Even with an 8-3 start, there were still plenty of unanswered for No. 20 Penn State as it prepared to host No. 3 Ohio State on Sunday.
Though the Nittany Lions were dealt a tough non-conference slate to start off the season, facing No. 24 Georgia Tech, No. 11 Oregon and No. 14 Stanford through their first eight games, inconsistency reared its head in their 0-3 record against ranked opponents.
The Buckeyes had an opportunity to test the merit of Penn State’s No. 20 ranking — the Nittany Lions responded in straight sets.
After the match, a common theme from the players and coach Russ Rose was the importance of teamwork against a respectable program like Ohio State.
Penn State has started hot in the Big Ten, not having dropped a set in its first two matches against conference opponents — unselfishness being a key component for the Nittany Lions.
“I just want to trust my setter and know that she’s gonna put the ball there,” senior outside-hitter Erika Pritchard said. “I just thought it was a really good team effort today.”
Pritchard, who hit nine kills in the match, had every reason to believe in senior setter Gabby Blossom who had 36 assists and 13 digs on the night.
Blossom, despite a strong personal performance, still took accountability for the seven missed serves by Penn State, saying she missed one at a “bad time.”
Rose and company will only have a few days to improve upon their mistakes before they face another Big Ten challenger.
“This is a great way to celebrate now, but then tomorrow, we refocus on Maryland,” Blossom said. “But in the Big Ten, every team is good.”
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One player for the Nittany Lions that will be looking to repeat her performance in a matchup against the Terrapins is senior outside-hitter Adanna Rollins, who Rose spoke highly of after the match.
“I think the most important statement is that she’s a great teammate,” Rose said.
Rollins had a team-high 14 kills against the Buckeyes.
As the team prepares for its match at College Park, one advantage that the team will certainly miss is playing away from Happy Valley. In a battle against rival No. 3 Ohio State, the players had a word of thanks for the fans.
“No matter what, playing at home is going to give you an advantage,” senior right-side hitter Jonni Parker said. “We get to do what we do and keep up with the Penn State tradition”
The appreciation from the players was as widespread as Rose and Pritchard had words of their own for the Penn State faithful.
“I think we say it all the time, we have the best fans in the country,” Pritchard said. “We love the energy they give us.”
Penn State ultimately found a way to respond from its early season woes with a huge win at home.
A combination of great teamwork, support from the crowd, and strong individual performances put the Nittany Lions in a position to win against Ohio State.
A game against Maryland rests only days away, the Nittany Lions have tonight to enjoy themselves before it is back to business. Regardless of how the Terrapins are performing, Rose said, he will have his team ready for whatever comes next.
“The conference has incredible talent and coaches all across the board,” Rose said. “We practice hard, so we recognize that it doesn’t make a difference who is on the other side of that net.”
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