Volleyball: Northwestern fall to No. 7 Penn State for second time this season


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Michelle Lee serves the ball. The freshman libero had six digs Saturday.

Manasa Pagadala, Reporter


At the 10-4 point in the first set, the match took a turn for the worse.

Until then, catching up to No. 7 Penn State was still in reach for Northwestern. Kills from sophomore outside hitter Nia Robinson and sophomore setter Britt Bommer, along with service errors from the Nittany Lions, allowed the Wildcats to gain possession of the ball. But it would be a while until they got it back.

A kill from outside hitter Taylor Leath sparked a Penn State rally where the Nittany Lions scored 14 consecutive points NU lost the set, 25-6 the lowest score of any set this season, and the match in three sets.

“(Penn State) came out on fire and executed everything really, really well,” coach Shane Davis said. “We just didn’t have a response for that tonight. We tried to dig ourselves out of a hole. But the hole was too big to really get too much momentum going.”

The disappointment at their first set’s performance was evident. The Cats had a hitting percentage of only -0.259 along with only three successful kills, leaving Davis frustrated.

Despite losing in three sets, NU played aggressively until the very last point, ending the game with double-digit kills from Robinson.

In the second set, the Cats required time to gain their footing.

“We struggled with being aggressive at the service line,” Davis said. “We were too timid back there and didn’t put ourselves in good situations for broken plays.”

Robinson pushed the team forward in the second set, landing five of the team’s nine total kills and aggressively attacking the net, thanks to Bommer’s consistent assists. The Cats picked up the pace but their weak defense eventually led to their loss 25-14 in the second set.

Freshman outside hitter Abryanna Cannon said NU’s inability to successfully block in the second set leaves room for improvement.

“I don’t think the defense tonight was necessarily our best performance,”Cannon said. “We were just hustling down a lot of balls but there’s definitely a lot more room for improvement.”

In the third set, NU seemed to have regained some of the aggression from its previous game against Penn State, landing 14 kills. Blocking still stayed relatively weak but consistent attacking compensated as the Cats ended with their highest hitting percentage of the night.

The mood also lightened significantly in the third quarter as over 3,000 spectators burst into laughter, courtesy of one of NU’s players. As Tatyana Hardwick came in to block the ball on the right, she was able to dig the ball off her head, a highlight for the freshman middle blocker who came off the bench for the first time in a while.

“I thought Tatyana sacrificed her body tonight,” Davis said. “She took one off the head. And we ended up winning the rally so she did a great job of sticking her nose in there and was able to make a play work. So I thought that was a great moment for her.”

As the season now comes to a close over the next week, NU’s mantra has become “nothing to lose” and competing has become more about “passion” than winning. In light of their last two games against Michigan and Indiana this week, the Cats hope to use their losses as teachable moments and end the season on a good note.

“We need to be able to have better balance and better opportunities in good situations for our group to be successful against a team like Penn State,” said Coach Davis. “We have to clean it up for our next game against Michigan.”

Email: [email protected]