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By the numbers | Sizing up Penn State women’s volleyball halfway through its regular season

Womens Volleyball v Ohio State - Jonni Parker

Right side Jonni Parker (9) spikes the ball during the Penn State women's volleyball game against Ohio State at Rec Hall on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in University Park, Pa. The Nittany Lions defeated the Buckeyes 3-0.

Numbers never lie — the same is the case in Penn State’s 2021 regular season as the campaign passes the halfway mark.

Several statistics have defined the year so far for the Nittany Lions: These figures provide an explanation for their successes and reason for their pitfalls.

As the blue and white prepares for another weekend of action, here are the three biggest numbers of its season to this point.

3.70

There isn’t much more for Jonni Parker — a three-time AVCA All-American — to prove in a Nittany Lion uniform.

Nonetheless, the senior right-side hitter has been an offensive spark for Penn State once again.

Parker’s 3.70 kills per set lead the way for the Nittany Lions by a large margin, and she’s played in all 56 sets across the blue and white’s 16 matches.

That figure is also a career-high average for Parker — she produced 3.00, 3.53 and 3.23 kills per set respectively in her first three seasons.

Parker currently ranks fifth among all Big Ten players in the category and also places fifth in the conference in total kills with 207.

Parker tallied her 1,000th career kill in Penn State’s victory over Iowa State on Sept. 3 and totaled a season-high 21 kills in the Nittany Lions’ narrow loss to Stanford on Sept. 11.

3.13

The Nittany Lions have been a force to be reckoned with on the defensive end this season.

Penn State is averaging 3.13 blocks per set as a team — the second-highest margin in the Big Ten, and the nation, only behind Maryland’s 3.18.

Senior middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord and sophomore middle blocker Allie Holland lead the charge for the blue and white with 1.58 and 1.25 blocks per set, respectively, while Hord’s average is second in the Big Ten and fifth in the country.

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Like Parker, Hord is a three-time All-American who is enjoying perhaps her best season in the blue and white.

After only playing in eight sets across five matches in the spring, Holland has taken a major leap in her second season in Happy Valley, helping to fill the void left behind by two-time All-American Serena Gray after Gray transferred to Pitt.

It’s been a sizable improvement for Penn State in this aspect of the game, as its 2020 and 2019 squads averaged just 2.3 blocks per set.

1-4

Possibly the most telling statistic of Penn State’s season thus far is its consistent struggles against AVCA Top-25 foes.

The Nittany Lions haven’t dropped a match to unranked opponents, but they’ve lost four out of their five contests with ranked teams.

Of those four defeats, only one has been particularly close — the blue and white had a two-sets-to-one advantage over Stanford and match point in the fourth set but couldn’t hold on.

Penn State’s lone ranked win was a big one — a sweep over then-No. 3 Ohio State on Sept. 26 gave the Nittany Lions a major feather in their cap.

The Nittany Lions will get plenty of chances to improve on their poor showings in the next several weeks as they hit a critical portion of their Big Ten schedule.

After a home date with Rutgers Friday, Penn State’s next three matches will all be on the road against teams ranked toward the top of the AVCA Top-25 Coaches Poll.

The stretch begins Sunday at No. 6 Purdue, before trips to No. 12 Minnesota and No. 3 Wisconsin.

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