Volleyball falls to Penn State in season opener, 3-1
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Despite a great performance in game-two the No. 4 Texas Volleyball team dropped its season opener to No. 3 Penn State, 3-1 (23-30, 34-32, 22-30, 24-30) Friday night in front of 3,013 fans at a very hot and muggy Rec Hall. The loss dropped the Longhorns to 0-1 on the year, while Penn State improved to 1-0. The two teams return to the floor Saturday, Aug. 25 at 6 p.m. (central) for the second match of the weekend. A live webcast of the match will be available at GoPSUSports.com.
The Longhorns claimed the first point in game one on a Nittany Lions' service error, but the lead would prove to be short-lived. Penn State quickly mounted a 13-2 rally paced by three Megan Hodge kills to claim a 13-3 advantage. The Nittany Lions led by as many as 11, but the Horns closed the gap at the 24-14 mark, using a 5-1 run to narrow the margin to 25-19. Senior middle blocker Brandy Magee paced the rally with a solo block, one service ace and a kill. However, that would be a close as UT would get, as a series of Texas service errors and Penn State middle hitter Christa Harmotto's sixth kill of the game closed out the first stanza, 30-23.
"I felt like Penn State executed very well and I felt like Harmotto did an excellent job and their setters did a nice job of spreading the ball around," head coach Jerritt Elliott said. "We weren't as consistent offensively as we would like to be."
After falling behind 3-0 in the early going of game-two, Texas rallied to claim its first lead of the match on a kill by sophomore outside hitter Destinee Hooker at the 8-7 mark. The Longhorns then increased their lead to seven at the 17-10 mark, using a 7-1 run highlighted by a pair of kills from junior middle blocker Lauren Paolini.
UT maintained its lead for most of the game until the Lions pieced together a late 4-0 run to knot the game at 29-29. Penn State's Nicole Fawcett kept PSU in the match down the stretch answering three Texas points with kills, but it was Texas' freshman outside hitter Juliann Faucette who took control of the match in the end. Faucette connected for a pair of kills as part of Texas' game-ending 3-0 rally and lifted Texas to a 34-32 game-two victory.
"We were in the first two games, but our serve/receive game and the speed in our attacks wasn't where we are used to it being," noted Elliott. "In game one we went down quickly and our ball control and multiple hitting errors made it hard for us to get back in the game."
Penn State took control of game three quickly, using a 10-2 run headlined by two Megan Hodge kills to claim a 12-5 advantage. Texas narrowed the margin to four on a kill by sophomore Ashley Engle at the 15-11 mark, but UT would not get any closer. The Nittany Lions responded with a 3-0 run of their own and pushed the lead to as many as eight. Penn State went on to avoid a late Texas rally and mounted a 3-0 run in the end to earn a 30-22, game-three victory.
In game four Texas again trailed early, but a pair of kills by Engle and a service ace by Magee helped the Horns knot the game at 4-4. The Longhorns then took advantage of three Lions' miscues and a Paolini kill to claim an 8-5 lead. However, PSU responded with a 5-0 run of its own to grab a 10-8 edge. Texas battled back to even the score at 12, but could not get in front.
The Lions pushed the margin to seven at the 23-16, taking advantage of a 5-0 run aided by a pair of Texas attack errors. An Engle kill and a block by Hooker and Magee pulled the Horns within four late in the game, but Hodge proved to be too much, connecting for a pair of kills to close out the game 30-24.
Hooker anchored the Texas attack on the night with a team-high 15 kills, while Faucette posted her first career double-double, tallying 10 kills and 10 digs in her collegiate debut. Paolini added an 11-kill performance and senior setter Michelle Moriarty posted 25 assists and eight digs.
"The environment tonight was very exciting and it was unfortunate that we weren't able to come away with a victory," said Paolini. "We had a lot to deal with tonight with the heat and humidity, but I feel like we fought hard together as a team."
Hodge headlined her PSU squad, registering 22 kills and 11 digs and Fawcett added 21 kills and 10 digs of her own. Harmotto joined them in double-digits with 15 kills, while Alisha Glass totaled 57 assists.
Texas returns to action Saturday, Aug. 25 when it returns to Rec Hall to take on Penn State at 6 p.m. CT.