Sunday, December 16, 2007

Penn State puts it away

Nittany Lions top Stanford, which loses its second consecutive final

By Melody Gutierrez -

Sacramento Bee

Published 12:00 am PST Sunday, December 16, 2007

Story appeared in SPORTS section, Page C1

Penn State's Roberta Holehouse (4), Nicole Fawcett (1) and Alisha Glass celebrate a point. The Nittany Lions won their second national championship.
Hector Amezcua /

Megan Hodge spastically jumped up and down, meeting her team in the middle of a huddle of hugs. The Penn State sophomore had dreamed of this moment.

Now, she held the NCAA Division I volleyball championship trophy, and she was having a hard time believing it.

Hodge was named Most Outstanding Player after leading the Nittany Lions to the second title in school history. Penn State defeated Stanford 3-2 (30-25, 30-26, 23-30, 19-30, 15-8) Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 13,631 at Arco Arena.

"At this moment, it hasn't sunk in yet that we won," Hodge said. "It's great. It's surreal. I'm on a high, I guess."

Hodge, an outside hitter, tallied a match-high 26 kills, 10 digs and 26.5 points. Fellow all-tournament selection Nicole Fawcett supplied 19 kills, and freshman middle hitter Arielle Wilson made 12 kills.

Stanford all-tournament picks Foluke Akinradewo and Alix Klineman finished with 18 kills each.

The Cardinal players walked sullenly to the sideline as they fell for a second consecutive year in the title match, having lost 3-1 to Nebraska. Penn State (34-2) last won the championship in 1999 and has been the runner-up three times in the tournament's 27-year history.

"Obviously, Penn State is a great team," Stanford coach John Dunning said. "We would like to congratulate them. They came out aggressively."

Sacramento Bee Staff Photo
Penn State Nittany Lions players storm the court after their 3-2 victory against the Stanford Cardinals during the 2007 NCAA Division I women's volleyball championship game Saturday, Dec. 15, 2007, at Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif. Megan Hodge, #11 (top right), was voted the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

Stanford (32-3) struggled with ball control in the first game, finishing with a .159 hitting percentage that made it difficult to control Penn State's rallies in the Lions' 30-25 victory. Akinradewo and Klineman had five kills each among Stanford's 13, and Wilson had five kills among Penn State's 17. The Nittany Lions finished the first game with a .263 hitting percentage as Hodge struggled to land her hits, finishing with three kills on 12 attempts with two attack errors for an .083 hitting percentage.

Penn State remained focused in Game 2, using its trademark strong blocking to tally 4.5 team blocks and nine block assists to win 30-26. Fawcett finished the second game with seven of her team's 23 kills. As a team, the Nittany Lions hit .525, while the Cardinal hit .357.

The Cardinal returned from halftime with a renewed energy, leading 14-13 in Game 3 before a series of Penn State errors allowed Stanford to widen its advantage. Cardinal All-America setter Bryn Kehoe provided the bulk of the points in a 6-0 run, logging three consecutive aces thanks to poor defense by Roberta Holehouse. Kehoe tallied one more ace en route to the 30-23 victory. Penn State made 10 errors in the game.

Stanford dominated the fourth game without an error, finishing with a .535 hitting percentage and 23 kills. Cynthia Barboza contributed six kills in Stanford's 30-19 victory.

In the decisive fifth game, Stanford's momentum ended. Penn State came out strong with the help of setter Alisha Glass, an all-tournament selection. The Cardinal logged one kill in the final game to Penn State's 11 as the Nittany Lions prevailed 15-8.

"We played hard when we needed to play hard," Penn State coach Russ Rose said. "Our goal was to win a national championship."

Also named to the all-tournament team were Penn State's Christa Harmotto, who finished with 13 kills and a .435 hitting percentage, and USC's Asia Kaczor.

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