Match Preview: PSU vs. Minnesota

The Sports Pavillion
The Sports Pavillion


The Match: Penn State  (26-4, 16-3 Big Ten) vs. Minnesota (23-8, 13-6 Big Ten)         

When & Where: November 27, 2010, 9:30 p.m. ET.; The Sports Pavillion         

Media Coverage: Live Stats; Television: Big Ten Network (live)                        

Match Snapshot                         

 Before the 2010 season started, Russ Rose had a cautionary tale for Penn State fans:                      

The last two or three years, I thought on paper that we had a team that could legitimately compete for a national championship. I wouldn’t say that about this team because it’s unfair. What this team can do is improve throughout the season. I expect us to hit a lot of bumpy roads along the way. The conference is tough and our schedule presents us with some great challenges. Our goal in the end will be to be the best team we can be, to get better through the season, to play hard and play together. We’ll see where we end up.                 

Following their 3-0 victory over Iowa yesterday afternoon  (25-18-25-13, 25-20) (and courtesy, at least in part, to Indiana’s 3-1 defeat of Illinois last night — more on that below), where they will end up this regular season (regardless of what happens today), is as outright Big Ten Champions for the eighth consecutive year.                      

But don’t think today’s match will be an afterthought for either team.  Both teams want to win this match because they take pride in their performance every time they take the court.  But putting pride aside, both teams know that the NCAA Tournament Selection Show is scheduled for a 3 p.m tomorrow (it will air on ESPNews), and both would like to secure the highest seed possible in the tournament.  So expect a hard-fought match, which we think could go either way.                    

Before we get to the snapshots of the two teams, along with the team rosters, we want to say again how impressed we have been with how Minnesota has played this season.  They could have given up after the loss of Lauren Gibbemeyer, or used Tabi Love’s broken finger as an excuse, but they didn’t.  And we really admire how Coach Hebert has managed to blend in true freshmen Ashley Wittman and Tori Dixon to play significant roles on the team.  This Minnesota team never seems to give up on a match or a ball (cue clip of Jennifer Granquist making another pancake dig).        

So, even though we obviously want Penn State to win this match, Minnesota is a great opponent.  So best wishes to their seniors — Hailey Cowles (out this season with an injury, so presumably, she’ll be back) and Lauren Gibbemeyer (thanks to (R)uffda!’s example on this) for their unrelenting competitive spirit over the past four years.  And best wishes to the Penn State seniors — Fatima Balza, Blair Brown, Alyssa D’ErricoCathy Quilico, Jessica Ulrich, and Arielle Wilson. It’s been a pleasure to have watched you play.                    

  • Penn State

Since Penn State’s lost weekend, when they were beaten by Purdue and Indiana on successive nights, the Nittany Lions have played well to very, very well.  Yesterday, against Iowa, 6-5 Sr. Opp. Blair Brown continued her streak of exceptional performances (she has our vote (which we don’t really have) for Big Ten Player of the Year), with 17 kills, followed by 6-1 OH Fr. Deja McClendon’s  13 kills (Deja has our non-existent vote for Big Ten Freshman of the Year, in case anyone asks), and 6-3 Sr. MH Arielle Wilson’s 10.   Once again, 5-6 So. S. Kristin Carpenter set a solid match, with 42 assists and 11 digs.                

As an aside, we want to make it clear we think very highly of Kristin Carpenter and the job she has done for Penn State this year.  In our admittedly in-expert opinion, there is no way Penn State would be where they are today if Kristin hadn’t successfully taken on the challenge of becoming the starting setter.  So, thanks Kristin, for a job very well done.  And hats off also to 5-9 Sr. L Alyssa D’Errico  (who’s 18 digs led the Nittany Lions) and 5-1 Sr. DS Cathy Quilico (who totaled 12).  These two backrow players are often unheralded, but often make the difference with tough defensive play and aggressive serving.                 

As a further aside, and again with the disclaimer that we are about as far from being expert as Cathy Quilico is from outjumping Megan Hodge, we have nothing but admiration for the coaching job Russ Rose has done this season.  Despite losing two generational players in Megan Hodge and Alisha Glass, followed by the season-ending injury to Darcy Dorton, Coach Rose has nurtured his freshmen class (Deja McClendon, Ariel Scott, Katie Slay, and Ali Longo all have seen significant playing time throughout the season), helping them improve on their skills and knowledge of the game, and probably mixing in some tough love from time-to-time, and helping the outstanding senior class —  Balza, Brown, D’ErricoQuilico, Ulrich, and Wilson (that’s intentionally alphabetical; they all contributed) — transition from their previous roles as supporting players to become the leaders of this team.  As fans, we want to thank you, Coach Rose.  We appreciate it!                   

