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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
'Tis the season for giving thanks, and Penn State Athletics would like to
take an opportunity to say thank you to the loyal fans on Thanksgiving.
As you sit down with family and friends to eat your traditional meal while the
Lions and Cowboys host their annual Thanksgiving day home games, Penn State
Athletics would like to thank you, the fans, for the unrivaled support you give
every team on campus. Penn State's teams
would not be the same without the greatest fans in college sports.
As a token of their appreciation, several student-athletes from teams on campus
would like to say thank you and Happy Thanksgiving for the support you give
them throughout the athletic season.
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When the six seniors first came to Penn State and went through preseason
their freshman year, they never thought they would make it through four years.
However, with senior night here - the four years went by fast as it's a
bittersweet time for the players who started playing
the sport at such a young age.
With only four
regular season matches left in their collegiate careers, these seniors want to
end their senior year the way that they started their freshman year - with a
"It's a full
progression and evolution for them," head coach Russ Rose said. "All of those
guys have had a major impact on the program. Despite the fact I'm hard on them
all the time - soon they'll be done. We're graduating three people who have
started for four years. We haven't had that many kids who have started for four
years in the 35 years I've been here."
Take a closer look
at each of the senior's journey through their
collegiate career as a Nittany Lion and their
thoughts as their time comes to a close.
8 Erica Denney
Coming out of high
school as a member of an undefeated team (31-0) and traveling to the 2009 World
Championships as a member of the youth national team, Erica Denny faced an
injury and took a redshirt her freshman year. In her second year with the
Nittany Lions, she made her collegiate debut against Rutgers where she
registered a kill. During both her sophomore and junior years, she earned Academic
All-Big Ten and continued her junior year appearing in six matches and nine
sets. The Colorado native recorded her first start against DePaul in 2012.
15 Maggie Harding
Maggie Harding came
to Penn State from just a few miles away. As an active member of the Student
Athlete Advisory Board and captain for the season, Harding has proven to be one
of the strongest leaders on the team. At the NCAA Semi-finals Championship last year, she earned the Elite 89 Award after having
the top GPA of all of the student-athletes at
because it's a big time of the year and we have a lot coming up, but it's
bittersweet. I've been watching Penn State volleyball since I was five, so
knowing it's coming to an end is pretty tough. But knowing I was a part of it
and contributing what I can to the program is pretty cool."
All-Big Ten honors during her sophomore and junior year, Maddie Martin has
proven to be another strong leader in the senior class for the underclassmen to
follow. Making an immediate impact her freshman year, she played in 20 matches
and 29 sets. The outside hitter reached a career high hitting percentage at
Indiana in 2010 at .600. Her first two kills were against Villanova and she took
that momentum into a strong sophomore season where she played in 33 matches -
starting in 24 of them. During her junior season, she registered 51 kills, 14
aces, 71 digs and eight blocks. With only a few matches left, the Tampa, Fla.,
native cannot believe how fast the four years have gone by.
"It's weird - you
think during your freshman year while you're going through preseason that it's
never going to end. Looking back on it now - it went so fast. (Playing under Russ
Rose) is cool; he's such an amazing person and such an amazing coach. Knowing
we've played for a legend is just a great feeling."
The outside hitter
from Louisville, Ky., did not waste any time getting
adjusted to the college volleyball scene as she was named the 2010 AVCA
Division I National Freshman of the Year and started in all 37 matches. She was
also the only freshman to earn a spot on the 2010 AVCA All-American team.
McClendon continued to develop into the player she is today through her
sophomore year adding 2011 AVCA First Team All-America to the list of honors
and was the Unanimous Preseason All-Big Ten. During her junior year, she kept
her competitive edge going as she set a career high hitting percentage of .800
against Binghamton. She also hit a career high of 29 digs at Michigan proving to
be a versatile player. The outside hitter has made 247 kills and 239 digs this
season giving her an impressive total of 1,500 kills and a career total of
1,052 digs with four matches left before championship season.
"It doesn't feel
real - it's a sad moment but at the same time it's a good time to look back on
everything we've accomplished and where we want to end the season. There were
points where we were really low and points where we were really high and to see
us where we are now it's just crazy that we did
finish this together. That's probably one of the most important parts for me -
that we've been through thick and thin together."
