After getting swept by No. 11 Oregon on Friday, No. 18 Penn State immediately challenged another Pac-12 opponent in No. 14 Stanford on Saturday evening.
The Nittany Lions started off strong in the first set and protected a lead throughout. Stanford cut it close late, bringing the score within two of the Nittany Lions.
However, that would not be enough for the Cardinal, as Penn State would lead in kills, service aces, and digs. Senior right setter Jonni Parker and junior middle blocker Adanna Rollins led the way early, with five kills each in the first.
The blue and white sealed its strong start by finishing the set with a 25-21 win.
That control would slip in set-two as the Cardinal kept proceedings tight throughout. Stanford earned its first lead of the match, going up 13-11 midway through the second.
It would remain close through the entirety of the second set. Senior middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord and Parker made strong contributions in the second set to keep the Nittany Lions afloat.
Despite Hord having eight kills and three blocks on the game in set two, the Nittany Lions couldn’t get it done.
Penn State would eventually spark its own momentum early in the third, jumping off to an 8-3 lead with contributions from the whole team.
With a short memory for the disappointing second set, the Nittany Lions rebounded — holding that lead for much of the third.
The blue and white responded strongly, taking the set 25-22.
Penn State would continue to be a battle in the fourth. Stanford kicked off the set with a hot 5-1 start but the Nittany Lions, led by Parker and Hord, kept it competitive all night.
Despite looking poised to call “game” in Oregon, Russ Rose and company collapsed under a 4-0 run late in the fourth set. With a 24-22 lead in their hands, the Nittany Lions let it slip to 26-24 for Stanford leading to a fifth set.
In the fifth and final set, both teams laid it out on the line early, with neither program taking a commanding position on the scoreline.
All of that would change, however, as Stanford would go on to take complete control winning 15-7.
Jonni Parker dominates
One player for Penn State stood out just a little more than everyone else.
Parker was all over the stat sheet today, specifically in the kill department. Totaling a team-high 21 kills, 17 of which happened in the first three sets, Parker was instrumental for the Nittany Lions success.
If Parker can continue to stay hot, she can be expected to win weekly awards for the rest of the season.
Waves of momentum
Penn State has struggled against its ranked opponents so far this season with losses against No. 24 Georgia Tech and No. 11 Oregon.
However, there were moments where the Nittany Lions flashed greatness and there were moments where they sunk below the level of their opponents.
Penn State lacks consistency against ranked opponents and often finds itself riding waves of momentum rather than exhibiting consistent control.
Dropping the fourth set with a 24-22 lead was unacceptable. Consistency will be a must as the blue and white will soon be competing in Big Ten play.
The supporting cast
Even with Parker stealing the show, this match was full of contributions across the board for Penn State.
Hord was phenomenal on the night. While she may not have led the game in kills, it was her presence in the middle that Penn State really needed.
Hord recorded a match-high seven blocks while tacking on 11 kills of her own.
However, the unsung hero of the match has to be senior setter Gabby Blossom. The St. Louis, Missouri, native recorded a whopping 18 digs, more than anyone else on the court.
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