After cruising through the first two sets, and jumping to a quick lead in the third, it appeared another sweep was at the hands of the Penn State women’s volleyball team.
But after things fell apart later in the set, a crazy play opened the fourth, Rec Hall erupted and the Nittany Lions got back on track.
Ohio State blocked a big swing, and Buckeye players began to celebrate, thinking the point was over. But the ball pinballed around on Penn State’s side, and from her knees Ali Frantti bumped the ball over the net, and it fell in the middle of the Buckeye team.
The fans went crazy, and the Nittany Lions were inspired.
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“We talk about it all the time,” middle blocker Haleigh Washington said. “There’s one play that’s a huge momentum shift, and I think that plays like that shift momentum, and they change the mentality of the game entirely. I think that play really helped us get back on track.”
With momentum back on their side after that point, the No. 3 Nittany Lions survived 25-15, 25-16, 19-25, 25-14 against the No. 11 Buckeyes, sweeping the week’s home-and-home series.
Penn State took Wednesday’s match in Columbus in three sets.
Aiyana Whitney’s 13 kills and four blocks, Washington’s 13 kills, and nine kills each from Megan Courtney and Simone Lee paced the Nittany Lions (21-2, 10-2 Big Ten), who were tied for second with Ohio State in the conference until this week’s matches. Bryanna Weiskircher gave out 42 assists to help the offense to .364 hitting, Keeton Holcomb picked up a dozen digs and Courtney added 10.
Audra Appold’s 15 kills, Elizabeth Campbell’s 12 kills and Taylor Sandbothe’s 10 kills and four blocks paced Ohio State (19-5, 8-4), which was ranked No. 6 in the nation last week. Taylor Hughes gave out 23 assists, and Luisa Schirmer picked up 11 digs.
Penn State won the blocking battle 9-6, holding the Buckeyes to .172 hitting.
Three of those blocks came on successive points early in the third set to get Rec Hall rocking. First came solo stuffs from Frantti and Whitney, then Whitney and Courtney teamed up for another denial to put Penn State up 5-2, and it appeared a 3-0 sweep was minutes away.
But passing became erratic, the Lions had trouble with their serve-receive, and the Buckeyes started to post blocks of their own and deliver kills on their swings.
“Things just got a little crazy,” Weiskircher said. “We were trying to do a little more than we needed to, and I think it was all around we were a little rough. We got a little tense, and we figured we had the game in the bag. Obviously, we didn’t.”
Then came that opening point of the fourth, the jitters faded and Penn State closed the match winning 11 of the final 13 points.
“When they close the gap like that, sometimes people can tense up,” Whitney said. “That’s how errors happen. We just try and stay loose and control the ball, control what we’re doing, and keep each other loose so that we can get a run.”
“Coming out in the fourth game as strong as we did,” Weiskircher said, “it was definitely beneficial to get things back going again.”
Notes: Earlier in the day, the team’s locker room was dedicated as the Lori and Russ Rose Women’s Volleyball Complex. The refurbishment of the area was finished over the summer and donors Jack Tsui and Kenton Broyles also were honored. … The match drew 4,931, the sixth time in the last eight home matches the Nittany Lions drew better than 4,000 fans. Entering the match they were fourth in the nation, averaging 4,004 per match. … The Nittany Lions visit Maryland and Rutgers next Thursday and Friday, respectively.