When Ariel Scott and other Nittany Lion players welcome fans to Rec Hall during the home volleyball games, they welcome them to the block party.
And for good reason too, because the No. 1 Lions are one of the top blocking teams in the country.
This past weekend was no exception when the Lions (20-1, 10-0 Big Ten) went into Ann Arbor and defeated Michigan 3-2. A factor in the squad’s win was its ability to stuff multiple Wolverine attacks.
After blowing a 2-0 lead, the Lions were forced to play a fifth set knotted at two games apiece with the Wolverines. They found their stride again in the fifth and clinched the match with the 15-10 win.
There were aspects of the game that the Lions didn’t dominate, but their ability to reject Wolverine attacks helped to keep the squad unblemished in conference play.
“I thought that we controlled the first two games, and then Michigan played a little harder,” coach Russ Rose said. “I thought our blocking was good, our serving was tentative.”
The Lions’ owned the total block battle with a 21-8 edge. Junior middle hitter Katie Slay registered 7.5 blocks –– including three solo swats, one more than the Wolverines combined. Slay alone almost did as much damage at the net as the maize and blue could muster up all evening.
Slay continues to add to her successful season in the block department, being ranked in the top 35 in the country in that category. Her 100 total rejections so far this season are a main contributor to why the Lions are 11th in the nation in blocks per set at 2.93.
She contributes to that success, especially in the Michigan match, with the ability to read the ball well.
In a match where the Lions did not hit their best, they knew that it made their blocking even that much more important.
“Definitely. When something’s not working you have to have enough skill to go with [something else] and perform with it,” the 6-foot-6 Slay said.
Teammates Nia Grant and Megan Courtney also aided in the Lions’ block party, each registering 3.5 blocks or more against Michigan. Junior right side Scott also chimed in with 2.5 blocks of her own and joined the festivities.
It was an overall team effort on the defensive side of the ball and six Lions ended the night with contributions in the block column.
Even though Rose didn’t think his team hit the ball very well, he seemed pleased with squad’s defensive efforts.
“I thought Megan was up-and-down, but she blocked well,” Rose said. “I thought Katie blocked well, but didn’t hit well. Whether you win or lose, it’s a team effort.”