UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Behind double figure kills from four Nittany Lions, top-ranked Penn State (5-0) powered past No. 2 Stanford (3-1) in straight sets (25-21, 25-22, 25-18) Saturday evening, in front of a sold-out Rec Hall crowd.
The Nittany Lion victory extends Penn State’s winning streak to 25 consecutive matches, dating back to its first win in the streak on Oct. 17, 2014. Penn State also handed the Cardinal its first straight set loss since Oct. 4, 2013, when Stanford lost in three on the road at USC.
Redshirt senior Aiyana Whitney and sophomore Ali Frantti powered the PSU offense with 13 kills apiece. Sophomore Haleigh Washington followed with 12 kills, registering a team-high .526 hitting efficiency. Senior Megan Courtney rounded out the group with her second double-double of the season, tallying 11 kills and 13 digs.
Freshman setter Bryanna Weiskircher dished out a career-high 41 assists, pacing the team to a .327 hitting percentage. Weiskircher and freshman libero Keeton Holcomb tied for second on the team with eight digs each.
Trailing by four early in the first set, 9-5, Penn State used a 3-0 strike to pull within one, 9-8. The Cardinal quickly answered with a pair of kills to make it 11-8, prompting Penn State to call a timeout. A kill from Courtney and a block by Washington and Weiskircher out of the break pulled the Nittany Lions back within one, 11-10. The Cardinal continued to match the Nittany Lions point-for-point out of the break to maintain a two-point edge, 17-15.
Regrouping, a kill from Courtney and a pair of Stanford attack errors quickly tied the frame, 17-17. Stanford looked to pull away with a kill, 18-17, but Penn State continued to answer, tying the frame four more times. With the score knotted, 21-21, a Cardinal service error gave Penn State a critical one-point lead, 22-21, prompting Stanford to call a timeout.
Weiskircher came out of the huddle with an ace, before sophomore Heidi Thelen and Whitney teamed up for a block to make it set point for the Nittany Lions, 24-21. A Stanford attack error on the next play sealed a 25-21 win in the opening set in favor of Penn State.
Penn State jumped out to a 5-2 lead for an early advantage in the second set. The Cardinal looked to cut off the momentum with a kill, 5-3, but back-to-back kills from Washington and Frantti opened a 3-0 strike that lifted Penn State ahead, 8-3. A PSU service error out of a Stanford timeout trimmed the lead back to four, 8-4, but kills from Frantti and Whitney lifted the Nittany Lions ahead, 10-4.
The Cardinal looked to halt the run with a kill, 10-5, but Penn State pulled away with a 4-2 stretch to double its advantage, 14-7. Stanford came storming back with an 8-1 streak to tie the score, 15-15. A kill from Washington brought PSU ahead by one, 16-15. Penn State and Stanford briefly traded points to tie up the score two times.
Tied at 17-17, kills from Whitney and Courtney sparked a 4-2 stretch that pushed Penn State back on top, 21-19, causing Stanford to call a timeout. The Cardinal came out of the timeout with a kill to pull within one, 21-20, but Penn State rallied with a 4-2 run to secure a 25-22 win in the second set to bring PSU ahead 2-0 at the intermission.
Penn State and Stanford battled back and forth in the early portion of the third set. Tied at 10-10, a kill from Weiskircher pushed Penn State on top, 10-11, but a PSU service error quickly tied the stanza, 11-11. Pulling away, two kills from the Cardinal quickly put Stanford on top, 13-11.
Rallying, back-to-back kills from Frantti sparked a 6-0 run that vaulted the Nittany Lions ahead by three, 16-13, causing Stanford to call a timeout. Frantti came out of the break with a kill to continue the momentum, but the Cardinal responded with a pair of kills to shave the advantage to two, 17-15.
Whitney broke up the Stanford rhythm with two consecutive kill, 19-15, opening up a 7-3 run that led the Nittany Lions to a 25-18 win in the third set to complete the sweep.