Women’s Volleyball Set For Final Four Matchup
The No. 2 Penn State women’s volleyball team will compete in its sixth Final Four in the last seven years tonight. The Nittany Lions are set to take on Pac-12 champion Washington, who will travel just four miles from campus to KeyArena in Seattle, the host of the tournament. The Nittany Lions come into the match with a 32-2 record and have won 23 matches in a row. Here’s what you need to know ahead of Penn State’s biggest match of the season thus far.
How did we get here?
The Nittany Lions defeated Stanford last weekend in a close, 3-2 match to win the Lexington, Kentucky regional, finally pulling ahead in the fifth set after a back-and-forth battle. Deja McClendon was named the regional’s Most Valuable Player in her homecoming to Kentucky, as the Louisville native recorded 21 kills and 16 digs in the win over the Cardinal.
Scouting the Huskies:
Washington comes into the match also with a 32-2 record, and an 18-2 record in the Pac-12. The Huskies defeated USC in the Los Angeles regional last week to advance to the Final Four. It was the first time that Washington had overcome a two-set deficit this season.
Junior Krista Vansant, the 2013 Pac-12 Player of the Year, recorded 38 kills and 30 digs against the Trojans, the first time a Washington Husky has tallied those numbers in NCAA tournament history. Vansant has recorded 504 kills this season while hitting .323 and is averaging 4.46 kills per set. Junior Kaleigh Nelson recorded 14 kills against the Trojans, and provides a power one-two punch for the Huskies up front.
Matchup to watch:
Most teams, including Penn State, run a “5-1″ offense, which means that they use only one setter. Because the setter runs the offense, she doesn’t usually attack, and when she rotates into the front row, the team is down one hitter. Washington is unique in that it runs what is called a “6-2″ offense, meaning that the team uses two setters. Running this type of offense ensures that Washington will always have a full offense of three hitters in the front row, as the setters substitute in and out for each other so they are always in the back row.
Because they will always be facing a full set of three hitters, Penn State’s blocking must be as good as it has been all year to make it to the championship. Luckily, the Nittany Lions are one of the better blocking teams in the country, recording just over three blocks per set on the season. Keep on eye on the matchup between Penn State opposite hitter Megan Courtney and middle hitter Katie Slay vs. Washington’s Vansant. The combination of Courtney and Slay are averaging 2.37 blocks per set, while Vansant is averaging 4.46 kills. The winner of that matchup will likely determine who advances to the national championship match on Saturday night.
The match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 at 9:30 p.m. EST. The winner of this match will face the winner of the Texas/Wisconsin matchup, which will be played at 6:30 p.m.
It’s safe to say the team had a fun time traveling to Seattle.