* Courtesy of Penn State Sports Information
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Seniors Ariel Scott and Deja McClendon propelled the No. 2 Penn State women's volleyball team (32-2) to thrilling 3-2 (22-25, 25-22, 28-26, 18-25, 15-11) victory against Stanford (27-6) in the final match of the Lexington Regional. The Nittany Lions are the first of four teams to punch a ticket to the NCAA National Semifinals and will now travel to Seattle, Wash. to take on the winner of the Washington-USC match Thursday, Dec. 19. The matchup will broadcast live on ESPN2.
Scott led the offense with 22 kills, adding eight digs, while also earning a spot on the Lexington Regional All-Tournament team. McClendon earned Lexington Regional Most Outstanding Player honors, recording 21 kills on .316 hitting, notching a double-double with a team-high 16 digs. Junior Micha Hancock also earned all-tournament team honors, registering a double-double with a 58 assists and 15 digs.
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Senior Katie Slay tallied nine kills on a squad-best .438 hitting percentage, while also leading the team with a season-high 10 blocks, including four solo stuffs. Sophomore Megan Courtney also posted nine kills, adding 14 digs and two solo blocks. Junior Dominique Gonzalez continued her consistent defensive play, contributing 16 digs.
Trailing early in the first set, 6-5, junior Nia Grant and Hancock posted up for a pair of back-to-back blocks to lift Penn State ahead by one, 7-6. The Cardinal quickly countered with offensive pressure, tying the frame three more times before connecting on two straight kills to go up by two, 11-9. Rallying, McClendon answered with a kill, followed by two consecutive aces from Hancock to put PSU on top by one, 12-11.
Stanford cut off the streak with a kill, but Penn State remained close behind before breaking open a 15-all tie with a 4-0 strike to take control of a slim 19-15 advantage. The Cardinal answered with a 6-0 run to pull ahead by as many as three, 21-19. Courtney and McClendon chipped in back-to-back kills to slow the momentum before redshirt freshman Paulina Prieto Cerame fired an ace to lift PSU ahead, 22-21. Unable to sustain the rhythm, the Cardinal quickly closed out the set on a 4-0 run for a 25-22 win the first set.
Tied at 14-14 after battling back and forth for much of the frame, the Nittany Lions put together a 6-2 streak to capture a four-point lead, 20-16. McClendon powered the scoring stretch with three kills and a block with Slay. Chipping away, Stanford followed with four unanswered points to arrive within one, 21-20. Regrouping, Scott smacked a kill to give Penn State a two-point cushion, 22-20. After briefly trading points, Courtney and McClendon finished off a 25-22 win in the second set to tie the match, 1-1.
Following the intermission, Penn State shot out to a 4-1 start in the third set, led by two kills from Hancock. Despite maintaining the advantage, the Cardinal remained close behind the Nittany Lions, jumping within one, 11-10, following a PSU attack error. Pulling away, the Nittany Lions constructed a 6-2 stretch to bolster the lead to five, 17-12. Stanford continued to chip away at the advantage, battling within one, 21-20, before Prieto Cerame put down a kill to make it 22-20.
After tying the set four more times, Scott broke through with two clutch kills to seal a 28-26 win in the third stanza and a 2-1 advantage in the match.
Knotted 4-all in the fourth set, the Cardinal moved ahead by as many as four, 9-5, following a 5-1 streak, forcing the Nittany Lions to call a timeout. Penn State came out of the break with a 3-1 spurt to shave the Stanford lead to two, 10-8. As Stanford continued to push ahead, Penn State battled back within two, 14-12. The Cardinal answered with three unanswered points to extend the advantage to five, 17-12. Charging on, Stanford used a 6-0 run to capture its largest lead of the frame, 23-14.
Storming back, Penn State used a 3-0 streak to close the gap to six, 23-17, but a Stanford kill put the Cardinal at set-point, 24-18. The Nittany Lions held off one attempt, but couldn't mount the comeback, slipping 25-18 in set four to send the match into a deciding fifth set.
Ahead by one, 3-2, Courtney posted up for a solo block to bring the Nittany Lions up by two, 4-2. Stanford responded with the next five consecutive points to claim a three-point lead, 7-4. Grant cut into the momentum with a kill, but a PSU attack error set PSU back by three, 8-5, at the crossover.
Climbing back, the Nittany Lions fought within three, 9-6, before opening up a 6-0 run to go ahead by three, 12-9. The Cardinal cut off the run with a kill, but Slay put down another kill to bring the advantage back up to three, 13-10. Stanford pounded just one more kill in search of a comeback, but Slay and Courtney teamed up for two consecutive kills to lock up a 15-11 win the fifth set and a victory in the match.