Texas to meet Penn State for NCAA Volleyball Title

By ANTONIO GONZALEZ, Associated Press Writer

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Penn State is one win away from setting another volleyball record, earning the chance for a third straight national title by beating Hawaii 23-25, 25-18, 25-15, 25-18 Thursday night.

The Nittany Lions (37-0) overcome a sluggish start and dropped only their sixth set of the season before extending their record winning streak to 101 matches. It was also coach Russ Rose’s 1,000th victory.

Penn State will face Texas on Saturday night. The Longhorns swept Minnesota 25-19, 25-20, 25-15 in the other semifinal.

Hawaii was hardly intimidated by one of the best runs in college sports history. The Rainbow Wahine (32-3) built a big cushion in the first set and never wavered, leaving an arena packed with Penn State fans stunned and silent.

It didn’t last.

The Nittany Lions didn’t lose their confident and cocky attitude, with bench players routinely dancing in circles and throwing their hands in the air after every spike. They used big serves to stay on the offensive and swiftly send Hawaii 5,000 miles home.

The first semifinal wasn’t as close.

Destinee Hooker led the Longhorns (29-1) with 17 kills, part of a team of outside hitters that punished the Gophers with size and strength at the net.

The only major challenge Texas faced came in the final set.

The Gophers came out active and agile after dropping the first two sets. They went ahead 12-8 with a flurry of deep digs and hard-pounding spikes.

“Perhaps we got a little fidgety,” Longhorns coach Jerritt Elliott said. “But it was about making sure we had confidence because you expect good teams in the final four. We were a lot more relaxed and that’s because of the experience we had now.”

The Longhorns regrouped, rallied and put away Minnesota (28-9) quickly. Texas won 12 of the next 13 points and cruised the rest of the way.

Texas is going for its first volleyball title since 1988.

“It was a long time ago. I wasn’t even born yet,” said Longhorns outside hitter Juliann Faucette, who is 20 years old.

The Nittany Lions swept all but six of their wins this year. They dropped a set Thursday night for the first time since Nov. 20 at Purdue.

The 101-match streak is second in Division I team sports behind the Miami men’s tennis program’s 137 straight wins from 1957-64. The Nittany Lions haven’t lost since falling to Stanford in September 2007.

The win also made Rose only the third women’s volleyball coach in Division I history to reach 1,000 victories. He trails only UCLA’s Andy Banachowski (1,106) and Hawaii’s Dave Shoji (1,016).