There were four matches in the Rockvale Outlets/AVCA College Volleyball Showcase: USC edged Minnesota 3-2; Oregon, led by the outstanding 6-3 redshirt Jr. OH Alaina Bergsma, downed Penn State 3-1; Minnesota, featuring Mia Tabberson (6-2 Jr. S), Jessica Granquist (5-8 Sr. L), Tori Dixon (6-3 So. MB), and Ashley Wittman (6-0 So. OH), beat Oregon 3-2; and, before a Rec Hall record crowd (for women’s volleyball) of 6150, most of whom were stomping, shouting, cheering, screaming, delirious (partly due to the match, partly due to the heat) Penn State fans, Penn State fought back after losing the firt two sets, to defeat the #2-ranked USC Trojans, 3-2 (21-25,21-25, 25-20, 25-22, 15-8).
What was it like (apart from the heat, which was tropical in its intensity)? Ask Penn State Head Coach Russ Rose:
It was the best crowd for a women’s volleyball match that I have seen in 33 years. I want to applaud the crowd and the student section and the band especially for keeping the building alive. I thought we saw some great performances tonight. I thought a couple of people stepped up in a huge way. It was a nice collective team effort.
Here are the post-match interveiws with Coach Rose, Deja McClendon, and Micha Hancock:
Make no mistake. Even though it was at home, in the decidedly friendly confines of Rec Hall, this was a big win for this very young Nittany Lion team. Notwithstanding the loss, USC may very well be the #1 team in the country (though probably not in the next AVCA Poll). With a roster that includes 6-3 OH Alex (the Planet) Jupiter, 5-11 S Kendall Bateman, 6-4 MB Lauren Williams, 6-2 Jr. OH Katie Fuller, and So. L Natalie Hagglund, the Trojans are loaded with talent and competitive fire. On another night, in another gym, they might very well beat Penn State.
But Saturday night was Penn State’s night, featuring the coming out party for 5-11 Fr. Micha Hancock (whom Russ Rose has described as “strong and ambitious and fearless” — is she ever!) at setter and 6-2 Fr. Nia Grant (whom Rose said was “talented, but not physical enough to succeed at the higher level.” — whatever she ate for breakfast on Saturday morning, we’d like some too!). Oh, and 5-6 Jr. Kristin Carpenter debuted at . . . Libero (where she totaled a career-best 20 digs).
Hancock wowed the crowd with her bomb of a serve (six aces — but more on that in our exclusive fan interview below), Grant showed great poise and talent, and, as the match wore on, Carp seemed to grow into her new position.
But, as Coach Rose said, it was a team effort. Sr. Katie Kabbes contributed a career-best 10 blocks. After starting the match hitting negative, 6-1 So. OH Deja McClendon turned in an exceptional performance, leading all players with a career-high 25 kills on .321 hitting. Grant totaled eight blocks and 11 kills (no errors and a .647 attack percentage). 6-6 So. MB Katie Slay registered a new career-best 12 kills. 6-4 So. Ariel Scott and 6-2 So. Maddie Martin came up with timely blocks and kills. And So. Ali Longo, Sr. Megan Shifflett, Fr. Dominique Gonzalez, Fr. Lacey Fuller, and Jr. Marika Rascibarskas all made plays that contributed to the win.
But it was the play of Micha Hancock and Deja McClendon, both of whom were named to the All-Tournament team, that had the crowd, and the BTN announcers, buzzing. For a freshman starting her first match in college, Hancock was extraordinary. She improved (at least statistically) each set, as the team hit negative in the first set, but ended the match with a .298 attack percentage.
Serve Go Boom
We could go on about the match, but we think our latest edition of DigNittanyTV News, with Pablo Arpihai and Brianna Seespanyer, tells the story best. Here’s their report on an interview with Bam Bam [not his real name], the Penn State fan credited with starting the chant of “Boom” after each of Micha Hancock’s serves: