By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - If you've looked at the calendar view of the Penn State women's volleyball schedule for this season, you've probably noticed that it is about to start looking a lot different.
Instead of playing two or three matches in a weekend against multiple opponents
in round robin tournaments and sponsored invitationals, the Nittany Lions will
begin to play more mid-week matches and primetime weekend matches.
And it's all thanks to the start of the Big Ten season.
The fourth-ranked Lions will take on No. 3 Nebraska at 8 p.m. on Wednesday in Rec Hall. The match will feature the first two Big Ten teams to compete this season.
The Cornhuskers held onto the top-ranking in the Division I AVCA Coaches Poll for the past two weeks, but were recently knocked down as they weathered their first loss of the year to Iowa State last Saturday. The loss dropped Nebraska to an 8-1 mark heading into conference play.
Penn State head coach Russ Rose knows that his team's first conference opponent is nothing to overlook. Rose said that the high rankings of Nebraska should be a good indicator to his athletes of just what they are up against.
"That should be enough motivation for the players to get themselves together and be ready to go," said Rose. "If the players get themselves together and do what they're supposed to do then maybe we have a shot."
In their first season as a part of the Big Ten conference in 2011, the Cornhuskers split with the Lions, winning their opening match last September but falling in Rec Hall last October. Nebraska went on an impressive run in conference play and finished its 2011 season in the second round of the NCAA Tournament after losing to Kansas State.
For Penn State, with a 10-1 record heading into the midweek match-up Nittany Lion middle hitter Katie Slay said that she and her teammates are anxious for the start of conference competition. But the junior recognizes that the outcomes of the Big Ten matches have a bit extra riding on them.
"Once you get into Big Ten season it's go-time," said Slay. "Every game counts toward the Big Ten Championship and that' definitely our goal so we have to play hard every night."
Rose said that he was unhappy with the way that his team played the last two weekends, and needs to see steady improvement if his athletes want to compete against conference powerhouses like Nebraska.
"Every team you play is a little bit different," said Rose. "The key is to get better throughout the season and the players need to really come to grips with what they want out of the experience."