Women’s Volleyball Sputters to 3-1 Loss Against Illinois

It wasn’t a good Saturday evening for Penn State athletics.

Despite four players with double-digit kills, the No. 5 women’s volleyball team fell to No. 15 Illinois in four sets (24-26, 25-16, 23-25, 22-25) Saturday in Rec Hall.

It was the Nittany Lions’ (16-3, 4-2) second loss in just over a week, after the defending National Champions started the season 14-1. Aiyana Whitney tied her career-high with 15 kills, freshman Haleigh Washington set her personal best with 14, while Nia Grant and Ali Frantti each contributed 13 more.

It wasn’t enough. Down 6-1 to begin the mach, the Illini closed on a 4-0 run to take the first set, 26-24. The Nittany Lions used an 8-0 spurt in the middle of the next set to ultimately secure this second passage of play, 25-16, and tie the match at a set each side.

Penn State never led in the thoroughly contested third set. Illinois jumped to a 9-5 advantage, and pushed back every counter effort the Nittany Lions could put forth. The Nittany Lions didn’t trail by more than five points in the set, but the Illini took advantage of its second set point to end the set, 25-23, and took a 2-1 lead in the match.

Again, Illinois jumped out to an early lead in the fourth set, this time a 10-3 advantage. A Frantti-led 6-0 spurt pushed Penn State to a 23-19 deficit. It wasn’t enough, and Illinois closed the set, 25-22, taking the match, 3-1.

“I thought we had a great opportunity today, especially when we came out as strong as we did in the first game,” said head coach Russ Rose. “We had a great crowd and the band did a terrific job. We had everything going for us, but we didn’t play as a team. That rests with me. I have to find a way to get them to play a little bit better together.”

Penn State will have almost a week off before traveling to Purdue for a Friday night matchup against the Boilermakers.

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Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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