Wow! What more can we say about the Penn State women's volleyball team and their undefeated season, other than mission accomplished.
When the Nittany Lions won the 2007 national championship, the second in program history, they set their sights on repeating in 2008. It seemed a pretty good bet, with Penn State returning all seven starters from the title-winning team. Back in August, pollsters agreed, tabbing the Lions No. 1 in the preseason poll.
At that time, coach Russ Rose was wisely cautious, saying the polls reflected potential, not performance, and time would tell what his team would truly be able to accomplish.
Maybe not even Rose could have thought they would get it done in such dominating fashion, winning all 34 of their matches, and all but one in a sweep; the only two sets dropped all season were to Nebraska in the national semifinals. Along the way, Penn State set a new consecutive win record, which currently stands at 64 straight victories, dating back to last September.
They have certainly etched their spot in the history books: Penn State is just the fourth team in women's volleyball history to finish undefeated, just the sixth to ever win back-to-back national titles. And this is a team that hails from the northeast, not California or Hawaii, traditional hotbeds of volleyball. The Nittany Lion women have set a new national standard that will be nearly impossible to match.
To complete a perfect campaign in any sport is amazing, which is why it doesn't happen very often. In the NFL, it's been 36 years since the 1972 Miami Dolphins followed up their undefeated regular season with a Super Bowl win (17-0).
The last college basketball team to finish perfect was UCLA in 1973 (30-0). Imagine the task of trying to go unbeaten in a sport like NASCAR or golf, where the opponents are so numerous: not even Tiger Woods could dream of it. Or how about the NHL or NBA, which both play 82-game regular seasons? It's unheard of.
The obstacles to perfection are numerous, and go far beyond the competitors that are faced day in and day out.
To complete a perfect season, a college team has to avoid injury and illness; they must stay focused: not only athletically, but also academically to even be eligible to compete.
They must have great coaches, which goes unsaid for the Penn State squad: Rose is a living legend and already in the NCAA Hall of Fame. But maybe most importantly are the intangibles: team chemistry, camaraderie and commitment to a common goal. Without those, perfection is unattainable.
The Penn State women's volleyball team undoubtedly took home more than trophies from their last two championship seasons. They are linked for life in friendship, hard work and success - a legacy to remember.
Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.