Coach Russ Not Satisfied As Nittany Lions Down No. 21 Colorado in B1G/Pac-12 Challenge
UNIVERSITY PARK- Top ranked Penn State beat the No. 21 Colorado Buffs in straight sets in the teams’ first meeting since 2003, and first at Rec Hall since 1991.
The game was Penn State’s first in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge.
Throughout the match, the Nittany Lions enjoyed an immense home court advantage.
Penn State stumbled out of the gates a bit, losing the first two points and trailing until they tied the game up at 4-4. Penn State took the lead on the next serve with an ace by Bryanna Weiskircher. The Nittany Lions then rallied, and were up 10-5 by the time Colorado took their first timeout. The rally was capped by back-to-back blocks by Haleigh Washington and Weiskircher. Penn State was unable to run away with the lead, however, as Colorado rallied until they were down just one by a score of 12-11. The back and forth rallying continued as Penn State made the set 18-12 after one of Aiyana Whitney’s four blocks just before Colorado’s second timeout. Colorado closed in on the Nittany Lions’ lead after the timeout pushing the score to 23-18, but Penn State took the set 25-19 on a point by Ali Frantti.
Penn State came out for the second set firing on all cylinders, winning the set’s first six points. After Colorado took a timeout to gather themselves, the Buffs won their first point on a long serve by Penn State’s Keeton Holcomb.
An uncharacteristic series of Penn State miscues let Colorado back in the set, and the Buffs brought the score to 9-6. Penn State was able to recover, however, and got out to a lead of 12-7. Colorado then came back strong and was down just 15-13 after two straight hits out of bounds by Aiyana Whitney.
Megan Courtney executed a big block to make it 17-14, igniting the student section in a thunderous cheer.
Penn State was up 19-15 at the second timeout of the set.
A rally with a great dig by Weiskircher brought the Nittany Lions to set point by a score of 24-18, but they had trouble closing out the Buffs, who rallied back to 24-21.
Colorado’s next service was botched when the server missed the ball, and Penn State was able to pull out a win in the second set, 25-21.
It was more of the same in the third set, as Penn State came out strong once again, with Ali Frantti winning the first two points of the set. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Colorado finally scored after a timeout.
Heidi Thelan dominated the next few points, with a kill then a block to make it 6-2.
Penn State was playing much better offense during the third set, which was apparent when they led Colorado 10-3.
Colorado was beginning to pull it together until Haleigh Washington, who had a team-leading eight kills, made it 13-6.
The crowd erupted a few points later when Weiskircher had a block to put Penn State up 14-7. Another kill by Washington gave the Nittany Lions a 19-11 lead.
From there, Penn State cruised into match point on a block by Thelan and Weiskircher, making it 24-15. However, just like the last two sets, the Nittany Lions had trouble closing out the Buffs, who scored three straight points to make it 24-18.
Penn State eventually got the point they needed, and finished out the match in straight sets.
After the win, coach Russ Rose didn’t seem too happy with his victorious team.
“It was a hard, but not necessarily well played match,” Rose said. “I don’t really have an explanation for our performance other than maybe that’s just how well we play.”
However, Rose went on to say “You have to feel good about not playing your best and winning.”
Haleigh Washington, Penn State’s leading scorer on the day attributed her success in the game to a growing chemistry between her and freshman Weiskircher.
“Bryanna really stepped up. She’s really beginning to step up and take her role as a setter and a leader on the court,” Washington said. “Her and I are figuring out connections more, that makes it a lot easier to run plays.”
Penn State returns to action Saturday night against No. 2 Stanford at Rec Hall.
John McHugh is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism.
Photo Credit: USA Today