Monthly Archives: December 2012

2012 Is So Last Year: DigNittany Looks at 2013 and Beyond

Father Time Weather Vane at Lords

The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades?

Fans can get spoiled very quickly in athletics and that’s a problem. It’s never easy to be successful in anything and when people get accustomed to specific results, it sometimes loses its effect on the players and they forget what it really takes to succeed and how important the journey really should be to their development. The challenge is in getting players who want to become good and are willing to work instead of attending a school because the team is good.

(Penn State Head Coach Russ Rose on the challenge of maintaining excellence)

When your team wins the Big Ten Championship, makes it to the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship Semifinals (losing a 3-1 match to Oregon, the then-#5, now #2-ranked team in the country), has two players earn First Team AVCA All-American honors (6-4 Jr. Opp/RS Ariel Scott and 5-11 So. S Micha Hancock),one (6-6 Jr. MH Katie Slay) make the AVCA All-American Second Team, and one (6-1 Jr. OH Deja McClendon) named to the AVCA All American Third Team, it’s a mark of the program’s extraordinary success that the season is viewed by many fans as a disappointment.

Obviously, the point of the NCAA Tournament is to win — not just three or four matches, but all six matches.  So in that sense, the season didn’t end the way Penn State’s players, staff, and fans would have hoped.

But those good things (Big Ten Championship, NCAA Semifinal appearance; four AVCA All-Americans) did happen.  For almost any other school in the country, Penn State’s 2012 season was very, very successful.

With the 2013 season right around the corner (OK, 240 days away, give or take), we wanted to put things in perspective: take stock of the 2012 season, take pride in the good, recognize the need to improve, and look to the future.  The rest of this blog post is intended to do that.  And, as optimistic (we hope not “spoiled”) fans, we think the future looks bright in 2013 and 2014, and beyond.  Shades anyone?

Sunglasses sand erosion

Russ Rose, Dom Gonzalez and Ariel Scott – Post-Oregon Press Conference

After Penn State’s 3-1 loss to Oregon in its NCAA Semifinal match, we heard chatter from some corners that the Penn State players lacked “heart.”  We’re not sure what that means, but to the extent it suggests the players didn’t care about winning, we think it is totally untrue.

There may be other criticisms that could be raised about their performance — and Coach Rose makes some of them in the post-match interview video, below, which also includes Dom Gonzalez and Ariel Scott.  But the disappointment — heartbreak, really — of Gonzalez and Scott in that video is palpable.  It is obvious (at least to us) that the loss hurt them deeply, and that they wanted (and expected) to win.

Check out the video, and judge for yourself:

Club Coach Talks About Oregon Match

While we’re in recap, end-of-the-year mode, here’s Club Coach, who has coached numerous volleyball players who have excelled on club and college volleyball teams, on Penn State’s NCAA Tournament Semifinals match with Oregon:

One of the greatest attractions of the NCAA tournament is that “on any given night” anyone can beat anyone.  In 2012, Penn State had a remarkable season, and unfortunately wound up on the wrong end of that premise.

Playing their best volleyball all season, the Nittany Lions headed to Louisville to face a great Oregon team, but also a team they could beat.  As always, they were well-prepared, and had a plan.  In sports, there are really only three things coaches can’t control: player performances, injuries and officiating.  For Penn State in the Oregon match, these three factors were a bit of a perfect storm.

First for player performances.  The Nittany Lions hit over .100 points lower than their season average, as A. Scott, Deja McClendon, Megan Courtney, and Katie Slay all struggled to kill the ball.  Of course Oregon deserves a great deal of credit for that, but for whatever reason, as a group they simply struggled offensively.

The injury to Micha Hancock had a huge impact on the match.  The biggest was the fact it prevented her from being able to jumpserve, reducing their best point scoring rotation significantly.  Her inability to jump also really hurt their blocking.  Although many will ponder why Penn State didn’t go with Kristin Carpenter in that situation, the only person qualified to make that decision didn’t believe that it put the team in the best position to win.  I’m not going to second guess a Hall of Fame coach who has won five NCAA Women’s Volleyball National Championships.  In my opinion it was a gutsy effort by Hancock to battle through it.

After finding a way to win game 1, PSU made an incredible run, coming from a 20-10 deficit, to be in position to win game two.  Having a few game points, PSU was victim to two really tough “no calls” that would have pushed them to a 2-0 game lead.  Although those calls were frustrating, Penn State also had swings to close the deal and it wasn’t able to.  Bad officiating is dissapointing, but you have to make your own breaks as well.   Even with the tough calls, PSU still controlled its own destiny — it had opportunities to decide the outcome, and it didnt happen.

With almost the entire group returning, this will be a tremendous motivator for the 2013 season, as well as a good, but tough learning experience.

Things Got Better in 2012 (Compared to 2011)

Penn State didn’t win the ultimate prize in 2012, but statistically speaking, there’s no denying the Nittany Lions improved from their 2011 performance.  Room for more improvement?  Of course.  But take a look at the following tables for a comparison of category leaders in the two seasons.  Things got better in 2012.

