By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The recipe for success can be modeled after Penn State
women's volleyball senior Micha Hancock. The ingredients are simple - be
competitive, be tough, work hard, be a leader and be humble.
Hancock is adorned with many awards during her decorated Penn State career.
She was the 2013 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, was named AVCA First
Team All-America for two consecutive years, was named a finalist for an ESPY,
among many other accolades. All of the recognitions begin with Hancock's drive
to be the best.
Hancock started playing volleyball when she was very young. Her mom, a
volleyball player herself, brought Hancock into the gym with her before she
could even walk. When she was nine, she
began playing competitive volleyball with her older sister.
The Oklahoma native grew up trying to keep up with her sister, who is three
years older, whether it was on the court or off. This is where Hancock's
competitive spirit originated.
"Even when we're running to the car, I want to get there first. I've always
been pretty competitive," Hancock said. "I feel like it's in my blood."
Hancock's competitive nature grew with her and eventually became a part of
her. And it helped her land a spot on Penn State's roster. In high school,
Hancock was committed to play volleyball at another college. During spring
break of her senior year of high school, she visited Penn State, talked to head
coach Russ Rose, changed her commitment... and the rest was history.
"I liked the staff, I loved the campus, I loved the school, and I had heard
great things about it, so I made the decision to come here," Hancock said.
Her teammates and coaches have appreciated her competitive nature as well.
In fact, Rose's favorite part about Micha is how competitive she is.
"She's really competitive, she's got a great arm and she's physically
competitive," Rose said.
Hancock and associate head coach Salima Rockwell have a close relationship and
it shows during matches. Against No. 17 Ohio State on Tuesday night, Rockwell
took Hancock aside and had a one-on-one conversation with her during a time
out. As Rockwell spoke, Hancock nodded her head, seeming to be on the exact
same page as Rockwell.
"Micha's awesome. She's so much fun to coach. She's someone that's
confident. And she's a severe competitor," Rockwell said.
Playing on the court with a player like Hancock benefits the entire team.
Teammate and friend Megan Courtney said she has formed a great relationship
with Hancock over the past three years.
"She's like no other person I've ever played with. She's competitive, she's
a great role model, she does what she does really well and she expects the best
out of you," Courtney said. "She's a great person to play with because she's
never too high or too low. She's always consistent."
That's the sound of the crowd in Rec Hall while Hancock serves. The cheer,
replicating the sound of a bomb, is because of her aggressive, explosive serve.
Her serve came from playing as both a hitter and a setter in her early
years of volleyball. She uses the skills she learned from being an attacker in
her serving. Hancock has 322 career aces, a program record.
Being an attacker gave Hancock the skills to become a successful hitter on
the team, as well. Against Ohio State, Hancock had five kills on seven swings.
Hancock is both mentally and physically tough. She rallies the team after
losing a point, dives for every ball and serves tough.
Freshman Haleigh Washington admires Hancock for how tough she is.
Washington said she hopes to play like Hancock one day.
"[It] doesn't matter if we're down, [it] doesn't matter if were up, [it]
doesn't matter what's happening, she's a really tough kid. She's a hard worker,
she'll hit the ground, she'll dive, she'll roll around, she'll keep going,
she'll get criticism," Washington said. "She's a tough kid that can handle a
lot. It's really admirable and it's something that I want to develop as a
Hancock's efforts against Ohio State did not go unnoticed. In addition to
her five kills, the senior setter had four digs and a season-high seven blocks.
She is working hard both physically and emotionally as a leader of the team,
trying to rally the team and increase the level of play during the remainder of
her senior season.
"The biggest thing were trying to focus on is coming out of the gate
strong. It's nice to have three 3-0 wins in a row, you feel like you're getting
tighter with the group," Hancock said. "We needed to have more energy [earlier
in the season] and I think we've been showing that with our 3-0 wins."
Hancock has been a hard worker since she stepped on the court. She holds
the Penn State record for career aces, she has been named Big Ten Setter of the
Year, AVCA First-Team All America, Big Ten Player of the Week, Big Ten Freshman
of the Year and much more.
Her hard work paid off in 2013 when the team won the NCAA National
Championship. But surprisingly, that isn't her favorite memory as a Penn State
women's volleyball player.
"[My favorite memory] was the two years leading up to the national
championship because it created the fight we had that third year, my junior
year, to win the championship," Hancock said. "And that's the most important
thing, just being a team."
Be a Leader:
As a freshman playing in every match, Hancock was guided by seniors, who
showed her the ropes of Penn State women's volleyball. Now, as a senior, it's
her time to be a leader.
Her goal for her senior season is to continue as a successful leader of the
"[My goal is to] lead the best I can, get as much out of this team as we
can," Hancock said. "I'm trying to work with the staff, work with the girls
individually, watch film, know what I can be better at and ease the path to
hopefully compete for a championship."
Hancock's leadership during matches is what sets her apart from other
players. In every huddle, she is the one telling her teammate, 'good job',
telling the team what to do next and encouraging the team after a lost point.
During timeouts, after Rose talks to the team, it's Hancock's turn, getting
the players ready for the next series of points.
She's the first to high-five the player who got the kill, ace or block, and
she's the first to lift a teammate's spirit after an error or lost point.
Washington said Hancock's leadership has been efficient and it has helped
her adjust to playing college volleyball.
"She keeps us very focused, which is a good trait to have, especially as a
leader. She focuses on the next point, focuses on staying calm, focuses on
staying excited," Washington said. "She makes sure that we're paying attention,
that we're ready for the next play and that we know what's going on. Especially
as freshman, we haven't played the game very much, she keeps us locked in."
From a coaching standpoint, Rockwell also sees her success as a leader.
"She's a senior now, she's got that sense of urgency. She wants to win, she
wants to be great," Rockwell said. "The girls feel that, they follow along with
that. She's doing an excellent job leading this team."
The match against Ohio State on Tuesday was an important match between two
Big Ten teams. The Big Ten Network had a camera set up on the court during warm
ups and most of the time, the camera was on Hancock.
As she stretched, jogged and talked to teammates, the camera was right there
with her. But not once did she act differently, or even acknowledge that that
camera was on her.
Courtney said that despite the attention that Hancock gets for her level of
play, she always remains humble.
"She gets a lot of hype for how good she is, but if you actually have a
chance to talk to her, and sit down with her and actually have a meaningful
conversation with her, she is so down to earth," Courtney said.
As a senior, this season is Hancock's last time in a Penn State uniform. She
said being a senior feels very different.
"I definitely feel the urgency of senior year and trying to lead these
girls, the young ones especially, who have so much talent," Hancock said. "It's
great to see them working hard, but also getting them mentally prepared for the
years to come. It's really fun."
After graduating, Hancock hopes to play professionally.
"I love the game so much, and that's what I want to do," Hancock said.
The team and the Penn State volleyball community will miss Hancock when she
graduates, but her legacy will live on.
"I'm really going to miss her, but I wish her the best of luck in what she
does. And I know even then, if she plays professionally or for the national
team, she's still going to be humble and great," Courtney said. "She's just an
all-around great person, not just a great player."