Penn State – Cal Wrap-Up (Groundhog Day)

Groundhog Day

After last night’s 3-0 loss to Penn State (25-20, 27-25, 25-20), the California coaches and players could be forgiven if they felt a bit like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.  Talk about déjà vu — it was the fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament in which they played Penn State, and the fourth consecutive time they lost to the Nittany Lions.

But Cal certainly had no reason to hang their heads.  As Coach Rose said in the post-match press conference:

I’d first like to congratulate Cal on such a terrific season, a great team. It’s been an honor for us to have played them the last few years, and certainly from our team’s standpoint, it was a great match tonight with a terrific crowd and the host people did a great job with everything that fell into place. . . . We had a great game plan against a great opponent, and a lot of people didn’t think we should be here and a lot of people will have to try and figure out how it is we won the match, but we thought we should be here and we thought we should win the match, and had we lost the match, I would have applauded for my good friend at Cal because, eventually, he’s going to win this match as well.

California’s Coach Rich Feller put it this way:

Well, as you can imagine, this is a bit of an emotional moment for all of us. We would have loved to have the outcome different, but Penn State was very, very good tonight and they deserve the championship. That does not diminish the accomplishments of this team this year: 30-4 on the season, Pac 10 champion and [national] runner-up. No one really wants to be the runner-up, but there’s a couple 100 teams out there that weren’t here tonight. This team has been so special. They are the most cohesive and harding working team I’ve ever had and I’ve been coaching for about 26 years. I couldn’t be more proud. I see here that we out-blocked Penn State, so that’s a good thing. We’ll move on. We lose an incredible leader in Carli Lloyd and her buddy Meagan Schmitt. They will be sorely missed, but the girl to my far right [Tarah Murrey] will be taking over that leadership reign. The lessons learned this year will apply to next year. We’ll do everything we can to be back here and be the second interview on the last night.

We second those emotions.  Well put by two exceptional coaches.  For insight into Coach Rose, check out this interview from espn.com — Developing character . . . and characters.  It’s among the best we’ve ever seen.  Our favorite quote:

I’m different than a lot of other people. I’m not judgmental in any way on anything. People might avoid kids that don’t look like they play well with others or have eating issues or sexuality issues. I don’t care about those things. The world is made up of a lot of different groups. If you want to go somewhere and do something, you can do it here.

Awards, Records

It was a match that featured five AVCA All-Americans, four of whom were named to the AVCA 1st Team.  The fifth, Penn State’s Deja McClendon, was a 2nd Team AVCA All American and was named the championship’s Most Outstanding Player.   McClendon becomes the second freshman in Tournament history to be named Most Outstanding Player (Stanford’s Kerri Walsh was the first).

All five players were named to the NCAA All Tournament Team, which included Penn State’s 6-5 Sr. Opp. Blair Brown, 6-3 Sr. MH Arielle Wilson, 5-6 So. S Kristin Carpenter, California’s 5-11 Jr. S Carli Lloyd and 6-3 Jr. OH Tarah Murrey, and Texas’ 6-2 Sr. OH Julianne Faucette.

The Championship was Penn State’s fifth for Division I Women’s volleyball (its other titles were in 1999, 2007, 2008 and 2009).  Stanford, with six titles, is the only school with more than the Nittany Lions.

The NCAA announced that 14,032 people attended the championship match, which is the third-highest championship match attendance in tournament history.  According to the NCAA, total attendance for the volleyball finals was 26,123, which is almost 4,000 more than attended last year’s Finals.

Video Juke Box

Here are four videos from GoPSUsports.com — big thanks for this!

The first is a Four-Peat Congratulations:

The second video is of the Penn State team at a pre-match pep rally (we think), on their way to the match, during pre-match introductions, and the post-match celebration.

The third video features the post-match press conference with Head Coach Russ Rose, Blair Brown, Deja McClendon, and Katie Slay.

The final video is of a special Commencement ceremony held for Penn State’s Blair Brown, with Penn State President Graham Spanier, who missed commencement to travel to the NCAA Finals.

Penn State Post-Championship Match Press Conference Quotes

Transcripts provided by Accuscript, Inc.

