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Service Pressure Driving Force Behind Penn State Women’s Volleyball’s Early Postseason Success

Not everything Penn State women’s volleyball did this weekend was pretty.

The No. 11 overall seed Nittany Lions began Saturday’s second-round match against Towson by dropping the first set to the Tigers, hitting just .229 as a team and trailing by as many as seven points.

Although the match was ugly at times, Penn State was able to pull out an impressive win over the Tigers thanks to a major boost from its strong presence at the service line.

The Nittany Lions recorded a season-high 11 aces against Towson — more than any other match in the 2018 or 2019 seasons. Sophomore defensive specialist Brooklynn Hill and freshman outside hitter Lauren Clark each led the way with three apiece, while Serena Gray and Jonni Parker each contributed two.

Scoring points on serves is great, but limiting errors while doing so is arguably more important. The Nittany Lions did just that against Towson, recording just four service errors throughout the match — one away from its season-low of three.

The constant stream of good serves kept the Tigers on their toes for the entire match and was certainly a key factor in Penn State’s victory.

“Early in set one, [Towson] handled our service pressure very well,” senior libero Kendall White said. “Today in practice, Lauren [Clark] came out and she was serving us off the court, so that gave coach the faith to have her go back there and serve and do the same thing to them. That just gave us a lot of momentum and switched sides of the momentum for us. Same thing with Brooklynn [Hill]. She came out at the end of the [fourth] set and served very aggressively. It was awesome.”

Service pressure was also a major reason the Nittany Lions dispatched Princeton with ease Friday evening in a first-round sweep. Penn State only recorded four aces, but many players, namely Gray and Parker, put their impressive serves to work to put the team in the best position to succeed.

“I thought Serena served really well. In the third game when we were coming back, I thought she had real good service pressure,” head coach Russ Rose said. “I think she’s one of our better servers. When Jonni’s spin serve is on, of course, that’s a great weapon as well, but for sure Serena’s serve is one of our weapons and when she’s serving that has great impact on the outcome as well.”

Penn State will return to tournament action next weekend at 8 p.m. on Friday, December 13 when it takes on Cincinnati at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion in Stanford, California. The Bearcats narrowly upset No. 6 seed Pitt this weekend and should be a good challenge for Rose’s squad.

Wins are usually hard to come by in the Sweet 16, but the Nittany Lions’ chances of a victory will only increase if they continue to dominate at the service line.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt is a sophomore majoring in journalism and is Onward State's social media manager. 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. His favorite shows include Community, Seinfeld, and Arrested Development, and he'll probably talk your ear off about them. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ for bad sports takes or email him at [email protected]

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