Wednesday, December 23, 2009


The finals couldn't have gone better if they were directed by Michael Bay and shown in IMAX HD 3D. Down 0-2, Texas in a groove, and Destinee Hooker ascending to otherworldly status before our eyes, when the fickle femme fatale of volleyball, Mo, started slowwwwly swinging Penn State's way. Hodge started heating up, BlairBrown (one word) dug tip in the 2 zone, and the Nittany Lions stopped serving Kisner, while PSU also rotated BlairBrown to block vs. Hooker, and the next thing you know, Penn State has made even more history. A whole clump of history. A big ol' pile of history.

The volleyball:

Destinee Hooker - Legendary. The performance of a lifetime. Meryl Streep, on her absolute best day, wishes she had a performance like Hooker's under her belt. Attilla the Hun wishes he had been as ruthless in his day as Hooker was on Saturday.

Megan Hodge - OK, not the best outing she's ever had, but the people that think that one match proved she shouldn't have been POY are smoking some goooood stuff. Plus she put on a passing performance that Aldis Berzins would have been proud of.

That Baby - Despite an unbelievable match, the baby being held up in front of the camera during a timeout late in the match on Saturday almost stole the show. 10,000 people went from gasping at the show on the court to laughing at a wide-eyed slobber-mouthed toddler in a ski hat staring at the camera.

And a Dorton shall lead them - Well, for two games at least. The freshman was about the only thing going right for Penn State early on. She even stared down Doris after inadvertently taking a ball to the face after the whistle -- of course Hooker was having none of that, destroying a 4-ball on the very next play.

Sideline, everybody! - What's the deal with that new protocol? Are they afraid the "average viewer" is going to be lost if we come back from commercial and the players are on the court already? I swear the ghost of Emily Post haunts the sport of volleyball. Do they want the players on the bench to cross their legs at the ankle, too?

Hi, Joan! How was, uh, your weekend? - Yes, Joan Powell is a very respected official, but YIKES.

All Hail The Kisner - Like a mini Patrick Roy, she did everything but stand on her head.

Poor BC - Think they could have used Quilico?

The Convention:

Billy Stone, ladies and gentleman! - He's passionate, he's well-spoken, but...what was that? The joke about the Texas pool? Something about girls from California, Jerritt getting them to stay, something-something...? Even the crickets couldn't figure that one out. Leave the comedy to someone who knows what they're doing, like...

Cassidy Lichtman! Two shows nightly! - THAT was funny. Dry, deadpan, brilliant. I felt like tipping my waiters and waitresses after her speech.

Everyone loves a good language barrier - If you can't be funny, be foreign, as Yiting Cao's speech won over every Grinch in the crowd.

But where's Rollo? - Sinjin Smith was handing out the awards on Friday in one of the cooler cameos at the Final Four in a while. Are he and Karch on speaking terms yet? Anyone?

Hey! It's Taylor Carico! And again! - Poor Carico, victim of an unfortunate camera angle that put her lurking behind MC Reynaud on the giant screens every time the former Seminole spoke during the AA banquet. Hopefully it was a good hair day.

But are the shoes any good? - I've never put on a pair of Nfinity shoes, but if that career doesn't pan out, the CEO has a future in party MCing. Just saying.

Do it for the children - Everybody who's anybody, seemingly, wants collegiate sand volleyball, apparently so their grandchildren can play it.

WNVA's comin', y'all - OK, so if I understood the presentation correctly, this show is going to be like "Making the Band," except the "band" is a new pro league, but I don't know who's in the P Diddy role yet, plus Stacie Sykora cried, and Nellie Spicer wouldn't mind an adidas sponsorship. Is that about right?

Splitsville! - Suddenly bowling seems...socially acceptable, although Jim Gaffigan would disagree.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hawaiians REALLY love their volleyball team

Yes, we all know that the state of Hawaii loves their Wahine. But how much is too much?

Yes, I'd think news coverage of the team arriving in Tampa, complete with a phone call from Shoji...that's too much.

