Penn State will make its second consecutive appearance in the Regional NCAA Finals Saturday, Dec. 14th, squaring off against the winner of the Minnesota-Stanford at 4 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum.
Senior Ariel Scott led the offense with a team-high 15 kills, adding three digs and five blocks. Senior Deja McClendon followed close behind with 14 kills and 10 dig for her 10th double-double of the season. Sophomore Megan Courtney rounded out the group of double-digit hitters, registering 10 kills and 14 digs for her seventh double-double of the year. Junior Micha Hancock recorded her sixth double-double of the season with 47 assists and 14 digs.
Senior Katie Slay led the squad in blocking, posting eight blocks, including one solo stuff, while also adding eight kills. Junior Dominique Gonzalez anchored the defense with 16 digs. Junior Lacey Fuller matched a season-high mark, contributing eight digs.
Penn State opened the match on a 5-1 run, capped off by two consecutive blocks from Scott and Slay. The Spartans quickly cut into the early advantage with 3-1 spurt, jumping within two, 6-4. Scott attempted to spark another stretch with a kill, but MSU connected on two kills in between a PSU error to knot the frame, 7-7. Keeping it close, the two teams tied the score four more times before the Nittany Lions pulled away from an 11-all tie with two points for a small lead, 13-11.
With PSU leading by one, 18-17, Grant and McClendon pounded a pair of kills in between an MSU error to move ahead by three, 20-18. Rallying, the Spartans answered with two consecutive kills to tie it up, 20-20, forcing Penn State to call a timeout. Michigan State came out of the break with two more kills to take control of a 22-20 lead, but Slay ended the streak with a kill. Unable to climb back on top, PSU held off one Spartan set-point attempt, but MSU eventually claimed a 25-22 win in set one.
Trailing by three, 4-1, Penn State answered with a 4-1 streak of their own to tie the set early, 5-5. Pulling away, the Nittany Lions put together a 7-3 run to move ahead by four, 12-8, forcing the Spartans to call a timeout. Regrouping, Michigan State narrowed the margin to three, 14-11, but Penn State constructed a 6-4 stretch to go up by as many as five, 20-15. Battling to the end, the Nittany Lions closed out the frame on a 5-2 streak to capture a 25-17 win in the second set.
Leading by one, 3-2, in the third, the Nittany Lions used a 5-2 strike, helped out by three MSU attack errors to extend the advantage to five, 9-4. Earning the next two points, the Spartans attempted to spark some momentum, but Penn State continued to outscore the Spartans, maintaining a five-point lead, 14-9.
Powering ahead, PSU bolstered the lead to nine, 22-13, following an 8-4 run, powered by two kills from Courtney and one from McClendon. The Spartans attempted to regroup, but the Nittany Lions wrapped up a 25-17 win in set three to go up 2-1 in the match.
Tied at 4-all in the fourth set, Penn State used a 6-2 streak to break open the knotted frame and take control of a four-point lead, 10-6. Michigan State quickly erased the gap with the next three consecutive points, but a costly error followed by a block from Hancock and Slay brought the Nittany Lions back up by three, 12-9.
Penn State couldn’t shake the Spartans though, as MSU remained close behind until Scott and Slay connected on two consecutive kills to lift the Nittany Lions ahead, 22-19. The two teams continued to trade points until a kill from Scott put PSU at set-point, 24-20. Using a 3-0 run, the Spartans clawed within one, 24-23, but Courtney cut off the comeback, smacking a kill to seal a 25-23 win in the fourth set and a 3-1 victory in the match.
--PSU Athletic Communications
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