Penn State Women’s Volleyball Set for National Title Match

WVB1218
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Behind a career-high performance from junior Megan Courtney, fifth-seeded Penn State women’s volleyball (35-3) knocked off top-ranked Stanford (33-2) in four sets (25-16, 23-25, 25-22, 25-21) Thursday evening in Chesapeake Arena to advance to the NCAA national finals.

Making their 10th appearance in the national title match, the Nittany Lions are set to take on unseeded BYU (30-4) Saturday, Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m. ET. The matchup will broadcast live on ESPN2. Penn State enters Saturday’s contest with a 6-3 record in national final matches, seeking back-to-back titles for the first time since 2009-10.

Courtney powered the offense with a match-high 23 kills on .321 hitting, adding 16 kills for a double-double. She also finished second on the team with five blocks. Freshman Ali Frantti totaled 16 kills on .375 hitting, with two aces, while redshirt junior Aiyana Whitney tallied 10.

Senior Nia Grant led the blocking unit with seven total blocks, including one solo stuff. Senior Dominique Gonzalez posted her sixth 20+ dig performance of the season with a match-high 23 digs. Senior Lacey Fuller logged double-digit digs with 12. Senior Micha Hancock directed the offense to a .279 hitting percentage, dishing out 55 assists. She also contributed five kills on 11 errorless swings for a .455 hitting clip.

Penn State opened the match on a 5-0 streak on the strength of two kills from Frantti and an ace from Hancock, forcing Stanford to call an early timeout. The Cardinal came charging back with five unanswered points to tie the frame, 5-5. Whitney and Courtney put down back-to-back kills to go back up by two, 7-5, but a Stanford kill kept the Cardinal within one, 7-6.

Penn State responded with an 8-3 scoring stretch to pull ahead 15-9. Stanford looked to slow the momentum with a kill, 15-10, but Courtney and Frantti opened a 7-4 streak with a pair of kills to bring the Nittany Lions up by eight, 22-14. The Cardinal cut off the run with a kill, 22-15, but the Nittany Lions used a 3-1 stretch to secure a 25-16 win in the first set.

The Nittany Lions and the Cardinal fought back and forth in the opening portion of set two, until Stanford used a 5-1 run to break open a 10-all tie and move ahead by four, 15-11, heading into the media timeout. Stanford came out of the break with a kill, 16-11, but a service error moved Penn State within five, 16-11. Unable to capitalize on the error, the Cardinal used a 3-1 spurt to pull ahead by as many as six, 19-13, prompting Penn State to call a timeout.

Penn State came out of the break with a kill to trim the deficit to five, 19-14, but a service error and a Cardinal kill extended the Stanford lead to seven, 21-14, causing Penn State to use its final timeout of the frame. The Nittany Lions came out of the huddle with a kill from Whitney and back-to-back blocks from Grant and Courtney to shrink the gap to four, 21-17.

Penn State continued to rally, responding with a 5-1 streak powered by three kills from Courtney to knot the stanza, 22-22. Stanford followed with two consecutive kills to make it set point, 24-22, but Courtney held off the attempt with a kill, 24-23. Penn State could not complete the comeback as Stanford took set two, 25-23 to even the match, 1-1.

The Nittany Lions shot out to a 5-1 lead in set three before a trio of errors brought the Cardinal within one, 5-4. Whitney looked to keep Penn State on top with a kill, 6-4, but Stanford tallied four straight to take over a two-point lead, 8-6, causing Penn State to take a timeout. The Nittany Lions continued to trade points with the Cardinal, but remained one point shy of taking the lead.

Trailing by two, 18-16, Frantti and Grant put down two consecutive kills to spark a 4-0 run that lifted Penn State ahead by two, 20-18, forcing Stanford to use a timeout. The two teams continued to fight point-for-point, but Penn State battled to set point, 24-22, before a Cardinal net violation secured a 25-22 win in the third set to put Penn State ahead, 2-1 in the match.

Down by three in set four, 5-2, Courtney put an end to the Cardinal run with a kill, 5-3. Stanford surged ahead by four, 11-7, helped out by 6-4 stretch. Penn State responded with a 3-1 strike to arrive within two, 12-10, but an attack error broke up the rhythm. The Nittany Lions continued to rally, using a 4-0 run to take over a one-point lead, 14-13. The Cardinal followed with a kill to end the run, but Penn State answered with a 4-1 streak to move ahead by three, 18-15, forcing Stanford to call a timeout.

The Cardinal climbed within one with a 4-1 stretch, 20-19, but a kill from Whitney lifted the Nittany Lions ahead by two, 21-19. Penn State and Stanford continued to trade points, 22-21, until a Cardinal attack error and a kill from Washington made it set point, 24-21. A Stanford attack error closed out the frame, giving Penn State a 25-21 win in the fourth set and a 3-1 win in the match.


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