2015 was a different kind of season for the Penn State Women’s Volleyball team: It didn’t win the NCAA title (for that matter, the Nittany Lions didn’t make it to the Regional Finals). Some Penn State fans were edging towards the cliffs. That’s what happens when you win six NCAA Championships in eight seasons (prior to 2015).
Maintaining the level of success that the Nittany Lions have enjoyed over close to a decade is somewhere between incredibly difficult and impossible. Just ask all of the other 300+ women’s volleyball programs, none of whom have won more than two consecutive NCAA titles (Penn State won four in a row from 2007 through 2010, and then won back-to-back in 2013 and 2014).
Six championships in nine years is astonishing — but it’s not perfection. Perfection in sports is rare. The Nittany Lions came close in 2008, going 38-0 and dropping only two sets all season (those two coming in the classic NCAA Semifinal match against Nebraska in Omaha), en route to winning a second consecutive NCAA Division 1 Women’s Volleyball National Championship.
In 2009, Penn State extended its streak of consecutive sets without a loss to 141, before losing a set to Iowa at Rec Hall on October 2nd, followed by another dropped set on October 7th, (this time to Ohio State), and then two more against Michigan on October 16th, and ended with a 2009 total of eight sets lost. The 2009 Penn State team ended its season with a third consecutive NCAA Division 1 Women’s Volleyball National Championship.
Since then, there’s been lots of talk about parity. We think it’s more than just talk. We’ve compiled a table showing the records of all the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Final Four teams from 1998 on — total wins, total losses, sets won, and sets lost. Nebraska — the 2015 champion — had a very, very strong team. Yet they dropped 27 sets during the season — the third highest total for any champion during the period from 1998 to 2015 (Stanford, the champion in 2004, dropped 34, followed by UCLA in 2011, which dropped 31.) Only four NCAA Champions in this period have dropped fewer than 10 sets in their Championship season (Penn State with a 114-2 record in 2008, Penn State with a 114-8 record in 2009, Long Beach State at 108-8 in 1998, and USC at 105-8 in 2003). The most sets lost by a Final Four team through 2015? Wisconsin’s 2013 Finalist, with 53.
Take a look at the table below and decide for yourself (if you click on a team logo, the link takes you straight to the team’s website).
If you find an error . . .
A final note. We tried our best to ensure that these statistics are accurate, but to err is human, and we are decidedly human, so if sharp-eyed readers notice any mistakes in this table, please let us know. We’ll be very grateful.
Wins & Losses (Matches and Sets): Final Four Teams from 1998 to 2015 (Click team logos for more team info)
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