It’s one of the longest winning streaks in the history of collegiate athletics and by far the longest winning streak in collegiate women’s volleyball. Penn State’s 109-match winning streak is so incomparable that it is known to many in the volleyball world as simply “The Streak.”
Beginning on Sept. 21, 2007, and ending on Sept. 10, 2010, with a 3-0 loss to Stanford, the Nittany Lions’ winning streak was just one of a handful of remarkable records set by the team during the era. Penn State dropped just 19 sets during the entire course of the streak and won 111 consecutive sets from Dec. 15, 2007, to Dec. 18, 2008.
“Given the competitiveness of women’s volleyball across all of the divisions, I don’t foresee this record ever being broken,” said Kathy DeBoer, executive director of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA).
So far, the only team to come close is Concordia-St. Paul, a Division II school that was enjoying its streak during the same time the Nittany Lions were enjoying theirs. Concordia-St. Paul’s streak ended at 75 matches, a far cry of 34 behind Penn State, although the closest Division I school is even farther behind that — Southern California sits in second place in the Division I record book with a winning streak of 52 matches.
|Matches||School||Division||Dates of Streak|
|109||Penn State||DI||Sept. 21, 2007 to Sept. 10, 2010|
|75||Concordia-St. Paul||DII||Aug. 29, 2008 to Sept. 3, 2010|
|60||Central||DIII||Oct. 17, 1998 to Sept. 1, 2000|
|59||Washington-St. Louis||DIII||Nov. 9, 1991 to Sept. 18, 1993|
|52||Southern California||DI||Nov. 2, 2002 to Sept. 10, 2004|
The upshot of the winning streak was that Penn State captured four consecutive national championships during the time, one for each season that the streak touched. No other Division I women’s volleyball team had won more than two consecutive national titles.
“We didn’t talk about it when we were in the middle of it; I didn’t like talking to the media about it,” Penn State head coach Russ Rose said. “[The winning streak] had nothing to do with what this group was trying to accomplish. When a streak ends you can think about it and appreciate its historical significance, but I avoided thinking about it at the time because the goal is always to just get better.”
Three student-athletes were on the squad for the entire length of the streak. Overall 36 women donned the Penn State jersey during the course of the four seasons.
Each year, the Nittany Lions graduated a Big Ten Conference Player of the Year, only to see another rise to take her place.
“The nature of college sports is that the personnel is going to change year after year — you can’t keep the same people out on the floor because your student-athletes are going to graduate and move on,” DeBoer said. “To put together a streak like this over the course of several years is what’s really remarkable.”
In his 32 years as head coach at Penn State, Rose has become the winningest coach in Division I women’s volleyball history. Inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame in 2007, Rose garnered consecutive AVCA National Coach of the Year honors during the streak.
But as he is quick to teach his student-athletes, the accolades, like the winning streak, were never the point.
“It was a great collection of individual players that were committed to being the best players they could be, and also the best teammates they could be,” Rose said. “I’m proud that the kids bought into the process and the culture of being the best they could be and didn’t use the outcomes as a measure of their worth.”
Photos courtesy of NCAA Photos.