Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Penn State-Texas final in NCAA women's volleyball sign of sport's growth

TAMPA — That Penn State and Texas, the nation's top two teams all season, meet tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum for the women's championship is hardly a surprise.

What is a surprise is that this is just the third time in the tournament's 29 years that both finalists are from outside the West Coast/Hawaii. It also happened in 1995 and 2000. That's a clear indication of the sport's eastward expansion.

"There was a time 30 years ago when the gap was huge," Penn State coach Russ Rose said of the West-vs.-the-rest landscape. "But now you find good teams and good coaches everywhere."

Consider that perennial power Stanford lost at home to Michigan in the regional semifinals and Florida State, which had never made it beyond the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, reached the regional finals, where it lost to Minnesota.

Florida coach Mary Wise said one reason for increasing parity is that an increasing number of outstanding athletes are choosing to play volleyball. "Years ago, it used to be that the recruiting bases were a few pockets mainly on the West Coast, but now we're seeing great talent all over the country," she said.

Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said the sport's increased media coverage has helped make more players comfortable about leaving California and remaining confident their skills will be developed.

For instance, his senior outside hitter Ashley Engle, junior outside hitter Juliann Faucette and freshman utility player Sha'Dare McNeal are from Southern California, and sophomore libero Sydney Yogi is from Hawaii.

Familiar face: First-year Texas assistant coach Salima Rockwell said tonight's match won't be weird for her. Rockwell was a three-time All-America setter at Penn State (1991-94) and spent two seasons (2007-08) at her alma mater as an assistant.

"I want everyone to play well," she said. "I want this to be a match everybody's talking about forever. And I'd like to come out on top."

Texas star senior Destinee Hooker said Rockwell is like "the mother of the team," who the players can go to with any problem, on or off the court.

He said it: When asked if, after winning 101 straight matches, he remembers what it's like to lose, Rose displayed his dry, quick wit: "Sure. I have a wife and four kids."

Times staff writer Antonya English contributed to this report.

Penn State-Texas final in NCAA women's volleyball sign of sport's growth 12/18/09 [Last modified: Friday, December 18, 2009 9:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays DFA Danny Farquhar to make room for Brad Boxberger


    The Rays continued shuffling their bullpen, dumping RHP Danny Farquhar after Wednesday's game to make room for RHP Brad Boxberger to be activated off the DL.

    Farquhar, who worked an inning in Wednesday's 6-2 loss, had a 2-2, 4.11 record for 37 appearances, working primarily in lower leverage situations. In …

  2. USF to face Indiana in men's basketball next season


    The USF men's basketball team will get an early test from a Big Ten powerhouse next season.

  3. Rays employee helps save suicidal woman near Pirates stadium


    A Rays front-office employee joined umpire John Tumpane in saving a woman threatening to jump from a bridge near PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

    Multimedia production manager Mike Weinman, 32, was walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge with Rays broadcasting director Larry McCabe when he …

  4. Blake Snell struggles in return as Rays fall to Pirates

    The Heater


    Blake Snell talked a good game ahead of his return to the Rays rotation Wednesday night, but he didn't pitch one.

    The Pirates’ David Freese scores on a Blake Snell wild pitch during the first inning against the Rays.
  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Pirates game

    The Heater

    Corey Dickerson is doing everything he can to garner All-Star votes heading into tonight's voting cutoff, going into play Wednesday leading the AL with 101 hits and rapping two more his first two times up, and scoring two more runs.