1 Ariel Scott
Known as A. Scott
to the team, the outside hitter has developed into one of the key players for
the Nittany Lions. During her freshman year, she played in 20 matches gaining
experience early in her collegiate career. She went into her sophomore year and
was named AVCA Third Team All-America and Unanimous First Team All-Big Ten. The
New Jersey native was second on the team with 418 kills for the 2011 season.
Scott added even more honors to the list making AVCA First Team All-American
and Big Ten Player of the Year with her strong performances during her junior
year. She set a career high of 85 attacks against Stanford during that season.
Registering 244 kills so far this season, Scott totals 1,274 kills for her
"It's really crazy
seeing how far we've come. It's bittersweet because we made it, but it's kind
of sad too since it's our last home game. Freshman year going from preseason
not knowing if we're going to make it, being the hardest thing we've ever done
and then winning that year. For me I went from not playing to being on the
court so it was definitely a big development year for me."
16 Katie Slay
four years as a Nittany Lion, she has proven to be one of the most consistent
and dependable players for the team. Her freshman year, she started in 11
matches and played in 23 where she totaled 54 kills and a hitting percentage of
.404. Her sophomore year, she did not hold anything back as she was named AVCA
Second Team All-America and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. She also hit
career highs with 16 kills against Wisconsin in 2011. During her junior year,
the Raleigh, N.C. native continued to put up impressive defensive performances.
She made a career high of 12 blocks against Michigan. This season, she has
added 19 solo blocks and 132 block assists to her career totals giving her 74
solo blocks and 497 block assists and a total of 571 blocks throughout her
"It's exciting - senior year I've just been trying to soak it all in.
Freshman year we just did whatever the upperclassmen did. I remember playing in
the national championship match and it didn't feel like a huge deal - I didn't
feel stressed out because the upperclassmen were dancing in the locker room and
doing whatever we usually did before any other match. As we've gotten older, we
had to set the bar for the team. We're the one's who have to put out a
Story By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior Katie Slay has just four matches left in the
regular season of college career. Throughout her four years at Penn State,
blocking has been her strongest suit.
For the second week in a row, Slay was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the
Week. In the matches against Wisconsin
and Minnesota, she had a total of 16 blocks, eight against each team. She
averaged 2.67 blocks per set. She is leading the Big Ten in blocks per set
(1.68) and ranks third in blocking nationally.
"[Blocking] is the main thing that I feel I can contribute. In every match,
[blocking] is equally important because it helps set up our whole defense,"
Slay said. "The diggers can play around the block when it's set up well, so I
think it's always a big factor."
The middle hitter has been working on her step approach this season to
improve her blocking.
"I've tried to work on not making false steps, so just waiting to move until
the setter sets the ball. That's something I've been trying to work on, that
way I can do a better job of getting more hitters and to set up a double
block," Slay said.
The team as a whole has been very strong defensively. The Nittany Lions
(24-2) are leading the conference in blocking. Head coach Russ Rose said the
team is dominant in blocking because of the size of the team.
"You have to put your team together with what you have. We have some
good-sized kids, so blocking is more important to us than if we were really
small and quick," Rose said. "It's something we spend time on and we recognize
that it's something we need to be better at."
The No. 2 Nittany Lions will face Northwestern on Friday. Blocking will important,
as Slay says it is in every match.
Northwestern (16-12) is on a two-game winning streak, having just defeated
No. 18 Purdue and Indiana last weekend. The team is ranked seventh in the Big
Ten. In their last matchup, Penn State defeated the Wildcats in three sets, but
the team has changed its lineup around.
"Everything is different. Northwestern has change their lineup a bit, but the
thing I've always like about Northwestern is that they are very bright. I've
always liked the fact that they play really hard," Rose said. "I think [Head
Coach] Keylor [Chan] does a really good job. They've got some kids that take
big swings and to me, they don't get down when things go bad."
Catch the match at Rec Hall on Friday at 7 p.m. (Big Ten Network- Student U).
On Saturday, the Nittany Lions will take on the Fighting Illini for the
team's annual Senior Night, to honor the six seniors on the team this year.
Senior night can be an emotional celebration, but the team plans to remain
focused throughout the game.
"We all know that we are playing good teams this weekend. Illinois is
ranked now and Northwestern received votes for the Top 25 poll, so we're
playing good teams," Slay said. "That should be motivation enough to stay
focused. Senior night is a little bit of a distraction, but at the same time,
its only as much as you make it."
