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
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
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
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
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.
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a tough loss to the top-ranked team in the
nation, the No. 9 Nittany Lion women's volleyball team will be focusing on making
a positive rebound on the road this weekend as they travel to two Big Ten
schools in Indiana.
Penn State fell to No. 1 Illinois last Saturday night in a five-set duel in
Rec Hall due to what Nittany Lions' head coach Russ Rose identified as familiar
freshmen errors. Rose said that despite the Lions' ability to battle against a
top slated team, he, as well as others, still believe that Penn State can play
at a higher level of collegiate volleyball.
"We started the season as the number one team," said Rose. "I didn't pick us
the number one team but other people did so they thought that we were capable
of playing at that level. I don't know what we are but I know I'm disappointed,
I'll tell you that."
On Friday, the Lions will step onto the Boilermaker's home court and look
to gain back some of their confidence.Penn
State is ultimately looking for a weekend of wins, to jump ahead in the Big Ten
and build a 6-2 conference record heading into the fifth week of play this
Look for Ariel Scott and Deja McClendon to be taking it to the floor on the
offense, and the continued use of Dominique Gonzalez and Ali Longo in the back
row to solidify the Nittany Lions defensively. In order for Penn State to come
out on top this weekend, the team will need to continue to pass and block well
and start cutting down the number of errors committed each set.
Last Match: The Nittany Lions
dropped a five-set battle to the No. 1 Fighting Illini in Rec Hall last
weekend, dropping the defending national champions to a 4-2 conference record
this far into the season. Although the Lions lost the Big Ten match, the team
was successful behind the service line and passed the ball much more smoothly
than they have in most of their matches this year. Sophomore outside hitter
Ariel Scott was a key force in the contest, hitting a career-high 27 kills and
personal-best 74 attacks.
Next Match: No. 9 Penn State
hits the road for a weekend of conference matchups. The Nittany Lions play at
No. 11 Purdue on Friday night at 7 p.m. and then head south in the same state
to Bloomington where they will face the Hoosiers at 7 p.m. on Saturday evening.
The Lions are looking to take both matches away from home and gain momentum
heading into the thick of the Big Ten schedule.
Purdue is 15-2 overall this
season and hold a 4-2 record in the Big Ten. Not only do the Nittany Lions
share the same conference record as Purdue, but they also suffered their two
losses to the same teams. Both Purdue and Penn State have dropped matches
against No. 1 Illinois and No. 5 Nebraska. The Lions are 44-5 all-time against
Indiana is still looking for its first Big Ten win of the season, after
dropping its first six conference matches this year. Overall, the Hoosiers hold
an 8-10 mark overall and a 6-2 record on their home court. The Lions dropped
their first set in series history against Indiana last year, giving Penn State
a 41-1 all-time nod over the Hoosiers. Look for Indiana to be especially
excited to get on the court as senior libero Hoosier Caitlin Cox became
Indiana's all-time digs leader just a few days ago.
Finley, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's
volleyball team found that all good things must come to an end as the team came
up just short to No. 1 Illinois on Saturday night, 3-2. The loss ended the
Nittany Lions 68-match Big Ten Conference home winning streak and marked the
first time that Illinois has won at Rec Hall since 1995.
The Fighting Illini found success on defense,
limiting Penn State to a .074 hitting percentage while the Nittany Lions made
critical mistakes throughout the night, totaling 39 attack errors.
"We gave them twice as many points as [Illinois]
earned," said head coach Russ Rose. "[Illinois] didn't have to do anything."
Sophomore middle hitter Ariel Scott was able to
get the ball through the Illinois blockers, making a career-high 27 kills.
Strong serves from freshman setter Micha Hancock also tripped up Illinois, as
she made a career-high seven aces. The offensive effort, however, was not
"I think it was an interesting match," said head
coach Russ Rose. "I thought we had some opportunities."
Those opportunities started in the first set as
Penn State took the lead early with kills by sophomore outside hitter Deja
McClendon and freshman outside hitter Nia Grant. At one point the Nittany Lions
held their opponent to a six-point deficit. Illinois managed to fight its way
back, but two late service aces by Hancock and a kill by Grant allowed Penn
State to take the win, 25-21.
