Joe Paterno once said, “You’re never as good as you think you are when you win and you’re never as bad as you feel when you lose.”
The question for Penn State coach Russ Rose: Where in between those extremes is his women’s volleyball team?
His Nittany Lions once had a 15-match win streak this season but suffered their fourth straight loss with a 22-25, 25-17, 25-23, 23-25, 15-11 setback to No. 1 Nebraska on Friday night.
Penn State (17-7, 9-4 Big Ten) had things turned around after taking the fourth set and looked poised for the upset of the defending national champions, stoked by the 5,564 filling Rec Hall, but couldn’t sustain the momentum into the fifth.
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“I think we made way more errors this match than we have against any of the (other) big teams,” said freshman libero Kendall White, who had 32 digs. “If we can grind as hard as we had against Minnesota, we would have beat them in, probably four.”
The four-match losing streak is the longest since a similar slide in 1982, and only the second time in Rose’s 38 seasons he has seen such a skid. Penn State also had a three-game losing streak early this season.
“They are who they are,” Rose said. “We’ll keep trying to spin the dial and find a match of kids that want to play and work hard.”
The current skid has an underlying cause — all against ranked teams, the last three are among the top five.
“The players can all make a comment on who they think is the best team in the country, because they’ve played the three teams that were ranked No. 1,” Rose said, referring to Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin. “ ... If you want to be one of the relevant teams, you need to hold your home court.”
Simone Lee’s 23 kills paced the Lion offense, with 13 kills for Haleigh Washington, nine kills and seven blocks for Tori Gorrell and seven kills and five blocks for Ali Frantti.
The Nittany Lions struggled with their swings most of the night, finishing with a .166 hitting percentage. A frustrated Rose pulled starting setter Abby Detering in the third set in favor of last year’s starter, Bryanna Weiskircher. They finished with 24 and 28 assists, respectively.
“I thought Abby started good and then she kind of got a glazed look in her eye,” Rose said, “ ... I don’t like having to flip-flop.”
The Huskers (21-1), who have won nine straight, were led by 19 kills each for Andie Malloy and Mikaela Foecke, Amber Rolfzen’s 16 kills and nine blocks, Justine Wong-Orantes’ 23 digs and Kelly Hunter’s 61 assists and five blocks.
“We had some windows that I thought we could have taken control (of the match),” Rose said. “But we didn’t have the players to do that or the coaches to get it done.”
Notes: Washington was named to the Academic All-District team by the College Sports Information Directors of America on Friday. The junior middle blocker also was named to the list last year on her way to Academic All-America honors. She carries a 3.83 GPA in a philosophy and psychology double major. ... The only other season Penn State had a four-match losing skid was 1976, the first year of the program under Tom Tait. It was the only season to finish with a losing record and only previous year with two separate three-game losing streaks.