There were a lot of things we thought we might see Saturday night in State College, Pa., and not one of them was No. 1 Penn State sweeping No. 2 Stanford to cap off two days of really fun NCAA women’s volleyball.
But the Nittany Lions were scrappier on the floor, tougher on the net and bigger when it mattered as they improved to 5-0 with a 25-21, 25-22, 25-18 victory.
Stanford, which lost for the first time to fall to 3-1, had more than its share of ball control issues and kept senior setter Madi Bugg running helter-skelter all match.
The Rec Hall was full with 6,055 fans, more than 1,200 of them students, as sophomore Ali Frantti and senior Aiyana Whitney had 13 kills apiece, sophomore Haleigh Washington had 12 kills, and senior Megan Courtney 11 kills and a match-high 13 digs. Their team hit .327.
Stanford freshman Hayley Hodson led all hitters with 16 kills on 32 swings and just two errors to hit .452. Senior Brittany Howard had 15 kills in 9 attacks with just one error to hit .483. She also had 10 digs in what her coach, John Dunning, said might have been her best match.
Few people doubt that the teams will meet again, likely in mid- to late December.
Two years ago, Penn State won a five-set thriller in the regional final to advance to the NCAA final four and the Nittany Lions won the national title.
Last year in this gathering at Stanford, the Cardinal won 3-2, but a little more than three months later in the national semifinals, Penn State beat Stanford in four and then swept BYU to win it all for the sixth time in eight years.
Might we see them in Omaha for the NCAA Women’s Division I Championship? Good chance, although this weekend showed that Illinois proved it might get in the mix and the gathering in Austin, Texas, with soon-to-be-No. 2 Florida, Nebraska, Texas and Oregon is likely to have a couple of semifinalists.
Illinois sweeps Colorado
The Illini bounced back from losing to Stanford to beating up on Colorado, a team that entered the week ranked No. 21 but is going back to Boulder looking for answers and ball control.
No. 6 Illinois got 15 kills from senior Jocelyn Birks, who hit .429, and 11 kills from junior Michelle Strizak, who had no errors and hit .500.
The Illini improved to 4-1 and continues its tough early part of the schedule as they go to Wichita State next weekend where they’ll play the home team and Kentucky.
Colorado hit .103. Senior Alex Austin led with 15 kills, but she was the lone offensive bright spot for a team that was out of sorts both Friday, when it lost to Penn State, and against Illinois.
Florida comes up big against Texas
The Gators improved to 4-0 with a 3-1 win over No. 4 Texas. Click here for the Florida recap.
Texas was coming off that win over fourth-ranked Nebraska on Friday. For the Texas recap, click here.
In the other matchup in Gregory Gym on Saturday, Nebraska won a tough five-setter over No. 11 Oregon. Click here for the Omaha World-Herald account.
It finishes up today: http://avp.com/event/avp-cincinnati-open/
USA women beat Japan
After having its six-match FIVB World Cup win streak snapped and a chance to win the tournament title for the first time, the U.S. Women’s National Team bounced back to rally past host Japan 20-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-10 on Saturday evening in Nagoya to remain in the chase for one of two 2016 Olympic Games berths.Team USA, 8-2 overall, moved up one spot to third place in the World Cup. With China’s four-set win over then-leader Russia earlier in the day, the Americans still have a chance to move into second place should the U.S. defeat NORCECA rival Dominican Republic (5-5) at 2:10 a.m. ET on the final day of the 11-match round robin and Japan (7-3) turns around and defeats China 3-0 or 3-1.
The U.S. needed to rally from a first set loss against Japan in which they fell behind 11-7 early. In the second set, the Americans came back from a 6-3 deficit and led most of the most of the frame before Japan level the score at 22-all. However, the U.S. won the final two points for a close 25-23 victory.