Big Ten Volleyball Final Release
Jan. 20, 2009
Penn State capped off its historic season with a three-set sweep over Stanford in the NCAA final to take home the program's third overall and second consecutive national title. The Nittany Lions finished the season with a perfect 38-0 record and dropped just two sets all year.
Penn State became the first team since USC in 2002-03 to win back-to-back titles and just the sixth team overall to accomplish the feat. En route to the title, the Nittany Lions broke NCAA records for consecutive matches (64) and sets (111) won. PSU also became the first team in NCAA Division I, II or III history to complete a regular season without dropping a single set.
Prior to advancing to NCAA action, the Nittany Lions won their sixth consecutive Big Ten title and their 11th overall since joining the conference for the 1991 season. PSU posted just the seventh undefeated conference record since double round-robin play was initiated in 1985.
The Nittany Lions were led by senior Nicole Fawcett, who was named the AVCA National Player of the Year and earned All-America honors for the fourth time in her career. She is the fourth player from the Big Ten and the second Nittany Lion to earn the award. Fawcett also became the fourth consecutive Penn State player to be named Big Ten Player of the Year. Fawcett was joined by teammates Christa Harmotto, Megan Hodge and Alisha Glass on the All-America first team while Blair Brown and Arielle Wilson took home second-team accolades.
Guiding Penn State, 30-year head coach Russ Rose was named AVCA Coach of the Year for the third time in his career and the second straight season. He was also named the Coach of the Year in the Mideast Region for the sixth time and the Big Ten Coach of the Year by the coaches and the media for the eighth time in his career.
In addition to Penn State, four other Big Ten volleyball teams earned bids to the NCAA Championship. Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Purdue all earned invitations to the bracket, tying the Big Ten for the second-highest representation among all conferences. The Big Ten led the nation with four top-10 seeds in No. 1 Penn State, No. 6 Minnesota, No. 9 Illinois and No. 10 Purdue. The Illini, Wolverines and Boilermakers all advanced to regional play, but ended their seasons in the round of 16.
Overall, the Big Ten placed 11 players on the All-America first, second and third teams, shattering the previous conference record of seven. The Big Ten boasted a record-setting five first-team All-Americans in Penn State's Fawcett, Glass, Harmotto and Hodge and Purdue senior Stephanie Lynch. Joining PSU's Brown and Wilson on the second team were Illinois' Laura DeBruler, Michigan's Lexi Zimmerman and Minnesota's Brook Dieter. The Golden Gophers' Lauren Gibbemeyer earned third-team recognition, while teammate Christine Tan and Indiana's Erica Short were honorable mention honorees.
Several Big Ten players also received All-Region recognition, including Illinois' Michelle Bartsch, who was named the AVCA's Mideast Region Player of the Year, becoming the fourth consecutive Big Ten player to earn the distinction. Bartsch was also the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.