No. 1 Penn State Fights Off Blue Devils for 3-0 Triumph
The top-ranked Penn State women's volleyball team has improved to 9-0 on the season with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-17, 25-15) sweep of Duke Saturday evening at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Nittany Lions are now 9-0 all-time against the Blue Devils. Penn State has extended its NCAA-record winning streak to 73 consecutive matches.
Senior Megan Hodge (Durham, N.C.) led all players with 19 kills on .655 hitting and also posted a team-best six blocks. Junior Brown Blair was the only other Nittany Lions in double-digit kills tallying 12. Brown was one of three players with five total blocks. Senior setter Alisha Glass paced the Penn State offense with 38 assists. Junior libero Alyssa D'Errico (Byron, N.Y.) recorded a match-high 13 digs and juniors Arielle Wilson (Broadview, Ill.) and Fatima Balza (Merida, Venezuela) put up five blocks apiece.
Penn State outblocked the Blue Devils 11.5-2.0 and recorded 47 kills to their 29. The Nittany Lions also totaled 39 digs, while Duke recorded 26.
Hodge was named the Duke Invitational Most Valuable Player, while D'Errico was selected as the Outstanding Libero. Glass and Brown were both named to the All-Tournament team. Joining the Nittany Lions was Duke's Becci Burling and Kellie Catanach, Charleston's Ginny Phillips and Loyola's Nina Camioni.
It was a close set from the start with six ties and three lead changes. Despite getting off to a slim 3-1 lead, two PSU errors would have the Blue Devils tying the set at 3-3. The two teams went back and forth until back-to-back kills from Brown gave Penn State a 7-5 edge. The Blue Devils would tie it up at 10-10 and again at 11-11, but a big kill from freshman Darcy Dorton (Muncie, Ind.) and a block by Hodge and Balza gave Penn State the spark it needed to take control of the set. Duke managed to fight within one point three times, but strong play from Wilson kept the Blue Devils at bay. With the score at 17-14 in favor of the Nittany Lions, a kill by Blue Devil Amanda Robertson put Duke within two. A Blue Devil service error and a Balza kill increased the Penn State lead to four, 19-15. However, Duke worked to within two, 20-18 after a kill from Catanach and a PSU attack error. Kills from Dorton and Hodge gave Penn State some breathing room at 22-18 and forced Duke to take a timeout. Becci Durling responded for Duke following the timeout with a kill, but a monster swing by Hodge sent the Blue Devils back to the bench. The Blue Devils notched two consecutive kills, but Brown and Hodge secured a set one, 25-21, win for the Nittany Lions.
The Blue Devils were not going to be tamed easily and did not allow Penn State to break away early. The two teams tied eight times within the first half of the frame. The Blue Devils took a 3-1 lead early before a kill from Brown and a Hodge/Wilson block tied the score 4-4. Penn State registered a service error to put Duke back in front, but Hodge tied it up at 5-5 after a nice set by Glass. Soon after three Brown kills had Penn State ahead, 14-11, and Duke took a timeout in hopes of slowing PSU's momentum. Brown and Hodge joined forces for a block following the short break, but Duke's Sophia Dunworth fired back with a kill to keep the Blue Devils within three, 15-12. Duke fought back to within one, 16-15, after a kill from Burling and a PSU error, but an ace and kill from Hodge and another kill from Wilson had the Nittany Lions back up by four, 19-15. Duke took a second timeout, but three kills by Hodge and one each from Wilson and Dorton gave Penn State a 2-0 lead in the match.
Penn State took a 7-0 lead in the third set before the Blue Devils registered a kill to get on the board. Duke handed the ball right back to PSU, however, with a service error. Despite a kill from Sophia Dunworth, two consecutive kills from Hodge made Duke take a timeout. The Blue Devils failed to slow Penn State and the Nittany Lions were soon ahead 19-5 after Brown served seven straight points. Two Penn State errors and a Duke ace seemed to give the Blue Devils some hope, but Hodge shut off the push with a monster kill for a 20-8 lead. A kill by Wilson and a Duke service error pushed Penn State closer to a sweep, but back-to-back Duke kills had Penn State taking a timeout. Following the timeout, Brown and Glass secured a 25-15 third set win with two kills.
Penn State is back on the road on Friday, Sept. 18 for a match at Temple. Action is set to begin at 7 p.m. The Nittany Lions will return home for two matches on Saturday, Sept. 19. Up first is Saint Francis (Pa.) at 10 a.m. with another match with Temple following at 7:30 p.m. Both matches will be played at Rec Hall with live stats, audio and video available via a link at www.GoPSUsports.com.