Penn State repeats as women's volleyball champs

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Micha Hancock's dream came true.

The senior setter from nearby Edmond won a national title in front of family and friends in her final college match. She had 36 assists and five digs to help Penn State beat Brigham Young 25-21, 26-24, 25-14 Saturday for its second consecutive NCAA women's volleyball championship.

"What's hitting me now is I'm not coming back to play with my girls," Hancock said. "I've been around for a long time. They're like a family to me. I'm just going to miss the Penn State family. It's just weird to be an alum. It's a great way to end my career here."

Hancock helped the Nittany Lions neutralize the nation's No. 1 blocking team. BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said Hancock proved why she was named the AVCA national player of the year.

"She deserves all that credit, all that recognition," Olmstead said. "Absolutely, she is the best. She gets my vote. She did an outstanding job. She did move the ball around better than we did."

Penn State's Megan Courtney was named the tournament's most outstanding player. The junior had 23 kills against Stanford in the semifinals and 11 kills and 14 digs in the final.

Aiyana Whitney had 11 kills in the final and Nia Grant had nine for Penn State (36-3), which won its sixth title in eight years and No. 7 overall to break a tie with Stanford for most overall championships.

Jennifer Hamson had 14 kills and Alexa Gray added nine for BYU, which had won 12 straight matches. The Cougars (30-5) beat traditional powers Nebraska and Texas to get to the final, and were trying to become the first unseeded team to win a national championship.

"These kids didn't fail," Olmstead said. "They didn't lose. They competed, and they're going to grow from this experience, and they're going to be better because of it."

In the first set, Whitney had five kills and Courtney and Grant had three for the Nittany Lions, who held BYU to a .132 hitting percentage.

In the second set, BYU took a 17-14 lead before Penn State rallied to take it 26-24. Whitney hammered down four more kills with just one error. Gray had six kills in the set, but the Cougars struggled with their passing game.

Hamson's service error at 24-all gave Penn State a set point, and a double block by Hancock and Haleigh Washington put the set in the Nittany Lions' column.

Penn State rolled through the third set, holding the Cougars to a minus-.028 hitting percentage.

"I thought we had opportunities," Olmstead said. "I thought we were close. Maybe others don't think that, but I want to think that. I thought we pushed them. We gave them a good fight."

The Nittany Lions might not be done winning titles. Courtney, Whitney, Washington and outside hitter Ali Frantti all return.

Still, Hancock's shoes are going to be tough to fill.

"Micha's had a lot of great things happen at Penn State," coach Russ Rose said. "She's worked hard, and I'm sure that I've been hard on a lot of players, and I'm sure I was especially hard on her and her development. I think she achieved what she wanted to achieve when she came to Penn State."

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