Illinois established a demanding lead immediately in the second set, pulling
ahead of Penn State by as much as nine points. A late game charge sparked by a
kill from Scott gave Penn State a 6-0 run, holding Illinois at set point. The
effort was too little too late with Illinois winning off of a final kill by
outside hitter Liz McMahon, 25-21.
Ariel Scott made a strong showing in the third set scoring nine kills against a
tough Illinois defense. The two teams battled closely with each other until kills
by sophomore outside hitter Katie Slay and Grant sealed the win for Penn State,
Building off of earlier momentum, Penn State
jumped to the lead and controlled much of the fourth set. However, errors made
by the Nittany Lions caught up with them late, giving Illinois the lead. A
final error by Penn State made the score 25-21, with Illinois taking the win.
A fifth set decided the game as Penn State and
Illinois staying within a few points of one another. Eight errors by Penn State
helped Illinois to win 15-12.
"I'm disappointed at how we lost in the end,"
said head coach Russ Rose. "Illinois is a veteran team with two senior outside
hitters, a junior setter and a great libero. They're an awfully fine team."
The inexperience of Penn State may have lent to
the errors made, but Scott said that it was no excuse for their performance.
"There are a lot of veteran teams out there that
are older than us and more experienced than us," said Scott. "It's not an
excuse that we're young and inexperienced. We still need to play hard and make
up for it in other ways."
The Nittany Lions played at times with only
sophomore and freshmen players on the court.Freshman defensive specialist Dominique Gonzalez made a statement for
herself, making key saves throughout the night and ending with a personal-best
"I thought Dom (Gonzalez) came in and passed
well," said head coach Russ Rose. "She's our best passer. I think the positive
is that I've got on the floor all freshmen and sophomores and we were able to
compete at times."
The young Penn State team faces another
challenge this week as the Nittany Lions hit the road once again. They will
face Big Ten opponent Purdue this Friday at 7 p.m.
By Laura Finley, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's volleyball team hopes to
prove itself capable of playing with some consistency on Saturday as the Nittany
Lion's face No. 1 Illinois in Rec Hall at 8 p.m.
Penn State edged out Northwestern on Wednesday night, 3-2, in what head
coach Russ Rose called a poor performance. The Nittany Lions look to turn
things around and live up to their Penn State legacy with their next match
Sophomore middle hitter Katie Slay believes the win on Wednesday was a wake-up
call for her teammates as they realized they must work harder to improve their
communication and performance on the court.
"I think we realize that our team has been talking a lot in the past, saying
'oh we're going to doing this and we're going to start doing that'," said Slay.
"Tomorrow we have to come in and play better. Tomorrow we have to step up. We
have to hold each other accountable and it starts at practice. We can't wait
any longer. It has to start tomorrow."
Tomorrow, the Nittany Lions will show their dedication to the sport in
what could be their biggest match of the year as Illinois remains the only
undefeated team in the nation. The match will begin at 8 p.m. and has been
declared a White Out. All fans are encouraged to wear white to show their Penn
Last Match: The Penn State women's
volleyball team won its game against Northwestern after going into a fifth set.
The Nittany Lions struggled offensively and defensively, giving up multiple
points due to miscommunication. Penn State is now 4-1 in the Big Ten
Next Match: Penn State hosts No. 1
Illinois on Saturday, Sept. 8 in Rec Hall. The Nittany Lions look to improve
their Big Ten conference record and become the first team to win against
Illinois this season.
Vs. Illinois has a 15-0 record, going 4-0 in the Big Ten Conference.
Penn State and the Fighting Illini have played against some of the same opponents
this season. Illinois won their matches against Minnesota (3-2) and Wisconsin
(3-0) while Penn State won against Minnesota (3-0) and Wisconsin (3-0). Outside
hitter Michelle Bartsch leads the team in kills while middle blocker Anna Dorn
and middle blocker Erin Johnson have proved to be vital behind the net with
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the first time since 2007, the Penn State
women's volleyball team has won multiple regular season matches in five sets after
defeating Northwestern on Wednesday night.
But for the Nittany Lions, the match wasn't a pretty one.
