PSU sweeps in first round
UNIVERSITY PARK — Eighth-ranked Penn State won its opening match of the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament for the 30th consecutive season with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-19) victory over Princeton on Friday night at Rec Hall.
The Nittany Lions, who improved to 25-5 overall, will play Towson in the Second Round today at 6:30 p.m., at Rec Hall. The Tigers, who are 29-2 record and won the CAA regular season and tournament titles, opened the tournament with a 3-2 (25-23, 15-25, 25-22, 22-25, 15-12) win over American.
Jonni Parker led a trio of Penn State players with double-digit kills, finishing with a match-high 14 on .312 hitting. Serena Gray tallied 11 kills on .450 hitting, while Kaitlyn Hord hit .444 with 10 kills. Tori Gorrell, who led the team in kills in each of the previous three matches to close out the regular season, contributed nine against the Tigers.
Gabby Blossom registered a double-double with 39 assists, while Kendall White led all players with 13 digs. White has 1,955 for her career and needs just three more to set the program’s all-time record.
Jenna Hampton put together a solid performance in the back row in the win, finishing with nine digs.
Maggie O’Connell, a senior who led Princeton to three Ivy League titles, was outstanding in her final match with the Tigers. She hit a match-high .562 with 10 kills and just one error on 16 swings.
“I want to recognize the season that Princeton had, especially their four seniors that played so well together and won three Ivy Championships,” Penn State coach Russ Rose said. “It’s a very tough team to play against. They have a great skill set. They are calm and we needed to weather the various tactical things that they do really well.”
Princeton kept it close throughout the match. The Tigers jumped out to a 6-1 lead in set three and led as late as 16-15 before Penn State took control. The Lions took a 17-16 lead on back-to-back kills by Gray and didn’t trail the rest of the way. Hord and Gorrell closed the match with kills on consecutive points.
Penn State is a perfect 22-0 in the NCAA First Round since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1998. All 22 of those matches were played at Rec Hall.
The Lions, who are the No. 11 overall seed in the tournament, had four aces against Princeton, including two from Blossom and one each from Gray and White. They will now play a Towson team that gave up nine aces in its match with American.