Junior Ariel Scott (Ridgewood, N.J.) led Penn State with 19 kills, while juniors Katie Slay (Raleigh, N.C.) and Deja McClendon (Louisville, Ky.) each posted 15. Sophomore Micha Hancock (Edmond, Okla.) dished out 53 assists and was second on the team with 13 digs. McClendon had a team-best 15 digs, while freshman Megan Courtney (Dayton, Ohio) and sophomore Dominique Gonzalez (San Antonio, Texas) had 12 apiece. Slay led the Lions in blocks with seven.
The first set started out close and the score was tied at 11-11 near the midpoint of the frame. A 3-0 Illini run pushed Illinois ahead by three, 14-11. An Illinois error and a Slay kill moved PSU within one, 14-13, but the Nittany Lions continued to trail until a 3-0 run of their own knotted the score at 18-18. Two straight kills by the Illini had Illinois leading, 20-18. After a Penn State timeout, the teams went back and forth but two kills from Scott and a Penn State block moved PSU into the lead, 22-21. The score tied twice more before an ace and a kill by the Illini secured set one for Illinois, 25-23.
With the score tied at 3-3 to start set two, a solo stuff by Slay sparked a 4-0 giving Penn State a 7-3 advantage early. Illinois called a timeout, but Penn State's pressure didn't let up. The Nittany Lion lead grew to seven, 12-5, after three straight Illini errors. Penn State maintained at least a six point lead until three consecutive kills moved Penn State's lead into double-digits, 18-8. Despite an Illini kill, putdowns from Scott and Courtney and an Illinois error had Penn State with an 11-point lead, 21-11. A 6-0 Illinois run closing the gap to five, 21-16, had Penn State calling a timeout. However, two kills from Slay and a Gonzalez ace helped Penn State claim set two, 25-18.
Penn State fell behind 6-1 in set three. Back-to-back McClendon kills moved PSU within four, 7-3, but Illinois pounded two kills of its own for a 9-3 lead. After a PSU timeout, the Nittany Lions went on a 5-1 run to come within two, 10-8, and force the Illini to head to the bench. Illinois moved back ahead by four, 12-8, but kills by Courtney and McClendon had PSU within one, 13-12. Penn State continued to trail until a 3-0 run tied it up at 15-15. Illinois called a timeout and after a PSU service error, a McClendon kill and an Illini error put Penn State on top, 17-16. The Nittany Lions never let go of the lead. Penn State used a 5-2 run for a four-point lead, 22-18. Two Illinois errors pushed Penn State to set point, 24-19. A kill and a block by the Illini postponed the inevitable as Slay pounded a kill for the win, 25-21.
The Nittany Lions again fell behind early, 8-3. Penn State trailed by as many as eight before making a comeback. Trailing 17-10, three straight kills had the Lions within four, 17-13. Illinois called a timeout, but Penn State continued its push. Two kills and a block by Slay and an ace from sophomore Lacey Fuller (San Diego, Calif.) had the Lions within one, 19-18. A PSU error and an Illini kill had Illinois with a three-point lead, 21-18. Kills from Courtney and McClendon had the Lions back within one, 21-20. Penn State was unable to tie it until kills from Scott and McClendon made it 24-24. Two straight Illinois kills closed out the fourth set for the Illini, 26-24.
The fifth frame started out close, but Illinois grabbed a two-point edge, 6-4. A triple block by Scott, Slay and junior Maddie Martin (Tampa, Fla.) moved the Lions within one, 6-5, before a Slay putdown tied it at 6-6. A block and a kill from Illinois made it 8-6 in favor of the Illini. Slay and Hancock joined forces for a block, but a service error kept the Illini up by two, 9-7. Despite an attack error by PSU, an Illini service error kept Penn State within two, 10-8. Penn State was unable to get any momentum going and was soon behind by four with Illinois at set point, 14-10. Kills by Scott and Martin pulled Penn State within two, 14-12, and Illinois headed to the bench. Two Penn State blocks had the Lions tying it at 14-14. Illinois used another timeout and Scott pounded a kill to give Penn State the lead, 15-14. The match didn't end there as the score tied twice more before a joint stuff by Hancock and Slay preceded a McClendon kill for an 18-16 win.
Penn State hosts No. 12 Purdue and Indiana on Oct. 12-13 at Rec Hall. The Nittany Lions face the Boilermakers at 8 p.m. on Oct. 12 before taking on the Hoosiers at 7 p.m. on Oct. 13.
Source: PSU Athletics