Reed and Parker lead the Nittany Lions past Michigan
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Led by Nia Reed and Jonni Parker the No. 7 Nittany Lions (21-6, 12-5) defeated No. 19 Michigan Wolverines (19-9, 8-9) 25-12, 25-23, 25-15 in straight sets in Rec Hall on Wednesday.
“Anytime you can get a three-set victory in the conference you have to feel good about that,” Penn State head coach Russ Rose said, “We certainly had our challenges finishing matches and finishing games when we’ve had the opportunity to do that.”
Rose was open about the teams struggles to finish matches, as the team was coming off of a loss to No. 4 Illinois after tying the match in the fourth set. But those issues seem to have disappeared. Outside of a minor scare in the second set, the Nittany Lions thoroughly dominated the Wolverines.
Defensively, the Nittany Lions were impressive, as they came into the match leading the conference with 2.9 blocks per set, they were able to register nine blocks against the Wolverines.
Also contributing to the defensive effort was junior libero Kendall White who registered 11 digs and became just the second Nittany Lion in history to have 1,400 career digs as a junior.
The Nittany Lions, who are second in the conference in opposing hitting percentage, were able to hold the Wolverines to a hitting percentage of only .107, as Michigan had a problem breaking Penn State’s front line all evening.
Conversely, the Nittany Lions were in a rhythm all night and their .361 hitting percentage reflected that and proved to be pivotal in determining the final outcome.
“I think the rhythm sort of came from the middles,” freshman Jonni Parker said, “They were able to open up things and give us the confidence to swing away”
The team’s high percentage was a product of a balanced high powered offense led by freshman Kaitlyn Hord who’s hitting percentage was a red-hot .538 and contributed eight kills and four block assists to the winning effort.
Hord’s classmate Parker also had a very dominant game registering 13 kills on a .440 hitting percentage and was one dig shy of a kill-dig double-double.
“I’m just starting to be smarter with my shots, just make sure I know when I can swing, and know where I need to place the ball or know when I can make a smart aggressive swing,” Parker said.
Both freshmen had great games but no one was more dominant on the offensive side in this game than senior Nia Reed, who had 16 kills on a .520 hitting percentage as well as three solo blocks and two block assists.
“I love how (Nia’s) so aggressive,” Hord said, “She never stops swinging, tonight she just did a really great job, blocking she’s a wall out there no one can stop her no can dig her.”
The Nittany Lions looked like they could do no wrong, early in the match while the Wolverines couldn’t seem to get out of their own way, as they committed five attacking errors and two service errors in the first set which proved to be detrimental to their attempt to steal a match on the road as the Nittany Lions did against them early in the season.
In the second set, the teams looked more evenly matched as the set contained the only ties (4) and lead changes (6) of the match.
The Wolverines were powered by their dominate senior outside hitter, Carly Skjodt who came into the match third in the conference in kills per set with 4.22. Skjodt was able to score three straight aces during the set to tie it at 17.
The set continued to be highly contested throughout, and Michigan even held the lead 21-20 before the Nittany Lions regained control.
The third set was more like the first as it saw the Nittany Lions exert their dominance over the Wolverines as they were able to lock in another conference victory as the regular season continues to wind down.
Penn State will look to continue their winning ways against Northwestern on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall in the second game of their four-game homestand to close the season.
Jerome Taylor is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.