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‘This Season Keeps Going’: Penn State Women’s Volleyball Staying Focused After Signature Win

It’s safe to say Penn State women’s volleyball turned some heads Sunday night.

The No. 20 Nittany Lions’ massive underdog sweep over No. 3 Ohio State gave the team its first signature win in a long, long time. As exciting as the match was, though, Penn State’s players remain focused on a game-by-game approach in college volleyball’s toughest conference.

“The Big Ten is one of the most competitive conferences, so no matter what, every game has value,” said Jonni Parker, Penn State’s senior right-side hitter. “Every game, you’ve got to go in with the same mentality as, ‘We’re going to win this game. We’ve got to make ourselves better and get better the next week.’ The Big Ten is super competitive, and that’s what makes it fun.”

So far, Penn State’s handled Big Ten play with ease after dropping back-to-back games to ranked opponents in Stanford and Oregon a few weeks ago. The Nittany Lions opened their conference schedule with an expectedly strong sweep over Rutgers Friday before shocking Ohio State at home two days later.

Penn State’s win over No. 3 Ohio State resulted in the team’s highest-ranked win since taking down Minnesota in 2018 and its highest-ranked sweep since downing No. 2 Stanford in 2015. Still, the Nittany Lions say momentum needs to be held in check before facing any Big Ten opponent.

“You just have to respect everybody and know that it’s going to be a dogfight every time,” Maryland transfer Erika Pritchard said after the match.

Head coach Russ Rose and his players largely credited hard work at practice for his team’s hot start in Big Ten play. But Rose, who’s now in his 43rd season leading the Nittany Lions, says the real challenge comes when Penn State steps onto the court to face another powerhouse Big Ten program.

“You should always expect the games to be close,” he said. “We practice hard, and we do things where we recognize that it doesn’t make a difference who’s on the other side. At some point in time, it’s going to be close, and there are going to be talented players making decisions on the other side of the net.”

The real difference-maker against juggernaut opponents just might be Penn State’s fans. This weekend, 3,807 fans packed Rec Hall’s bleachers to cheer on the Nittany Lions and supply an incredibly strong advantage for the home team. A raucous student section and rocking pep band kept the energy up all night, too.

Don’t believe it? Check out just how loud Rec Hall got when Penn State sealed the sweep.

“We have the best fans in the country,” said senior setter Gabby Blossom. “We love our fans. We love the energy they give us. The support we receive in Rec Hall is unbelievable, so it’s always fun to be at home.”

Blossom’s contributions Sunday were crucial to Penn State’s big win. She posted a double-double with 36 assists and 13 digs. More importantly, though, she helped Penn State’s hitters hit .380 as a team en route to 49 total kills.

From here on out, Penn State will face only Big Ten teams throughout the rest of its regular-season schedule. That’s a tough task considering six of the conference’s 14 teams are nationally ranked.

Up next on the Nittany Lions’ schedule are road trips to Maryland and Indiana on September 29 and October 2, respectively. For now, Penn State will hit the gym and take things one match at a time.

“This season keeps going, you know?” Blossom said. “This is a great win, and we’ll celebrate now. But tomorrow, we focus on Maryland…There are a couple of things to work on, but we’re happy right now. We’ll get in the gym tomorrow and work on those things.”

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email (mattdisanto86@gmail.com) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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