No. 13 Penn State Women’s Volleyball Gets Upset by Illinois

Story posted October 31, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Jonathan Draeger

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State fans are getting déjà vu from last weekend as the women’s volleyball team falls to Illinois 3-1.

Just yesterday, the Nittany Lions swept the Maryland Terrapins at Rec Hall. After Illinois, Penn State finds themselves 15-7 overall with a conference record of 8-4.

“I thought a couple of our kids played really hard, but I don’t know if I’d say they played well,” coach Russ Rose said. “You could tell by Illinois’ celebration that it meant a lot to them, and I think it meant more to them than it did to us.”

The blue and white secured the first set 25-20. Once Set 2 opened, Illinois would not relent with the pressure for the rest of the match, and it forced multiple Nittany Lion mistakes down the stretch.

“We had opportunities to win the second game and opportunities to win the third game,” Rose said. “We’ve just made so many service errors.”

For Penn State, they doubled Illinois service errors, ending the match with 12 compared to the Fighting Illini’s six. “You’re making seven or eight errors in a game, you’re going to have a hard time winning,” Rose said.

Both senior outside hitter Jonni Parker and senior middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord credited the Illini with how they performed.

Illinois’ servers made it a tough time on the Nittany Lion defense as they allowed eight service aces.

“I think they are really good servers,” Hord said. “I think serving and blocking is what kept them in the match.”

The senior also recognized their struggles getting past their blockers late in the match. “They also blocked really well,” Hord said. “I think we served a bit easy closer to the end of the match, so it made it a lot easier for them to read what we were doing and block well.”

Illinois ended the match with nine blocks, with Kyla Swanson leading the charge with seven blocks. Penn State only recorded five blocks tonight, with both Erika Pritchard and Hord having three each.

Alongside the blocks, the blocking errors proved fatal to Penn State. The Nittany Lions ended with three blocking errors, as Illinois limited that statistic at one.

For Penn State, they find themselves 1-1 in the middle of a four-game homestand against Big Ten competition. Rose understands what each team in the conference brings to the table.

“I recognize that everybody in the Big Ten is good,” Rose said.

As they prepare for next weekend, Parker does not want losing to become a consistent trend. “We can’t let one turn into two,” Parker said. “We got to stick together, grind, and work hard.”

The Nittany Lions have stuck to that philosophy as they have gone back and forth between the win and loss columns of their record, losing three out of their last five conference games since Oct. 17.

Rose wants the team to rally together and play to the final whistle. “Players have to understand the importance of competing hard all the time,” Rose said.

Penn State hosts Michigan on Friday, Nov. 5, followed by Michigan State the next day.

Jonathan Draeger is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at jrd6052@psu.edu.