Shively, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Russ Rose, seniors Haleigh Washington and Ali Frantti spoke at Penn State women's volleyball's Wednesday morning Fall Sports Media Day session the Bryce Jordan Center.
With the start of the season only two days away, check out some important takeaways from the media session.
Five of Penn State's seven seniors on the roster were freshmen when the Nittany Lions last claimed their seventh NCAA Championship in 2014, and now they feel it's time to pass on the torch. A renewed sense of urgency has taken over the senior class as they recalled their championship run three years ago and how the seniors on that team helped them to grow.
"Winning that freshman year, I think the seniors really carried us and took us under their wing," Frantti said. "For our freshmen, sophomores and juniors, we want to win for them. It's an incredible experience and one you'll never forget."
Now upperclassmen, the Nittany Lions understand that they are setting the tone for the team and have to be mature and focused at all times in order for the team to achieve the best results.
"Our freshman year we were on the floor, we were just kind of running around playing volleyball, we didn't know what was happening," Washington said. "Now we have that different responsibility and it's not just playing volleyball, getting to roll around like a carefree freshman."
The Nittany Lions are consistently at the top of the conference in major offensive and defensive categories, returning most of the heavy hitters this year, accenting the offense as one of Penn State's biggest strengths.
The mixture of veteran power and young talent is poised to contribute immediately, making for a lineup that is as dangerous as any in the country.
However, the Nittany Lions didn't get to this point without a little pushing from Rose, as he has always believed in finding just the right balance between pushing hard early in preseason training in order to maximize their production when it really matters in the postseason.
"That's the big question," Rose said. "Do you want to push your team really hard at the risk of making them tougher, or do you just want to have a nice recreational thing and make sure that everyone's happy and healthy and ready to start the season, excited for their new uniforms and new apparel. Obviously, you know which way I lean."
Washington and Frantti are two of the more impactful contributors, not only on the team, but nationally and even as seniors, there are always areas to work on and develop throughout the year.
While both feel their knowledge of the game and skill set has grown a tremendous amount, there's still some fine-tuning to be done to make sure that they give Penn State the best possible chance to compete for a national championship in 2017.
"I think your skills are always developing and there's never a thing you are 100 percent set on," Washington said. "You always have something to get better at. My hitting is something I could always get better at, my blocking I could always get better at, there's never one specific thing. So maybe at one practice I'm trying to focus on my serve, but I'm always trying to sharpen every part of my game."
"I want to concentrate on serving aggressively, it's something coach always talks about in our gym," Frantti said. "Being aggressive with our serves is crucial."
Penn State Coaching
Penn State Athletics programs have historically experienced tremendous success, especially within the most recent season. A perennially conference and national championship contender, Penn State women's volleyball team is often among yearly highlights both academically and athletically.
Penn State's unique collection of coaches are largely to commend for the success, and the relationships and openness between each coach allow for an environment in which each one can learn from another.
"All of the teams, players and coaches support each other and feel good about interacting and asking questions," Rose said. "It's not a right to be a college athlete, it's a privilege and I think it's the same thing for coaches as well."
Focusing on What's
The Nittany Lions routinely preach focusing on one game at a time and not looking too much into the past. With last year in the past, Penn State isn't focusing too much on preseason polls, which slotted the Nittany Lions as the favorite to win the Big Ten.
"The offseason didn't really change, we worked just as hard as we did after we won the championship our freshman year," Washington said. "Coach likes to say 'don't focus on the past, it's about now'. You work just as hard, win or lose."
The Nittany Lions open up the season on Friday against Tennessee-Martin at 4:30 p.m. as part of the West Virginia Tournament. Penn State closes out the weekend with a pair of Saturday matches against Delaware at 10 a.m. and the Mountaineers at 7 p.m. in Morgantown.