Make sure you catch the part in the video where Shoji says, "Palo Alto was really, really the 40s." Aw, it dipped all the way to the 40s in Palo Alto? I'm sure Kentucky, Florida State, and Colorado State, shipped to the frozen tundra of Gopherville, feel really, really sorry for you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Penultimate Weekend Quotes!

"Sorry. Good luck." - Russ Rose's text message, according to the Honolulu Star Bulletin, to Dave Shoji after the NCAA tournament pairings came out, revealing the 3rd-ranked Wahine seeded 12th.

"I think coaches knew we were deserving of a better seed, that we were a better team (than 12). It should be pretty clear to everyone by now." - Shoji, in same article. He should have added, "And by 'everyone' I mean 'the committee.' Mahalo, committee!"

"We sat in a restaurant in Brazil way back last May and this team talked about wanting to be in the Final Four." - Michigan big cheese Mark Rosen. Kind of long way to go just to brainstorm, doncha' think? Couldn't you have accomplished the same thing at a local Gaucho Steakhouse?

"I want to start by saying that my tie was on for about thirty seconds before I had to loosen it." - Mike Hebert, describing either the tension in the Florida State match, or some kind of deep-seated aversion to knots. (SIDEBAR! Did you know it's "deep-seated" and not "deep-seeded?" I've been wrong about that for years)

Wow, this streak is kinda...kinda big

Penn State's 100-match winning streak is getting so big that even sports bloggers are starting to take notice! That's right. Anybody can be recognized by the boring ol' "traditional media," but if you want to really make a splash in today's go-go-go culture, blogs are where it's at, dude. Blogs and the X Games. And not one of these lame, one-person "I got somethin' clever to say!" blogs like...well like this one, but big blogs! Respected blogs! Blogs with ads!

And so it is that Bleacher Report -- and their intrepid, obviously highly intelligent writer Samantha Cooke -- mentioned Penn State in her 12 Days of Christmas post:
In honor of the 12 Days of Christmas, I will be highlighting a new story each day until Christmas. 
I will start with day one and finish with day 12.
Really? Start with day one and finish with day 12? Did ya' come up with that on your own? OK, cheap shot, but you can hardly blame me. And I am complimenting Cooke for recognizing the Nittanies.
On the first day of Christmas, ESPN gave to me....a streak that will not be broken.
Yes, it is college women's volleyball and most people do not care or even realize that is a competitive sport. 
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Not a great start there, skipper. There are 320+ D1 universities with women's volleyball. The entire state of Nebraska is offended.  
But this is the most impressive streak I have seen, even more impressive than Cal Ripken and Brett Favre.
Aaand nice recovery! Especially with the invoking of The Ripken and The Favre. Cooke goes on to talk about the streak, thankfully leaving out the nearly ubiquitous (SAT word) mention of UCLA's bball streak, UNC's soccer streak, etc., and wraps it up with this little nugget of blogtastic goodness:

It is one thing to continue playing; it is another to continue to win.
BLAM. Love it. Love her. Love it as described by her.  

Sunday, December 13, 2009

First things first: Sweet Sixteen

So, let's see. Vietnam's national team beat Cambodia this weekend, 3-0. Anything else important happen?

Oh that's right: All hell broke loose.

Say YES to Meeeechigan - Before losing to Hawaii, the Wolverines went after Stanford in the same way an actual Wolverine would go after a baked ham left out in the wilderness to fend for itself. And you know how baked hams hate conflict.

FSU advances! - Seminoles prove their #3 seeding wasn't a fluke by beating UK and losing to MN...right? I mean, right?

The Baylor dream ends - The Baylor Bears end their odyssey at the hands of the Golden Bears. As you remember from chemistry class, Gold is more powerful than the element Baylorium. Hopefully after the match Coach Barnes told his troops, "We'll always have Westwood."

Cyclones, Aggies, tie for 3rd in Big 12 - So apparently that's what would have happened if the Big 12 had a tournament, and held it in Omaha, the best home court advantage a guy could ever ask for. Still, Christy Johnson HYPHEN! Lynch could run for mayor right now and win, and the Aggies acquitted themselves quite nicely thankyouverymuch.

Oh, yeah - And Penn State beat Florida, 3-0.

