NCAA Semifinal Match Blog - FINAL: No. 5 Oregon 3, No. 1 Penn State 1

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NCAA Semifinal Practice Day Coverage

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Welcome to live match coverage of the top-seeded Nittany Lion women's volleyball team in the NCAA National Semifinals.

Take a look through the running blog from Penn State's 3-1 setback to Oregon in the NCAA semifinals inside the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.

Semifinal One - No. 3 Texas 3, Michigan 2
The third-seeded Texas Longhorns rallied from 2-1 down against unseeded Michigan for a thrilling five-set victory in the first semifinal on Thursday night.  Michigan played a tremendous match against the talented Longhorns, but Texas built an early lead in the fifth and never looked back.  Texas punched its ticket to the national championship for the first time since 2009 when the Longhorns fell to Penn State in Tampa.

Set One: Penn State 25, Oregon 21
The Nittany Lions started fast en route to a 7-3 lead before Oregon used its first timeout, but the Ducks battled back to square the match at 10-10.  From there, neither team led by more than one tally until a crucial solo block from freshman Megan Courtney put the Lions up 22-20 late in the set.  The Nittany Lions tallied three-straight blocks to make it 24-20 before Oregon answered.  Nonetheless, Katie Slay buried a kill to make it a 5-1 run to hand the Lions a 25-21 set victory.  The blocking was the difference in the first set, as Penn State out-blocked the Ducks 6-0.  Middle hitter Nia Grant led the way with four kills on .429 hitting.  As a team, the Lions hit .220 in the opening set.

Set Two: Oregon 30, Penn State 28
After a strong finish in the first set from the Nittany Lions, Oregon wasted little time grabbing a lead in the second.  The Ducks jumped out to a 3-0 advantage out of the gate before building a 9-4 edge.  On the Katherine Fischer kill that set the score at 9-4, Nittany Lion setter Micha Hancock came down on Katie Slay's foot.  Hancock had to leave the floor for 12 points, but returned.  While she was out senior Kristin Carpenter, who was the setter on the 2012 national title team, stepped in and did a nice job running the offense under the circumstances.  Oregon led by as much as 10 in the second before a four-point scoring burst from the Lions trimmed the lead down to six.  The Nittany Lion rally continued, and Penn State squared the match at 24-24 on a combined block from Scott and Grant.  In all, the Nittany Lions out-scored Oregon, 14-4 to tie the match.  Penn State had two set point chances, one at 25-24 and one at 26-25, but the Ducks held on en route to a 30-28 set victory.  Credit the Lions for a tremendous comeback in a set where they played a large chunk without first team All-American Micha Hancock on the floor.  Nevertheless, Oregon made big plays when it needed to and the score is tied at 1-1 heading into the intermission.

Set Three: Oregon 25, Penn State 22
The third set opened much like the second set ended with a tight margin on the scoreboard.  Oregon stretched the lead to three points (9-6) on a block.  Oregon led by as much as four, but the Lions did a nice job keeping the margin within striking distance.  In doing so, the Lions used four-straight tallies to claim a 20-19 edge late in the set.  However, two huge kills from Oregon outside hitter Katherine Fischer put the Ducks back on top, 21-20, before the Lions had an answer.  A passing error made it 22-20 Oregon, and Fischer followed with another clutch kill to set the margin at 23-20.  Penn State closed within one, but the Ducks were too much down the stretch.  Leading the match 2-1, Penn State heads into the fourth set needing to find a way to slow down Fischer and Brenner.  The Oregon duo has combined for 30 kills in the first three sets.  

Set Four: Oregon 25, Penn State 19
The Ducks saved their best set for what ended up being the last set of night.  Oregon came out firing on all cylinders in the fourth, grabbing a 9-3 lead on 1.000 hitting and three aces.  From there, the Ducks never looked back.  The set was tied at 1-1, but that would be as close as the Nittany Lions would get.  Oregon led by as much as 10 during the final frame.  Penn State closed to within five late, but Oregon's offensive attack was too much.  Looking at the final stats, Penn State out-blocked Oregon 19.5-10.0.  However, Oregon's quick-tempo offense led by 17 kills from Liz Brenner fueled the Ducks to their first NCAA championship match in program history.

Final Thoughts
The momentum turned in the second set on Thursday night in Louisville.  The Lions had chances to close out the set for a 2-0 lead, but Oregon made a series of big plays for the 30-28 victory.  Additionally, Hancock's left leg injury prevented her from getting off the floor like she normally does from the moment she returned mid-way through the second set until the end of the match.  Oregon took advantage of the Penn State's rotation when Hancock was across the front line and not able to block in her normal fashion.  Nonetheless, all the credit goes to the Ducks.  They played a superb match, making big play after big play when they needed to.  Oregon setter Lauren Plum was terrific running the offense.  Scott led the Lions with 18 kills.  Hometown hero Deja McClendon added 14 kills.  The Nittany Lions graduate two seniors who brought outstanding leadership to the program - Kristin Carpenter and Marika Racibarskas.  The Lions return their entire starting lineup from the 2012 team, including all four All-Americans.  Penn State finished the season 33-3 with a Big Ten title and its 10th appearance in the NCAA National Semifinals.  Coach Rose said after the match that the team will head into the offseason and learn from Thursday night's match and look to grow from it.  Congratulations to the Lions on a terrific season.  The future is very bright for the program moving forward.




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NCAA Semifinal Preview VIDEO:



Statistical Comparison:

 

Penn State

Oregon

Record

33-2

29-4

RPI

2

10

Team Hitting Percentage

.307

.296

Opponent Hitting Percentage

.127

.201

Blocks Per Set

3.00 per set

1.80 per set

Top Attacker

Scott - 3.73 kills/set

Bergsma - 4.93 kills/set

Top Blocker

Slay - 1.32 blocks/set

Finley - 0.76 blocks/set

Top Defensive Specialist

Gonzalez - 3.60 digs/set

Jacob - 4.46 digs/set



Stay tuned for live coverage from the KFC Yum! Center as the action transpires on match day in Louisville, including live updates after each set during the match.



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