Penn State wins top-five showdown with Wisconsin in Big Ten opener
MADISON, Wis. -- Penn State (13-1, 1-0) opened the 2014 Big Ten slate with a straight-set victory (25-17, 25-21, 25-22) on the road at No. 5 Wisconsin (9-2, 0-1). The victory also stretches the No. 3 Nittany Lion's winning streak to 10 matches.
Freshman Simone Lee powered the offense with her fourth double-digit kill performance of the season, putting down a team-high 12 kills. Freshman Ali Frantti and finished tied for second on the squad with nine kills, while also finishing second on the team with three blocks.
Redshirt junior Aiyana Whitney tallied eight kills and four digs, while also matching a career-high mark with a match-high six blocks. Senior Dominique Gonzalez fueled the Nittany Lion defense with her third 20-dig performance of the season. She matched a season-high mark with a team-high 21 digs. Junior Megan Courtney finished second on the team with 14 digs, while also adding eight kills.
Senior Micha Hancock matched a career-high mark with nine kills on 12 errorless swings, hitting .750. A setter, Hancock also recorded her third double-double of the season, dishing out 38 assists to go along with 10 digs, two blocks and two aces.
Tied at 3-3 early in set one, Penn State used a 6-1 streak, led by three kills from Courtney to pull away with the advantage 9-4. The Badgers called a timeout and regrouped with a kill, but couldn’t sustain the momentum as the Nittany Lions opened up on a 7-3 stretch to extend the lead to 16-8, causing Wisconsin to call a timeout.
The Badgers came out of the break with two kills in between an error to trim the lead back to seven, but Courtney and Lee put down back-to-back kills to build the lead to as many as nine at 19-10.
Leading by nine, the Badgers pulled to within six points of the lead at 20-14, helped out by a 4-1 streak that forced the Nittany Lions to call a timeout. Courtney came out of the break with a kill, but Wisconsin answered with a kill to keep it close at 21-15. Penn State answered with a 3-1 spurt to arrive at set point following a big block from Whitney and Courtney. Lee followed with a kill to secure Set 1 25-17.
Penn State opened Set 2 with a 4-0 lead, helped out by three consecutive Badger attack errors. The Nittany Lions continued to maintain the edge until Wisconsin charged within 8-6 on a 3-1 burst. PSU fired back with a 4-1 strike, capped off with consecutive kills from Grant and Frantti to push ahead 12-7. Breaking up the rhythm, the Badgers followed with a 3-1 strike to climb within three at 13-10. PSU followed with its own 3-1 stretch to widen the gap to five at 16-11.
Wisconsin rallied with a 6-1 run to knot the frame 17-17, but Penn State quickly answered with a 7-1 stretch to arrive at a 24-18 set point. Making one final attempt to mount a comeback, the Badgers held off three consecutive set point attempts to cut the lead to three. Frantti put an end to the comeback with a kill to give Penn State a 25-17 win in the second set and a 2-0 lead in the match.
Trailing 9-6 in Set 3, a Wisconsin service error sparked a 5-0 Penn State run, highlighted by three consecutive kills from Frantti that lifted the Nittany Lions ahead 11-9, forcing the Badgers to call a timeout. UW came out of the break with a 4-1 streak to reclaim a slim lead at 13-12. Penn State answered with four unanswered points to take back a 16-13 advantage.
The Badgers cut off the momentum with a 3-0 stretch to re-tie the frame 16-16. PSU responded with a 4-0 strike capped off by a block from Whitney and Courtney to break away with a four-point lead. Wisconsin continued to battle, using a 3-1 stretch to jump within two at 21-19. Penn State powered ahead with a 4-2 stretch to lock up a 25-22 win in the third frame to complete the sweep.