"I think we played a really solid game overall," Wisconsin head coach Pete Waite said. "The second game was critical and we let them off the hook. I think Penn State was not on top of their game and we were just not able to close the door in game two. I think that gave them a lot of momentum for the rest of the [match]."
The Badgers statistically dominated the match, besting their opponents in every category but serving. Wisconsin was hurt by 13 service errors and only put down four service aces. The Nittany Lions had seven aces, including four from Kaleena Walters, and only three errors.
"Unfortunately service errors hurt us a lot tonight," Waite said. "We always work on it because there are critical times in big matches when you need them to be in and that can be free points for the other team."
Four Badgers recorded double-digit kills in the match, led by junior Sheila Shaw and senior Jill Odenthal who shared match-high honors with 19 slams. Junior Aubrey Meierotto and sophomore Maria Carlini both put down 14 kills for Wisconsin.
As a team, the Badgers recorded 79 kills while Penn State had 67, with three players in double figures, led by Sydnie Nadeau, with 17.
Wisconsin also had a higher hitting percentage with a .286 mark while holding the Lions to a .211 clip, well below their season average of .293.
As a team, Wisconsin had a season-high 91 digs, including a career high from freshman libero Jocelyn Wack. Wack's 29 defensive saves was the third-highest ever by a Badger in a four-game match. Carlini and Odenthal both notched double-doubles as Carlini posted a career-high 20 digs and Odenthal recorded 15. Freshman setter Jackie Simpson totaled 11 digs and put up 66 assists running the Badger offense.
The Badgers out-blocked the Lions 14-11, including 10 stuffs in the first two games. Shaw and Meierotto led Wisconsin with five stops each. Meierotto, along with Carlini, also had two block solos.
"Penn State is a great team, so to hold them and to get them in a corner early in the match says a lot for our block and our defense," Waite said. "But, we still have to be more mature and consistent as a team and be able to close a game out."
Wisconsin used six key team blocks on its way to a game one win. The Nittany Lions hit just .069 in the period, compared to the Badgers' .286 mark. Wisconsin broke a 19-19 tie with an 8-0 run to take the 27-19 lead. Penn State held off two Wisconsin game points, but a kill from Meierotto on the third attempt gave the Badgers an early 1-0 edge.
The Badgers led by as many as four points in game two, with their biggest lead at 21-17. Wisconsin held a 28-25 advantage before Penn State rallied behind the play of Nadeau. The 6-1 opposite hitter put down two straight kills to tie the game at 28-28. Wisconsin held off two Penn State game points, but a Badger hitting error tied the match at one game apiece.
Five service errors hurt the Badgers in game three as the Lions took the advantage in the match. Penn State broke a 24-24 tie, converting on four straight points to go up 28-24, but a kill from Meierotto brought Wisconsin within three at 28-25. A Wisconsin service error allowed Penn State to serve for game point, and a kill from Kate Price gave the Lions the 2-1 lead.
Sophomore Amy Bladow came off the bench in game four to help Wisconsin rally from a 12-7 deficit and pull within two points at 13-11. The Badgers tied the game at 19-19, and the score was tied at nearly all points until 26-26. Two kills from Ashley Pederson gave the Lions their first match point at 29-27, but an Odenthal kill halted the run. Another Pederson kill gave Penn State the 3-1 win.
Wisconsin wraps up its three-match road swing on Saturday when it travels No. 8 Ohio State.
"There's no rest tomorrow," Waite said. "Tomorrow we'll come back and hopefully we'll be more motivated to come back and play some great ball against Ohio State. They're a great team and we won't have a problem getting up for that one."