Tennessee 3, Penn State 1Dec. 9, 2005

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The No. 2 Penn State women's volleyball team dropped a four-game heartbreaker to Tennessee (27-30, 30-14, 27, 30-31-33) Friday night to end its season with a 31-3 overall record. The Lady Vols improve to 24-8 and advance to the NCAA Regional Final to face No. 8 Missouri tomorrow at 4:00 p.m.

Freshman outside hitter Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio) led all players with 19 kills as sophomore middle hitter Melissa Walbridge (Yardley, Pa.) fell just shy of her career high with 14 kills as junior Cassy Salyer (Aurora, Colo.) and sophomore Kate Price (Fraser, Mich.) each chipped in 12 kills.

Senior setter Sam Tortorello (Shorewood, Ill.) dished out 58 assists and added seven kills and nine digs as senior libero Kaleena Walters (Mt. Lebanon, Pa.) racked up a match-high 20 digs. Price and junior Kris Brown (Wooster, Ohio) each added 12 digs.

The Nittany Lions recorded six aces in the match, led by Brown and freshman Roberta Holehouse (Joppa, Md.) with two each and one apiece from Walbridge and Tortorello. On the flip side, Penn State committed 17 service errors in the contest.

Tennessee outblocked Penn State, 15.0 to 13.0. Walbridge led the Lions with eight blocks as Tortorello added a season-high six, Fawcett chipped in four and Salyer added two.

The Lady Vols were led by Kelsey Fautsch with 16 kills as Yuliya Stoyanova and Kristen Andre each posted 12. Julie Knytych dished out 40 assists as Amy Morris led the squad with 15 digs. Sarah Blum led all players with 11 blocks as Mindy Flynn tallied seven.

Tickets are on sale now for the NCAA Regional Championship to be held Dec. 9-10 at Rec Hall. Please visit www.GoPSUsports.com for more information.

-- Courtesy Penn St.

NCAA Postgame quotes
Tennessee vs. Penn State (Dec. 9, 2005)

Penn State Head Coach Russ Rose

Opening Statement:
I thought it was a match where, when the games were close they played harder than we did. I thought we kept making way too many mistakes from the end line. It gave them opportunities and they played very hard and had kills at critical times. We had some people that would have liked to play better.

The missed serves, was that a result of the tightness the team seemed to have?
I cant think of anything else. It never should have never happened and was totally unnecessary. Our strategy wasnt to be serving tough it was to be serving the ball to certain tactical areas in the court. Every time I tried to put a sub in, the sub didnt do much better.

Did you think you had the fourth game wrapped up at 28 points?
I thought we took some balls at critical times and made some mistakes. Tennessee kept the ball in play and didnt have any fear when they gave us free balls in the first game. We gave them five points on three missed serves and two free balls. Is that our best team and our best match, I dont think it is. We have to give credit to our opponent and hope the younger players get better and the new kids understand the importance of working hard and doing a little better than the last group.

Even though Nicole Fawcett kept struggling, why did Sam Tortorello give her the ball?
Nicole had a real tough match. Thats the highs and lows of being a freshmen. Last weekend she was terrific. The kills were fine; it was the 19 errors that hurt us. Thats part of the game, and shell learn. Shell be better and she is a terrific young player who Im sure is feeling terrible about how she played. With Christa out, we have more dependency on Nicole.

What do you say to the seniors about their last match?
I thought Kaleena passed well and dug some balls. I dont think Sam had her best match. Its great to have them in the program and they won three Big Ten Championships in a row. They would have preferred to win some more. The performance wasnt based on anything other than the other team played a little harder and we had some young people that didnt play as well. When you depend on freshmen, you sometimes live and die by what happens. Ive been on the winning and losing end both times. I understand how it is.

Junior middle hitter Cassy Salyer
Were you trying to be overly aggressive when it came to the missed swings?

I dont think anyone was trying to hit the ball out of bounds. It could be wanting or trying to do too much. It could be any combination of those things.

Did you think you had the fourth game wrapped up at 28 points?
I dont think we had it wrapped up. I think we had some momentum going at the end. We were in a situation where we in a couple deuce games with them all night and when we were in that situation, we werent terminating and scoring any points so we wanted to get away from that.