Despite the fact that the Lions added another win to their conference record
for the season, putting them at 4-1 in the Big Ten, inconsistent passing,
miscommunication and leadership plagued the defending national champions each
time that they stepped onto the court.
"I didn't think anything we did was very good tonight,"
admitted Penn State head coach Russ Rose.
Behind 24 errors (nine of which were service errors), a team hitting percentage
of .229 and two dropped sets, Penn State faltered more than usual against Big
Ten opponent Northwestern. Before Wednesday night's match, the Nittany Lions
hadn't dropped a set against the Wildcats since 2003.
Referring to the challenge of orchestrating a team of mostly inexperienced collegiate
athletes, including five freshmen, Rose said that his team's errors and poor
performance were indicative of a lot of the things that he has been trying to
fix all season.
"Now you know what I see in practice every day," said
Rose. "That's what practice looks like."
"It's been a struggle," said Rose. "It's been a real
tough group to get them to understand what we need them to understand and you
know, that's what it looked like."
Penn State took the first set of the match 25-19, but let the Wildcats claw
their way back and lost the second game 25-22. After the intermission, the
Nittany Lions looked like they were ready to get things going and pushed to a
25-18 third-set victory, only to falter again in the fourth set and give
Northwestern another win as they dropped set four 25-13. Hanging on until the
last point, the Wildcats gave Penn State a run for the match but the Lions
closed out the match in set five winning 15-11.
Sophomore outside hitter Deja McClendon led the Lions with 16 kills and
sophomore middle hitter Ariel Scott followed with 13 of her own. Sophomore
middle blocker Katie Slay came in clutch on the slide for Penn State, and
tallied 10 kills as well.
Rose said Slay's performance was one of the only one's that he thought shed a
positive light on Penn State during the conference match-up.
"I thought Katie Slay
was the only one that showed up for all five games but we didn't get her the
ball enough," said Rose.
Rose said that he is frustrated with himself, as well as the team.
"It's not just the players," said Rose. "I'd hate for it
to be that; I don't think the coaches are doing a good job and I don't think
there's anything good happening right now."
The head coach went on to say that he thought his
squad took steps backward in the contest. Rose said that his players were
sloppy at the net and behind the service line, and that he is not exactly sure
what is in store from his team moving forward.
"I tried to get better the last couple of days and I
thought we were significantly worse than we were," said Rose. "We played pretty
well against Minnesota and we played pretty sloppy against Wisconsin and we
played significantly worse tonight but you know Wisconsin and Northwestern and
everybody in the Big Ten has been waiting for this - for us to be down and for
us to be disorganized and it's a disappointing situation but it's part of
Slay agreed with Rose, and added that she and her
teammates have not upholding the prestigious tradition that the Penn State
volleyball program is known for. The sophomore Nittany Lion said that in order
to progress, she and the rest of her teammates have to come together on the
"I just think we're not playing well as a team," said
Slay. "We're kind of playing as individuals and it's a poor effort as
individuals and we shouldn't be lying down to anyone. We have to come out,
fighting from the first whistle to the last and play together and turn it
Finley, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After winning two home games this past weekend,
the Penn State women's volleyball team hosts Northwestern on Wednesday in Rec
During last weekend's match against Minnesota, the Nittany Lions found
consistency on the court, which they hope to carry with them going into the mid-week
Big Ten match.
The Nittany Lions are led defensively by sophomore outside hitter Katie Slay,
who just received the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for the second time
this season. Slay looks to continue improving her play on the court with help
offensively from sophomore middle hitter Ariel Scott and sophomore outside
hitter Deja McClendon, who lead the team with attacks.
The game on Wednesday against Northwestern begins at 8 p.m. in Rec
Last Week: The Nittany Lions improved their home record to 6-1, winning
their last two matches against Minnesota and Wisconsin. With these wins, Penn
State improved in the rankings, taking over the eighth.
This Week: Penn State plays Big Ten opponent Northwestern on Wednesday,
hoping to continue to improve its current Big Ten record (3-1).The Lions host No. 1 Illinois on Saturday.
