Iowa volleyball takes on top-ranked Penn State

BY EVELYN LAU | OCTOBER 02, 2009 7:20 AM

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It’s been 748 days since the Penn State volleyball team last lost a match.

In the midst of a NCAA record-setting 78-match win streak, the No. 1 Nittany Lions (14-0) have demonstrated dominance in all facets of the game and have not lost a match since 2007, winning two-consecutive national championships during the streak.

Despite the impressive achievement, the Iowa volleyball team (9-5) isn’t alarmed.

“They’re intimidating but not,” senior outside hitter Megan Schipper said. “We’re used to playing them. I’ve played them for four years now, so It’ll be a fun match.”

Competing in the third game of their four-match conference road trip, the Hawkeyes will head to State College, Pa., to play Penn State at 6 p.m. today. Afterwards, Iowa will head back on the road on Saturday, traveling to Columbus to play Ohio State at 6 p.m.

The Iowa players said they are looking forward to the challenge of playing the top-ranked team. However, the Hawkeyes are 0-37 all-time against the Nittany Lions since 1991.

Penn State will have its 2008 Big Ten championship banner raised before the Nittany Lions’ match against the Hawkeyes. The team has won the last six conference titles.

“Of course, they are chosen to beat us,” said freshman outside hitter Emma Krieger Kittle, “but I think it’s going to be such a good experience. We don’t have anything to lose. I know if we can push them, we’ll be OK against everyone else.”

Leading the Big Ten in digs with 16.82 per game, Iowa turns to its defense to lead the way for success. Senior Christina Meister sits atop the Big Ten, averaging 4.67 digs per set, and junior middle blocker Becky Walters ranks fifth in the conference, averaging 1.24 blocks per game.

In contrast, Penn State ranks first in kills with 14.98 per game. Schipper said consistency and confidence are going to help the team.

“Our defense is going to be really key because [Penn State] can hit the ball,” Schipper said. “They’re going to get kills, but any kill they put down is just one point, and we need to remember that.”

Penn State boasts many offensive weapons. It has four players ranked in the top 10 in hitting percentage in the Big Ten, with junior Arielle Wilson’s .596 leading the way. As a team, the Nittany Lions have only allowed opponents to average 7.50 digs per game.

Despite heading on the road for the second-straight weekend, the Hawkeyes have had considerable success, going 9-2 away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Head coach Sharon Dingman sees playing Penn State as a good measuring stick for the rest of the season.

“Well, actually, I think it’s good to get this road trip out of the way,” she said. “It a gives us an opportunity, playing Wisconsin, and then kind of moving up that level to Minnesota and now maybe another level to Penn State.

“I think we’ll see some things we saw against Minnesota, as far as just the physicality of the game and how high they play. So I think this is a really good time for us to play Penn State.”

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