The season is on the line for the top-ranked Women’s Volleyball team in the country tonight, as Penn State takes on #5 Oregon in the National Semifinals. This should be a closely contested match between two of the best teams in the country. Here’s 5 things to keep your eye on as you watch the match tonight at 9 p.m. on ESPN2 and ESPN3, or listen online at GoPSUSports.com.
1. Revenge factor.
The last time these two teams played, it did not end well for Penn State, as the Ducks snapped an NCAA-record 94 match home winning streak at Rec Hall. The two teams are different now (All-American Micha Hancock was not even our setter at that point last year), but it will be interesting to see if this affects either team.
2. We’ve been there, and done that.
This is the 5th time in the last six years that Penn State has made it this far, and each of the previous times the Nittany Lions have won it all. With eight of the current players already having championship rings, you should not be seeing nerves out of the Penn State side. Oregon, on the other hand, is making its first Final Four appearance in school history, and should come out looking to prove they belong in the top tier of teams.
3. Awards all around!
Penn State (4 All-Americans) and Oregon (3) were the most represented schools when the AVCA All-American list was announced yesterday. Ariel Scott and Micha Hancock were named to the first team, Katie Slay was named to the 2nd team, and Deja McClendon was named to the 3rd team. On the other side, Oregon also had two first team honorees in redshirt senior outside hitter Alaina Bergsma and junior setter Lauren Plum. They are the 1st first team honorees for Oregon since 1984. It will be interesting to see how the Penn State defense handles such an unfamiliar, lethal duo.
In addition to the All-American honors, redshirt sophomore Maggie Harding recieved the Elite 89 award yesterday, which honors the athlete with the highest GPA out of the Final Four team. Harding, who is majoring in Food Sciences, currently has a 4.0. Congrats Maggie!
4. The possible end of Kristin Carpenter’s and Marika Racibarskas’ careers.
While Penn State’s team is very young compared to most others (all six starters will return next season), it is important to remember the contributions by Carpenter and Racibarskas to the program over the last four years.
Racibarskas has seen time in her career as a defensive specialist and has made the Academic All Big-Ten team twice. Carpenter has seen playing time in almost every match of her career and was the starting setter for the 2010 National Championship team. She lost her job to Hancock after the opening loss last season but has remained a team leader as a defensive specialist throughout the last two years.
5. Michigan vs. #3 Texas at 7 p.m.
The first match of the night also features a first-time Final Four participant in fellow B1G school Michigan. They take on a perrenial power, the Texas Longhorns, who are making their 4th appearance in the last 5 years. Both teams fell to Penn State earlier in the year, with Texas losing 3-0 in Rec Hall, and Michigan falling at home to the Nittany Lions 3-2.
Bonus reason: Alaina Bergsma is Miss Oregon.
According to MissOregonUSA.com, not only is Alaina Bergsma one of the top volleyball players in the country, she’s one of the 50 best-looking women.
Certainly seems like a good enough reason for me!
What do you think will happen tonight? Let us know in the comments!