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First-Ever Silent Set Boosts Jonni Parker, Penn State Women’s Volleyball

No. 5 Penn State women’s volleyball’s season opener against Michigan State Wednesday night featured the team’s first-ever “Silent Set” to support and raise awareness for the International Week of the Deaf.

The promotion asked fans to remain silent from the match’s first serve until Penn State scored its ninth point, encouraging them to use American Sign Language to cheer on the Nittany Lions.

The nine-point mark was chosen specifically with No. 9 Jonni Parker in mind. Parker was born with a rare condition that limits her hearing to just 40% in her left ear and 45% in her right. She’s worn hearing aids since age 4.

Sign language instructions on everything from “P-S-U” to volleyball terms such as point and kill were blown up on the Rec Hall scoreboards throughout the match. Naturally, the crowd erupted once the silence was over.

Although the “Silent Set” ended shortly into the opening set, the spotlight never left Jonni Parker.

The sophomore right side put on an absolute show throughout the match against the Spartans. She racked up 16 kills, four digs, and two blocks in the sweep over Michigan State, falling just one kill short of tying her season-high.

“It was cool. I want to thank everyone for participating in [the “Silent Set”] tonight,” Parker said after the match. “It was a good cause. I’m glad we could raise awareness for [the International Week of the Deaf]. I hope we continue to do it.”

Parker and teammate Jenna Hampton noted that while playing in front of a silent crowd was out of the ordinary, it gave the Nittany Lions some much-needed practice playing in front of a crowd that wasn’t (audibly) cheering for it.

“[The Silent Set] proves that sometimes we have to bring our own energy,” said Parker. “We aren’t always going to have our fans when we’re on the road. When we’re on the road, we’ve got to learn to bring our own energy. We’ve got to bring our own energy and be confident in our play and be able to play at the highest level no matter what.”

That practice playing with low-crowd participation will prove fruitful once the Nittany Lions begin touring around the country in Big Ten play. Road match-ups at Michigan, Nebraska, and Wisconsin are tough on any team, but some extra preparation never hurts.

While Parker certainly shined throughout the special event, her performance was nothing out of the ordinary.

Parker already has 119 kills this season — the highest mark on the team. She’s currently averaging nearly four kills and two digs per set and is well on her way to surpassing her 2018 kill total of 351.

Parker has put the Nittany Lions on her back throughout the first 10 matches of the 2019 season, acting as a veteran leader in an incredibly young locker room. If Penn State intends on venturing far into this year’s NCAA tournament, it’ll be Parker leading the way.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt is a junior majoring in journalism and Onward State's managing editor. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football aficionado, and washed-up drummer hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza. He loves Seinfeld, is really into video games, and would wipe the floor with you in Halo. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ for bad sports takes or email him at [email protected]

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