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Penn State Women’s Volleyball 2022 NCAA Tournament Preview

Womens Volleyball vs Maryland 11/2

After winning seven of its eight final matches of the regular season, Penn State women’s volleyball is ready to start its postseason run in the NCAA Tournament.

In head coach Katie Schumacher-Cawley’s first season at the helm, the Nittany Lions achieved a 24-7 overall record, going 13-7 in conference play. Only two of those losses came from lower-ranked teams, Michigan and Illinois.

At the start of the season, the Nittany Lions were one of four teams to remain unbeaten, claiming a 12-0 record before their first loss to Michigan.

On the offensive front, Penn State will continue to unleash several players from its bench to ensure scoring. Transfers Kashauna Williams and Zoe Weatherington combined for an impressive 616 kills this season. From the middle position, first-team All-Big Ten player Allie Holland held it down with 236 kills and 145 blocks.

On defense, a lot of pressure will be put on junior Maddy Bilinovic and Sophomore Cassie Kuerschen. The due combined for 622 digs in 2022. Additionally, Bilinovic acts as a massive spark for the attitude and momentum on the court, which will be crucial in the final stride of the season.

Rounding out the roster, two freshmen will get their first taste of postseason play in Gillian Grimes and Alexa Markley. After both became regular figures in the starting lineup by the end of the season, Penn State will lean heavily on the two. In terms of first-year stats, Markley was fourth overall for kills with 150 and Grimes claimed 217 digs.

First Round: UMBC (Friday, 7:30 p.m.)

The No. 4 Nittany Lions will face UMBC in the opening round at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 2, in Rec Hall. The 17-8 Retrievers travel to Happy Valley fresh off of the America East Championship with a 3-0 win over New Hampshire.

UMBC has made a lot of progress over the last few seasons following a 7-16 record in 2019. Last year, just like Penn State, UMBC suffered a loss to Pitt and ended its tournament hopes after a much-improved 19-12 regular season record.

Two outside hitters are at the forefront of the Retrievers’ offense. Sophomore Mia Bilusic and Senior Kamani Conteh account for 394 and 375 kills, respectively. Bilusic also leads the team in services aces with 44 on the season.

UMBC holds a massive presence in its backcourt, thanks to libero Alysia Miller, who had over 400 digs on the season, averaging 4.17 digs per set.

Second Round: Yale Or No. 5 UCF (Saturday, 6:30 p.m.)

If the Nittany Lions can pull through with a win Friday, they’ll play the winner of Yale and No. 5 UCF at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 3, in Rec Hall.

Yale had a dominant season in the Ivy League conference, going 13-1 with an overall record of 23-2. The Bulldogs also walked away with the conference title following the Ivy League Tournament. UCF had a 19-1 conference record and a 27-1 overall record.

Both teams had a commanding presence on the court this season, so the Nittany Lions will need to focus on being present for every match to make it to the third round of regionals.

Looking Ahead

The Nittany Lions have a pretty straightforward path to the third round of the tournament. If seeded teams win and the bracket continues as it is ranked, Penn State will face the defending national champion, No. 1 Wisconsin, following its two wins at home.

Penn State lost both of its matches to the Badgers this season, falling 3-0 in September and 3-2 in November.

The Badgers have consistently been at the top of the rankings this season, finishing at No. 2. They also took home three first-team players, one second-team player, and a Coach of the Year honor in the Big Ten.

While the Nittany Lions had their ups and downs this season, the end of the regular season proves that they have both the strength and stamina to make a serious run in the postseason this year.

Tickets for both games can be purchased online. The first 200 students who arrive at the match on Friday get in for free.

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About the Author

Mara McKeon

Mara is a sophomore staff writer majoring in English and public relations. She loves all things sports and anything that has peanut butter. You can usually find her obsessing over country music and counting down the days until she gets to see Luke Combs at the Linc. Feel free to reach her on Twitter @MckeonMara, and for more formal affairs, her email is [email protected]

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