DigNittany Preview: Northwestern

Welsh-Ryan Arena
Welsh-Ryan Arena

Friday night’s match between Northwestern and Penn State, at Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena (pictured above) will be the 45th in the series, with the Nittany Lions having won 36 and dropped 8. Penn State has won the last 12 meetings, with the Wildcats’ last victory coming in 2002 — a 3-1 decision at — you guessed it — Welsh-Ryan Arena.

We’re not predicting a similar result, but it’s worth noting (as countless fans across the country have for the past four weeks), that Penn State hasn’t played a particularly challenging preseason schedule, and many fans believe this will hurt Penn State as it moves through the Big Ten schedule and into the NCAA tournament.

On that subject, DigNittany wants to alert its readers to a Daily Collegian article posted today, in which Head Coach Russ Rose comments, yet again, on Penn State’s much-maligned pre-season schedule. The takeaway? Coach Rose tried to schedule Top 25 teams, but with two out of four pre-season weekends committed to return visits to St. Louis and Duke, his options were limited. On the other hand, with three positions to be filled by some combination of three freshmen and two transfers, Coach Rose thinks the “cupcake” diet may not have been all bad.

So, having beaten a dead horse to death, again, Let the [Big Ten] games begin!

Time and Place: September 25, 2009, 7:00 p.m. CT.

Media Coverage: GameTracker.

The Skinny: Northwestern

Northwestern (9-3) has won its last six matches and nine of its last ten, including three victories over 2008 NCAA tournament teams – Cincinnati, Miami (Ohio), and Long Island.

The Wildcats are led by 6-0 Junior RS Sabel Moffett , who was named Most Valuable Player at the Wildcat Classic, where she totaled 31 kills (with a .397 hitting percentage) and 18 blocks to lead Northwestern in sweeps over Akron, Long Island and Cincinnati. Moffett was joined on the all-tournament team by 6-1 Junior Setter Elyse Glab by Elyse Glab and 5-4 Senior Libero Kate Nobilio. Glab registered 96 assists, eight kills and 18 digs, with Nobilio adding 38 digs and 11 assists.

Nobilio (Northwestern’s all-time dig leader and the Big Ten Conference’s active dig leader) now has a career total of 1,863. Her 4.71 digs per set ranks second in the conference and she is poised to become the fifth player in Big Ten history to total 2,000 digs.

Glab’s 2,762 career assists put her fourth on Northwestern’s all-time list. She is averaging 10.76 assists per match, good for sixth in the conference and 28th nationally.

The Skinny: Penn State

Penn State is 12-0, having won all 36 sets in the preseason.

The Nittany Lions rank first in the country in hitting percentage (.448), 2nd in kills/set (14.75), 5th in assists/set (13.56), 12th in blocks/set (2.86 – Texas is #1 with 3.38/set), and 30th in aces/set (1.83; Georgia State is #1 with 2.33).

6-3 Junior MH Arielle Wilson’s .580 hitting percentage ranks 1st in the NCAA, followed by 6-3 Senior OH Megan Hodge’s .495 (#5 nationally), 6-5 MH/Opp Blair Brown’s .420 (#16) and 6-2 Freshman OH Darcy Dorton’s .343 (#102).

Hodge, who was named on Tuesday as the AVCA National Player of the Week (the second national honor of her career — the first being Sept. 10, 2007) ranks 11th nationally in kills per set with 4.65/set and has totaled 22 blocks.

Arielle Wilson’s 1.44 blocks/set leads the Nittany Lions and ranks 15th nationally. Fatima Balza is second with 40 blocks (1.18/set), which ranks 61st. Blair Brown is second on the team in kills per set (2.94) and third in blocks (31).

6-0 Senior Setter Alisha Glass ranks second nationally in assists per set (12.03), and has totaled 26 kills and 26 blocks. 5-9 Junior Libero Alyssa D’Errico’s 0.69 service aces/set ranks fourth nationally. She is averaging 3.61 digs per set.

We anticipate a Penn State victory, but if Penn State comes out flat, and if Blair Brown’s injury keeps her out of the match, and if Northwestern brings its A+ game, it could be a tough night for the Nittany Lions.

The Head Coaches

Northwestern: Keylor Chan

Keylor Chan, in his 10th season as Northwestern’s head volleyball coach, has recorded the second most wins in Northwestern women’s volleyball history (120). Chan has led the Wildcats – who prior to his arrival had not experienced a winning season since 1990 – to winning records in four of the last seven years and a pair of NCAA tournament appearances.

Penn State: Russ Rose

Head Coach Russ Rose on where he thinks the 2009 Penn State Women’s Volleyball team stands after the preseason: “We’re making progress . . . albeit, not a rapid progress right now.”

The Mascots

Penn State: The Nittany Lion

OK, we’ve posted this before. But we like it! Here’s the Nittany Lion dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller:

Northwestern: Willie the Wildcat: “They can’t see me smiling, I have a giant cat head on.”

Here’s a brief documentary on Willie the Wildcat:

Sorry Willie, hidden smiles noone will ever see aside, we’re standing by our Nittany Lion.