Penn State Women’s Volleyball Edges Minnesota in Five
The No. 4 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions continued their success this season, taking down the No. 11 Minnesota Golden Gophers 3-2. The match pushed the Nittany Lions to 13-2 on the season (4-1 in the Big Ten) and dropping the Golden Gophers to 15-3 on the year (3-2 in the Big Ten).
After dropping their conference opener to Michigan State, Penn State bounced back and won their next three matches defeating Michigan 3-2 at home, then sweeping Indiana and beating Purdue 3-2, on the road.
The Nittany Lion’s opened Wednesday’s match by taking a quick 8-3 lead. The Golden Gophers were on their heels early, as head coach Hugh McCutheon took two first set timeouts. His team responded, reducing their deficit to two. But Penn State, led by a 10 kill set by senior right side hitter, Ariel Scott, scored four straight points to claim the set 25-19.
The Golden Gophers opened the second set much stronger, jumping out to 13-9 lead as Penn State head coach Russ Rose, took his first timeout of the set. The Gophers continued to build on their strong start lead by senior outside hitter, Ashley Wittman. The Shakopee, Minnesota, native bounced back from what was a quiet first set, as she tallied up eight kills and five digs which helped lead the Golden Gophers to a 25-23 second set victory tying the match at one set apiece.
In the third frame, Penn State displayed their explosive offensive attack as the Nittany Lions recorded 18 points, by use of the kill. The Golden Gophers kept pace and forced 14 tied scores for the set. Junior setter Micha Hancock put up 16 assists along with three digs and a block, which helped lift Penn State to a 25-21 set victory.
Minnesota bounced back in the fourth set, playing solid on both sides of the ball only giving up the lead one time early in the set. Penn State was able to tie the set twice and had a chance to take the lead late, but miscommunication between outside hitters Nia Grant and Megan Courtney led to a tenacious kill by the Minnesota sophomore hitter Dally Santana which ultimately became insurance to what became a 25-22 victory for the Golden Gophers.
With the match going the distance of five sets, it became a matter of which team was going to step up in a big moment. Penn State showed their resilience through their upperclassmen leading the way. Senior hitter Katie Slay sent a bold message early in the set with an electric kill that took out the knees of Minnesota's Morgan Bohl. With the momentum strongly shifting to the Nittany Lions, Ariel Scott chimed in late defensively late with four key blocks which helped cap off this electric match giving Penn State the match 3-2 winning the final set 15-11.
After the match, Nittany Lions head coach Russ Rose acknowledged how although his team pulled through in the end, but there is definitely improvement that is needed going forward,
"We had more kills with our big three then their big three,” said Rose. “They served Deja 90 percent of the balls tonight and she did a great job passing but that's two matches in a row where Deja had to carry the load, it would be nice if a couple of other people stepped up."
Penn State senior hitter, Katie Say, also recognized the potential of the team.
"It's how we control our side and play together as a team. We know that everyone is good,” said Slay. “Going to five sets at home, they pushed us. But we have to rely on each other."
Penn State will look to build on their four-,game winning streak this as they take on the 19th ranked Wisconsin Badgers for a homecoming weekend showdown this Saturday at 7 p.m. at Rec Hall.
Zachary Lacher is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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