Penn State 3, Long Island 0Dec. 3, 2005

University Park, Pa., Dec. 3, 2005 -- Freshman outside hitter Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio) set a new NCAA Tournament record for hitting percentage as she hit .889 with 16 kills as the second-ranked Penn State women's volleyball team swept Long Island (30-11, 30-27, 30-8) Saturday night. The Nittany Lions improve to 31-2 while the Blackbirds end their season at 26-14.

Penn State advances to the NCAA Regional Semifinal at 6pm on Friday, Dec. 9 and will take on No. 23 Tennessee, who outlasted No. 17 Minnesota in five games in Knoxville, Tenn., tonight. No. 7 Hawaii and No. 10 Missouri will square off in the 4:00 p.m. match on Friday. The winners will meet at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10 for a berth in the NCAA National Semifinals on Dec. 15 in San Antonio.

Fawcett led all players with 16 kills as Long Island collected 26 kills as a team. Freshman Laura Holloway (Barrington, Ill.) posted eight kills on .417 hitting as junior Cassy Salyer (Aurora, Colo.) notched seven and sophomores Kate Price (Fraser, Mich.) and Melissa Walbridge (Yardley, Pa.) each posted six. As a team, Penn State hit .382 while holding Long Island to attacking at a -.036 clip.

Senior setter Sam Tortorello (Shorewood, Ill.) added another accolade to her long list, becoming the Big Ten career assist leader with her 40 assists tonight. She currently stands at 6,027 career assists, besting Minnesota's Sharon Oesterling (1986-88), who previously held the mark. Tortorello also joins two-time All-American Michelle Jaworski (1987-90) as the only players in Penn State history to record more than 6,000 career assists.

Tortorello also recorded her 49th career double-double, adding a match-high 12 digs as Price and senior libero Kaleena Walters (Mt. Lebanon, Pa.) each tallied 10 digs.

Penn State dominated the blocking front, 15.0 to 4.0. Walbridge tied her career high with 10 blocks as Price also posted a career high with six stuffs. Holloway notched four, one off her career high, as Tortorello and Salyer each posted two blocks.

Long Island was led by Martina Wagner with eight kills and Lizelle Jackson with seven. Ivana Vasiljevic dished out 23 assists as Jackson and Wagner each posted eight digs and two blocks, along with Weronika Swiatczak.

Penn State took the 5-3 lead to start the match on a block from Holloway and Salyer. The teams traded points four times and a Walbridge kill put the Lions up 11-6 before strong serving from Tortorello and five consecutive combined kills from Fawcett and Holloway made it 17-6. Three Long Island attack errors, an ace from junior Ashley Fidler (Wauconda, Ill.) and a block from Walbridge and Price pushed the lead to 23-7 as a Walbridge solo block made it 24-8. Kills from Price and Holloway extended the score to 27-8 before a Fawcett kill ended the game, 30-11. Fawcett was perfect on all seven of her attempts in the game as Tortorello racked up five digs.

Game two remained even throughout, with a Holloway kill putting Penn State up 11-9 and a Walbridge and Holloway block extending the lead to four at 13-9. A Price kill and Walbridge ace made it 19-11 but Long Island began to chip away from the Lion lead as a kill from Lizelle Jackson, a block from Jackson and Weronika Swiatczak and an ace from Jade Gold pulled the Blackbirds to within four at 25-21. Out of a Penn State timeout, the squads traded points as a LIU kill from Martina Wagner and a Penn State attack error knotted the score at 26-26. The teams exchanged points and two Blackbird errors and a solo Tortorello block ended the game, 30-27. Holloway and Salyer each recorded three kills in the stanza.

The Nittany Lions came out of the break on fire, going up 12-1 on strong serving from Fawcett and five blocks, two from Walbridge and Holloway and three from Price and Walbridge. Kills from Salyer and Tortorello made it 19-5 as a Fawcett kill to make the score 22-7 sparked a 7-0 Nittany Lion run to put Penn State up 28-7 before a Long Island attack error ended the game, 30-8. The Nittany Lions hit .593 in the stanza while recording eight team blocks, with Walbridge having a hand in seven.

Long Island head coach Toby Rens

On the match& I thought that Penn States a pretty good team and if they were in the Northeast Conference, they would probably win the Northeast Conference as well. Its one very frustrating team to play because they do such a good job on defense and their defensive transitions are what really get you. Theyre relentless on defense and they pursue the ball very well. Not only do they get the ball up, but they get the ball right up to Sam [Tortorello]. They scored so many times in transition and that puts a lot of pressure on you to try to play every point better than the one before, and thats a frustrating spot to be in. Theyre a great team and very worthy of their ranking and I think theyll continue to do well in this tournament.

Thoughts about the success in game two& In game two we settled down a little bit more. We did a better job of executing our game plan and we played better defense. We picked up the passing, picked up the serving and put a lot more pressure on them when we went back to serve. There were times that they didnt pass the ball right up to the net and it made them a little more predictable.

