Penn State Women’s Volleyball Dominates Utah in Second Round of NCAA Tourney

Story posted December 8, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Garrett Ross

Head coach Russ Rose and his Nittany Lions (30-2) notched their 21st straight victory, with a 3-0 sweep of the Utah Utes (21-13) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday at Rec Hall.

Penn State came out strong in the first set after getting off to a slower start the previous night against LIU. Rose was pleased with his team’s improved performance.

“I thought we played a much cleaner match in all facets,” Rose said. “I thought our warm-up was better and more organized. And I thought we passed really well and executed the game plan.”

Senior Deja McClendon commanded the Lions’ attack in the first set, leading the team with six kills in the first frame.

Megan Courtney also contributed four kills in the first set, while Katie Slay and Ariel Scott each added three. 

Utah junior middle-blocker Bailey Bateman attributed Penn State’s offensive success to Big Ten Setter of the Year, Micha Hancock.

“Perfect passes, you gotta read all three or four hitters coming at you at once,” Bateman said. “It gets a little difficult to read if they are in system that much.”

The Lions won the first set by a score of 25-14, and took some momentum into the second frame.

Penn State continued to dictate the tempo of the game in the second set, as Hancock connected with Courtney for five kills. Courtney would go on to lead the match in total kills.

“I kind of had that gut feeling that you’re gonna have a good day,” Courtney said. “Not just me in general, but I knew the team was going to come out and just play really well together.”

The second set ended with a Utah service error, and Penn State took a two set lead into the second break. Going into the match, the Lions were 21-0 when leading after two sets.

Megan Courtney continued to pace the Penn State attack, contributing eight of her match-high 17 kills in the third set.

The Lions pulled began to pull away from the Utes in the third set when Courtney rattled off four straight kills to put her team ahead 24-11.

Senior Maggie Harding, a State College native, was subbed in to close out the match in the Lions’ final game at Rec Hall this season. An attack error by the Utes sealed the victory for Penn State as they won the third set 25-11.

Courtney felt as though she and her team needed to have a statement game against the Utes.

“You can kind of see it in all of my teammates eyes,” Courtney said. “We didn’t play so well the night before, so we gotta show anyone who is watching what we’re made of and what Penn State needs to bring to the table.”

With the win, the Nittany Lions move on to the Regional Semifinals, where they will play the either Kentucky or Michigan State on December 13 in Lexington, Kentucky.

Garrett Ross is a freshman majoring in print journalism. To contact him, email garrettaross@gmail.com.