MODERATOR:

Good evening and welcome to the 2010 NCAA Division l Women’s Volleyball National Championship post-match press conference. At the podium we have the head of the four-time National Champions Nittany Lions, Russ Rose, along with student-athletes, Blair Brown, Deja McClendon, and Katie Slay. We’ll start with an opening statement by Coach Rose followed by questions for both coach and student athletes.

COACH ROSE:

I’d first like to congratulate Cal on such a terrific season, a great team. It’s been an honor for us to have played them the last few years, and certainly from our team’s standpoint, it was a great match tonight with a terrific crowd and the host people did a great job with everything that fell into place. And I thought the three kids up here, you know, really made great statements tonight. I’m so pleased about how Deja [McClendon] played this weekend and Blair [Brown] had big numbers and the second match here led the match in points, so it was great. Katie Slay did what we asked her to do, is block some balls, and you get yourself into a tough match with a great team. We came out very strong in the first game. The second game, it was going back and forth and we were fortunate enough to win that second game, and I think that’s probably where most of the momentum really came from. I thought the staff did a great job in helping devise a game plan, the kids listened well and we played hard and we were in a great position. The kids feel great. It’s great for the university and the Big Ten Conference, and we’re just as thrilled as we can be at this point in time.

Q: Deja, you’ve seen Blair, Ariel [Scott], and Alyssa [D’Errico] win four. You’re off to a pretty good start, I’d say. Just talk about what you learned this season from them and also what you learned from the experience of playing on the biggest stage, and then also for Blair, just talk about going 142-7 in your career and what legacy you hope to leave?

DEJA MCCLENDON:

It’s so hard to talk about it. I was pretty much a blank slate when I came to Penn State and they just helped me; all the coaches worked me a lot. Probably the biggest lesson I learned from this team is how to push through, especially when you’re having a hard time because we started off really rough this season and the girls never stopped working with us, never stopped believing in us and they worked with us so much.

BLAIR BROWN:

The legacy we leave, we don’t want it to be about numbers. It’s not about that. We’re thrilled to have four national championships, but the legacy we want to leave is the program history, I guess. We want the tradition of working hard every day in practice and going hard because that’s how you get here. We didn’t want them to lose that along the way. So I think the most important thing for us is just the tradition of the program and I think hopefully we instilled that in them and they’ll continue to do that.

Q. Katie, I think you had two of the biggest blocks in this final, I believe you had it both times on the set points in the second game and I know this is something you’re used to doing, but in those moments, how big those were, if you could kind of talk about those?

KATIE SLAY:

They’re big moments, but I think it’s just go out there and play. The seniors on our team did a really great job of keeping us relaxed in the match, so when I knew I was going to be on the floor in those key moments, I didn’t really feel nervous because I knew I had a great cast around me and that I needed to step up and help out the seniors because they’ve worked hard for us all season and I was put out there to serve that role, so I was happy to contribute.

Q. Blair, this is your final season, what are your plans beyond this court? Sand?

BLAIR BROWN:

No, probably not sand. I’d love to continue to play the game, but I’m still not over playing yet. Penn State has given me such a great opportunity to get better and, you know, when I came in I was like Deja, I was a blank slate, but I was a little less athletic than she is right now, so the coaches worked with me really hard in the beginning and I just hope to continue on in playing.

Q. To Blair or any of the players, did you get the sense that you at all broke their spirit after the second set?

BLAIR BROWN:

No, you don’t break their spirit, Cal is a great team. They played really hard. They came in with a lot of energy and like you said, there were moments where momentum shifts and that’s what happens in the game of volleyball and you just hope it shifts your way.

DEJA MCCLENDON:

A lot of times you really don’t notice what the team’s feelings are, we’re just focused on ourselves and trying to keep our spirits high.

KATIE SLAY:

I think they never stopped fighting, especially with Carli Lloyd at the setter position. She is a great team player and a team leader and an excellent setter, so she wasn’t going to let her team stop fighting and she’s had a really great career.

