The Ohio State women’s volleyball team lost 3-0 to the Penn State Nittany Lions on Wednesday night at St. John Arena in game that never reached its pre-match hype.
The meeting between No.11 OSU and No.3 Penn State was one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the season thus far. However, it turned out to be one of its biggest disappointments..
Since both teams were tied with conference records of 8-2 coming in, Wednesday’s match was seen as the ultimate showdown of talent. The OSU squad was taking on a team that acquired its seventh NCAA title a season ago. After graduating standout players, such as setter Micah Hancock, however, there was uncertainty as to whether or not Penn State would be able to rise to the challenge of yet another title. On Wednesday, it was OSU which ended up not playing to its full potential.
“I think we did not execute the game as we thought we would,” freshman setter Taylor Hughes said.
Penn State started off the first set with a six-point lead and OSU coach Geoff Carlston was forced to call a timeout early on. It wasn’t unforced errors on OSU’s part per se, but more so the unexpected intensity that Penn State had immediately brought to the court.
The Buckeyes tailed behind consistently throughout the match, never taking a lead over the visitors. OSU finished off the first set with a total of nine errors. As a result, the Nittany Lions took the set with a score of 25-18 and Penn State’s outside hitter Ali Frantti, the 2014 Division I American Volleyball Coaches Association Freshman of the Year, led the team with four kills.
With the first set proving to be a huge wakeup call for the Buckeyes, OSU came out ready to put up a fight.
An improvement in effort by the Scarlet and Gray helped keep the score close for a while. But eventually, the Nittany Lions began to pull ahead. By the time OSU had used up its second timeout, Penn State redshirt freshman setter Bryanna Weiskircher was already leading with 22 assists, whereas OSU senior setter Emily Ruetter only had 13. The Buckeye defense took a beating from Nittany Lions middle blocker Haleigh Washington (five kills), as well as Frantti (14 kills).
Despite solid play by OSU junior libero Valeria León with 11 digs, OSU ultimately lost the set by a score of 25-15.
“A lot of our communication on the court, back row and front row, was a little frantic today,” senior middle blocker Tyler Richardson, who had five kills, said.
Already down 2-0 in the match, the Buckeyes came out more focused in the third set.
Hughes checked in for the first time in the third stanza, despite a nagging elbow injury, and contributed a total of nine assists. Regardless, the Buckeyes began to fall further and further behind as play progressed. Hughes managed an impressive tip on the Penn State defense, kicking off a series of brief rallies for the Buckeyes. But it was too late in the set, as Penn State held on to take the match.
It was obvious to both the crowd and the Nittany Lions that the Buckeyes did not bring their A-games on Wednesday. Richardson said changes need to be made in order to win against the Penn State in the future, as the Buckeyes have not beaten the Nittany Lions since 2006.
“We definitely need to have a more aggressive mindset, and pick up a little bit on the defensive side,” Richardson said.
The two teams will face off again on Friday in State College, Pennsylvania, at 7 p.m.