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Penn State Women’s Volleyball Sweeps Princeton in NCAA Tournament Opener

by on December 06, 2019 11:21 PM

Penn State women’s volleyball (25-5, 17-3 Big Ten) began the 2019 NCAA Tournament with a bang, sweeping Princeton at Rec Hall Friday night.

Jonni Parker recorded a match-high 14 kills in the 25-19, 25-20, 25-19 win over the Tigers.

How It Happened

Head coach Russ Rose’s starting seven featured outside hitters Jonni Parker and Tori Gorrell, middle blockers Serena Gray and Kaitlyn Hord, setter Gabby Blossom, defensive specialist Keeton Holcomb, and libero Kendall White.

Penn State got off to a rough start against Princeton thanks to all-around sloppy play, including two service errors and seven hitting errors. The Nittany Lions eventually got their act together and pulled out a close 25-21 opening-frame win.

They followed up a sloppy first game with an incredibly clean second. The Nittany Lions hit an even .500 as a team and recorded just two hitting errors en route to a 25-20 win.

Princeton jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in set three, but Penn State eventually climbed back to take its first lead of the frame at 17-16. A great deal of back-and-forth action ensued between both teams, but the Nittany Lions tightened up their play and came out on top 25-19.

Gray turned in one of her best performances of the season against Princeton — an especially significant feat considering she missed the majority of last year’s postseason due to injury. Rose noted how significant getting her back would be, and that proved true when she posted 11 kills on .450 hitting as well as two blocks and an ace.

“I thought Serena [Gray] served really well,” Rose said. “In the third game when we were coming back, I thought she had real good service pressure. I think she’s one of our better servers. For sure, Serena’s serve is one of our weapons.”

Despite Gray’s impressive performance, it was Parker who led Penn State’s offense against Princeton. The sensational sophomore tallied a match-high 14 kills on .312 hitting as well as seven digs and an assisted block.

White recorded 13 digs in the sweep over the Tigers, bringing her career total up to 1,955. She now needs just three more to pass Kaleena Walters and become Penn State’s all-time digs leader.

Rose took time in his postgame press conference to voice his displeasure with the NCAA’s tournament organization, citing concerns that long-running matches can prevent following teams from preparing to their liking. Towson and American opened the evening at 5 p.m. with a five-set match won by Towson. Penn State-Princeton was scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start.

“It’s always a challenge getting started after another match goes long like that,” Rose said. “[It] cuts into your timeframe of preparation… It [doesn’t] make sense that one team has an hour to get onto the floor and one team has 30 minutes. It just doesn’t make sense.”

The victory over Princeton improved Penn State’s all-time record against the Tigers to 8-2. The Nittany Lions haven’t lost to Princeton since 1977 when they dropped two matches, and remain undefeated in NCAA Tournament openers.

Player Of The Match

Serena Gray | Middle Blocker

Gray couldn’t have asked for a better true postseason debut than tonight’s performance. The standout sophomore recorded 11 kills on .450 hitting in addition to two total blocks and an ace.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will play Towson, which defeated American 3-2 Friday night, in the next round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday at Rec Hall. First serve against the Tigers is set for 6:30 p.m.



Matt DiSanto is a Penn State student and writer for Onward State.
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