After winning the first two sets during Saturday’s contest against No. 1 Penn State, the No. 2 USC women’s volleyball team couldn’t stave off the Nittany Lions’ late-match comeback, as the four-time defending NCAA champions won three straight sets to hand the Women of Troy their first loss of the season in the Rockvale Outlets/AVCA Showcase.Leading the way · Sophomore outside hitter Kirby Burnham finished with a career-high 15 kills for the Women of Troy against No. 1 Penn State. Despite her contributions, USC fell to the four-time defending NCAA champions in five sets, 3-2. – Daily Trojan file photoEarly on, things seemed to be working in USC’s favor.Rattling off seven straight points to take control of the first frame, freshman middle blocker Hannah Schraer led the way in the first frame to give USC a 25-21 victory, scoring the final three points of the set with a kill and two blocks.The second set worked to the Women of Troy’s advantage yet again, as senior outside hitter Alex Jupiter who would end up with 22 kills, 13 digs and a selection on the all-tournament squad led the way, recording a late-set kill to give USC the lead.On top of Jupiter’s performance, sophomore outside hitter Kirby Burnham was also instrumental in the group’s initial surge, finishing with a career-high 15 kills and four kills in the set. Again, USC won 25-21.But the lead didn’t last.In the third set, Penn State ran out to a 14-9 lead behind outside hitter Deja McClendon, who finished with a match-high 25 kills. While they had to stave off a small USC rally, the Nittany Lions proved too much in the third pulling away 25-20.The fourth set was the back-breaker for the Women of Troy and their hopes to take over the No. 1 spot atop the polls.Though USC sprinted out to a commanding 14-6 lead, the Nittany Lions roared back with a 13-5 run, including two kills from McClendon, to tie the game at 19 apiece.With the set all square at 22, Nittany Lions freshman setter Micha Hancock, who accounted for six aces on the day, once again changed the tide of the match with her serve, as Penn State would get another kill from McClendon and even the match with back-to-back blocks to end the set with a 25-22 victory.After swinging the match back in their favor with two straight wins, the Nittany Lions continued to ride a wave of momentum in the fifth set.A 10-2 start in the final set destroyed any hope the Women of Troy had of salvaging the match, as their spirits were crushed by Penn State and its home-court advantage.The Nittany Lions would punctuate their comeback victory with a kill from McClendon, as they would take the final set 15-8.Roles were reversed the day prior, however, as USC upended No. 12 Minnesota after dropping the first two sets, eventually winning 3-2 over the Gophers.USC travels to Fort Myers, Fla. Friday to play in the Florida Gulf Coast Invitational, squaring off against Central Florida, Furman and the Florida Gulf Coast, as well as Clemson in a non-tournament match.
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