The highly anticipated rematch between visiting No. 13 Penn State and No. 9 Ohio State on Saturday night in Columbus lasted shorter than expected.
The Buckeyes (15-3, 7-1 MIVA) defeated the Nittany Lions (14-6, 8-1 EIVA) in three straight sets (25-20, 25-17, 25-20).
The Lions dug themselves deep in holes several times, only possessing a lead for the opening point of the second set.
“We get punched in the mouth and we’re not punching back until it’s too late,” Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said of his young team. “The pressure starts to come and that’s part of the maturation process.”
The Lions have now lost three matches in a row. It also results in the team’s sixth loss of the season, which surpasses last year’s total of five.
Ohio State was strong offensively, with a hitting percentage of .478. The squad also played a fundamentally sound match with only five attacking errors. On the other side, Penn State struggled, hitting .168 and piling up 23 attack errors.
Ohio State also dominated the stat sheet in blocks as it had 13 compared to Penn State’s zero.
“They blocked a few balls, that was the frustrating part,” Pavlik said.
Some positives came in Penn State performances by sophomore Aaron Russell, who contributed 14 kills for the Lions, along side senior Tom Comfort, who chipped in 13 kills in the loss.
Earlier in the week, Pavlik gave the players off days on Monday and Tuesday, citing physical and mental fatigue from the first nine weeks of the season.
“We’re sticking with the schedule. We’ll get in the gym Monday,” Pavlik said regarding how the team will plan to right the ship this week.
Penn State is in the midst of an eight-match road trip and has lost three straight since winning the first two matches over conference opponents Rutgers and NJIT earlier this month.
“I don’t think we are playing well right now,” Pavlik said. “We’re taking some teams on their home court and they’re ready for us.
Over the next two weekends, Penn State will continue to play on the road against St. Francis (March 23), Princeton (March 29) and George Mason (March 30). The Lions defeated each opponent in their previous meetings this season.
The last three losses have caused the group to drop in the men’s volleyball rankings, but the Lions continue to look forward.
“I hope we’re a better team because of these past three matches, but we’ve got some work to do,” Pavlik said.