Vs. Northwestern: The Wildcats won
their last game this past weekend against Indiana. Northwestern holds a 10-5
record, winning only one away game this season. Outside hitter Stephanie
Holthus leads the team on offense with the most kills, while libero Julie Chin
has been effective on the back line with an average of five digs per set.
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The women's volleyball program at Penn State
encompasses a unique passion for hard work, dedication and a tradition of
For newcomers Dominique Gonzalez and Lacey Fuller, this came as no surprise.
"I just really like how competitive coach is," said freshman defensive
specialist Fuller. "His number one thing is just winning. Every coach I've met
or met when I was being recruited was just like here's what we like to do and
here's how we run and blah, blah, blah. Coach [Rose], he just wants to win - he
doesn't really care how you do it he just wants you to go hard and get it done
and I like that."
Both Gonzalez and Fuller came to State College with the intent of joining a
winning program under head coach Russ Rose, held to high expectations and
looking to contribute in any way that they possibly could.
The two freshmen have a lot in common, each registering in at 5-foot-6 and
featured on the Nittany Lion roster as defensive specialists. However, both
student athletes have their own story.
Gonzalez wears the number four for the Nittany Lions and is quickly becoming
known for her smart passing and solid back-row defense. The San Antonio, Texas
native said that both her parents and two older sisters have played and coached
volleyball over the years and have really been her strongest role models.
"I think I started actually learning how to play when I was around two or three
and then playing on a team when I was five," said Gonzalez. "I've been playing
volleyball for a very long time. I think it was just the sport that was really
natural to me and I've always loved it and I've never thought twice about ever
giving it up."
Gonzalez said that she also looked up to former Nittany Lion setter Alisha
Glass as she grew up playing volleyball. Glass' drive and ability to lead a
team so well is just one aspect that really drew Gonzalez to Penn State.
"I've been looking here since I was a freshman in high school so I came every
summer to camp and it was just something I absolutely fell in love with," said
Gonzalez. "It's obviously a different atmosphere than Texas, but I love that so
much. Where I live it's like a city and here it's like a little town and it's
all about the college and I absolutely love that and the surroundings and the
Similarly, Fuller came to Happy Valley all the way from San Diego, Calif.
because she said she couldn't imagine going anywhere else. Fuller began digging
and hitting balls at a young age too.
"I started in about second grade and my mom just signed me up for some little
volleyball seminar and I'd go to school at seven in the morning and just play
with a million kids and it was really fun and it was just recreational," said
Penn State fans already recognize Fuller as the new spark plug on the court,
always cheering on and keeping her teammates energized during the most critical
moments of their matches no matter what it takes.
"Off of the court, some people think I'm a little reserved," admitted Fuller.
"But if you get to know me I'm really crazy and kind of just goofy and I just
can't help it. On the court I just feel really comfortable and that's kind of
why I let it out - I'm just kind of crazy."
Both of these fresh faces have been positive additions to the Nittany Lion
family, as the two girls are already talking about helping their team to
another national title.
Gonzalez said that adjusting to the daily grind of playing Division I
volleyball has been challenging compared to other teams she has played for, but
she still sets her standards as high as they can possibly go.
"Every day we are working hard to get there," said Gonzalez. "To eventually be
that number one team and to be that team that everyone looks at and is
"We haven't hit our highest point and we still have a lot of work to do but
we're definitely getting closer to that point every day," said Gonzalez.
Finley, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's volleyball team was happy
to return home this past weekend, sweeping both of their matches and improving their
Big Ten conference record 3-1.
After opening their first two Big Ten conference games on the road, the Nittany
Lions made the trip back home, hosting Wisconsin and No. 10 Minnesota at Rec
Errors plagued Penn State and Wisconsin on Friday night with both teams
struggling to find consistency on the court.
"It was two really young teams playing really young volleyball out there," said
head coach Russ Rose. "That's what it looked like to me. There were a lot of
Penn State took the lead, 3-2, during the first set, but made key errors, which
allowed the Badgers to close in on the lead. Freshman outside hitter Nia Grant
initiated a 5-0 run with a kill, allowing freshman setter Micha Hancock to use
her strong left-handed serve, taking the set 19-12. Sophomore middle hitter Katie
Slay went on to score three kills which helped Penn State win 25-18.
