morning, probably in the locker room.

Penn State's record-setting team sure earned the right to squirrel away the latest reward.

In winning its 102nd straight match on Saturday -- the second-longest win streak ever in Division I team sports -- top-ranked Penn State secured its third consecutive national championship with a heart-pounding, five-set win over No. 2 Texas after falling behind 2-0.

Quite possibly one of the best women's volleyball title matches ever capped one of the most remarkable runs in college sports for a program that keeps making history.

Kathy DeBoer, executive director of the American Volleyball Coaches Association, equated Saturday night's title tilt to a championship heavyweight bout.

"Everybody wants a great game in the championship game," DeBoer said Monday by phone from her office in Lexington, Ky. "It's very rare that the match lives up to its buildup."

Women's college volleyball has a small but loyal and growing following. Still, it barely registers among most mainstream sports enthusiasts, lost in the autumn shadow of football.

Penn State students can be oblivious to what's going on at the net on a campus where football is the undisputed king.

Saturday left no doubt which is the best team in Happy Valley -- and it's not coach Joe Paterno's club.

The women's volleyball squad wrapped up its second straight 38-0 season. They haven't lost since falling to Stanford in September 2007.

Only the Miami men's tennis program has won more consecutive matches, with 137 straight from 1957-64.

"It's going to be hard to describe. It's going to be something we look back on and think it's amazing," setter Alisha Glass said after the thrilling 22-25, 20-25, 25-23, 25-21, 15-13 victory to take the title in Tampa, Fla.

"This was our goal at the beginning of the season. And I think you saw that in the match. We did just not want to let it go," Glass said. "We came here and we got what we wanted."

After a night of celebration in Tampa, many team members flew back Sunday to Happy Valley, taking the trophy with them. Some players stayed behind in Florida to spend more time with their families.

Coach Russ Rose, who won his 1,001st career game, also remained in Tampa to watch a high school all-star volleyball match. Some of those players were headed to Penn State.

"There's always something to do," said Hohenshelt, who flew back to State College and was charged with video and helping to clean up the office.

"The office has gotten to be a disaster the last three weeks," he said Monday.

But players dispersed quickly with the university on Christmas break.

Two of the game's best players have played their last match in blue and white. Outside hitter Hodge and Glass, both seniors, seem destined for the U.S. Olympic team.

Another senior, reserve Kelsey Ream, returned to action in November after suffering a serious left knee injury in the spring.

Next year's squad will return top talents including opposite Blair Brown and middle hitter Arielle Wilson, as well as libero Alyssa D'Errico, one of the top servers in the nation. The Nittany Lions also will have a big freshman class of eight new players.

Undoubtedly, talk of The Streak will resurface when preseason camp begins in August -- at least among the media and fans.

"In three years, it's never been brought up once. In all honesty, we don't talk about it," Hohenshelt said. Rose "has the girls so focused on what they need to do."

Plus, Hohenshelt adds, "the girls lose every day in practice. This team has lost more times in practice than they care to mention."

There is one streak, though, that Hohenshelt said returnees will be thinking about for next season. "The girls next year will be, 'Why can't we win a fourth?" title.

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