Penn State Women’s Volleyball Defeats Cincinnati 3-2 In Five-Set Showdown, Advances To Elite Eight
Penn State women’s volleyball (27-5, 17-3 Big Ten) began its trip to California with a bang Friday night when it took down Cincinnati 3-2 in five sets in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.
Three Nittany Lions recorded double-digit kills in the 20-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-12, 15-11 win over the Bearcats.
How It Happened
Head coach Russ Rose’s starting lineup consisted of outside hitters Jonni Parker and Lauren Clark, middle blockers Serena Gray and Kaitlyn Hord, setter Gabby Blossom, defensive specialist Jenna Hampton, and libero Kendall White.
Friday’s match began with the typical back-and-forth action you’d expect from two impressive teams. Cincinnati eventually pulled out a 25-20 win thanks to a host of Penn State errors, including six service errors and four hitting errors. The Nittany Lions hit just .192 as a team in the first frame.
The two teams were locked at 12 apiece in the second game until Penn State ripped a 3-0 scoring run to go up 15-12. The Nittany Lions ultimately never looked back and won the set 25-17. Rose’s players looked much-improved offensively in the second set, hitting an even .500 as a team and posting 17 kills, two service aces, and just one hitting error.
The Nittany Lions continued hitting well in the third set (.500 as a team) but Cincinnati broke out offensively en route to a 25-23 Bearcats victory. They hit .438 as a team against Penn State and benefitted off of the Nittany Lions’ four service errors, which had been a problem for them all night long.
Penn State rallied back in the fourth frame and led by as many as 12 points on its way to a 25-12 win to set up a fifth set. The Nittany Lions racked up 14 kills on .565 hitting in the frame and finally limited their service errors to just one.
The Nittany Lions and Bearcats were locked at 5-5 in the fifth set before the former went on a 5-0 run and never looked back en route to a 15-11 victory in the fifth and deciding set. Penn State didn’t record a single hitting error in the final frame.
Three players — Parker, Gorrell, and Gray — recorded double-digit kill totals in the contest with 17, 15, and 14 each, respectively. Cincinnati outside hitter Jordan Thompson led all players with 30 kills, which is ironically nowhere close to her season-high of 50!
Did someone say “block party”? The Nittany Lions’ middle blockers feasted on the Bearcats throughout the match, as Hord totaled a season-high nine total blocks. Gorrell, Gray, and Blossom followed with five, four, and four, respectively.
Penn State struggled at the service line all night long despite strong showings against Princeton and Towson last weekend. The Nittany Lions racked up 16 service errors throughout the match — three more than their previous season-high of 13.
Despite the team’s overall struggles at the line, Gray continued to flash her serving prowess throughout the night. She tallied a team-high three service aces and continued to use her serve effectively, which Rose has repeatedly referred to as a key “offensive weapon” for the Nittany Lions.
With the win, Penn State is 6-0 all-time against Cincinnati. The teams first met back in the first round of the first-annual NCAA Tournament in 1981, which the Nittany Lions won 3-0. Tonight’s match was the first time the two teams had matched up in the postseason since that match.
Player Of The Match
Tori Gorrell |Outside Hitter
What an impressive performance from the redshirt senior, who’s been a key component to Penn State’s success lately. Gorrell racked up 15 kills on an excellent .519 hitting clip to help lift the Nittany Lions over the Bearcats. She also added five total blocks and just one hitting error in the match.
The Nittany Lions will rest up ahead of their match against No. 3 overall seed Stanford, which will be played at 10 p.m. on Saturday, December 14 at the Maples Pavilion. Penn State faced the Cardinal at Rec Hall earlier this season in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge and lost 3-1.
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