Volleyball: Northwestern swept by Penn State in first home game of season


Daily file photo by Sam Schumacher

Kayla Morin rises for a spike. The senior and the rest of Northwestern struggled offensively, hitting just .093 en route to a straight-set defeat to No. 18 Penn State.

Aidan Markey, Reporter


Last season, Northwestern earned perhaps its biggest win in program history with a home victory over Penn State. This season’s meeting was a different story.

The Wildcats (7-7, 0-2 Big Ten) fell in straight sets to the No. 18 Nittany Lions (10-3, 2-0) in NU’s home opener Sunday. The Cats, while enthusiastic in returning to Welsh-Ryan Arena, simply could not contain the power of their opponents’ attack.

Penn State tallied eight total blocks while NU had only four. The Nittany Lions’ .266 team hitting percentage also trumped the Cats’ mark of a mere .093.

“I don’t know how much you can contain that kind of line,” coach Shane Davis said. “We just have to be able to do a better job in our system.”

NU jumped out to a strong start, using a strong attack and powerful serving to claim an 11-5 lead in the first set.

The Nittany Lions persevered, though, rallying back to tie the set at 12-12. From then on, the teams battled closely, the lead on either side never greater than three points.

A big kill from NU junior middle blocker Gabrielle Hazen gave the Cats a set point, but an ace and a kill by junior Simone Lee of Penn State gave the visitors the advantage. After leading by six points early on, NU dropped the first set, 27-25.

“(In) the first set, we came out swinging,” sophomore middle blocker Rachael Fara said. “That’s what we want to do all the time, but we have to carry that throughout the rest of the game.”

Fara had one of the few strong performances for the Cats’ attack as she notched three kills, two blocks and an ace in the match. Junior outside hitter Symone Abbott and Hazen each had 10 kills and a block for NU.

The Nittany Lions jumped out to an early 4-1 lead in the second set thanks to two aces from junior Abby Detering. Although NU came as close as 15-13, Penn State remained in control by using the power and length of its front line.

With 11 players on its roster that measure six feet or taller, the Nittany Lions rank second in hitting percentage and first in opponent’s hitting percentage in the Big Ten. This dominant presence at the net propelled Penn State to a commanding 25-17 second set victory.

Abbott, who had three kills in the second set, acknowledged the team’s decline in quality of play throughout the match.

“Our offense was the thing that got us,” Abbott said. “Our consistency wasn’t much to compete with a team like Penn State.”

The third set told a story very similar to the second set. The Nittany Lions, sharp and focused, controlled play at the net and reeled off a 25-17 set victory to close out the match.

After experiencing the talent and power of Penn State, Davis knows what the team must do to hold its own against the other dynamic programs that NU will play throughout Big Ten competition.

“(We have to focus) on our overall game,” Davis said. “We have to be a little bit more cleaner with what we are doing.”

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