Penn State outside hitter Nia Reed is playing the best volleyball of her life right now.
The redshirt senior from Fort Lee, New Jersey led the Nittany Lions to an enormous 3-2 win over Nebraska with a career-high 20 kills last Saturday in Rec Hall.
Following a sweep of Rutgers Wednesday night, Reed has recorded 57 kills in the team’s last four contests. The Nittany Lions are riding a seven-match winning streak, conveniently coinciding with Reed’s return to the starting lineup.
She missed four matches due to injury earlier this season, but her resurgence has been a huge reason for Penn State’s success of late. Junior libero Kendall White described Reed’s importance to the team after the Nebraska victory.
“She was on when we needed her to be on. She was there to score when we needed her to score,” White said. “She came out in the fifth set and was like, ‘We’re winning this game.’ And that’s what we need — our fifth-year girls coming in, leading the freshmen, taking charge, and making those money ball plays.”
Head coach Russ Rose certainly noticed the lack of Reed’s physical presence on the court during road losses to Minnesota and Ohio State.
“We lost both matches in conference play when we didn’t have Nia,” Rose said. “She makes a big difference in how we play. Nia’s a point scorer. In rally-score volleyball, you need point scorers.”
Reed, a three-time Gatorade State Player of the Year at Immaculate Heart Academy, is one of only two players left on Penn State’s roster who own a national championship ring from 2014. She and setter Bryanna Weiskircher redshirted that season.
“My mindset is totally different,” Reed said of her return. “When I step on the court I always want to kill the ball, but knowing that at any point it could be your last swing, it really gives you that extra drive for sure.”
Reed and the Nittany Lions delivered the program’s 17th Big Ten championship last fall, advancing all the way to the Final Four before losing to the Cornhuskers in Kansas City. If Penn State is going to capture a record eighth national title in December, Reed will be a driving force behind it.
When she isn’t breaking down film of upcoming opponents, lifting, practicing, studying, or traveling with the team, Reed often turns to her favorite hobby to relax.
“I do all my own paintings,” she said. “I have a lot of canvas paintings all over my room. I think when my sister turned 7 I did it with her as just something to do around the house, then I really got into it. I sketch and do stuff like that just to clear my mind.”
Penn State’s roster features eight true freshmen, including starting middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord, who Reed immediately noticed would make a significant impact.
“I remember in preseason she went a day where she had probably 15 blocks in a row. Nobody could get the ball past her,” Reed said. “She comes in as a freshman, puts people in body bags, and does what she does. She’s definitely a dominant force on the court.”
Graduate senior Taylor Leath, who transferred in from North Carolina for her final season, has known Reed since their early high school years. Now teammates, they have done an excellent job taking over for All-Americans Simone Lee and Ali Frantti.
“She’s one of the people who can always make you smile,” Leath said of Reed. “You can’t help but always remember why you love volleyball, why you’re happy to play, and why you’re happy to just live life when you’re with her.”
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