Penn State Takes Down Howard to Open the NCAA Tournament
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-- No. 1 Penn State mostly took care of business in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night with a three sets to one (25-10, 22-25, 25-15, 25-16) win over the Howard Bison in front of a crowd of 3,210 at Rec Hall.
Haleigh Washington led Penn State with 13 kills for the match while Ali Frantti added 12. Tori Gorrell had 11 of her own to pace the Nittany Lions. While the Nittany Lions will advance to the next round, head coach Russ Rose did not approve of his team’s performance.
“I thought [Howard] played well. It looked like they were having a lot more fun on their side of the net than us,” Rose said. “It wasn’t a great effort and I’m disappointed in a lot of things.”
In the first set, the Nittany Lions cruised comfortably to a 25-10 win. Kendall White (18 digs) started the set with a service ace, one of six service aces in the match for Penn State. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 7-1 lead before Howard head coach Shaun Kupferberg took a timeout.
Even after the timeout, Howard would not get closer than trailing by four in the set and Penn State would go on a 7-0 run to put the set out of reach. The Bison early on particularly struggled with Penn State’s much bigger front line. Olubunmi Okunade led Howard with five, accounting for half of the team’s points in the 1st set.
The second set of the match took nearly a 180-degree turn. The Bison, shocking most in attendance, came away with a 25-22 set win. Howard forced the Nittany Lions to commit five errors in the set and overall Penn State looked lackluster defensively.
The Nittany Lions took a timeout trailing 23-22 late in the set, but still could not find a way to take the lead. Howard would get the last two points of the set off attack errors from Ali Frantti and Nia Reed. The Bison hit .355 for the set while Penn State hit a paltry .265.
In these types of games, it really helps to have as much experience and veteran leadership as the Nittany Lions do.
“We have a lot of seniors. When I got to the room, one of them was yelling at everybody else,” Rose said. “We’ll have to be better tomorrow or we’ll be disappointed tomorrow night.”
The third set saw things swing back in favor of Penn State as they took a 2-1 lead with a 25-15 set win. The set started with back-and-forth play, but saw the Nittany Lions open up a 15-7 lead before a Howard timeout.
The Bison would cut the lead to seven before Russ Rose took a timeout. The Nittany Lions would outscore Howard from there, going on a 7-4 run to end the set. Penn State recovered mightily in terms of hit percentage, hitting .393 compared to .000 for Howard.
The fourth and final set saw both teams battle early on, but Penn State would win the set 25-16. Tied at 8, Penn State would go on a 6-0 run to distance themselves from Howard. From there, the Bison were only able to get within three as the Nittany Lions sealed the deal.
Howard’s self-inflicted errors crippled them. They committed 10 errors in the fourth set compared to just three for Penn State. Their errors outdid any progress they could make in the final frame, again hitting .000, while the Nittany Lions hit .296.
Penn State will take on in-state rival Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Rec Hall. Pitt won their opening match three sets to one over VCU.
Zach Kaplan is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email at email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Zach Kaplan is a senior broadcast journalism major with a double minor in history and sociology. Beyond his work with the Centre County Report, Zach is involved with CommRadio as a sports director and on-air personality, as well as a broadcaster for BTN Student U productions on-campus. He also works with 46Live both on-air and as a producer to provide live coverage of Penn State’s annual Dance Marathon.
Outside of his on-air work, Zach writes for Penn State Athletics covering men’s hockey and lacrosse and has held summer internships with Israel Sports Radio, the Cape Cod Baseball League, and the Coastal Plain League.