UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- When starting players are absent from big competitions, players from the bench have big shoes to fill. It's their time to shine, their time to step up to show fans, teammates and coaches what they can do.
This was the case this weekend for the Nittany Lion women's Volleyball team. With standout senior Megan Courtney out and a slate of Big Ten matches ahead, sophomore Simone Lee, redshirt freshman Nia Reed and senior Lara Caraway had to step up to the plate.
And they did just that. On Friday night against Indiana, Lee led the team offensively for the second consecutive match, with 10 kills on a .474 hitting percentage. She also notched two blocks. Lee said the team will continue to play to its standard, no matter the lineup.
"Even though Megan's not on the court, [it] doesn't mean we don't play Penn State volleyball, it doesn't mean we don't play the kind of volleyball that we know how to play," Lee said. "We did an excellent job coming out of the gate, all three games strong starting off."
Lee has been a versatile player this season, hitting from wherever she is put. Though it's an adjustment, she has been getting the job done to help her team.
"I'm trying to stay confident in each position that I'm put in, just making sure I can contribute the most to my team in whatever position he puts me in," Lee said. "I'm going to try and do my best at all times."
Reed, who prior to the Indiana match had only played in four sets, tied for second with six kills. She also had two blocks, notching her first career multi-block performance.
For Lara Caraway, it was her first collegiate start. Despite her nerves, she logged a career-high eight digs and hopes to continue that performance in the matches to come.
"It feels great being a part of the team on the floor. There was a lot of camaraderie and energy that was on the floor tonight," Caraway said. "It was like nothing I've experienced here so far and I'd like to keep experiencing it moving forward."
Rose was pleased with Caraway's performance.
"I thought Lara did what a senior should do and that's come in, play well and talk and help the younger players," Rose said.
On Saturday night, the Nittany Lions swept No. 18 Purdue. Lee led the team offensively once again with 12 digs on a .333 hitting percentage.
Haleigh Washington, who notched 10 kills and nine blocks, enjoyed playing with Lee and watching her succeed.
"Simone goes up and she goes with the mentality that she's going to get this kill. I love seeing that side of Simone," Washington said. "She's an incredible player."
With a key part missing in the weekend's lineup, the entire team had to make adjustments and work hard together to have a successful weekend. On Friday night, middle hitter Heidi Thelan hit from the right side. On Saturday, Ali Frantti led the team in digs.
Sophomore setter Bryanna Weiskircher led the team to a .315 hitting percentage, dishing out 36 assists. She also notched a career-high four aces. Although her top hitter, Courtney, was not on the court, Courtney's leadership was far from absent.
"She's always talking to you on and off the court," Weiskircher said. "She's just a great all-around teammate."
Despite a different lineup, the Nittany Lions went 2-0 on the weekend and advanced to 17-2 on the season. Next up for Penn State is a trip to Michigan to face the No. 23-ranked Wolverines on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Catch the match on the Big Ten Network.