By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Everyone has an idol or role model that he or she grows up admiring, whether it be a family member, a celebrity, an athlete, or someone in a different occupation. We based our lives and principles around these certain individuals because we wanted to grow up and accomplish everything our heroes had achieved.
The same story goes for women's volleyball redshirt junior Aiyana Whitney who began playing volleyball after watching her older sister, Anissa Whitney, on the court.
"[I started playing] in middle school," said Whitney. "My older sister picked it up in her high school years and I was just kind of one of those little sisters that said "I want to do it too," and I didn't expect to fall in love with it, so I mean, I guess I would owe it all to her and me just wanting to be like her."
Whitney's older sister helped shape Aiyana into the player she is today.
"I knew nothing about the sport and she definitely helped me out as best as she could growing up," said Whitney. "I think kind of just watching her play and then she kind of encouraged me to take it more seriously and you know, start to really try and improve my game to play at top level."
Nearly four years ago, when it came time for Whitney to select a college to attend, she knew that no other school would compare to Penn State when it came to playing volleyball at the top level.
"You come to a program like this because you want to play in gyms such as Nebraska the other night," said Whitney. "I mean, those are the atmospheres you come to big schools for and I think just Penn State's tradition of winning and excellence and success has been something that draws any player who wants to play big time volleyball, so I think that's what made me come."
Whitney is having an excellent season thus far. She currently has a .377 hitting percentage, which sits at the fifth spot in the Big Ten standings. She received MVP honors from the Penn State Alumni Classic for leading the team in terrific offensive and defensive performances, especially during the win over UIC when she led the team with 13 kills on .722 hitting. Whitney also made the All-Tournament Team following the Villanova Classic after she recorded double-digit kills and a career-high of six blocks in the team's win over No. 24 Kansas.
This past weekend, Whitney logged nine kills and two blocks as Penn State faced off Nebraska and Iowa. Though the Nittany Lions swept past Iowa, the team fell short against Nebraska. Although, Penn State beat Iowa to cap off the weekend, Whitney believes that there is still much to improve on.
"I think we just need to get our game a little tighter. I feel like we had a lot of holes in our game in terms of running on offense. It was kind of difficult for us to get middles involved and things like that," said Whitney. "I know on a personal note, blocking and transition balls are something I need to work on and I think if we get that side of our game a little more air-tight than we have a better chance of competing harder against our opponents."
Whitney is looking on the positive side of things, nonetheless.
"I think coming out of it, we see what we need to work on and we see where we need to tighten our game," said Whitney. "I think it's kind of given us even more motivation going into this week of practice to really prepare for this upcoming weekend."
The Nittany Lions take on Northwestern and Illinois this week and Whitney is moving forward with great confidence.
"This season, I definitely want to defend what we earned last year and I think the best way to do that is to pick up our game now and look forward to the rest of the season," said Whitney. "No one ever likes losing and loses are pretty awful, so I think right now the main focus is on the matches we have ahead of us and just getting better every day."
Recently in Women's Volleyball Category
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
GoPSUsports.com talks with associate head coach Salima Rockwell for an update
on the Nittany Lions. Penn State hosts Northwestern on Wednesday inside Rec
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
By Anita Nham, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - At most sporting events, the fans in the crowd believe that the flashiest plays are the most notable ones. In volleyball, the kills and the great digs get the crowd excited and up off their feet, but what about the technical aspect of things?
A match cannot have any true momentum to it without the back row having strong serve receives. Penn State's back row has been doing a terrific job with that this season, especially from senior libero Dominique Gonzalez.
Gonzalez earned the Defensive Player of the Week for the Big Ten after helping the team notch two wins against then fifth-ranked Wisconsin and then 17th-ranked Minnesota. She led the team with 6.71 digs per set, including 21 digs during the Wisconsin match and a season-high of 26 digs against the Gophers. The win against Minnesota marked the fourth match of the season where Gonzalez had 20 or more digs.
"It's a great feeling," said Gonzalez. "It's the first time I've gotten it in my career, so that was pretty cool."
Though she is honored to have won this week's title, Gonzalez has other things on her mind.
"I think the more important things to focus on are the wins that we had and getting better at things we need to get better at and focusing on this week. The awards and stuff are cool, but winning as a team is better in my eyes," said Gonzalez. "As a team, I think we've got to improve on consistency. We missed a lot of serves at crucial times, so going back to the service line, being confident, and just being sure, We had a great match against Wisconsin and our play kind of slipped a little bit against Minnesota, so maintaining that consistent level of volleyball at all times."
