Penn State was hardly ready for Texas’ stamina and attack in its second NCAA Tournament match.
The Nittany Lions failed to take advantage of their first set win, losing the next three in a row as their postseason experience came to a close.
The blue and white has made its money off of first set victories all season long, coming out with boatloads of energy in the opening frame to propel it to match wins throughout the 2021 campaign.
But Sunday night, the blue and white’s takeoff took longer than usual and the Nittany Lions and Longhorns matched each other blow for blow.
Penn State took a pair of first set timeouts and after each one, it looked as if the blue and white had received a boost of energy.
After the second timeout, Penn State drove forward and put an end to the back-and-forth opening set, taking it 25-23.
Those timeouts from coach Russ Rose initially looked as if they had saved the blue and white from losing the match, let alone from dropping the first set. However, the next three sets indicated that would not be the case.
The blue and white dropped the second frame 25-18 and never seriously threatened.
With the match tied up at one set apiece, the third frame was easily the most competitive of the match.
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Neither squad wanted to budge as the penultimate set was the most competitive of them all, considering it required extra points.
Both the blue and white and Texas had multiple opportunities to take the third set, each possessing multiple set points. However, it wasn’t until the Longhorns took advantage of a Jonni Parker attack error to earn a 30-28 win in the third set.
After falling behind 2-1 in heartbreaking fashion, it was clear the Nittany Lions were facing an uphill battle.
The final frame highlighted Penn State’s fatigue as it didn’t resemble the team squad that had come out firing in the opening set.
Prior to Sunday evening, the blue and white had only gone past three sets in one of its previous six matches.
The sole match that went longer than three sets only lasted one set longer, yet it resulted in a Penn State victory.
Along with the Nittany Lions having not played more than three sets in their last five matches, prior to playing North Carolina A&T in their NCAA Tournament opener, they hadn’t competed in a match in 26 days.
Although the blue and white practiced during that time, not enduring real-time match play for such an extended period of time sufficiently explains why Penn State may have lacked the stamina to keep up with Texas’ attack.
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