Thanks in large part to Virgin Islands native Megan Hodge, the Penn State women’s volleyball team swept the competition in their fourth consecutive Big Ten championship for the first four-peat in conference history.
Megan Hodge, a freshman whose mother Carmen Samuel Hodge is a St. John native, was named both the Big Ten’s Freshman and Player of the Year for 2006 — the first time in conference history a freshman has taken the top athletic honor.
She was also named to the First Team All-Big Ten Team and the 2006 Big Ten All-Freshman Team.
Graduating from high school in Durham, North Carolina, Megan Hodge started intensive pre-season practice at Penn State on August 9, almost a full month before classes began, Carmen Samuel Hodge explained.
“Pre-season training was very intense — they practice about three times a day,” said Carmen Hodge. “It’s hard because the college season is very long relative to a high school or club season. It’s not an easy transition going from a high school player to a starter at a big university.”
As difficult as it is, Megan Hodge seems to have made the transition in stride, leading conference attackers with 5.34 kills and 6.16 points per game in 20 Big Ten-only matches. Season-long, Megan Hodge amassed 342 kills, 26 service aces, 39 block assists and seven solo blocks for the Nittany Lions.
The women’s volleyball team only lost two games, both to teams they had beaten previously in the season.
Long Season Takes Toll
“By the middle of the season, freshman usually hit the wall,” said Carmen Hodge. “Actually, that’s when Penn State had its first lost, to a team they beat the week before. They had one more loss in the season also to a team they had beaten before.”
“I think the team was becoming mentally and physically fatigued,” Carmen Hodge continued. “But they pulled it out in the end.”
Pulled it out indeed — outside hitter Megan Hodge was named Big Ten Player of the Week three times during the season and posted double-digit kills in 27 matches.
Rounding out her playing, Megan Hodge pulled out a career-high 20 digs against Michigan, recorded at least one block in 28 matches and posted at least one ace in 19 matches.
Trekking Up For Matches
Proud parents Carmen and Mike Hodge, who still live in Durham, North Carolina, often made the usually eight-hour trip to Penn State to watch their daughter play.
“We went to a few games during the season and we spent Thanksgiving weekend with her when Penn State had their last two matches in their conference,” said Carmen Hodge. “We were there when they won the Big Ten Conference title. It’s usually an eight-hour drive, but because of the holiday weekend, it took us 13 hours to get there — but it was worth it.”
While the freshman was slaying the competition on the volleyball court, her mother said Megan Hodge had some difficulty at the dorm.
Too Busy at First
“Socially it was a bit difficult for Megan,” said Carmen Hodge. “She kept saying how she didn’t know anyone, partly because she didn’t have much time between classes and practice to meet anyone. I always went to school with my sister Karen, so I couldn’t really relate.”
“I asked everyone in my office and they all said that it was normal to feel that way and to hang in there, that it would get better,” Carmen Hodge continued. “By the time we went up for Thanksgiving though, she had made a lot of friends and was much more settled.”
The Hodges will pick up their daughter from Penn State for the holiday break on December 21, after Megan’s last exam.
Megan Hodge’s talents will be taped once again before the break, however, as the third-seeded Nittany Lions women’s volleyball team takes on the competition in the 2006 NCAA Tournament — Penn State’s 26th appearance. The team is expected to make it to the NCAA Regional semifinals, scheduled for December 8 in Seattle, Washington.