Penn State Completes Saturday Sweep of Holy Cross, Wichita State
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State came out victorious in both ends of a doubleheader separated 10 hours apart. Saturday, the eighth-ranked Nittany Lions swept the Holy Cross Crusaders in the morning game with set victories of 25-5, 25-12 and 25-14. The night showdown with the Wichita State Shockers proved equally successful, as Penn State dominated with 25-14, 25-14 and 25-7 set wins. These victories capped off a 3-0 weekend for the Nittany Lions in the Penn State Classic, hosted in Rec Hall.
Coming off of a 3-0 sweep of Hofstra on Friday evening, the Nittany Lions used the brooms once again Saturday morning to put away Holy Cross. Penn State came out swinging in the opening set, dominating Holy Cross 25-5 and racking up 17 kills with a superior attacking performance. Holy Cross struggled to serve effectively in the first set, as the Crusaders failed to register a single point via the serve.
The Crusaders were somewhat more competitive in the second and third sets, staying within four points of Penn State at the 14-10 mark in the second set, but the Nittany Lions were able to pull away both times by using the height advantage of their front attackers over the much shorter Holy Cross.
Sophomore Serena Gray posted a single-game career high in kills against Holy Cross with 13, but it was sophomore Kaitlyn Hord who would take the top performance of the day by racking up a whopping 17 kills herself. Another sophomore, Allyson Cathey, contributed 10 kills, but she put up a more well-rounded performance by tacking on four digs and a block.
With so many points coming from the middle blockers, Penn State head coach Russ Rose noted that this trend worked in his team’s favor for opening up the rest of the offense.
“I think you want to go to your strengths,” Rose said. “It’s just part of the theory of the sport. If you can run middle, it forces the other team’s middles to spend some time with those people, and hopefully it will open up opportunities for our outside hitters to get some one-on-one swings where maybe they can score, or maybe they can beat the blocker or the digger.”
Penn State didn’t let its foot off the gas at all for the second game. Although Wichita State hung around for the start of each the first two sets, scoring runs by the Nittany Lions eventually resulted in 11-point victories on both occasions. The third set was even more decisive, as a nine-point streak in the middle of the set and six straight points to close the set sealed the sweep for Penn State.
It didn’t take long for Gray to top her single-game high for kills, as she immediately bested her 13-kill performance against Holy Cross with an 18-kill performance against Wichita State. The sophomore also displayed versatility elsewhere, recording a service ace, a dig, an assist and a block. Gray’s overall performance earned her MVP honors for the weekend’s classic.
Cathey also shined on both ends in the match against the Shockers, recording five kills and four digs in the victory.
As one of many young talents on this Nittany Lions squad, Cathey spoke on what she’s learned over the course of a year as a member of the Penn State women’s volleyball team.
“[It’s about] being aggressive and leaving it all on the court,” Cathey said. “I feel like last year I was in the shadows and a little timid, but now that my role has changed on the team, I can’t afford to be timid. I have to go out and be aggressive.”
Although Penn State is off to a strong start this season, Rose is already acknowledging that there’s room for improvement.
“We have to serve better as a team,” Rose said. “Serving will impact your blocking, and our numbers will change drastically once we start playing some other teams.”
Up next for the Nittany Lions is the Cyclone Invitational, as Penn State and the LSU Tigers will travel to Ames, Iowa for a three-team round-robin with the Iowa State Cyclones. Both of those games will take place on the weekend of Friday, Sept. 6.
DJ Bauer is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeremy Ganes is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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