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Lions Stumble in B1G Opener

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By Will Desautelle, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a large, white out crowd packed into Rec Hall Friday night and a lot of momentum coming in, the No. 2 Nittany Lions seemed poised to extend their 10-match winning streak. 

Instead, Penn State fell in its first loss of the season as Nebraska emerged with a straight set win (26-24, 25-19, 25-20).

"Obviously I didn't do a very good job of preparing the team to play." Rose said. "I'm very disappointed in our effort. I thought the crowd was better than the team tonight, and I apologize for that."

The Cornhuskers forced the Nittany Lions to play out of system frequently, making it difficult for Penn State to establish any hitters other than Simone Lee.

"Our back row play wasn't very good. They served Simone and Ali [Frantti] and they didn't have the ability to pass well enough for us to run middles to do what we want to do." Rose said.

Lee finished with 15 kills and hit .333 for the match, as the only Nittany Lion to finish with double-digit kills.

In three games in the Penn State Classic last weekend, efficiency from the three middles, Haleigh Washington, Tori Gorrell, and Heidi Thelen, was the biggest storyline. On Friday, the trio combined for just nine kills and hit only .333 as a group, after hitting over .700 in last weekend's tournament.  

The Cornhuskers actually made four more hitting errors in the match than the Nittany Lions, but they also posted 21 more kills. Much of that had to do with how well their serve-receive game was and their ability find holes in the Penn State defense when playing out of system.

"I don't think any of our servers put any undue pressure on them and I thought they won the battles at the setter and libero positions." Rose said. "They hit the ball tactically and put the ball in positions where I would have thought we would have made better adjustments. 

Rose also pointed to the fact that the three key Nebraska seniors outplayed the Nittany Lion upperclassmen.

Nebraska setter Kelly Hunter finished with six kills (.625 hitting percentage) and dished out 39 assists, while outside hitters Annika Albrecht (.400 hitting percentage) and Briana Holman (.750 hitting percentage) added 19 and 13 kills, respectively.

"I don't think we coached very well," Rose said. "I thought we had a good game plan, but we didn't execute at all, but it's a long season and there's still 19 more Big Ten matches." 

The Nittany Lions will have a quick turnaround, hosting the Iowa Hawkeyes at 4 p.m. Saturday to finish the opening weekend of Big Ten play.

Penn State is one of the most experienced teams in the country, and a lot of times that veteran leadership comes in handy after a loss like this one. Saturday's matchup presents an opportunity to show just how resilient this experienced group can be.

Nittany Lions Focused Ahead of B1G Play

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State cruised to a 10-0 mark in nonconference play, including two victories over defending national champion Stanford and seven straight-set wins.

However, that's now in the rearview mirror, as the Nittany Lions shift their focus to Big Ten opponents and taking home a conference championship.

Conference play presents some unique challenges, as the talent level across the league is among the highest in the country. Teams are more familiar with one another, which can lead to more unpredictability night in and night out. 

"The Big Ten Conference is filled with great players," head coach Russ Rose said. "Nine of the 14 schools are ranked or receiving votes this week in the coaches' poll, so it's clearly the strongest conference in the country."

Rose also stressed a need for balance in preparing for Big Ten teams based on what has happened in the past while also understanding that turnover from year to year can always be a defining factor. 

"Certainly everybody is more familiar with their conference opponents, but every year it's different," Rose said. "Even when you have a majority of your players returning, you'd like to think you are still making change and getting better."

Any team in the Big Ten has the talent to compete with any other team, and the Nittany Lions emphasized the importance of taking the season one game at a time, not focusing too much on the future.

"In the Big Ten, every team is very good, so we have to play every team like it's the national championship match," senior right side hitter Heidi Thelen said. "You have to play hard, grind through it and push every point." 

The Nittany Lions open up the conference slate against Nebraska this weekend in a rematch of last year's NCAA Tournament regional semifinal match. The Cornhuskers outlasted Penn State on that night in a five-set thriller on their way to an NCAA regional championship. 

While that loss may have ended the season for Penn State, the Nittany Lions are completely focused on the upcoming challenge, understanding that two very different teams will be walking into Rec Hall on Friday night.

Rose touched on the challenge of preparing for a team like Nebraska, noting that so many individuals on the roster can cause damage.

