LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Bluegrass State must have a knack for the dramatic.
Thursday evening began with a Texas win, one which had so many momentum changes, twists and turns that it could have passed for theater.
Then Penn State, the No. 1 team in the nation and favorite to win a national championship, fell victim to upset.
No. 5 Oregon (30-4, 16-4 Pac-12) toppled the top-seeded Nittany Lions (33-3, 19-1), 3-1, in front of a national television audience and a crowd of 13,000-plus in the stands.
The highlight of the night came in the second set, an epic battle that saw a comeback by the Lions boil over, only to be tamed in sudden death.
In the set, Big Ten Setter of the Year Micha Hancock appeared to injure her left ankle.
“We were worried for her obviously but realized we had to focus on the game,” said libero Dominique Gonzalez.
At the time of Hancock’s injury, the Lions were down, 9-4. Not before long, the Ducks’ lead expanded to 16-9, but Hancock was subbed back in.
Then, things got interesting.
Down 20-11 and on the edge of desperation, the Lions’ star right-side hitter Ariel Scott caught fire, delivering three kills and twoassisted blocks to pull the Lions within four.
The two teams then traded points, both unable to close it out; tying at 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28, before the Ducks closed the set out and won, 30-28.
The Lions fell short in the third and fourth sets, losing 25-22 and 25-19, respectively.
The match, as a whole, was a defensive struggle with both teams hitting below .175, and the Ducks’ 80 digs outnumbering the Lions’ 67.
About a half-hour after Lauren Plum’s sneak kill to win the match, coach Russ Rose spoke to the media.
The 34th-year coach, who has collected five national titles, was straight-forward with his players.
“[If] you’re going to like it when you’re on top, you’ve got to be able to man up when you’re not,” Rose said. “Players have to be able to do a little bit more, and I share that thought with the players.”