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PSU women’s volleyball wins NCAA opener, extends regional semis streak

Photo from Penn State Athletics

The Penn State women’s volleyball team has advanced to the regional semifinal round of the NCAA Tournament for the 18th consecutive year, sweeping North Carolina A&T late Thursday night, 25-11, 25-19, 25-15.

Next up for No. 13 Penn State is a huge showdown against No. 4 Texas on Sunday. That match will take place at 5 p.m. from the tournament bubble in Omaha, Neb., and will air on ESPNU.

Penn State is the only women’s volleyball team to appear in every NCAA Tournament, covering a span of 40 years. All of that has occurred during the legendary career of Russ Rose, who has led PSU to seven national titles.

Penn State is now 105-32 in NCAA Tournament games, all coming during Rose’s 42-year career.

Getting the next win to reach the final eight will be difficult against a very good Texas team.

The last two times these programs met in the NCAA Tournament, there were huge stakes. Penn State beat Texas in the 2009 national championship match, then defeated the Longhorns in the national semifinal the next year before winning another national title, the program’s fourth in a row during a span from 2007-10.

Here are the match details from PSU’s win over NC A&T, from GoPSUSports:

Penn State, which was playing for the first time in 26 days, fell behind 2-1 in the first set. The Lions never trailed at any point for the rest of the match against a North Carolina A&T Team that earned a spot in the national tournament by winning the MEAC title. The Aggies closed the season with an 11-2 record.

Fourteen players saw time on the court for Penn State. Despite getting multiple players their first postseason experience in the final set, the Lions went on an impressive 10-0 run to go up 20-5.

Freshman Annie Cate Fitzpatrick was solid in her postseason debut, matching her career best with four aces in addition to nine kills, four digs and two blocks. Jonni Parker matched Hord and Fitzpatrick for the team lead in kills with nine and added five digs and two blocks. Anastasiya Kudryashova contributed five kills and a block in her first career postseason match.

Maddy Bilinovic, another freshman making her debut, came through with a team-high eight digs. Jenna Hampton was right behind her with seven, helping Penn State hold the Aggies to a .133 hitting percentage.

Setter Gabby Blossom tallied 29 assists while leading Penn State to .352 hitting as a team.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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