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Rec Hall Lifts Nittany Lions Past Spartans

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By Tom Shively, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It is tradition at Rec Hall for the crowd to rise to their feet whenever Penn State has a set point opportunity. Tonight a few of those fans in the stands probably have some sore calves after a four-set win against Michigan State. 

The No. 2 Nittany Lions had seven set point opportunities in the third set after a furious rally from the No. 10 Spartans, holding on for a wild finish. Nia Reed had the final two kills for the Nittany Lions in the third set, capping a dramatic swing of emotions and securing a 30-28 Penn State win.

Despite allowing Michigan State to stay alive in the set after taking a 24-22 lead, the Nittany Lions never wavered in their confidence, proving why they are one of the premier teams in the nation.

"We were just focused on our side to finish the game," setter Abby Detering said. "You can't worry about what the other team is doing. If they get a point, great. We have to come back and finish."

Heidi Thelen had two monster kills back-to-back to provide a huge energy boost for the Nittany Lions in the third set. Her kills gave the Nittany Lions an 18-13 lead at the time and forced Michigan State to call a timeout. She finished with nine kills on the night.

"I thought Heidi was huge for us in that third set," head coach Russ Rose said.

The Nittany Lions and Spartans traded blows in the first two sets, with Penn State cruising to a 25-18 victory in the first set while Michigan State took the second, 25-15. Both teams hit above .400 in the sets that they won and below .100 in the sets they lost. 

"It was a tale of two different teams," Rose said. "Our effort was good in the first game and theirs was really good in the second game. Both teams battled in the third game."

After winning the aforementioned marathon third set, the Nittany Lions seemed to wear down the Spartans in the fourth. Penn State jumped out to a 7-1 lead and led the whole way through, winning 25-18.

Simone Lee led the way for the Nittany Lions with 17 kills and Haleigh Washington added 15 at a .433 clip. Autumn Bailey paced the Spartans with 17 kills.

The Spartans have had success on the road against top five teams on the road already this season, including back-to-back victories at then-No. 5 Wisconsin and then-No. 1 Minnesota to start conference play.

"Based on the results they've had to date, we knew Michigan State was very good," Rose said. "They certainly didn't disappoint with how they played and competed. I think they're terrific and I'm pretty pleased that we battled back."

The win moves Penn State into a tie with the Nebraska Cornhuskers atop the Big Ten standings at 6-1 in conference play as Michigan State falls to 5-2 in the conference losing for only the second time in the last nine games.

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