Women’s Volleyball: No. 4 Penn State bounces back from struggles to sweep Maryland
The greatest teams in sports are often defined not only by how many times they are able to accomplish significant feats, but by how they are able to respond to failure and get back up.
Coming off of two straight conference losses, No. 4 Penn State (25-4, 14-4 Big Ten) looked to rebound at home and show its resilience as the Nittany Lions headed into one of their final three games of the regular season. The result was a dominating straight-set victory (25-20, 25-11, 25-13) over the Maryland Terrapins (13-19, 3-15 B1G) as they made short work of the Terps in front of a packed Rec Hall crowd.
Leading the way were seniors Megan Courtney and Kendall Pierce, as Courtney recorded a team-high 11 kills at a .375 clip while Pierce led the Lions in digs with 12 while starting all three sets in the libero position.
The first set started with a back-and-forth battle between the teams, where the teams traded leads on six different occasions and were tied up 12 times throughout its duration. Adreené Elliot made an impact for the Terrapins early on, recording four kills in the first set and 12 total on the night, leading all players on the floor.
“We all looked at each other and knew somebody had to break off,” said Kendall Pierce about the tight contest at the game’s beginning. “We all kind of stepped up and we took off.”
The Penn State defense answered back to the Maryland attack by recording four team blocks, adding on to its Big Ten lead in the statistic.
Serving proved to be the difference between the squads as setter Bryanna Weiskircher got an ace to tie the set at 15 all and then got another just one point later, adding onto a lead the Lions would not lose the remainder of the set. Penn State ended the first set with a 25-20 victory thanks to its success on the serve with three total aces, while Maryland accumulated five service errors.
What started off as a close match got out of hand quickly in the second set, where the Nittany Lions ran away early by earning a 10-3 lead before Maryland coach and Penn State alumnus Steve Aird was forced to burn a timeout.
Courtney shined and got the bulk of her kills in the second set as she earned five for the team alongside sophomore Ali Franti who earned three. Many of the team’s kills were set up with precision by Weiskircher, who got the ball in the right location for her attackers at times while sliding on her knees. She ended the night with a total of 33 assists.
The third and final set opened with another aggressive Maryland team trading blows with Penn State, as the teams were tied up at every point except for one up to an 8-8 score. Two kills by Aiyana Whitney and several Terrapin errors allowed the Lions to go on a 6-1 run before a timeout was called.
Even with the breather and time to adjust, the Terrapins could not stop the Lions as they went on a run of 10-4 as Weiskircher won a battle on an overpass ball to win the set and complete the sweep.
After the game, coach Russ Rose was pleased with his team’s performance but knows there is room for improvement they continue to battle through conference play.
“It’s a conference that challenges you, and I think it was a good effort tonight, but I’m not naive to think it means anything other than we were 1-1 this week which we were not too impressed with.”
Ryan Berti is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter: @RBirdman7