COACH ROSE:

I thought we had great contributions off the bench. I thought Ali Longo in that third game really, really gave us the separation that we needed with those three aces when she — we scored seven points with her serving and three of them were on aces, so I thought she did a real nice job. I thought Cathy started a little shaky and then she settled down, passing well, and Nummy did what Nummy always does, she plays hard and she keeps people in place with what they need to do, but Cal is not going to quit. They wouldn’t get to the position they were in. They wouldn’t have won the Pac-10 if they had any quit in them. The first game, I think we played great. The second game could have gone either way and Katie had a couple of big blocks, her and Blair at the end, so we had a favorable match-up at that point in time. And in the third game, even though we started a little slow after Ali served, you know, we had some pretty good separation and then at the end it still wasn’t over, so, I mean, that just shows the type of champion that Cal is, they were at 24-20 and they had just scored three points to get themselves up to 20, so it wasn’t over until the last whistle.

Q. Could you talk about the benefit of the two timeouts you took when you were facing the set points in the second game?

COACH ROSE:

Well, some people call them at 2-0 and some people call them at different times and I didn’t call them until 23 points, so, I don’t know if there was a benefit, but unfortunately there was a need to call them. We were facing game point, so, you call timeouts, you don’t change the momentum. Cal is a great team. Rich [Feller] is a great friend and a terrific coach. And Carli was the national player of the year. I feel for him. I’ve been in that other locker room three or four times losing in the finals for national championships, so I know how he feels. Cal’s obviously doing a great job; the fact we’ve seen them four years in a row in the NCAA is an indication they’re where they’re supposed to be.

Q. Blair, you spent your whole career looking at the next match, not looking back, but now that you’re done, if you could kind of put in perspective, when you think back to the five-setter you guys won in Omaha a couple years ago, coming back from down 2-0 last year and winning tonight, just put into perspective the different ways this team has won, even though the personnel has changed, the way you guys have been able to keep this going for four years?

BLAIR BROWN:

I think it goes back to the thing we were talking about earlier and that’s tradition. That’s what the coaches teach us every day in practice is to go hard and to fight. I really think that’s what it is. So, these girls, they get it now. Just looking back at so many great players and so much fight in one team, I’m so proud to be a part of it.

Q. I know you just won this one, but, Russ, are you well positioned to keep this thing going if things break right for you down the road?

COACH ROSE:

Well, I’m not really looking forward. I’m not going to talk about the future right now. We’ll celebrate this great event with these guys here and I’ll worry about what’s next when I have to look at what’s next, but I think this group, what they went through this year, it wouldn’t be fair for me to do anything other than let them have the time and for me to take some time as well.

Q. Coach Rose, especially with what you lost off last year, you talked about what a different team this was, but one of the factors that was the same was Blair, and what she’s meant to Penn State volleyball in her four years?

COACH ROSE:

Blair’s contribution to the team has run the full gamut. As a freshman, she red-shirted, not that she wasn’t a great player, but we had a talented player in that position. I didn’t think there was enough opportunity for them to get enough playing time, but, you know, the next year she played right side and came out in the back row and Nummy went in for her, and that would be another person I’d like to talk about, and then the next year she was a great offensive player hitting from pin to pin and still was playing a little back row, and then this year she had to be our go-to hitter and she had to play a lot of back row and not just a lot of back row, she had to play behind an undersized setter and a first-time setter, so she had some challenges that she had to work with and she had some highs and lows and I was on Blair because that’s the way I go. For four-and-a-half years, Blair’s had to deal with my belief that these sort of things can happen, but they don’t happen if you don’t bust your tail all the time. It’s a lot of energy. Blair, at times, was the recipient of a hard love as was Nummy, and, you know, Nummy, the same thing, her freshman year, she went in back row for Blair and then she was the libero for the last three years, and this is the first year she received some recognition from the Big Ten, even though she’s gone on, she’s played a major role in four National Championships. You know, [Kristin] Carpenter, I’m glad that she made All Tournament team because here’s a kid who didn’t make the All Conference team, and here her team won the all-conference. There’s a lot of fight in these guys. I don’t think we’re training any different than people, but there’s some differences in levels of expectations and the older kids understand it and the younger kids understand it, and that’s what we’re doing at Penn State. I’m thrilled with the outcome and Ari is another person who is going to graduate with a national hitting percentage for a career. Blair’s sitting here, but we wouldn’t be sitting here without Ari’s contribution and Cathy’s [Quilico] contribution the last few years and Jess Ullrich’s contribution, all of those seniors that have worked really hard and some of them played and some of them didn’t play and you don’t play because somebody else is a little better than you. Fatima Balza was the starting middle last year on our team and if Cal would have scored another point, I was putting Fatima in and I would have expected her to get a kill and not make a big deal about it because that was what she was being asked to do. So, you know, it’s a collective team effort and everybody has responsibilities and, you know, we worked very hard. We had a great game plan against a great opponent, and a lot of people didn’t think we should be here and a lot of people will have to try and figure out how it is we won the match, but we thought we should be here and we thought we should win the match, and had we lost the match, I would have applauded for my good friend at Cal because, eventually, he’s going to win this match as well.

