Volleyball: No. 15 Penn State downs No. 1 Minnesota in five sets
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Behind a career-best 30 kills from the Nittany Lions' junior Simone Lee, the 15th-ranked Penn State women’s volleyball team (13-3, 5-0 Big Ten) took down the No. 1 Minnesota Golden Gophers (12-2, 4-1 Big Ten), 3-2 (29-27, 21-25, 23-25, 25-14, 15-10) inside a raucous Rec Hall.
It came down to a decisive fifth frame, where both sides tussled back and forth before Penn State took an 8-6 lead to force the break. Minnesota scored before a kill from junior Haleigh Washington and an errant attack from the Gophers’ Hannah Tapp made the score 10-7. Minnesota pulled within two at 11-9 before a pair of kills from junior Heidi Thelen and one from Lee made it 14-9. Two points later it was only fitting that Lee put away the final point, logging kill No. 30 to close out the match with a 15-10, set-five win.
Four players notched double-figure kills, with Lee paving the way. Lee’s 30-kill outing marked the first time since 2007 that a single Nittany Lion had logged 30 or more kills in a single outing. It also marked the most kills in a five-set match during the 25-point rally scoring era for a single player. The junior added six digs and a pair of blocks in the marathon outing
In addition to Lee’s outburst, Thelen and Washington scored 14 each. Thelen led the team with five blocks while Washington added three and a service ace. Classmate Ali Frantti logged her second double-double of 2016 with 13 kills and 13 digs. She added a pair of blocks and two assists.
Setter Abby Detering led PSU to .308 hitting against the Golden Gophers, clocking her fourth double-double of the season with 61 assists and 10 digs. She added five kills and three aces. Redshirt freshman middle blockerTori Gorrell tacked on three kills and a team-best five blocks.
Freshman Kendall White paced the back row with a match-high 21 digs. She added four assists and a kill. Defensive specialist Keeton Holcombadded seven digs and three assists in the outing.
Penn State returns to the court on Saturday to face the visiting Rutgers Scarlett Knights (4-14, 0-5 Big Ten).
The Nittany Lions showed incredible resilience in the first set. After trailing 11-3 in the early goings, the team mounted an 11-6 run powered by kills from Lee, Washington and Thelen before an ace from Detering pulled Penn State within three at 17-14. Minnesota then called for a timeout. Minnesota scored two straight before another impressive run for the Nittany Lions, highlighted by back-to-back kills from Washington, tied the match at 22-22. Penn State fended off a pair of set points to tie the match once again at 24-all. The two sides went back and forth before kills from Lee and Frantti locked up the first 29-27.
Despite seven tie scores, the Nittany Lions ended up on the wrong end of the second set. Lee scored on seven kills in the second frame, while Washington and Frantti added four a piece. White notched eight digs. Penn State was within three at 22-19 before Minnesota pulled away to take the second 25-21.
One of the most tightly contested sets of the match, Lee and Thelen led the way in the third for the Blue and White with five and four kills, respectively. The two sides had little to separate themselves with 16 ties and six lead changes. Both sides jostled for position, when an ace from Minnesota forced a timeout for Penn State at a 22-21 Minnesota edge. Thelen hammered the ball down to tie the set at 22-all, but a pair of Gopher kills closed out the third 25-23.
While the fourth set statistically was Penn State’s most dominant, Minnesota started strong, opening on a 7-2 run before PSU called for a timeout. A pair of blocks from Gorrell and Thelen powered a 3-0 run before another pair of blocks, this time involving Washington, made it 9-9. A kill from Lee gave PSU a two-point advantage when Minnesota called for time at 11-9. Penn State’s momentum was too much, as three consecutive kills from Lee, Gorrell and Thelen widened the gap to four at 16-12. Minnesota called for time before Penn State went on an 8-2 run, with the final kill of the set coming from Frantti. The 25-14 set four win forced the decisive fifth.