Regional finals! Now with 88% less Pac 10!

Only Feller's Fellas made it this far from the Pac 10, which of course means that the Pac 10's dominance is over supposedly. Yes, apparently the Mayans were wrong. 2012 isn't the year the world ends; it's the year the Pac 10 ends. John Cusack should've played a frantic Rich Feller trying to fly his team out of the conference before it crumbles around them.

Who knew No. 12 was so good? - Another two wins, another "Here's your #12 seed" from Shoji to the selection committee. I think the whole team should wear warm-up shirts with "12" on them in Tampa.

Gophers! The little brown furry rodents! - Might be the best story of the Final Four: Carico transfers in, Dieter quits halfway through and they just keep winning. And is there anyone happier right now than Carico? America loves a comeback, people.

Longhorns are the greatest escape artists ever - Ever feel like the odds are stacked against you? Texas had to play a red-hot Nebraska team, in the Qwest Center, and STILL came out with a ticket for Tampa. The only way it could've gotten worse for Texas is if Tom Osborne was the up ref...and the Longhorns were suspended from a burning rope over a pit of ravenous sharks (with lasers on their heads).

And then there's Penn State - The Machine moves on to the Final Four, extending the Golden Era of Nittany-ness. Rest of America just happy to know that Hodge and Glass have played in their final regional.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's the Sweet Sixteen! How does it feel?

If you'll recall, we spotlighted some opening quotes from 2007's regional press conferences. Let's see how far we've come in two years.

Jerritt Elliott: "First of all, we're really excited to be here."
Tom Hilbert: "We're very excited to be here."
Rich Feller: "We are very happy to be here."
John Cook: "We're excited to be here. We're happy we made it up here. We're glad it's warm here."
Jim Barnes: "We're just excited to be here."
Mary Wise: "We are proud to be hosting."
Laurie Corbelli: "We're just really excited to be here."
Christy Johnson HYPHEN! Lynch: "We're happy to be here after the crazy weather in Iowa and a long bus ride. We're happy to finally be here."
Russ Rose: "We are excited to be here."
Mike Hebert: "We're awfully happy to be in the regional."
Chris Poole: "We are really excited to be here."
Craig Skinner: We’re very excited to be here and when you get to a regional it’s exciting for every program that made it and it’s going to be an exciting weekend of volleyball.

Suggestion for next year (non-host coaches): "We should be hosting the regional, I hate this town, I hate this gym. I will not be taking any questions." 

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mary's arms are too short and she's looking for cracks and...

Florida's playing Penn State in the first match of the Gainesville Regional, and the Gainesville Sun has done an article about it, apparently to see how many superlatives Mary can jam into 12 paragraphs:

"You are just trying to get your arms around how good they really are." 
Well, with your bad back, Mary, you shouldn't be trying to get your arms around anyone. (Ferris Bueller)

"There are no weaknesses." 
Not even chocolate? Puppies? Puppies eating chocolate?

"We are looking for cracks and there are none to be had." 
Mary's been watching video with a remote in one hand and spackle in the other. 

"You’ve got one of the all-time best coaches (Russ Rose), coaching them." 
As we read about, IN THE NEW YORK TIMES!

"There aren’t any cracks on that team." 
Just a lot of smooth concrete. Yes, yes, Penn State is the sidewalk of college volleyball.

"If there were (cracks), they wouldn’t be able to rattle off 14 out of 15 matches without dropping a set." 
Enough with the cracks already. We get it, they're crackless. 

"If women’s volleyball had a NBA-type draft, these would all be lottery picks." 

(begin dream sequence)

"With the first pick, in the first round, Penn State selects...Megan Hodge."

"Oh, a brilliant pick for the Nittany Lions."

"You like that pick?"

"Oh absolutely. At 6'4" and with unbelievable hops, Hodge is a one-person wrecking crew."

"But might the Nittany Lions have been better off with a more versatile player, such as Ashley Engle, the talented southpaw out of Yorba Linda, California?"

"Well that all depends on what happens to Alisha Glass. If Texas picks Engle, that means they no longer need a potential setter, as some are projecting Glass to play that position in college. Glass slips to the second round..."

