Penn State women’s volleyball advanced to its 13th Final Four in program history Saturday night, sweeping Michigan State in front of a packed house at Rec Hall.
Russ Rose’s Nittany Lions topped the Spartans 25-23, 25-17, 28-26 to improve to 98-29 all-time in the NCAA tournament. Up next is a semifinals showdown with Nebraska, the lone team to beat Penn State this season.
— NCAA Volleyball (@NCAAVolleyball) December 10, 2017
How It Happened
Michigan State took an 18-14 lead over the Nittany Lions late in the first set, but they promptly went on a 7-1 run to ease any concerns of an early setback. Ali Frantti and Simone Lee tallied six kills apiece in the opening frame, while outside hitter Autumn Bailey got off to a strong start for the Spartans. She would finish with a match-high 18 kills.
Though it certainly wasn’t her most productive night offensively, Haleigh Washington put on an absolute show above the net, leading all players with 10 blocks. The Nittany Lions showed plenty of determination the next two sets, outmatching the Spartans behind a balanced attack. Heidi Thelen turned in a strong performance with nine kills on just 14 swings.
“We did a number of things in the scouting report that we thought were going to be necessary for us to have success, and certainly trying to dig Bailey inside the block was one of them,” Rose said of Michigan State’s star redshirt senior postgame.
Rose also said he was impressed with how Washington kept her head and even a good sense of humor despite her offensive struggles against the Spartans.
“The best thing about Haleigh is she didn’t care that she didn’t have kills because she was blocking well and the team was winning,” Rose said. “She wasn’t caught up in who she’s supposed to be.”
On the opposite side of the bracket, Stanford and Florida will meet in what should be another excellent semifinal. The Cardinal tied Penn State’s record for the most NCAA national championships last season with their seventh, while the Gators are the former team of setter Abby Detering.
There’s no shortage of bad blood between the Nittany Lions and Nebraska either, especially considering the Cornhuskers clawed their way back from match point in the third set to beat Penn State 3-2 in last year’s Sweet 16.
Player Of The Match
Kendall White | Sophomore | Libero
The Indianapolis native was fantastic for the Nittany Lions, recording a match-high 18 digs and three assists.
The Nittany Lions (33-1) travel to the Sprint Center in Kansas City for an enormous clash against the Huskers on Thursday at 7 p.m. on ESPN.