No. 5 seed Penn State women’s volleyball outlasted No. 4 seed Kansas in five sets (25-20, 22-25, 25-21, 13-25, 15-13) Friday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Nittany Lions leaned on their offense to propel them past the host Jayhawks, finishing with 68 kills on the night. Twenty-one kills from Jess Mruzik led the way for the Nittany Lions alongside 17 from Camryn Hannah.

How It Happened

Penn State took the first two points of the opening set thanks to a kill and a block from Allie Holland. The Jayhawks went up 7-5, but back-to-back kills from Hannah and Zoe Weatherington tied it up at 7-7. The Nittany Lions climbed out to a 14-10 lead after Gillian Grimes kept a point alive with a great dig, allowing Mruzik to bury a kill to continue the 4-0 run. A Hannah ace and another Mruzik kill forced the Jayhawks to take a timeout as the Penn State run sat at 6-0.

Out of its timeout, Kansas landed a kill to end Penn State’s 6-0 run, cutting the lead to 11-16. The Jayhawks built a 3-0 run to gain some distance on the Nittany Lions, then up 18-15, but once again Hannah and Weatherington responded with kills to extend their lead 20-15. Kansas began to target Mruzik in the backline as she struggled with her first touch. Another 3-0 run for Kansas now put the score at 18-20, forcing a Penn State timeout.

The Nittany Lions answered the call out of their own timeout with a kill from Holland and an ace from Mruzik to take a 22-18 lead. Another great dig from Grimes set up a kill for Holland, bringing the game to set point where Mruzik ended it 25-20 with her fourth kill of the match.

Mruzik picked up where she left off in the second set, landing a tip to strike first for Penn State. After dropping the first three points of the second set, Kansas got on the board with a kill from Reagan Cooper, putting the score at 3-2. Penn State extended its 7-4 lead off of a thundering Weatherington kill that left the entire Jayhawk squad stunned as it let the second touch hit the floor for a free Penn State point. Kansas took a 12-10 lead off of a 4-0 scoring run, forcing Penn State head coach Katie Schumacher-Cawley to call a timeout to slow things down.

Kansas sailed its serve out of bounds, gifting a point to the Nittany Lions, who now trailed 12-11. Per usual, Weatherington chose violence, absolutely hammering a kill down into the Kansas defense to keep Penn State close 13-14. However, the Jayhawks began to find their rhythm both offensively and defensively, going on a 4-0 run and forcing Penn State to burn its last timeout of the second set trailing 18-13. The Nittany Lions had no choice but to go to work and slowly chip away at their deficit. Their offense sparked, and in a blink of an eye, they were back in the game, only trailing 18-20 and forcing a Kansas timeout.

The Jayhawks turned up the heat out of their timeout, as a service error from Hannah and a block put them up 22-18. Another Nittany Lion service error in the crunch time gift-wrapped a point to the Jayhawks, pushing them to set point at 24-20. Penn State couldn’t complete the comeback effort, falling short 22-25 in the second set.

Set three opened with a nice back-and-forth rally between both squads but ultimately, the Jayhawks buried a kill to strike first. Both sides continued to plaster hits toward the opponent as Mruzik was the latest to find a victim, tying the game 3-3.

The manner of the third set continued as the game remained tied 11-11. Finally, Penn State climbed out to a 15-12 lead, prompting Kansas to call a timeout. The Nittany Lions reached the 20-point mark first, forcing Kansas to burn its last timeout in order to make adjustments as it trailed by three.

After a controversial ruling that awarded Kansas a point, the Nittany Lions charged on, winning the next three points, going up 24-20. At set point, Mruzik guided the ball like a missile into the back right corner of the Kansas defense, giving Penn State the set 25-21.

Penn State drew first blood in the fourth set from a Hannah kill. Another play from Hannah, this time a service ace, tied the game up at 5-5, but immediately after she committed a service error, handing Kansas a 6-5 lead. Kansas tied the game at 10-10 as its offense was beginning to synchronize and stretch the Nittany Lion defense thin. Its 4-0 run forced Penn State to take a timeout as it trailed 11-15.

A kill from Kansas’ Cooper was followed by a Jayhawk ace, growing their 17-12 lead and making Penn State use its final timeout of the set.

A Mruzik attack error further put the fourth set out of reach for the Nittany Lions as they now trailed 13-21. The brutal stretch for the Nittany Lions continued, and a double contact violation was called on them, which was followed by a Jayhawk service ace. Kansas closed out the fourth set with a kill, ending it 25-13.

After a rough fourth set, the Nittany Lions opened the fifth set with urgency, striking first off of a Mruzik kill. The Nittany Lions leaned on Trammell from the middle, and she answered, landing two kills to put them up 4-3. Neither team separated from the other as points were traded.

As the two teams swapped sides, Kansas led 8-7. A Jayhawk service error tied it up for the Nittany Lions at 8-8, but Kansas’ Cooper answered back with consecutive kills to regain a 10-8 lead. Schumacher-Cawley had seen enough and signaled for a timeout.

The flaming hot Cooper continued her dominant fifth set with another kill, but Hannah answered with a kill of her own, knotting the set at 11-11. As the game entered do-or-die territory, Penn State took a 12-11 lead off of a Kansas attack error. Cooper landed her 29th kill of the match, tying the game up again before checking out.

An untimely service error from Grimes tied it up again at 13-13, but Hannah brought the Nittany Lions to match point with a clutch kill. An ace from Maddy Bilinovic sealed the deal for the Nittany Lions who took the fifth set 15-13.


Penn State was defensively active at the net, constantly batting down and blocking balls. The Nittany Lions finished with 18 blocks and 71 digs on the night.

Penn State logged a .444 hitting percentage in the fifth set. When it mattered most, the Nittany Lions’ aim was true.

If nothing else, the Nittany Lions were gritty. Friday’s match was close throughout, but Penn State hung on by the skin of its teeth. That quality will only become more important as the level of the Nittany Lions’ opponents increases.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will face top-seeded Wisconsin in the regional semifinals at a time to be determined on Thursday, Dec. 7.

The post Penn State Women’s Volleyball Pushes Past Kansas 3-2 to Advance in NCAA Tournament appeared first on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>