UNIVERSITY PARK — Two down, four to go for the Penn State womens volleyball team.
While not putting on as sharp of a performance as they had 24 hours earlier, the top-seeded Nittany Lions had another big night from the service line to sweep into the sweet 16.
Micha Hancock rocketed in five of Penn States 10 aces in a 25-15, 25-12, 25-15 sweep of Bowling Green on Saturday night in the NCAA second round at Rec Hall.
The Nittany Lions (31-2) head to the regional semifinals next weekend in West Lafayette, Ind. They will meet 16th seed Kentucky on Friday, while two more Big Ten teams will battle in the other match that night at Mackey Arena with host Purdue facing No. 8 Minnesota. The Boilermakers edged No. 9 Florida State in five sets, while the Golden Gophers dropped Creighton 3-1 and the Wildcats denied an all-Big Ten regional with a 3-1 win over Ohio State.
Ariel Scotts eight kills paced the Nittany Lions while Nia Grant and Deja McClendon each added seven and Katie Slay and Megan Courtney each posted six.
Its always better to play at home, head coach Russ Rose said. ... You work hard to have that home-court advantage and you hope to be able to defend it when you get there. I dont think we were great in a lot of areas tonight. I thought Deja gave away more points than she earned, but not everybody plays great every night.
Hancock added 30 assists and eight digs, Dominique Gonzalez also had eight digs, Slay collected three blocks and Courtney also had three blocks to go with a match-high nine digs in her first weekend of NCAA play.
Its been a great ride so far, Courtney, a freshman, said. I cant wait to get to Purdue and take on Kentucky.
While Penn State wasnt nearly as clean as Friday night in a drubbing of Binghamton in the NCAA opener, when the team made eight total errors, the Nittany Lions played well enough. They had 24 total errors this time, including 12 while hitting .329.
But they did pick up those 10 aces, including Hancocks five to give her 15 for the weekend and 22 for the team. As much as the sophomore setter was getting in the highlight serves, it was the rest of the team, with some tough float serves, that also gave the Falcons trouble.
She had five aces, said coach Danijela Tomic, whose program earned its first ever NCAA win in its second tournament appearance and first in over two decades. But we struggled with floaters serves that we see every day in practice.
The tough serving made the Falcon offense predictable, and even while Penn State only had 6.5 blocks, it rarely let Bowling Green put down too many successful spikes. Opposite Danielle Tonyan had 11 of her teams 18 kills.
They knew we were a pin-heavy team, said setter Laura Avila, who had 13 assists and eight digs. I could kind of see their middle blockers releasing to the outside, so I was able to find Danielle front row, back row. She had some openings with the block. It really did come down to serving, serve-receive.
The Falcons (22-11) were held to a .000 hitting night with 18 errors.
I wish we played a little bit better tonight, Tomic said. But great teams make you not play well against them. That was a great Penn State team. We knew we were going to have our hands full.
Notes: During Friday nights Penn State match, a pre-recorded mesage was played on the Rec Hall video boards featuring Secretary of Education Janet Napolitano and NCAA President Mark Emert. The topic of the message was unknown because Penn State fans booed throughout the message. ... A pair of former Nittany Lions also were in action Saturday night with their new teams. The College of Charleston, with Darcy Dorton, got swept by Florida 3-0. Dorton had four kills and nine errors, a night after posting 27 kills on 71 swings in a first-round win against Miami. Also, Hawaii, with libero Ali Longo, faced Washington late Saturday night. She had a match-high 17 digs against Santa Clara on Friday ... The Big Ten had a strong opening weekend, with five of seven teams advancing to the sweet 16 and one more still playing late Saturday with Michigan State facing defending champion UCLA. ... Paige Penrod was second for Bowling Green with five kills, and no one else had more than one. ... Kaitlyn Skinner led them with three blocks.