The hopes of a second NCAA Division I volleyball championship for the University of Washington came to a screeching halt at the hands of the Penn State Nittany Lions in the Final Four on Thursday night.
Penn State dominated UW from start to finish in a 25-14, 25-13, 25-16 victory to advance to Saturday’s national championship game.
“It was a nightmare,” said UW coach Jim McLaughlin, who led the Huskies to the 2005 national title. “It’s not fun in any way, shape or form.”
The capacity KeyArena crowd of fans decked out in purple couldn’t derail Penn State’s superior performance.
The Huskies started fast as Krista Vansant had four early kills to help stake Washington to a 10-6 lead in the opening set. But Washington missed opportunities to extend the lead, and Penn State soon took full control, going on a 19-4 run to win the set.
The Huskies struggled to handle the height of Penn State’s front line. Katie Slay (6-foot-6) and Ariel Scott (6-4) disrupted
Washington’s offensive attack. The duo blocked countless volleys at the net and forced the Huskies to try and shoot around their outstretched limbs with little success. Penn State blocked 22 shots on the night.
“They beat us in every phase,” McLaughlin said. “Fundamentally, transition, coaching … They did a good job. We didn’t.”
In the second set, the Nittany Lions handed the Huskies (30-3) their worst margin of defeat in any set this season.
The Nittany Lions put away the match with a 25-16 third-set victory.
Penn State (33-2) had just five unforced errors in the match and converted 49 percent of its attacks for points.
“I think we just didn’t deliver, and we weren’t ourselves, and that’s the most disappointing thing,” UW senior outside hitter Kylin Muñoz said.
Penn State will play Wisconsin in the national championship game Saturday at KeyArena. The Badgers defeated defending champion and top-seeded Texas, 25-19, 25-18, 26-28, 25-23, in the early semifinal Thursday night.
The Nittany Lions seek their fifth national championship since 2007.