Senior Night Sendoff: Women’s Volleyball Dominates Northwestern 3-0
Prior to Wednesday’s anticipated showdown between No. 7 Penn State women’s volleyball and Northwestern, the emotional Senior Night festivities took center stage in Rec Hall as four graduating Nittany Lions and their families were recognized.
Penn State (26-4, 15-4 B1G) flexed its muscles with a straight-set (25-18, 25-14, 26-24) victory over the Wildcats.
Megan Courtney (Dayton, Ohio) was named the 2014 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player and is the first Nittany Lion since Deja McClendon (eighth all-time) to join both the 1,000-career kills and digs club. The 6-foot-1 outside hitter has started every match she’s ever played in at Penn State.
“Super” senior (as she likes to be called) Aiyana Whitney (Norwood, N.J.) leads the Nittany Lions in kills this year and played an instrumental role in Penn State’s back-to-back national championships the past two seasons. Standing every bit of 6-foot-3, Whitney is one of the most intimidating outside hitters in the Big Ten.
Kendall Pierce (Eden, N.Y.) was named to the prestigious list of candidates for the Senior CLASS Award earlier this season for her outstanding academic and athletic achievements. Although she missed out on making the group of finalists, Pierce is the consummate student-athlete and recently took over full-time libero responsibilities for the Nittany Lions thanks to her high defensive IQ and tremendous hustle.
Defensive specialist Lara Caraway (Evans City, Pa.) has largely played a reserve role during her career in Happy Valley, but saw plenty of action Wednesday night. Caraway has been an invaluable leader both on and off the court in guiding her younger teammates and showing them what it takes to play for the most storied program in women’s college volleyball history.
How It Happened
After a stress-free sweep of Maryland this past Saturday, the Nittany Lions picked up right where they left off. Behind a balanced offensive attack, paced by Courtney’s five kills, Penn State made easy work of the Wildcats, 25-18, in the first set. Courtney would finish with nine kills, seven digs, and a pair of blocks. Redshirt freshman setter Bryanna Weiskircher was absolutely dealing from the opening whistle, as the Rockford, Ill., native dished out a gaudy 41 assists to her teammates all over the court. Weiskircher would add four kills and a pair of service aces and blocks.
Whitney got the Rec crowd rocking thanks to a fantastic second-set performance that kept the ball rolling offensively for Penn State. She would record 10 kills and four blocks on the night. Head Coach Keylor Chan received a standout showing from sophmore outside hitter Symone Abbott, who would go on to post a match-high 13 kills, but Northwestern simply couldn’t keep up with the high-powered Nittany Lions. Rose’s ladies cruised to an emphatic 25-14 second-set victory. Pierce’s team-high 12 digs set the tone on the defensive end.
Sophomore Ali Frantti put together one heck of a night, as the 6-foot-2 outside hitter routinely soared high above the net and dropped a boatload of bombs on the Wildcats. Rounding out the offense for the Nittany Lions were sophomores Simone Lee (seven kills, three blocks, and two digs) and Haleigh Washington (six kills, five blocks, three digs, and a service ace).
However, Northwestern gave the blue and white a much more competitive third set, even going up 22-20 at one point, but the Nittany Lions clearly weren’t interested in putting their brooms away. Penn State finished the 3-0 sweep by storming back for a clutch, 26-24, win to send its senior class out on a high note. Nicely done, ladies.
Player Of The Match
Ali Frantti | Outside hitter | No. 5
The Spring Grove, Ill., native stepped up in a big way when the team needed her by tying Abbott’s mark with a match-high 13 kills. Frantti added four digs, a pair of blocks, and a service ace on the night.
The seventh-ranked Nittany Lions will enjoy Thanksgiving before capping the Big Ten regular-season slate with an enormous road clash against No. 5 Nebraska this Saturday, Nov. 28 at 9:30 p.m. ET. John Cook’s Cornhuskers prevailed 3-2 in Rec Hall earlier this season. The match will air live on the Big Ten Network.