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Potential Rematches Highlight Penn State Women’s Volleyball’s NCAA Tournament Bracket

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Well, folks: This is March December.

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Penn State women’s volleyball is gearing up for its 39th NCAA Tournament and has its sights set on bringing home its eighth national title.

The Nittany Lions will begin their postseason run at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 6 when they host Princeton at Rec Hall. The 17-7 Tigers, who won this year’s Ivy League title with a 10-2 conference record, will certainly have their work cut out for them against Penn State.

Penn State is 7-2 all-time against Princeton, with both losses coming way back in 1977. That said, it’s hard to believe Russ Rose’s squad won’t move on to the second round.

Following a likely first-round win, No. 11 overall seed Penn State would play the winner of American (24-7) and Towson (28-2) — the respective Patriot League and Colonial Athletic Association champs — on Saturday, December 7 at 6:30 p.m. This would be the final match the Nittany Lions play on their home turf, as the next round would take place in Stanford, California.

Now, this is where things get interesting. Assuming Penn State leaves State College unscathed, it would likely face a highly anticipated rematch against No. 6 overall seed Pitt in the Sweet 16. The Panthers swept the Nittany Lions at Rec Hall in September, but Penn State struck back when it took down Pitt 3-2 in a five-set thriller two days later.

Penn Staters love to joke about how much Pitt sucks at just about everything, but that’s just not the case when it comes to this team. The Panthers boast an impressive 29-1 record and went 18-0 in ACC play. They’ve won 18 in a row since their loss to Penn State and could be searching for their 21st straight victory when they potentially match up against the Nittany Lions in California.

Pitt’s x-factor so far this season has been outside hitter Kayla Lund, who’s racked up a team-high 366 kills and 276 digs in her junior campaign. Lund notched 37 kills, 39.5 points, and five total blocks against Penn State earlier in the season, and will likely continue to be a thorn in the Nittany Lions’ sides should the two programs face off once again.

If Penn State were to make its way to the Elite Eight, it would almost certainly wind up facing No. 3 overall seed and Pac-12 champion Stanford. Yes — another rematch.

The Cardinal defeated the Nittany Lions 3-1 in last year’s Elite Eight and went on to win their eighth NCAA championship in program history. The two programs matched up once again at Rec Hall in September, when Stanford took down Penn State 3-1 to kick off the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge.

Stanford (24-4, 18-2 Pac-12) is the No. 3 overall seed in this tournament for a reason. The Cardinal are averaging 14.72 kills per set and held opponents to just .176 hitting throughout the regular season in a loaded conference that features volleyball powerhouses such as No. 8 seed Washington, USC, and UCLA.

Stanford senior outside hitter Kathryn Plummer is now back to full health, which spells extra trouble for the Nittany Lions. The 2017 and 2018 AVCA Player of the Year missed 10 matches due to an undisclosed injury before she returned to the court against USC two weeks ago and went off for 15 kills on .636 hitting en route to a reverse sweep over the Trojans.

Following a potential takedown of the Cardinal, Penn State would head to PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh for the remainder of the tournament. There are too many variables in the works to try and predict who they’d face if they got that far, so let’s hold off on that speculation for now.

As with every 64-team tournament, there’s bound to be some good-ol’-fashioned chaos awaiting each team. Only time will tell how far the Nittany Lions will go in this year’s bracket, but one thing is certain: We’re in for some fantastic volleyball, folks.

You can check out this year’s entire bracket here.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt is a sophomore majoring in journalism and is Onward State's copy editor and social media manager. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football aficionado, and sudoku whiz hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ for bad sports takes or email him at [email protected]

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