No. 15 Penn State Avoids Upset in Five Set Victory Over Michigan State

Story posted November 6, 2021 in CommRadio, Sports by Alex Rocco

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (17-7, 10-4 Big Ten) defeated Michigan State (10-13, 3-11 Big Ten) in five sets Saturday night at Rec Hall during the Nittany Lions’ second-ever “Silent Set.”

The Silent Set was introduced two years ago in support of hearing-impaired communities. It encourages fans to remain silent from the match’s first serve until Penn State scores its ninth point.

The number nine has great significance as that is the number of senior right-side hitter Jonni Parker. Parker was born with a rare condition that only allows her to hear about 40% in her left ear and 45% in her right. She has worn hearing aids since she was four.

Coach Russ Rose had nothing but praise for his star senior.

“She is very caring of other people, not just for her teammates but young people who reach out that have a challenge, Jonni is always available,” Rose said. “She is very special.”

Senior middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord was the star of the night recording a career-high of 24 kills while hitting .535 for the match.

Hord also made a huge impact on the defensive side for the blue and white registering six blocks.

Senior Defensive specialist Jenna Hampton emphasized the importance of Hord’s play in the contest.

“I think she was setting up a really good block for us,” Hampton said. “She was also taking some big swings and I think that helped us win the game.”

Parker also had a fantastic night finishing the game with 18 kills, seven digs and three blocks.

The Nittany Lions got off to a fast start winning the first and second sets 25-23 and 25-21 respectively.

In the opening set, Hord was dominant, recording five of her 24 kills while freshman outside hitter Anjelina Starck had three kills and provided a much-needed spark for the blue and white.

However, Penn State began to struggle serving in the third set as that allowed the Spartans to gain momentum and go on a 4-0 run.

Michigan State would not relinquish that lead taking the third set 25-21.

The same woes would plague the Nittany Lions in the fourth set as the Spartans would tie things back up at two after winning the set 25-20.

A big reason why Michigan State came back in the game was the play of sophomore outside hitter Sarah Franklin.

Franklin recorded a career-high 27 kills on the night and could do no wrong on the court.

“Franklin has the ability to score in the front row and the back row,” Rose said. “She is as good as any outside hitter in the conference.”

The fifth set was dominated early by the play of Parker and Hord as they both recorded kills.

Senior outside hitter Adanna Rollins had a huge solo block and Parker closed out the Spartans with a powerful strike for her 18th kill.

“I thought it was a very demanding match,” Rose said.

Rollins and Starck both finished the match with 12 kills apiece while senior setter Gabby Blossom finished the night with 57 assists, 13 digs and three blocks.

The Nittany Lions will head to Ann Arbor to face Michigan on Friday, November 12.

Alex Rocco is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email