Penn State Advances To Women’s Volleyball Semis
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) – With three senior starters looking for a fourth national championship to close their careers, the Penn State women’s volleyball team needed a freshman to help get them a step closer.
Deja McClendon had 20 kills and senior Blair Brown added 16 to lead the Nittany Lions to a 25-19, 25-18, 23-25, 25-17 victory over Duke on Saturday to advance to the national semifinals.
“She was awesome,’’ said Brown, who was selected the region’s most outstanding player. “I told her at the end of the game that she saved me there. I struggled tonight and when I couldn’t put the ball down she was right there to put the ball down.’’
Penn State extended its NCAA record with its 94th straight home victory and 22nd straight in the tournament – also a record.
“It’s a great feeling,’’ Mc- Clendon said. “Especially being at home and winning that last game at home for the seniors, that’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt.’’
Penn State (30-5) joins Southern California (29-4) – which advanced earlier in the day – in the semifinals Thursday night in Kansas City, Mo. Illinois meets Texas and Washington faces California for the other two spots.
The fourth-seeded Nittany Lions are the highest seed remaining in the tournament.
Brown also had seven blocks and Arielle Wilson added 12 kills and eight blocks. The pair, and the team’s four other seniors, were the second straight graduating class to finish without a home loss in their careers.
Duke, in its first regional final, was led by Sophia Dunworth’s 12 kills while Clair Smalzer had 10.
Penn State got a scare when it dropped the third set, but raced to a 14-4 lead to open the fourth and coasted to the win.
“We were playing great the first couple games and got a little careless in the third game,’’ head coach Russ Rose said. “We reasserted some things in the fourth game.’’