KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Texas volleyball team's rousing run to its third-straight NCAA Semifinals ended in straight sets to defending national champion Penn State on Thursday night. The Nittany Lions took a 25-13, 25-13, 25-22 victory at the Sprint Center to advance to the NCAA Championship match for the fourth consecutive year.
The Longhorns, who entered on a 19-match winning streak, close their season at 27-6. Penn State, which has won an unprecedented three-straight NCAA titles, improves to 31-5 and will play the Southern California-Cal winner in Saturday night's championship final.
The Nittany Lions rank fourth nationally in blocking, and are averaging 4.04 blocks per set in the NCAA Tournament. Penn State used 9.5 team blocks to hold the Longhorns to .131 hitting, their lowest mark since hitting .110 in a loss to Texas A&M on Sept. 16.
Senior All-America outside hitter Juliann Faucette led UT with 14 kills, and Amber Roberson added seven kills. Sha'Dare McNeal and Sarah Palmer each totaled 10 digs in the losing effort.
Blair Brown headlined the Penn State offense with 12 kills. The Nittany Lions hit .365 for the match and are only the second team to hit better than .300 against the Longhorns this season.
Penn State quickly took control of the first set, opening with a 10-1 run. Back-to-back kills by Jennifer Doris and Roberson pulled the Longhorns within seven, but the Nittany Lions answered by scoring five of the next seven points and cruised to the 25-13 set win. Penn State hit .556 in the first set, and Ariel Scott headlined that attack with five kills on seven swings. Roberson had three kills to lead the Longhorns, who hit just .115 for the set.
The Nittany Lions again started quickly in the second and scored six of the first eight points in the set. UT rallied and evened the set at 7-7, but Penn State pulled away with a 12-3 run and took a commanding set lead at 19-10. Faucette led UT in the second with five kills, but Penn State used 4.5 blocks to limit UT to .050 hitting.
UT jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the third set, but back-to-back net violations by the Longhorns and an ace from Alyssa D'Errico quickly evened the set at four-all. The Longhorns took a 13-12 lead on a Faucette kill, then the Nittany Lions answered with five-straight points to take a 19-14 lead. UT could not get closer than two points the rest of the way.