Penn State last faced No. 20 Illinois in mid-October and defeated the Illini in five sets. The team is ranked fourth
in the conference and is currently on a five-game winning streak. Rose said
Illinois has three or four "terrific" attackers that Penn State also recruited.
Rose noted that the team is in a good position to finish the season on a
high note, but "it's never that easy," because Penn State's opponents are
playing for something, too.
"It's not like [Illinois] is going to say, 'Oh, great. It's senior night
for these guys, let's lay on our back and get a belly rub.' Illinois is in
fourth in the conference right now," Rose said. "[They are] still concerned
about making sure they're over .500 so that they are eligible. They're between
being eligible and being a Top 16 seed. That's how good they are."
Rose has been watching film on both Northwestern and Illinois, and is not
looking past this weekend.
"We're not thinking of anything other than being ready to play this
weekend. I'm not thinking about the tournament," Rose said.
The Illinois match is slated for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Rec Hall.
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Born just 30 miles away from State College in
Lewiston, Pa., Maggie Harding originally had no intentions of coming to Penn
State. However, after making the realization that she could still branch out
and do her own thing, she knew she couldn't pass up the opportunity to play as
a Nittany Lion.
"A lot of kids from my high school come here, so I wanted to go away and do
my own thing," Harding said. "But through the recruiting process, I would
always talk to Coach Rose and he gave me the opportunity to play here. I knew
if I made the effort to get to know other people and be my own person I could
still do that while coming to Penn State. You don't get that opportunity
anywhere else, so I knew I couldn't turn it down."
Four years later, there's no question as to whether or not she's branched
out and been her own person. Playing an integral role as a part of the team and
acting as Treasurer with the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) all while
maintaining a 4.0, Harding has never passed up an opportunity to get involved
beyond the volleyball team.
"I basically live with my team, which is great and I love it," Harding
said. "But when you meet athletes from other teams, you see a different
perspective on campus and on their sport and their majors. I love getting to
see how different we are but at the same time how similar in why we are here -
that we are Penn State athletes and that we represent our school along with so
many other people when we compete."
Her involvement both on and off the court have led to Harding's development
into a strong leadership role, which makes it easy for the younger players to
look up to her.
"She's involved in a lot of things, she has a 4.0, she's an incredibly hard
worker," head coach Russ Rose said. "If people elect to not follow that sort of
individual, then they must have some challenges themselves. All of the things
Maggie does are things that would warrant people's respect."
Coach Rose named Harding captain for this season, but it's not just about
one person on the team with a title. It's about several players coming together
and leading by example through their experiences.
"Leaders emerge, captains are appointed," Rose said. "When you have five or
six older players they should be responsible for what the needs of the team are
- we shouldn't have a person who steps up and reminds the team what it is to be
a college athlete or what they're responsibilities are, but certainly Maggie is
a really good role model and a person that takes those sort of things really
With Harding's passion and devotion to the sport, the title wasn't as
important to her as making an impact on the team she's grown to love.
"I was very honored when coach named that," Harding said. "I told him it
didn't matter to me what the title was. I didn't care if he named me captain or
not - I was obviously going to do the same stuff. Everybody on the team has something
to contribute and that's what he felt like giving me so I'm just honored."
The leadership she shows in front of her teammates definitely doesn't go
unnoticed. Even before sophomore Lacey Fuller was on the team, she noticed how
invested in the program she was.
"When I was a recruit, I remember her going out of her way to make me feel
comfortable," Fuller said. "Maggie is a selfless person and is always trying to
help the team. She comes to practice with energy and if were not doing well
she'll bring us together and try to get us back on track. She's very invested
in our team and every player and just wants the best for all of us."
Like many players on the team, academics have become a priority for Harding
since coming to Penn State. Last year at NCAA national semifinals Harding was
the recipient of the Elite 89 Award. The award was given to honor the
student-athlete who has the highest cumulative grade-point average and is
participating at the finals for each of the NCAA's 89 competitions.
"It was really neat," Harding said. "I work hard in school, but everyone on
our team definitely does. For me, it wouldn't have happened if my team didn't
make it to the Final Four. It was an honor for me, but my whole team is what
made it happen."
