Aug. 19, 2009

Courtesy of Penn State Athletics

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The back-to-back national champion Penn State women's volleyball team heads into the 2009 season as the preseason favorite in the AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Poll the organization announced today. The six-time defending Big Ten Champions earned 1,487 total points and 52 of the 60 first place votes.

Texas is ranked second heading into 2009 having garnered 1,405 points and six first place votes. Following the Longhorns is Nebraska (No. 3) and Washington (No. 4) with Stanford (No. 5), who Penn State beat in last year's national title match, rounding out the top five.

Penn State will face eight teams listed in the 2009 AVCA poll, including five ranked in the top 25 in the nation. The Nittany Lions will face No. 10 Illinois, No. 11 Minnesota, No. 16 Michigan, No. 19 Purdue and No. 20 Saint Louis. In addition, Penn State will take on Duke, Wisconsin and Michigan State who received votes in the poll.

Head coach Russ Rose, who was the 2008 AVCA Coach of the Year, welcomes back five starters and 10 letterwinners from last season's squad that finished with a perfect 38-0 record. The squad heads into the 2009 season on a record-breaking 64-match winning streak. Returning for 2009 are AVCA First Team All-Americans Megan Hodge (Durham, N.C.) and Alisha Glass (Leland, Mich.) and AVCA Second Team All-Americans Blair Brown (Purcellville, Va.) and Arielle Wilson (Broadview, Ill.). Joining those four are Academic All-Big Ten honoree Alyssa D'Errico (Byron, N.Y.), Big Ten Sportsmanship honoree Kelsey Ream (State College, Pa.), defensive specialists Megan Shifflett (Falls Church, Va.), Cathy Quilico (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and Heather Tice (Allentown, Pa.) and outside hitter Katie Kabbes (Raleigh, N.C.). Joining the Nittany Lions this season are 6-2 freshman outside hitter Darcy Dorton (Muncie, Ind.), junior college transfer and middle hitter Fatima Balza (Merida, Venezuela), Purdue University transfer and defensive specialist Jessica Ullrich (Wheaton, Ill.), 5-7 freshman Kristin Carpenter (Mechanicsville, Va.) and 6-0 freshman setter Marika Racibarskas (Chatham, N.J.).
 
The Nittany Lions open the 2009 season at the Active Ankle Challenge on Aug. 28 hosted by No. 20 Saint Louis University. Penn State faces Miami University (Ohio) at 5 p.m. CT on Friday, Aug. 28 before facing Alabama and Saint Louis on Saturday, Aug. 29. The home opener is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 4 when Penn State hosts Buffalo in the Nittany Lion Invitational. Action with the Bulls is set for 7 p.m.

The Nittany Lions open the Big Ten slate at Northwestern on Sept. 25 with a match at Illinois to follow on Saturday, Sept. 26. Penn State hosts its first Big Ten home match of the season on Oct. 2 when Iowa arrives at Rec Hall for a 7 p.m. matchup.

Click here for the full preseason AVCA poll.