The Match: Illinois vs. Penn State
When & Where: November 13, 2009, 7:00 p.m. ET.; Rec Hall
Media Coverage: Big Ten Network – Live, Game Tracker
Back at the end of September, when the Penn State Women’s volleyball team went on the road to face then #15-ranked Illinois, many fans thought the match was the most likely (along with Michigan at Ann Arbor) Penn State loss in the 2009 regular season.
The argument in favor of the upset? Penn State’s “cupcake” preseason schedule had left a weaker (than the 2008 squad — arguably the best of all time) team unprepared for the challenges of top-level competition. The Nittany Lions’ confidence would be shaken after facing Northwestern’s tough front line (which featured two players in the top 10 (at the time) in blocking stats for the Big 10) in their Friday night contest, leaving Penn State vulnerable against a much tougher Illinois squad for the Saturday night match.
Other fans thought Illinois had a chance if Blair Brown, who had suffered an ankle injury in the first set against St. Francis the previous weekend, couldn’t play, or was significantly hampered. Then, the argument went, the key would be how Freshman Darcy Dorton was able to perform, on the road, in front of a large and largely hostile crowd, when consistently confronted with a double block. Some thought she would struggle, that a high percentage of balls would be set to Megan Hodge, and that a suddenly one-dimensional Penn State team would be ripe for the upset.
It didn’t happen. Blair Brown did play (registering 9 kills on .381 hitting), and Penn State gave Illinois a thumping 3-0 (25-11, 25-17, 25-17), led by Dorton’s 14 kills, followed by junior Arielle Wilson’s 13 kills (on .750 hitting!!!). Megan Hodge had 12 kills (hitting .407) and 10 digs.
Well, they’re back (on Friday the 13th no less), and it’s a much-improved Illinois team (now ranked #5 in the AVCA poll) that will face off against Penn State. To provide some insight on what to expect Friday night, we’ve posted a Q&A with Masked Fan, Dig Nittany Volleyball’s Resident Analyst, to give some thoughts about the upcoming match. Here’s the link: http://www.dignittanyvolleyball.com/?p=4259.