Jan. 31, 2010, 6:51 p.m. (ET)

When Penn State was poised to win its unprecedented third consecutive NCAA Division I women’s volleyball championship last month in Tampa, Fla., the most powerful Nittany Lion of all delivered the final kill.

Megan Hodge slammed the ball over the net and off a Texas player’s hands, capping a five-game victory against Texas for the national championship and giving Penn State its 102nd consecutive win. That play also impressively ended a college career for the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) National Player of the Year. 

 
“It was the hardest fight we’ve had in our lives, but we’re so happy right now. … It was unbelievable,” Hodge said. 

 

But it almost certainly won’t be the end for Hodge, who many feel will be a force to be reckoned with at the London 2012 Olympic Games
  
University of Florida volleyball coach Mary Wise is among those college coaches who are glad they won’t have to face Hodge again. Hodge had 20 kills in a straight-sets victory against the Gators in the NCAA Region semifinals hosted by Florida.
 
“Next time, she’ll be on the national team and I’ll be saying, ‘Go USA!’” Wise said.
 
“I’m very happy she’s leaving,” Michigan State coach Kathy George told the Centre Daily Times of State College, Pa. In four years and eight tries versus Hodge, MSU never won a game against Penn State, never mind an entire match. 

 

Hodge likely will frustrate the competition at the next level. She is now training with the U.S. team in Anaheim, Calif., along with Penn State teammate Alisha Glass. The training team will be in China Jan. 28-Feb. 3 and will play the Guangdong Evergrande, a women’s volleyball squad in China’s professional league.

 Hodge, a St. Thomas native whose parents both played for the Virgin Islands national team, has been on the national volleyball stage since arriving at Penn State in 2006 following a stellar high school career at Riverside High School in Durham, N.C. Hodge was the Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year her senior year at Riverside.
 
She trained with the USA women’s national team last summer. She has also played for the USA junior national team in 2006 and with the USA youth national team in 2004 and 2005, including the Youth World Championships in 2005 in China. In 2004, Hodge was named Most Valuable Player at the NORCECA Championships in Catario, Puerto Rico.
 
Hodge is a four-time All-American known almost as much for her defensive blocks, and passing abilities, as her kills—and she had more than 2,000 of those, good for No. 2 in school history behind Lori Barberich, who played from 1981 through 1984.
 
Hodge, Glass and Kelsey Ream, had not lost since September 2007, their sophomore season, to Stanford in the title game of an early season tournament at Yale. In four years, they won 142-of-147 collegiate matches for an NCAA-record winning percentage of .966. Their winning streak of 102 matches is the longest in NCAA volleyball history, and the second longest of any sport, behind Miami’s tennis win streak of 137.
 
“Our seniors left an incredible mark on our program,” said Penn State coach Russ Rose, an 11-time Big Ten Coach of the Year and coach of the 1981 USA women’s team that won a silver medal at the Maccabiah Games.
 
The NCAA Tournament might have provided a glimpse into what the volleyball competition at the 2012 Olympics will look like. Hodge played against and with players likely vying for spots not only on the USA national team, but other nations, as well.

 

The championship game against Texas featured a battle between Hodge and 6-foot-4 attacker Destinee Hooker of Texas, the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year. Hooker, who trained with the USA national team in 2008, had a career-high 34 kills in the title game against Penn State and was named the Final Four MVP.
 
“People want to make that comparison between us and I think her athletic ability is all world,” Hodge said.
 
Many of Hodge’s kills over the last four years came on sets from Glass, a three-time All American from Leland, Mich., who also trained with the women’s national team last summer.
 
The NCAA Region final between Penn State and California produced a terrific matchup between Hodge and powerful attacker Hana Cutura of Zagreb, Croatia, whose 2,004 kills were the most in Pac-10 Conference history. Rose labeled Cutura as the hardest hitter in NCAA volleyball.
 
Hodge and Cutura both have Olympic team goals, meaning they could even meet in 2012 at London. Like Hodge, Cutura also played in the 2005 Youth World Championships in China; Cutura, with the Croatian national team.
 
“I would look forward to it,” said Cutura, who likely will play professionally in Europe after she completes her academic work at Cal in the spring. 

 

Story courtesy  HYPERLINK "http://www.redlineeditorial.com" Red Line Editorial, Inc. Paul D. Bowker is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.