Achieving the Elite 89 Award, attending high school at State College Area
High School just minutes away from Penn State, and her involvement in SAAB all
make her a unique student-athlete. But adding the fact that 10 of her relatives
attended the same university makes her unlike any other student-athlete. Of her
10 relatives, four of them were also athletes.
"It's awesome to be able to say my grandpa, my step-grandpa, my great
uncle, my dad were all on teams here and just to be a part of that. When you're
here as a student-athlete now, you feel part of a big student-athlete family,"
Harding said. "Knowing that they were a part of that family too makes it pretty
neat to follow in their footsteps."
Knowing the history behind the program and having the opportunity to
contribute to the future of the program has been the most rewarding experience
"There are 38 years of women who played before us and we know that they all
played in South Gym on the same floorboards, the same nets. We're doing the
same drills as these women who came before us and built the program who put the
banners up that we look at everyday," Harding said. "So just being a part of
that tradition and history and hopefully adding whatever I can to contribute to
it for the future is the best part."
With three years and a few months of playing as a Nittany Lion behind her,
the season coming to a close is a bittersweet feeling.
"I like my major and I'm excited to move on and start a career, but I've
been playing volleyball since fifth grade so it's sad," Harding said. "I grew
up watching it here so getting to play here has been so cool. Knowing that I
always got to be apart of it and when I move on, I'll still have been a part of
it - so that's awesome."
By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Nia Grant's improvement this season cannot be
ignored. The junior outside hitter went from not starting matches to being the
leading hitter in conference matches in the Big Ten. Last weekend, Grant
recorded a .727 hitting percentage against Purdue.
Grant's improvement has not gone unnoticed amongst her teammates, either.
"Lately, Nia has been really good at scoring points for us and bringing
energy. Hopefully she keeps doing that. It has really helped us out," junior
defensive specialist Lacey Fuller said.
Grant said she has improved on her consistency the most this season. She
has been working on keeping her game at the same level all of the time, rather
than being high and low through the match. She added that collectively, the
team has shown improvement in being more consistent throughout the entire match.
"We're learning how to finish games. Before, we would start the game well
and then drift off, but I think we've been starting games well and ending games
well," Grant said.
Penn State women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose is hopeful that Grant will
continue to be as aggressive this weekend.
"Nia has made really good strides. She is serving well, she makes plays in
the back row, and she's leading the conference in hitting," Rose said.
The Nittany Lions (22-2) will match up against No. 14 Wisconsin on Friday
night in Madison. Wisconsin is 8-6 in the Big Ten. Penn State is 13-1. The
Badgers are coming off a conference win against Iowa. Rose said the team is an
incredibly aggressive, defensive team that is playing well with an offensive
"Wisconsin's back row is the best defense in the country. They always have
two or three kids on the floor that are just great defensive players," Rose
said. "You have to be patient. You have to weather the storm of them making
great plays and keeping the rally alive and doing the things that have enabled
them to have a good season."
The No. 2 Nittany Lions will face No. 11 Minnesota on Saturday night at
8:30 in Minneapolis. The Golden Gophers are 10-4 in the Big Ten, and are 9-1 at
home. Minnesota lost to Nebraska last weekend. Rose said he is sure that the
Gophers will be playing better this weekend, with a game plan that's different
than the last time they played Penn State.
"Minnesota was a game out of second place last week (playing with Nebraska
for second place). We played Minnesota last year in the finals of regionals to
go the Final Four, so we know how good Minnesota is, how good the players are
and how difficult it is to play on their home court," Rose said.
Rose and Grant agreed that blocking is the aspect of Grant's game that
needs the most work. Blocking will be crucial this weekend against both
Wisconsin and Minnesota. When the Nittany Lions take on Minnesota, they will
have to come prepared to block Minnesota senior middle hitter Tori Dixon. Dixon
has tallied 346 kills this season.
"The last time we matched up with Minnesota, Dixon, who is an incredible
talent, manhandled (Grant) a little bit. I'm interested to see if Nia puts in a
different effort this time," Rose said.
"I think everybody is going to come at us with a little bit of aggression,
but we should be doing the same thing to everybody," Grant said.
Her goal for this season is likely to match many of her teammates'.
"I just want to win a national championship. Whatever I have to do to make
that happen, that's what I'm willing to do," Grant said.
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off of strong wins on the road against
Michigan and Michigan State, the women's volleyball team returned home on
Friday and Saturday night to continue testing their level of performance
against Purdue and Indiana, and the team walked away with two more wins to add
to their record.
