Dec. 17, 2008

MODELS OF EXCELLENCE: Penn State and Stanford are the only two teams in the country to earn berths in the NCAA Tournament each of the 28 years the tournament has been held since 1981.

WE'RE # 1: Seven times in the past 10 years, the team that held the # 1 ranking in the AVCA poll heading into the tournament ended up winning the championship. Penn State was ranked # 1 this season before the tournament started and will attempt to accomplish the feat for the second year in a row and become the eighth team in 11 years to accomplish the feat.

TWICE AS NICE: Head Coaches John Dunning of Stanford is one of only two coaches in NCAA Division I history to have two different schools to national volleyball championships. Dunning directed Pacific to consecutive championships in 1985 and 1986, while steering Stanford to national titles in 2001 and 2004. Dunning won titles in his first season at each school.

TOURNAMENT ATTENDANCE: A total of 76,653 people have attended the tournament so far. 48,395 attended matches at first and second round site, while 28,258 attended regional matches.

TITLES X4: Stanford coach John Dunning and former Stanford coach Don Shaw are the only coaches in Division I history to win four NCAA championships.

PENN STATE VS. THE FIELD: Penn State is 5-11 all time against Nebraska. Nebraska has won six of the eight NCAA Tournament matches. Penn State won the last time that the two teams met in the tournament, taking a 3-1 victory on 12/17/98. That was the only time that they have met in the NCAA Finals. Nebraska won the last overall meeting on 9/2/07 3-0 in Lincoln. Penn State is also 5-5 against Stanford, including 2-2 in tournament playing. They have met the Cardinal three times in the championship match, winning in 1999 and 2007. Penn State has never met Texas in NCAA Tournament play, but is 8-6 overall against the Longhorns.

STANFORD'S MATCHUPS: Stanford is 14-6 overall against Texas, including a 4-2 edge in tournament tilts. The two squads met in the NCAA National Semifinal match on two occasions with Stanford winning in 1987 and Texas in 1995. Stanford won the last contest between the two teams, winning 3-2 on Aug. 31 of this season. Stanford leads Nebraska 6-5 in their overall series. The two teams met earlier this year on Aug. 29, with the Cornhuskers winning 3-0. The teams have met four times in NCAA Tournament playing, splitting the matchups 2-2. Every time they have met in the tournament, it has been in either the tournament semifinal or championship match.

TEXAS-NEBRASKA: The two Big 12 schools have met 41 times in their history, with Nebraska holding a 28-13 advantage. The teams split their two matchups this season, with Nebraska winning 3-1 in Lincoln on Sept. 20 and Texas winning 3-1 in Austin on Nov. 19. They have met in the NCAA Tournament only once, with Nebraska defeating Texas for the national title on Dec. 16, 1995.

TORRID PLAY: Penn State is coming into the NCAA Finals on a tear that has never been seen before in NCAA Division I volleyball. Dating back to last season, the Nittany Lions have won 61 consecutive matches and 109 consecutive sets. Both marks are NCAA Division I records. Penn State has not tasted defeat since losing 3-2 to Stanford on Sept. 15 last season. They won their last 25 matches in a row last year en route to the national championship. They have also won all 36 of their matches in 2008. That breaks the old record of 52 set by USC in 2002-04. After taking the fifth set of the championship match last season against Stanford, Penn State has not dropped a set this year. They have swept all 36 of their matches this year by 3-0 scores. Their 109 consecutive sets won breaks Florida's all divisions NCAA record of 105 that was set in 2003.

HOT STREAKS: Penn State in not the only team coming into the NCAA Finals playing at a high level. Stanford has won 26 of their past 27 matches, including the past 15 in a row. Texas is on a 13-match winning streak, while also taking 23 of their last 24 matches.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Few teams in the country own as big of a home-court advantage as Nebraska does. The Cornhuskers have won their past 87 home matches in a row. That ties the NCAA Division I record for consecutive home wins. Penn State also owns an 87-match home court win streak that they set from 1995-2000.

PREVIOUS CHAMPIONS: Every team in the Finals has won at least one NCAA Championship. Stanford is attempting to win a record seventh NCAA Championship this weekend. Nebraska is going for their fourth title, Penn State their third and Texas their second.

