The University of Delaware volleyball squad ended its history-making season with a 3-0 setback (25-12, 25-9, 25-18) to the No. 8 seed and host Nittany Lions inside Rec Hall.
It marked only the second time in program history that the Blue Hens (21-13) made their way to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and the first time since 2007.
The Colonial Athletic Association champion Blue Hens had advanced to the second round with a 3-1 win over American Friday night.
“They are really good,” Delaware head coach Bonnie Kenny said after leading the Blue Hens to their fourth NCAA Tournament appearances in five seasons. “That is the best spot- hitting team we played against this year. We didn’t respond as well as I would have hoped in our serve reception. But credit Penn State. I think we are capable of competing better against them, but I’m not quite sure we are capable of beating them yet.”
With the loss, Renee Tomko (at right) and Kim Stewart (bottom left) end their careers in a Blue Hens uniform. Tomko and Stewart are responsible for three Colonial Athletic Association regular season titles, three CAA Tournament championships and three NCAA Tournament appearances during their stellar careers.
“That’s a tough way to end a good year, especially with two really competitive seniors who were tough and worked hard,” a deflated Kenny continued. “I hate to send Renee and Kim out like that. We played against a storied program. To me, (Penn State head coach) Russ Rose is like the John Wooden of basketball. They are a very good team and a great program. And, unfortunately, we didn’t perform on a really good stage. You don’t get too many opportunities like this in your career.”
Alissa Alker, Katie Hank and Chelsea Lawrence each led the Blue Hens with five kills apiece while Stewart finished with four.
Tomko, the CAA Setter of the Year, passed out 18 assists on the night while Cara Rosehill and Stewart each had a team-high eight kills.
The Blue Hens had a chance to take a set from Penn State in the third as they headed into the media timeout trailing just 15-14. But the Lions came out and scored the next three points to seize control away from Delaware. Penn State went on a 10-4 run to close out the match, 25-18.
Penn State (25-7) was led by Ariel Scott and 2010 All-American Deja McClendon, who put down 12 and 11 kills respectively. Micha Hancock passed out 40 helpers for the match while Scott and Katie Slay each recorded five block assists. Ali Longo led all players with 19 digs. As a team, the Nittany Lions recorded 11 blocks, to Delaware’s two.
With the win, Penn State advances to the Lexington, Ky. Regional Semifinal against the winner of Sunday's UCLA and San Diego match next Friday.
The winners of each regional will move on to the Final Four, set for the Alamodome in San Antonio, Tex. in Dec. 15-17.
NCAA Division I Volleyball Tournament Second Round
No. 8 Penn State def. Delaware, 3-0 (25-12, 25-9, and 25-18)
Delaware (kills-assists-digs): Hank (5-0-2), Tomko (0-18-6), Stewart (4-0-8), Alker (5-1-5), Lawrence (5-0-0), Evans (2-0-0), Rosehill (0-0-8), Reigel (0-0-0), Walton (0-0-4)
Penn State: Scott (12-0-2), Martin (2-0-5), Grant (7-0-1), Hancock (1-40-9), Slay (4-0-0), McClendon (11-0-3), Gonzalez (0-0-3), Carpenter (0-0-6), Racibarskas (0-0-1), Dorton (1-0-0), Shifflett (0-0-2), Whitney (8-0-1), Longo (0-3-19), Fuller (0-0-2), Kabba (1-0-0)Total Team Blocks: Delaware 2, Penn State 11