Much like it did all season, Penn State kept fighting until the very end Sunday.
In their regional semifinal matchup of the NCAA Tournament against the Texas Longhorns, the Nittany Lions fell short, losing 3-1 in a highly competitive contest.
The Longhorns came into the match ranked No. 4 in the tournament’s bracket and proved to be a tough test for Russ Rose’s squad.
But that didn’t stop Penn State from leaving everything out on the court, proving that it was a resilient program despite a disappointing end to the season.
“I was very impressed with the fight we were able to have throughout. We came in with the mindset that we’re going to play to the very end, and we showed that we don’t give up,” junior middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord said.
In her last game of the season, Hord provided 13 kills and four blocks for a team that just wasn’t going to quit, something that’s been a theme all season.
Fighting through cancellations and postponements throughout their schedule, the Nittany Lions could never be too sure when they were going to be playing their next game.
Which is why making it as far as they did is such an accomplishment for this program.
Despite everything that had been thrown at them in 2021, Rose led his team to it’s 40th NCAA Tournament in a row and 18th consecutive Regional Semifinal.
But for Rose, this season was all about giving his team that opportunity they deserved.
“It was such an unusual season that started in August, and had starts and stops and so many different things that made it challenging for players, the staff and fans”, said Rose. “There were so many moving parts and people working behind the scenes, which is why having an opportunity for these guys to have a championship is such a wonderful thing."
When the match was tied 1-1 heading into the third set, Texas threw everything it had at the Nittany Lions.
But Penn State’s resilient response looked like a microcosm of what has transpired throughout the year.
The two teams traded blows back and forth, eventually tying each other at 25.
From there, Penn State continued to fight and forced Texas to reach 30 points before the Longhorns would claim the set.
Though it lost the set, and ultimately the match, Penn State’s confidence never wavered, and its spirit only grew from the experience of keeping close with a great team for that long.
Experiences like that are what returning Nittany Lions will try to build on when it’s time to prepare for next season.
“We’ve learned a lot this season and we’ve had a lot of growth in a lot of areas,” Jonni Parker said.
“For teams across the country, their resilience and ability to grow through the season has been phenomenal. The things teams had to overcome, like the stops and protocols, is going to make volleyball very interesting in the future.”
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