Final Stats: Attack Leaders - 2012 vs. 2011

YearName ClassSets
2012Scott, ArielJr.12536254693.751271110.308
2011Scott, ArielSo.11833314183.541361083.260
2012McClendon, DejaJr.12436364033.251311106.246
2011McClendon, DejaSo.12233334323.541441090.264
2012Slay, KatieJr.12235272792.2958537.412
2011Slay, KatieSo.12233332572.1163502.386
2012Courtney, MeganFr.12036352402.0088632.241
2011Martin, MaddieSo.9833241411.4460410.198
2012Grant, NiaSo.12436362051.6552407.376
2011Grant, NiaFr.11732321511.2944309.346
2012Hancock, MichaSo.12536361251.0032260.358
2011Hancock, MichaFr.12133321100.9134246.309

Final Stats: Set/Serve Leaders - 2012 vs. 2011

YearName ClassSets
2012Hancock, MichaSo.1253636140311.22810.65113
2011Hancock, MichaFr.1213333127510.54910.7576
2012Gonzalez, DominiqueSo.125360960.77260.2134
2011Longo, AliSo.117330900.77320.2730
2012Courtney, MeganFr.1203635330.28130.1131
2011Carpenter, KristinJr.100334760.76140.1437
2012Fuller, LaceySo.119361150.13190.1618
2011Gonzalez, DominiqueFr.84296190.2380.1021

Final Stats: Recept/Dig Leaders - 2012 vs. 2011

YearName ClassSPMPMSREDigDig/S
2012Gonzalez, DominiqueSo.125360194573.66
2011Longo, AliSo. 117330193973.39
2012McClendon, DejaJr.1243636353392.73
2011McClendon, DejaSo.1223333222452.01
2012Hancock, MichaSo.125363612982.38
2011Hancock, MichaFr.121333242792.31
2012Courtney, MeganFr.1203635222371.98
2011Martin, MaddieSo.983324211561.59
2012Fuller, LaceySo.11936121691.42
2011Carpenter, KristinJr.100334121821.82

Final Stats: Blocking and Points Leaders - 2012 vs. 2011

YearName ClassSPMPMSBlock
2012Scott, ArielJr.125363511911020.823528.54.23
2011Scott, ArielSo.1183331581860.732471.54.00
2012McClendon, DejaJr.12436362347700.566467.53.77
2011McClendon, DejaSo.12233331348610.506482.03.95
2012Slay, KatieJr.1223527191451641.3412370.53.04
2011Slay, KatieSo.1223333271461731.4211359.02.94
2012Courtney, MeganFr.120363532691010.848319.52.66
2011Martin, MaddieSo.983324534390.402180.01.84
2012Grant, NiaSo.124363691111200.97112269.52.17
2011Grant, NiaFr.117323213941070.914224.01.91
2012Hancock, MichaSo.1253636868760.616248.01.98
2011Hancock, MichaFr.1213332554590.499233.01.93

We’re Optimistic: Player Matrix 2013 to 2017

We’re optimistic about the future of the Penn State Women’s Volleyball team.  Penn State returns almost everyone in 2013 (don’t get us wrong, Kristin and Marika — your talent, enthusiasm, and leadership will be sorely missed!).  And according to published reports, has exceptional athletes verbally commited to the program for the 2013 and 2014 seasons (See our Recruiting Matrix).  In fact, John Tawa, of, has stated that Penn State’s 2014 class “will probably rank as the best ever since we’ve been doing the analysis.”

To give an idea about who is likely to be on Penn State’s roster during the period from 2013 to 2017, we’ve put together the Player Matrix, below, based on (1) players who were on the 2012 Penn State roster and do not graduate in 2012, and (2)  players we are aware of who have publicly announced their verbal commitment to join the Penn State Women’s Volleyball team in either 2013 or 2014.

It’s not “official” and things could change (and it’s not intended to indicate who is, or is not, on scholarship, or who will, or won’t, make significant on-court contributions during any of these seasons.)

The Class designations are as follows:  Senior:  4/Sr.;  Junior: 3/Jr.;  So.: 2/So.; Freshman: 1/Fr. ; and 2014 verbal commit:  0/2014 Verbal.  We start with a number (4, 3, 2, 1 or 0) because the Table sorts alphabetically, and without the number, the classes aren’t listed in order of seniority.

The designation “Open” means that a slot on the team will be open due to graduation (which has nothing to do with who is, or is not, on scholarship — the Player Matrix doesn’t address that).

Whenever the term “RS” is included in a Class listing, it means that in theory, a redshirt season would be available to the player in that year.  It does not mean the player will use that redshirt.  For example, the designation “1/Fr. (RS)” for Paulina Prieto in 2013 means that we believe a redshirt season is available to her, and that if she uses it in 2013, she will be a Freshman in terms of athletic eligibility.  ”Open/RS” means that unless the player has used their redshirt, that player will have graduated.  Again, it does not mean the player will use that redshirt.

The terms “2013 verbal” and “2014 verbal” reflect the season that we anticipate the listed player, based on their publicly announced verbal commitment, will enroll at Penn State and be eligible to play for the Nittany Lions.

