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Fourth-Ranked Lions Set for Packed Classic

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By Kelsey Detweiler, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Recreation Building serves as the host site for its 20th Penn State Classic since 1987 this weekend. The Division I volleyball tournament and the Nittany Lions welcome Portland, Duquesne and Eastern Illinois to State College for a six-match tournament schedule.

Penn State head coach Russ Rose has prepared his teams each year that the competition comes to town, but he said that his game-plan for this weekend is a bit different than usual.

"In the past I've spent a lot more time in match preparation of other teams and I've decided this year to spend less time doing that," said Rose. "I'm trying to get our team to be a little more organized and together."

Rose said that in past years he was concerned with watching hours of opponents' game film and tried to find every angle of play that his team needed to defend. But with a starting line-up that has been featuring a freshman, three sophomores and three juniors, Rose is more concerned with getting his Lions in order first.

Penn State will play on their home court three times over the weekend beginning with Portland at 7 p.m. on Friday. The Lions then take-on a two-match day as they will face Duquesne at 10 a.m. on Saturday and wrap things up against Eastern Illinois at 8 p.m. that evening.

The Nittany Lion coach said that all three of his team's opponents are teams that he expects to play a lot of athletes that he has never seen before. In order to defend a largely unknown group of competition, Rose said that his players all need to be ready to go.

"For us to be successful a lot of people have to go in there and do good things," said Rose. "From my standpoint it's, you can give people opportunities but they need to take advantage of the opportunities. I don't ever put a kid in thinking they're going to screw up. I put a kid in thinking that they're going to make a positive impact on that rally or the outcome of the match."

One student-athlete that Rose has been particularly impressed with is the diving and digging sophomore defensive specialist Lacey Fuller.

"She just plays really hard," Rose said of Fuller. "She practices hard and when she's all in it's a great part of her make-up."

Fuller has come to be known for her bright, red hair and love of the sport of volleyball. She is also quite the talker.

"I like to talk a lot and keep the energy going in drills because sometimes it gets a little bland," admitted Fuller.

The back-row specialist said that she agrees with her coach's decision to focus more on organizing the team this season. She said that when it comes down to it, she and her teammates are the ones that make the plays on the court and need to figure out how to optimize their play before they can defend an opponent.

"I think that in practice especially there will be drills where we're the ones that have to keep ourselves in it and [Rose] has no control," said Fuller. "We need to be focused all the time and make less errors and be more consistent."

And as they do after every practice, the Nittany Lions gather at the net for about five to 10 minutes and just talk it out. Fuller said that Penn State has a team first attitude and that is its main focus this weekend.

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