Penn State Sweeps Howard in Opening Round
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-- Coming into a matchup where the Nittany Lions were heavy favorites, not even head coach Russ Rose could’ve anticipated the type of slaughter that occurred at Rec Hall. Penn State came out firing, defeating Howard in straight sets, 25-9,25-9, and 25-8.
Penn State had its most lopsided win at an opportune time, as the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament is just beginning to get underway.
While Howard had fallen victim to Penn State in straight sets earlier in the year, this match would not be remotely close. The Nittany Lions came out firing, kicking off play with an 8-0 run before Howard could notch a point. Penn State would cruise from there, winning the first net 25-9 with the help of four kills by Nia Reed and three each by Jonni Parker and Kaitlyn Hord.
The onslaught would only continue from there. After holding Howard, a team that entered with a 20-10 record and a MEAC title to boast, to single digits in the second and third sets as well, players and coaches alike could agree that the performance on display at Rec Hall was one of the best, if not the best, from the Nittany Lions all year.
“I thought we kept the pressure on, we controlled our errors,” coach Rose said. “I was really pleased with the effort of the team,” noting how important it is to begin NCAA tournament play on the right foot.
Not only was coach Rose pleased with the effort of his whole team, but the impressive play of Hord stood out to him, just as it has all season.
“I thought we did well out of the middle, Kaitlyn (Hord) did a nice job. Everything comes together if you can control the ball, (and) I thought the passing was good,” Rose said.
Hord finished tied for third on the team in kills and hitting percentage tonight, the type of showing that the team has begun to expect from the young freshmen.
Redshirt senior Nia Reed was also huge in the middle, with eight kills. However, Reed believes that the biggest key to the game wasn’t necessarily dominance on the part of Penn State, but the ability to limit mistakes.
“We kept our errors down. Keeping our composure, just staying clean and calm,” Reed said.
The match, however, was a sort of physical mismatch. It seemed that Penn State had at least an inch on every member of Howard’s squad, and it showed in the final statistics. The Nittany Lions put up gaudy hitting numbers, converting .474 of the time, whereas Howard finished .000 with the number of errors they made. Penn State did limit their mistakes, ceding only four errors on the night, whereas Howard matched their nineteen kills with nineteen errors.
The eighth-ranked Nittany Lions entered a match that was a mismatch on paper, to say the least, and they certainly took care of business. Next on their slate should be a significantly tougher challenge in the Syracuse Orange, a team fresh off a straight-set defeat of the Yale Bulldogs.
The Match begins at 7:00 p.m. at Rec Hall, where the winner will have the opportunity to advance to the sweet sixteen in Palo Alto, CA, on Stanford’s campus.
Andrew Destin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.