Aug. 22, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Head Coach Russ Rose
Q: You have a tough schedule to start the season. How will that help the team prepare for the rest of the year?
A: I think the Big Ten conference more than prepares teams to play in the postseason. I've always liked to play good teams early in the year. It gives not just me an idea, but the players, an idea of how we stack up against top teams and players in the country. That's pretty important information.
Q: What's your assessment of the way the team looks so far?
A: I think we've been up and down. We have had practices where we've looked pretty good and others where the players were pretty beat up and it's been hard to put a couple of solid plays together. I'm not sure that's that different from a lot of teams at this time. We'll see. Again, that's why you play. You have preseason to prepare for the season. We'll play this weekend and see.
Q: What was it like watching former team members in the Olympics this summer?
A: If you follow the sport you just have national pride in your teams. The fact that we had a couple of Penn Staters on the roster was more rewarding for everyone who cares for Penn State. I think everybody really embraced the participation and the fact that those two individuals made the team. We also recognized the fact we had two individuals selected as alternates. It was certainly exciting to watch both men's and women's teams play, as well as the beach game. I thought it was great to watch.
Q: How's the leadership this year and how important will it be?
Q: Are the girls saying all the right things?
A: I think leadership is always important. I think it could be better, but I think it is better than it was last year. I think we had a lot of younger players and they're a year older. I don't think all of a sudden you become a great leader, but I think through experiences you understand the importance of decision-making and hopefully the players will be able to make the right decisions as they go about team cohesion. We've had some teams where I thought we could just overpower the opponents and we were at the top of the heap. So much of the outcome of the matches was based on how we played. Now we need to focus on team activities and team scenarios to enhance our team success.
A: It's always interesting to hear what they say. Every team has a culture. I like what the girls say about our culture of our program. They need to work hard, be a team and hold each other accountable. I think they made some strides in there. Part of it is acknowledging that those are things you need to work on. You don't always know where you are until you're in the heat of competition and someone is pressuring you. You have to be able to fend off the opponent's strengths, but the doubts you might have as an athlete and a team. We went from being on top of college volleyball's poll for a few years and it was really hard to get there and stay there. Like all the other teams that are starting the season right now, they all have dreams and ambitions. We are one of those teams.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Big Ten this year?
A: I think it's a great conference. I think it's always tough every match, home and away. The venues are challenging. The scheduling because of television makes it a bit more challenging. I think the conference will be very strong. The fact that Illinois made it to the finals of last year's national championship is a great reflection of the team they had and the strength of this conference. There were two or three teams last year during the season that were ranked No. 1. I think it's a great conference.
Q: Are there any freshmen that may step in and see some playing time?
A: I think we graduated to players that didn't play a lot but meant a lot in Katie Kabbes and Megan Shifflett. We also lost Darcy Dorton who transferred to the College of Charleston and our libero Ali Longo will be playing at Hawaii. I think of the newcomers, Megan Courtney has the best chance of getting a lot of playing time early. I would expect Paulina Prieto to take some big swings for us. I think Kendall (Pierce) and Lara (Caraway) are tough kids who play hard and care about the program who will see some time out there.
Q: Is Dominique Gonzalez the frontrunner for libero?
A: I think what she indicated is fair. If someone doesn't play well, they'll get taken out. Dom isn't different from any other player. Who plays today and who starts the matches isn't as important to me as who finishes the match and makes the team better. The goal is to be the best team you can be.
Q: How are you feeling being a seasoned veteran?
A: That's tough. The two years I've been here have been really fast. I've learned a lot, but at the same time I feel I have so much more to learn. I'm trying to soak it all up. I wouldn't call myself a veteran yet.
Q: How different was this offseason than those the past few years?
A: I think I came off one season where I was just stunned and amazed about what could happen. Then the other season I was extremely disappointed with myself. Having that feeling and knowing how good you can feel after the season makes you so hungry. You just start making a list of things you need to do to get back into that spot. I think it's one of the best things that could've happened to me as a player to see how hard I need to push myself to get back.
Q: Is there one thing you worked on this offseason to improve on from last year? Can you name one thing?
A: I think it was being a team. I don't think the leadership was really there. I think people tried but I don't think we were a team, and I think that's what we worked on this summer.
Q: What did you do to improve on being better teammates?
A: We spent more time together and worked out the little kinks. It's like a family. If you get made at each other and don't say anything, things aren't going to work out. You need to be open and push one another to be better teammates.
Q: With everything that has gone on with the university and the athletic program, does that give you all any more motivation to represent Penn State?
A: I think we have been given a good opportunity to show people around here and the country that we have a strong core, what we're really about, and I think this is our time to show it. We need to come out and show everyone we are a family.
Q: How big will the cheering section be in Louisville this weekend?
A: I hope it's humongous. Honestly I think everyone who will be there will be cheering for us so loud. My sister and dad won't be there, but my mom and brothers will be there cheering as loud as they can.
Q: What areas were you working on improving after last season?
A: I was working on improving defense. That's a thing coach and I always talk about. During the spring I worked a lot on defense. As a team we were working on being better teammates to each other. We worked hard each day to get to where we want to be.
Q: What has competition been like in practice for you?
A: Every day has been full of great competition. Everyone is fighting every day for a position. It's great and it keeps you involved every minute of every practice. You know if you don't play well, someone else can take your spot. It's a good thing to have on our team.
Q: What's your assessment of how things look at this point?
A: I am really happy about how things look. The way we trained in the spring and in the summer is probably of my four years, it's been the best with improvement and productivity. There is always room for improvement. I think we are in a good place right now for preseason.
Q: How was it to watch former Penn Staters play in the Olympics?
A: Nothing is cooler to say than, "Oh my gosh. I played with Megan Hodge and she's the leading scorer against China right now." It was unbelievable. It makes you so proud that they went through Penn State and that I was blessed enough to be part of a team she was on. I've always wanted to play with Christa Harmotto. She is the definition of what Penn State volleyball is all about, how hard she works and how dedicated she is to the sport. I loved seeing. It was really great. I got to talk to both of them while they were over there. It was nice.
Q: How different was this offseason than those the past few years?
A: It was a reality check. For my class it was the first time we hadn't won our last game, which was really tough. It was probably the best thing that could've happened to this group of girls because we know that it doesn't come easy. We've had outstanding players in the players and we have outstanding players now. It's now in the back of our minds that they worked so hard to get this program to where it is so we can't do what we did last year. The offseason this past year was a whole lot more driven. It was a great offseason.