TOURNAMENT EXCELLENCE: The four teams in the field this weekend are four of the most successful NCAA Tournament teams in history. In addition to their 12 national championships, they have combined to win over 75 percent of their tournament matches and go 279-92 in tournament play. Stanford and Nebraska stand 1-2 in both tournament winning percentage and most NCAA Tournament wins. Texas and Penn State also rank in the top 10 in both categories.

SEMIFINAL APPEARANCES: Stanford is making their record 18th appearance in the NCAA Semifinals, Nebraska their 11th, Penn State their seventh and Texas their fifth.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS: Penn State won their sixth straight Big Ten Conference championships this season, the only time in league history that anyone has ever done so. Stanford won their 12th Pac-10 title in 23 years. Nebraska and Texas have combined to win 12 of the 13 conference championships in the history of the Big 12. Prior to the formation of the Big 12 Conference, Texas won 13 Southwest Conference titles in 14 years, while Nebraska won 14 of 15 Big Eight championships.

ATHLETICS AND ACADEMICS: Six players competing this weekend have excelled not just on the court, but in the classroom as well. All six were named ESPN The Magazine Academic All-Americans. Penn State's Christa Harmotto was chosen as Academic All-American of the year in a voting of CoSIDA members across the country. She was joined on the First Team by Stanford's Cynthia Barboza and Nebraska's Kori Cooper and Amanda Gates. Barboza and Harmotto were selected for the second consecutive year. Last season, Barboza was named to the Academic All-American Second Team, while Harmotto picked up Third Team honors. In addition, Penn State's Megan Hodge and Nebraska's Jordan Larson were voted to the Second Team.

CLEAN SWEEP: All four participants in this year's Volleyball Championship have dominated their opponents throughout the year. The four schools have combined to sweep their opponents 3-0 98 times in 134 matches this season.

NATIONAL LEADERS: Penn State's Alisha Glass leads all Division I volleyball players in assists this season, dishing out 12.50 a game. Teammate Christa Harmotto leads the country in hitting percentage, connecting at a .498 clip. Penn State leads all teams in blocks per set (3.28), hitting percentage (.403) and winning percentage (1.000).

CONFERENCE HONORS: Six players on Penn State's squad were selected All-Big Ten this year. Nicole Fawcett was tabbed conference Player of the Year. Christa Harmotto, Alisha Glass, Megan Hodge, Arielle Wilson and Roberta Holehouse rounded out the Nittany Lions' All-Conference honorees. Nebraska's Jordan Larson, Sydney Anderson, Kori Cooper and Amanda Gates earned All-Big 12 honors, with Larson being selected Big 12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year and Anderson Newcomer of the Year. Ashley Engle, Juliann Faucette, Destinee Hooker and Lauren Paolini of Texas were also named All-Big 12, while the Horns' Michelle Kocher was chosen as Freshman of the Year. Stanford's Foluke Akinradewo was picked Pac-10 Player of the Year and was joined on the All-Pac-10 Team by teammates Cynthia Barboza and Alix Klineman.

AVCA ALL-AMERICANS: Fifteen players participating in the Volleyball Championships this week were named AVCA All-Americans this season. Stanford's Foluke Akinradweo and Penn State's Nicole Fawcett each earned their fourth consecutive All-American nod. Along with Stanford's Cynthia Barboza and Penn State's Megan Hodge, Akinradweo and Fawcett earned First Team All-American recognition for the third straight year. Penn State's Alisha Glass and Christa Harmotto, Nebraska's Jordan Larsen, Stanford's Alix Klineman, and Ashley Engle, Destinee Hooker and Lauren Paolini of Texas were also named to the First Team. Penn State's Blair Brown and Arielle Wilson and Nebraska's Sydney Anderson and Tar Mueller picked up Second Team recognition, while Nebraska's Kori Cooper earned an Honorable Mention All-American nod.

FAB FOURSOME: This year's four tournament finalists are the top four teams in the country as listed in the latest AVCA Top 25 poll and are also the top four overall seeds in this year's NCAA Tournament.

DEFENSE! DEFENSE!: All four of the final teams are holding their opponents to a hitting percentage of .137 or lower for the tournament so far. Penn State (.065) and Stanford (.089) are holding their opponents under .100. All four teams are also averaging better than 2.80 blocks per set in the tournament, with Penn State rejecting nearly four per set at 3.96.