For a second consecutive Saturday, Penn State fans washed down an afternoon football win with a nightcap at Rec Hall, where the women’s volleyball team continued its winning ways.
The No. 4 Nittany Lions (12-1, 2-0) extended their winning streak to seven straight with a 3-1 victory against Iowa (8-7, 0-2) in front of a crowd of 3,252.
While 2011 All-American Deja McClendon has often times been outshined by teammate Ariel Scott this season, McClendon re-established herself as one of the best players in the country with her performance against Iowa.
The junior led the Lions in both digs and kills, having 18 of each, but there are still lessons to be learned.
The Lions failed to pounce on opportunities, highlighted by the team’s inability to score the first point in any of the four sets.
“We can’t start off too [relaxed], I think that’s our problem,” McClendon said. “That’s what I’m disappointed about.”
Coach Russ Rose also said he thought his team underachieved a bit and said it should feel thankful to have walked off the court victorious.
“We were fortunate that we were at home,” Rose said. “I would’ve expected us to play a little bit better, a little bit harder … way too many mistakes.”
Penn State appeared to be en route to a 3-0 sweep of the Hawkeyes, jumping out to an 18-12 lead in the third set. However, Iowa was not ready to pack up just yet.
The opposition rallied to tie the set at 20 after a rash of errors by Penn State, including a pair of hitting errors by Katie Slay, who had been playing stellar in the first two sets.
The Hawkeyes would eventually win the set, 29-27.
What followed was Penn State’s best set of the night, and one of its best performances of the season.
“I thought we weren’t playing very passionately [in the beginning], but they knew what they needed to do and they played a little bit better in the fourth game,” Rose said.
“A little bit better” may be an understatement, as the Lions dominated and won the set, 25-14, closing a successful night thanks in large part of contributions from sophomore Nia Grant.
For the season, Grant has a hitting percentage of .331, good for third on the team among players with at least 50 kills. Grant stepped up in a major way Saturday with a team-leading .450 attack percentage on top of 11 kills.
“When Nia’s playing well, it helps everyone out, especially on the outside,” McClendon said. “She really made a huge difference in the game, plus I just love to see her smile out there. That really pumped me up.”
Grant is one several young players who could see their role increase exponentially in the coming weeks, as Penn State begins a two-weekend, four match road trip, beginning at Wisconsin (13-1, 1-0) on Friday.