Women’s Volleyball Swept By UCLA In Third Round of Tournament
That headline, as weird as it may look, is not a joke. The eighth seeded Penn State Women’s Volleyball team began the NCAA tournament with the goal of winning six matches. For the first time since 2006, they did not achieve that goal, falling to the ninth seeded UCLA Bruins (20-25, 22-25. 21-25) in third round play at Lexington, Kentucky Friday night. A week from now, some other team will be crowned national champions, officially ending the Nittany Lions’ four year run of dominance.
A glance at the score suggests the match was rather close and that sets could have gone either way. That really was not the case. Penn State got off to a decent start and maintained a 13-12 lead in the first set; however, things would go downhill from there. The Bruins went on a 4-0 run and never really looked back as they took the opening set.
The Nittany Lions would never lead the entire second set. Freshman Aiyana Whitney had the set of her life doing everything possible to keep the Nittany Lions afloat. Tied at 17, a service error gave UCLA the lead, and they once again never surrendered it from there.
As the teams trotted out after intermission, many people, including television analyst Jennifer Hoffman, brought up Penn State’s rally against Texas in the 2009 national championship game, coming back from down two sets to zero to win the match. As the third set began, UCLA looked like a team ready to put the match to rest, jumping out to an 8-1 lead. Penn State did all it could to chip away at the lead and looked to be gaining confidence as the set went on; however, they never made it all the way back.
Around 6:40 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Friday Night, UCLA had eliminated Penn State in straight sets. The match, somewhat fittingly, ended with Micha Hancock serving. Penn State needed to win points off her serve to have a chance, and UCLA did a great job of handling it the entire match.
It is rare to see Russ Rose use all of his allotted timeouts during sets. He did that last night, but to little avail. Unforced errors once again plagued his squad including a .248 hitting percentage and nine total service errors.
The youth of this team has been mentioned countless times this year. Against UCLA, it finally caught up to Penn State but could be a plus going into the offseason. This team loses very little and should come back strong next fall. Sophomores Deja McClendon, Ariel Scott, Ali Longo, Maddie Martin, and Katie Slay got a taste of what it was like to be NCAA champions last year only to now have it snatched away. Freshman like Whitney, Hancock, Nia Grant, Dominique Gonzalez, and Lacey Fuller will be hungry to carry on the legacy.
A good thing came to a temporary end Friday Night. The Nittany Lions will now wait until next fall for another door of opportunity to swing open.
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