Women’s Volleyball Beats Maryland, Earns 21st Sweep
Penn State women’s volleyball earned its 21st sweep of the season, topping Maryland in straight sets (25-11, 25-18, 25-15) in Rec Hall on Saturday night.
Much like Penn State’s previous foe Rutgers, the Terrapins (9-16, 2-12, Big Ten) have struggled in their first season in the Big Ten. The No. 6 Nittany Lions (24-3, 12-2 Big Ten) earned their eighth straight conference win, with the last seven by way of a 3-0 decision.
Three Nittany Lions posted double-digit kills, as the team totaled 45 kills en route to a .474 hitting percentage. Freshman Ali Frantti led the team with 13 kills, adding three digs, one block and one ace. Redshirt junior Aiyana Whitney and freshman Haleigh Washington added 10 kills each, while Washington posted a team-high .769 hitting clip and five blocks.
Senior Micha Hancock added 38 assists and led the squad with a season-high seven blocks, while senior Dominique Gonzalez talled 12 digs to lead the defensive effort.
“Maryland tested us in a number of areas,” head coach Russ Rose said. “I thought a couple of the girls played really well under the pressure of those tests and a couple of the girls were a little subpar in their performance.”
Penn State opened the match on a 6-1 run, but Maryland fought back to pull within four at 9-5. But the comeback effort went for naught, as the Lions responded with six unanswered points to push the lead into double digits on the way to a 14-point first set win.
Maryland shot out to a 5-4 lead in the second set only for Washington and Hancock to pair up for a block to open up a 5-0 run that put the Nittany Lions on top, 9-5. The Terps put together a 5-2 run later in the set to bring the match within one point of a tie at 17-16, but Penn State fired back with a 5-0 streak to build the lead to six, 22-16, and Frantti put down the final kill five plays later to lock up set two.
In the third set, Penn State began the frame with a 7-2 run behind the strength of two Hancock aces. Maryland trailed by single digits for most of the set until the Lions tallied five consecutive points, as a Frantti kill gave Penn State match point, 24-13. The Terps tried to mount a desperate comeback by holding off two attempts with back-to-back blocks, but Washington sent the Terps packing with a kill to wrap up a 25-15 win in set three to complete the sweep.
While Rose pointed to a few mistakes and the struggles of a few of his players, the straight-shooting head coach felt satisfied with Penn State’s overall performance.
“Anytime you can have a great crowd and good energy in the building and the young kids play well, you should feel pleased about that,” Rose said.
Penn State will wrap up its four-game homestand with a match against Iowa on Wednesday and Minnesota on Saturday before starting a three-game conference road trip. The Lions will wrap up their regular season in Rec Hall on Nov. 29 in a rematch with No. 13 Nebraska.