"Where Russ Rose then takes care of his setting opening. But, they just drafted Fawcett last year! Why do you back up an outside hitter with another outside hitter?"

"It's Russ Rose. He knows what he's doing. Did you know he got his master's degree in volleyball statistics, or something?"

"Let's go back to the podium, where Kathy Deboer is ready to announce UCSB's pick already! They've only been on the clock for 30 seconds!"

"With the second pick, in the first round, UCSB selects...Stephanie Brandt from Irvine, California."


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

We've hit the big time!

If perhaps you spent all day yesterday in a sensory deprivation tank, or in Cleveland, you might not know that the New York Times did a story on Russ Rose. THE. NEW. YORK. TIMES. The Gray Lady! All the news that's fit to print, and yesterday, Russ was fit! To print!

Of course, it's a little scary having a big media outlet like the NYT profile one of our own. What if they mischaracterize Russ? Don't capture the essence, the tao of Russ?
In 31 seasons at Penn State, Rose, 56, has always done things different from most, reflected in his droll, straight-faced sarcasm and his penchant for sweats, swear words and cigars.
That's...actually pretty much dead on.
Raised in Chicago, Rose does not believe in schmoozing or sugarcoating.
Nailed it. 
“He’s like that black-sheep uncle,” said Adam Jarrett, a volunteer assistant for the program for 13 years.
Spoken like a man who, as a volunteer assistant, does not risk loss of income by characterizing Russ as a black sheep.

Penn State and Coach Rose are getting all this recognition because, of course, they've won a ridiculous 97 matches in a row, besting Wooden's UCLA record of 88, and UNC women's soccer's 92. 

More Russ-ily goodness.
“I’ve heard people say that maybe we’d be better served had we lost,” Rose said. “I was kind of wondering what profession they were in. I wouldn’t want a lawyer representing me to think like that. I wouldn’t want a doctor operating on me to think like that.”
But how fun it would be if doctors and lawyers advertised those facts: "I'm Dr. Gerkin, and I boast a stunning 37-1 record in gall bladder removal!" or "Bob Johnson: Undefeated in personal injury settlements since 1995."
Rose, who arrived at Penn State in 1979 with bushy dark hair and a Tom Selleck mustache...
Is Selleck now the gold standard when it comes to mustaches? What happened to Burt Reynolds? Mike Schmidt? Mike Schmidt's mustache isn't good enough for you?

A good chunk of the article focuses on Rose's stats that he takes during a match, stats that are more important to him than the official stats. Turns out Russ wrote his masters thesis at Nebraska on volleyball stats. 

So he knows stats. “He knows everything you’d want to know. And everything you don’t want him to know,” offers Kaleena Davidson, former libero and current assistant coach. Notice among the paid staff's quotes that the words "black sheep" are nowhere to be found.
“I have my own stats,” Rose said. “Because I want to win.”
Score one for college volleyball! Prime-time exposure in the New York Times. Now if they can just find a way to work "Alyssa D'Errico" into that crossword of theirs, we'll really have something. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Quotes from the tourney that God hath forsaken

"The NCAA women's volleyball tournament began this weekend without one of the decade's most familiar postseason names. Again." - Columbia Daily Tribune. Hmm...Pepperdine? San Diego? BYU? Wisconsin? Pacific? Cal Poly? "Missouri." Oh, right. How could I have missed that.

"We want to go all the way to the final four. We've decided to take them one at a time." - Dave Shoji, beautifully contrasting "all the way" with "one at a time."

"There was something spooky in the 44-year-old Pauley Pavilion on Saturday night." - The Daily Bruin, re: Baylor's upset of UCLA. Look, I suppose Jim Barnes is no Brad Pitt, but I don't know that "spooky" is a fair assessment. 

"Setter Evan Sanders methodically passed the ball in their directions and what looked like blocked shots turned into powerful spikes through fingers attached to purple jerseys." - The Rocky Mountain Collegian, getting all descriptive and junk.

"The Bobcat coach looks like he said something to Rosen on the sidelines and Rosen just laughed at whatever he said. I don't know, it's one of those 'You had to be here to see it' sorta deals." - From The Michigan Daily's live blog of the Ohio / Michigan match, pretty much defining what a live blog of a match is supposed to do.

