Indiana Daily Student

IU volleyball faces defensive struggles in two losses in No. 8 Penn State

<p>Head coach Steve Aird talks to his team during a break in the action Feb. 12 at Wilkinson Hall. IU lost to Penn State on the road 0-3 on Saturday.</p>

Head coach Steve Aird talks to his team during a break in the action Feb. 12 at Wilkinson Hall. IU lost to Penn State on the road 0-3 on Saturday.

IU volleyball faced No. 8 Penn State this weekend, losing in four sets on Friday and three on Saturday. Penn State improved to 4-3 while IU dropped to 2-8. 

Contrary to recent matches, IU started Friday night quietly, losing the first set 25-13. They rallied in the second set, keeping the lead until Penn State tied at 22-22. IU went on to win the set 27-25. IU went on to lose the next sets 25-10 and 25-18.

The Hoosiers didn’t look like themselves for most of the night, only recording two blocks in all four sets and hitting .074 with 40 kills and 30 attack errors. The defense struggled at the net and in the back court, falling victim to strong kills and sneaky tips from Penn State.

Penn State junior right side hitter Jonni Parker posed a serious threat throughout the night, taking advantage of IU’s slow defensive reaction time and recording 18 kills.

“We played well at times, but made too many errors,” head coach Steve Aird said. “Right now we are inconsistent and we need to get more people on the same page playing well together.”

Freshman outside hitter Tommi Stockham surpassed 100 career kills on Friday, recording 15 in the match. She contributed in key moments late in sets with two kills coming in the second set to tie and then give IU the lead.

On Saturday, the first set started quickly with multiple Penn State scoring runs and soft tips over the net. IU continued to struggle with block coverage throughout the night and was swept in three sets 25-15, 25-21 and 25-22.

This was the first time this season Penn State swept an opponent. 

Despite the loss, the Hoosiers appeared to work together more consistently and effectively. IU recorded four blocks on the night and hit .170. There were multiple long rallies that saw an IU point with improved back-court defense and strong kills.

However, they had less kill attempts and were still far below their blocking average of 2.19 per set.

“The best part about tonight was that we competed first whistle to last whistle,” Aird said.

Stockham tied with junior outside hitter Breana Edwards to lead the team with 11 kills each, marking the sixth match of the season where Stockham has recorded double-digit kills.

“She’s proven that she’s got an elite arm,” Aird said. “She’s becoming a really good team player.”

The Hoosiers faced problems with overpasses in receiving serves and kills, at times placing the ball in a perfect spot for the Nittany Lions to send over a kill. They were often caught off guard by tips and struggled to cover the court, leaving many open areas for kills. 

Aird said he takes some of the blame for that. His team didn’t have the normal amount of time before the season to train a consistent lineup, and he has been moving his players around to see what works, he said. 

“I’m really proud of how hard they played despite me moving things around,” he said. “They are a resilient group and I know they will be ready to compete against Purdue on Tuesday.”

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