By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The third-ranked Nittany Lions returned home for the first time in two weeks and made the most of it by grabbing two more Big Ten wins.
Penn State defeated No. 10 Minnesota in four sets on Friday night in Rec Hall and continued to dominate on Sunday with a sweep of Wisconsin.
It was a team effort all-around as six Lions recorded more than 10 kills, four had more than 10 digs and combined the squad tallied 17 service aces.
Junior outside hitter Ariel Scott had a standout weekend with 20 kills against Minnesota and another 14 against Wisconsin for a total of 34 kills on the weekend. She said that she and her sophomore setter Micha Hancock have been working on solidifying their connection on the court, and she was happy that it improved in two crucial conference outings.
"Just between the two of us in the past we've had some communication problems just because we're on the some side of the court," said Scott. "We're really working on working that out and I think, especially at this point in the season, it's beneficial to the whole team."
Service errors and inconsistent passing have plagued the Lions in recent matches and has been a sticking point for the team thus far. But Penn State passed well out of the back-row and kept their serves between the white lines during both matches, suffering a total of just 17 service errors in the two contests.
Junior middle hitter Katie Slay attributed the solid play to her team's ability to communicate well and really concentrate on playing good volleyball from start to finish.
"We just have to come out and play to our level on our side of the net and that's really what we have to focus on," said Slay. "Coming out of the gate we have to start strong."
Slay is not only a returning All-American but also a team captain this season. She said that she constantly reminds her teammates to keep pushing their limits and work on themselves before they worry about their opponents.
"In the home stretch we really have to focus on our side of the net," said Slay. "I know we say that a lot but it's super important because you have to have a certain level of expectation so you know what you're going to bring out on the floor."
At 12-1 in the conference with just five matches left to play in the regular season, the Lions sit atop the Big Ten leader board with a two-game advantage over their next closest competitor. The Penn State women's volleyball program has claimed the Big Ten conference crown in 14 of the last 20 seasons.
Rose said that while he acknowledges the conference success of the program over the past couple of decades, he hopes that his team's outcome this season will be determined by their own will to compete rather than its assumed expectation.
"These guys should want to win because they want to win," said Rose. "You've got to have your eyes going forward and play it out and go hard. It's been a great fall."
Penn State controls its own destiny.
Recently in Women's Volleyball Category
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After two weeks on the road that ended in a tough loss to then fourth-ranked Nebraska, the Nittany Lions are finally back in their home gym. And man, are they relieved.
"I just love this gym and I am always so happy to come back," said junior outside hitter Deja McClendon before a practice this week. "Now it's time to go to work."
McClendon and her Lions will open up the weekend against Minnesota on Friday at 8 p.m. in Rec Hall. The team will have a day's rest and then host the Badgers of Wisconsin on Sunday at 2 p.m.
No. 3 Penn State has played 12 conference matches already this season, and with just eight Big Ten matches left in the regular season the team is looking to finish strong. The Lions hold an 11-1 record in the conference, dropping their only match to the Cornhuskers in five sets last weekend.
McClendon said that matches like the one against Nebraska aren't always the most fun to deal with immediately after, but eventually serve as motivators for her team.
"Games like that where we let up and we lose, that kind of stuff really fires us up and tells us to get in the gym, start practicing, it's not over 'til it's over," said McClendon. "It doesn't matter if you've swept them once or beat them once, it's a new game."
Because the squad is more than halfway through its conference schedule, the rest of the matches that the Nittany Lions play will be against teams that they've already faced at least once this season. McClendon said that there are both advantages and disadvantages of playing a team that they've seen before.
"The second time a lot of it has to do with how your team has adjusted and I think that since [the other team] kind of knows some of our freshmen better this time around it's going to be a little bit easier for them to adjust. But it's the same with us - we've seen these serves a couple of times around so we have time to get ready for them too."