Take a look:

Player Matrix (as of 6-23-15)

2Caraway, LaraDS5-44/Sr.Open/RSOpenOpen
3Pierce, KendallDS/L5-64/Sr.Open/RSOpenOpen
Wilmarie Rivera
5Frantti, AliOH6-22/So.3/Jr.4/Sr.Open
6Reed, NiaOH6-21/RS
10Muller, CarleyDS5-83/Jr.4/Sr.OpenOpen
11Gorrell, ToriTori GorrellMH6-21/Fr.2/So.3/Jr.4/Sr.
12Holcomb, KeetonuntitledDS/L5-61/Fr.2/So.3/Jr.4/Sr.
13Krause, TaylorDS/S5-63/Jr.4/Sr.Open/RSOpen
14Whitney, AiyanaRS/Opp6-34/RS

17Courtney, MeganOH/RS6-24/Sr.Open/RSOpenOpen
19Thelen, HeidiMH/OH6-22/So.3/Jr.4/Sr.Open
22Lee, SimoneOH6-12/So.3/Jr.4/Sr.Open
24Broerman, LauraDS/L5-43/Jr.4/Sr.Open/RSOpen
2016White, Kendall DS/L5-700/2016
Camryn (Cami)


Recruiting Update: Haleigh Washington Named Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year

Haleigh Washington (6-4 MH – 2014) Colorado Volleyball Gatorade POY: Haleigh Washington (USA Today High School Sports) Athletic achievement: She led the Spartans (29-0) to the Class 5A state championship this past season. A member of the USA Volleyball Women’s Indoor Junior National Team, Washington recorded 346 kills while compiling a .550 hitting percentage and .638 kill… Continue Reading

Texas Win in NCAA Championship — More Evidence for Parity?

Congratulations to the University of Texas Longhorns on winning the 2012 NCAA Women’s Volleyball National Championship. It was an impressive win in an impressive season for Texas. We can’t wait for the 2013 season and the great matches in the Nike Big Four that, providentially (for Texas) will be held in Austin. Which brings us… Continue Reading

Ducks Down Lions

Tournament Central On Wednesday, Russ Rose said in an interview that the thing he remembered from Penn State’s 2011 season opening loss to Oregon was that the Nittany Lions won the statistical battle, but lost the match.  This time, with the exception of blocking (Penn State totaled 19.5 blocks to 10.0 for the Ducks), Penn State… Continue Reading

Recruiting Update: Robertson and Reed Win Gatorade Player of the Year Honors

Kelly Robertson (6-0 MH – 2013) Parkland High School’s Kelly Robertson is named Gatorade Pennsylvania Volleyball Player of the Year Kyle Craig of the Express-Times reports: Parkland High School senior Kelly Robertson has been named the Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year in girls volleyball. Read the entire article at Nia Reed (6-2 OH –… Continue Reading

Match Day: Penn State vs. Oregon — Q&A with Lionsfan

Tournament Central   Wednesday Practice Video (Penn State video and player photos courtesy Q&A with Lionsfan About Oregon DigNittany: In the last DigNittany North Pole Poll before the NCAA Tournament, Stanford ranked #1, Penn State ranked #2, Texas ranked #3, and Oregon ranked #4 (if memory serves, you may have voted Oregon #7).  Did the… Continue Reading

Pre-Semifinals Interview Video; 2012 Semifinal Teams Compared to 1998-2011 Champs

Tournament Central National Semifinal Preview Interviews (Courtesy Where do the 2012 Final Four Fit In? Is there greater “parity” in NCAA Division 1 volleyball?  Comparing the won-lost records (matches and sets) of the 2012 NCAA Semifinalists to the records of NCAA Volleyball champions from 1998 to 2011,the asnswer would seem to be yes. During that period, five of… Continue Reading

Q&A with Club Coach: Penn State vs. Oregon

Tournament Central Q&A with Club Coach We’re speaking today with Club Coach, who has coached numerous collegiate and club volleyball players, about Thursday night’s NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship match between #1 seed Penn State and #5 seed Oregon.  Take a look: About Oregon’s Fast-Tempo Offense DigNittany: We’ve been hearing a lot about how Oregon runs… Continue Reading

Nittany Lions Down Minnesota (Will Face Oregon in Louisville)

  The good news?  Penn State defeated Minnesota this afternoon 3-1 (25-19, 19-25, 26-24, 25-20) for its third victory over the Golden Gophers this season, which allows them to move on to the Final Four in Louisville next Thursday.   The bad news?  They’ll be facing an extremely talented and very hot Oregon team, which bounced back… Continue Reading

Recruiting Update: Haleigh Washington; Nia Reed

Haleigh Washington (6-4 MH – 2014) From an article by Kevin Carmody in, December 5, 2012: 5A/4A Volleyball Peak Performer: Haleigh Washington of Doherty Washington wants to go higher – literally Haleigh Washington likes a good challenge. She’s also her own worst  critic. When analyzing her weaknesses on the volleyball court as she anticipates her … Continue Reading