Women’s Volleyball Stifles Dayton, Advances to Third Round of NCAA Tourney
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions are now one step closer to their dream of a three-peat as national champions as they took care of the Dayton Flyers in four sets Saturday night at Rec Hall. The Flyers, already with an upset win over Villanova under their belts in this tournament, did not make anything easy for Penn State, but in the end the Nittany Lions prevailed, 25-17, 13-25, 25-14, 25-17.
To be successful in NCAA Tournament play, seniors need to step up and rally those around them and hitters Megan Courtney and Aiyana Whitney did exactly that in the first set for Penn State. They had seven kills between them, but their impact was much larger than the stat sheet, often times firing others up after a big point won or being a calming influence after a missed opportunity. Another aspect of a veteran team is the minimization of mistakes, and the Lions dominated in that regard, registering only two errors nest to eight from Dayton.
However, it was the Flyers’ turn to dominate in the second set as they ripped of the first five points, jumped out to an 11-3 lead, and never looked back, winning by the biggest margin in any of the four sets. It was almost a complete role reversal, as the Flyers made less mistakes with only two errors and a dazzling .556 hitting percentage next to a dismal .111 from Penn State. Senior Alaina Turner led the way with six kills, and the Flyers proved that, even as the heavy underdog, they weren’t going to go quietly into the offseason.
Penn State coach Russ Rose was eager to praise the Flyers’ accomplishments and toughness postgame.
“Dayton came in on a 25-game winning streak,” Rose said. “We knew it was going to be a tough match and they really gritted it out.”
But Rose may have been wrong there, as his own team showed a tremendous amount of grit after dropping their first set of the tournament, bouncing back to comfortably win the final two sets to ensure at least one more match in 2015.
Outside hitter Heidi Thelen played a significant role for Penn State in the win as she hit .833 in the final two sets but she was quick to deflect the praise to fellow sophomore and setter Bryanna Weiskircher, who tallied 46 assists on the night.
“[Bryanna] does a nice job putting a good ball up,” Thelen said postgame with a laugh, “I just did what I could and swung where it was open.”
The Lions will now hit the road for the remainder of the tournament, but Rose could not overstate the importance of getting the first two wins at home.
“We had a great crowd that would certainly help us if we gave them an opportunity to do that … you play Dayton at a neutral site and it could be different,” Rose added.
Penn State will take on Hawaii in the third round on Dec. 12 for a spot in the national quarterfinals. Hawaii comes off a very strong performance in a straight set upset of No. 10 Texas A&M. Start time is yet to be announced.
Tom Shively is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org