Oct. 5, 2011
Site: University Park, Pa. (Rec Hall)
Score: Northwestern 2, No. 8 Penn State 3
Records: NU (10-6, 1-4 Big Ten), No. 8 Penn State (11-4, 4-1 Big Ten)
Next NU Event:Saturday, Oct. 8 -- at No. 25 Ohio State (St. John Arena), 5 p.m.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-- After giving an incredibly spirited effort Northwestern accomplished something it had not done since Sept. 5, 1987, but the end result was not what the Wildcats strived for as they fell to No. 8 Penn State at Rec Hall in University Park, Pa., 3-2 (19-25, 25-22, 18-25, 25-13, 11-15).
After fighting back from one-set deficits in the second and fourth frames, the Wildcats did not have enough left in the tank to knock off the four-time defending national champions in their own building in the decisive fifth.
"The team played extremely hard tonight and with tremendous composure and resolve," said Northwestern head coach Keylor Chan. "We came up short, but we learned two important lessons. First that we can compete with anyone in the nation and second, that there are still things we need to improve on."
The premier set played out evenly early on with the two teams trading runs with one another. Northwestern grabbed its first lead of the match at 6-5 on a double block by Kathryn Chrystal (Crystal Lake, Ill./Central) and Hannah Crippen (Plainfield, Ill./North). The teams would go back and forth until the Nittany Lions grabbed a 10-9 lead on an ace from left-handed server Micha Hancock.
Penn State would not lead by more than four points until closing out the frame on a 5-1 run that was punctuated on a kill off the swing of Deja McClendon, winning 25-19.
The Wildcats started sluggishly in the second set as they fell behind, 7-2, prompting Chan to call an early timeout. His team responded the way he hoped as they went on a 8-1 run of their own to grab a 10-8 lead. A pair of newcomers, Yewande Akanbi (Houston, Texas/Dawson) with a kill and Katie Dutchman (Del Mar, Calif./Torrey Pines) with a pair of service aces, gave NU the advantage.
The 'Cats continued to show great resolve as they went toe-to-toe throughout the duration of the second set and finished with a fury. With the score knotted at 22 apiece Northwestern dug in its heels and received an ace by Crippen sandwiched around a pair of kills by Stephanie Holthus
(Burlington, Ill./Central), to claim victory, 25-22.
The second set victory was the first for the Wildcats over Penn State since Oct. 11, 2003, snapping a streak of 17 in a row. It was the first time the purple and white won a set in Rec Hall since Sept. 5, 1987 when Penn State was a member of the Atlantic 10 conference. That broke a streak of 60 straight in favor of the Nittany Lions in their own gym.
Coming out for the third set, Northwestern was unable to sustain the momentum built up by its outstanding performance in the one prior. Already leading by four points at 9-5, the Nittany Lions went on 9-3 run to extend the lead to 10 points and never look back. The Wildcats would mount a rally at the end of the set while still trailing by 10, 24-14. A pair of errors on PSU, an ace by Alex Ayers (Playa Del Ray, Calif./Marymount) and a kill by Holthus would slice the deficit to six points, but that was as close as they could come, falling 25-18.
The Wildcats rebounded with authority in the fourth set, seemingly controlling the action from the opening serve. Northwestern played near flawless volleyball throughout the frame with several huge blocks and a parade of picture-perfect kills. The 'Cats won the game with relative ease, 25-13. That number signifies the largest margin of victory in a set ever for NU over PSU.
Penn State's 12-point loss in game four was their largest margin of defeat in a set at home since dropping game three to UCLA (30-18) in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Dec. 1, 2001.
Once again, however, Northwestern could not sustain the intensity in the decisive frame. The Nittany Lions built a 10-3 that proved to be too much for the Wildcats to overcome. Chan's team would slice the deficit to three points at 12-9, on a thunderous kill by Dutchman. Northwestern would pull to within two at 13-11, but Penn State put down the final two points for the win.
It was the first five-set match in the series since Sept. 23, 2000 and the first ever at Rec Hall.
Holthus tallied her team-best seventh double-double of the season. The sophomore has a match-high 19 kills to go along with 13 digs. Akanbi hammered home a career-best 15 terminations in the match, as well. Dutchman added a career-high five service aces, as well.
Northwestern returns to the court Saturday at 5 p.m. for a match against a second straight ranked foe, this time, No. 25 Ohio State.
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