Four Nittany Lions earn AVCA Mideast Region honors

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The No. 8 seed Penn State women’s volleyball team (25-7) collected four AVCA Mideast Region awards, the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) announced today. Sophomores Katie Slay (Raleigh, N.C.), Deja McClendon (Louisville, Ky.) and Ariel Scott (Ridgewood, N.J.) were three of 14 players named to the all-region squad. In addition, freshman Micha Hancock (Edmond, Okla.) was named the Mideast Region Freshman of the Year.

The Nittany Lions’ three all-region honors bring Penn State’s total number of honorees to 70 in program history. The three individuals are now eligible for AVCA All-America honors, which will be announced in conjunction with the NCAA Championship in San Antonio, Texas on Dec. 15 and 17.

This is the second accolade for McClendon, and a first for both Scott and Slay. Penn State’s three honorees were the most for the region, while Minnesota, Purdue and Northern Illinois had two apiece. Hancock is Penn State’s sixth AVCA Regional Freshman of the Year and the third on this year’s squad, as redshirt sophomore Darcy Dorton (Muncie, Ind.) picked up the award in 2009 and McClendon was selected in 2010.

McClendon earned her second regional honor after also being named to the Mideast Region team as a freshman in 2010. A two-time First Team All-Big Ten honoree, McClendon was a Unanimous Preseason All-Big Ten selection. McClendon has started all 32 matches at outside hitter this season and leads the team with 422 kills. For the season she is averaging 3.55 kills per set, which ranks ninth in the Big Ten. McClendon also ranks third on the team in digs with 239, averaging 2.01 digs per set, and fourth on the team in blocks with 61 (0.51 blocks per set).

Slay garnered her first regional honor this season after being named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. A Preseason All-Big Ten selection, Slay earned a spot on the All-Big Ten First Team. A two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, Slay leads the team in blocks with 170, averaging 1.43 blocks per set. She is also second on the team with 251 kills (2.11 digs per set) with a team-best .388 attack percentage. Slay’s .388 attack percentage ranks second in the Big Ten and 15th in the nation, while her 1.43 blocks per set is a league best and ranks 11th nationally. Slay has started all 32 matches and 119 sets so far this season.

Scott also earned the first regional honor of her career. Scott ranks second on the Nittany Lion team with 407 kills, averaging 3.54 kills per set. The Unanimous First Team All-Big Ten honoree is second on the team in blocks with 104 (0.91 blocks per set) and has also accumulated 140 digs (1.22 digs per set). Scott’s 3.54 kills per set ranks 10th in the Big Ten. She has led the Nittany Lions in kills 13 times this season.

A Penn State player has been selected Mideast Region Freshman of the Year in six of the last nine years. Hancock joins Cassy Salyer (2003), Nicole Fawcett (2005), Megan Hodge (2006), Darcy Dorton (2009) and Deja McClendon (2010) as Penn State’s regional freshman of the year picks. Hancock was honored as this year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year. She was a three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week and was also named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team. Hancock has started 31 of the 32 matches so far this season at setter. She has totaled 1,237 assists, averaging 10.48 assists per set, and has guided the Nittany Lions to a .268 hitting percentage. She also owns the Penn State single season record for aces with 90 (0.76 aces per set), which ranks fifth in the Big Ten records. Her 0.76 aces per set leads the Big Ten and ranks second in the nation, while her 10.48 assists per set is good enough for sixth in the conference.

Penn State earned the No. 8 seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions earned the right to host the First and Second Rounds for the 22nd consecutive season and welcomes Liberty, American and Delaware to Rec Hall on Dec. 2-3. Penn State swept both Liberty and Delaware to advance to the NCAA Regional Semifinals for the ninth straight season. Penn State travels to Lexington, Ky. for the NCAA Regional and will face No. 9 seed UCLA on Friday, Dec. 9 at 5 p.m. The match will stream live on ESPN3.com.

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