Penn State heads into the weekend at 21-2 overall and has not fallen out of the top five ranked teams since the season began in August. The team has cruised offensively for the majority of their match-ups, out-hitting their opponents by a percentage of .302 to .136 and taking 15 of their victories in just three sets.
McClendon said that at this time in the season players have a tendency to slowly break down both mentally and physically, but said that she has yet to see that in any of her teammates.
"I think as a team we've come together and we're a lot tighter," said McClendon. "[Micha Hancock]'s getting a lot better. I think she's adjusting and our middles are connecting a lot better with her right now. We've learned a lot."
Sophomore setter Hancock echoed her elder teammate's thoughts and said that at this time of the year, the Lions know what they want to do - they just have to go do it.
"This is when it really matters," said Hancock. "The last games are what determine who wins the Big Ten, who gets the good seeding and everything for the tournament so this is where we really need to focus."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
The third-ranked Nittany Lion women's volleyball team returns home on Friday
for the first time in two weeks. Penn
State takes on Minnesota on Friday at 8 p.m. (BTN) and Wisconsin on Sunday at 2
GoPSUsports.com caught up with libero Dominique Gonzalez for a one-on-one to get ready for the home matches.
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
Hey Penn State Fans,
I hope that everyone was safe with Hurricane Sandy ripping through the east coast. I know there was extensive damage in a lot of your areas. We were lucky here in State College, and we were just hit with rain and wind.
Now to talk about volleyball! We just finished up a long two-week road trip this past weekend. Last Tuesday we traveled to Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes. They host us in their very large basketball arena. It is cool experience to play in such a large gym, but it also puts an even bigger emphasis on bring energy to the floor. Since it's not a very loud gym packed with students it's up to us to provide our own energy for the match. Iowa plays hard, and Wednesday night was no exception. They didn't let up and took good swings. After the match we were able to go straight to the plane to fly home. We're very lucky to be able to do that. It is nice to get back to class as many of us had tests and quizzes on Thursday and Friday.
Friday night we went to the endowment dinner where we were able to thank everyone who shows support to the university by endowing scholarships. It was a nice event, and we are so grateful to everyone who contributes. This university would not be what it is today competing at a high level academically and athletically without their help. Then the next morning we had practice at Rec before heading off to Lincoln.
It was game day in Lincoln when we arrived on Saturday. It was neat to see their downtown area while everyone was out and about. We were able to rest for the remainder of the evening, and catch our football game on TV. Sunday morning we had a light practice before match time and got touches. Nebraska is always a tough place to play because they have a very loyal and loud fan base. The match was intense. While we didn't win we learned both good things about our team and things to work on. We're working to keep getting better.
We're excited to take the floor again this weekend in front of our home crowd. It will be nice to have some home matches. See you all there!
Hello Nittany Lion faithful! What an extended road trip we have had. We have been traveling for what seems like all of October. In this week's matchup, we played at Ohio State on Wednesday and Michigan on Saturday. Going into these matches, we knew both teams would play us very tough, especially in front of their home crowd.
We arrived in Columbus on Tuesday after a short practice in South Gym. For many of the girls, this hotel was located right next to a favorite restaurant from home, Sonic. Although I personally didn't have a Sonic growing up, I know a bunch of the girls did and they were more than excited to get a quick taste of home. After our pregame practice the next morning in St. John arena, it was time to rest, watch film, and catch up on any schoolwork missed that day. When we arrived at the match, we knew Ohio State was more than ready to play us. This three set battle consisted of high paced volleyball. With the win, we loaded our things onto the bus and quickly flew back to State College.
Our flight to Ann Arbor was on Friday afternoon, just after two days of practice and classes in Happy Valley. Here we go, on the road again! It was a football weekend in Ann Arbor so there were crowds of people all over town. We practiced much earlier than normal on that morning to avoid the tailgaters and the traffic they create. Because of this, we had plenty of time to rest and prepare back at the hotel. We knew Michigan, similar to Ohio State, would play one of their best matches against us. They fought hard and we battled point after point all the way to the fifth set. The crowd was very loud creating deafening noise in the tiny Cliff Keen Arena.
