By: Keith Raad – Asst. Sports Editor
Sometimes Goliath has a few slingshots of his own.
Despite 12 service errors, Pennsylvania State University’s .436 hitting percentage knocked off Dayton volleyball in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32, in just three sets Saturday.
The No. 5 Nittany Lions moved to 32-3, while the Flyers ended the season with a record of 30-6. Dayton stands as one of only five teams in the country to put together 30 or more wins.
“[Penn State] is the best or one of the best volleyball programs that has ever been put together,” head coach Tim Horsmon said. “Beyond their physicality they’re well coached, they do all of the little things well, they pass and serve, are technically very sound and have great athletes.”
Penn State put to rest a Dayton team that racked up 30 wins in a single season for the first time since 2009. The Flyers put together hot streaks of nine straight and 14 straight wins during the season.
Dayton junior outside hitters Alaina Turner and Jill Loiars combined for 17 of 32 Flyer kills Saturday. Tough passing on the part of Dayton forced 56 percent of the attacks to the outside pin. Senior middle blocker Isolde Hannan capitalized on five of her 12 swings, committing no errors.
“We’ve played big teams before,” Jones said. “Earlier this season we played Nebraska and we hung with them. I think we had the mindset that if we play our game, we can hang with them.”
Penn State’s numerous weapons spread the Dayton block thin across the net. Five of the six Penn State attackers hit over .300, with three hitting over .530. Dayton blocked a season-low two balls in the three set match.
Dayton native Megan Courtney of Penn State led the Nittany Lions with an 11-kill, zero error performance. The Nittany Lions search for their sixth title in eight years, and will head to Louisville for a Sweet Sixteen matchup against 12-ranked UCLA.
“You don’t get many breaks,” Horsmon said. “Obviously we had a tough matchup today, played a really good team, and I think we could have played better, but it was just an awesome season for our kids.”
The Flyers faced Penn State after a four-set round one victory over American University. Turner crushed 30 kills, while Loiars, Hannan and Erhahon notched a combined 29 kills. Freshman setter Jane Emmenecker tallied a career-high 61 assists.
The 2014 season marked the back-on-track season Flyers fans were looking for and then some after a disappointing 16-13 record in 2013. This year, Dayton volleyball captured its ninth Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament title, defeating George Washington University in four sets. Dayton took home four of the five major awards at the end of the season.
With only two seniors graduating, Hannan and Rachel Jones, the Flyers return a plethora of weapons for 2015. Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year Turner, and Loiars, Jenna Jendryk and Janna Krafka will be entering their senior seasons next year. Starters Jessica Sloan, Erhahon, and Emmenecker approach their sophomore seasons.
Jones envisions even bigger things for her teammates returning next season and in years to come.
“We’ve had a hell of a season,” Jones said. “We accomplished our goal of regaining a conference and tournament championship. It feels good. I just wish my teammates the best of luck and hope that they do something we’ve never done before next year.”