One of the NCAA’s powers in women’s volleyball, the Penn State Nittany Lions were facing an upstart in the Wisconsin Badgers during the national championship at Seattle’s Key Arena. Not wanting to go to a fifth and final set, Micha Hancock would prove to be the difference as she logged two consecutive aces.
Possessing a riveting left-handed jump serve, the towering Hancock would set the tone in the game’s final moments. Her second ace would lead the way for the match point by Deja McClendon, a hit which went over the net, unanswered by the 12th seeded Badgers. Complemented by Ariel Scott’s 21 kills, the Nittany Lions captured their sixth NCAA volleyball crown, and their first since 2010, which ended a remarkable four-year run as national champs. Considering that Hancock also owns the NCAA record for most aces in one tournament, it was only fitting that she would be involved in winning her first national title.
Hancock showed great poise in the fourth set as Wisconsin jumped out to a 22-19 lead. Wisconsin’s Anne-Marie Hickey, who had suffered a shoulder injury earlier in the contest, missed a serve, providing Hancock with an opportunity to turn the tide in Penn State’s favor. Her first ace would narrow the Badgers’ advantage to a 23-22 mark, as a historic comeback. With Katie Slay evening the contest, Hancock’s ace would lead to the game-winning hit by McClendon.
Statistically, the native of Edmond, Oklahoma was a force to be reckoned with during the championship run of 2013-14. A preseason Big Ten All-Honoree, she was also named MVP of the 2013 Penn State Invitational. Of note, her 7.0 aces per frame led all competitors in the NCAA. Her .317 hitting percentage led the Big Ten, while ranking third in the nation.
Athletics are definitely in her blood. In addition to an older sister, Kelsey, who played volleyball at Tulsa University, her mother was a basketball player at Oklahoma State University. Her father, Michael, was once a professional boxer. Such a remarkable athletic lineage helped lay the foundation for honors such as the Gatorade Award as Oklahoma’s Player of the Year, an Under Armour High School All-American and her nod to the 2010 Youth Olympics Team.
The Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2011-12, she would also set the program record for most aces in one season with 91, while logging at least one kill in every match. Also the inaugural winner of the Big Ten Setter of the Year Award in 2012-13, it came as no surprise that the 2013-14 season ended with her second consecutive All-America nod.
With one year of eligibility remaining, Hancock makes Penn State the team to beat heading into the 2014-15 season. A key incentive heading into next season is the opportunity to rewrite Penn State’s record books. She would finish her junior season with 235 career aces, tying her with Ellen Hensler (Class of ’86) as the program’s all-time leader.
Photo credits: Mitchell Wilston