Tampa, Fla. - The top-ranked Penn State women's volleyball team made history Saturday (Dec. 19) night becoming the first team to win three consecutive national titles with a 3-2 (22-25, 20-25, 25-23, 25-21, 15-13) come-from-behind victory against No. 2 Texas (29-2). Head coach Russ Rose has now won 1,001 career matches and Penn State's winning streak extended to 102 straight matches.
The last time a team rallied from a 2-0 deficit was in 2008. Stanford came back against Texas in 2008 in the NCAA National Semifinals to advance to the National Championship match.
Senior Megan Hodge (Durham, N.C.) led the Nittany Lions with 21 kills, while both junior Blair Brown (Purcellville, Va.) and freshman Darcy Dorton (Muncie, Ind.) contributed 13 kills each. The Nittany Lions had five players with double-digit digs led by junior libero Alyssa D'Errico (Byron, N.Y.) who posted a career-high 22. Brown made 14 saves, Hodge had 13 and junior Cathy Quilico (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and senior setter Alisha Glass (Leland, Mich.) had 12 apiece. Junior Fatima Balza (Merida, Venezuela) had a team-best nine total blocks and Hodge put up five. Glass dished out 53 helpers in the match and both D'Errico and Quilico had two aces each.
The Nittany Lions finished the match with 61 kills on .234 hitting, while Texas had 71 kills with a .251 attack percentage. Penn State posted 57 assists, four aces, 80 digs and 14.0 total team blocks. Texas finished the night with 67 assists, five aces, 81 digs and 12.0 team blocks.
Texas had a slim 4-3 lead to start the match, but back-to-back kills from Wilson had the Lions ahead by one, 5-4. A UT attack error moved PSU ahead by two, 6-4, but two straight kills from Destinee Hooker allowed the Longhorns to tie it at 6-6. A Penn State attack error moved Texas ahead, 7-6, before two kills by Rachael Adams and a Texas stuff gave the Longhorns a 10-7 advantage. The Nittany Lions fought back and took over the lead thanks to two UT errors and two aces by Quilico. The Longhorns tied it up again at 11-11 and moved ahead to a 13-11 lead after a Penn State error and a kill by Juliann Faucette.
Penn State trailed for the next few plays until Hodge and Balza teamed up for a block and Hodge put down a monster kill to tie it at 14-14. UT worked up to a 17-15 lead stayed ahead courtesy of two kills and an ace. However, Dorton came alive and slammed two kills to bring Penn State within one, 19-18. Wilson registered a solo stuff to tie the set for the 10th time before tallying a kill to put Penn State in front and sending Texas to the bench. A Glass kill and a joint block by Wilson and Dorton soon had the Lions up by three, 22-19, and Texas taking another timeout. The break slowed the Lions' momentum allowing UT to tie the set again at 22-22. Penn State called a timeout, but the Longhorns weren't affected. Hooker closed out the set for Texas with two kills for a 25-22 win.
Despite kills from Wilson and Balza giving Penn State an early 2-1 lead, the Longhorns took control and worked to an 8-4 lead forcing the Nittany Lions to call an early timeout. Penn State managed to come within two, 10-8, but the Longhorns were unfazed and stampeded ahead with a 7-1 run for a 17-9 lead. Two Texas errors and a D'Errico ace put the Lions within six, 18-12, but the Longhorns continued their dominance of the second set and were back up by eight, 21-13, moments later. Penn State went on a 6-2 run to coming within four, 23-19. Balza assisted on three blocks in the Nittany Lion run. Despite a Texas ball handling error, Hooker and Jennifer Doris secured the second set for Texas, 25-20.
The Nittany Lions came out on fire in the third set. Hodge opened the set with two kills and Penn State continued to dominate establishing an 8-4 lead when Texas called a timeout. The Longhorns managed a point after the timeout, but made an attack error to put the ball back in Penn State's hands. Penn State increased its lead to six, 11-5, for its largest lead of the match thus far for the Lions. However, the Longhorns recorded a kill and a block to come within three of PSU, 11-8. Two UT service errors, kills from Dorton and Brown and an ace by D'Errico had PSU back up by five, 16-11. Texas called a timeout and Penn State managed to tally another point before turning the ball over to the Longhorns. A Hooker error and a huge slam by Brown had PSU up by seven, 18-11. The Longhorns came within two courtesy of two PSU hitting errors, but the Nittany Lions managed back-to-back kills to put them in set-point position. The Longhorns managed three additional points, but Hodge put the set away with a kill, 25-23.
Tied at 3-3 early in the fourth set, the Lions went on a 5-0 run to develop a five-point advantage, 8-3. UT answered back with a 9-3 run and took control of the set, 12-11. Penn State took a timeout cutting off the Longhorn run. The score tied four times before the Megan put down two consecutive kills for a 17-15 lead. A Texas timeout allowed the Longhorns to regroup and tie the set once again. Penn State maintained at least a one-point lead until a Wilson kill, a Texas error and Hodge put down after a long rally sent the match to a fifth and final set.
Texas jumped out to a 3-1 lead in set five before a Dorton kill and a Texas attack error allowed the Nittany Lions to tie it up at 3-3. The two squads traded points until UT's Adams posted a kill and teamed up with Faucette for a block for a 7-5 lead against the Lions. Hodge and Wilson notched one kill each to tie the set at 7-7, but Hooker posted one of her own to put UT ahead, 8-7. After a timeout, Balza and Glass registered a joint stuff to make it 8-8. Texas continued to stay one step ahead of the Lions and had an 11-10 lead as the set seemed to be coming to a close. Dorton and Wilson posted back-to-back kills for a 12-11 edge. Dorton tallied another kill before Hooker registered an attack error to make it set-point Penn State. The Longhorns managed one final point before Hodge closed out her collegiate career with the final kill of the match for the triumph.