By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "If I could tell my seventh grade
self that I was going to go to Penn State, I would have said I was joking,"
junior Ali Frantti said.
Frantti wrote an email to head coach Russ Rose when she was
in seventh grade because she watched Penn State volleyball all her life and it
was her dream to become a Nittany Lion. Though coach Rose never actually saw
the email, her wish to come to Penn State eventually came true.
The Spring Grove, Illinois native graduated high school early,
practiced hard and made her way into the Blue and White starting lineup her
freshman year. Her rookie season was one she will also never forget.
She helped Penn State win the 2014 National Championship,
was named the AVCA DI National Freshman of the Year and the AVCA All-Northeast
Region Freshman of the Year, earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors three
times, and led the team with 3.20 kills per set on .310 hitting.
"Coming off of freshman year, I wasn't expecting any of
that," Frantti said. "Winning National Freshman of the Year was a surreal
moment for me. I take great honor in that and people recognize that because I
know there were many, many candidates that could have won that, for sure. I
definitely am very honored that I could be National Freshman of the Year in
However, when someone wins such a big title, there's always
going to be some type of pressure from it afterwards, especially when you're a
six-rotation player, someone that receives serves, makes passes and leads the
"Being a six rotation player, you always have to be focused
and queued in on players and servers," Frantti said. "As an outside hitter,
especially, we do a two-passer still. A majority of the balls are going to be
served to me, so for every play, I'm doing something. It's always crucial to
stay focus and have a good mindset the whole time."
There were high expectations for Frantti for her sophomore
year. She was aware of that and setup goals for herself, but when she wasn't
doing as well as she was in her first year, the stress got to her. At the end
of the season, but she tied for third on the team with 2.63 kills per set, totaling
303 kills for the year, and finished fourth on the team with 1.83 digs per set.
"Winning National Freshman of the Year kind of leaves an
expectation for you to maintain," Frantti said. "I wouldn't say all the eyes
are on you, but it's an expectation to carry a great performance all the time.
I think sophomore year, I definitely felt the pressure because that wasn't the
best year I wanted to have. It was kind of a struggle, but I found some good in
During the times she was struggling on the court, Frantti
used her faith to carry herself through the good and bad days and put
perspective into her life.
"My faith played a huge role in my development as a person,"
Frantti said. "It's easy to get caught up with school and sports but without my
faith, I would feel empty inside."
This season, there were a variety of questions about whether
or not Frantti would play like her freshman year-self or her sophomore
year-self, but in actuality, she's neither - she's a new Ali Frantti on the
court. Frantti realized that there are only a number of matches left in her
collegiate career, so she needs to make the most of all of them.
"This year, I have been making a conscious effort to get
away from [the pressure]," Frantti said. "I keep it simple now and I don't
really think too much of things. Honestly, I just got back to having fun, and
that's the most important thing - that's why I play volleyball. That's what I
learned last year and coming to this year, it's been a grind, but I enjoy every
day. I've definitely grown a lot since last year."
Coming into the season with a younger team, there were a lot
of question marks about how Penn State would perform, especially in the early
part of the season. However, the Nittany Lions' chemistry and volleyball IQ has
grown so much that they've won 11-straight matches. This wouldn't have been
accomplished without veteran Frantti.
In a critical matchup against then-No. 18 Michigan State,
Frantti led the offense for the first time all season, recording 11 kills on a
.391 hitting clip, while also posting a team-high six digs. She also recorded a
season-high 13 kills in the match in the win against top-ranked Minnesota the
"Ali did phenomenal in that match against Michigan," junior
Haleigh Washington said. "She had a lot of veteran plays, she's seeing the
court very well and she was hitting shots that were very mature for her game
that only an experienced player would think to hit. High, deep, in the corners.
She was tipping really well and her attack in the back row was awesome.
Washington has been by Frantti's side throughout their
entire time at Penn State, whether that be teammates on the court or roommates
off the court. Either way, Washington has certainly seen Frantti grow in the
past three years.
"Frantti has improved because she's a ranged hitter,"
Washington said. "Our freshmen year, she would hit a lot of 4-to-4 and a lot
across, so that was her go-to shot. It was hitting that deep, almost to the
libero, but now she has a deep corner shot, a down-the-line shot and others.
Her serve is more versatile, her block has improved. She's become a better
all-around player and her passing since freshmen year has made her one of our
primary passers in our offense. She's a key part of why we are as successful as
we can be and are."
Though Frantti has certainly gained experience in her communication
skills, leadership abilities and volleyball IQ, she still hopes to learn more
"In all aspects of the game, I definitely want to improve,"
Frantti said. "I feel like I'm getting my hitting back, which is great. I have
a great connection with the setter, junior Abby Detering, right now. I think
it's being physically aggressive through the whole season. I just want to
maintain that level. It's a long season and you have to stay healthy, maintain
physicality and be strong every game."
This junior outside hitter loves Mexican food, burgers,
relaxing and Penn State volleyball. Even with some struggles and challenges in
her career, Frantti's using that experience to improve her game and help her
teammates. And she wouldn't want to be anywhere else doing it.
know that I'm here now, and to be part of this legacy and tradition, it's such a
humbling experience. Girls dream about coming here, and I am so privileged to
be part of this. I don't take it for granted at all. The opportunities that I
am given to represent this great school, it's a huge honor. I couldn't picture
myself going somewhere else...It's crazy how dreams work and if you put in the
hard work, anything is possible. It's like a dream come true to be here."