Q. You haven’t really made a big deal of the whole east coast/west coast rivalry, but no west coast team has done what you guys have done to win four in a row, you have really elevated east coast or east of the Mississippi volleyball. That may not have been something you set out to do, but you’ve done it. Can you address a little bit how you’ve changed sort of the landscape of the sport?

COACH ROSE:

Penn State’s done it. I’ve been the Coach, but Penn State’s really why it’s happened. I’ve had terrific support. I’ve had a great staff. I remember many years ago winning our first match against a California team because, again, that was 32 years ago and the landscape has changed and the Big Ten Conference is a great conference and you get better in the Big Ten Conference because every match you play, it’s a grind. We play back-to-back nights. We play in a conference where they have the largest attendance in the nation with great coaches and great support by those universities, and it’s a grind. So we stepped up when we joined the Big Ten and the administration supported the program and I really think that’s what it’s about. If the university makes a commitment to do the things they have to do, it doesn’t guarantee you success, but it’s awfully hard to do if you don’t have that administrative support.

California Postgame Press Conference Quotes

Transcript Provided by AccuScript, Inc.

COACH FELLER:

Well, as you can imagine, this is a bit of an emotional moment for all of us. We would have loved to have the outcome different, but Penn State was very, very good tonight and they deserve the championship. That does not diminish the accomplishments of this team this year: 30-4 on the season, Pac 10 champion and [national] runner-up. No one really wants to be the runner-up, but there’s a couple 100 teams out there that weren’t here tonight. This team has been so special. They are the most cohesive and harding working team I’ve ever had and I’ve been coaching for about 26 years. I couldn’t be more proud. I see here that we out-blocked Penn State, so that’s a good thing. We’ll move on. We lose an incredible leader in Carli Lloyd and her buddy Meagan Schmitt. They will be sorely missed, but the girl to my far right [Tarah Murrey] will be taking over that leadership reign. The lessons learned this year will apply to next year. We’ll do everything we can to be back here and be the second interview on the last night.

Q. What did you all talk about in the break after the second game, the second set?

CARLI LLOYD:

We talked about how we hadn’t really shown up yet on the court. That it was really in our control because they were playing a good match, but we weren’t playing very well. We knew that we could turn it around if we put our mind to it. We also talked about how we weren’t really enjoying game and not having fun. We usually have a lot of fun together and we come together and play as a team. We were struggling for a little bit with that.

Q. What did they do differently out there than what you thought looking at tape and having scouted them so much the last day and a half?

TARAH MURREY:

They did a lot of the things we saw. We didn’t maxamize our opportunities. They were doing what they did [on film]. What we saw and what we scouted, it wasn’t out of the blue or anything. We didn’t execute.

Q. Carli, did you feel, though, you guys had two set points there in the second set and both times they got a block on you. You probably had the looks you wanted, but, they are a pretty incredible blocking team. Did it seem like that might have changed the whole match if you guys might have been able to grab that second set?

CARLI LLOYD:

It was hard going into the locker room with two losses, but I still had confidence we could come back and win. They’re really big girls and I think that the same girl got us twice and that’s a good job on their part. They scouted well and they knew what they wanted to do. They did a good job of it. I didn’t think that it was over at that point. I went into the locker room with my head up thinking we could still win.

