Just a few minutes ago, Penn State beat BYU. Unlike some of Penn State's past championship performances, this one was never in doubt. There was required no comeback, no gut-check time, no anxiety or worry or nervousness. Never in doubt is so often an ironic catchphrase, but tonight, we say it in earnest. These Nittany Lions just breezed to another national championship, and the only surprise is that they managed to lose a set along the way.
We knew Penn State would win its sixth title in eight years as soon as it got past top-seeded Stanford on Thursday--because when it comes to Penn State women's volleyball, our hearts and our heads are so inexorably aligned--but the poor Cougars of BYU never put up a fight. How could they? They were unseeded, and we are Penn State. They had never won a championship, and we only continued to build upon what's already the greatest dynasty the sport has ever known. They don't have Russ Rose. We do.
Underdog stories are all well and good, but sometimes, the longshots stand no chance. Tonight was one of those times.
And so, in victory like this, there are no heroes. There were no moments that will become cherished memories, except as they serve as a microcosm of the last four years. There was Micha Hancock, building upon her aces record, Nia Grant, smashing winners into what had been hailed the best blocking frontline in the sport, Lacey Fuller and Dominique Gonzalez somehow digging out what seemed like certain BYU kills. This was the last time they ever played for Penn State, but this game encapsulated everything they built over the past four years. They leave as winners, as repeating champions, as the class that hit the reset button on Penn State's empire after--gasp--two years without a title, because, well, it wasn't in them to do anything but.
In that group, Penn State loses two All-Americans. From last year, they lost three more. The greatest achievement of Russ Rose is that even as he reloads, year after year signing the best recruiting class in the country, he still never manages to cheapen the graduating seniors. They are not just cogs in the machine, replaceable parts in a program that will, without them, keep on chugging without missing a beat. They are individuals, and champions, and, to so many, heroes all the same.
They are Penn State. They are not normal. They are legends.
And we are so lucky to have had them represent our school.