Women’s Volleyball Unbeaten No More: No. 1 Penn State Trumped By Nebraska In 5-Set Nail-Biter
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania. – After 356 days and 33 games of undefeated volleyball, Penn State has once again experienced the feeling of defeat in a five-set loss Friday night.
No. 4 Nebraska entered a packed Rec Hall looking to challenge the number one team in the nation and knock off the Nittany Lions for the second straight season.
The Lions had something to prove to the nation as well, attempting to rebound from a rough outing against Minnesota, who forced five sets after Penn State had won the first two. The match against the Huskers would be their third consecutive against a top-25 squad.
Déjà vu struck the Lions as they once again took the opening two sets in dominant fashion only to drop the third and fourth. Behind outside hitter Mikaela Foecke, who scored 22 kills, Nebraska built momentum heading into the 15-point decider.
Penn State attempted to rally behind back-to-back B1G player of the week Haleigh Washington, who finished with 11 kills and nine blocks and Senior Megan Courtney, who was two blocks shy of a triple-double with 16 kills, 22 digs and eight blocks. Unfortunately for Penn State, this time they did not come out on top, falling 15-11 in the fifth to hand them their season’s first loss.
Following the game, emotions were high as Coach Russ Rose was joined by some team captains.
“I thought we started good, had good energy, similar to last game,” Rose said. “We were unable to stop what they were doing.”
When it came down to blame, Rose claimed there was plenty to go around. He pointed out the issues with depth off the bench, poor execution and coaching decisions.
“We didn’t hold a home court like we should,” he argued. “Our results are a reflection of how we played and how we coached.”
One such decision that garnered attention was the lineup change that included sophomore Simone Lee getting the nod to start.
“I thought Simone had great energy in practice,” Rose said justifying his choice. “She didn’t really have a great night but I don’t think it was really her, she had some tough matchups.” Lee would finish the game with seven kills, three blocks and six errors.
The team as a whole let the match slip away. Penn State ended the first two sets allowing just a .079 hitting percentage, but that number surely grew through each set to an eventual .173, outperforming the Penn State total of .164.
Nebraska took over the box score as the game moved on, finishing the contest with more total attacks, kills, assists, service aces, and digs than the nation’s top team.
The team huddled after the game and had a moment of clarity among the disappointment of the loss. Senior Megan Courtney realized it was an important lesson to be learned and sulking would do no good.
“We said we can’t let that happen again. We’re moved onto Iowa already. They’re a great team and we’ve got to move onto them.”
The Nittany Lions will follow their loss by taking on conference foe Iowa in a home showdown Saturday night at 7 p.m. Rec Hall will be decked out in pink for Dig Pink night that will help support The Side-Out Foundation.
Ryan Berti is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.