Penn State tops Wisconsin for national volleyball title
SEATTLE—Ariel Scott had 21 kills and Katie Slay added 14 to give Penn State a 3-1 victory over scrappy Wisconsin on Saturday night for the Nittany Lions’ sixth NCAA volleyball championship.
Deja McClendon’s tap over the net for match point gave second-seeded Penn State (34-3) a 25-19, 26-24, 20-25, 25-23 victory. It was the Nittany Lions’ first NCAA title since their historic run of four straight from 2007-2010.
The 12th-seeded Badgers (28-10) were the lowest seed ever to make it to the final match.
McClendon finished with 11 kills for Penn State, which is 6-3 overall in NCAA championship matches. Megan Courtney had 20 digs.
Dominique Thompson had 16 kills for Wisconsin and 5-foot-7 outside hitter Deme Morales added 15. The Badgers were making their first appearance in the championship match since 2000, when they fell to Nebraska in five sets.
Wisconsin won the third set and strung together a key four-point run to go up 17-15 in the fourth. Ellen Chapman’s ace made it 22-19, but a missed serve by Annemarie Hickey hurt the Badgers. Micha Hancock’s ace for Penn State narrowed it to 23-22, and Slay’s kill down the middle evened it.
Hancock had another ace before McClendon’s soft hit fell unreturned for the victory.
Penn State, led by national coach of the year Russ Rose, swept Washington in the semifinals. Surprising Wisconsin downed top-ranked Texas, the defending champion, in straight sets to advance to the final.
The Badgers came out with determination, going up 5-3 before the Nittany Lions, with a distinct size advantage, evened it at 9 on McClendon’s cross-court kill before pulling in front on 6-foot-6 Slay’s swing.
A five-point Penn-State run made it 20-15. Ellen Chapman’s tap over the net for Wisconsin held off set point until Scott’s kill to give the Nittany Lions 1-0 advantage.
Penn State went ahead 10-4 in the second after Annemarie Hickey’s ace, but scrappy Wisconsin clawed back, pulling ahead 18-17 to cap an 8-2 run. Freshman Lauren Carlini’s kill put Wisconsin ahead 24-23, but Morales served into the net for the Badgers’ second straight service error, opening the door for Penn State, which closed the set with a pair of spikes from Scott to go up 2-0.
Trailing in the third set, Wisconsin pulled in front 13-12 on Morales’ kill before Carlini and Dominique Thompson combined for a block and Morales added another point-winning swing to make it 15-12.
Pushed by momentum, Dominique Thompson and Morales combined for the block to go up 23-17 and first-year coach Kelly Sheffield pumped his fist. Wisconsin claimed the set when Cerame Prieto served into the net for Penn State.
The Nittany Lions beat Wisconsin twice in straight sets during the regular season. Overall, Penn State has a 43-7 advantage in the series between the two teams, including a 3-0 advantage in postseason play.