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Penn State Athletics | September 28, 2014

Penn St. drops first set, rallies to beat Minn.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Rallying back from an early deficit, No. 3 Penn State (14-1, 2-0) battled to a 3-1 (27-29, 25-13, 25-15, 25-22) win on the road at No. 17 Minnesota (11-2, 1-1) Saturday evening to extend the current Nittany Lion winning streak to 11 consecutive matches.

Senior Nia Grant led a trio of double-digit performers with 14 kills on .429 hitting, adding one ace, two digs and a match-high eight blocks. Redshirt junior Aiyana Whitney and junior Megan Courtney tallied 12 kills each to go along with a pair of mult-block performances. Courtney finished second on the team with seven blocks, while Whitney totaled six.

Senior Dominique Gonzalez anchored the defense with a season-high mark, posting a match-high 26 digs. Senior Micha Hancock dished out 50 assists, while also notching three aces, five digs and four blocks.

As a team, Penn State out-hit Minnesota .261-.090, while also out-blocking the Gophers 15.5-9.0, helped out by multi-block performances from five Nittany Lions.

Tied at 5-5 early in Set 1, the Gophers followed a Nittany Lion attack error with a kill to pull away with a 7-5 lead. A kill from Grant and an ace from Courtney re-tied the frame but neither team could spark a run as PSU and Minnesota tied the set three more times until Grant connected on back-to-back kills to lift Penn State ahead 10-9.

The Golden Gophers answered with a 5-1 streak to move ahead by as many as three at 14-11. Whitney cut off the stretch with a kill, but a Minnesota block kept the Gophers on top 15-12, forcing Penn State to call a timeout. Whitney and Lee came out of the break with two consecutive kills to narrow the gap to one, but Minnesota followed with a kill to remain ahead 16-14.

Rallying, Penn State used a 3-1 spurt, capped off by two kills from Grant to tie up the set at17-17. Unable to sustain the momentum, the Gophers constructed a 4-1 streak. Frantti halted the momentum with two consecutive kills to push Penn State within one, but Minnesota followed with three of the next four points to arrive at set point.

PSU answered with two kills to hold off the attempt, but a service error put the Gophers back at set point. After another PSU kill, the two teams traded service errors to tie the frame at 26 before a solo stuff from Grant and a kill from Lee gave the Nittany Lions the 27-26 edge. Minnesota responded with a block and two kills to take Set 1 29-27.

With the score knotted at 5-5 in Set 2, Grant sparked a 3-0 strike that lifted the Nittany Lions up by three, forcing Minnesota to call a timeout. The Golden Gophers came out of the break firing, using a 4-2 stretch to charge within one. Regrouping, Penn State surged ahead with a 6-0 streak to take control of a seven-point advantage. A service error interrupted the rhythm, but Penn State followed with another 6-1 run to power ahead by 11.

Minnesota looked to spark a comeback with a kill, 22-12, but Lee pounded back-to-back kills to make it set point, 24-12. The Golden Gophers managed to hold off one attempt before Grant put down her 10th kill of the evening to secure set two, 25-13, tying the match at 1-1.

Penn State came out of the intermission on a 7-3 run for an early lead in the frame. A service error stopped the streak, but Grant sparked a 4-1 strike with a solo stuff to push PSU up 11-5. The Golden Gophers answered with three consecutive kills to shave the margin to three. The Nittany Lions quickly responded with a 6-1 streak to bolster the lead to eight.

The Gophers cut off the run with a kill, but Penn State battled ahead with a 5-1 stretch featuring three kills from Whitney to take a nine-point lead. Minnesota answered with two consecutive kills in an attempt to mount a comeback, but PSU closed out the frame on a 4-1 run to secure a 25-15 win in the third frame.

The Nittany Lions shot out to a 4-0 lead in set four before the Gophers followed with six unanswered points to take over a two-point lead. Hancock put an end to the run with a kill, but one service error from each squad kept the Penn State behind by one. Another PSU service error and a Minnesota block moved the Gophers up by three, but Penn State followed with a 3-0 burst to tie the frame at 9-9.

Fighting point-for-point, the two teams tied the set three more times until Whitney and Hancock used a kill and an ace to give Penn State a two-point lead at 15-13 heading into the media timeout. Penn State attempted to maintain the lead coming out of the break, but Minnesota responded with a 6-2 run to capture the 19-17 lead.

Courtney looked to open a run with a kill, but a quick 2-1 burst kept the Gophers on top by two. Penn State answered with the next four consecutive points to reclaim the lead, capped off by an ace from Hancock to make it 23-21. A PSU service error out of a Minnesota timeout put the Gophers within one, but a kill from Courtney and a block by Lee and Whitney sealed a 25-22 win in the fourth set for the victory.

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