Redshirt freshman Taylor Hammond may not be the guy getting all the attention. He is a setter, a position that doesn’t get many opportunities for kills.
But his post game comments after No. 7 Penn State’s loss to No. 9 Ohio State in straight sets were attention-getting to his team.
“This is our big punch in the mouth,” Hammond said. “This is our loss of the season that is going to fire us, and we are going to be back, and we are going to be better. We are all going to remember this feeling, and we are going to put it in the back of our minds, and we are going to let it come into the gym every day. And we are going to get better.”
The loss to Ohio State is just the second for the Nittany Lions this season, who last lost in their opener to UCLA. However, Penn State is already looking to the final meeting with the Buckeyes on March 16.
It will be the final meeting of three between the rivals this year. The Nittany Lions took the first meeting in three sets in Hawaii, and Ohio State returned the favor Saturday night.
“[Penn State coach Mark Pavlik] brought that up,” said Hammond, a 6-foot-4 California native. “At that point it’s not who’s better, who’s not better, it’s about who is just saying ‘I’m going to win this game.’ I think we played not to lose, instead of to win. That was ultimately the difference. They played to win.”
In the first match between the schools, Penn State out hit Ohio State, .292-.196, and in the second meeting, the Buckeyes hit .333 to Penn State’s .173.
Between the first two meetings, the teams tied 58 times, and there were 27 lead changes.
Both matches had sets that went into volleyball’s version of overtime, and only one set between the two sides ended in a lead larger than five(Penn State beat Ohio State 25-17 in the second set of the first match).
Ohio State coach Pete Hanson spoke about the importance of these matches for seeding between his Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions if both schools can progress to the NCAA tournament, which both teams have legitimate chances of doing.
“Not that we needed to put pressure on our guys, but we talked about that this week,” Hanson said. “You are going to have two cracks at Penn State. We didn’t show up in the first one out in Hawaii, and they [swept] us.”
As for Hammond, he’s already got his sights set on the rubber-match in a hostile Columbus, Ohio.
“It’s going to be one that we look forward to,” the setter said. “It’s already circled on the calendar for me. We are going to be better, and they are going to be better. It’s going to be a good match.”