Women’s Volleyball Takes Down Nebraska
The Saturday night affair began with a Deja McClendon kill and a sea of blue rally towels at Rec Hall. It ended with a Micha Hancock ace and serenades of “Overrated” directed at No. 1 Nebraska players. Just like that, the No. 8 Penn State Women’s Volleyball team (17-5, 10-2) defeated the top ranked team in the country (25-17, 25-15, 17-25, 25-17).
The night before, Penn State dropped the second set of a match to Iowa, 18-25. This tied the match at a set apiece after the Lions had hung on for a 25-23 opening set win. Everyone was a little shocked–this was not supposed to happen. Iowa entered with a 1-9 Big Ten record. The Hawkeyes had not won a set since October 7th, and there they were, outplaying the Lions through two sets. Penn State was probably never in serious danger of losing the match. The Lions regrouped after intermission to win the third and fourth set 25-16 and 25-20 respectively, but for much of the night, it was not pretty volleyball.
As I exited Rec Hall Friday night, the first thing I heard was “If we play like that tomorrow, the match is gonna be over by 8:30.” Perhaps the predicted thirty minute match time was a bit far-fetched, but I could not disagree with the overall premise. In a span of less than twenty four hours, something needed to change, and it did.
Micha Hancock served better to the tune of six aces. Deja McClendon showed up for yet another big game with eighteen kills. Maddie Martin, Aiyana Whitney, Ali Longo, Dominique Gonzalez, and Darcy Dorton provided much needed sparks. Ariel Scott, as usual, performed well. Nebraska’s head coach John Cook tried everything, exhausting all of his substitutions in the hopes of generating some momentum. Even after dropping the third set, the feeling was that it was Penn State’s night.
With the combination of an Illinois loss to Minnesota and Penn State’s huge win over Nebraska, the Lions’ hopes of winning a ninth consecutive Big Ten title were revived. Equally important, a young team picked up another win against a top ranked team, gaining confidence. After letting top ranked Illinois off the hook three weeks ago, Saturday night’s convincing win was some good medicine.
The next challenge for the Lions will be proving they can win big games away from the comfort of Rec Hall. That opportunity will be granted by four straight road matches, including big ones against Minnesota and Illinois. Buckle up for what is sure to be an interesting next month and a half.