We came out of this week with two big wins on the road in tough venues to play in. The road trip continues as we travel to Iowa on Tuesday and Nebraska on Saturday. Can't wait to be back in Rec Hall!
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The top-ranked Nittany Lions head on the road to face fourth-ranked Nebraska on Sunday at 3 p.m. The two teams are battling for recognition atop of the Big Ten Conference as well as a strong end to the regular season. Take a look at a few of the numbers heading into the match-up.
0: Penn State has not lost a Big Ten match yet this season. The Lions hold onto an 11-0 record in the conference with nine matches left in the regular season.
2: Nebraska has lost just two conference matches this season, which came at the hands of the Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes of Ohio State. The Cornhuskers have tallied nine other victories inside the Big Ten.
4: This will be the fourth consecutive match that the Lions play on the road over the past two weeks. The Lions have not been away from home for this long since the beginning of conference play.
9: Before Ohio State defeated Nebraska this past Friday night, the Cornhuskers tallied a nine-match winning streak in conference play.
12: Nebraska head coach John Cook has been at the helm of the program for 12 years and has a pair of NCAA titles under his belt.
20: The two teams have faced each other 20 times in their program histories. The Cornhuskers have taken home 12 wins and the Nittany Lions have claimed the other eight matches.
40: Micha Hancock broke even in Penn State's most recent victory over Iowa and has registered 40 services aces this season. Her team has notched 107 total aces this year.
77: Penn State has played 77 sets of Division I volleyball so far this season. They've won 15 matches in just three sets, three matches in four sets and taken just four matches to five sets.
104: Nittany Lion junior Katie Slay continues to use her 6-foot-6 body to stop opposing offenses from being successful. The middle blocker has been credited for 104 blocks this season.
242: Senior outside hitter Gina Mancuso tops the Cornhuskers' offense with a whopping 242 kills this year. She has been a force at the net for the Nebraska offense.
265: Sophomore Dominique Gonzalez has become the starting libero for the Nittany Lions and has dug up 265 balls in just 22 matches played. Gonzalez has become a wall in the back-row for the Penn State defense.
1,079: Penn State head coach Russ Rose has won more than 1,000 matches in his time with the Lions. As the leader of the program, he has only lost 173 matches in 34 years of coaching.
This past weekend, after two grueling weeks on the road, we were finally back at home in Rec Hall! We had Purdue here on Friday night and Indiana on Saturday night. All last week in practice we did the usual preparations for the competitions ahead, focusing on the game plan and fixes for our little internal problems. Leading into the Friday match we had some serious external motivation after reading articles from the Purdue newspaper saying how their players believed that they could handle us at home. Naturally we, as the competitive people that we are, did not stand for this whatsoever. We were focused prior, as well as during the match. Our focus was on Ariel Turner, their outside and one of their best players. We knew if we could stop her it would really help us out. By the end of the match we had done just that. She only hit around a .125 showing that she had minimal impact on us. In the end we had success.
Saturday was the day we played Indiana. Practice early that morning was a little flat, which is never a great way to start off a game day. But we got through it. We then each spent the afternoon doing what we felt we needed to do in order to be ready to perform. Me personally? I spent the first half of my afternoon studying for an exam I had coming up and half the time resting/relaxing. Come 4 p.m. we had pregame meal. This was different than the usual pregame meal at home. This time we were fortunate enough to eat at the Nittany Lion Inn. They had everything from salad to fruit to potatoes to pork and more! It was absolutely delicious. After the meal we carried on with our usual pregame routine and into the match we went. Indiana played very well and we were our own worst enemy at points within the match. None of us were very pleased by the way we performed. However, a win is a win and now all we can do is work to be better before we play Ohio State on Wednesday.
