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Dec. 20, 2013
SEATTLE -No. 2 Penn State (33-2) powered past No. 3 Washington (30-3) in straight sets (25-14, 25-13, 25-16) Thursday evening in KeyArena, earning a spot in the NCAA national finals. The Nittany Lions will now take on No. 12 Wisconsin (28-9) in the first all-Big Ten national final in NCAA history.
"I thought we handled the ball really well, had a really solid game plan, and the seniors and Micha played a great match." head coach Russ Rose said. "When you control the ball, it gives you opportunities to do some things."
Seniors Deja McClendon and Ariel Scott led the offense with a pair of double-digit kill performances. McClendon recorded a double-double, recording a match-high 11 kills and 13 digs. Scott totaled 10 kills on 18 errorless swings, posting a .556 hitting clip. Senior Katie Slay followed closely behind with eight kills, registering a team-high four blocks. Junior Nia Granttallied six kills, while also tying for first on the team with four blocks, including one solo stuff. Junior Micha Hancock tallied five kills, adding six digs and three aces, dishing out 39 assists.
As a team, Penn State outhit Washington .488 to .117, notching their second best hitting performance of the season. The Nittany Lions also held the Huskies to their lowest point total of the season (43).
Trailing by three, 7-4, early in the first frame, Scott and McClendon pounded a pair of kills in between a Huskie kill to make it 6-8. Washington continued to pull away, using two consecutive kills to move ahead by as many as four, 10-6. Rallying, Penn State responded with a 6-1 run to claim a one-point lead, 12-11, forcing Washington to call a timeout.
Following the break, the Nittany Lions continued to roll, using a 9-1 strike to grow the lead as high as nine points, 21-12. UW attempted to settle into an offensive rhythm with a kill, but PSU continued to surge ahead, closing out the frame on a 4-1 run to secure a 25-14 win in the opening set.
Clinging to a one-point lead, 5-4, in the third, the Nittany Lions used a 3-0 spurt to double the advantage, 8-4, forcing the Huskies to use their first timeout of the frame. After the break, junior Lacey Fullerfired an ace, followed by a kill from Courtney to make it 10-4. Washington attempted to spark some momentum off of a kill and a PSU error, but the Nittany Lions responded with ma 4-1 strike to bolster the lead to seven, 14-7.
Later in the stanza, UW managed to shave the advantage to six, 16-10, but Penn State remained in control, using a 7-2 streak, capped off by kills from Hancock and Grant to go up 23-12. Battling back, the Huskies tallied the next three points to close the gap to eight, 23-15. Hancock cut off the comeback attempt with a kill to make it match-point, 24-15. Washington held off the attempt with a kill, but Slay pounded one final kill to seal a 25-16 win in set three and a straight-set victory.
The Nittany Lions and the Badgers will meet in the NCAA national finals Saturday, Dec. 21 at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.