In an interview with Andrew Cassavell, Russ Rose says he doesn’t believe Penn State deserves its #1 Ranking:
“This team is a work in progress, and I don’t see us as being ranked number one,” Rose said. “This group has played six matches now, and they haven’t beaten anybody that would have them ranked number one.”
He’s unquestionably right about Penn State’s opponents to date, and he may well be right about where the Nittany Lions should (or should not) be ranked. Although the Nittany Lions improved to 6-0 over the weekend, defeating the University of Buffalo, Robert Morris University, and in-state rival University of Pittsburgh (in front of a crowd of 3,700), Penn State has only faced one top-25 team (#16 St. Louis), which it swept on August 29th in the Active Ankle Challenge, but only after prevailing 29-27 in a hard-fought first set.
Fans of other top-ranked schools probably agree with Russ. Number 2 ranked Texas (5-0) can point to 3-1 Long Horn victories over #6 Hawaii and #13 California, their own 3-0 sweep of St. Louis, and a sweep of #24 San Diego. Fans of #3 Washington (6-0) (which, like PSU, hasn’t lost a set this season), can also make a strong case for the #1 spot [Editor’s note: the Huskies will face a tough challenge this weekend against Minnesota and Florida in Tampa), as can #4 Florida (5-0, with a 3-2 victory over #10 Stanford), and #5 Nebraska (5-1, with a 3-2 win over #9 Minnesota — along with that season-opening 3-0 loss to Michigan at the Qwest Center).
Big Ten rivals #7 Michigan (5-0 following a 3-0 victory over Notre Dame, which had swept #10 Stanford on August 29th) and #9 Minnesota (6-1, with a tough 3-2 loss to #5 Nebraska in Omaha, a 3-2 win over #21 Kansas State, and a 3-1 victory over #11 Iowa State) are both talented squads that will challenge Penn State for the top spot in the Big Ten, as will #14 Illinois (3-1) and #18 Michigan State (6-0).
In fact, the Big Ten is faring very well in the pre-season, with Ohio State at 6-1, Iowa starting 6-0 for the first time in 21 years (and 5-9 Senior S/DS Christina Meister having been named Big Ten Volleyball Defensive Player of the Week), Purdue at 4-2, and Indiana at 5-2. Wisconsin is 3-3 (after a 3-2 win over Oregon State), as is Northwestern.
Stats, Stats, Stats
As for Penn State, the Nittany Lions may not deserve the AVCA #1 Ranking, but they’re undefeated, haven’t lost a set this season, hit .702 against Buffalo — a new Big Ten record for single-match hitting percentage (the previous record was .689 by Northwestern in 1989; the .702 percentage stands as the fifth-highest in NCAA Division I history), and have extended Penn State’s NCAA-record winning streak to 70 consecutive matches and 114 consecutive regular-season sets. Here’s a rundown of the individual statistics to date:
Senior OH Megan Hodge is leading Penn State with 4.00 kills/set, followed by Freshman OH Darcy Dorton (3.17 k/set) and Junior Opp. Blair Brown 2.89 k/set) and MH Arielle Wilson (1.89 k/set).
Senior Setter Alisha Glass leads the Nittany Lions with 11.22 assists/set, followed by Blair Brown at .56 assists/set. Junior Alyssa D’Errico leads the team with .61 service aces/set, with Freshman Kristin Carpenter at .38 sa/set and Alisha Glass at .33 sa/set. D’Errico is averaging 3.44 digs/set, with Megan Hodge second on the team at 3.00 digs/set, and Alisha Glass at 2.28 digs/set.
Here are links to an article by Bill Landis posted today on dailycollegianonline: “Ball Control Crucial in Lion Wins” and to one posted on centredailyonline about Penn State’s recent record breaking performances.