WVB: Penn State Topples No.1 Minnesota, Extends Streak to 11
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — No. 15 Penn State needed five sets, but were able to grit it out to topple Minnesota, the number one team in the nation. The victory puts Penn State in the driver’s seat of the Big Ten race, as they are undefeated in league play through five games.
The first set was hard fought, but Penn State were able to fight off three set points to take the opening set 29-27. The Golden Gophers won the next two sets, forcing the Nittany Lions to win the next set to extend the match.
Penn State was up to the task, dominating the fourth set 25-14 and controlling the fifth set, winning 15-10. Junior outside hitter Simone Lee had a huge night for the Nittany Lions, doing something that had not been in almost 10 years.
Lee recorded 30 kills, the most in school history since Nicole Fawcett in 2007 and hit .333 on 63 swings. When asked about her performance, Lee said she was quite excited about it and praised the play of her middle blockers in the game.
“It’s exciting for sure,” said Lee. “The setting was great. Everybody did such a good job. The middles helped. So I had a lot of one-on-one opportunities.”
The middle blockers for Penn State had a terrific night as Haleigh Washington and Heidi Thelen controlled the middle for the Nittany Lions. Both Washington and Thelen had 14 kills and Washington did not record a hitting error.
Washington ended with a .700 hitting percentage and started the match off with an ace, setting the tone for Penn State. Thelen recorded four block assists to tie for the team lead and also recorded a solo block.
Junior outside hitter Ali Frantti had an up and down match, recording 13 kills on 40 swings, but also had seven hitting errors. Her game started to pick up in the fourth set, where Penn State was at its best.
The fourth set was a vital one for Penn State, as the Nittany Lions would have lost the match if they did not win. Head coach Russ Rose credits his team’s toughness for the victory in the fourth set.
“Our kids were grinding out there,” Rose said. “We got a good run.”
Setter Abby Detering had a solid night for the Nittany Lions, recording five kills from her position. She was also a menace on the service line, as she had three aces on the night.
Detering’s passing was on point as she put the ball in places where Lee, Washington and Thelen could succeed. If Detering can continue to set that way, Penn State will be extremely tough to beat.
The Nittany Lions will try to extend the winning streak on Saturday at 7 p.m. as the Rutgers Scarlet Knights come to Rec Hall.
Joseph Esquivel-Murphy is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.