Gonzalez began her collegiate athletic career nearly five years ago when she decided to leave San Antonio, Texas, to continue her passion for volleyball at Penn State. The 1,600 miles between home and Happy Valley made no difference to her as she knew that Penn State was her top choice.
"The community, the excellence it has in volleyball, I mean, you have a legendary coach, so in my eyes, there was nothing more," said Gonzalez. "Playing [for] Penn State volleyball was what I wanted. Playing for coach and being part of such a tradition. You look at all the success the program has had in the past and that's something I wanted to be a part of and wanted to be the best player that I could be and I knew that coach could bring that out in us."
Her family helps to provide a strong support system, as well.
"It's my last season and my parents are retired now, so they're making more of an effort to go to away matches, which is great to have people in the crowd supporting us in such big venues where a lot of the crowd is against us."
Since being and playing as a freshman, Gonzalez's game has grown exponentially, but she continues to look for improvement throughout her final season.
"When you come in as a freshman, there are a lot of overwhelming feelings when you're on the court. The game is faster - you're playing with girls that are anywhere between 18 to 22 years old and they're experienced as well," Said Gonzalez. "I try to improve a lot on my consistency and not being too high or being too low when you play well or play bad."
The Nittany Lions are almost midway through the season and still have a lot to look forward to.
"I think we always set our standards at the highest point we can so as a team I think we want to win as many matches as we can and get better each time we play and hopefully win a Big Ten Championship," said Gonzalez. We just want to do what we can to make a good run in the tournament."
By Samantha DelRosso,
GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- After a successful Big Ten opening weekend, the Penn State women's volleyball team is focusing on being consistent on the court as conference play continues on the road.
Junior Megan Courtney said consistency will put the No. 3-ranked team on the road to success.
"[The emphasis this week is on] consistency and being able turn out points one after the other," Courtney said. "And believing in each other that we can beat whoever the opponent is."
The Big Ten Conference is rigorous week in and week out. Head coach Russ Rose noted that the conference season is a constant battle for 20 matches. There are nine weekends remaining in conference play. Rose said the team can't get too high with a win or too down with a loss because it's a two and a half month-long schedule.
"[The Big Ten season] is way more of a marathon than a sprint, so you really can't get yourself all tied up in one chapter of the big book," Rose said.
The Nittany Lions are off to a good start at 2-0 in conference play. But at this point in the "marathon", Courtney said there are still aspects of the game that need improvement.
"It's not about just winning the first two games in the conference. We could lose the next 18 and not be anywhere near our end goal," Courtney said. "It's about remaining consistent, keeping a good mindset and saying 'yes, it's great to win, but we also need to learn from the mistakes that we made in the first two games.'"
In addition to its competitiveness, the Big Ten is also known for its attendance at venues and thrilling atmosphere during matches. Freshman Simone Lee got her first taste of the Big Ten environment during the matches against Wisconsin and Minnesota this weekend.
"The crowd was cheering no matter what. It was electric in the air," Lee said. "But we did a pretty good job of tuning it all out and really focusing on the game and what we had to do to win."
The two matches were a good introduction into the Big Ten for Lee and many of the other freshmen. Lee said it prepared her for Penn State's match on Friday against Nebraska, a team whose facility is even louder and more energetic than Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The Bob Devaney Sports Center, where the Cornhuskers play, leads the nation in attendance. Rose said Cornhusker fans love their women's volleyball team and urge them on appropriately throughout the match.
"Nebraska is incredible. The best part is they don't cheer for technically Nebraska. They're all wearing red, but if the rally goes on forever, they cheer for volleyball. They cheer for good volleyball whether Penn State wins the rally or Nebraska does," Courtney said.
Not only is Nebraska a team with a consistently packed house, the Cornhuskers are among the nation's elite teams.
Coming in at No. 8, Nebraska is 2-0 in Big Ten play. Nebraska is a very athletic team with a physical style of play.
"They're a big team that's going to take a big swing and can count on another full gym to help them have the energy when times are tough," Rose said. "Nebraska won both matches last weekend, so they're in the same situation that we are heading into week number two."
Heading into their second weekend of Big Ten matches, the Nittany Lions' approach remains the same. The group understands the importance of playing at a high level every time it steps on the floor.
