Hot Streak Continues for Penn State Women’s Volleyball

Story posted September 30, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Alissa Devine

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.—The No. 16 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions (11-3, 3-0 Big Ten) defeated the No. 18 ranked Michigan State Spartans (12-3, 1-2 Big Ten) at Happy Valley in three straight sets; 25-22, 25-20, 25-13. The win is Penn State’s first conference win of the weekend and its seventh consecutive sweep.

The Nittany Lions had another strong offensive showing, having a strong .333 hitting percentage on the night. The Lions also had 42 kills to the Spartan’s 31 kills.

The top offensive performers of the match were the usual trio of Simone Lee, Ali Frantti, and Haleigh Washington. Lee and Frantti both hit double digits in the kills category with 12 and 10 respectively. Washington had nine kills for the match, while also putting up a couple blocks and a service ace.

The first set was the tightest of the three, going back-and-forth until the Lions secured the 25th point. Ali Frantti opened up the scoring with a rocket of a kill to set the tone. However, the Spartans didn’t go away easily in the first set and kept regaining the lead even after Penn State would constantly tie the game. After the score was tied 15-15, two back-to-back kills gave the Spartans a lead by two points. Penn State was forced to call a time out, which helped the team regain focus and have three consecutive kills from Lee, Washington, and Frantti. Penn State then secured the set, even after Michigan called their second time out and fended up three set points.

In the second set the Nittany Lions pulled away in the second half, better executing their game plan and better fighting off the height of Spartan blockers. Lee commented on the team’s efforts to combat Michigan State’s size advantage.

“You always have a game plan,” said Lee. “They were big players so we wanted to make sure that we keep the balls off the net and hit deep shots and deep corners and just making sure we keep them out of system.”

After a Washington kill that gave Penn State an 11-10 lead, the Nittany Lions never trailed again for the remainder of the set. Heidi Thelen started the blocking frenzy with a solo block to give the Lions a 17-14 lead over Michigan State. Washington then got a block of her own, and later Frantti with a block to extend Penn State’s lead 23-19. To close out the set was another block by Lee and Gorrell to deny the ball for the 25-20 win. The Lions capitalized on using their game plan to avoid the Spartans’ size, but then used their own size to block balls on key points in the second set.

The momentum from the second set and four huge blocks stretched into the third set, where the Nittany Lions had their most dominant and complete performance. As prominent as blocks were in the second set, two more blocks in the third set put Penn State over the top. With the score tied at 8-5, Penn State went on a 4-0 run emphasized by a double block from Washington and Abby Detering. Penn State dominated the set for the most part after the momentum changing block. However, once the Lions hit 20 points, the Spartans were able to spark their own momentum on two back-to-back service aces by Holly Toliver and forced a Penn State time out. The time out helped Penn State reclaim focus to close out the set 25-13.

Coach Russ Rose is always content with a win, but wanted to see a change from his team and was not as pleased with his team as the crowd in Rec Hall’s stands. He emphasized the team’s serving issue as the biggest frustration.

“When you have a chance to pull away from somebody in this conference, you have to be diligent with serving and didn’t think our serving was very good, said Rose. “The outsider looking in I’m sure it was a wonderful event, but for somebody who is looking for different things, I saw more things that were disappointing. “

Rose hopes his team can regroup before their next conference matchup up Saturday against a solid Michigan team.

"I know the Wolverines are awfully good and they beat us here last year," Rose said. "I would like to think that we're going to be a little better focused tomorrow in practice and preparation and be ready to play."

 

Alissa Devine is a Junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email alissadevine96@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter: @DevineAlissa