Nittany Lions Bounce Back, Notch First Big Ten Win
After a crushing straight-set defeat Friday night at the hands of Nebraska, the Penn State women’s volleyball team returned to Rec Hall Saturday. Penn State hit the ball well and Simone Lee led the way with 22 kills as the Nittany Lions took down the Iowa Hawkeyes in four sets, 3-1.
The Nittany Lions have been historically dominant against the Hawkeyes, coming into the matchup 50-0 all time in the series. They defeated Iowa last season in straight sets in their only matchup.
Penn State was dealt a straight-set sweep against the Cornhuskers in a packed Rec Hall crowd on Friday. Iowa came into the match after defeated Rutgers on the road Friday night in straight sets.
The first set was a quick, hot start for Penn State. They were more physical and played bigger at the net than the Hawkeyes. The Nittany Lions came into the match as the No. 1 team in the nation in hitting percentage and they hit a solid .370 percent in the first set.
Lee, the senior who leads the team in kills, got going early and was hot all game long. After her efforts against Nebraska, where she was virtually the only source of offense for Penn State with 15 kills, she finished this match with 22 kills and a .409 hitting percentage.
The Hawkeyes were led by junior opposite hitter Taylor Louis, who led the team in kills coming in. Louis provided the only real offense for Iowa in the first set but their defense and blocking at the net was subpar. Iowa looked shell shocked and dropped the set, 25-13.
The second and third sets were total opposites of the first set. Iowa came out with a spark in the second and played with fire and vigor. They continued to capitalize on Penn State mistakes (seven service errors for starters) and stayed neck and neck with the Blue and White until the very end.
Along with Louis and her team high 17 kills throughout, Iowa was led by senior middle blocker Jess Janota, who finished with six blocks, and freshman outside hitter Claire Sheehan and her 14 kills.
Penn State hung on to win the set, 25-19, but they looked skittish and their struggles carried over into the third set.
With their backs to the wall, Iowa rallied and started to dominate Penn State on all levels. The Nittany Lions could never get on a roll or a streak and Iowa fed off momentum. In another see-saw set, Iowa pulled away late and staved off elimination, 25-23.
Penn State head coach Russ Rose lit a fire underneath his players because the fourth set was sheer dominance from the No. 2 team in the nation. From the opening serve, they stifled Iowa at the net on offense and defense and wore them out.
Iowa seemed to be running out of gas and the depth of Penn State started taking over. Lee and senior middle blocker Haleigh Washington controlled the net, including a game high six blocks from the latter. Penn State found their rhythm and rolled to a 25-17 set win to take the match.
Rose was not particularly upset with his teams play, especially since he is used to this in conference play.
“This was a typical Big Ten match,” Rose said after the game. “You have to play every rally, every game because opponents are skilled and coaching is good.”
Senior middle blocker Heidi Thelen was happy she and the team could bounce back after the loss last night.
“You can’t let a loss beat you twice,” Thelen said after the game. “I thought everyone did a great job tonight.”
Rose also now knows there are things to improve upon.
“I think it identified that we have a few things to work on,” the seven-time national champion coach said.
Rose knows that his team must be ready for when they face the Hawkeyes on the road.
“I knew we would have a tough match here and we will have a tough match when we go to Iowa in a couple weeks,” Rose said.
Penn State moved to 11-1 with the win and 1-1 in the Big Ten. Iowa now sits at 12-3 and 1-1 in the conference and will surely be looking for revenge against the Lions when they travel to Iowa City on November 8.
The Nittany Lions will return to Rec Hall next Friday to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini and Russ Rose will go for win No. 1,225. Iowa will return home next Friday to host the Wisconsin Badgers.
Matthew Harvey is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and history. To contact, email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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