"Every weekend in the Big Ten you'd better be focused," Rose said. "You're playing teams that are ranked, you're playing programs that have great tradition or you're playing teams that need to bounce back after a tough weekend."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com catches up with junior Megan
Courtney for an update on the Nittany Lions heading into this weekend's matches
at Nebraska and Iowa.
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By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The journey to Penn State for Nia Grant was an interesting one. In middle school, she missed volleyball tryouts and instead decided she wanted to become a professional basketball player.
But that all changed when her mom brought her to a local gym near her Warren, Ohio, home to practice volleyball. The skills stuck, and Grant ran with it. She tried out for the team, made it and the rest was history.
Grant began her college search during the Christa Harmotto and Arielle Wilson era of Penn State women's volleyball. Watching the standout athletes win national championships and Big Ten titles, Grant knew she wanted to play for Penn State. When Grant and Wilson met, they quickly became friends and Grant found herself in Happy Valley very frequently to spend time with Wilson.
"I just loved [Penn State]. And it was where I wanted to be all of the time," Grant said.
Now, five years later, Grant is playing in her final season as a Penn State women's volleyball player. She has grown as a player over the last four years, especially from her junior to senior season. This season, Grant tallied 100 kills on a .525 hitting percentage during the non-conference slate. At that point last season, she had 53 kills.
But Grant said it's her mental game that has really improved.
"My mindset is different. Something clicked. Being good is a decision, and I need to be good," Grant said. "Everything just seems like it's falling into place."
This season, Grant has been playing with much more confidence, approaching the net with swings like never before. She said the confidence boost is the product of being a senior and understanding that she has a leadership role this season.
"Being a senior, having to play a big role, having a lot of freshmen and knowing that you have to teach them a lot of different things, I had to step up," Grant said. "And I feel really good about it."
Leading the freshmen is something that Grant has loved so far this season and said that she could not have asked for a better class of freshmen. But rather than telling the newcomers how to be successful as a Nittany Lion, she shows them.
"I hope more so that I lead them by example, rather than teach them anything with my words," Grant said. "They're an awesome group of girls."
With conference play kicking off this week, Grant and the other veterans have explained the nature of the Big Ten to the freshmen. They also have established goals to achieve as a team during the 10-week conference schedule.
"[We] just want to grow and win as many games as possible. I want the team to peak when we need to peak and just continually get better every day and keep working hard in the gym," Grant said.
Individually, Grant said she wants to improve her blocking during her senior season.
The Nittany Lions head to Minnesota on Saturday following a 3-0 sweep at No. 5 Wisconsin on Wednesday. Grant and the Lions are fired up for the Big Ten season.
"I'm really excited...I can't wait," Grant said.
Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Established nearly 120 years ago, The Big Ten Conference is the oldest Division I collegiate athletic conference in America.
The conference's storied history includes a rich tradition of excellence in women's volleyball.
Since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1991, Penn State teams have acquired 60 regular season conference titles and 13 tournament titles, including a record of eight-straight wins in women's volleyball (2003-'10), which is the longest streak in Big Ten volleyball history.
The 2014 version of Nittany Lion women's volleyball is determined to build on the legacy that they have set for themselves within the past decade, but this year may feature one of the deepest fields in the Big Ten.
The Nittany Lions will begin their first 20 Big Ten matches on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. (BTN) against No. 5 Wisconsin (9-1) in UW Fieldhouse. These two teams will be meeting for the first time since the 2013 NCAA title match where the Nittany Lions emerged with a 3-1 victory (25-19, 26-24, 20-25, 25-23) against the Badgers.
"The last time we played them was in the national championship," said senior Lacey Fuller. "So playing them in the first game in the Big Ten is an intense first game, and I hope we play well."
The Badgers are just coming off their first loss of the season after they fell to now-ranked No. 4 Washington Huskies in five-set match.
"It's the two teams that played in the finals of last year's national championship match although in our case, it's not the same roster, it's just the same school," said head coach Russ Rose. "It's just the first of 20 matches, in my opinion, but I certainty also acknowledge that Wisconsin may be the top team in the conference certainty watching them on television last weekend against USC and Washington. I was impressed by a number of things that they do so well."
The players were also impressed by Wisconsin's performance last week.
