Women’s Volleyball Falls To North Carolina 3-2 In Penn State Classic
Russ Rose’s Nittany Lions made quick work of West Virginia Friday night and Georgia Southern Saturday morning prior to their Penn State Classic finale against No. 19 North Carolina, but they would suffer their first loss of the season to the Tar Heels 3-2 (25-16, 22-25, 25-21, 23-25, 9-15) Saturday night in Rec Hall.
How It Happened
Penn State went back to junior Abby Detering as the team’s starting setter and she immediately flashed that competitive fire and deft touch she showed at Florida the past two years. Coming off a 29-assist night against the Mountaineers in her first match at Rec Hall, Detering was dealing early in the first set as the Nittany Lions opened a quick lead on head coach Joe Sagula’s Tar Heels.
North Carolina redshirt sophomore Taylor Leath hails from nearby Port Matilda, Pa., and made her return to Rec Hall as one of the Tar Heels’ starting outside hitters. Leath would finish with a team-high 18 kills. The lethal duo of Detering and true freshman libero Kendall White showed an uncanny rapport that helped the Nittany Lions spread the ball around to their dominant outside hitters in Simone Lee and Ali Frantti and middle blockers Haleigh Washington and Heidi Thelen. Penn State cruised to an easy 25-16 first-set victory. Bryanna Weiskircher came on in relief and played an impressive match, finishing with 28 assists to Detering’s 23. White and Frantti led the way defensively with 17 and 12 digs, respectively.
Both sides traded momentum throughout the first few points of the second set, but North Carolina opened up an early lead and would go on to hold off the Nittany Lions in a hard-fought 25-22 win to tie things up at 1-1. Frantti and Lee paced Penn State’s offense with seven kills apiece through the first two sets, while Taylor Treacy matched them with seven of her own for the Tar Heels.
North Carolina stayed hot with a 5-1 lead to open the all-important third set, but the Lee-led Nittany Lions battled back their way back to take an 11-10 advantage. Lee stepped up in a huge way right when the team needed her most by setting a new career-high in kills with 15 through three sets (eight of which came in the third), as Penn State hung on for a much-needed 25-21 win.
The Nittany Lions came alive yet again midway through the fourth set, as they opened a tight 12-11 lead over North Carolina but despite Washington, Frantti, and Thelen joining Lee with double-digit kills (11 apiece), Penn State would fall to the Tar Heels 23-25 to force a fifth and final set. Rose’s bunch went down 11-7 and couldn’t rally all the way back, dropping its first match of the season 3-2 on a 9-15 final set.
Player Of The Match
Simone Lee | Junior | Outside hitter
Lee played a phenomenal match to absolutely obliterate her old career-high with 23 kills on the night, while adding 10 digs. The Menomonee, Wisc., native also led Penn State with a match-high eight kills in its morning win over Georgia Southern.
The Nittany Lions have a chance to rest up before flying out to Boulder, Colo., for a pair of huge Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge matches against Colorado and No. 11 Stanford on Sept. 3-4.