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Katherine Wright | NCAA.com | September 14, 2019

How No. 1 Stanford contained No. 4 Penn State to remain undefeated

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Kaitlyn Hord's emphatic .517 hitting performance (16 kills on 29 attempts) jumps out as a gem for No. 4 Penn State (5-1). But it wasn't enough to overthrow the top-ranked team in the country, as No. 1 Stanford (5-0) won its 37th straight match 3-1, tying the Cardinal with Florida (1996) for the sixth-longest win streak in NCAA DI women's volleyball history.

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Three aspects made this match very close, but it ultimately turned into a Stanford victory:

  1. Kathryn Plummer's slow start opened a pathway for Penn State's lone win in the first set.
  2. Penn State's fierce defense and Hord's electric night helped the Nittany Lions stay within reach of set victories.
  3. While Hord's performance was second-to-none, the overall Stanford team had an edge, outhitting Penn State .272-.226.

The first set was a back and forth scuffle, ending on Penn State's fourth set point — 29-27. Two-time AVCA National Player of the Year Plummer was silenced with zero kills and two attack errors until mid-first set. Her first kill cut Penn State's lead to 19-18 and enacted a strong resurgence in the Cardinal. But the Nittany Lions, led by Hord and her explosive .625 first set performance, out-battled a last-minute Stanford surge.

Stanford and Plummer woke up in the second set, evening the match with a 25-23 finish. Plummer gained more intensity and better accuracy on her attacks. Until that point, the Nittany Lions had not lost a set all season — the final team to do so. Starting 7-1 out of the gate, the Cardinal would not let up on control of the second set until near the very end, when Penn State tightened the Stanford lead to a point a few times. But Stanford closed out set No. 2 with a Plummer kill.

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The third and fourth set mirrored the second, going wire-to-wire, but Stanford took both, 25-23 and 25-21. 

Though Hord and Serena Gray (10 kills, .368 hitting) hit well for Penn State, the Lions' 65 digs kept also them close. In the end, however, Stanford had too much. Plummer had 18 kills on .217 hitting and Audriana Fitzmorris (18 kills, .341 hitting) and Madeleine Gates (10 kills, .450 hitting) were both efficient.

Friday's match showed Penn State's will to never give up. Three of the four sets were decided by two points. The Nittany Lions were never out of a set.

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What's next

Both teams continue in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge on Saturday, Sept. 14. Stanford faces No. 8 Minnesota at 5:30 p.m. ET (2:30 p.m. PT), while Penn State meets No. 10 Oregon for the 8 p.m. ET nightcap.

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