No. 7 Volleyball falls to No. 2 Penn State, 3-2
AUSTIN, Texas -- The seventh ranked Texas volleyball team jumped out to an early 2-0 lead over No. 2 Penn State, but the Longhorns' lead could not withstand the power of the Nittany Lions outside attack. Penn State (8-0) rallied for three straight wins behind the play of freshman Megan Hodge and sophomore Nicole Fawcett to drop Texas, 27-30, 28-30, 30-28, 36-34, 15-13 in front of 2,371 fans that filled Gregory Gym for the final game of the Time Warner Cable Texas Invitational.
Texas (5-2) jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the final game behind a pair of Penn State errors and kills by Ashley Engle and Destinee Hooker. The Nittany Lions quickly rallied, going on a 5-0 run sparked by kills from Hodge and Fawcett and a service ace from Ashley Fidler, to take a 6-4 advantage. Two more kills from Hodge down the stretch and three costly errors by the Longhorns opened the door for a 15-13 Nittany Lions game five victory.
"We played well in the first two games and I felt like we were steady for long periods of time, but we were unable to execute down the stretch against a very good team," Texas Head Coach Jerritt Elliott said.
In game one, freshmen Engle and Hooker tallied the first four Texas points, with Engle hammering down a pair of kills for the first two points, and Hooker following a PSU kill with a pair of blocks that gave UT a 4-1 lead. A Penn State double contact and a Dariam Acevedo ace gave UT a 6-1 lead before PSU's Casey Salyer responded with a kill. With Texas leading 9-5, the Longhorns and Nittany Lions split the next eight points before Hooker added two more kills for a 15-9 lead.
Penn State closed the gap to 20-15, but a pair of PSU errors extended the Texas lead back to seven. The teams traded points before Penn State ran off five straight points to slice the deficit to 26-23. The Nittany Lions narrowed the lead to 29-27, but a tap from Engle closed out the first game for the Longhorns, 30-27.
Game two picked up where game one left off, with both teams trading points until Texas pushed the lead to 25-20 on an Acevedo kill. The Nittany Lions answered with a 5-0 run spurned by three Longhorns attack errors that evened the score at 25-25. Following the rally, Texas grabbed the lead on another Acevedo kill and a block assist by Acevedo and Jen Todd. Penn State moved the score to 28-28 on a Hodge kill, but a PSU service error and a solo block by Engle lifted the Horns to a 30-28 game two victory.
The Nittany Lions used an early 4-0 run in game three, paced by a pair of Hodge kills to grab a 6-3 lead that they would not relinquish. Texas evened the score at 11-11 on an Engle kill, but Penn State answered with a 5-0 run highlighted by a Salyer kill that moved the lead to 15-11. The Longhorns again tied the score at 26-26 on an Engle and Todd block, but that would be as close as UT would get, as Hodge and PSU closed out the third stanza 30-28.
Engle headlined the Horns attack in game four, recording nine kills in the game that saw the lead change hands eight times. Texas took a 28-24 lead on an Engle kill late in the match, but a 4-0 Penn State run paced by a pair of Fawcett kills evened the tally at 28-28. The lead would change hands three more times before PSU closed out the game on a Fawcett kill and two consecutive blocks to win, 36-34.
"Tonight we had a great, competitive match against a very good opponent," remarked Penn State Head Coach Russ Rose. "I wanted our team to play hard and smart and do things together, and I think we did that tonight."
Engle highlighted the Texas attack on the night with a match-high 26 kills and 15 digs while Acevedo and Hooker added 21 kills apiece, with Acevedo adding 16 digs. Junior setter Michelle Moriarty posted a career-high 78 assists in the loss to go along with 12 digs, and Lauren Paolini came off the Texas bench to record 10 kills and a .643 attack mark.
Engle, Moriarty, Hooker and junior libero Alyson Jennings were named to the Time Warner Cable Texas Initational All-Tournament team, with Jennings earning the libero award for the tourney.
Texas returns to action Wednesday, Sept. 13 when they host Texas Tech in its first Big 12 match of the season. First serve is set for 6:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on ESPNU.
Time Warner Cable Texas Invitational All-Tournament Team