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Freshmen Present Silver Lining In Penn State Volleyball’s Tough Ohio State Loss

After No. 10 Penn State women’s volleyball was swept by No. 19 Ohio State Wednesday night, the Nittany Lions didn’t have a whole lot to smile about.

The team now sits at 4-4 on the season with a daunting schedule looming on the horizon. To merely make the tournament, Penn State will need to significantly impress in its final 10 matches — six of which are against ranked Big Ten foes, including No. 1 Wisconsin and No. 4 Nebraska.

The Nittany Lions’ loss to the Buckeyes was ugly all around. Penn State’s unraveling came largely at the expense of sloppy mistakes, including 13 hitting errors and 10 (!) service errors.

“It was a very disappointing match on our side. I didn’t think we were very good from the first whistle to the last whistle,” head coach Russ Rose said postgame. “We had maybe one or two times, a little in the first game and a little in the third game, where I thought we looked like we were playing the game that resembled what we spent time on in the last couple of weeks.”

As disappointing as Penn State’s loss to the undefeated Buckeyes was, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Impressive performances from some young Nittany Lions have clearly provided the team with a much-needed spark.

Middle blocker Allie Holland, for example, flourished Wednesday night. Receiving her first career start in place of Serena Gray, Holland dished out eight kills on .615 hitting while turning heads all around in Rec Hall.

“[Holland] scored well, hit .600, and had a couple of blocks. That was a nice little performance,” Rose said. “She’s a freshman, and we needed her to go in and play today, and I thought she did a nice job and represented herself well.”

Following the match, Holland said she shook of some nerves but found comfort alongside help from Penn State’s veteran middle blockers.

“It was very exciting. Obviously, the game was a little disappointing,” Holland said. “Had a little nervous energy going on, but I’m learning from the best, Serena [Gray] and Kaitlyn [Hord]. I mean, I’ve been their biggest fan since I was 15 years old. It’s an honor to play here and to play with those middles, and I’m ready to get back this weekend.”

Moving forward, Holland said she hopes to expand her transition skills and work on maintaining on-court energy, especially if the team finds itself in a bind as it did Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, anyone who’s followed the team this season knows to expect big things out of freshman outside hitter Annie Cate Fitzpatrick. She flashed her sky-high potential once again Wednesday night by tallying 10 kills, five digs, and a block.

After the match, Rose said that she showed improvement at the net but still needs to improve at the end line. Fitzpatrick, who leads the team with 16 service errors this season, dropped a critical serve receive in the second frame to give Ohio State an ace that awarded the Buckeyes the set, 25-20.

Still, Rose believes big things are ahead for Fitzpatrick, especially with a locker room full of seasoned veterans to guide her.

“AC always has a lot of energy. She’s a freshman, and it’s on the older players, in my mind, to try and prevent [errors] from being on her late in the game like that,” Rose said. “I thought she did a real nice job taking swings at the net.”

So far this season, Fitzpatrick ranks second on the team with 79 kills, averaging 2.39 kills per set. She’s also racked up 72 digs, six assists, and five aces in eight matches as a Nittany Lion. Moving forward, it’s hard not to get excited thinking about Fitzpatrick’s potential.

Penn State will return to action Friday night when it hosts No. 11 Purdue. First serve from Rec Hall is set for 7 p.m.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

By day, Matt is a senior majoring in journalism. By night, he's Onward State's managing editor. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football lover, and washed-up drummer hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza and "Arrested Development" quotes. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ if you hate yourself or email Matt at [email protected] if you hate him.

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