Penn State Women’s Volleyball Crushes Ohio State
In the first of a two-match homestand, No. 2 Penn State women’s volleyball (17-2, 8-1 Big Ten) utilized a strong defensive effort to roll past the No. 24 Ohio State Buckeyes (14-7, 2-7 Big Ten) in straight sets (25-9, 25-11, 25-16) in Rec Hall on Wednesday night.
Ohio State entered the contest having lost six of its last seven matches, and the Nittany Lions wasted no time jumping on the struggling Buckeyes early. With Penn State leading 2-1, Katie Slay and Ariel Scott asserted their dominance at the net by teaming up for three straight blocks to give the Nittany Lions a 5-1 advantage.
“In the first game we blocked really well, and I think that set the ball rolling as far as [keeping Ohio State] from what they wanted to do offensively,” said Penn State head coach Russ Rose.
Two points later, Dominique Gonzalez energized the crowd with a highlight-reel, one-handed, diving dig, which would eventually lead to a kill by Deja McClendon, to cap off a 7-0 Penn State spurt and force an early Ohio State timeout.
The brief break in the action, though, did little to cool off the red-hot Nittany Lions. A kill by Ohio State’s Kaitlyn Leary ended the Penn State run, but the Nittany Lions answered back with four straight points to extend their lead to 11-2.
The Buckeyes would draw as close as 13-6, but another 4-0 Penn State run---highlighted by two more McClendon kills---extinguished any Ohio State comeback hopes. The Nittany Lions finished the game on a 12-3 run en route to a convincing 25-9 first-set victory.
Penn State excelled in every facet of the game in the opening frame, but was most impressive defensively. The Nittany Lions outblocked the Buckeyes 6-0 and forced Ohio State into a -.133 hitting percentage. McClendon racked up five kills, and the team registered four aces, including two from Micah Hancock.
The second set was more evenly matched at the start, but it wouldn’t take too long for the No. 2 team in the land to regain its dominant form. With the Nittany Lions holding a slim 6-5 advantage, they delivered another one of their patented 4-0 runs, which included both a kill and a solo block from McClendon, to pull out to a 10-5 lead.
The Buckeyes would hang around a little while longer, but with Penn State leading 15-10, Russ Rose’s squad went on yet another 4-0 outburst to widen its lead to nine. Ohio State took the next point, but then the wheels would really come off, as the Buckeyes committed an attack error on five of the next six points to enable the Nittany Lions to cruise a 25-11 second-set win.
For the second straight set, the Ohio State attackers were stymied by the Penn State defense, as they committed more hitting errors than they had kills. The Nittany Lions outblocked the Buckeyes 4-1 in the frame as they entered the halftime locker room possessing a comfortable two-sets-to-none lead.
“It was a match where the other team’s a little out of sync, and you want to keep the ball in play and get as many points as you possibly can and get out of there before they click into gear,” Rose said.
Coming out of intermission, Penn State managed to pick up right where it left off. With the score knotted at two apiece, the Nittany Lions ripped off a 7-0 run, which was punctuated by two consecutive kills from Megan Courtney, to jump out to a 9-2 advantage.
The Buckeyes would remain within striking distance, but they could not trim their deficit any lower than six. The Penn State lead vacillated between six and nine points the rest of the way, and Hancock would put the finishing touches on the match with two straight kills to give Penn State a 25-16 third-set triumph and a 3-0 victory overall.
The Nittany Lions finished the contest with a .312 hitting percentage, while the Buckeyes could only muster a -.030 percentage. Penn State outblocked Ohio State 12-3 on the night and also tallied six aces while not allowing any aces on the receiving end.
McClendon contributed a match-high 10 kills for the Nittany Lions, and Scott chipped in nine. Leary, the Big Ten’s leader in kills coming into the match, led the Buckeyes with nine kills but also committed nine attack errors on her 39 swings.
Hancock turned in a solid all-around effort for Penn State, notching five kills on just six attempts and posting a team-high 23 assists, three aces, and 11 digs. The Nittany Lions have grown accustomed to seeing Hancock’s name atop the assists and aces categories, but it was her defensive effort that caught the attention of her teammate, Deja McClendon.
“Micah stepped up big time getting those digs, and I think that shows how much hard work she’s been putting in the last couple days,” McClendon said.
The Nittany Lions will look to continue their eight-match winning streak when they host Iowa (10-11, 1-8 Big Ten) on Saturday. The first serve is set for 7:00, and it can heard on ComRadio’s Ustream feed.
Bradford Conners is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.