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Dec. 7, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Behind a match-high offensive performance from sophomore Megan Courtney, the No. 2 Penn State women's volleyball team (30-2) knocked off Utah (21-13) in straight-sets (25-14, 25-15, 25-11) Saturday evening to advance to the Regional Semifinals of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The victory extends the current Nittany Lion winning streak to 21 consecutive matches and stretches the PSU all-time record in the tournament to 79-26.
Sophomore Megan Courtney powered the offense with 17 kills on .556 hitting, marking a career-high for the outside hitter in NCAA Tournament matches. Courtney recorded at least four kills in each set and tallied eight in the third set alone.
Senior Deja McClendon registered nine kills, while continuing her stellar performance from the back row, posting a match-high 16 digs. Senior Ariel Scott finished third on the team in kills, logging eight, while also totaling four digs and one block. Senior Katie Slay led the blocking effort, contributing five blocks and five kills on .500 hitting.
"I told the seniors that I thought tonight was their senior night, not the activity I sat through a week or two ago," head coach Russ Rose said. "I was very pleased with the way the seniors stepped up tonight and played really well."
Penn State shot out to an 8-2 advantage early in the first set, paced by three kills from both Slay and McClendon. The Utes attempted to spark some offensive momentum with a kill, but the Nittany Lions answered with a 5-1 streak to extend the lead to nine, 13-4.
Utah trimmed the deficit to seven, 14-7, with a 3-1 burst but PSU wasted no time rebuilding the lead, using a 7-2 strike to move ahead by as many as 12, 21-9. Using a late 4-2 run, the Utes managed to cut the advantage back to 10, 23-13, but a bad set put Courtney at the line for set-point, 24-13. Utah held off just one attempt before Grant put down a kill to secure a 25-14 win the opening set.
The Nittany Lions stormed out to another solid advantage in the second set, claiming an early 8-3 lead. Utah broke up the rhythm with a pair of kills, but Penn State continued the balanced attack, scoring the next six consecutive points to move ahead by nine, 14-5. Courtney led the charge with four kills during the scoring streak.
Regrouping, Utah put together a 5-1 run to close the gap to five, 15-10. Penn State responded with a 5-2 attack to maintain an eight-point advantage, 20-12. The Utes made one final attempt at a comeback with two consecutive kills, but the Nittany Lions closed out the set with a 5-1 stretch to take a 25-15 win in the second stanza and a 2-0 lead in the match.
Following the intermission, PSU opened the third frame on a 4-1 run. The Utes moved within two with a pair of kills, 5-3, but Penn State doubled its advantage with a 7-3 streak that vaulted the Nittany Lions ahead, 12-6. Utah continued to battle, fighting within seven, 18-11, but Penn State answered with the next seven consecutive points to lock up a 25-11 win in the third set and a straight-set victory.
Next up, Penn State travels to Lexington, KY. to take on the winner of the Kentucky vs. Michigan State match in the Regional Semifinals, which will be held on Dec. 13th.