Penn State cruises to third round
Underclassmen strong for Nittany Lions in sweep on Delaware
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State earned a spot in the NCAA regional semifinals with a 3-0 (25-12, 25-9, 25-18) sweep of Delaware (21-13).
The Nittany Lions improved to 48-3 in NCAA matches at Rec Hall with the win. Penn State now owns a 79-25 record in NCAA tournament matches. The Lions are making their ninth consecutive appearance in the NCAA regional semifinals.
Sophomore Ariel Scott led all players with 12 kills on .458 hitting, while sophomore Deja McClendon had 11 kills in 21 errorless swings for a .524 hitting percentage. Freshman Micha Hancock dished out 40 assists and was second on the team with nine digs. Sophomore Ali Longo posted a match-high 19 digs. Scott, freshman Nia Grant and sophomore Katie Slay had five blocks apiece.
The Nittany Lions hit .426 against the Blue Hens. Penn State totaled 47 kills, eight aces, 54 digs and 11.0 total team blocks. The Lions held Delaware to .062 hitting with 21 kills, three ace, 33 digs and 2.0 team blocks.
Penn State dominated early on taking a 9-2 lead. The Blue Hens closed the gap to four, 11-7, but it was the closest Delaware would come to tying the score for the remainder of the set. A Grant kill sparked a 9-1 Penn State run, which put the Lions ahead by 11, 20-9. Penn State allowed the Blue Hens three final points before kills from Scott, Slay and sophomore Maddie Martin and an ace from freshman Dominique Gonzalez closed out set one in Penn State's favor, 25-12.
The second set began much like the first as the Nittany Lions jumped out to a 10-1 lead. McClendon and Scott each had two kills in the early run, while Hancock tallied two aces. A PSU attack error turned the ball over to Delaware, but a block by Grant and Scott sparked a 4-1 run giving Penn State a 15-3 lead. Delaware called a timeout and notched two points to make it 15-5. The squads traded points briefly before the Nittany Lions embarked on one final run to secure set two. With an 18-8 lead, Scott made a kill to begin a 7-1 run which included two additional Scott putdowns, two kills from freshman Aiyana Whitney and one from Grant. Penn State won the set, 25-9.
The Nittany Lions took an early 6-3 lead in the third and final stanza. However, the Blue Hens closed the gap to one, 7-6, with a 3-1 run.
Penn State capitalized on two Blue Hen errors to move back ahead by three, 9-6, but by midway through the set the score was knotted at 11-11. A Delaware service error and a Grant putdown gave Penn State a two-point cushion, 13-11, but a 3-0 run by the Blue Hens moved Delaware into the lead, 14-13. Grant tied it up at 14-14 with a kill and three consecutive Delaware errors had Penn State back in front by three, 17-14. The Blue Hens stayed within three until back-to-back McClendon kills and one by slay had Penn State leading by six, 22-16. Delaware called a timeout, but it failed to faze Penn State. Two more McClendon kills and one from senior Katie Kabbes (Raleigh, N.C.) gave Penn State a convincing 25-18 victory.