"Once you get into the Big Ten, every team you play is loaded with players that have the ability to go off in a match," Rose said. "That's what makes the conference and all the teams you play so challenging."

Nebraska may have graduated starters from last year's Big Ten championship team, but some key players remain from that squad.

"Nebraska has always been a really good serve and pass team, they have one of the best players in the country in (outside hitter Annika Albrecht), who is a great all-around player," Rose said. "Mikaela Foecke may be the best attacker in the conference. We'll have our hands full with them." 

For two of Penn State's freshmen, conference games are a unique opportunity that they have not yet faced. 

"With each team, there's a sense of grit," right side hitter Cami May said. "Whether it's home or away, there's so much energy in the gyms."

Excited for the challenge and the intensity of each atmosphere, just last week May and outside hitter Michaela Putnicki experienced a sneak peek into what playing at Rec Hall is like.  For both, the sense of community and pride that comes with playing for Penn State was among a top takeaway. 

"All the fans are super crazy, they just love Penn State and are all about it," Putnicki said. "You can tell at our games everyone is excited to be there." 

The early conference schedule is kind to the Nittany Lions, as their first four matches this weekend and next, come at Rec Hall.

"It's going to be awesome starting off at home, we have all our fans, the boosters, the band, all there supporting us," Thelen said. 

No. 2 Penn State welcomes No. 14 Nebraska Friday at 8 p.m. to kick off the Big Ten slate before hosting Iowa Saturday at 4 p.m. in Rec Hall. 

Nittany Lions Consistent in Penn State Classic

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By Will Desautelle, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Following an impressive 7-0 start on the road to begin the season, Russ Rose and the second-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions returned home to Rec Hall for their first three home games in the Penn State Classic.

The Nittany Lions dominated Yale Friday night for a 3-0 sweep (25-9, 25-21, 25-11), in which the Nittany Lions out-blocked the Bulldogs 13 to 3, hitting .431 for the match.

Penn State returned even more efficient Saturday morning against Wake Forest than in  Friday's home opener.

Although somewhat sluggish to start, the Nittany Lions eventually separated for a 25-16 victory in set one, before surging to a 25-11 victory in the next two sets to close out the morning.

The Nittany Lions hit an incredible .500 for the match and recorded 11 blocks and eight service aces.

"I thought we handled the ball pretty well and had good control of our net play," Rose said. "Simone [Lee] had another good match and Haleigh [Washington] continues to score well." 

Lee was nearly perfect Saturday morning, putting away 10 kills on 11 attempts. She also chipped in two blocks and five service aces. Ali Frantti added four kills on nine attempts in addition to one block.

Washington proved outstanding at the net as well, posting eight kills on nine attempts, and seven blocks to go along with two service aces. Penn State's other two middles, Heidi Thelen and Tori Gorrell, added four more kills and four blocks. 

Rose's use of two setters continues to work effectively for the Nittany Lions, as both Abby Detering and Bryanna Weiskircher have continued to shine in split setting duties. Weiskircher tallied 24 assists in the win over the Demon Deacons while Detering added eight assists and continues to be a reliable option on the right side. 

Penn State also utilized opportunities to rotate in off the bench, for Nittany Lions to gain  valuable game experience throughout the weekend. Clare Powers and freshmen Cami May and Michaela Putnicki saw time throughout the home tournament. Nia Reed also recorded three kills on three attempts against Wake Forest.

In their second match of the day, Penn State swept Ohio with Lee and Washington leading the way again with nine kills and 12 kills, respectively.

Weiskircher was used as the primary setter against the Bobcats , allowing other hitters the opportunity for more reps, particularly Reed. She added seven kills and Thelen added another six against Ohio.

"I feel much more comfortable," Reed said. "It's hard not to when you practice in the same gym and with these girls every day."

The Nittany Lions remain undefeated at 10-0, now turning the focus to Big Ten play, which begins next weekend at home against Nebraska Friday night.

"We'll need to work hard this weekend," Rose said. "We have Nebraska and Iowa coming up, and I think the players understand the importance of being prepared to play in Big Ten play." 

Consistency Shines in Nittany Lion Home Opener

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State kept its undefeated record intact, putting together a dominant effort in the return to Rec Hall for the Nittany Lions.

The win marks the eighth consecutive victory for the No. 2 Nittany Lions, as they convincingly put away the Bulldogs in the first of a three-match tournament.