  • Minnesota

The Golden Gophers will take the court tonight with plenty at stake and with a streak of their own, as they defeated Ohio State last night 3-1 (25-19, 25-10, 21-25, 25-22) for their sixth straight win.  6-2 Sr. MB Lauren Gibbemeyer led Minnesota with 11 kills and 5 blocks (.435 attack %), while 6-3 Fr. MB  Tori Dixon  topped both teams with 12 kills. 6-2 So. OH Katherine Harms, 6-6 So. Oh Tabi Love, and 6-0 Fr. OH Ashley Wittman added nine kills each.  Wittman continued her solid all-around play, adding 10 digs and two solo blocks.                                 

Minnesota’s latest defensive star, 5-8 Jr. L Jessica Granquist, totaled a match-high 14 digs and 6-2 So. S Mia Tabberson had 44 assists for the match.            

Here’s a post-match interview with Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert:           


And here’s a post-match interview with Minnesota’s Katherine Harms:           


On any Given Night           

For anyone who thinks tonight’s match is a gimme — for either team — take note of Indiana’s 3-1 victory over Illinois last evening in Bloomington.   Granted, the Big Ten has been tough on road teams all year (paying attention, Penn State?), and Indiana had already won three matches over top-15 opponents this season, but there are several messages worth noting in the Hoosiers’  25-20, 22-25, 25-20, 25-22 win.   One, as articulated by Illinois’ Head Coach Kevin Hambly, is that if you make too many errors, you lose.  Here’s Hambly:           

The difference in the match [was] the errors.  We are going to have to do a better job of limiting those errors. We got impatient and tried to score right away. They, on other hand, hit for a high percentage and played real low error volleyball. That’s how you should have to play.                                

Underscoring Hambly’s point, Indiana committed only five unforced errors in four sets.  Indiana hit .285 for the match, led by a break-out performance by So. OH Ivie Obeime, who totaled 12 kills (.346 attack %), and another great match by their star, 6-3 All-American MB Ashley Benson, who pounded 18 kills (and a blistering .469 attack %) and six blocks.  Despite 19 kills from Colleen Ward and 16 kills from Michelle Bartsch, Illinois hit just .184 for the match.                

  • Team Rosters 

Here’s Penn State’s 2010 Roster:                    

2010 Team Roster

NumberName PositionEligibilityHeightHometownState/Nation
1Ariel Scott

MHFr.6-5RidgewoodNew Jersey
2 Katie Kabbes OHJr.6-5RaleighNorth Carolina
3Fatima Balza MHSr.6-3MeridaVenezuela
4Jessica Ullrich DSSr.5-8WinfieldIllinois
5Kristin Carpenter S/DSSo.5-6MechanicsvilleVirginia
6Maddie MartinOHFr.6-2TampaFlorida
7Arielle Wilson MHSr.6-3BroadviewIllinois
8Erica Denny
9Blair Brown MH/OppSr. (RS)6-5 Purcellville Virginia
10Marika Racibarskas SSo.6-0ChathamNew Jersey
11Darcy Dorton

12Alyssa D'Errico L/DSSr.5-9ByronNew York
13 Megan Shifflett DS/SJr.5-6Falls ChurchVirginia
14Cathy QuilicoL/DSSr.5-1Thousand OaksCalifornia
15Maggie HardingDSFr.5-6State CollegePennsylvania
16Katie Slay
MHFr.6-6RaleighNorth Carolina
18Deja McClendon

19Krosby Pabst DSFr.5-7Long BeachCalifornia
22Mikinzie MoydellSFr.6-0Parker Colorado
23Ali LongoDSFr.5-6ChatfieldColorado

Here’s Minnesota’s 2010 Team Roster: 

Hometown (Prev School)  
3    Cowles, Hailey  OH  5-10  Sr.  Eden Prairie, Minn. (Eden Prairie) 
12    Dittrich, Jasmine  MB  5-11  So.  Rochester, Minn. (John Marshall ) 
6    Dixon, Tori  MB  6-3  Fr.  Burnsville, Minn. (Burnsville) 
11    Filho, Ariana  MB  6-2  Jr.  Monument, Colo. (Lewis-Palmer) 
5    Gibbemeyer, Lauren  MB  6-2  Sr.  St. Paul, Minn. (Cretin-Derham) 
2    Granquist, Jessica  DS/L  5-8  Jr.  Blaine, Minn. (Blaine) 
8    Harms, Katherine  OH  6-2  So.  Albertville, Minn. (St. Michael-Albertville) 
4    Haugen, Brianna  MB  6-1  So.  Minneapolis, Minn. (Southwest) 
9    Love, Tabitha  OH  6-6  So.  Dauphin, Manitoba (Dauphin Regional Secondary) 
1    Menden, Jess  S/DS  5-8  Jr.  Shakopee, MN (Shakopee (TCU)) 
33    Nucci, Stephanie  6-2  Jr.  Gilbert, Ariz. (Gilbert (UCLA)) 
10    Sooter, Steffi  LIB  5-9  Fr.  Santa Cruz, Calif. (Aptos) 
7    Tabberson, Mia  6-2  So.  Muncie, Ind. (Burris) 
13    Wittman, Ashley  OH  6-0  Fr.  Shakopee, Minn. (Shakopee)