What in your mind was the difference between winning and losing the match?
I think at crucial times we were not swinging to win and when we were it wasnt in the court.

Sophomore middle hitter Melissa Walbridge

What in your mind was the difference between winning and losing the match?
I think also our serving was a factor. I missed four serves that were unnecessary and that was a mental error that you cant have at this point in the season.

NCAA Volleyball Postgame Quotes
Penn State vs. Tennessee (Dec. 9, 2005)

Tennessee head coach Rob Patrick

Opening Statement:
I think there are only about 30 people in the country that thought we would be coming into the press conference second right now. They were the people that mattered&our team, and our support staff. We know Penn State is a great team, very well coached, but the belief that our players had in themselves and what they can do, allowed them to play volleyball without being intimidated by a fantastic Penn State team. Im very proud of this team for what theyve gone through all year&injuries, changes weve made in lineups. But the one thing Im real proud about is how hard they play.

Where would you put this match in the Tennessee history?
Its right up there, the win against Florida last year was just an epic match, and I think what happened today almost goes back to that match. We walked into Floridas stadium and beat them on their home court and we did not play intimidated at all and I think thats what happened here today. These young ladies had a goal that they set at the beginning of the year and through the year, they never wavered from it. This is one of the matches on the way to that goal, for me this is probably the top two or three matches I've ever been involved with.

You were down 28-25 and after that your team was fearless&is that how you have been playing all along?
This is a team that can go out and just grab a match and take it away, and that is just something that theyve done many many times before. We made a couple hitting errors and I called a time out. It wasnt anything Penn State was doing, we had just made some errors, and if we made fewer errors but were still aggressive, I thought that we could win that fourth game and not have to go to that fifth game. Until somebody tells them that that match is over, theyll play all night if thats what it takes.

How has your team changed since Missouri swept you?
Pretty dramatically, weve got the outside hitters, a lot of players are playing different spots, and in terms of just personnel, the team has changed considerably. Weve changed also in that at the beginning of the year I told the team, We are going to lose some matches that they thought we shouldnt lose. We had six returning starters and 10 returning players but I knew that we were going to be a different team, and we were moving people around and people had to get use to their new surroundings and positions. Were completely different then we were at the beginning of the year. Also the confidence of our players wasnt as high as it is now, and that really important. When we walked to get on the plane to fly here, they knew in their minds that we could win this match and they did. And I dont think we had that mindset when we played Missouri the first time.

The second game was pretty ugly, how did you handle that?
That was a throw away game. When you coach as long as I have, you see that kind of stuff. And it was one all, so we just couldnt dwell on that.

#1 Yuliya Stoyanova
#55 Julie Knytych
#14 Amy Morris

Senior setter Julie Knytych
How exhilarating is this victory?
Well, honestly I'm from Chicago and Big Ten volleyball has always been really big, so when I didnt go to a Big Ten school, I at least wanted to play those teams and this is just completely surreal. Coming here with all the traditions Penn State has, and its a great program, taking them out on their home court is just the best feeling in the world. We are all on top of the world right now. We have nothing to lose; we are just showing everyone that we are a program that needs to be looked at.

How did you keep your team mentally in check when you knew losing was possible?
I think Amy [Morris] and I and all of the seniors, we just try to preach to everyone on the team, stay aggressive, keep fighting and thats a huge characteristic of our team. Weve got a lot of heart and we are really gutsy, and we just go out there and we leave it on the floor and we leave our hearts out on the floor and we play hard. Thats what we are all about. We have really good chemistry, its really exciting.

Sophomore outside hitter Yuliya Stoyanova
Could you sense the Penn State players were getting frustrated?
I honestly wasnt looking so much at their frustration, I was just trying to block them and watch their approach. I wasnt really watching how they acted after. I didnt see them acting frustrated, but I guess they were.

Senior libero Amy Morris
Does winning a match here do something special for you?
I think it does because I left and went to somewhat of a lesser, or rebuilding program. Just to be where we are now, building up our program. I came in and our seniors just gelled so well together and worked so hard. It feels good to come back here and beat them because I love Tennessee. Weve been working hard to beat a team like Penn State, it would feel good to beat any Sweet 16 team, and now were going to the Elite Eight and doing things that weve always dreamed of.