The Nittany Lions came out Friday night defeating Purdue by winning three
straight sets (25-18,
25-22, 25-21). Junior Nia Grant led the team with a hitting percentage of .727
while Deja McClendon continued her string of strong performances, registering
13 kills for the team.
In Penn State's
last matchup against the Boilermakers, the Nittany Lions fought to a victory
closing the final set 15-8. This weekend, the players held off No. 14 Purdue in
three sets. Although the Lions walked off the floor victorious, head coach Russ
Rose challenged the players to play at an even higher level the next night
"I look at the big
picture - if you want to compete for a national championship you have to play
at a certain level at all times," Rose said. "One of the goals is to play
really well and to play with passion and to have a level of enthusiasm that the
3,200 people that come to watch feel and enjoy,"
The Nittany Lions
followed the lead of Rose's expectations and relied on each other to come
together as a team and perform even stronger against Indiana. They went on to
compete at the level needed to prepare for tougher competition in their quest
to contend for a national title later in the season.
Penn State won three straight sets (25-16, 25-11, 25-11) with McClendon's
hitting percentage at .643 followed by Micha Hancock hitting at .600. The team
made a combined 37 kills and a total of 15.5 blocks, holding the Hoosiers to
"I thought we
played much better tonight (against Indiana) with a great crowd, the energy was
high, all of the above was right in place," head coach Russ Rose said. "I
thought it was a good effort and I thought Deja played well both nights."
One of the elements
that the team focused on changing was the amount of energy they brought to the
court. In front of a packed Rec Hall on Saturday night, the players fed off of
the fan's energy and got their momentum started from the beginning of the
"We didn't feel
like we had as much energy or fire so we really wanted to focus on that coming
into tonight against Indiana," McClendon said.
Using that energy,
the Nittany Lions kept in mind what was to come for the rest of the season. With
Big Ten and NCAA tournaments only six matches away, every opportunity to come
out and play tough is crucial for the women to rehearse what it's going to take
to play against some of the top teams in the nation. The players knew going
into the match against Indiana that they would have to look to each other to
make the adjustments needed.
"Our team is very
self-motivated," Slay said. "I know a lot of the underclassmen want to play
hard not only for our teammates but also for us seniors. It was the same thing
when we were underclassmen. We're winding down to the end of the year and we
know that we only have a few more opportunities to play together. I think it's
just something we all know without having to say it."
Continuing to set
an example for the underclassmen, Slay earned Academic All-District Honors and
will now be considered for national honors as an Academic All-American. Within
the District II category, she was one of six athletes to earn the honor.
"I think Katie
(Slay) should be recognized for her academic scholar award. I think that's a
great award for anyone that plays sports - she definitely works hard in both
volleyball and academics," Rose said.
Taking away from
this weekend and looking ahead to the rest of the season, the players use that
same self-motivation to continue to improve and work together as a team to
reach their ultimate goals of the season.
things you need to work on and coach points them out. It's nice when we do
things well, we just need to come back into the gym and keep working hard,"
McClendon said. "You can't be satisfied with what you've been doing."
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following in the
footsteps of her mother, who also played volleyball, Nia Grant knew after
coming to a few of Penn State's volleyball camps in high school that she wanted
to pursue a career at that level and was willing to do whatever it took to get
"I went to a couple of the camps for three or four years and I was really
bad," Grant said. "I was a basketball player at first and I didn't really think
about volleyball. Then I came here for the camps and that had a lot of
influence because that was my first real exposure to college volleyball. After
that, I knew that was where I wanted to be."
Having a mother who was heavily involved in the sport helped Grant get
started in recreational play that eventually turned into striving to win a
"My mom played so she introduced me to it," Grant said. "I didn't start
playing until my freshman year in high school. Both my parents did whatever it
took to get me where I wanted to get and I wanted to get here and they got me
When Grant was considering schools and where she wanted to go, she knew
with head coach Russ Rose's experience that she would grow in his program.
Knowing his legacy and interacting with him during the camps didn't leave much
of a question as to where she wanted to attend college.
"(Coach Rose) knows what he wants and he strives for perfection which is
good," Grant said. "Any other coach hasn't seen the sport like he has - he's
been through four years straight of winning a national championship. He knows
what it takes. If you listen and soak it all in you can be one of those big
name players that left here."
