UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Top-ranked Penn State rallied from two sets down to defeat No. 2 Southern California by a score of 3-2 (21-25, 21-25, 25-20, 25-22, 15-8) on Saturday night. More than 6,100 fans packed Rec Hall to support the Nittany Lions. The all-time series between USC and Penn State is now tied at 2-2.
“First I want to just say it was the best crowd for a women’s volleyball match that I have seen in 33 years,” Penn State coach Russ Rose said. “I want applaud the crowd and the student section and the band especially for keeping the building alive. I thought we saw some great performances tonight. I thought a couple people stepped up in a huge way . It was a nice collective team effort.”
Deja McClendon led all players with a career-high 25 kills on .321 hitting. Sophomore Katie Slay finished second on the team with a personal-best 12 kills, while freshman Nia Grant, making her first collegiate start, posted 11 kills on 17 errorless swings for a .647 attack percentage. Micha Hancock was the starting setter and posted 45 assists and registered seven kills in eight attempts to hit .875. She also had a match-high six aces. Sophomore Kristin Carpenter recorded a career-best 20 digs and senior Katie Kabbes put up a personal-best 10 total blocks. Grant finished second on the team with eight blocks while Slay contributed six.
Penn State out-hit, out-killed, out-served and out-blocked the Trojans on the evening. The Nittany Lions had 65 kills to USC’s 64, they registered a .298 attack percentage to USC’s .265, had eight aces to the Trojans’ four and 18.5 total team blocks to USC’s 6.0. The Trojans managed 60 digs to Penn State’s 58.
Despite being down two sets to none, the Nittany Lions came back after the break ready to go in set three. The Lions opened the set on a 5-0 tear with five consecutive kills, including three from Grant. Kendall Bateman pounded a kill for Southern Cal, but Penn State’s lead grew to 7-1 with a McClendon kill and a joint stuff by Kabbes and Grant. USC then used a 7-3 run to cut the gap to two, 10-8, but four PSU kills sandwiching a USC spike had Penn State leading by five, 14-9. USC slowed Penn State with a timeout and came within two four times. However with a 22-20 lead, a block by McClendon, a USC error and a Hancock ace gave Penn State the third set win, 25-20.
USC dominated the fourth set from the start and had a 16-8 advantage midway through the frame. McClendon pounded a kill to spark a 6-2 run to bring Penn State within four, 18-14. Grant had a kill and a block in the run, while Slay had back-to-back kills. USC called a timeout, but two Hancock kills and two PSU blocks had the score knotted at 19-19. The score was tied three more times before a McClendon kill pushed the Lions into the lead at 23-22. The Trojans called a final timeout, but Kabbes and Grant teamed up for two consecutive blocks to give Penn State a 25-22 triumph in the fourth set.
Hancock opened the fifth stanza with an ace before Grant and McClendon each recorded a kill. A PSU service error gave the ball to the Trojans, but McClendon pounded a kill to give PSU a 4-1 lead. Kabbes, sophomore Maddie Martin and Grant teamed up for a triple-block before USC called its first timeout. Alex Jupiter attempted to cut off the Nittany Lions with a kill, but a 6-0 Nittany Lion run had the Lions leading by nine, 11-2. The Trojans notched four consecutive points before Slay could slow USC’s momentum with a kill to give Penn State a 12-6 lead. The teams went back and forth briefly before kills by Hancock and McClendon secured the fifth set for the Nittany Lions, 15-8.