Women’s Volleyball Sweeps Purdue for Eleventh Straight Win

Story posted October 13, 2012 in CommRadio, Sports by Bradford Conners

Coming off a four game road trip, the top-ranked Penn State women’s volleyball team (17-1, 7-0 Big Ten) returned to the friendly confines of Rec Hall on Friday night and cruised past 17th-ranked Purdue (13-5, 4-3 Big Ten) in three sets (25-19, 25-16, 25-16).

The match was very tight early on as neither team led by more than two points deep into the first set. Purdue was clinging to a 15-14 lead, but the Boilermakers made two costly errors following a media timeout to swing the momentum and allow Penn State to retake the lead.

Consecutive kills by Deja McClendon and Ariel Scott extended the Nittany Lion advantage to 18-15, and Penn State would never look back. Leading 24-19, Scott and Nia Grant teamed up for Penn State’s third block of the game to take the first set 25-19.

The second set was also closely contested at the start, but with the score knotted at five, the Penn State block party resumed. Two straight rejections and a Maddie Martin service ace highlighted a 4-0 run, and the Nittany Lions pulled out to 9-5 lead.

After Purdue narrowed the deficit with two points of its own, Penn State, once again, had an answer. Behind the serve of Dominique Gonzalez, Penn State extended the lead back to four, forcing a Purdue timeout.

The stoppage, however, did little to tame the Nittany Lion outburst. Kills by Megan Courtney and Katie Slay and an ace from Gonzalez capped off a 5-0 run to make it 14-7 Penn State, causing a frustrated Coach Dave Shondell to quickly burn yet another timeout.

Purdue managed to trim the Penn State lead to 14-10, but the Nittany Lions finished the set strongly and won by a comfortable margin, 25-16. Scott, Slay and McClendon had each recorded seven kills as they headed into the halftime locker room.

Just 25 points away from extending their win streak to 11 games, the Nittany Lions did not disappoint in the third set. Trailing by one early on, Penn State went on a 4-1 spurt to gain the lead, but this time, the run had a surprising catalyst.

Having appeared in just four sets all season, Penn State head coach Russ Rose called upon freshman Kendall Pierce to serve. She came through with a service ace and kept the Purdue defense scrambling to give her team a 7-4 lead, and her efforts did not go unnoticed by her coach.

“I thought Kendall was the best of the servers that came in, and it was very positive to see that,” Rose said.

Holding a 15-11 lead, Penn State was able to string together four consecutive points to put the match out of reach. With the Nittany Lions leading 24-16 and all 2,952 fans on their feet, Courtney capped off the night with an emphatic block to finish off the sweep of Purdue.

The Nittany Lion defense was superb, as they recorded 9.5 blocks and held Purdue to a .148 hitting percentage. Purdue’s Ariel Turner, the 2011 Big Ten Player of the Year, was held to just eight kills and a .148 percentage.

McClendon led Penn State with 12 kills, but as usual, the Nittany Lions had a very balanced attack with four players notching nine or more kills.

“It was a really good team effort out there, and that’s what it takes to get the job done,” Slay said after the match.

With Friday night’s straight set victory, Penn State has now swept three teams ranked in the top 20 and has 13 total sweeps on the season. The Nittany Lions improved to 17-1 and remain unbeaten in conference play, solidifying their number one national ranking.

Purdue, meanwhile, who started the season 13-2, hasn’t won a single set in three straight matches. Despite the Boilermakers’ recent struggles, Rose did not want to take any credit away from his team for its impressive performance.

“Any time you get a victory in the conference, you have to feel good about that,” he said.

Penn State will wrap up its short two match home stand on Saturday night by taking on Indiana, a team that has yet to win a Big Ten game this season. The match will begin at 7 p.m. and can be heard on ComRadio.

Bradford Conners is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email btc5082@psu.edu.