Penn State used a 26-day break to its advantage and made improvements in the meantime, leading it to advance to the regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.
The Nittany Lions swept North Carolina A&T in great margins, taking it down 25-11 in the first set, 25-19 in the second set and 25-15 in the third set to win 3-0.
With this being Penn State’s 40th consecutive NCAA appearance, it got one step closer to its eighth national title.
With Omaha, Nebraska hosting the entire tournament, this is the first time since 1989 that Penn State hasn’t hosted its first round — but that didn’t hold back the Nittany Lions in the slightest.
In the opening set, the blue and white was hitting over .300, and junior middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord was hitting 1.000.
Penn State also only had three attack errors throughout the entire game.
Leading the team in kills was Hord, junior right side hitter Jonni Parker and freshman outside hitter Annie Cate Fitzpatrick, who all tied with nine.
Freshman defensive specialist Maddy Bilinovic was at the top of the leaderboard with eight digs.
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Junior middle blocker Serena Gray also contributed to the Nittany Lion success.
“Serena was playing well offensively, and Jonni had some good pop on the ball. I thought Maddie had some good service runs for us, and AC [Fitzpatrick] got some good aggressive serves from the end line,” Russ Rose said.
Bllinovic has been a steady option for Penn State and does well whenever she is thrown in.
“What I like most about Maddy Bilinovic is she’s pretty resilient because I’m incredibly hard on her, and she’s still here,” Rose said.
One spot that Penn State assumed would be hard to fill were the shoes of libero Kendall White.
“[Bilinovic] really fills that important void that we had with Kendall. She talks a lot, she is loud, and tonight she served the ball a lot and I thought she passed really well,” Rose said. “She dug balls that were hit at her well, so she played very well tonight.”
After its last four matches were canceled due to the coronavirus, Penn State was left with a long break between Michigan State and North Carolina A&T.
“Considering we haven't played for 26 days, it was nice to get out and play — and I thought I saw some real positive things.” Said Rose.
This was the Aggies’ first NCAA appearance after their game against Rice was canceled.
After this win, Penn State will now play Texas on Sunday in the regional semifinals.