Penn State Overcomes First Set Loss to Down Towson 3-1
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Despite a slow start to their second-round NCAA Tournament match, the Penn State Nittany Lions were able to overcome a first-set loss (25-22) to the Towson Tigers by winning the next three sets (25-16, 25-17, 25-20) for a 3-1 victory in Rec Hall on Saturday.
Penn State entered the match as heavy favorites following a three-set domination of Princeton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament the night before. Towson, meanwhile, was coming off a tight 3-2 victory over American. Needless to say, it was a bit unexpected that the Tigers came roaring out of the gate to take the first set from Penn State.
Four straight hitting errors from the Nittany Lions helped contribute to a 6-0 Towson run midway through the first, giving the Tigers a lead that they didn’t relinquish for the remainder of the set.
Although Penn State would eventually find its footing to climb out of the early hole and win 3-1, the Tigers’ competitiveness set the tone for the entire match, as Towson kept the majority of every set within a few points, the only exception being a 25-16 second-set loss.
“I’d like to recognize Towson on a terrific season,” said Penn State head coach Russ Rose. “Not only did they have a great year in their conference and representing themselves, but I thought they came out and played very well this evening.”
As it turned out, clean hitting and momentum ended up being the key for Penn State’s comeback. As Rose noted, the Nittany Lions’ hitting percentage rose from .229 in the first set to .336 by the end of the match, and the three straight set victories seem to justify the numbers.
As per usual, one of Penn State’s key players in the comeback win was sophomore outside hitter Jonni Parker, who set a new personal single-match record for kills with 19.
“After the first set, we came together a little bit better and kept our heads up,” Parker said of the team’s performance. “Towson is a great team. It took us a little longer than we would have liked to adjust to what they could do, but I think we did a good job of staying calm and collected, and, later on, doing what we needed to do. We got better at what we could do better.”
Senior Kendall White also played an important role in the victory, recording 14 digs. That number allowed White to become the all-time digs leader in Penn State women’s volleyball history.
The record would end up being set in White’s final career game at Rec Hall. The thought of that was on White’s mind, but she didn’t let it get in the way of her performance.
“I tried to ignore it, I’m not going to lie,” White said. “I try not to let the emotions get to me and just focus on the volleyball. I guess now I can think about it.”
For White and the entire Penn State roster, the focus is now on the road ahead. With the victory over Towson, the Nittany Lions have advanced to the Sweet 16 for the 17th year in a row. They’ll play Cincinnati in Palo Alto, California, on Friday, Dec. 13, with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line.
DJ Bauer is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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