On a night that was the final home match for the Penn State seniors, it was two underclassmen that provided the spark.
Junior Arielle Wilson and freshman Darcy Dorton, coach Russ Rose said, contributed with their play as well as their energy in a match the coach felt was lacking in enthusiasm.
Despite the lack of energy, the play of the two underclassmen led the Lions to a 3-0 victory over Pennsylvania in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Dorton in particular carried the Lions through the first game after the Lions bounced back from a five-point deficit.
"I thought Darcy won the first game for us," Rose said in the media room after the game. "That's why she's sitting here, and the All-Americans are in the locker room. She played hard and is an enthusiastic kid."
While Dorton provided a lift for the Lions in key moments during the match, it was Wilson who was steady throughout. The junior led the Lions in kills with 13 on 21 swings. Her .571 hitting percentage was second on the team, and she also was big on the defensive end tallying five total blocks.
Wilson has been the most consistent player offensively for the Lions this season. She leads all hitters on the team in hitting percentage by more than 100 points and is second on the team in total kills with 303 -- all while having less total attacks than the team's three other big hitters,
Dorton, Megan Hodge and Blair Brown.
"I think I picked it up a lot, but I don't think it was my best game," Wilson said. "I think getting some of the blocks helped, but as far as energy goes, we all needed to bring energy tonight, and that probably could have added a little more."
With Hodge and Brown struggling to get things going offensively, Wilson and Dorton put the pressure on a Penn defense that seemed to frustrate the Lions for the better part of the first game and at points later in the match.
Penn coach Kerry Carr said her team came in with an unconventional plan that wasn't designed to necessarily block the Penn State hitters, but instead concentrated on the defense beyond the block.
Doing so led to the normally potent Lions offense into hitting balls over the block, but right to the hands of awaiting back row players.
Wilson and Dorton, though, found holes in the Penn defense while hitting from the corners. Dorton added to the Lions offense with nine kills and just two errors for a .333 hitting percentage.
While both players were pleased with their individual performances, Dorton and Wilson know that it will take a total team effort if the Lions want to stay alive in their run at a third-straight national championship.
"The goal isn't for me to play well. The goal is to have everyone playing well," Dorton said. "If we want to accomplish the things we want to accomplish, we all have to be playing well."