DigNittany Preview: St. Louis University

Here’s DigNittanyVolleyball’s preview of the Penn State Women’s Volleyball Team match with St. Louis University in the Active Ankle Invitational. This will be the second match of the day for both teams, with Penn State having met Alabama at 1:00 p.m. CT.

Time and Place: August 29, 2009, 7:00 p.m. CT Chaifetz Arena. This on-campus facility, which opened in April 2008, seats 10,600.

Media Coverage: The match will be available on GameTracker.

Last Year’s Match

Penn State and SLU last met on September 20, 2008, when Penn State swept the Billikens 25-17, 25-12, and 25-15. The Nittany Lions hit a season-high .583 to remain undefeated at 12-0. A Match Writeup and Final Stats are available from gopsupsports.com.

Here’s a video clip from that match:

The Skinny: SLU

St. Louis University returns starters Megan Boken (5-11 Jr. OH), Bridget Fonke (6-1 Sr. OH, AVCA All-America honorable mention), Sammi McCloud (6-2 Sr. OH, AVCA Third Team All-America), Whitney Roth (5-9 Sr. S, AVCA All-America honorable mention), Sally Warning (6-3 Sr. MB), and Whitney Behrens (5-4 Sr. L, AVCA All-America honorable mention).

This group led the Billikens to a 29-5 record in 2008 (13-0 Atlantic 10), which was one of the best seasons in program history. SLU won its first outright Atlantic 10 regular-season crown, shocked then- #3 Stanford on September 6, 2008 with a 3-1 victory, and was the 13th overall seed in NCAA Tournament, where they defeated Alabama A&M 3-0 for the program’s first NCAA Tournament victory.

St. Louis loses only one letterwinner from that 2008 squad — MB Lauren Christman, who ranked fifth on the team with 1.51 kills/set and third on the team with .58 blocks/set. New to the team are 6-0 So. MB Lydia Blaha,a transfer from Boise State, and Freshmen Andrea Bolt (5-3 DS/L), Carly Marcum (6-2 MB), and Carly Shoemaker (6-3 MB).

St. Louis is a very good team, and Penn State would be unwise to take the Billikens for granted. Playing at Chaifetz Arena, in front of their hometown fans, they could surprise the Nittany Lions with an early season upset.

After last year’s upset victory over Stanford, Coach Kordes said “This is a group that loves each other, works hard and has a passion for the game. What can I say about this match? It was just an incredible performance by a group of players who believe in each other. I think a big key to the match was that we were relaxed. We had contributions from everybody.”

That group has another season under their belts. Be ready, Penn State.

The Skinny: Penn State

We know, we know — returning All America this, three-peat that. Listen to Coach Russ Rose for a dose of reality:

“We lost three seniors who played an awful lot of matches and had a great deal of responsibility in terms of how the team functioned day-to-day. However, when people graduate, it creates an opportunity for others to step in and show what they can do.” Russ Rose, August 12, 2009.

Don’t get us wrong: the Nittany Lions are a very, very talented team and justifiably will be favored over SLU. But no team is going to hand Penn State a victory without a fight, and that certainly will be true against St. Louis. For more on the 2009 Penn State team, here’s our 2009 Season Preview.

The Head Coaches

St. Louis: The Billikens are coached by Anne Kordes, who is entering her sixth year at the helm and who last year was named AVCA Northeast Region Coach of the Year

Penn State: Russ Rose begins his 31st year as Penn State’s Head Coach. He has been named the AVCA National Coach of the Year four times — 1990, 1997, 2007 and 2008 (more than any other Division I coach) — is a member of the AVCA Hall of Fame, and is one of only three coaches in the history of NCAA Division I women’s volleyball to win over 900 matches.

The Mascots

Penn State: The Nittany Lion

Here’s a clip of Penn State’s Nittany Lion mascot dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller during the October 18, 2008 Homecoming game vs. the Michigan Wolverines:

St. Louis: The Billiken

The Billiken, created by an American art teacher and illustrator, Ms. Florence Pretz of St. Louis, originally was an elf-like charm doll with a “mischievous smile and a tuft of hair on his pointed head.” It was manufactured by Horsman Dolls, which previously had enjoyed great success with the Teddy Bear, named for President Theodore Roosevelt. Seeking to repeat that triumph, Horsman named the Billiken after newly elected President William Howard Taft. The Taft magic proved less potent than Teddy’s, and the doll faded from popular culture, but lives on as the mascot of St. Louis University.

Here’s a photo of a statue of the Billiken on SLU’s campus.

We want to be fair here, but really, we think this is no contest: Advantage – Nittany Lion.