It was a clean sweep for Penn State women’s volleyball on opening weekend, as they finished with a 3-0 record against UConn, Loyola-Maryland and West Virginia.
After falling in the first set of Game 1 against Loyola, Penn State responded with wins in three consecutive sets, before beating West Virginia by a score of 3-1 to move to 3-0 on the year.
Meeting for the first time since 2009, Penn State got off to a hot start in the first set as a Maddy Bilinovic service ace and Zoe Weatherington block gave the Nittany Lions a 10-5 lead and a five-point scoring run.
The back and forth play continued in the first set as Loyola took a 17-15 lead with strong play at the net. After some Penn State miscues, Loyola went on a 4-0 run, winning the first set 25-22.
The two teams played evenly throughout the second set, until Kashauna Williams picked up her first kill as a Nittany Lion and Bilinovic picked up her third service ace of the match, giving Penn State a 13-8 lead in the second set.
Taylor Trammell led the charge for Penn State as it dominated play late in the second set, earning an 18-11 lead. After a Loyola error at the net, Penn State won the second set 25-17.
Penn State continued their momentum from the second set into the third set, jumping out to an early 11-6 lead with booming kills from Williams and Weatherington.
Despite Loyola cutting into the Penn State lead, the Nittany Lions went on a 4-0 scoring run, winning the pivotal third set 25-18.
Early in the fourth set, Loyola was not going to go away lightly. After finding itself down 10-5, Penn State needed an answer. They responded with a 4-0 scoring run and more dominance by Weatherington, bringing the match back within one.
With more dominant play at the net by Allie Holland, Seleisa Elisaia, and Williams, Penn State won the fourth set 25-17, finishing the game on a 12-1 scoring run.
In Game 2 against West Virginia, Penn State got off to a flying start, taking a commanding 14-5 lead thanks to a pair of scoring runs and strong play from Anjelina Starck.
Penn State continued to dominate as they took the first set 25-14. Starck tallied 5 kills, and Bilinovic also provided 8 digs in the opening set.
It would be much of the same for Penn State in the second set as they took advantage of several West Virginia net violations and errors to take a 17-6 lead.
Penn State finished on a 10-4 run to win the second set 25-10, including three kills from Williams.
West Virginia came back in Set 3, playing a cleaner game and pulling ahead 16-12. The Mountaineers stemmed the tide of a late Penn State comeback and took the set 25-20.
West Virginia continued to play well in Set 4, going on a 7-0 scoring run and taking a 14-12 lead. However, Penn State responded with a run of their own, storming back to win the set 25-19 and another 3-1 match win for the Nittany Lions.
A full team effort
For Penn State, it was a very balanced day with everyone on the floor playing to their strengths and contributing to the Saturday sweep.
To go along with Williams’ 12 kills in Game 1 and 10 in Game 2, Penn State received key contributions from Holland and Stark who had 14 and 22 kills total respectively.
Bilinovic led the way for Penn State with 34 total digs as Cassie Kuerschen picked up 12 digs of her own.
Dominance at the net
Weatherington was an instant energy boost for Penn State on the floor, bringing her leadership and a booming right arm to Happy Valley.
The Utah transfer tallied a team leading 13 kills in Game 1 and added 10 in Game 2.
For former first team all Big West selection Elisaia, dominating at the net is nothing new. She tallied 76 total assists and 7 kills between the two matches to go along with an impressive .429 hit percentage in Match 1.
A day of firsts
Williams, a graduate transfer, brought the energy for Penn State throughout the match and was a crucial part of the team’s response against Loyola.
The Los Angeles, California, native tallied 22 total kills on the day, including her first with Penn State along with eight critical blocks during both matches.
Freshman Gillian Grimes made her Penn State debut last night against UConn but picked up her first career assists against Loyola, with one against West Virginia. She paired that with 11 digs total and strong play at the back line with a service ace against Loyola.
Another freshman who made her Penn State debut and had an immediate impact in the win against Loyola was Alexa Markley. Markley made her presence felt with her first two career kills and two service aces in the blue and white’s victory.
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Penn State began its 2022 season on a positive note, beating UConn 3-0 Friday night.