UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following two wins on the road against Purdue and Indiana, the Nittany Lions returned home to Rec Hall this weekend to welcome Big Ten conference opponents, Michigan and Michigan State. Penn State continued to build on momentum from the road matches to finish the weekend off with two victories.
Though most of Happy Valley was concerned about Saturday's White Out, the volleyball team focused on a different color. Penn State teamed up with Side-Out Foundation in Friday evening's match against Michigan to feature the annual "Dig Pink" match in support of breast cancer research.
Established in 2004, the Side-Out Foundation is a support and advocacy organization that unites volleyball players and coaches to have them work toward the common goal of furthering breast cancer awareness, education, and patient services.
Friday was the seventh consecutive year that Penn State has held the "Dig Pink" match, and they have raised nearly $6,000 for the Side-Out Foundation.
"I think it's important for all the players to get involved in different causes," said head coach Russ Rose. "I think it's something that gets a lot of people and it's great that we're part of a special evening."
Freshman Haleigh Washington echoed her coach in support of breast cancer awareness.
"I think it was fun and I thought it was nice that [us and Michigan] were all united in a cause," said Washington. "Michigan had pink on their warmup [jerseys], too, and it was kind of interesting to see that even though we're two opponents playing against each other, we are still united in a cause, and there are still things that brings us together as a community. It was inspiring and it was energetic and it was fun."
The Nittany Lions swept Michigan in three sets (25-18, 25-16, 25-16) in front of the biggest home crowd the team has seen all season. The crowd also came out to support the cause for breast cancer awareness as it was impossible to look anywhere without seeing any pink. The atmosphere was filled pink pom-poms, rally towels, wrecking crew hats, and pink T-shirts.
"I thought [the energy] was ecstatic," said Washington. "I love having a big crowd. I think it's fun. I think it makes Rec Hall even more home...The support is awesome because you know that whether you're hitting the ball into the net or bouncing the ball at the 10-foot line, the [crowd's] got your back and they're ready to support you. It's awesome."
Teammate and fellow freshman Ali Frantti played in her first "Dig Pink" match alongside Washington and had a great time.
"It was a big crowd tonight and I think it was just fun," said Frantti.
Frantii and Washington were huge components in Friday's match as they each recorded double-digit kills. Frantti had 15 kills on .429 kitting and Washington had 10 kills on .421 hitting, while also logging four blocks.
"I love playing with Haleigh, especially," said Frantti. "She's passionate and I would be off without her."
Penn State took on Michigan State Saturday evening and came out with its 20th victory of the season with a sweep (26-24, 25-17, 25-21).
Senior Micha Hancock recorded 33 assists, five digs, four kills, and a match-high of four aces.
Redshirt junior Aiyana Whitney led the team with 12 kills on .364 hitting and Frantti got 11 kills on .409 hitting.
There are 10 more matches in the conference season, but there is still much to be done.
"As Coach Paterno used to say, 'You're not as good as you think you are when you win or as bad as you think you are when you lose,'" said coach Rose.
Penn State will have a quick turnaround with Ohio State coming to Rec Hall on Tuesday for an 8 p.m.