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Penn State women's volleyball snaps 2-decade-long streak in win over Rutgers

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Womens Volleyball v Ohio State - Gabby Blossom, Kaitlyn Hord

Setter Gabby Blossom (13) sets the ball for middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord (23) 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.

It was Sept. 24 when Penn State swept Rutgers, keeping a 20-year streak of straight-set victories alive against the Scarlet Knights.

On Friday night, coming out of the gates with a 2-0 set lead, the blue and white looked primed to continue its dominance over Rutgers once again.

However, the streak came to an end when the Nittany Lions dropped the third set.

While Russ Rose and company walked out of Rec Hall with a four-set victory, it’s hard not to say that they didn’t have a sour taste in their mouths after the match.

Statistically, it was another solid win for Penn State on the season, however, the Nittany Lions played beneath their competition level at times, letting Rutgers nab that elusive first set in two decades.

For most, being ranked No. 15 in the country and adding to the win column would leave the blue and white feeling optimistic going into Sunday’s match against Purdue — Russ Rose would say otherwise.

With the exception of a couple players, the team put out a lackluster display.

“If it’s not that important to you, you put up performances that are disappointing. So, the upside is that the players are thrilled that they won… or something like that,” Rose said.

The Nittany Lions did win indeed, but at the cost of an incredible streak of 51 straight sets in a row against the Scarlet Knights.

If anything is clear, Rose wasn’t troubled by losing the streak. For him, it’s about losing a set in general, treating Rutgers like every other opponent.

“It doesn’t mean anything because a lot of [the players] weren’t even alive 20 years ago,” Rose said. “We don’t say, ‘geez, that was disappointing.’ That would be really disrespectful to the other team.”

MORE VOLLEYBALL COVERAGE

In reference to the ugly set for Penn State, which it lost 25-22, Rose stated Rutgers made less mistakes, outclassing his own team in the third.

However, despite the weak performance compared to the program’s usual standards, there were two standouts repping the blue and white Friday.

Senior middle-blocker Kaitlyn Hord and senior defensive specialist Jenna Hampton put the team on their backs in the rematch against the Scarlet Knights.

Hord had 16 kills on a 0.667 hit percentage, while Jenna Hampton impressed in her own right, with 21 digs.

Both of their performances, particularly in the second set, had Penn State looking destined to add another sweep to the list going into third.

“We just came out, and we were very aggressive in our attacking,” Hord said. “Not so much in the third set, we just got complacent.”

Complacency is not much of an option for a team competing toward the top of the national level.

Consistency issues Friday night once again plagued the Nittany Lions, a problem that has nagged the team since the advent of the season.

With the Nittany Lions most recently losing to conference-rival, and No. 10, Nebraska, Penn State is looking to improve quickly, as it only has one day off to prepare for its next opponent.

“We let the little things get to us, we weren’t playing together, and we were playing selfishly,” Hampton said. “We just need to get back in the gym and work on this.”

If this team looks to continue what has been a solid season, it will need more than just two players carrying the load, which was the case Friday night.

For just one set, the Nittany Lions let a team it has historically dominated outperform them — not typically a part of the equation in a winning formula.

“We let their energy overtake ours,” Hampton said. “We stopped playing Penn State volleyball.”

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Nate Lather is a men's hockey reporter at The Daily Collegian. He is a sophomore majoring in journalism.

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