"We had some nice highs, and we had some lows." - Jim McLaughlin, describing either the Huskies' season or paraphrasing the opening of "A Tale of Two Cities."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Really? REALLY?

NCAA: Testing young minds for nearly 7-10 seconds at a time.

Oh, Gametracker...

Wait! Who's winning? The logo, has Washington winning...but the team name, has Colorado State winning. Go to the NCAA page, quick!, turning green...

Welcome to Monday: your brackets are worthless

Whoa. You know the time you took to painstakingly fill out your brackets? The care you took in assessing teams' strengths? After Thursday, most people were feeling pretty good. And then, then came Friday. And then the sun rose again on Saturday to ruin things even more. 

Then the Steelers lost on Sunday.

Hey Pac 10! Wha' hap'in? - (Mike LaFontaine reference) Baylor, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Colorado State, Northern Iowa, and especially Hawaii get free lunch in any Big Ten, SEC, or Big 12 town in America for the rest of the year. 

And don't get too cozy, Stanford - Did you enjoy St. Mary's? Wow they got after it. Lauren Corp was a complete nutball with 25 kills and hitting almost .400. Nut. Ball. But Klineman and Lichtman once again put the Cardinal on their backs and carried them to a game 5 win. 

Hawaii! - Does anyone feel more vindicated today than Hawaii? Shoji, preach it like you teach it: "The Pac-10 supposedly was the premier conference." POW. That's how you debate.

Carico's hindsight is quite good, thankyouverymuch - OK, Taylor Carico might be feeling pretty good, too. Plus she got further in the tournament than sister Lane. That's good Xmas dinner table fodder.

ACC: 5 teams enter, 4 teams leave - Not exactly Thunderdome numbers, but outside of 3rd-seeded FSU, no ACC team made it out of the first round.

Pop quiz, hotshot - Quick, off the top of your head, when was the last time Texas A&M was in the Sweet 16? Don't know? Me neither. THAT's how long. Great year in College Station, helping ensure that at least one Big 12 team will make it to the Final Four.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Let the kookiness begin

First round matches! Results! Drama? Some!

First it was Florida International -- and when I say international, I mean INTERNACIONAL -- going down to the wire against Miami. Doing the heavy lifting for the 'Canes were Carico and Williamson, while Los Internacionals spread things out between Yarimar Rosa, Olga Vergun, Jovana Bjelica, and Andrea Lakovic (I hope FIU's P.A announcer gets hazard pay), who had 16, 15, 15 and 10 kills respectively. [insert your own conclusions about the ACC's five-team allotment in this year's tourney, conspiracy theories therein, as well as general tsk-tsking about foreigners]

Then the drama continued with Dayton v. UW-Milwaukee, as the mucho-favorito Flyers were put to the test by the scrappers from the Horizon. Ya' gotta love the play of UWM's setter Kellye Zaporski and libero Lauren Felsing. Well, I do anyway. Dayton wins despite being out-dug, and Fletemier only getting 9 kills in 5 games.

And then, as the East Coast prepared for bed, Colorado State and MTSU played a dilly of a match, with Izabela Kozon's 20 kills not enough to beat the Rams and 15 kills from Danielle "Ft. Collins is way cooler than Lincoln anyway" Minch.

The rest were sweeps except for -- GASP -- The Cauldron _losing_ game one against Northern Colorado? W-w-what? "We got better as the match went," said Jimmy McLauglin. Is that on page 24 of the GM2 manual or...? [flip-flip-flip] Dang, this thing needs an index.

Kudos to TCU, the little horned frog that could, as they win their first round in a sweep over Rice Chex (Rizchex?).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

ESPN writes about the NCAA tournament!

This should be a good laugh! ESPN, which probably only carries the volleyball final four because they lost a bet, is writing about OUR national championship? Harrumph. I'm ready to snark all over this thing.

