For the 17 young ladies that make up the Penn State women’s volleyball team, they found that out the hard way that it’s not always going to be easy.
The squad dropped its first match of the season to Oregon State on Saturday night at the Chicago Classic, 3-2.
But instead of hanging their heads on the blunder, they are using it as motivation to get better and keep improving — something they plan to do in practice this week, before the Penn State Classic this weekend.
“I just think we didn’t play well as a team this weekend,” junior right side Ariel Scott said. “We need to work harder in practice and get our stuff together and just bring it next weekend.”
Each member of the team seemed to take personal responsibility for the loss and did not want to point fingers at other players — a positive sign of maturity for a fairly young team.
The No.2 Nittany Lions (7-1, 0-0 Big Ten) only have two seniors on this year’s roster and 11 members of the squad are underclassmen. Because of that the players are forced to grow up faster and their actions are reflecting that.
“Personally for me I want to improve on my blocking,” junior outsider hitter Deja McClendon said. “I think I didn’t show up to block this weekend, and I think my team really needed me to do that.”
There are bound to be bumps along the way, especially playing in a highly competitive conference like the Big Ten, which features six teams ranked in the Top 25. However, it’s how the team responds to those shaky moments that will ultimately decide how far the Lions can go this year.
One loss doesn’t mean the season it over. The 2010 team won the national championship and suffered five loses, so anything is possible.
But one thing is clear. If this year’s team wants to return Louisville, Ky. for a shot at the program’s fifth national championship in six years, they are going to need to take care of the ball and eliminate mental mistakes.
“I think as a team we need to focus on keeping more balls in play and eliminating our errors from the service line and offensively,” Scott said. “I think that’s something that I need to work on individually, as well.”
The 26 attack errors and 13 service errors in the loss to the Beavers were both season-highs for the team in a match. Despite that, the squad is positive it can turn it around and wants to choose to head down the correct path for the rest of the season.
“We’ve seen greatness in what we’ve done so far this season and we’ve also seen where we really struggle, when we hit our own heads and we’ve seen how easy it is to go good or to go bad,” sophomore defensive specialist Dominique Gonzalez said. “I think as tough as it was this weekend to go out like we did, it will be good in the long run because we can look back on it and be like ‘We don’t want to be that way.’”
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