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Women's Volleyball Earns South Florida Invitational Title

Russ Rose guided his squad to three comfortable victories over two days in the final non-conference matches of the regular season.

I Believe Wilma Rivera can fly. I believe she can touch the sky.
I Believe Wilma Rivera can fly. I believe she can touch the sky.
Photo by Chris Taylor

Friday Night vs Auburn

The Lions faced-off with SEC foe Auburn (7-3), and it didn't take long for the #1 team in the country to grab control of the match. After a relatively slow 4-3 start, PSU went on an 8-1 run taking the score to 12-5 in the early going of the first set. Auburn called timeout to try to stem the effort and it worked briefly as the Tigers were able to score the next two points. Using runs of 5-2 and 8-2, Russ Rose's team took the first set 25-11.

The second set saw PSU run out to an early 8-2 lead. The Tigers fought valiantly in the set, closing the lead to 14-9 and later 19-13, but the effort fell short with Auburn losing 25-16.

The final set was a grind for each team, with neither squad willing to relinquish a point without a fight. Down 17-10, Auburn called timeout and then stormed back with a 4-1 run to close the gap to 18-14. The four point spread would remain at 20-16 before PSU finished with a 5-3 run to take the final set 25-19.

Keeton Holcomb paced the victorious Lions with 17 digs, giving the freshman libero 57 digs in the past three matches. Haleigh Washington (11), Aiyana Whitney (10) and Megan Courtney (10) had the most kills in the match. Bryanna Weiskircher and Ali Frantti added quality support for the team, and Heidi Thelen led PSU with four blocks.

Saturday vs St.John's

Penn State started the next day with a match against St. John's (6-3). The teams were at 6-3 when freshmen setter Wilma Rivera put on a serving clinic. Winning four consecutive points on Rivera's serve, sandwiched between a St. John's timeout, the Lions took control of the first set and would go on to win 25-10.

You have to admire the courage required to commit to such a high toss and leap on the serve of Rivera.

The second set was much more competitive, seeing scores of 6-5, 10-8, and 14-11 before the Lions took control. Using a pair of blocks and a 5-1 run, the reigning national champions held on to take the set 25-18.

The third set was as competitive as the second, with the score 12-11 and later 21-19. St.John's threatened to be the first team to take a set from Penn State this season but Russ Rose had seen enough and called timeout to breath some inspiration under his team's wavering wings. The ladies responded with four straight points, three coming on Frantti kills, to close out the set and match.

Weiskircher played the best match of her young career on Saturday morning, tallying 31 assists and a pair of aces alongside four kills and four blocks. She was all over the court. With the team faced with replacing the irreplaceable Micha Hancock, freshmen Weiskircher and Rivera have done more than anyone could have anticipated, and both played well--including behind the service line.

Saturday Night vs USF

The first set was competitive with the host South Florida Bulls putting up fight against the Nittany Lions. With scores of 7-5 and 23-17, USF was unable to close the gap closer and Penn State would win the 31st straight set on the season. The second set was not competitive at all, with the Lions coasting to a 25-6 lopsided victory. The third set was a more evenly fought battle. With scores in favor of PSU of 5-4, 12-9, and 22-17, the pair of teams played a little more volleyball in the final set and match of the tournament. Unfortunately for the Bulls, Penn State would finish the set on a 3-1 run to take the tournament title back to State College.

Weiskircher capped off an amazing effort earlier in the day against St.John's with her first career double-double. Tallying 32 assists and 15 digs, each team highs, she showed flashes of brilliance and a glimpse of what is to come for the rest of this season and the next three as well. Whitney had 15 kills to lead the team. Heidi Thelen paced the squad with 5 blocks. The Lions held an amazing .409 to .062 hitting percentage advantage on the over-matched home team.

Big Ten Season Begins

The Lions open the Big Ten schedule with a nationally-televised match versus #11 Wisconsin Wednesday night at 7 p.m. The match can be seen on the Big Ten Network. It will be a can't-miss Wisconsin Wednesday women's winning volleyball evening for the Lions, as Wisconsin (somewhat controversially) is the returning Big Ten champions--though the Lions are, of course, the returning national title holders, and the Badgers have arguably the Nation's best setter in junior Lauren Carlini. Be sure to tune in and chat with us in the open-thread.