#QuestFor6: Women’s Volleyball National Championship Preview
Only one team stands in the way of Penn State as the women’s volleyball team tries to earn its sixth national title: the Wisconsin Badgers.
After easily handling No. 3 Washington on Thursday in straight sets, the second-ranked Nittany Lions will take on the Badgers tonight at 9:30 p.m. The winner will be declared the 2013 National Champion. Penn State, led by Coach of the Year Russ Rose, is looking to win its sixth title, tying Stanford for most all time. Wisconsin will look to win its first in program history. The Nittany Lions have won their last five title matches after losing their first three.
How did we get here?
After defeating LIU-Brooklyn, Utah, Michigan State, and Stanford, the Nittany Lions took on the host of the national championship in No. 3 seed Washington. The Huskies were looking to win their second national championship all-time, and only had to travel four miles from their campus to KeyArena in Seattle.
The pressure didn’t affect Penn State at all however, as the Blue and White dominated Washington, winning 3-0 (25-14, 25-13, 25-16). After falling behind 11-9 in the first set, Micha Hancock and the Nittany Lions went on a 12-1 run to take Washington’s team, and homecourt advantage, out of the game early. Sets 2 and 3 were just as dominant, and Penn State cruised to an easy win.
Scouting the Badgers:
Wisconsin defeated No. 1 Texas 3-1 (25-19, 25-18, 26-28, 25-23) in the early Final Four match on Thursday night. Ellen Chapman lead the team with 17 kills, and Deme Morales recorded a double-double with 14 kills and 14 digs.
Penn State and Wisconsin played twice during the regular season, with the Nittany Lions earning sweeps both times. Megan Courtney led the way with 22 kills combined over the two matches, while Senior CLASS Award winner Ariel Scott recorded 21 kills.
Matchup to watch: Micha Hancock vs. Lauren Carlini
It will be a matchup of experience vs. momentum in this battle of the setters. Freshman Lauren Carlini, a second team All-American, has thrived in the national spotlight of the NCAA tournament, recording 237 assists to date through five rounds. Carlini was the Regional MVP last weekend after recording 53 and 55 assists while leading her team to wins over Florida State and Purdue. She, along with her teammates, have never played in a match with this many implications, and if she wavers under the pressure, her team will feel the effects.
Micha Hancock, on the other hand, has been in these situations before. Hancock was the setter on the Final Four team last year, and has played in three NCAA tournaments in her career. The first-team All-American has been the model of consistency this postseason, recording 208 assists and 12 aces over five matches. We know Hancock will show up to play, but if Carlini continues to have the hot hand, things could be a lot closer than most people expect.
Wisconsin will win one of the first two sets, but Penn State’s experience and consistency will win out and eventually overpower the Badgers. Expect Penn State to win 3-1 and bring home a sixth National Championship to Happy Valley.
The match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 at 9:30 p.m. EST. You can also watch a live stream of the game on ESPN3.com. A radio broadcast is also available on 103.1 starting at 9 p.m. The match will be called by Penn State’s own Dean DeVore.
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