Nittany Lions Return to Form Defeating Oregon in Straight Sets
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Behind sophomore Jonni Parker’s 15 kills, the Nittany Lions defeated Oregon 25-21, 29-27, 25-19 in straight sets in the final match of the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge at Rec Hall on Saturday.
Coming off a disappointing defeat to top-ranked Stanford the night before, No. 4 Penn State (6-1) regained its mojo to come out victorious against No. 10 Oregon (2-3).
“We’re quite a young group and I think we’ve got more fresh legs than a lot of other teams may have” senior Tori Gorrell said about the team’s ability to play on back-to-back days. “We’re used to doing long practices… and I think it really prepares us well for the weekend.”
Parker led the way in the first set for the Nittany Lions as she contributed seven kills, three digs and one block.
Parker and sophomore Serena Grey led a five-point run early in the first set allowed the Nittany Lions to jump out to an 11-5 lead, which proved to be pivotal, as Penn State led by as much as seven in the first set. The Ducks made a push towards the end of the set, but their comeback bid was stifled.
The real drama of the match occurred in the second set, as Ducks’ freshman Taylor Williams tallied 5 kills in the second set alone. The Ducks led 23-19 and looked like they were going to tie up the match, but Penn State had other plans.
“There’s going to be times where you’re either giving away runs or you’re the team getting the runs,” Parker said. “And at that point we just couldn’t get a pass up.”
The Nittany Lions resilient effort would be rewarded with a 29-27 victory in the second set.
The third set was a seesaw battle early on until a six-point run by the Nittany Lions gave them a comfortable 13-8 lead.
The match win appeared to be secure as the Ducks looked drained after dropping the previous game, but they mounted a comeback of their own and tied the set at 19, forcing head coach Russ Rose to call a timeout.
“It’s a game of runs,” Rose said that he told the team. “You have to be mindful of where you are in relationship to the position of the ball… You have to make sure that if you have a good rotation coming up you keep the ball in play, and if you have a bad rotation exposed that you don’t add to the problem.”
The timeout proved to be just what the Nittany Lions needed to gather themselves, as they wouldn’t allow another point for the remainder of the match.
The third set was decided by Penn State’s defense, as it recorded six blocks in the final game and looked determined to get back to winning.
Overall, the Nittany Lions went 1-1 in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge, and the Big Ten won three of the four games played in Rec Hall over the weekend.
“I think this weekend is just a learning experience,” Parker said. “We can’t let one become two… We could have let last night dictate how today went but we didn’t.”
The Nittany Lions return to Rec Hall on Saturday, Sept. 20 to take on the Pittsburgh Panthers at 8 p.m.
Jerome Taylor is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.