Second-Ranked Lions Down Illini, Wildcats in Home Weekend

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By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions love to play volleyball in Rec Hall.

No. 2 Penn State picked up two more conference wins at home this weekend to extend their unbeaten streak to 21 wins on their home court. The Lions have not dropped a match in Rec Hall for more than two years now, and have won all 13 of their home matches this season.

8264787.jpegHead coach Russ Rose said that Penn State added another accolade to its list by defeating Illinois on Thursday night in Rec Hall.

"It was a Thursday night match and it was the first one we've ever had," said Rose. "It was a challenge."

But the Lions looked as comfortable as ever and completely in their element as they skated to a three-set victory of the Illini behind tough serving and solid defense. The team continued the trend on Saturday night and swept Northwestern, too.

With the pair of wins, Penn State improved its conference record to 15-1 overall and sit atop the Big Ten leader board with a three-game cushion over next closest opponent Minnesota, who comes in at 12-4.

"Let's try to be the best team that we can be and try to compete at the highest level," Rose said after his team's second win in three days.

And the Lions did just what their coach suggested.

As a team, Penn State combined for an average hitting percentage of .309 and tallied nine service aces and 20 blocks in the two contests.

Sophomore setter Micha Hancock registered three of those nine aces for the Lions. And although she wasn't the one serving up aces, junior outside hitter Deja McClendon said that being on the court when her teammate gets a big ace is a pretty big deal.

"These are our sisters," said McClendon. "When she gets an ace, I get an ace and that's what it feels like for me so I get extra pumped up."

But when Penn State isn't getting energized about aces and tough serving, they're probably smiling about another key part of the game.

"Getting a big block, no matter who it is, is definitely one of the most exciting things," said junior right-side hitter Ariel Scott.

Freshman outside hitter Megan Courtney agreed with Scott, and said that she'd take a big block over a big kill any day. Courtney had four block assists and three solo blocks on the weekend to lead her team at the net, but assured that her tough play wasn't always guaranteed.

"I think I was just feeling it," said Courtney."I try to make the best move that I possibly can. I guess coach says it a lot that you can have the best block in the world and then you just get lucky sometimes and I guess I just got really lucky."

The Lions said that they are looking to stay confident and consistent in their remaining four matches to round out their regular-season schedule and conference play. Penn State needs to win two more conference matches to claim the Big Ten title this season. 

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