STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) " This could be another milestone week for the record-setting Penn State women's volleyball team.
A 100th straight victory over the weekend moved them a step closer to an unprecedented third straight NCAA women's volleyball title. Russ Rose is also one win shy of 1,000 in his 31 years as the Nittany Lions' head coach.
But the real drama Monday came in the classroom " it's also the start of final exams.
"The girls are all about campus trying to take care of that, and hopefully they'll take care of those things and be mentally ready to go," Rose said Monday, when the usual afternoon practice was delayed until the evening to accommodate test times.
"My experience would tell me it would take them a couple of days for them mentally to be ready to go," Rose said.
They better be ready for volleyball by Thursday night, when the Nittany Lions face Hawaii in a national semifinal match in Tampa, Fla., featuring two of the most successful coaches in Division I women's volleyball history. Hawaii's Dave Shoji has 1,016 career victories.
Minnesota and Texas square off in the other semifinal, with the winners facing each other Saturday night for the championship.
If recent history is any indication, consider Penn State a decisive favorite.
The Nittany Lions have swept all but four of their 36 wins this year. They've lost just five sets all season, the last one on Nov. 20 at Purdue.
Even more remarkable is the 100-match winning streak that is second all-time 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.
All the talk about milestones has brought increased attention to a team that often gets lost in the giant shadow of the football program.
Rose, though, doesn't like talking about streaks.
"The players have garnered a lot of attention based on performance, and a lot of the attention is on the various streaks that are out there," Rose said. "That's the part that I'm tiring on."
Rose does like these other numbers, though: Penn State is first in the nation in hitting percentage (.394) and second in blocks per set (3.23).
Arielle Wilson is first in the country individually in hitting percentage (.559), while setter Alisha Glass is fourth in assists per set at 12.02. Glass, a senior, plays a position in volleyball much like a pass-first point guard in basketball.
Then there's the experience under Rose, led by Glass and fellow senior Megan Hodge, a powerful 6-foot-3 hitter who was the most valuable player in the last two NCAA championships.
The 6-3 Wilson and 6-5 junior Blair Brown also offer imposing height and quickness at the net, while 5-9 libero Alyssa D'Errico is one of the nation's best servers.
They depart Tuesday for Tampa.
"We're certainly not going in there thinking we're better than anybody," Rose said. "We're going there knowing we're going to have to work hard to get everybody else's respect and attention and that's the way we've always been."
With a win, Rose would become the third women's volleyball coach in Division I history to reach 1,000 victories, behind only UCLA's Andy Banachowski (1,106) and Shoji.Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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