Dec. 15, 2010

STREAK ENDED: Penn State had their 109-match winning streak snapped earlier this season. Penn State didn’t drop a contest from Sept. 15, 2007 until Sept. 11, 2010. That is the longest winning streak in the history of NCAA volleyball and the third-longest winning streak in any sport or division in NCAA history.

MODEL OF EXCELLENCE: Penn State is one of only two teams in the country to earn berths in the NCAA Tournament each of the 30 years the tournament has been held since 1981.

WE’RE # 1: For just the fourth time in the past 13 years, the team that held the # 1 ranking in the AVCA poll heading into the tournament will not end up winning the championship.

TOURNAMENT ATTENDANCE: The attendance for this year’s tournament to date has increased over last year’s. A total of 86,511 people have attended the tournament so far. 57,353 attended matches at first and second round sites, while 29,158 attended regional matches. Nebraska had the most attendance for the first and second-round site with 8,221, while the Washington regional had the most attendance for those rounds with 10,987.

FINALS APPEARANCES: Penn State and USC are each making their ninth appearance in the Finals. They are tied with Hawaii for the fourth-most appearances. This is also Penn State’s fourth-consecutive appearance in the Finals, which is tied for the third-longest streak in Finals history. Texas is making their third-straight appearance in the Finals and seventh overall, while California is making their second.

PREVIOUS CHAMPIONS: Three of the four teams in the Finals have won at least one NCAA championship. Penn State is attempting to win their fifth title, while USC is trying for their fourth and Texas their second.

REMATCH: The semifinal contest between Penn State and Texas is a rematch of last year’s championship match that the Nittany Lions won in an epic, five-set tilt.

PENN STATE VS. THE FIELD: Penn State has never faced USC in the Finals. They have met California and Texas one time apiece. Penn State defeated California in the national semifinals 2007 en route to the first of their three straight championships. Overall, they are 9-6 against Texas, a perfect 3-0 against California and 1-2 against USC. Their last loss to USC came in the 2000 regional championship.

TEXAS’ MATCHUPS: Texas has split their eight all-time meetings with USC, while going a perfect 9-0 against California.

CALIFORNIA-SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Pac-10 rivals California and USC have never met in NCAA Tournament play. Southern California holds a 46-10 advantage in their all-time series, including winning both regular season contests in 2010.

LEADING THE COUNTRY: Rachael Adams and Jennifer Doris of Texas rank 1-2 in the country in hitting percentage, connecting at .448 and .435 clips, respectively. If those marks hold up, they would be the seventh and ninth-best hitting percentage single-season marks for the 25-point rally scoring era.

INDIVIDUAL NATIONAL RANKINGS: Tarah Murrey of California ranks third in the nation in kills per set (5.16) and fourth points per set (5.76). Alex Jupiter of USC is ninth in points per set (5.23). Shannon Hawari of California is fourth in hitting percentage (.428), Arielle Wilson of Penn State fifth (.4253) and Lauren Williams of USC sixth (.4248). Kendall Bateman of USC (12.41) and Carli Lloyd of California (11.82) rank third and eight, respectively, in assists per set.

TEAM NATIONAL RANKINGS: All four teams in the Finals are among the best hitting teams in the country. Penn State is second at .314, California third at .313, Texas fourth at .311 and USC sixth at .295. California (13.75) and USC (13.60) stand seven-eight in assists per set. California is also third nationally in blocks per set at 3.06 and sixth in kills per set at 14.63. Penn State is fifth in blocks per set at 3.01.

CONFERENCE HONORS: The finals this year include 19 players and three coaches earning postseason honors in their conferences, including two Player of the Year awards and a pair of Freshman of the Year. Penn State’s Blair Brown (Big Ten) and Texas’ Juliann Faucette (Big 12) were chosen as the top player in their leagues. USC’s Falyn Fonoimoana (Pac-10) and Penn State’s Deja McClendon (Big Ten) were selected as the top Freshman player in their respective leagues. Penn State’ Russ Rose (Big Ten), California’s Rich Feller (Pac-10) and Texas’ Jerritt Elliott (Big 12) were voted as the top coaches in their conferences.