Q. Tarah in the first set, what kind of things did they do to kind of limit you there in the first set?

TARAH MURREY:

Like Carli said they have a big block. I needed to be more patient and I think that I was just sometimes not seeing the block as well. In the second set there was no time where I was thinking, ‘oh, no, there’s a huge block.’ I’d go up every single time trying to be aggressive and be a smart attacker. They got me, they’re a good team. They didn’t get me every time.

CARLI LLOYD:

I just want to say she [Tarah Murrey] did a great job. When I said they did a good job scouting, they scouted Tarah. They wanted to shut her down, so they put three up on her. Any good team is going to do that. They did a really good job of it, but Tarah was aggressive the whole night. She never backed down. That’s the sign of a good attacker. She was smart. She kept a lot of balls in play. We should have covered her better, that’s on us as defenders. We should have been covering her and we didn’t do that very well tonight.

Q. Coach, if you sort of look at the history of this tournament, this first time in the final isn’t usually where a program makes its break-through and that’s several of the programs, and as hard as this is, moving forward from having this experience how is this going to help Cal in the future?

COACH FELLER:

There’s no doubt the experience every time we’re here helps. We did better this time than in 2007. The program has steadily built and we’re going to continue to build. I think in the history of the 64-team tournament, there’s only been one team that won their first time in and the second time into the finals maybe will be our side. It was fun to play Penn State in this arena for the championship rather than in a regional final like we did the last two years and in a semifinal match three years ago. That’s what you want to do, you want to go against the champion and if you beat them, you are the true champion.We’ll be back. We’re going to be very good again. We lose an incredible player in Carli Lloyd, but we’ve got a nice corps returning and they were all here tonight. Most of them were here tonight and [we have] a good recruiting class. Cal is here to stay. We’re going to be back in this tournament every year, so it’s always a valuable experience to be here in this match.14,000 people here tonight, is that what I read? That’s awesome. That’s great for volleyball. That’s the kind of crowds we want at the regionals. Good job. I just want to say, Kansas City, awesome job of hosting this Final Four. The host facility, the hotels, the police escort in was great, all of that very, very good. Nicely done Kansas City.

Q. Carli and Coach Feller, if you could talk about this Penn State team has done something very few teams in men’s and women’s NCAA history has ever done and you guys have had to face them all four years. If you could both just talk about why they have been so good even with some of the turnover in personnel, how they’ve maintained the level of excellence they’ve had?

COACH FELLER:

Russ Rose is a great coach. He’s been around for a long time. He knows what he wants out of a recruit. He goes out and gets the ones that fit his system. He’s probably a little bit like the Bobby Knight. If you are willing to do it his way, probably not quite like that, but if you’re willing to do it his way, you’re going to play well. He’s a demanding coach. He gets great athletes. How many Big 10s has he won in a row now and four National Championships. That’s quite an accomplishment. My hat is off to Penn State, Russ and his staff. They do a wonderful job.

CARLI LLOYD:

I don’t really know Russ personally very well, but from what I’ve heard he’s like a genius in the volleyball world, so I assume it’s a lot of him getting the right players and teaching the right things.

Q. Talk a little bit about how when you came in, you were a little intimidated by Carli and now of course you are a force to be reckoned with on the court. Do you feel ready to take the torch from her?

TARAH MURREY:

I do. She is an amazing person and an amazing player. I’ve learned so much from her. I’m not sad, I’m going to miss her so much. I guess I was scared of her freshman year because she’s such an amazing person and she works so hard. I know you guys don’t know her personally, but she works every single day and I admire that so much. That’s why I’m a great player because of her and we’ve been through some ups and downs. I think it’s just made us so much stronger, our friendship and how we play on the court. I’m going to miss her so much because she’s amazing.We’re not hanging our heads. Cal is not hanging our heads. It’s because we have such a special team and we’ve worked so hard every single day. We’ve worked so hard and we’re just going to miss all of the things that we’ve been through. I know it’s going to make us stronger and I know our team is going to be so strong next year. I’m going to do a great job leading this team. I know that we’re going to be great because we’re going to work hard like we have with her. She’s left such a great legacy and such good rules to abide by. Carli has brought this program to where it is right now and we’re just going keep going. There’s only positive from here.