By Mike Ashcraft
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Ohio volleyball team (6-8) fought hard but was swept by No. 2-ranked Penn State, 3-0 (25-15, 25-15, 25-19) in its final match at the Penn State Classic on Saturday (Sept. 16) at Rec Hall.
The Bobcats fell for the third time at the Penn State Classic. Ohio lost to Wake Forest, 3-1 (21-25, 25-21, 25-17, 25-19), on Friday (Sept. 15) in the opening match of the tournament. On Saturday morning, Ohio was swept by Yale, (25-14, 25-18, 25-14).
The Nittany Lions remained unbeaten by going 3-0 at their own tournament. Penn State swept Yale, 3-0 (25-9, 25-21, 25-11) on Friday evening, then swept Wake Forest, 3-0 (25-16, 25-11, 25-11) on Saturday morning.
Sophomore outside hitter Lizzie Stephens (Dallas, Texas) hit .243 and led Ohio with 12 kills and two service aces. She also notched four digs. Stephens was named to the All-Penn State Classic team after finishing the weekend with a team-high 38 kills over three matches. Sophomore middle blocker/outside hitter Sara Januszewski (Oak Creek, Wis.) chipped in eight kills and hit at a .429 clip. She also recorded a solo block. Redshirt senior middle blocker Ali Lake (Liberty Township, Ohio) added five kills and a dig. Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Natalie Burchesky (Canonsburg, Pa.) tallied a match-high five total blocks (three solo, two assisted) to tie her career high. Freshman setter Vera Giacomazzi (San Vendemiano, Italy) led Ohio with 14 assists and also had five digs. Junior setter/outside hitter Stephanie Olman (Maumee, Ohio) recorded 10 assists and an assisted block. Freshman libero Macy Reihing (Lexington, Ky.) led Ohio with seven digs and also tallied a service ace and two assists.
"I thought our energy was really good," said fourth-year head coach Deane Webb of his team's effort against Penn State."You expect that against a team of that level. There's going to be some excitement and some adrenaline from a high level team playing at home with a great crowd. I thought, really, the intentional effort and focus when we were attacking was really good. Both Sara and Lizzie, I thought, were really, really good attacking from the correct location. Lizzie, hitting .250 on a pretty high volume of swings against a block that size, I was really, really pleased. Even though they're, of course, a much more physical team, we were only one block off of them. We tied them in aces. Really, some positives to take away as we leave here."
Penn State was led by senior outside hitter Simone Lee's 12 kills. She hit at a .500 rate for the match and nearly achieved a double-double with nine digs. She also logged two total blocks (one solo, one assisted). Senior middle blocker Haleigh Washington hit .412 with nine kills and posted a team-high four assisted blocks and three service aces. She also finished with three digs. Redshirt junior outside hitter Nia Reed totaled seven kills and hit .417 for the match. Senior right side hitter Heidi Thelen hit .400 with six kills. She also had an assisted block. Senior outside hitter Ali Frantti tallied five kills, two total blocks (one solo, one assisted) and 10 digs. Redshirt junior setter Bryanna Weiskircher dished out a match-high 38 assists and also had an assisted block and four digs. Sophomore defensive specialist Kendall White led the match with 12 digs and also contributed two service aces.
The Nittany Lions hit .611 with 12 kills in the first set, .407 with 15 kills in the second en route to a pair of 10-point victories to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
Ohio used a solo block by Burchesky, a service ace by freshman middle blocker Tia Jimerson (Sugar Hill, Ga.) and a kill by Stephens to jump out to a 5-1 lead. Penn State answered by scoring 18 of the next 26 points to take a 19-13 lead. Four kills and two service aces by Washington, three kills by Lee and two more by Thelen. The Bobcats did not quit, though, using three kills and a service ace by Stephens and a kill by Januszewski to shave Penn State's edge down to three at 22-19 and force the Nittany Lions to burn a timeout. That's as close as the Bobcats got, though, as a service error by Ohio, a double block by Frantti and Washington and ball handling error by Ohio ended the match.
Ohio wrapped up its 2017 non-conference schedule at the Penn State Classic. The Bobcats open 2017 Mid-American Conference play next weekend, visiting a pair of East Division rivals. Ohio takes on Buffalo next Friday (Sept. 22) in a 6 p.m. ET contest in Amherst, N.Y., then visits Akron on Saturday (Sept. 23) in a 5 p.m. ET matchup.