Indiana visited head coach Steve Aird’s alma mater No. 14 Penn State for a Friday night match. The Nittany Lions entered the match 4-0 in Big Ten play while Indiana stood at 2-2. While Indiana took the match to five sets, Penn State won 3-2.
The Hoosiers took the opening set 25-18. Indiana hit .308 compared to Penn State hitting .073. Sophomore outside hitter Avry Tatum had four kills with no errors for the Hoosiers. Offensively the Nittany Lions struggled, ending the set with 10 kills and five errors. Indiana was able to push the pace of Penn State’s offense, keeping out of sync which was key to their early set success.
Penn State took the second set 25-9, turning its first set struggles around to hit a blistering .591. Indiana struggled offensively with 10 errors and just five kills in the set hitting -0.179. The Nittany Lions used their block to shut down the Indiana hitters. Although Penn State turned their game around in the second set, Indiana could not get themselves in sync offensively.
The Nittany Lions prevailed in the third set 25-21. Indiana found itself down early in the third set, but a quick timeout seemed to allow the Hoosiers to find their groove. A back-and-forth middle of the set ensued before Penn State was able to pull away. Nittany Lion senior outside hitter Jess Mruzik had 16 kills, hitting .312 through the first three sets. Indiana was able to bounce back after their offensive struggles, hitting .190 as a team.
Indiana won the fourth set 25-19, forcing a decisive fifth set. The Hoosiers continued to recover from their second set struggles, quickly going ahead 13-4. Penn State began to fight back, closing the gap, but Indiana seemed to have an answer every time.
Tatum had two solo blocks against Mruzik, and she used her hands to alter her attacks. Indiana junior setter Camryn Haworth capitalized on the second contact kill late in the fourth set, getting the final kill of the set. Each team’s offense was streaky throughout the match, with Indiana hitting .297 and Penn State hitting .029.
The decisive fifth set was won by Penn State 15-11. Indiana used its strong serving, pushing Penn State out of system early in the fifth set going up 4-2. After the Hoosiers missed a few crucial opportunities, the Nittany Lions regained the lead 7-6. A couple of crafty attacks from the Nittany Lions led to a Hoosier time out down 11-9 late in the fifth. The Nittany Lions executed a stuff block to seal the match 15-11.
Both teams struggled in the opening two sets before settling down in the third. Indiana hit .194 and Penn State hit .209 in the match. Sophomore outside Candela Alonso-Corcelles paced the offense with 15 kills on 39 swings for the Hoosiers. Mruzik had 19 kills on 49 swings for the Nittany Lions. Penn State edged Indiana with 16 blocks compared to 9.
Indiana will travel to Maryland for its second match of the weekend Saturday. The Hoosiers will look to bounce back and avoid their first back-to-back loss in conference play this season. The match will be broadcast on Big Ten Plus at 7 p.m.
Follow reporter Michael Livingston (@mblivingston_) for updates throughout the Indiana volleyball season.