Penn State Volleyball To Battle Stanford in the Final Four
After yet another dominant season, the Penn State volleyball team finds itself in familiar territory.
The defending national champion Nittany Lions will take on the Stanford Cardinal tonight at 9:30 p.m. in the Final Four with a trip to another National Championship on the line. The fifth-seeded Nittany Lions enter the Final Four with a 34-3 record, while the top-seeded Cardinal is 33-1. The winner will take on the winner of Texas-BYU in the finals.
The two teams met very early in the season, in Penn State’s fourth match and Stanford’s third. The match played in California went the home team’s way by a score of 3-2 (18-25, 25-23, 25-22, 16-25, 15-10).
Both teams come into the match with tremendous momentum. Stanford has won 33 out of its 34 matches on the season and is the favorite to win the tournament, but Penn State was unstoppable late in the season. Before a 3-1 win over No. 4 Wisconsin in the Elite 8, the Nittany Lions had won 16 straight matches in straight sets, and 50 sets in a row.
The two teams have taken different paths through the tournament as well. They each breezed through their first round matchup, but Stanford had a minor scare in the second round on its home court, as Michigan State took a set. Penn State destroyed Dayton in the second round and then had a deceptively close 3-0 win over No. 12 UCLA. In Stanford’s third round matchup, the team picked up its third win of the season over Oregon State, although the Cardinal dropped another set. Finally, in the Elite Eight, the Nittany Lions had a thrilling four-set win over Big Ten rival and fourth-seeded Wisconsin, while Stanford swept eighth-seeded Florida.
Players to watch in the match are Penn State’s Micha Hancock and Stanford’s Inky Ajanaku. Hancock is from the Oklahoma City area, and will have a lot of support behind her. The senior setter will look to build on her Big Ten season-record 124 aces. Ajanaku, a junior 6-foot-3 middle blocker, was recently named first team All-American, her second straight selection after being an honorable mention her freshman year.
The game will be aired on ESPN2 and also on the radio, on WRSC 103.1.