During the recruiting process, head coach Russ Rose saw positive
qualities in the junior's athleticism and background that he knew would
contribute to her success as a Nittany Lion.
"Nia came to camp for a number of years when she was young," Rose said.
"She has a terrific frame, she's very quick, she played for a good club with a
demanding club coach and I thought those were all positive things."
In the last few matches, whenever Grant steps on the court the intensity
she brings changes the pace for the Nittany Lions. Against Illinois, the
outside hitter made 10 kills and had a hitting percentage of .500. She then
came out two days later against Northwestern registering 11 kills and a hitting
percentage of .769.
"She didn't start in the Illinois match, but when she came in she
brought in great energy as well as great performance and I thought she was the
key player in that match," Rose said. "Then she came out and played great the
next night against Northwestern."
Not only does coach Rose notice her strong performances, but her
teammates react when she is having a good night and build off of her energy
which helps set the tone of the matches.
"If you watch the past couple of matches you can see Nia changed the
dynamic of our team," Deja McClendon said. "As an outside hitter, she's helped
open up a lot of one on ones for me and I'm really thankful that she can hit
that slide so well. You can see the blockers on the other side of the net when
she hits well - they're minds are scattered."
In the last two games in Rec Hall, Grant proved to be a key contributor
to helping the Nittany Lions secure the wins. Against Ohio State she had a
hitting percentage of .400 and against Iowa she made 5 kills with a .625
"Nia is the kind of person who doesn't get hyped right away but as soon
as she does something well she gets really excited. It's just really fun to
play with her. Whenever she's playing well she's a huge asset to the team and I
feel really lucky to be able to play with her," McClendon said.
As Grant transitions into being a junior and one of the older players on
the court, she wants to take advantage of the time she has left to play as a
Nittany Lion and represent the university.
"The focus is still the same - we still want to win every game and we
want to win the national championship," Grant said. "The realization that
college is almost over really got me into gear. The fact that I'm going to be
done next December, I don't have that much time to wait anymore."
As the Nittany Lions begin the final four weeks of Big Ten matches,
Grant will take advantage of each opportunity she has to wear the number seven
on her jersey.
By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State volleyball means three things to
senior Deja McClendon - the opportunity to become the best volleyball player
she can be, to make lifelong, meaningful friends and the opportunity to go
The outside hitter has played a crucial role on this team, hitting at .280 and averaging
.6 blocks per game. She began her journey with the program as a hitter, but she
has transformed into one of the team's best passers.
"For her to be our primary passer, receiving the most number of serves, and to
be the fifth players with 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs, is a real tribute to the
development that she's made as a player," head coach Russ Rose said.
This season, McClendon had led the No. 2-ranked team in kills five times and
has led the team in digs eight times. She has had double figures in kills in
six matches and double figures in digs in eight matches. She also leads the
team in a mental aspect. As a senior, she is one the most experienced players
on the court and guides the younger players.
"Deja is the calm in the storm. When there's a lot of stuff going on, she tries
to get the team to calm down and relax," junior outside hitter Nia Grant said.
The Louisville native has tallied 206 kills this season, only seven behind
team-leader Ariel Scott. She has 45 blocks this season, 15 solo and 30 assisted
blocks. She also has 211 digs, the second most on the team, only behind libero
"What she offers that is unique is that she's an all around player. She can
pass and play back row and she can effectively do things in the front row,"
McClendon became the fifth member in program history to record 1,000 kills and
1,000 digs against Iowa on Oct. 26.
"[It's] the best thing I've accomplished in my 21 years of life. It's an honor
to be able to say I've done that," McClendon said. "It makes me feel special,
but I know at the same time I have a lot more work to do."
Deja will be vital for the Nittany Lions this weekend, as she is every weekend,
as Penn State takes on Purdue and Indiana in back-to-back matches.
"We always need what she can give us and she always gives us 100 percent,"
Penn State will face No. 14 Purdue on its home court on Friday at 7:00 pm. The
team is 7-5 in the Big Ten and beat No. 16 Wisconsin in five sets last weekend.
Junior setter/outside hitter Val Nichol had a double triple against Wisconsin,
tallying 15 kills, 34 sets, and 15 digs.
Rose noted that although one may think that the team would feel more
comfortable and less pressured playing at home, that won't mean anything if the
team is not focused and ready to play.
