The No. 1 Penn State women’s volleyball team earned it 13th NCAA Semifinal Appearance with a sweep of No. 12 Michigan State, 3-0; 25-23, 25-17, 28-26, in the University Park Regional Final on Saturday evening inside of Rec Hall on Penn State’s campus.
Penn State trailed late in the opening set, falling behind 18-14 to the Spartans. However, the grit and determination of the senior-laden Penn State squad saw the match even up at 19’s, and then take the lead when Haleigh Washington (Colorado Springs, Co.) recorded back-to-back solo blocks to give Penn State the advantage. From there, the Nittany Lions would go on to take the set, 25-23.
In the second set, Penn State jumped on the Spartans early, taking a commanding 12-4 lead. Late in the second, MSU went on a 5-1 run and closed the gap to 23-17, but that was the closest the Spartans would come, as Penn State strung together a kill from Bryanna Weiskircher (Rockford, Ill.) and Heidi Thelen (Edgewood, Ky.).
Heading into the break, Michigan State knew they were going to have to fight, and they came out swinging. The Spartans put down 19 kills in the final set, but it was not enough to stifle the Nittany Lions, who hit .317 in the final set, and saw Thelen go off for five kills on seven attempts to spark Penn State to a gutsy, 28-26, final set win.
Simone Lee (Menomonee Falls, Wis.) was named the Most Outstanding Player of the University Park Regional, and she finished the evening with a double-double, leading the team with 12 kills, adding 10 digs, and three blocks.
Thelen finished the match with nine kills and a match-best .643 hitting percentage. She also added four blocks and two digs.
Ali Frantti (Spring Grove, Ill.) earned a spot on the University Park Regional All-Tournament Team as she finished the match with eight kills and 10 digs. She also added a block.
Penn State’s third University Park Regional All-Tournament Team honoree went to Washington. While she finished with just five kills, Washington added an impressive 10 blocks, tying her season high. She also added two digs and an ace.
Fellow middle blocker Tori Gorrell added four kills on a .571 clip while tallying three blocks.
Penn State saw its offense orchestrated by setters Abby Detering (Mentor, Ohio) and Bryanna Weiskircher. Detering finished with 21 assists, adding six digs, four kills, and two blocks. Weiskircher finished with 19 assists, seven digs, and a kill.
Kendall White (Indianapolis, Ind.) finished the game with a match-high 18 digs.
Penn State finished the match with a 14.0-8.0 blocking advantage while holding MSU to just .149 on the attack.
The Nittany Lions have now secured a spot in the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship Semifinal as they are slated for another Big Ten matchup. Penn State will face Nebraska on December 14. The time is still to be determined.