"We watched [Wisconsin] play USC and Washington and they've been playing really well against really good teams early in the season so we know they're really good. I feel like they're better than last year and they definitely have a hunger to win, especially having lost to us in the national championship," said Fuller. "They play really hard. They dig a ton of balls, so they have really good defense, and they have a very good setter who makes it difficult to read the offense and everyone on that team is very skilled and I think they're a close-knit team that plays well together."
Freshman Ali Frantti will be playing her first Big Ten match in her collegiate career, but she seems to be eager and prepared for it.
"I'm excited to be on the road and just play all the teams. I've watch the Big Ten season on BTN and I'm just real excited to be out there playing these great teams," said Frantti. "I think the Big Ten conference is the best conference out there for volleyball."
The leadership provided by the upperclassmen and returning players have helped Frantti to compose herself for the upcoming matches.
"Before every match, Dom [Gonzalez] usually pulls me aside and she'll do a scavenger report with me, like this girl takes cross. Just stuff like that," said Frantti. "She gives me little advice here and there and it helps me stay calm and collective."
Penn State's Big Ten slate continues on Saturday, Sept. 27 when they take on No. 17 Minnesota (10-1) at Sports Pavilion. The Golden Gophers concluded their non-conference season in a straight-sets win against IPFW (25-11, 25-14, 25-23). Their only loss this season was to the Louisville Cardinals back in August, and they're currently on a nine-match winning streak.
"Last year, we just had a veteran team...and now I might have two or three freshmen starting. They'll see a similar [to Wisconsin] sold-out gym I would imagine on Saturday at Minnesota and the following week in Nebraska because they've been filling their gym for a number of years," said Rose. "It's all part of the process; I don't think you win or lose the conference championship the first weekend and from a coaching standpoint, you want your kids to play well. For sure you want to win, but more importantly, you want [the players] to play well and you want to see how certain individuals handle different match-ups, and how they handle the crowd, and expectations, so it's an exciting thing for the players."
The next 20 matches for Penn State will all be strenuous, but the Nittany Lions are excited for the challenges that are ahead. Penn State opens with four-straight matches on the road before hosting Northwestern on Oct. 8.
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 3 Penn State women's volleyball (12-1) wrapped up its non-conference portion of the 2014 season after capturing the Penn State Alumni Classic title with a straight-set victory (25-11, 25-17, 25-10) against East Carolina (6-2) Saturday night.
Redshirt junior Aiyana Whitney earned the Penn State Alumni Classic MVP honors for her excellent offense and defensive performances throughout the weekend. She tallied a .722 hitting percentage against UIC (5-9) and .667 hitting percentage against DePaul (2-8) and EIU (5-6). She also recorded her second double-digit kill performance of the season in a win against Illinois-Chicago with 13 kills. Senior Dominique Gonzalez also joined her on the all-tournament team.
"Aiyana had a great weekend attacking," said head coach Russ Rose. "Dom had a good weekend passing and playing defense."
Head coach Russ Rose is now in first place on the all-time DI NCAA wins list with 1,137 wins after passing current Hawaii head coach Dave Shoji.
Penn State vs. Eastern Illinois
The Nittany Lions opened up the tournament with a straight set victory (25-10, 25-9, 25-17) against EIU Friday afternoon.
Senior Nia Grant led the offense with 10 kills and a .625 hitting percentage. Grant also recorded a team-high of five blocks for the match. Freshman Simone Lee tied with Grant in recording 10 kills and helped the team defensively with three blocks.
Junior Megan Courtney and Whitney each finished with seven kills for the night. Courtney tied alongside with senior Micha Hancock with ten digs apiece.
Penn State started the game with an early advantage of 11-4 and though EIU came back with a kill, Penn State scored five unanswered points. The Nittany Lions continued their surge and ended up with a 25-10 win.
The momentum continued into the second set with another early advantage of 5-2, but the Panthers were no match for the Penn State as they extend their lead to 17-3. Courtney scored the set point with a kill and ends the set at 25-9.
The Nittany Lions continued their rhythm into the final set by gaining an eight-point lead to make it 12-4. The Panthers closed to within four at 19-15, but Penn State regrouped with a six-point streak to earn a 25-17 win to complete the sweep.
Penn State vs. DePaul
Penn State improved to 2-0 in the Alumni Classic with a straight-set victory (25-8, 25-10, 25-13) against DePaul Friday evening.
Freshmen Ali Frantii led the team with nine kills on .571 hitting and Whitney and Courtney were close behind with six kills apiece. Whitney had three blocks, which was the most for the entire team. She also earned a career-high of two aces.