Three players from USC and California’s squads were selected All-Pac-10. Fonoimoana was joined was USC teammates Alex Jupiter and Lauren Williams. Correy Johnson, Carli Lloyd and Tarah Murrey of California were also named to the team. Kat Brown and Shannon Hawari of California and Kendall Bateman of USC earned Honorable Mention honors. Along with Fonoimoana, Adrienne Gehan of California and Natalie Hagglund of USC were named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team. Sara Shaw of USC earned Honorable Mention Pac-10 All-Freshman honors.

Four players on Penn State’s squad were selected All-Big Ten this year. Arielle Wilson and Deja McClendon joined Brown as All-Conference selections. Wilson was being honored for the third consecutive year. Alyssa D’Errico earned Honorable Mention distinction.

Faucette and Texas teammate Rachael Adams were unanimous All-Big 12 selections, while Jennifer Dorris and Amber Roberson of the Longhorns earned Honorable Mention honors.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS: Penn State won their eighth straight Big Ten Conference and 14th overall championship this season. California earned their first Pac-10 title this season, having tied Stanford atop the conference rankings with a 15-3 record.

ALL-TIME CHAMPIONSHIPS: USC ranks third among all NCAA schools with 92 team championships, including three in women’s volleyball. They trail only Pac-10 foes UCLA (106) and Stanford (99) on the overall team titles list.

TWICE AS NICE: USC Head Coach Mick Haley is one of only two coaches in NCAA history to lead two different schools to NCAA titles. Haley earned championships at Southern Cal in 2002 and 2003 and Texas in 1988.

Haley and Texas Head Coach Jerritt Elliott are two of five coaches to lead two different schools to national semi-final berths. In addition to this season, Haley led USC berths in 2002-03-04-07 and Texas to berths in 1986-87-88-95. Coincidentally, Elliott has led the same two schools to semi-final berths (Texas in the past three seasons and USC in 2000).

CLEAN SWEEPS: All four participants in this year’s Tournament Finals have all proven dominate throughout much of the year. The four schools have combined to sweep their opponents 3-0 75 times in 132 matches this season. Penn State leads the way, sweeping 25 of their 35 opponents 3-0 this season. California posted 20 3-0 shutouts, including all four of their NCAA Tournament matches. USC had 16 shutouts and Texas 14.

WINNINGEST ALL-TIME COACHES: Penn State Head Coach Russ Rose and USC Head Coach Mick Haley are two of the winningest coaches in Division I history. Rose not only leads all active coaches in career winning percentage (.863), but that percentage is the best ever for a Division I head coach. Rose also stands second in total career victories (1031) among active coaches and third all-time. Haley ranks fifth (777) in career victories and seventh (.799) in career winning percentage among all active coaches. Those marks also rank 10th among all-time Division I coaches.

ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT WINS: Penn State is in a tie for fourth place on the all-time NCAA Tournament wins list with 70. USC and Texas are tied for sixth on the list with 62 wins. Penn State is tied for third in all-time tournament winning percentage (.737). USC (.721) and Texas (.713) rank sixth and eighth, respectively, in tournament winning percentage.

HOT STREAKS: Texas comes into the Tournament Finals on a roll. After starting out the season 8-5, the Longhorns have won 19 straight matches. They are not the only team peaking at the right time, however. Penn State has won 17 of their past 18 matches and USC has won 15 of their last 16 contests. California has been playing at a high level the entire season, having won 29 matches against just three losses (the fewest losses among all of the teams in the Finals).

TAKING IT TO THE LIMIT: USC has played nine five-set matches this season, going 8-1 during those contests. Texas has gone 3-1 in five-set matches and Cal 2-2. Penn State has lost all three of their five-set tilts.

AVCA ALL-AMERICANS: Ten players participating in the Volleyball Finals this week were named AVCA All-Americans this season. Penn State, USC and California each had two players that were voted to the First Team. Penn State’s Blair Brown and Arielle Wilson were repeat First Team selections. Texas’ Juliann Faucette was also a First Team selection in 2007. Alex Jupiter of USC, Rachael Adams of Texas and Carli Lloyd and Tarah Murrey of California earned their initial First Team recognition. USC’s Kendall Bateman, Penn State’s Deja McClendon picked up Second Team nods. USC’s Lauren Williams was named to the Third Team.

NATION’S TOP FROSH: In addition to her All-American recognition, Penn State’s Deja McClendon was recently named AVCA Freshman of the Year.