The article is titled "5 Burning Questions on the NCAA women's volleyball tournament," and I'm guessing one of them is "How can we get rid of these matches and show more of the College Softball World Series?" even though Jennie Finch graduated like 11 years ago.
1. What was the biggest surprise of the bracket?
Let me guess: that there are 64 schools that have women's volleyball? Heh, heh-heh, snark-snark-snark, etc., etc.
Without question, the biggest surprise in the entire bracket was the level of respect given to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Huh...that's, well that's actually a pretty reasonable answer, the ACC having apparently offered free tuition to the committee's first-born in exchange for five teams in the tourney. But I'm sure question #2 will be LLLAMME.
2. Which region is the most competitive?
OK, I get it: the questions don't stink. But surely the author won't be able to answer question #4 accurately, "Which first-round matches are the most intriguing?"
Football fans would love to see Cincinnati and Ohio State square off, but they'll have to settle with Friday's volleyball match.
Well yeah, I suppose that's intriguing...
Tulane squares off with LSU for the third time this season, the second in Baton Rouge.
OK, that's, that's too bad...
Two programs that have won multiple national championships will tangle when UCLA (won NCAA titles in 1984, 1990 and 1991) plays host to Long Beach State (won NCAA titles in 1989, 1993 and 1998) on Friday at Pauley Pavilion.

Man. Who wrote this? Here I am, with perfectly good intentions of snarking away on what I anticipate will be ESPN's lame attempt to cover volleyball, and I'm faced with a (gulp), a good article with good arguments and knowledge. WHO IS THIS AUTHOR, THIS "DAVE REED"?!
Dave Reed, now in his 11th year at Colorado College, is the primary contact for CC’s 15 Division III programs.
A-HA...a ringer. Colorado College has a rich volleyball background, and sports info dudes are notorious for having lots of, you know...sports info. Let's read more of his bio:
Reed left Notre Dame in 1996 to join USA, where he served as a content editor/stringer manager for three years. He was part of an 11-member team that specialized in the coverage of collegiate athletics, with an emphasis on basketball, football, ice hockey and volleyball.
OK, that explains it. They had to get an outsider to do it. 'Cause you know Erik Kuselias couldn't have done this. On to the final question:
5. Which unseeded team could pull off the biggest upset?
Lots of different ways to go here. I'm actually interested in reading what Dave Reed, University of Dayton Class of '91, has to say:
Dayton will be looking to complete the trifecta against Illinois and advance to the second round of the tournament if both teams can win their first-round matches Thursday.
Dude. Busted.

Let's read about Bobbi Peterson, shall we?

As we all know, UNI's Bobbi Petersen has developed UNI into a monster program. Most of us probably didn't even know there was a Northern Iowa until Bobbi got the volleyball team rockin'. Heck, the only reason I know there's any kind of Iowa, northern or otherwise, is because of "Field of Dreams."

So the WCF Courier -- Waterloo / Cedar Falls, yo -- did a nice little profile on her as the Panthers head into their 7th NCAA tournament appearance under the direction of Coach P.
It sounds like the plot to one of those feel-good TLC documentaries.
Which documentary would that be, "Cake Boss"? 'Cause I know you're not referencing "Jon & Kate Plus 8" if you plan on steering this article in the right direction.
Find a couple that has managed to raise two sets of twins...
Meh. I know people with twins, it's no big deal, really. Is that al-- wait, did you say TWO sets of twins? As in 2x2, as in 4 kids?
The Petersens have two sets of twin daughters - Baylee and Sydney (9), and Jadyn and Payton (3)
WOW. First, I wonder if there are so many letter Ys in those names because her name is "Bobbi"; And second, you know what two sets of twins means? Bobbi Petersen hasn't gotten a decent night's sleep since the Clinton administration. CLINTON. All the while running a killer volleyball program.
"There's nothing I want more than to be the best mom I can be." - Bobbi
I'd want a full-time nanny, personally.
I truly believe that it's my kids that give me energy and it's the volleyball kids that give me the energy.
I don't know. I think we're heading toward a Jesse Spano meltdown here, you know when Jesse lost it after taking too much No-Doz during finals? That's the only explanation for being able to juggle all of this, right?
"She is a remarkable woman." - husband Duane
OK, that's probably more plausible.