Penn State Volleyball Loses To Georgia Tech 3-1 To Go 0-2 For First Time

No. 8 Penn State women’s volleyball lost to No. 20 Georgia Tech 3-1 (21-25, 25-20, 19-25, 16-25) Saturday evening at USF’s Yuengling Center as part of the Road 2 Tampa Bay Invitational.

After losing to No. 11 Florida in four sets Friday night at the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Amalie Arena, the Nittany Lions are now 0-2 to start the season for the first time in program history. They went 1-2 to begin the 1992 campaign and have lost the opening match of a season a few times. Georgia Tech improved to 2-0 after sweeping USF Friday.

Box Score

Jess Mruzik led Penn State offensively for the second night in a row with 16 kills, while adding five digs and three total blocks. Taylor Trammell was extremely efficient again, hitting .364 with nine kills a day after hitting .500 with five kills against the Gators. The Nittany Lions out-blocked the Yellow Jackets 17-9, but Georgia Tech finished with a 151-132 advantage in kills.

Tamara Otene had a match-high 17 kills and 15 digs for the Yellow Jackets, while libero Paola Pimentel was also excellent Saturday night, tallying 21 digs and three assists. Setter Isabella D’Amico dished out a match-high 46 assists.

Mac Podraza had 37 assists, nine digs, and her seven total blocks tied her with Trammell for second on the team behind Allie Holland’s eight. Holland added five kills, an ace, and a dig. She and Podraza each had one of Penn State’s two aces, while Georgia Tech had only one on a difficult serving night for both teams, which finished with 11 and nine service errors, respectively.

Gill Grimes and Maddy Bilinovic were the only defensive specialists who played for Penn State against the Yellow Jackets, as Grimes made her second career start at libero and had 13 digs and two assists. Bilinovic also started for the second straight match and finished with 12 digs. The Nittany Lions struggled to be consistent in the passing game after having issues in that area against Florida, trailing Georgia Tech 63-52 in digs.

Alexa Markley (five kills, three digs, three blocks) and Zoe Weatherington (four kills, two blocks, one dig) were among four substitutes for the Nittany Lions, as Camryn Hannah (one kill) and Ally Van Eekeren, who entered the match late in the fourth set in relief of Podraza at setter, both made their Penn State debuts. The Nittany Lions hit .152 as a team to Georgia Tech’s .192. Penn State did not hit higher than .179, which it did in the first set, in any of the remaining three sets.

The Nittany Lions (0-2) will need to regroup in practice next week before hosting No. 24 Western Kentucky (2-1) Friday at 7 p.m. ET in the Penn State Invitational. They will also face Colgate (2-0) Saturday at 2 p.m. and James Madison (1-1) Sunday at 2 p.m. at Rec Hall.

The Hilltoppers beat No. 12 Marquette 3-1 Friday morning at the Dayton Invitational before being swept by the tournament hosts later that evening. Western Kentucky swept Drake Saturday and will probably rise in next week’s AVCA coaches’ poll following their win over the Golden Eagles. The same can’t be said for Penn State, which is certain to fall several spots in Tuesday’s rankings after a rough opening weekend.

Penn State assistant coach Brian Toron met with the media following Saturday’s loss to Georgia Tech. The transcript of questions and answers can be found below.

Obviously, being 0-2 is not a position Penn State is used to being in. What’s the mood of that and how are you guys going to try and move on and right the ship?

“I’ll start off by just saying I appreciate the Tampa Bay Sports Commission and the University of South Florida for being really good hosts and putting together a really good event with four strong teams. We have to do a better job preparing our group. We have another ranked opponent next week and really good teams coming to Rec Hall in Western Kentucky, James Madison, and Colgate. We’ll prepare them better, we’ll train better, and we’ll be better.”

What do you think about these two matches that the coaches would look at and say you have to get better at?

“Collectively, we have to be better in every facet — attacking, serving, blocking, digging, defense. We have to find ways to win deuce games. That’s the goal.”

Is the approach that you flush it and move on?

“We have to beat [our] next opponent, but we have to learn, and we have to learn fast from these, because we have to win at Penn State, and we have to get better. We can’t just flush it, we have to learn from it.”

How do you think these losses can motivate the team moving forward?

“Continue to understand that every game is going to be really good. We want to play at a high level. Every team is really good. As Coach Katie [Schumacher-Cawley] always says, ‘Be good at the little things.’”

As a coaching staff, what are some things you want to work on and improve?

“We have to do a better job of preparing them and getting them ready to play, collectively, using everyone we have, all 19 of our players, and how we train and how we play to have success.”