On the momentum from game two to game three& In some ways it did carry over for us but I think they really stepped it up too. Their third game I thought they seemed error free. They made very few mistakes. They responded just as great teams do. I was very happy with the way we played in game two, I certainly wanted all three games to be that way but Penn State did a great job of stepping it up in game three and responded well.

On what his team has accomplished this season& Im extremely proud of this team and the season that weve had. Penn State has a phenomenal tradition here and we dont have that on our side. Were just starting out as a program in terms of making a splash nationally. This was a huge step in that direction this year. This group was phenomenal. They worked extremely hard all year. We added three new players to the teams this year they blended in very well and everyone made a great contribution. It was a fun team to coach because they worked very hard and they did a great job of accomplishing their goals throughout the season.

Long Island senior setter Ivana Vasiljevic On Penn States defense& I think theyre definitely playing where theyre at in the NCAAs. When it comes to the defense, I think their biggest advantage on defense is their block.

Long Island senior outside hitter Lizelle Jackson Thoughts in the locker room between games two and three (about momentum)& We definitely talked about that, but I dont know what happened when we went out on the court. It all kind of dissipated.

On frustration of taking swings against Penn State& Theyre tall. Its completely different type of play from what were used to in our conference. So we were just trying to adjust and hit hands and tip, which Im not very good at.

On ever facing anyone that hits as hard as Fawcett& Yeah, [Stanfords] Cynthia Barboza. But [Fawcett] is definitely a great player. I think we helped her to her highest percentage; shes definitely a great player.

Penn State Head Coach, Russ Rose

Opening Statement: I really liked the way we played the third game tonight. I thought we played OK in the first game. We struggled in the second game and made a lot of errors. Coming out after the second game I thought we played our best game of the six weve played to date. I thought we got great blocking in that game. Kate Price played especially well in the second game and everything was good in the third game. Our ball handling was good and the attacking was clean. Nicole [Fawcett] played unbelievably, offensively. Last night I thought she couldve set the record for hitting percentage in a match and I took her out because I didnt want her to hurt anybody, and then tonight she hit even better. The [NCAA Tournament] record was .800 and she hit .889. Im most appreciative of the fact that the university supports these activities and is willing to put in bids to host these events that allow us to play at home. Im hopeful that next week well have crowds that will be representative of a regional championship.

On what was said during breaks: I feel comfortable telling them things all the time. In the second game we made 14 errors between hitting errors and service errors and net violations that gave the other team half their points. If you do that against a team thats playing well, then youre going to lose a game. Whether or not you lose a match, you can lose a game and a lot of things come into play. The girls know what theyre playing for. I dont think there are any secrets to what their goals are.

On the second game: There are always times in a rally score situation when the other team can play really well. [Long Island] was hitting seven percent, so for it to be 27-all at that point, there had to be a lot of contributions from the other side of the net to put them in that position. As I felt last night with Binghamton, Long Island had a fine year and should be commended for winning their conference and getting a win last night. That might have been the first win their conference has had in the NCAA Championships. We recognize that every team we play is going to bring something a little different. Todays style was totally different than what we saw yesterday and what well see [next weekend] in Tennessee.

On Long Islands reaction to Nicole Fawcett: Thats a roster of a lot of kids from different countries so Im sure theyve played against players like her, but certainly for a freshman, Nicole is having a terrific impact on us this year. There have been some matches where she hasnt played great, but the fact that shes played two great NCAA matches in a row is terrific.

On the importance of being at home next weekend: Well still take tomorrow off and keep with our same format. Probably the biggest difference I think is the level of competition as you advance. With the format of the tournament this year we didnt have the toughest first and second round opponents. I dont think it takes away from the fact that were playing good volleyball. Well see if we can get a little healthier next week and get ourselves ready to compete because Tennessee is very good. They split with Florida this year, and beat Notre Dame two weeks ago at Notre Dame so those are two teams that are in the top 25 in the country. The fact that they can beat those two teams is enough for us to make sure were ready to play.

Penn State freshman outside hitter Nicole Fawcett

On things going her way tonight: Thats what you hope for every game. It felt good tonight. Shots were just working and I was happy with it.

On the second game: I think all of our mentalities were that it shouldnt be that close but since it was, we needed to finish it there and not let them score anymore. We wanted to send a message that said it shouldnt be that way and just get the next game going.

On the weekend overall: There are always butterflies, but as soon as the ball is served theyre gone. You always look back and say there are some things that we could have done better but we won, but that was a big factor for us.

Penn State junior middle hitter Cassy Salyer

On the second game: Like coach said, we just gave up a lot of points and most of it was on our side of the net. When you let things get that close, anything could have happened. If you get one bad call or anything, it could go the other way. I think that were more conscious to not let teams be in the position to take a game from us at our home court, especially when were trying to accomplish something.

Penn State freshman outside hitter Laura Holloway

On becoming more comfortable playing with the starters: Every single day I get more comfortable and Im hoping theyre getting more comfortable with me. Im working every day in practice to get more comfortable. Ive played with some great setters in the past but Sam [Tortorello] is the best Ive played with.

On the weekend, overall: Our goal is to play better every single match so this is just a start. By the end of the tournament we should be playing our best.

-- Courtesy Penn State