5,000+ Blue and White fans were almost all-blue, Saturday night, as Minnesota gave the Nittany Lions all they could handle, and in some cases more. Penn State (13-0, 2-0 B1G) which jumped out to a 2-0 lead after two sets (25-22, 25-16), watched that lead evaporate to a tenacious and talented Minnesota (9-3, 1-1 B1G) squad, which won sets three and four (19-25, 20-25), and battled in the hard-fought fifth set before the Nittany Lions finally prevailed, 15-12. The first set may have been a harbinger of things to come, as Minnesota outhit Penn State .324 to PSU’s .267.
Asked after the match how it felt to go from a dominant performance in the 2nd set (and a 2-0 lead) to a winner-take-all fifth set, 6-2 Sr. OH Megan Courtney had a simple, to-the-point answer: “Can’t happen.” Courtney went on to say:
I thought we played well in the second set, but that break, it’s good for them because they got a chance to regroup and change their lineup — they switched who they were playing in the middle — but that doesn’t mean that we stop playing, and I think we stopped playing a little bit in the second, and third and fourth sets.
After the match, Coach Rose complimented the play of two seniors: Penn State’s Megan Courtney (a match-high 22 kills, with 13 digs and five blocks) and Minnesota’s 6-1 OH Daly Santana (19 kills, hitting .255, which in a match where Penn State hit .198 as a team and Minnesota hit .216 was very good):
We were fortunate to win it based on how we played for the third and fourth games. I thought it was a well-played match by the two seniors. I thought Santana and Megan were especially key for their teams, with their confidence and their smart shots. But sometimes you win those games because you’re playing at home. I thought we had a great crowd — we’re appreciative of the crowd and the band and the support that we get.
[Minnesota has] great talent, Hugh [McCutcheon] is a great coach — he led the United States to a gold medal and a silver medal in two Olympics — he’s got a great feel for the game, he’s got a great roster of talent, a very rich state from which to draw. I don’t think we’re the only team they’re going to be challenging — they beat 10th-ranked Ohio State a couple of nights ago, so they’re very strong. I would expect them to continue to very great things. They’re a tough matchup with the Tapp sisters — they’re athletic, there were times they were hitting the ball over the block, and when you’re hitting the ball over the block, there are a lot of opportunities to score.
I thought Taylor [Krause] [Penn State’s 5-6 Jr DS who registered a career-high 10 digs] did a real nice job coming in. I thought [6-0 Fr. setter] Bryanna [Weiskircher] steadied out. I thought she was good early, got a little complacent in the middle games, and provided good direction in the last game. To have 12 kills in a 15-point game — that’s a lot of kills.
Coach Rose commented that he thought the team looked tired, and in two sets, sent in 6-1 So. OH Simone Lee, who registered one kill (no errors). Asked about her play, Rose hinted that lineup changes might be forthcoming:
I don’t think [Simone] really had a lot of opportunities to do things, and that’s more on me than Simone. But you don’t have to look very far into the score sheet to see that we have a couple of people that we have to find a better way to get some performance out of them. So whether it’s a little different lineup massage — we looked at that a couple days this week, we may look at things again. I think Simone’s a really good net player and has great energy and spirit, is physically strong, and I think those are some traits that we should try to get on the floor a little more often.
In addition to Santana, three Gophers tallied more than 10 kills: 6-1 Jr. Paige Tapp (14 kills, plus a match-high 9 blocks), 6-2 Jr. Hannah Tapp (13) and 5-11 So. OH Alyssa Goehner (11). Fr. setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson put together another outstanding match, with 52 assists, and 5-9 So. libero Dalianliz Rosado led all players with 24 digs, followed by Goehner with 17.
Match Video (Courtesy of Big Ten Network, thanks to psumaui)
- Penn State player photos courtesy of GoPSUsports.com
- Daly Santana photo courtesy of gophersports.com