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Penn State Women's Volleyball Knocks Off No. 1 Minnesota

by on October 05, 2016 10:21 PM

Russ Rose’s Nittany Lions welcomed No. 1 Minnesota to town for a Wednesday night White Out and by far their biggest match of the season to date. No. 15 Penn State (13-3, 5-0 Big Ten) pulled off an enormous 3-2 upset (29-27, 21-25, 23-25, 25-14, 15-10) over the Golden Gophers to blow the roof off Rec Hall.

During the national anthem, students from the Penn State chapter of the NAACP sat in protest with one fist raised in the air. “We sit in solidarity with all of those who are taking a stance against police brutality and racial discrimination,” the chapter said in a release Tuesday.

How It Happened

Hugh McCutcheon’s top-ranked Golden Gophers (12-2, 4-1 Big Ten) shot out of the gates with a flurry of early points, even taking a 13-5 lead, but Penn State had no intentions of falling behind from the start. Juniors Simone Lee and Haleigh Washington led a furious rally that saw the Nittany Lions eventually tie things up for the first time at 22-22. Lee would put the team on her back with a ridiculous nine kills in the first set, including the last six points of a marathon 29-27 victory for Penn State. Noise in Rec Hall was downright deafening as the Nittany Lions pulled off an incredible comeback to take the 1-0 lead.

Both sides carried over the intensity from the first set, as Penn State and Minnesota were deadlocked at 13-13 before the Golden Gophers orchestrated a timely 5-1 run on their way to a big 25-21 second-set victory to tie things up at 1-1. Senior outside hitter Sarah Wilhite paced the Minnesota offense with nine kills through the first two sets. She would go on to lead the maroon and gold with 16 kills and 16 digs on the night.

The Golden Gophers outblocked Penn State 6-3 during the same span, but the ladies in blue and white owned a commanding 39-27 advantage in the kills department thanks to a ridiculous 16 from Lee. Washington would join Lee in double-digits in the third set and would go on to post 14 when the final whistle blew. Washington would go on to post 14 kills. With the third set tied up at 22-22, the Golden Gophers delivered three straight points to hand Penn State a tough 25-22 loss and go up 2-1 in the match.

Despite going down 7-2 right off the bat, Penn State stood strong under pressure as Heidi Thelen and Ali Frantti reached double figures during a clutch stretch to claw all the way back and take a sizeable lead. They would finish with 14 and 13 kills, respectively. Frantti had a strong showing on the defensive end as well with 13 digs. The Nittany Lions would rattle off an unbelievable 23-7 run on their way to a 25-14 victory to force a fifth and deciding set. Frantti’s back-to-back kills to give Penn State an 8-6 lead prompted a thunderous roar from the Rec Hall faithful. The Nittany Lions turned on the jets and didn’t look back, knocking off the top team in the land 15-10 for a huge conference upset.

Junior setter Abby Detering put together an outstanding night with a career-high 61 assists, 10 digs, five kills, and three service aces. Freshman libero Kendall White would finish one dig shy of her career-high with 21 against the Golden Gophers, while sophomore defensive specialist Keeton Holcomb added seven digs of her own and three assists. Middle blocker Tori Gorrell’s five blocks, three kills, and an assist rounded out the scoring for Penn State.

Player Of The Match

Simone Lee | Junior | Outside hitter

The Menomonee Falls, Wis., native was phenomenal all night long and would go on to post a career-high 30 kills. She added six digs and a pair of blocks in the victory.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will return to Rec Hall this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. to host Rutgers following the football team’s Homecoming tilt across campus with Maryland. Penn State swept the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway, N.J., earlier this season.


Ethan Kasales is a Lemont native and staff writer for Onward State.
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