Lady Lions Top Franciscan in Five-Set Thriller

Photo (by Joel Nelson): Women's volleyball celebrates a point during the fifth set of Tuesday's win over Franciscan in the Adler Arena.
Photo (by Joel Nelson): Women's volleyball celebrates a point during the fifth set of Tuesday's win over Franciscan in the Adler Arena.

ALTOONA, Pa. – Penn State Altoona women's volleyball pulled out a 3-2 victory over Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference foe Franciscan University on Tuesday night in the Adler Arena.

Penn State Altoona (7-16, 4-3 AMCC) looked to be in control of the match after winning the first two sets by scores of 25-14 and 25-23. But Franciscan (3-19, 1-5 AMCC) stormed back to take the next two sets 25-23 and 25-16. However, the Lady Lions battled to a 15-11 win in the fifth set to grab an important AMCC victory.

Kaila Clawson (Altoona, PA/Altoona) anchored Penn State Altoona's defensive efforts, leading all players in the match by recording a season-high 27 digs. Alexis Cannistraci (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) had a big presence at the net, finishing with a match-high and season-high seven solo blocks. That number is tied for the sixth-most solo blocks in a match in Penn State Altoona women's volleyball history.

Kelsey Bristol (Troy, PA/Troy) led her team in kills with 17 while also finishing with 24 digs. Kaitlin Cassaday (Bel Air, MD/Bel Air) was second with eight kills, and she also served up a match-high three aces. Eden Taddei (Hollidaysburg, PA/Hollidaysburg) added seven kills and one solo block, and Paige Burk (Claysburg, PA/Claysburg-Kimmel) had six kills.

Lauren Moran (Johnstown, PA/Westmont Hilltop) put up a team-high 24 assists to go along with 12 digs, and Emily Bryan (Waynesboro, PA/Waynesboro) totaled 11 assists and 16 digs while chipping in four kills.

In the first set, Penn State Altoona overcame a big deficit early. Franciscan scored the game's first five straight points, then maneuvered into a six-point lead, 8-2. But the Lady Lions used a 9-1 run to go up 11-9, getting kills from Bristol, Burk, and Taddei during that stretch. After a timeout, the visitors tied the score 11-11. But Penn State Altoona reeled off another big run, outscoring Franciscan 14-3 over the remainder of the set. The Lady Lions' big run included two solo blocks by Cannistraci and two aces from Cassaday.

Penn State Altoona grinded out a tight win in the second set. Tied 17-17, the Lady Lions used three kills from Taddei and a Franciscan attack error to grab a 21-18 advantage. Penn State Altoona fended off a late rally from the Lady Barons, grabbing the set point on a Franciscan setting error.

Franciscan stayed alive with a close win in the third set. After Burk's kill gave Penn State Altoona a 21-20 lead, Franciscan scored three straight points to jump ahead. Kills from Sarah Murgia and Maria Ciola helped finish off the set for the visitors, narrowing Penn State Altoona's lead to 2-1.

The Lady Barons' momentum carried into the fourth set, where they secured a nine-point win. Franciscan combined for a match-best .286 attack percentage during the set.

But Penn State Altoona rallied to win the fifth set. Two kills from Cassaday and a Franciscan attack error helped the home team open up a 3-1 lead. Franciscan kept things tight, however, and the teams found the score deadlocked 9-9. But Penn State Altoona finished the set on a 6-2 run, including two kills from Bristol, a kill and a block from Cannistraci, and another kill by Taddei to put the finishing touches on the victory.

For its next match, the Penn State Altoona women's volleyball team will hit the road for the final time during the regular season, when it travels to play Pitt-Greensburg on Wednesday, October 24 at 7:00 p.m.