One would think that a weekend in which a team goes 3-0 and does not drop a single set would be satisfying to a coach.
Not to Russ Rose.
His No. 4 Nittany Lions (10-1, 0-0 Big Ten) ran through all three of their opponents in the Penn State Classic this weekend and won all nine games by nine points or more — five of which they won by at least 11 points.
Despite the wins against Portland, Duquesne, and Eastern Illinois, Rose was not pleased with the amount of errors and miscues that the Lions had this weekend, and for the past two weekends, for that matter.
Since the Nike Big Four a few weeks ago, when the Lions knocked off Stanford and Texas — two Top 10 teams — Rose has not been very pleased with how his team has been performing.
“The way we played last weekend and this weekend is a far cry from the way we played [three] weekends ago when we had Stanford and Texas here,” Rose said. “My position is that was our high point and since [then] we haven’t played very well.”
At the Classic this past weekend, the Lions committed 29 hitting errors and 25 service errors. So far this season, the squad has recorded 94 service errors — almost double that of its opponents.
On the plus side, the Lions have a 59-24 advantage in service aces, but still know that they need to improve their serving. When they do slip up, the team tries to keep a mishap from creating a ripple effect.
“It’s disappointing [after a missed serve], but I think a lot of people know that, ‘OK, if I miss my serve, I just have to make up for it with a better pass,’ ” junior middle hitter Katie Slay said. “Or we need to side out right away so a missed serve doesn’t lead to a series of points for the other team.”
Slay and true freshman outside hitter Megan Courtney both posted good numbers for the Lions this weekend. In the three wins, Slay recorded 29 kills and led the team in hitting percentage in two of the matches. Her lowest was a .579 clip and she was the only player to hit above the .450 mark in every match.
Courtney finished with 22 kills and 23 digs. Rose thought both contributed well and especially pointed to Courtney’s impact in the Eastern Illinois match.
“I thought Katie was good. I thought Megan Courtney hit well [Saturday night],” Rose said. “[Courtney’s] young. One match she’s good, the next match not as good, but I thought she took good swings [Saturday night]. I thought she was probably our best outside hitter. She had a couple good leaps blocking, she passed pretty well, led the team in digs.”
The team will look to clean up its play in practice during the next few days before entering Big Ten conference play with No. 1 Nebraska on Wednesday, who lost for the first time this season to Iowa State this weekend. Cutting down on errors is going to be a key for the Lions moving forward.
“We can’t make six errors a game and think we’re going to beat good teams,” Rose said. “We’re playing the team that started [Saturday] ranked No. 1 in the country. That should be enough motivation for the players to get themselves together and get ready to go.”