Hord’s Season-High Not Enough as Nittany Lions Fall to Purdue
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the midst of a three-match sequence against top-25 opponents in the span of four days, No. 10 Penn State (4-5) loses its second straight match in the first of two against No. 11 Purdue (9-4) 3-1 Friday night in Rec Hall.
“If you can’t win these games at home, you don’t deserve to win anything,” said head coach Russ Rose, whose team has never finished below .500 in the four decades he has coached in Happy Valley.
Junior Kaitlyn Hord led the Nittany Lions in kills with a season-high 13 and was joined by freshman standout Annie Fitzpatrick, Serena Gray and Anastasiya Kudryashova in double figures. But it wasn’t enough as Boilermaker senior Caitlyn Newton showed why she earned All-Big Ten second team honors last season.
The outside hitter led the way with 16 kills and 58 attacks, 12 more than the next highest in Kudryashova. 6-3 Purdue junior Grace Cleveland finished with 10 blocks, tied for the fifth-highest total in the conference this season.
Newton also led in errors with 11, which gave Penn State opportunities to stay close in the first two sets. But the Nittany Lions came up short in the first game when they lost 25-22.
And the second set led to a stalemate as the teams were tied up at 24, but the Nittany Lions fell short again 26-24. The Blue and White actually had one more kill in the game, and Purdue committed five service errors, but Penn State shot themselves in the foot with seven total errors of their own.
The momentum shifted in the third as the Nittany Lions won 25-21. Gray boasted her everlasting enthusiasm and excitement with four kills to rev her teammates up. The team committed just three errors after allowing at least five the previous two.
But all the driving power appeared to go out the door in the next and final game. The Boilermakers won a 25-14 landslide where the Nittany Lions’ hit percentage was negative. Their match .172 percentage is the second-lowest of the season.
Rose’s squad has now lost two straight after being swept by Ohio State at home on Wednesday. He said he wishes he could give a reason why his team is struggling right now, but that there isn’t one thing or two he can pinpoint.
“It is what it is,” Rose said. “There’s not a lot of solutions I can look at. … I’m responsible for this group, and it’s very disappointing. I’m not enjoying the experience.”
The Nittany Lions will have to move on quickly as they will take on Purdue a second time tomorrow afternoon at 2. Penn State has already lost three games in a row this season. Last year, they never even lost back-to-back games.
Jack McCune is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.