"I thought it was a good opening match for us," Penn State head coach Russ Rose said. "All of their players have really high volleyball IQs, and they're accustomed to playing with good players because most of them played with the top club teams in California."

The home crowd played a huge part in the victory for the Nittany Lions, as more than 3,500 fans showed up to support the Blue and White. After seven straight matches on the road, Penn State was finally able to feed off the home crowd.

"To have the energy from the band and the crowd makes a big difference in how the kids feel about their efforts," Rose said.

Sophomore libero Kendall White led the Nittany Lions from the service line, posting a career-high four aces. Penn State had seven on the night, while surrendering none to the Bulldogs.

White's success is only part of the story as the 6-2 offense has been an adjustment the Nittany Lions are settling into. However, one week from the start of conference play, the Nittany Lions are finally starting to find their consistency across the board.

"Kendall had her career high and passed well," Rose said. "It's a position that we have a challenge with and we have a couple kids that are dinged up, but you have to play with who's ready to play and I thought the kids played hard"

Rose also reflected on the senior leadership stepping up when the team needed them most, even though the outcome of the match was never significantly in doubt.

"(Senior hitter Haleigh Washington) played really well, blocked well and hit well," Rose said.

For Washington, the team consistency is growing stronger with positive chemistry.

"It's good being out on the floor with everybody," Washington said. "It's great because I've gone through this program with all of them. "We have more of a vibe and we connect well on this court now so it's awesome. It's great having my last home opener here at Penn State and the energy in the gym and the coaches. Regardless of who's on the other side, Rec Hall just doesn't change and that's awesome to be a part of."

The Nittany Lions meet Wake Forest Sunday, Sept. 16 in a morning matchup at 10 a.m. before playing Ohio at 4 p.m. to close out the Penn State Classic.

Penn State Thriving in New Offense

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Late last season, Penn State head coach Russ Rose decided to make a change, switching the Nittany Lions from a 5-1 to a 6-2 offense.

The 6-2 offense allows for two setters to be on the floor at the same time, meaning one setter is always in the back row, giving the team six attackers at all times as opposed to only five in a traditional 5-1.

Rose opted for the change in large part due to the experience of his veteran setters, redshirt junior Bryanna Weiskircher and senior Abby Detering, knowing the benefit of having both on the floor at the same time. Weiskircher and Detering are both offensive threats as hitters as well, with the 6-2 allowing Rose to have both in the lineup as much as possible without constantly having to substitute in and out. 

"I didn't think we were playing at the highest level that we needed to play (at the end of last season)," Rose said. "Usually, (the change) is personnel driven and both players have experience setting the 5-1 and if we get in a bind rotationally, I'm comfortable with either one of them." 

The challenges of facing a 6-2 for opposing teams can of course be noted in last year's NCAA Tournament match against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers were the top overall seed headed into the regional semifinals, but Penn State's 6-2 offense presented challenges in the first two sets, helping the Nittany Lions to a 2-0 lead at the break before Nebraska battled back for the 3-2 win.

There are obstacles to overcome in any new offense with adjustments to positioning and flow difficult at times. For Detering though, growing up a hitter all the way through high school, the changes have come much more naturally than they might have to to someone who's only developed as a setter.

"Hitting comes naturally to me, since I have done it in the past," Detering said. "The hardest thing at the beginning was realizing I was a hitter and not a setter because there would be times where someone would dig the ball and I would want to go in to set. The more we play, the better it's gotten, especially this last weekend."

Even with a successful trial last year, Penn State  wasn't sure it would make the change to a 6-2 offense until preseason, not wanting to commit until all personnel settled in and the coaching staff was able to see how each rotation fit.

"One practice, (Rose) just kind of threw it out there," Detering said. "Our team actually played really well together, so we went with it in the first tournament and it's been going well ever since. There's still areas to improve on, but it's really neat to see how awesome our team can be. We've been playing so well, but we can get so much better with this lineup too."

Positioning is one of the main reasons for the change as well, having Detering on the right side as a hitter as much as possible while still keeping her on the floor for her setting abilities. For Rose, it simply allows he and the staff multiple players on the floor who can set at a high level without compromising the team's strength up front. 

"At the beginning we had a couple of people we wanted to look at playing the right side position," Rose said. "I thought Abby was a good candidate to be one of those people in addition to letting her set. Her personality is very aggressive and she plays hard."

