The State College girls’ volleyball team and Penn State men’s hockey team both had notable achievements in 2016. The Lady Little Lions made the state semifinals while the Nittany Lions are ranked No. 3 in the country, landing them in a tie for eighth on the Centre Daily Times’ list of top 10 sports stories in 2016.
Tie-8. State College volleyball makes stunning run
They may not have had that one go-to player or a roster filled with Division I talent, but the whole was greater than the sum of the parts for the State College girls’ volleyball team. Beating teams along the way that did have Division I players, the Lady Little Lions advanced all the way to the PIAA semifinals in November before falling in a five-set marathon to Garnet Valley.
Led by Taylor Kuruzovich, who will play for Akron next season, State College won its sixth straight District 6 title and played in the state semifinals for the fourth time in program history thanks to a team that excelled in serving and passing. Kuruzovich, Alli Henderson and Laura Hildebrand earned All-State honors in helping the team reach the semis.
Tie-8. Penn State hockey on meteoric rise
Penn State had been in the national rankings before, but not like this. As the calendar changes to 2017, the Nittany Lions, in just their fifth season as a Division I program, are No. 3 in both major national polls, receiving first-place votes in both. They also are No. 1 in the PairWise Rankings, a statistical indicator of who’s in line to make the NCAA tournament, and possess the nation’s best record.
On the same night the football team shocked Ohio State, the Nittany Lion skaters upset then-No. 3 Notre Dame in South Bend, starting a run of 11 straight wins. Pegula Ice Arena has been the place to be, with sellout crowds every home game, and the Nittany Lions are now the team everyone in the Big Ten is chasing.