"Last weekend I didn't play my role very well so it was time that I came back,"
said Katie Slay. "The team needed me to play a better role."
The Nittany Lions took advantage of errors made by Wisconsin in the
second set, but still struggled on offense. A kill by Grant led Penn State on a
9-2 run late in the game giving the Nittany Lions a 21-17 advantage. Slay went
on to make two kills with an additional kill made by sophomore outside hitter Deja
McClendon. Hancock closed the set with her second service ace.
McClendon opened the third set with a kill, giving Penn State a lead, which
they never relinquished.With the score
tied at 21, all eyes were on Slay who made two kills and ended the game with a
service ace 25-22.
Saturday night Penn State played its match against Minnesota, and
redeemed itself with dominating offense and defense. Head coach Russ Rose
praised the Nittany Lions on their effort and acknowledged their improvement.
"I thought we had good energy," said head coach Russ Rose. "We're making
progress in some ways and I'm appreciative of the fact that the kids found a
way to work a little bit harder."
It was a battle for the lead throughout the first set as the two teams played a
tight game before the Nittany Lions settled into a comfortable lead 18-11. Penn
State ended the set with two service aces by sophomore libero Ali Longo and a final
kill by Hancock.
The second set was tougher for Penn State as Minnesota immediately took
the lead 3-0. Penn State was able to come from behind jumping into the lead for
the first time, 16-15, with a block made by Slay. The Nittany Lions could not
keep the lead, but managed to stay within three points of the Golden Gophers. Sophomore
middle hitter Ariel Scott scored a kill which sparked the Nittany Lions into a
late 6-1 run. The crowd was on their feet when freshman outside hitter Aiyana
Whitney made back-to-back kills, tying the set at 23 all. Minnesota scored once
more before Slay found a way through the Golden Gopher defense with another
kill. Scott ended the set with a kill, giving Penn State the win 26-24.
"I thought Katie [Slay] did a nice job," said Coach Rose. "It was a
situation where we needed to bring her in for blocking purposes. I thought she
did a nice job, got some good touches, and had some kills for us."
The third set started slow with both teams struggling to find a consistent
rhythm. After eight tied scores, Penn State took advantage of a Minnesota error
with Hancock delivering a run of strong serves, propelling the Nittany Lions
into a 12-8 lead. Strong defense at the net helped the Nittany Lions go on and
win their third set 25-15 with a kill by Scott.
Penn State had a total of 14.5 team blocks throughout the night with sophomore
outside hitter Maddie Martin proving to be a vital asset on the back line,
recording a career-high ten digs. Scott and Slay led the team in points while
Hancock ended 29 assists.
"At the beginning of the game it was clear we weren't playing as a
team," said Martin. "It was good to know that we finished the game as a
team and won the game as a team. We've been struggling with that all year and
to know that we can play together and fight together is a really good feeling."
The Nittany Lions hope to continue with this momentum as they host Northwestern
this Wednesday at 8 p.m. with a match against No. 1 Illinois following on
Saturday at 8 p.m. in Rec Hall.
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When the matches shown on the Penn State women's
volleyball 2011-'12 schedule have an asterisk next to them, it indicates more than
just a conference event. The symbol is a reminder that that particular match is
an especially important one.
Rec Hall will be the host of two asterisked matches this weekend, and both
are pivotal contests for the No. 9 Nittany Lions as they look to build a strong
Big Ten record to begin the season.
Penn State welcomes Wisconsin to Happy Valley on Friday at 7 p.m., and will
host No. 10 Minnesota at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Nittany Lion sophomore and outside hitter Ariel Scott said that outside of
the conference rivalry that is fueling her and her team this weekend, the need
to defend their home court and get ahead early in the Big Ten season will be a
driving force for Penn State.
"We definitely need to take advantage of the teams that we're playing at home
and make sure that we play well and play together at home," said Scott. "Other
teams, especially other Big Ten teams, are going to have huge crowds like we
saw at Nebraska which makes it a lot harder to win especially in a fifth set."
The Lions are 1-1 in Big Ten competition after dropping a five-set thriller to
Nebraska and then taking it to the Hawkeyes in a commanding 3-0 sweep. Both of
these tests were held outside the confinements of Rec Hall.