Rose has experimented in the 6-2 in the past whenever he felt it fit his team or he needed a change in strategy, but this year is the longest any of his trials have lasted, something he certainly likes.

"I would say we're still experimenting with what I think our optimal line would be but they(Detering and Weiskircher) are both good setters and they know what's going on," Rose said. "Sometimes you lose when you're experimenting, but sometimes you can experiment and still win. I want to win." 

"There's advantages to both, but I think the awesome thing about the 6-2 is how different it is," Detering said. "With Bryanna and I both being setters, it's pretty neat when I'm in the front row that if she does dig the first ball, it's still a setter who can set the ball."

While we'll have to wait to see how long the experiment lasts, if anything is for sure, it's that Penn State's 18th 7-0 start under Rose might just mean things are operating according to plan.

Penn State-Stanford Series Continues to Deliver

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There have been 37 national champions since the NCAA DI women's volleyball National Championship first began in1981. More than a third of those championships since the events inception belong to Penn State and Stanford, two programs both very familiar with each other on the court.
 

The Nittany Lions and Cardinal have each won seven national titles, tied for the most of any NCAA DI women's volleyball program nationally. Between the two teams, both programs have met four times in the national championship game, three of which were won by the Nittany Lions.
 

In a scheduling quirk that has both teams meeting twice in the first month of the season, this ultra-competitive series once again comes into the spotlight.

 

The Nittany Lions took the first match in Texas just six days ago, but the perennial west coast powerhouse and last year's national championship squad can never be counted out.

 

It's the eighth consecutive season that the Nittany Lions and Cardinal have met either in the regular season or the postseason, most of which being early-season affairs with the recent scheduling of the rotating Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge.

 

While an early season and a postseason matchup have come to be fairly common occurrences, Penn State and Stanford will meet in the opening two months of the season this weekend for the first time since 1997.

 


 For Penn State head coach Russ Rose, he views these matchups as a benchmark to assess the team as they prepare for what's ahead, with a challenging Big Ten schedule ahead featuring even more of the most elite programs in the nation.
 

"We play Stanford for a reason," Rose said. "We play great competition in the Big Ten and you only have four weeks in the preseason to play other teams, so I always wanted to guarantee that I was playing one of the best programs and teams in the country. I thought Stanford always fit that bill."

 

The straight set win last week may have looked impressive, but with a team like Stanford, there will never be anything easy when it comes to winning. Although Stanford has been challenged with some health issues, Rose was quick to point out that Penn State will have to be careful not to think back too much on their accomplishment, as it's still early in the season.

 

"There was nothing dominant about (Penn State's win) in my mind," Rose said. "It was a match where two teams were battling. We played the defending national champion without one of their starting All-American outsides. You don't want to celebrate winning a match like that because it's the first weekend in September and the season is a really long one."

 

For Stanford, 2017 presents a bit of transition as former Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly was named the sixth head coach in program history following the retirement of 16-year Cardinal head coach John Dunning. 

 

Rose and Dunning met twice in the national championship match at their respective programs, with Rose winning both matchups. Rose also bested Stanford in 1997 and 1999, then coached by AVCA Hall of Famer Don Shaw.

From the student-athlete perspective, the Nittany Lions appreciate the competitive series just as much as Rose, understanding the history between the two team and the success both programs have enjoyed.

 

"It's a huge rivalry with Stanford," sophomore Kendall White said. "They're tied with us in national championships no matter what. It's obviously a huge deal for us to come out and beat them."

 

The Nittany Lions aren't too quick to forget the losses along the way. Last year, Stanford took the early season meeting in straight sets, something that fueled Penn State in last week's win and even into preparation for the second matchup.

 

While every game as a challenge and the Nittany Lions know better than to focus on one opponent more than any another, there's still a little added intensity when it comes to the Cardinal.

 

"It's different when you're playing the No. 1 team," White said. "It's definitely a factor."

 

This weekend's tilt against Stanford has an extra wrinkle, as the Nittany Lions will take on an undefeated Colorado team the night before, in the first of two Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge outings.

"We have to get used to scouting two teams at a time, being able to do that is good for us," White said.

 

Back-to-back games can be physically challenging at times, but the Big Ten schedule is centered around that layout and this weekend provides a prime opportunity to test conditioning.

