Women’s Volleyball Defeats Stanford 3-2 to Advance to Final Four
The No. 2 Penn State women’s volleyball defeated No. 7 Stanford in the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament in Lexington, Ky. on Saturday afternoon to advance to the Final Four. The match needed five sets to get a result but when the dust settled, Russ Rose’s Nittany Lions stood victorious with just two matches between them and another national championship.
The two teams went point for point in the first set to open things up at 15-15 in what was sure to be a tightly contested match between two of the nation’s most talented teams. Two aces from Micha Hancock and a kill and a block from Megan Courtney helped Penn State have the largest lead in the set, 19-15. Three kills from Stanford, a block, and a Penn State attack error gave Stanford a 20-19 lead.
The Nittany Lions called a timeout, but Ariel Scott had an attack error to extend Stanford’s lead to 21-19. A kill from Courtney and Deja McClendon tied the game up at 21, and an ace from Paulina Prieto Cerame gave Penn State a one point lead. A service ace from Prieto Cerame knotted the set up at 22. A Stanford kill, followed by two Penn State attack errors, gave Stanford the first set win 25-22 and set the tone for what would be a back-and-forth match.
Neither team was able to garner more than a two-point lead to start out the second set as Penn State trailed 14-13. Back-to-back kills from McClendon gave Penn State a 15-14 lead. A block and a third kill from McClendon put Penn State up with the largest lead of the set, 17-14. A Penn State attack error cut the lead down to 17-15, but the Nittany Lions followed that with two kills.
A service error by Hancock was offset by two Penn State kills for a 21-16 lead. Stanford added three points of their own with a kill, block, and a service ace to cut Penn State’s lead to 21-19, which led to a Nittany Lions timeout. Scott had an attack error to cut Penn State’s lead down to one, but she offset the error with a kill of her own. Each team added two kills apiece before Penn State closed out the set with a 25-22 set win to knot the match up.
Penn State led Stanford for most of the third set until the Cardinal went on a run to tie it up at 23. The Nittany Lions led by as many as four points during the set. Scott and McClendon led the team in kills with eight and seven in the set, respectively. Three of McClendon’s kills came in the final points of the set, but each was negated by a kill from Stanford. The Nittany Lions couldn’t attain a two-point lead until two back-to-back kills from Scott gave Penn State a 28-26 set win and a 2-1 match advantage.
The fourth set was a different story for the Nittany Lions. After taking a 6-5 lead, Stanford led the rest of the set. Stanford expanded its lead to 10-6, but a kill and a Stanford attack error brought the lead back down to 10-8. Penn State stayed within three, until two back-to-back Nittany Lion attack errors gave Stanford a five point lead. Despite a 3-0 run and avoiding the first set point, Penn State lost the set 25-18 and the match headed to a decisive fifth set.
Penn State had the first two-point lead at 4-2, but Stanford tied the set up and added three more points to lead 7-4. A kill from Nia Grant ended Stanford’s 5-0 run. After a timeout at 8-5, a kill from McClendon and a Nittany Lion block brought them within one point of Stanford at 9-8.
Stanford took a timeout, but another kill from McClendon tied the set at 9. A kill and two blocks put Penn State up by three, but Stanford ended the run with a kill. Katie Slay had two more kills and Courtney sealed the match with another kill for a 15-11 fifth set win.
Penn State heads to Seattle in just a few days, where they will face the winner of USC vs. Washington on Thursday in the national semifinals.