"Purdue just beat Nebraska in front of 8,000 people. They're not going to be
rattled about coming here and playing us," Rose said.
McClendon said the team is going to work on defense before the match against Purdue
"We didn't block so hot last time we played them. Digging-wise, they hit a lot
of balls off of hands last time that we weren't prepared to dig," McClendon
said. "Those should be easy balls that we can get to, especially for myself playing
middle back. To be prepared for that will help us a lot."
The Lions will kick things off against Indiana on Saturday night in Rec Hall at
7:00. While Indiana is 1-11 in the Big Ten, the team beat Michigan State, the
only loss on Penn State's conference schedule. Morgan Leach, a junior right
side hitter for the Hoosiers, is leading the team with 235 kills this season.
Penn State's leader in kills, Ariel Scott, has 213.
Although the Hoosiers have only defeated one Big Ten team, they are capable of
putting up a fight against the Lions.
"There are five or six teams in the conference that on any given night can beat
everybody else. But, I also think the remaining five teams in the conference,
if you don't play well, you're going to lose to them. [The remaining five
teams] are going five-game matches with people, and us included," Rose said.
"The level of play is up, the athleticism of every team has some players that
are exceptional at what they do, and you need to not only defend what the other
team does, you have to play well enough to control the ball to try and place
some of your will on them."
McClendon has set a few goals for herself this weekend, from listening to her
coaches to serving well. She said "serving is not her specialty," but if she
can serve and hit away from the libero, the team will be more successful.
"If I can do what [the coaches] tell me, and if I can follow the scouting
report, if I can hit the shots that I'm supposed to be hitting, and I can dig
the balls I'm supposed to be digging, and do what they're actually telling me
to do, I think we'll be really good and we'll be able to handle them,"
Before each match this weekend, McClendon and sophomore outside hitter Megan
Courtney will do their pregame ritual, as they always do, for good luck.
"Megan and I are always the last one out of the locker room before the game
starts, and we always have a little saying. It's a secret. We do it before
every game," McClendon said.
By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
Pa. -- This week marks the middle of the Big Ten season for the Penn State
women's volleyball team, meaning the Nittany Lions have faced each conference
team once this season, with the exception of Nebraska.
hitter Megan Courtney noted "things are going to change" at this point in the
season because every team has played each other, so the teams will know what to
expect beyond film and the scouting report. Penn State has seen the tendencies
of each Big Ten team and has seen what worked and what did not work for their
"When you are on
the back end of the Big Ten, the best teams that win are the ones that are most
prepared and the ones that have the most fight. Whoever wants it more is really
going to win it," Courtney said.
Head coach Russ Rose
said at the midpoint in the season, some teams get better and healthier, and others
get "dinged up". The Nittany Lions have three or four players that are not
playing at 100 percent because of injuries, which changes how the team prepares
"I tell people,
'It's not a sprint. The Big Ten season is a marathon.' because you've got
players that are hurt, you have kids that are bummed out that they're not
playing, you have issues with their parents, you have so many factors that come
in to play," Rose said. "We need some people to get healthy to be at our best."
hitter Deja McClendon said the team has improved a lot since the beginning of
the Big Ten season. She noted that the Lions have improved in five-game
matches, in defense, and in blocking.
Blocking will be
especially important this weekend. The Nittany Lions will take on No. 17
Michigan on Friday in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines are 18-2 and 4-6 in the Big
Ten. Although they have a losing record in the conference, the team was at the
same record that they were last year, and made it to the Final Four. Head coach
Russ Rose said the team caught fire and played well in the second half of the
Big Ten season last year.
Michigan fell to
No. 21 Purdue last weekend, but senior outside hitter Molly Toon led the squad
with 17 kills. Senior middle blocker Jennifer Cross is one block assist away
from breaking Michigan's all-time block assist record. Senior outside hitter Deja
McClendon noted that Michigan has a lot of dominate slide hitters and blocking
them is a main focus for the Lions.
girls who are really fiery and playing at their place is tough, so were going
to have to be able to play in a small gym with lots of fans screaming against
us," McClendon said.
On Saturday, Penn
State will head to Michigan State to take on the Spartans for the second time
this season. The Spartans have been on
Penn State's mind since the setback earlier this season.
thinking about it every game we've played. They clearly think that they can
beat us because they've done it before," McClendon said. "If we want to be a
dominant team, if we want to be relevant and if we want to win the Big Ten, which
is always one of our goals, we need to perform in that game."
