PITTSBURGH, PA – No.15 Penn State improved to 23-0 all-time in the round of 64 of the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship, defeating Towson 3-1 (25-11, 25-27, 25-20, 25-21) on Friday at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh.
The Nittany Lions have improved to 21-10 overall and will face third-seeded and third-seeded Pitt in the second round on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. ET. The match will also be played at the Petersen Events Center. The Panthers advanced with a 3-0 (
Jonni parker helped Penn State fend off a persistent Towson team, finishing with 18 kills on .348 while adding 11 digs for their sixth double-double of the season. Kaitlyn hord had 11 eliminations and led all players with seven blocks, while Adanna rollins Joined her in double digits with 10 kills while adding eight digs and four blocks.
Meanwhile, fixer Gabby flower and libero Jenna hampton continued to perform at a high level in their respective roles. Blossom did a bit of everything, finishing with five assists, 47 assists and 11 digs for her 19e double-double of the season. And although the game is only four sets, Hampton tied a career-high with 27 digs. This is his third game with 27 digs this season. Two of them went four sets.
Penn State got off to a playoff start with a dominant 25-11 win in the first set. The Lions hit 0.407 behind 11 Blossom assists. First-year student Anjelina Starck, making his playoff debut, had four kills in seven error-free swings. Parker also had four wins.
Towson has been a strong defensive team all season, as evidenced by his 0.131 opposing strike percentage that placed fifth in the nation going into the game. So it was no surprise that Penn State was unable to maintain its .400 and above. The Tigers held the Lions at .123 in the second set and took advantage of four Lions serve errors to tie the game with a 27-25 victory.
Penn State got back on track in the third set, hitting 0.385 with 18 kills en route to a 25-20 victory and a 2-1 lead in the game. It was a team effort as six Lions combined for those 18 kills. Rollins led the way with four hits in 0.429 and added six digs to the set, while Hord had four from seven.
Rollins took the victory in the third set with a stretch that she almost singlehandedly gave Penn State a cushion halfway through the set. With the Lions leading 15-13, Rollins contributed the team’s next five points with four assists and one assist with Hord to put his team ahead 20-15.
A solid defensive effort from the back row sealed the game with a 25-21 victory in the fourth set. Hampton recorded eight of the team’s 20 digs to help keep Towson 0.158 to hit. Penn State trailed 11-10 but chased a 3-0 run with a Rollins kill and two Hord kills to go 13-11. The Tigers fought back to regain the lead at 17-16 before the Lions went on 4-0 this time around. Much of that damage was self-inflicted by the Tigers with two attack errors, a serve error and a Penn State serve ace by Starck.
Another late-set attacking mistake from Towson gave Penn State a 24-18 lead. On their fourth chance at match point, the Lions advanced into the tournament with a Rollins kill.
Towson, who was in his third straight NCAA tournament after winning both the regular season and CAA tournament titles, finished the season at 26-5 overall. Nina Cajic reached 0.333 with 10 kills and seven digs. Lydia Wiers tallied seven blocks, while Rachel Hess led the team with 17 digs.
Penn State and Towson met in the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons. The Lions beat the Tigers in four sets at Rec Hall in the second round in 2019.
Friday’s victory marked the 106e career victory in the NCAA Division I women’s volleyball championship for Penn State head coach Russ rose. He is more than any coach in history.