What’s Next for Women’s Volleyball?
The Penn State Women’s Volleyball team dropped its Big Ten opener last night at No. 10 Nebraska (25-18, 25-16, 23-25, 19-25, 15-10). Attempting to recover after digging an early 0-2 hole, the fifth ranked Nittany Lions fell just short of pulling off their second five set, comeback victory in a month. Unlike the memorable USC match, played at Rec Hall on August 27, fifth set magic would elude the Nittany Lions as the Cornhuskers hung on for the win.
After storming back to even the match at two sets apiece, the Nittany Lions appeared to have momentum on their side; however they would trail the entire fifth set. An energetic Nebraska crowd was ready for their introduction to the Big Ten and reached a fever pitch when two Penn State unforced errors brought the fifth set score from 8-6 to 10-6.
This match continued to showcase the enigma that appears to be Penn State Women’s Volleyball through eleven matches. The match was not without some bright spots:
- Ariel Scott played a lights out game, registering a career best twenty three kills
- Micha Hancock continued to impress with fifty three assists and twelve digs.
- Ali Longo saw significant playing time, totaling sixteen digs.
Scott and Longo can immediately be added to this.
The potential of several players along with the resiliency to fight back is reason for optimism that a fifth consecutive National Championship is attainable. The inconsistency and often failure to play a complete match is reason for concern along with some telling statistics:
- Penn State has dropped the first set in four of their first eleven matches including at home to Florida Gulf Coast this past weekend.
- Penn State has lost the first two sets of a match three times.
- In matches away from Rec Hall, Penn State has a 3-3 record with losses to Stanford, Texas, and now Nebraska.
- After last night’s loss, their record dropped to 1-3 versus ranked opponents.
- The four National Championship teams lost a combined total of seven matches (Five of which came last year). This year’s squad has already been defeated four times.
Last year, the Nittany Lions lost their Big Ten Opener at Illinois but still won their eighth straight conference title under the direction of seniors Blair Brown, Arielle Wilson, and Alyssa D’Errico.
As stated before, it is unfair to compare this year’s young squad to last year’s team let alone the 2007-2009 teams who combined to lose only two games in a three-year span; however, people around the program have come to expect greatness and constant winning.
This year’s version has proven to have a flare for the dramatic with a lot of untapped potential but in many ways remains a mystery as they seek consistency and an identity.
An early conference loss can either shake a youthful squad’s confidence or band a group of players together. In its next ten matches, Penn State faces some tough tests including five ranked opponents in Minnesota, Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State, and Michigan.
It will be interesting to see where this team is at when Nebraska comes to Rec Hall for a rematch on October 29.