BLOG: Slay Embraces Leading as a Team Player
Oct. 11, 2013
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
Slay joined her first team in seventh grade, but really started playing volleyball in fifth grade. Continuing to grow as a player and graduating high school as a member of the 2009 U.S. Junior National team, Slay's passion for the sport after years of dedication never faded. Knowing there's still room for improvement is how the senior stays motivated to close out four years at Penn State.
"I don't feel like I've reached my full potential yet so I want to strive to be the best for my team just so I can help on the court as much as I can," Slay said. "Each day at practice I'm striving to get better still. I really want to take it all in and soak it in as much as I can and be together with my teammates."
One teammate that has been there to share the experience of playing on one of the top teams in the country is Deja McClendon. The two seniors have been in the starting lineup together and have worked to build strong court dynamics. McClendon has noticed the type of leader Slay has developed into and the affect that has made on the team.
"She's been a lot more vocal as a leader and I look up to her in that aspect because she has a lot of experience that I don't have as a middle and as a blocker," McClendon said. "She's a huge blocker and great defensive player. I know that if I can do my job as a passer, she's going to get the job done as a hitter. We mesh together because we're both good listeners and you have to have that on a team."
In addition to leading vocally, she's also been one to lead by example. The middle hitter has proven to be one of the most consistent players for the Nittany Lions this season compiling 123 kills and 502 total blocks after 15 matches. In a sport where consistency is crucial to their success, Slay has learned that she can't be consistent without being a true team player.
"Each game I just go out there and don't do more than I know that I can do," Slay said. "I do what I'm good at and I know what to work on and try to be consistent at those things. I just do what my teammates need me to do."
After coaching Slay for just over three years and watching her develop into a player that is currently ranked seventh nationally and second in the Big Ten conference, head coach Russ Rose knows first hand the type of character Slay brings to the court each and every day. The attitude she shows when she enters Rec Hall is one focused on the outcome of the team and not making all of the big plays on her own.
"If I had to pick one player that's been the most consistent and made the greatest impact, it would be Katie," Rose said. "I think she's had a great career as well. I think she's really good at doing what she's capable of doing and I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned in life and sports from that."
In Penn State's most recent match-up against Minnesota, Slay contributed to building momentum for the Nittany Lions. In the fifth set of the match, the difference between walking away with a win or a loss was on the line. However, the senior wasn't going to take a loss in front of the home crowd.
She closed out the match matching a career-high of 16 kills and registering 10 blocks. In the final set of the night Slay helped the Nittany Lions to a 6-1 lead by making three huge kills in addition to assisting two blocks, ultimately changing the atmosphere of Rec Hall and getting the whole crowd on their feet.
As Minnesota brought the set back to within one with the score 11-10, Slay knew this was her chance to put the match away. She made two more kills and then teamed up with Ariel Scott for a block making it match point at 14-11. After an error from Minnesota, the senior could feel the emotion from the fans as they erupted reminding her of the name they were playing for and what the whole team had to defend.
"We're playing at a program with a really rich history when we step out on the court, we want to defend our name and do our best," Slay said. "It's not so much how the team does it's how we control our side and play together as a team. We know that everyone's good. Going into five sets at home - they pushed us, but we have to rely on each other."