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - From one night to the next, a team of Division I athletes will do whatever it takes to win a contest. And sometimes, when more than one match is played in the same weekend, a squad can perform two completely different ways and still come out with the win.
That was the case for the top-ranked Nittany Lions this past weekend.
Penn State swept No. 17 Purdue on Friday night in Rec Hall behind a strong offensive performance and an equally strong defensive performance. The Lions hit a team average of .393 against the Boilermakers and put up 9.5 blocks at the net.
After the match, Penn State head coach Russ Rose gave a nod to his team's all-around hitting performance, good passing and effective communication.
All in all, the Lions played a clean match and made a statement against a good team.
On Saturday night, the Nittany Lions didn't play nearly as cleanly but they still came away with a victory.
Penn State dropped the first set of the night against the Hoosiers after Indiana took an early lead. The Lions went on to win the next three and take the match, but hit just .197 as a team against their Big Ten competitors.
Rose noticed the change in demeanor of his team from one night to the next too, but said he was ultimately pleased with the outcome.
"If you don't play your best and you win, you feel fortunate about that," said Rose. "You try and pick up the cues that are going to make you a better team in the future, a better teammate, and you go on from there."
And the statistics show that what held the team together was the all-around effort of the entire squad on the weekend. Collectively, the Lions put up 25 blocks, dealt eight service aces and put down 94 kills in the two conference matches. Six of the 13 Nittany Lions registered double-digit kills in the weekend as well.
"I think it's a team game and all the kids are good kids," said Rose. "They want to do well for the team, I don't any of them think it's about themselves, I think they know it's a team game."
With back-to-back wins on their home court, Penn State holds onto its top-ranked spot and improves to 8-0 in the Big Ten.
The Lions are a little more than halfway through the regular season and have 12 more matches left to play. At the end of the weekend, Rose said that he is confident that his team can handle the pressure of a Division I schedule.
"Every time we play we get some opportunities to see things we need to get better at," said Rose.
"It's a long season and when you have a team that's mentally tough with broad shoulders, they can handle all the expectations and they get better and they can keep going along."
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The top-ranked Nittany Lions are getting set for their fourth consecutive week of conference play. Penn State is undefeated in Big Ten contests so far, but will face two more tests in Rec Hall this weekend.
After two weekends on the road in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois, the Lions have boosted their conference record to a 6-0 mark. In the midst of a tough group of competition, the team has notched key Big Ten wins over then ranked No. 3 Nebraska, No. 10 Minnesota and No. 21 Illinois.
This weekend, the Nittany Lions will face two more Big Ten representatives. Penn State hosts No. 17 Purdue on Friday at 8 p.m. and Indiana on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Both teams are ones that many of the Lions have seen before. But junior Deja McClendon said that when she and her teammates are familiar with a particular team, it usually means that that team is just as familiar with them.
"A lot of it is about our game plan and how well we can do what the coaches ask of us," said McClendon. "For us, people know what we're going to do now and we have to come out and we have to adjust. It's how well your team can adjust to certain things that really shows how good of a team you are."
McClendon said that
the Lions frequently take time to watch film of their opponents before a
weekend of matches, but recently her team has been focusing on its own
production more than anything. Specifically, the outside hitter said that her
squad is trying to perfect the smaller aspects of their game.
"It's a lot about error-control because right not we have the tools to be good we just have to cut out he mistakes that we make," said McClendon. "We have to serve tough and pass well. That's always the key."
The veteran hitter said that her team has really been trying to eliminate missed serves and be smarter about the choices they make at the net. And 17 matches into a packed 31-match season, McClendon said there is a particular group of Nittany Lions that she and her teammates need to keep an eye on.
