STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – No. 1 Penn State Brandywine won the first two sets before overcoming an 11-point deficit during the third set by scoring the final 14 points to claim the 2017 Penn State University Athletic Conference Volleyball Championship in straight sets (26-24, 25-16, 25-22) over third-seeded Penn State Fayette on Tuesday night at Rec Hall in State College.
A kill by Siteri Tale, her 19th of the night, swelled Fayette's lead to 22-11 during the final set, but Rikelle Taylor (Nottingham, Pa./Solanco) answered with two-straight kills and Fayette committed an error to bring the Lions within eight and force a Fayette timeout. Following the break, kills by Margot Gargus (Downingtown, Pa./Downingtown East) and Nikki Poissant (Aston, Pa./Cardinal O'Hara), a pair of aces from Lauren Kelly (Downingtown, Pa./Downingtown East) and three Fayette miscues brought Brandywine within one.
Following another Fayette timeout, Kelly, who made 14-straight serves during the rally, tied the score with an ace before Poissant's kill put Brandywine, which had trailed by as many as 12 points on two occasions during the frame, in the lead for the first time. A Fayette error gave Brandywine championship point, which Kelly delivered with her fourth ace of the night.
Brandywine, now 25-2 this fall, secured its second PSUAC crown and posted its second perfect PSUAC slate in the last three years after finishing 18-0 against conference opponents. The Lions dropped just two sets to PSUAC squads and only nine overall in 27 matches this season.
With the victory, the Lions, winners of 19-straight matches, earned the conference's automatic bid to next week's United States Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament in Virginia Beach. Brandywine will be the No. 8 seed during the tournament.
In addition to her four aces, Kelly delivered 10 digs, eight kills and three assists. Poissant totaled 12 kills, seven digs and three aces, while Gargus added eight digs and three kills.
Becca Civera (Boothwyn, Pa./Chichester) topped the team by amassing 16 digs, while Taylor collected three blocks and Sullivan Stark (Middletown, Del./William Penn) registered 23 assists, six digs and two blocks.
The teams battled back-and-forth during the opening set, which featured 16 ties and seven lead changes, with Fayette eventually taking the biggest lead by either team during the frame at 23-20. Brandywine scored four-straight points, taking the lead at 24-23 on a Poissant kill before closing out the frame with a kill from Kelly and a Fayette error.
The Lions collected the first four points of the second set and maintained at least a three-point advantage the rest of the way before pulling away with five of the final seven points to claim a 25-16 triumph and 2-0 lead in the match.
Brandywine will be making its second appearance at the USCAA Tournament (2015). The Lions will be one of five teams in Pool A in the 10-team field and begin competition on Thursday, Nov. 9 with matches against No. 1 Florida National (11:00 AM) and No. 2 Illinois Tech (2:00 PM).