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Nov. 14, 2008
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The top-ranked Penn State women's volleyball team set a new NCAA record for consecutive matches won, extending its streak to 53 with a three-game sweep of No. 17 Illinois (25-23, 25-17, 25-13) Friday night in Champaign, Ill. The Nittany Lions remain unbeaten at 27-0 and 15-0 in the Big Ten while the Fighting Illini fall to 19-7 and 10-5 in league action.
Junior outside hitter Megan Hodge (Durham, N.C.) led all players with a season-high 17 kills on .429 hitting as senior outside hitter Nicole Fawcett (Zanesfield, Ohio) posted 12 kills. Sophomore opposite Blair Brown (Purcellville, Ill.) contributed seven kills on .700 hitting without an error as sophomore middle hitter Arielle Wilson (Broadview, Ill.) notched six kills and senior middle hitter Christa Harmotto (Aliquippa, Pa.) posted four kills. As a team, Penn State hit .400, its eighth conference match of hitting .400 or better.
Junior setter Alisha Glass (Leland, Mich.) dished out 40 assists as Fawcett led the squad with 11 digs as Hodge and senior libero Roberta Holehouse (Joppa, Md.) each recorded nine digs and sophomore defensive specialist Cathy Quilico (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) posted seven digs. Penn State outdug Illinois 45-32.
The Nittany Lions also claimed the blocking battle, 13.0 to 3.0, led by Wilson with a season-high-tying nine blocks as Brown and Fawcett posted four apiece and Harmotto and Glass notched three each.
Illinois came out of the gates on fire in the first game, jumping up 3-0 on two kills and a Penn State error and then taking the 12-9 advantage on a block. The Nittany Lions responded with a block of their own from Harmotto and Glass and a Hodge kill pulled Penn State to within one at 12-11. But the Fighting Illini claimed the next three points to take the 15-11 advantage and force a Lion timeout. Out of the break, the teams traded kills twice and a Hodge kill down the line trimmed the gap to three at 17-14. The teams again twice exchanged points before a Quilico ace pulled Penn State to within two at 19-17 and forced an Illinois timeout. Out of the break, a Hodge kill down the line cut the gap to one at 19-18 and the squads traded points three times with a Glass tip to the corner pulling the Lions within one at 22-21. A Brown kill and an Illinois attack error swung the momentum and the score to Penn State, 23-22, and forced an Illini attack error. Out of the break Illinois committed another error to give the Lions the 24-22 advantage and Illinois responded with a kill to pull within one at 24-23. A monster Lion block by Brown and Wilson gave Penn State the game, 25-23. Hodge recorded seven kills for the Lions in the set as Fawcett chipped in five.
A Hodge and Wilson block and a Hodge kill gave Penn State the 7-5 lead in the second stanza. Two more Hodge kills coupled with an Illini attack error pushed the Lion lead to 10-6 and two kills from Harmotto and a Fawcett kill off the block pushed the Penn State advantage to 14-10. Kills from Fawcett and Wilson sandwiched an Illinois kill before a Brown kill and back to back Wilson and Brown blocks put the Nittany Lions ahead 19-12. Two Wilson kills and a Brown put-away pushed Penn State up 22-14 before a Hodge kill, a Fawcett and Harmotto block and an Illinois attack error gave the Nittany Lions the second game, 25-17. Hodge again led the Lions with five kills in the stanza as Wilson chipped in three put-aways. Fawcett led the defense with five digs in the set.
Penn State took the 5-2 lead in the third game with kills from Fawcett and Hodge after great defense by Harmotto and Quilico. A Hodge kill out of the backrow pushed the Lion lead to 7-4 and a Harmotto solo stuff made it 11-6. An Illinois attack error and another Hodge kill off the block gave Penn State the 13-6 advantage. A Fawcett kill made it 16-8 and sparked a 6-0 Penn State run encompassing three blocks, a Ream ace and a Wilson overpass kill to give the Nittany Lions the 21-8 advantage. An Illinois kill and two Lion errors pulled the Fighting Illini within 10 at 21-11 but a Fawcett kill halted the run. A Wilson kill pushed the score to 23-12 and a Hodge kill off a dig from Katie Kabbes made it 24-12. A Brown kill ended the game, 25-13.
Penn State travels to West Lafayette, Ind., to face No. 18 Purdue on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 7:00 p.m. ET. The contest will air on a tape-delay basis on Sunday, Nov. 16 at 8:00 p.m. ET.
For more information on the Penn State women's volleyball team, please visit www.GoPSUsports.com . The Penn State women's volleyball 2008 season is presented by Rockvale Outlets and The Outlets At Hershey.