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White's Enthusiasm Driving Nittany Lions

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By Tom Shively, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "Easy" is not a word many would use to describe the libero position. Especially not at a program like Penn State, where the competition in the Big Ten is bringing their best and hitting as hard as they can on any given night.

The most important defensive position on the floor comes with its fair share of pressure, often being the one leaned on the most for a big defensive play when the team needs one at a critical moment.

Sophomore Kendall White shoulders that responsibility for the Nittany Lions, a task she embraces every night.

"I like the pressure, that kind of burden is something I've dealt with my whole life," White said. "It's not really a bad thing and I know coach comes up to me sometimes and says, 'I need you to make a play.'"

The big stage is a familiar concept to the Indiana native, as she led her high school team to a state championship her senior year and a perfect 36-0 record. Also named the Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year in Indiana in 2016, she earned AAU All-America honors in 2015-16.

Arriving at Penn State last fall, White was one of the most productive freshmen on the team, playing in all 34 games, racking up 500 digs, making an immediate impact as a starter for the Nittany Lions.

As a sophomore now, White has gone through a slight position change, but she credits her experience for her ability to adjust.

"I used to be in the middle back and now I'm in left back," White said. "It's a big transition, but I think I'm a little more disciplined and a little more focused."

Her growth did not go unnoticed, as teammates and coaches have seen her develop over the course of the offseason and into this season, pleased with how she has come along. 

"She takes a little better care of herself this year," head coach Russ Rose said. "She's demonstrating some of the maturity necessary as you get older as a player. Sometimes it's being wild and really aggressive and sometimes you have to be able to take your time, one step at a time and get better. The serve is upgraded from last year and I like where Kendall's game is right now."

"Her IQ and her ability to read the game have definitely improved," senior hitter Haleigh Washington said. "Last year, she had a natural ability to fly after the ball. This year, she still flies after the ball, but she reads the game a little better."

Her energy appears infectious as well, as she is often the one Nittany Lion running around diving after free balls at full extension, giving the team morale boosts when things start to go awry. She's oftentimes the catalyst for a great run and comes up in key moments for the team again and again.

"She's a spaz on the court," senior hitter Heidi Thelen said. "I think its good that she's hustling and going for every single ball. She flew into the bleachers last weekend and she's a great person to have on the court. Her energy is amazing and she's always wanting to compete."

Her consistency and hard work have allowed her to emerge as a leader on a senior-heavy team, something not easy to do in any sport at any school, let alone a perennial powerhouse.

"No matter who you are on this team, you have to earn the respect of your teammates," White said. "I'm supposed to be the leader of the back row and my teammates trust me enough to do that." 

White is a fun-loving college student-athlete off the court, joking around with her teammates and having a good time. She watches her fair share of Netflix and, having lived in both Indiana and now Pennsylvania, she has an insider perspective on two of Netflix's more popular comedies: The Pennsylvania-based show "The Office" and Indiana's own "Parks and Recreation." 

When it comes to which show is better and more accurately depicts its residents, it appears White's allegiance is within her home state.

"Parks and Rec, 100 percent," White said. "It's a little over exaggerated, but it's pretty funny and some of the things are true. I love it and it's hilarious."

Another Indiana icon, the Indianapolis 500, holds a special place in White's heart.

"It's my favorite thing in the world," White said. "I love it and I go every year. That's probably what I miss most." 

Now that she's in Pennsylvania, White has one single thing on her mind. It's the only thing that's ever really mattered to her since she stepped on campus.

"I believe we can win a national championship this year and I plan to do so."

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