By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Last season Ariel Scott started in just two of the 37 matches that the Nittany Lions played en route to their fourth consecutive national championship.
This year, her presence on the court has become a bit more constant.
More commonly referred to as 'A. Scott', the sophomore middle hitter has
started in all but two Penn State matches this far into the season and has worked
to fill the shoes, both offensively and defensively, of the six seniors who
graduated last year.
"Just the pure fact that we lost so many really good players, a lot of people obviously we're going to have to step up," said Scott. "Last year I would say I was not one of the top options really hitting wise, but this year I've definitely had to take more of a role in hitting and blocking as far as that goes."
Standing at 6-foot-4, Scott has become a staple on the court for the Nittany Lions as she has emerged into one of the go-to hitters and veteran blockers on the team. The sophomore has already tallied 212 kills this year, putting her just 19 points behind teammate Deja McClendon's team-leading 231 kills.
Scott said that heading into this season most of the teams in the Big Ten knew, as the returning AVCA Freshman of the Year, that McClendon would be getting the ball handed to her quite often. As a hitter, Scott has also stepped into the role of an offensive threat and has helped to take some of the focus off of her teammate.
"Deja (McClendon) went into the season always having a double block," said Scott. "The other team is always keying in on her, so it's not as easy for her. It's good to have someone else who can step up because other teams are expecting her to be the go-to hitter and that's a really tough role because they're always ready for you to get a swing, so it's definitely good to have more sources offensively."
The Ridgewood, N.J. native is also third on the team with 42 blocks so far this year, which is just one shy of the 43 total blocks she delivered last season. All in all, Scott has really improved her play in almost every aspect of the game, and she is doing so for more than just her own satisfaction.
"There are so many freshmen on the court at any given time that you have to look to someone who was on the court last year," said Scott. "You just have a year of experience and it's only fair that you lead the younger players."
Penn State head coach Russ Rose has featured all five of his true freshmen quite often this season, and Scott said that while it can be tough having all underclassmen on the court at one time she knows that her team can still get the job done.
"Not having any seniors on the court is definitely difficult but people who played last year have a year of experience and in most cases that should be enough to help lead the team, especially on the court," said Scott. "Being a freshman is tough but as the season goes on they're definitely improving because they have more experience playing Big Ten teams."
With the help of fellow sophomore veterans McClendon and Katie Slay, Scott and her classmates have become consistent starting players and the constant leaders and voices of the team.
"On the court, we all have to speak up because there is not that one captain who is on the court," said Scott. "If someone has something to say they feel comfortable enough to say it on the court and then off the court it's the same."
The Nittany Lions hold a 13-5 record overall and a 6-2 mark in conference play this far into the 2011-'12 season, which Scott said is a satisfying feat at the moment. However, she said that she and her fellow teammates are always looking to improve and become tough players both physically and mentally, so there is still work to be done.