 

"It's a lot, but that's how the Big Ten is," senior setter Abby Detering said. "Having (last weekend and this weekend) was a huge thing because it's preparing us for the Big Ten season." 

Frantti Opens 2017 with Milestone Mark

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the 26th time in program history, a Penn State Nittany Lions has eclipsed 1,000 career kills. Senior Ali Frantti is the newest addition to the club, reaching the landmark in the second set of last Saturday's final match of the West Virginia Tournament.

Frantti didn't become completely aware of her accomplishment until after the straight set victory was complete.

"I didn't realize I got it until my mom came up to me after the game," Frantti said. "She was like, 'Ali, that was your 1,000th kill', and I was like 'I didn't even know.' It was completely a shock. I had no idea."

Frantti needed only four kills to reach the magic number going into the West Virginia match, picking up her fourth kill on the final point of the second set.

For Penn State head coach Russ Rose, the milestone as an indication of how hard Frantti has worked in her time at Penn State to get to that point.

"What it means to us is that she's been a real steady performer," Ros said. "She was on the floor when we won a national championship when she was a freshman, she has battled some injuries throughout her career and has worked hard, and I'm happy that happened. I didn't know anything about it until I read it because we're really not about those things, but it's certainly a nice earned recognition for a real nice young person."

Rose has mentored some incredible talent in his program throughout his tenure, and he understands part of reaching such an accomplishment is being consistent every day. He even drew some similarities between Frantti's milestone and a few of his accomplishments in his own career.

"When you get certain milestones, those milestones are based on longevity," Rose said. "It's like coaching. If you coach for a long time and you have some success, you're going to win and get some plateaus that you might not get if you were doing something else."

Fellow senior Haleigh Washington knew something was up when she saw signs saying '1,000' in the stands, but she wasn't quite sure what they meant at first.

"The wRECking Crew came out to West Virginia and one of the girls had a poster that said '1,000,'" Washington said. "I was like, 'What are they talking about? Coach wins? Oh, it must be Frantti.' So I kind of got the pick up on Ali Frantti's 1,000th kill, so that was really cool to see and that's how I found out." 

Washington and Frantti were both sophomores when former Nittany Lion Megan Courtney became the 25th Penn State Nittany Lion to tally her 1,000th career kill in 2015. Washington remembers how excited she felt for Courtney and experiencing that again with Frantti.

"I remember being so proud of Megan," Washington said. "It was just awesome to see [Ali] following in that tradition of success and excellence at Penn State. It was obviously amazing."

Keeping with another Penn State tradition, the Nittany Lions stayed focused on the result of the weekend, what was most important to them of course.

"Obviously it's not all about individual awards, but it's pretty cool that I'm one of 26 people," Frantti said. "Most importantly, I'm happy that our team got a 3-0 win this weekend." 

Much like Rose said though, the level of focus during a match isn't met with any sort of thoughts about individual milestones or honors.

"We don't really focus on those kinds of things, we're not in the game thinking, 'Oh, this is what's going on, Ali's going to win this award,'" Washington said. "It's great that it happens, but when it comes down to it, it's about the win. It's about beating West Virginia because we need to beat West Virginia and get out of there. That's the mindset, and that's how you approach every game."

Penn State has already shifted its focus to this weekend, when steep challenges on the road at Texas A&M and against defending national champion Stanford await in Texas. A familiar non-conference opponent, Stanford bested the Nittany Lions last season, but this is a new year and with it, a new opportunity.

"It's always in the back of our heads, obviously, last year that wasn't the way we wanted to end it," Frantti said. "I think we came up short and we didn't perform to our standards. It's a new year, a new team, a new season and a fresh start. We're looking forward to playing them." 

In Rose's mind, Frantti and the seniors helped start the season off in the right direction, but the biggest tests are still ahead, beginning with yet another road test Friday.

"You want to see how your team responds when somebody makes a run against them," Rose said. "We didn't have a lot of that over the weekend. We saw a couple of matches on TV of some other teams that are way further along right now than we are, and it just indicates how much harder everyone has to work to get better if you want to compete at the highest level."

Women's Volleyball Fall Sports Media Day Five

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By Tom 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.

Senior Leadership
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." 

Intense Training
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."

Striving For Consistency
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 Community
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 Ahead
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.