Hancock and Gonzalez finished with six digs each.
The Nittany Lions went up 16-4 in the opening set to create a safe lead for themselves. DePaul trimmed the lead down to 10, Penn State ended DePaul's brief surge and went on a 7-0 run to win 25-8 in the first set.
Penn State opened the second set with a six-point advantage and went on to claim set two, 25-10.
Penn State finished off the match with a 25-13 win by creating an 11-point advantage mid-way through the set.
Penn State vs. Illinois-Chicago
Penn State went 3-0 in the Alumni Classic with a straight-set victory (25-18, 25-13, 25-16) over Illinois-Chicago.
Whitney had superb match with a double-digit kill performance of 13 kills on .722 hitting percentage. Courtney had nine kills and six digs. Grant and freshmen Haleigh Washington and Simone Lee finished the match with seven kills each.
Penn State started with a one-point lead, but spurted ahead to earn 15-11. The Lions didn't look back from there en route to a 25-16 set victory.
Instead of repeating the first set, the Nittany Lions started the second set with an early 12-4 score. From there, UIC never got within 10 points and Penn State won the second set, 25-13.
The Nittany Lions and Flames opened the third in a tight fashion. Penn State used a run to claim a 9-6 edge. The Lions never looked back from there on their way to a 25-16 victory to close out the match.
Penn State vs. Eastern Carolina
Penn State captured the Penn State Alumni Classic title with another straight-set victory (25-11, 25-17, 25-10) against Eastern Carolina after the raising of the 2013 NCAA national championship banner.
Frantii and Courtney led the offense with 10 kills apiece, and Washington, Grant, and Whitney each earned seven kills. Gonzalez ended the night with a team-high of five digs and Hancock finished with a standout performance of 33 assists, four digs, and a season-high of eight aces.
"Micha came out of the gate and served really well," said head coach Rose. "I think that really set the tone for most of the night."
Penn State started the match with a 6-1 lead and eventually won the set, 25-11, as Hancock delivered an ace.
The Pirates started the second set off with a 5-1 lead, but a service error led to a big swing in momentum before the Lions roared to a 25-17 win.
The Nittany Lions finished their final set of the weekend with 25-10 win.
Penn State will begin their conference portion of the schedule at No.4 Wisconsin in a rematch of the 2013 NCAA national finals on Wednesday at 7:40 p.m.
By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-- Prior to any sporting event, the coaches shake hands. But in Rec Hall this weekend, that was not the proper etiquette.
Penn State women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose greeted each of the opposing coaches with a hug, like he was welcoming a family member. And that's because he was.
Fourteen former members of the Penn State women's volleyball family returned to Rec Hall to be honored at this weekend's Penn State Alumni Classic as part of the 50 years of Women in Sport celebration.
Four of these women were on the opposite side of the net this weekend, coaching teams of their own. Eastern Illinois, coached by former outside hitter Kate Price, fell to the Nittany Lions in straight sets on Friday night. Price said she was happy to be back in Happy Valley, but playing against the Nittany Lions was tough.
"The cool thing about being a Penn State player is that you walk on the court and you have the confidence. You know you're going to walk out with a win," Price said. "Coming in and playing against Penn State is just the opposite feeling."
Three other coaches, DePaul's Nadia Edwards (2001), UIC's Katie Schumacher-Cawley (2002) and East Carolina's Julie Torbett (1990) were also a part of the tournament.
In between the second and third sets of the evening matches this weekend, the fourteen former players were honored, celebrated and greeted with a standing ovation and a roaring crowd.
"It's awesome to be back. It's awesome to see our home fans," Price said.
Rose has seen these former players grow from to college stars to college coaches. He's also watched them grow as players, students, coaches and as women.
For current players, meeting the women who left behind the legacy that they are playing for is second to none. They are the women who started the traditions and rituals that the team still has.
Sophomore Laura Broerman said it's great to meet the pioneers of this program and the players that created the team's traditions.
"We are a program based a lot in tradition. Almost everything we do before games and in the middle of games is all tradition," Broerman said. "It's cool to see the girls who started the tradition of winning and everything else we do."
The Penn State women's volleyball team began in 1976. In those 38 years, six national championships have been won, countless individual accolades have been earned awarded, and history has been made. This weekend was a celebration of the program's rich history and those who made Penn State women's volleyball into what it is today.
Rose said it was special to see the individuals who have shaped this program.
