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Lions Stumble in B1G Opener

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By Will Desautelle, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a large, white out crowd packed into Rec Hall Friday night and a lot of momentum coming in, the No. 2 Nittany Lions seemed poised to extend their 10-match winning streak. 

Instead, Penn State fell in its first loss of the season as Nebraska emerged with a straight set win (26-24, 25-19, 25-20).

"Obviously I didn't do a very good job of preparing the team to play." Rose said. "I'm very disappointed in our effort. I thought the crowd was better than the team tonight, and I apologize for that."

The Cornhuskers forced the Nittany Lions to play out of system frequently, making it difficult for Penn State to establish any hitters other than Simone Lee.

"Our back row play wasn't very good. They served Simone and Ali [Frantti] and they didn't have the ability to pass well enough for us to run middles to do what we want to do." Rose said.

Lee finished with 15 kills and hit .333 for the match, as the only Nittany Lion to finish with double-digit kills.

In three games in the Penn State Classic last weekend, efficiency from the three middles, Haleigh Washington, Tori Gorrell, and Heidi Thelen, was the biggest storyline. On Friday, the trio combined for just nine kills and hit only .333 as a group, after hitting over .700 in last weekend's tournament.  

The Cornhuskers actually made four more hitting errors in the match than the Nittany Lions, but they also posted 21 more kills. Much of that had to do with how well their serve-receive game was and their ability find holes in the Penn State defense when playing out of system.

"I don't think any of our servers put any undue pressure on them and I thought they won the battles at the setter and libero positions." Rose said. "They hit the ball tactically and put the ball in positions where I would have thought we would have made better adjustments. 

Rose also pointed to the fact that the three key Nebraska seniors outplayed the Nittany Lion upperclassmen.

Nebraska setter Kelly Hunter finished with six kills (.625 hitting percentage) and dished out 39 assists, while outside hitters Annika Albrecht (.400 hitting percentage) and Briana Holman (.750 hitting percentage) added 19 and 13 kills, respectively.

"I don't think we coached very well," Rose said. "I thought we had a good game plan, but we didn't execute at all, but it's a long season and there's still 19 more Big Ten matches." 

The Nittany Lions will have a quick turnaround, hosting the Iowa Hawkeyes at 4 p.m. Saturday to finish the opening weekend of Big Ten play.

Penn State is one of the most experienced teams in the country, and a lot of times that veteran leadership comes in handy after a loss like this one. Saturday's matchup presents an opportunity to show just how resilient this experienced group can be.

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