Women’s Volleyball: No. 4 Penn State Swept in Second Straight Game
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – No. 4 Penn State women’s volleyball fell short against Michigan in a four-set match, 3-1. In spite of having an early lead and taking the first set, Michigan came back to win the last three sets of the game.
Coming into this match, the Lions were looking to bounce back from a 3-0 sweep the previous Saturday against Minnesota, and come out with their 25th consecutive win against Michigan and extend their record to 10-2 against a top-25 team.
The Nittany Lions took the first set with ease, stringing together multiple consecutive big plays that led to consecutive points and would give Penn State the set 25-14. Simone Lee came out strong with three service aces in the first set that gave the Lions early momentum, Haleigh Washington came out with four kills, and Courtney was close behind with three kills.
Penn State came out swinging with confidence in the first set having a total of 11 kills at 78 percentage as opposed to Michigan’s 43 kill percentage. In addition to dominating in kill percentage, the Lions dominated in blocks having a total of six in the first set and limiting the Wolverines to zero blocks. A block by Washington in the first set brought up set point for the Lions and they were able to close the set out with ease following the block.
The second set didn’t come as easy as the first. Penn State had control for most of the second set even though it was a closer game, but Michigan strung together a couple of big plays that lead to their first lead at 23-22 and Penn State’s first timeout. Then, Michigan came out with another big play, a kill by Caroline Knop, which set up game point. Again, blocks played a major role in this game and after a combined block from Krystalyn Goode and Abby Cole, the Wolverines took the second set.
“After winning the first game easily, we had control in the second game and hit a bad rotation, kind of like we did last week against Minnesota,” said Penn State coach Russ Rose, commenting on the second set. “The kids lose a little confidence and all of a sudden it kind of slides away from you. That was a pretty disappointing end to the second game.”
Set three was even tighter than the second set and Penn State found themselves down at 19-17 at one point in the match. With two back-to-back outstanding plays, including a kill from Washington and a skilled tip over from Bryanna Weiskircher, then another huge block from Megan Courtney that shortly followed, the Nittany Lions were back in the set and tied it 20-20.
Before anyone knew it, the match was 22-22 and a fan interference call after what would have been a Nittany Lions point and lead and might have influenced the remainder of the game, resulted in a do over play that instead gave Michigan the lead, and the set to follow.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen it called in 37 years at Penn State,” Rose said of the interference call. “This is the way Rec Hall has been for 37 years. We had the ball with 22-22 and that would have made it 23-22, but we still had the opportunity and didn’t get the job done.
Despite Ali Frantti, Alyana Whitney, and Washington all recording double digit kills, the Nittany Lions fell short and the team as a whole let the game slip away in the last three sets, not taking advantage of opportunities and not having the confidence that would have put them over the Wolverines. With the errors building up and kill percentages decreasing with each set, the Lions didn’t have a chance of taking over the match as they did in the first game.
Russ Rose also commented on the team’s leadership as a hardship and said,” What we had last year with leadership and seniors that were a little more competitive and dependable, we struggle with that at times.”
Washington is continuing to show her confidence, having a squad best of .714 hitting percentage and finishing second on her team with five total blocks. Russ Rose acknowledges that and thinks they need to get the ball to her more often. With regards to Megan Courtney, coach Rose says, “It’s how she’s been playing for a couple of weeks. When we’re playing our best she’s our best player, when she’s struggling out there it impacts a lot of people.”
Moving forward, the Lions look to improve on their confidence and leadership to hopefully come out with a win against Maryland this upcoming Saturday at Rec Hall.
Alissa Devine is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email her at email@example.com.