Preview: Women’s Volleyball Begins Postseason Against Siena
The reigning NCAA champion women’s volleyball team begins its defense of the title today as it takes on Siena in Rec Hall at 7:30 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Nittany Lions (30-3, 18-2 Big Ten) open the tournament as the No. 5 seed and will have the benefit of home court advantage against the MAAC champion Saints (19-14).
After a midseason loss to Illinois back on Oct. 11, the Lions have glided through the Big Ten and are currently riding a 14-game winning streak, with 13 straight coming via shutout. When asked about his team’s ranking and its regular season success, head coach Russ Rose was straightforward as usual.
“It’s just noise to me,” Rose said. “The bracket comes out. It says who you’re playing, it says where you’re playing, and if you’re fortunate, you keep playing.”
Siena will likely struggle to end this dominant streak. The Saints made it out of the MAAC with its strong defense, leading the conference in blocks. However, with its best blocker standing at just 5-foot-7 in Jacqueline Skeen, the Saints will be challenged to match Penn State at the net.
With the likes of Big Ten Freshman of the Year Haleigh Washington and All-Big Ten senior Nia Grant patrolling the front line and fellow All-Big Ten setter Micha Hancock facilitating the offense, the Lions should be able to flawlessly execute an offense that ranked at the top of the Big Ten this season with a .351 hitting percentage.
One obstacle for Penn State has been a lack of game film, as Rose said early in the week that Siena does not record its games and he and his staff have had to find ways around it to prepare.
“It makes it a little tougher, but it would be tougher if it was someone coming from one of the major conferences,” Rose said.
For seniors like Grant, Hancock, and libero Dominique Gonzalez, the home court advantage should make up for any challenges as they embark on their final postseason run.
“It’s nice to do it at least one more time,” Grant said. “It’s a great atmosphere [in Rec Hall], and I couldn’t be more thankful that I was able to do it as long as I was.”
American and Dayton open NCAA tournament play, taking the Rec Hall court before Penn State and Siena at 5 p.m.