UNIVERSITY PARK — What was a grueling affair between two evenly-matched teams a month ago wasn’t much of a contest Thursday inside Rec Hall.
After pushing Penn State to a five-set match in Champaign last month, The Fighting Illini weren’t up to the task again as No. 2 Penn State routed Illinois 3-0.
Penn State (24-2, 14-1) didn’t wait long to overpower last year’s national runner-up with potent offense. The Nittany Lions went on a 10-2 lead to open the first set with Micha Hancock — who finished with 21 assists — led the run with six-straight points including an ace. Penn State won the first set 25-17.
The Illini (11-14, 5-10) regrouped and led for much of the second set. But trailing by one, the Nittany Lions rung up nine unanswered points — including eight that came during Maddie Martin’s serve — to win the second set 25-17.
The third set was all Penn State as freshman Kendall Pierce led the way. Pierce ripped off two aces and the Nittany Lions won 11 straight points to open up a 14-1 lead. Penn State closed out the match easily, winning 23 of a possible 24 points after their second-set run began.
Junior Deja McClendon led Penn State with 11 kills while junior Ariel Scott tallied seven. Sophomore Dominique Gonzalez handled defensive duties with 11 digs while junior Katie Slay led Penn State with five blocks.
Penn State registered a .298 hitting percentage. The Lions totaled 35 kills, five aces, 33 digs and 8.5 team blocks in the three set match. Illinois hit .034 with 26 kills, four aces, 35 digs and 7.0 team blocks.