Every time Michigan started to build some momentum Saturday, the Penn State women’s volleyball team had a response.
The No. 19 Wolverines kept each set close, but in the end, Penn State found the answers to pull away and defeat Michigan in straight sets (25-20, 25-22, 25-20) in front of 3,801 fans at Rec Hall.
The victory extended Penn State’s home win streak to 82 matches after the team had its overall and Big Ten streaks snapped earlier this season.
Late in the second set, the No. 4 Nittany Lions (13-2, 3-1 Big Ten) faced a 20-18 deficit when senior Arielle Wilson recorded a timely kill. Junior Katie Kabbes and freshman Katie Slay combined for a block during the next rally to tie the set at 20. The Lions won five of the next seven points to take the set and control of the match.
Kabbes led the team with seven blocks, and Michigan coach Mark Rosen said she was effective in disturbing his team’s offensive attack. He said Kabbes shut down Claire McElheny, who’s become a big part of Michigan’s offense.
“She took [McElheny] out really early in the match, and then we really didn’t have that option,” Rosen said of Kabbes’ defense. “It’s like a house of cards. It starts falling down a little bit.”
Michigan (14-2, 3-1) stood tall for much of the first two sets — causing 15 tied scores. However, Lions senior Blair Brown said Penn State limited Michigan’s scoring runs, which put the team in position to win each set.
Senior Cathy Quilico was a factor at the end of the opening two sets. Her serving helped propel late Penn State runs and led to set points in each set.
In addition to her reliable serving, the 5-foot-1 defensive specialist led the team with 12 digs.
Freshman Deja McClendon — who led the team with 14 kills and tallied 10 digs — said Quilico’s experience and quickness help her on defense.
“You just watch her, she’s on the ground then over there and over here,” McClendon said. “I’m just watching her seeing the hitters. She knows where it’s going to go.”
The Lions’ offense caused problems for the Wolverines, as well.
Penn State coach Russ Rose said his team did a good job of avoiding Michigan’s blockers and hitting tactical shots.
Brown, who finished with 13 kills, carried the offensive load in the first set with 19 total attacks. As the match went on, the Lions played with a more balanced attack, which was fine with Brown.
“I have complete confidence in all the hitters on this team,” Brown said. “They can set all the hitters and I think they’ll put it down.”
Penn State opened up a comfortable lead in the third set as Brown, McClendon and Wilson had success hitting. The Lions never trailed in the final set, as they secured the sweep of the Wolverines.
Rosen believes the Lions, who swept Michigan State Friday, are at their best when they show the ability to set multiple hitters with success.
“You have that double, triple-threat,” Rosen said. “It makes you hard to defend because you’ve got to pick your poison a little a bit, and that’s what makes them good.”