Coming off a straight-set defeat (25-19, 25-20, 25-15) of the #11-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers in their semifinal match on Thursday night, the #2-ranked Texas Longhorns (29-1) volleyball team prepared to take on the #1-ranked and back-to-back national champion Penn State Nittany Lions (37-0) on Saturday night. The championship match appearance was the first for the ‘Horns since 1995, winning once in 1988, although the squad made the semifinals last year before a heart-breaking three games to two loss against Stanford. The ‘Horns faced their toughest test of the year, by far, in the Nittany Lions – with teams that have won a NCAA record 101 consecutive matches – but the match pitted the teams who held the top two spots in the national rankings all season.
Off to a hot start, the ‘Horns surprised the Nittany Lions in the first two games, winning both (25-22, 25-20), on strong play from senior All-American outside hitter Destinee Hooker and the defensive presence of senior libero Heather Kisner. From there, the ‘Horns struggled while staying in contention, but Penn State won the next two games (25-23, 25-21) behind strong play from AVCA National Player of the Year Megan Hodge to even the score going in to the final game. Texas led early in the game to 15 (win by two), but as any national championship team does, the Nittany Lions rallied and won the final game (15-13), the match and their third straight national championship. The Nittany Lions finish their season 38-0, and have now won 102 consecutive matches.
Hooker, who led the ‘Horns with 34 kills in the match, was named the NCAA Championship’s most outstanding player, and joined senior Ashley Engle and junior Juliann Fauscette on the all-tournament team. A full recap of the game can be found here.
It was a great season for the ‘Horns, and although they lose some of their key seniors heading in to the 2010 season, they have built the foundation for a superb team for years to come.