"So many of those guys had great experiences here. Their pictures are all over the walls for multiple All-American awards," Rose said.
In 32 out of Rose's 33 seasons coached, there has been at least one All-American on the team. While the players may have been stars individually, as a program, they shined even brighter.
The team has made it to the NCAA tournament every year since the tournament began in 1981. After the 2013 season, the Nittany Lions have won 16 conference titles to go along with the six national titles.
The program's history is rich with great players who turned into great coaches and teammates who turned into family.
"It's a family. Whether or not you played with any of the players, it's one family. You gotta love it," Price said.
The Nittany Lions went 4-0 on the weekend. Up next for the team is a trip to Wisconsin on Wednesday to kick off conference play.
By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State women's volleyball team is off to a great start this season, with much of its success coming from the novice players. But the team's success isn't possible without a veteran corps of talent.
The success begins with the veterans leading the way.
Playing on a defending national championship team is a big adjustment from high school volleyball, so how did the freshmen adjust so quickly? They have guidance from the defending national champs themselves.
Head coach Russ Rose said this guidance is "tradition." The responsibility to be a good role model and provide good direction is something that Rose expects out of the older players.
Veterans like seniors Dominique Gonzalez, Nia Grant, Lacey Fuller and Micha Hancock, along with junior Megan Courtney, are being challenged to teach the younger players what it takes to work hard, recognize challenges, and take care of themselves and their academic responsibilities.
Gonzalez said the veteran leadership is crucial to the team's success.
She said that her goal is to ensure in the younger players what is going to happen before each play.
"[We] make sure they know the rotation if we're changing it up, explain to them which players like to hit which shot, and [tell them] where they need to stand," Gonzalez said. "If something doesn't go right in the play, [we're] not jumping down people's throats. [We're] being more helpful rather than critiquing people."
Courtney has also been leading the younger players by encouraging them to take big swings and showing them that if the block is there, she will be there to cover them.
She is also trying to instill in the freshmen that they can make errors. Courtney said telling them it's OK to make errors has allowed them to take big swings without fear. She said that is the reason why the young players have been so successful.
"It's a great thing for them to be able to have, just knowing that we've got their backs and that we'll take the pressure off of them by putting the pressure on us," Courtney said.
Setter Micha Hancock, a prominent leader on the team, has been in the same shoes that the current freshmen are in now. The older players taught her as a freshman and helped shape her into the player she is today. And Rose hopes that she can do the same for the freshmen this season.
"She knows so much of how I'll judge senior year is how she can lead the youngsters," Rose said.
For a freshman like Haleigh Washington, advice from older players is an important factor in her success. In just a few months, they have taught Washington many things, but above all else, they have taught her to always give it her all.
"Whether it's in practice, passing back and forth with a teammate, or serving before practice," Washington said. "Always going hard."
In her collegiate-debut last weekend at Villanova, the veteran players helped Washington figure out what was going on. She said the older players got her into the flow of things. During practice, they make sure she knows the rules, where to stand, how loud she needs to be, and what's happening.
The No. 3-ranked Nittany Lions have a busy weekend beginning on Friday, as they take on Eastern Illinois and DePaul. On Saturday, the Lions will face UIC and East Carolina.
The team has three matches in a very short amount of time (4:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday and 9:00 a.m. Saturday). Rose would like to see the team play at a high level despite the hectic schedule.
"You don't want to give games away. I'm not just going to play everybody, just so they have a chance to play," Rose said. "I want us to play at a high level, whoever is on the floor, and respect the opponent and respect the game. That's always something we want to continue."
This weekend is also the celebration of 50 years of women's athletics at Penn State. During two of the matches this weekend, on Friday and Saturday evening, former Penn State women's volleyball players that now coach Division I teams will be honored.
With less than two weeks until conference play begins, the Nittany Lions are gearing up to compete in the rigorous Big Ten. The team's first conference match is next Wednesday at Wisconsin. The veteran players will have to step up even more to help the freshmen when conference play begins.
"We are a work in progress. I don't think we're a finished product and I think we will find a lot of challenge, maybe not as much this weekend as we will once we hit Big Ten play," Rose said.
The veterans have a very important role on this team. They are expected to perform at the caliber of a national championship team, while making sure the younger players perform well by guiding them in practices and matches.
Much of the team's success must be attributed to the older players. Their guidance, advice and leadership is driving the team to match wins.