Nittany Lions Sweep Rhode Island in Opener of Penn State Invitational
University Park, Pa. - Coming off of a Syracuse Classic title, the Nittany Lions women’s volleyball team kicked off the 2016 Penn State Invitational in a dominating fashion, sweeping the Rhode Island Rams.
Penn State showed their offensive power early, going on a 7-0 run with 4 kills from junior Simone Lee. Lee is currently ranked second in the Big Ten standings and 25th nationally, averaging 4.31 kills per set. This was her seventh consecutive match with double digit kills.
The main worry coming into the 2016 season was the offensive depth after losing power hitters Aiyana Whitney and Megan Courtney, however that was not the case Friday night. Going up 17-4 early in the first set, four different Nittany Lions put points on the board. Six different players contributed to the scoring throughout the match.
“Haleigh had a great night offensively and at the net,” head coach Russ Rose said. “I think we came out in the first set and did what we needed to do.”
Right behind the offensive power of Lee was the defensive wall made up of junior Haleigh Washington and Florida transfer, Abby Detering. Washington and Detering put up five blocks to help the Nittany Lions take the first set, 25-6.
Momentum slowed with errors that Washington referred to as “rookie mistakes,” allowing the Rams to hang on for much of the early play in the second set, but the offensive power of Lee and Washington proved to be too much.
With Penn State leading 13-11, an offensive spark from Washington and junior Heidi Thelen allowed the Nittany Lions to pull away and take the set 25-18. Thelen and Washington tallied eight kills for the Nittany Lions in the second set.
Trailing for the first time in the match 3-2, a huge block from junior outside hitter Ali Frantti and Thelen, triggered Nittany Lion dominance on every inch of the court. Contributing to the strong defense was freshman defensive specialist Kendall White, who tallied eight digs in the match.
Frantti and Washington stayed strong at the net with four blocks, while Lee kept the momentum going on the offensive end. Up 15-8, Lee pulled the trigger back-to-back putting Penn State up 17-8. A service run from Detering made the score 19-9. Detering finished the match with another high 27 assists.
“It’s all about having confidence in each other and trusting that connections will come,” Detering said. “Offensively I want to give the ball around. We have so many great hitters, so when I go into a game, that is what I’m thinking about.”
The Nittany Lions finished the set by going on a 5-2 run in a packed Rec Hall.
Penn State will finish the invitational and the rest of non-conference play after they take on Howard at 10 a.m and the Clemson Tigers in Rec Hall, Saturday at 7 p.m.
Tia Pattillo is a junior majoring in psychology neuroscience, to contact her email email@example.com