Penn State Volleyball

Hawaii ends season for Penn State volleyball

Hawaii's Tai Manu-Olevao (10) spikes the ball past Penn State's Megan Courtney (17) and Penn State's Heidi Thelen (19) Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, during the first round of the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship in Des Moines, Iowa.
Hawaii's Tai Manu-Olevao (10) spikes the ball past Penn State's Megan Courtney (17) and Penn State's Heidi Thelen (19) Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, during the first round of the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship in Des Moines, Iowa. AP PHOTO

There will be no three-peat for the Penn State women’s volleyball team.

The Nittany Lions’ season came to an end Friday night at Wells Fargo Arena after a sweep by Hawaii.

The Rainbow Wahini won their 24th straight match with the 25-22, 27-25, 25-16 victory in the NCAA regional semifinals, their first win over the Nittany Lions in six tries.

“When you beat Penn State you have to feel good about that and we do,” said coach Dave Shoji, who is No. 2 on the all-time Division I wins list, 10 behind Russ Rose’s 1,189. “Russ is a great coach and he continues to have great teams and we feel honored to be able to beat them.”

Hawaii will meet No. 2 seed Minnesota at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in a battle for the NCAA semifinals. The Golden Gophers swept Illinois in the night’s first semifinal 3-0.

Aiyana Whitney’s 10 kills, and nine kills each for Haleigh Washington and Megan Courtney, paced the Nittany Lions (28-6), who fell in the regional semifinals for the first time since 2011. Ali Frantti added seven kills, Courtney also had nine digs, Bryana Weiskircher gave out 39 assists and Kendall Pierce collected 14 digs and a pair of aces.

Nikki Taylor’s 18 kills and eight digs, and Tai Manu-Olevao’s 14 kills and eight digs led the Rainbow Wahini (29-1). Tayler Higgins posted 48 assists.

The match featured two of the top three teams in the nation in blocking, but it wasn’t much of a factor as Hawaii won the block 5-3. But the Wahini hit .389, while Penn State struggled to a .228 night.

The teams had a tight battle through most of the first set before Hawaii pulled away late, building a five-point lead, then saw Penn State fight off two set points before a kill from Manu-Olevao ended it.

The second was even closer before the Wahini hit kills off Penn State blockers for the final two points.

The third set was tough for the Nittany Lions, when Hawaii shot out to a lead as large as 15-6 before coasting in the program’s first regional semifinal appearance final since 2011.

“More than honored to win the match,” Shoji said. “Quite an effort by our young women. About midway through the first game, I thought that while we were playing them, I hope our kids believe that we can win this match.”

The match was the finale to the careers of seniors Courtney, Pierce, Whitney and Lara Caraway.

“I appreciate the effort of our seniors and players that played this year,” Rose said. “We had a game plan but it didn’t materialize very well. They had a lot more confidence. We had some people who weren’t in the mind set to get things done. That’s our fault as coaches. I’m not disappointed in losing, we’ve had a season where we were not having this press conference. We have to keep our heads up. If another team beats you, then you give them the credit they deserve. Hawaii played terrific tonight.”

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