"Halfway through, you've got to check your freshmen and see how they're doing because they're not used to playing this long," said McClendon. "That's one of the main concerns about our team."
hitter Megan Courtney has seen the most action on the court in her debut
season, appearing in all 17 matches the Lions have played so far. But the
rookie seems to be handling the pressure well as she has contributed more than
100 kills on a 1.91 attack percentage and has been solid in the back row with
more than 100 digs too.
McClendon echoed the successes of her younger teammates and said that she loves to see her team happy. And the 6-foot-1 veteran said that there's one thing that always seems to put a smile on the Nittany Lions' faces.
"So happy to be home, there's nothing like playing in Rec Hall," said McClendon. "We have such a big advantage playing here. We've just got to keep pushing through and give the people a show."
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When you see her freshman head-shot being blast up on the video boards of Rec Hall, it may take you a minute to recognize exactly who she is.
Sporting a few
highlights and a lighter tone of brown on top of her head this season,
Dominique Gonzalez's hairstyle is just one of many new changes she has made to
her sophomore lifestyle.
In her debut season with the Nittany Lions, Gonzalez was a fresh pair of arms in the back-row as a defensive specialist and saw time in 29 matches.
This season, she has not only seen action in all 59 sets that Penn State has played, but also started in every single one of them.
So, what's the difference this year?
"During the spring I made a decision that I wanted to be the best player that I can be and contribute to the team in the best way I can," said Gonzalez. "If that meant playing libero than that meant playing libero and kind of controlling a little bit more of the defense and passing aspect and make this team what it is."
Gonzalez has become a staple in the back-row for the Lions and sports the opposite-colored jersey each match as the starting libero. She leads the team with 194 digs and averages 3.29 digs per set, some of which have proven crucial to the outcome of close matches.
The second-year veteran said she has also seen herself quickly become a leader solely based on the amount of times that she's spoke up this season.
"I think the team needed Lacey [Fuller] and I to both step up and be vocal out on the court and kind of guide our freshmen and whoever is younger than us playing," said Gonzalez. "We both contribute well in the back court, which I think is a big thing."
But even though Gonzalez has learned to love hanging out behind hitters that are almost a foot taller than her, transitioning into the position as libero didn't necessarily come naturally.
"When we watch film there are tons of liberos that are really good at defense and defense wasn't necessarily my strong-point coming into the season," said Gonzalez. "So I studied a lot of what other liberos can do and how they widen their range on defense and I tried to learn a little bit from them and tried to make myself better as well."
The San Antonio, Texas native said that she's used to studying and learning in order to get better though. Her two older sisters, Jaci and Nicki, also played volleyball in college and constantly coached her into a better player. Gonzalez said that part of her competitive nature on her the court comes from the competitions her and her sisters had growing up.
"They support me now of course but we compete with everything," said Gonzalez. "My middle sister [Jaci] was the All-Conference Digger in her conference when she was in college and I think that's great and that's definitely a goal I have. But more importantly, I just want to help my team the best way that I can. I want to be the best."
So far she's helped her team come pretty close to being the best, at least as far as the rankings are concerned.
The Nittany Lions hold the top-spot in the nation in Division I women's volleyball with an unbeaten 6-0 mark in conference play and an overall record of 16-1.
However, the 5-foot-6 Texan said that the dominant record midway into the season doesn't come as a surprise to her or her teammates. She said that the volleyball program at Penn State is built on a legacy of success, and her entire squad knows it.
"The tradition and the community behind it, it's like no other I believe," said Gonzalez. "That's why I chose to come here. They support us and it's a great atmosphere to be around and I love our team."
Still, there is one thing that the southern specialist hasn't fully adjusted to in her time as a Nittany Lion.
"I'm still not used to the cold," said Gonzalez. "I still overdress for days where its 60 degrees and I'm freezing outside. It's probably like 75 degrees back home, which to me is beautiful weather."
But at the end of the day, 'Dom' said she has learned to deal with the chilly temperatures and accepts the Pennsylvania climate in exchange for a new kind of family right here in State College.
"I love it here. It's like a second home."