Women’s Volleyball Heads to Lexington After Weekend Sweeps
Seconds before matches on Friday and Saturday night were set to begin, the Penn State Women’s Volleyball team was acknowledged as being four-time defending national champions by the public address announcer at Rec Hall. That title will remain true for at least four more days.
On Saturday night, the Nittany Lions played their final game at Rec Hall for the season, but the quest for a fifth consecutive national championship will continue next Friday at the regional semifinals in Lexington, Kentucky, against UCLA.
Penn State won both of its weekend matches in three set sweeps over Liberty (25-16, 25-16, 25-16) on Friday and Delaware (25-12, 25-9, 25-18) on Saturday. While neither match was close, each match had a different feel to it.
The match against Liberty saw the Nittany Lions off to a bit of a sloppy start, to the point that they trailed 10-9 before a four point run put them in the lead for good. From that point forward, the Nittany Lions ran away with the match. Ariel Scott led the team with sixteen kills while Maddie Martin tallied eight in a very strong third set. A Katie Slay kill followed by a Liberty error put an end to the match and set up Penn State’s date with Delaware.
Against the Blue Hens, Penn State wasted no time. The Nittany Lions got off to a blazing start. Delaware came within four points at 11-7; however, that was the closest they got as Penn State ran away with the first set. The second set featured more of the same as Penn State jumped out to a quick 10-1 lead, the only Delaware point coming courtesy of a Penn State service error.
In the third set after intermission, Russ Rose went deep into his bench as Megan Shifflett and Marika Racibarsksas, who do not normally receive much playing time, got in on the action. Delaware actually held a 14-13 lead before four consecutive points by Penn State set the pace for the rest of the set as the Nittany Lions cruised to another victory.
Aside from the slow start, one concern to take from the two matches is the number of service errors committed by the Nittany Lions, eight against Liberty followed by seven against Delaware. Against better competition, points will be at a premium, and Penn State will need to lessen these unforced errors.
Here is an updated look at the bracket heading into the Round of 16. UCLA, Penn State’s opponent, defeated Maryland Eastern Shore in a sweep and San Diego in four sets to arrive at Lexington. The winner of that match will face the winner of Kentucky versus number one seeded Texas. In some other regions of the bracket, there were some upsets as second seeded Nebraska, sixth seeded Northern Iowa, eleventh seeded Stanford, and fourteenth seeded Tennessee all fell in second round play.
Penn State is now only four wins away from another championship. Check back before Friday’s match for a UCLA preview.