Michigan State is
14-7 and 6-3 in the Big Ten. While the team is currently on a four-game losing
streak, the Spartan squad continues to perform well statistically. Senior
outside hitter Lauren Wicinski had 16 kills, eight digs, two blocks, and two
aces against Indiana. Senior middle blocker Alexis Mathews had 11 kills and six
will be vital for the Penn State team. Tough serving will be important for this
match as well, as the Spartans average less than one service reception error
"Everybody [in the
Big Ten] has the potential to stress the other teams out with good play and
quality support by their fans," Rose said. "I'm happy that after losing the
first match of the first round (to Michigan State), that we were able to have
success the rest of the way. But that doesn't transfer to meaning you'll have
success the second round."
Rose said it has
been an incredible and competitive year in the Big Ten. He added that the
conference is very unforgiving. If a team doesn't play well, there's a high
probability of failure. If a team does play well, there's still a possibility
of failure. Every team is capable of beating any team.
By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Senior Deja McClendon became the fifth player in
program history to have 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs this weekend after tallying
eight kills and 10 digs in the Lions' 3-0 win against Iowa. McClendon now has a
total of 1,004 career digs and 1,431 career kills.
Head coach Russ Rose noted that McClendon's passing was near perfect in the
match against Iowa, receiving almost every one of Iowa's serves. She matched a
season-high mark of four blocks against the Hawkeyes, as well. Rose said this
accomplishment is a representation of how much McClendon has improved,
especially on defense.
"I'm thrilled for Deja because I think she has given a lot of her game to
make the team better," Rose said. "When she came in as a freshman, she was a
pure hitter and wasn't asked to do much else. And now she's asked to be our
best passer, blocker and defender."
Junior setter Micha Hancock also matched a season-high mark of eight aces
against Iowa. Hancock's 36 assists and senior Ariel Scott's 11 kills led the
Nittany Lion offense to a .458 hitting clip.
"When [Hancock's] serve is on, it gives us the best chance for us to play
at the highest level," Rose said. "That's for all of the players. You need to
serve well to pressure the other team. If you don't serve well and they have
the ability to side out on you, that's when we can get into trouble."
Rose made many substitutions throughout the match, giving the younger
players a chance to show that their hard work in practice is paying off. He
said that the players on the bench work very hard in practice and he wanted to
give them an opportunity to get on the court in front of their family and
The final point of the match was a kill from freshman middle blocker Kelly
"[The final ball of the match] didn't go down the way I was hoping, but it
did go down and I'm happy it did. I'm glad I had the opportunity to do it,"
Staying prepared to go in the game throughout the entire match can be
difficult for the players on the bench. Robertson said the best way to stay
prepared to go in is to mentally stay in the game. Staying in the game mentally
helped Robertson made the transition into the game.
In the first frame, the Lions had an 8-1 run and later had a 13-5 run.
Ariel Scott tallied three kills out of three attempts, giving her a 1.000
hitting percentage. At the end of the set, after an Iowa service error, senior
Maggie Harding served the set point. Senior Katie Slay fired a kill to close
out the set at 25-8.
The second set was not much different for the Hawkeyes. Penn State had an
11-point run in the middle of the set at 15-4. Iowa tried to fight back, but
could not catch the No. 2-ranked Nittany Lions. Slay ended the set again, this
time with a solo block.
In the final frame, Penn State had an 11-4 lead after three kills from
Scott. A kill from the Hawkeyes gave them the side-out, but the ball quickly
returned to Penn State's side after another kill from Scott. Iowa had a 3-1
run, coming within six points of the Nittany Lions, but Penn State went on a
10-2 run to close out the match at 25-11.
"It was a great crowd, and we're really appreciative of the band and the
student section," Rose said. "We only had seven mistakes in three games, so I
think that's a good night for us as far as controlling the ball and doing the
things that we need to do. I'm pleased with the effort tonight."
In addition to her 11 kills, Scott had one dig and three blocks. Senior
Katie slay led the defense with six blocks. Junior Nia Grant tallied six kills
with a team-high .625 hitting percentage. She also had five blocks.
The Nittany Lions will head on the road this weekend to face Michigan and
Michigan State for the second time this season.