No. 8 Penn State Loses Tough Five Set Match to No.1 Illinois

Story posted October 10, 2011 in Sports, CommRadio by Tyler Ainge

No. 8 Penn State women’s volleyball team (11-5, 4-2 Big Ten) suffered a tough 3-2 (25-21, 21-25, 25-23, 21-25, 12-15) loss Saturday night at Rec Hall against No.1 Illinois (17-0, 6-0 Big Ten). The crowd was electric during the match with most pouring in from the football game that finished an hour before the match’s start time. All together more than 5,200 fans packed Rec Hall and each one of them made their voices heard.

On a night where Penn State’s 2010 National Championship banner was raised, the Lions started out the first set displaying that championship form. The first set was highlighted by 6 kills from Deja McClendon and 3 huge momentum swinging blocks by Katie Slay.

With these contributions Penn State was able to jump out to a commanding 17-11 lead late in the set, but Illinois continued to fight going on a 9-3 run to tie the set at 20-20. However, that was as close as they would get to winning the set.  Kills for Ariel Scott and Nia Grant and an Illinois attack error closed out the set for Penn State 25-21.

Set two was a completely different story as Illinois come out strong and never let up.  After jumping out to a quick 7-2 lead, Illinois continued to increase their lead, holding at least a 7 point lead for much of the set.  Illinois’ Colleen Ward was too much for PSU to handle tallying 8 kills in the set.  Once Illinois was up 24-15, the Lions started to mount a furious comeback with six straight points, but ultimately fell short giving Illinois the 25-21 set win.

Illinois come out fast again in the third set, opening up a 10-5 lead and forcing the Lions to once again have to battle back from behind. A service error by Illinois made the score 11-8 and opened the door for a Penn State rally. The Lions would go on an 11-4 run characterized by powerful kills form Ariel Scott to take an 18-15 lead.

Illinois would eventually tie the set at 20-20, but kills form Scott, Slay and Grant helped Penn State edge out a 25-23 set win.  Scott was the offensive spark plug having 9 kills in the third set alone, and whenever Penn State needed a huge point she came up with the kill.

Scott picked up the fourth set were she had left off helping Penn State take a 10-6 lead.  The Nittany Lions showed control over the set early but as the set wore on their lead began to slowly slip away.

After a 5-1 run by Illinois, they had their first lead of the set at 19-18. A kill from Michelle Bartsch gave the Illini their largest lead at 22-19.  After an ace by Penn State’s Micha Hancock, the Lions were within two with the score 23-21.  However, after an Illinois timeout they were able to finish the set out at 25-21 and force a fifth set.

The beginning of the fifth set was hotly contested with neither team taking a commanding lead. Illinois was up 11-8 in the set when Penn State rallied with kills by Slay and Hancock to tie the set at 11-11.

Illinois would then take its final timeout and would only allow Penn State one more point for the rest of the set. A double contact by Penn State gave Illinois the 15-12 set win and 3-2 match win. This made Penn State’s record now 2-3 this season in 5 set matches.

After the game Coach Russ Rose and Ariel Scott both looked frustrated during the press conference.  Rose did not feel that his team’s great effort, while being younger and more inexperienced than the No. 1 team in the nation should be considered a step forward.

“Remember, we started the season as the No.1 team,” said Rose. “I don’t know what we are now but I’m still disappointed.”

Ariel Scott shared the same type of reaction after the loss.

“It’s not an excuse that we’re young,” Scott said. “We still need to play hard and make up for it in other ways.”

The Nittany Lions put up impressive statistics despite the losing effort, with Ariel Scott having a career best 27 kills and Ali Longo having a career best 24 digs.

Penn State plays again on October 14 at Purdue.


Tyler Ainge is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email