No. 4 Penn State Wins Five-Set Thriller to Split Weekend Series with No. 6 Pitt
The Top-10 Teams Played Each Other Twice in Three Days
PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The strength of collegiate volleyball in Pennsylvania was on display for the second time in three days on Sunday as No. 4 Penn State outlasted No. 6 Pitt for a 3-2 (28-26, 21-25, 25-21, 20-25, 16-14) win in front of a Panthers’ home-record crowd of 5,195 at the Petersen Events Center.
Penn State avenged a 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh at Rec Hall on Friday. The Lions improved to 7-2 overall while playing their fourth consecutive match against a top-10 opponent. The Panthers lost for the first time this season, dropping to 11-1 while having their 17-match regular season winning streak come to an end.
Gabby Blossom had a huge day for the Nittany Lions, finishing with 46 assists, 17 digs, and five total blocks. Jonni Parker (17), Allyson Cathey (15), and Serena Gray (10) all totaled double-digit kills, while Kendall White recorded 16 digs.
After slow starts in each of the previous three sets, Penn State came out on fire to start set five. The Lions jumped out to a 4-0 lead thanks in part to two plays by Gray – a kill and a block alongside Blossom. They never trailed in the set but did see their lead disappear as the Panthers tied it at 12-all, 13-all, and 14-all. Cathey put the Lions up one with a kill and then served for the match-clinching point on an attack error by the Panthers.
The thrilling fifth set was possible because of a huge comeback in set three. Penn State was in danger of going down 2-1 in the match as it fell behind by seven, 8-1, to start the set. It only took to the midway point for the Lions to close the gap as they knotted the score at 13-all and then took a two-point lead with a kill by Parker and an attack error by Pitt.
The Lions pulled away late in the third set, scoring four of the final five points for a 25-21 win. Gray had a block during that stretch and clinched the set with an ace. Freshman Lauren Clark stepped up with a clutch solo block that put her team up 23-20.
It was a defensive battle overall as Penn State hit just .112 for the match and held Pittsburgh to .153 hitting. The Nittany Lions turned to their serve and blocking for points, finishing with a season-high seven aces and a season-best 17 blocks.
Parker led the way with three aces. Gray added two, while Cathey and Emily Sciorra each chipped in with one.
The blocking was a total team effort that was spearheaded by Gray and Kaitlyn Hord with six apiece. Cathey added four.
Kayla Lund paced Pittsburgh with 23 kills and 17 digs but was held to .207 hitting. No Panthers player hit over .300 with at least three kills in the match. That was a stark contrast to Friday’s match when Ndee Chinaza tallied 12 kills on .611 hitting and Stephanie Williams had nine kills with a .412 clip.
The Lions have won 17 of the last 18 meetings dating back to 1987 in the series with the Panthers.
Penn State now turns its attention to Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions host Michigan State on Wednesday at 8 p.m., in a match that will air live on FS1.