This weekend, the Nittany Lions are looking to play cleaner and more
cohesive volleyball. The team has relied on tough serving and timely blocking
at the net, but has been focusing on making smarter offensive strikes and
providing solid back-row defense.
Scott said that she and her teammates are counting on this more concrete
style of play to boost them against their conference rivals.
"We've been working really hard to limit errors," said Scott. "Hitting and
just to stop making careless errors because with other Big Ten teams the games
are going to be a lot closer and we know that each point matters and that's
what we've just been working a lot on."
On Friday night, the Lions face a Wisconsin team that is 9-5 overall this
season and similarly holds a 1-1 conference record. Scott said that she knows
that the Badgers have big hitters and strong blockers in junior middle blocker
Alexis Mitchell and sophomore outside hitter Annemarie Hickey, but assured that
once she and her team can control Wisconsin's offensive game they should be
able to get to work and control the match.
The next evening, Penn State will be seeking a bit of revenge on the
Gophers. Minnesota took a thrilling five-set match from Penn State in the Lions'
final conference match last season, so the matchup should prove to be an
"We know that Minnesota is always going to go down fighting," added Scott.
"They're always a really good team in the Big Ten and on the national level so
they're going to play their best and we have to make sure that we key in our
their good players and do our best at the net against them."
Be sure to tune into the Big Ten Network on Saturday night to watch the Nittany
Lions and Minnesota square off live in Rec Hall.
By Laura Finley, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sophomore middle hitter Katie Slay has proven to
be a vital player to the Penn State women's volleyball team this season,
actively contributing to the team both offensively and defensively.
After collectively scoring 27 kills and 19 blocks during the Hampton
Inn Classic (Sept. 16-17), Slay was honored as the Co-Big Ten Defensive Player
of the Week. She expressed gratitude for being the recipient of the award, but
was quick to point out it was all a team effort.
"It's always exciting to get something from the Big Ten," said Slay. "I
was able to help contribute to the team in a positive way and I'm really just
glad I was able to help the team out."
At six-foot-six, Slay is easy to spot with her physical presence and
performance on the court. Throughout the start of the 2011 season she has made
key plays at the net, accumulating a .378 hitting percentage and leading the
team with 58 blocks.
Statistics mean little to Slay as she is already focusing on the rest of the
season and future Big Ten conference matches.
"[The award] gives me some confidence, but that was when we were in the
preseason," Slay said. "Now we're going into our Big Ten matches. Those are a
whole new beast."
In the past week, the Penn State women's volleyball team has faced its
first two Big Ten opponents of the season. In their first conference game the
Nittany Lions made a late charge, but fell to Nebraska 3-2. Later in the week,
Penn State played Iowa and redeemed itself with a 3-0 sweep.
For the young Nittany Lions, the win at Iowa helped reinforce their ability to
win. Based on the performance, Slay has seen improvement with her team, but acknowledges
the girls have had their ups and downs.
"I think that this season has been a little erratic," said Slay. "Everybody has
new roles, including myself, so we're trying to figure out a way to adapt to
these new roles. It's really just about everybody finding their comfort zone
and just starting to play together."
This improvement is not just limited to the team. Slay is one of the
first to admit she has her own faults.
"I'm really trying to improve my attacking because that's part of my new role,"
said Slay. "I need to be more of a threat offensively. I just need to really
concentrate on my own game so that the team knows what to expect from me. That
way we can be consistent and play together."
Slays' relationship with freshman setter Micha Hancock is critical to
her offensive performance as the two players must communicate with each other
on the court in order to make big plays.Hancock has worked during practices to learn more about each of her
hitters and their expectations. Slay sees Micha as an important element of the
team moving forward.
"There's always growing periods especially with a freshman setter, but I think
[Micha] has done a great job and she's very willing to learn," Slay said. "It's
been going well. We just need to keep improving on our communication."
After a full week of practice, Penn State fans will see if there is any
improvement as the No. 9 Nittany Lions face back-to-back matches this weekend
at Rec Hall. Their first match against Wisconsin will be Friday at 7 p.m. and
their second match against No. 10 Minnesota will be Saturday at 6 p.m.