Checking in from Brazil: Day 12-13

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Penn State women's volleyball has officially set out on its 12-day tour of Brazil, marking the fifth Nittany Lion foreign tour in program history. From May 4-16th check in for updates, photos and videos from the team as Penn State tours São Paulo and Rio De Janiero to match up against top talent on the court, while also taking in iconic sights. Stay tuned for daily updates throughout the trip.

CHECKING IN FROM BRAZIL: DAY 12-13

Hi everyone, it's Kendall White!

It's been a long two days, with the last day in Brazil and a long day of travel home, but we're all back safe and sound.

On our last day in Brazil, we started the morning with a beach training session with a Brazilian beach coach, and of course AD helping out. It was fun to learn the different skills and strategies for beach and have some fun in the sun at the same time!

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After the session and some lunch, we all wanted to make the most of the beautiful day before we left for the United States. Some of us should have probably used some sunscreen. It took it a little while to set in so we all packed up our stuff and headed to the buses all packed and ready to go. 

We made one final detour to see the Olympic Village and the area where the Olympic stadiums are in Rio. It was astounding, with magnificent facilities all lined up in a row. It was sad to learn that Brazil has yet to do anything with the beautiful village, as nothing is going on in the stadiums or in the apartments anymore.

It was amazing to see such large buildings and apartments so empty. It was also very eye-opening to know that our idols lived there, in the Olympic village. The place we all strive to be in the future, playing for our country against the best teams in the world.

After the village, we continued to the airport where we made our way onto a 10-hour flight home, getting in some duty-free shopping time before leaving. I don't know about everyone else, but that sunburn did not help me get too comfortable in flight.

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It was a long flight but the movies on the mini TVs on the back of the seats helped entertain us until it was time to go to sleep. When we woke up we had arrived at JFK airport in New York. After going through customs and getting our luggage, we had a four-hour bus ride back to State College. 

We had the sweetest couple as our bus drivers, offering us snacks and drinks the whole trip. Half of us decided to sleep on the floor the whole trip and the rest of us contorted our bodies to fit each situation (it was quite entertaining to look at).

By the last hour, we were alive and talking, reminiscing about our trip to Brazil and joking around like always. We finally made it safe and sound to Penn State and although we are so grateful for the amazing trip, it is good to be back home in Happy Valley. 

I for one would have probably never left the country in my life if it hadn't been for this trip. Thank you to everyone who supports us and makes blessings like our foreign trips possible.

Kendall White, #3

Checking in from Brazil: Day 11

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Penn State women's volleyball has officially set out on its 12-day tour of Brazil, marking the fifth Nittany Lion foreign tour in program history. From May 4-16th check in for updates, photos and videos from the team as Penn State tours São Paulo and Rio De Janiero to match up against top talent on the court, while also taking in iconic sights. Stay tuned for daily updates throughout the trip. 

CHECKING IN FROM BRAZIL: DAY 11

Hey guys! It's Heidi here!

I'm sad to say it's our last full day in Brazil. It has been such an awesome experience, especially since it is my first time out of the country! Thank you all for making this trip possible we are very lucky to have all of you.

Today was a beach day. Clare [Powers] and Simone [Lee] set up a sand volleyball tournament for all of us to compete in. My partner was Allison [Farrell]! It was awesome and so much fun. We had two courts going with three four-team pools.

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The games were played to 15 and then once the pools were finished, there were consolation brackets and champion brackets. These games were played to 21 to find out the overall winners. Clare and Simone won the whole tournament, winning 21-17 in the final match.

After the beach volleyball tournament, we walked to the mall around the corner from the hotel to grab some lunch. There were a variety of options. I chose to each a sandwich with an acai bowl (it was delicious). Some of the other teammates had American food and Chinese.

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After lunch we were allowed to hang out on the beach and catch some sun! A lot of us went swimming in the ocean. The waves were huge, it was tiring after a while! 

Other girls decided to go with the pool on the hotel rooftop. The view is gorgeous. We can see the entire city, the Christ the Redeemer statue, and the wonderful beach.

People went swimming in the heated pool on the roof and after the ocean, the rest of us joined them. It was a long day and filled with sun and smiles. After the pool we had dinner at the hotel. It was pizza! We all enjoyed a slice of pizza while talking about our favorite times on the trip.

Thank you all again for making this foreign trip possible for us! 

- Heidi Thelen

@GOPSUSPORTS

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