Category Archives: Videos

2014 Season Preview: Another Banner Year?

By the DigNittanyVolleyball.com Staff

Thank You Ariel, Deja, Katie, Erica, Maddie and Maggie

Ariel ScottDeja McClendonKatie SlayMaggie HardingMaddie MartinErica Denny

 

 

 

 

“We all know it will be hard to replace the class that bookended their collegiate career with Big Ten and National Championships.” Penn State Head Coach Russ Rose quoted in Penn State Women’s Volleyball Booster Club Newsletter, Volume 24, Issue 2.

Bookend Championships -- 2010 to 2013

Year
W
L
AVCA
Rank
B1G
Standings
NCAA
Tourney
20133421stB1G
Champs

NCAA
Champs
20123323rdB1G
Champs
Lost
NCAA
Semi-
Finals
20112589th2nd
(3-way
tie)
Lost
NCAA
Regional
Semi-
Final
20103251stB1G
Champs

NCAA
Champs
Total12417

Bright Future, Hold the Shades

Occhiali_da_sole_-_Italia

“The incoming class was recognized as the nation’s finest by both PrepVolleyball.com and Volleyball Magazine, and I hope they are right as we need to replace 10 years of All-American recognition among Ariel, Deja, and Katie, as well as the many contributions from Erica, Maddie and Maggie. Throw in an entirely new staff and it goes without saying that we will have our work cut out for us this season.” Penn State Head Coach Russ Rose quoted in Penn State Women’s Volleyball Booster Club Newsletter, Volume 24, Issue 2.

Well, Maybe Not an Entirely New Staff

Salima RockwellWelcome-to-Rec-HallStevie Musie

 

 

 

 

OK, we’ll give Coach Rose that a lot of talent has graduated, and he had to replace his entire staff, adding new Associate Head Coach Salima Rockwell (pictured at left) who is starting her second stint as an assistant to Coach Rose, after having earned the AVCA’s award as 2013 Assistant Coach of the Year, and new Assistant Coach Stevie Mussie (pictured at right).  But sharp-eyed fans will notice one very important returnee: Coach Rose himself.  It’s safe to say, that’s significant. Russ RoseHere’s Coach Rose on the outlook for the B1G in 2014:

I feel the Big Ten is going to be very strong once again, with Illinois, Wisconsin and Nebraska returning the most starters from last year’s teams and everyone else, like us, hoping to replace veteran players with new faces. I think the winner this season will really have to perform well, as the conference schedule has some imbalance to it.

2014 Outlook by Position

Setter

Who's Back: Setting Stats - 2013

#
Name
Pos
2013
Cl
SP
MP
MS
Asst
Ast/
Set
TA
Pct.
12Hancock,
Micha
S3/Jr.1273636142511.222999.475
4Gonzalez,
Dominique
L3/Jr.127360910.72339.268
n/aTeamn/a1273636166913.144030.414
For 2014, Setter is one position that appears to be . . . well, pretty much set.  5-11 Sr. AVCA All-American (and All B1G 2013 Setter of the Year) Micha Hancock (pictured at left), returns after leading the Nittany Lions to the NCAA Division I Championship (its 6th overall and 5th in seven years) and its 16th B1G Women’s Volleyball title. With Hancock as Penn State’s starting setter, the Nittany Lions registered a .305 attack percentage – the 5th best percentage in NCAA Division I and first in the B1G.

Other returnees on the roster who are listed as potential setters are 6-2 Jr. Megan Courtney and 5-6 So. DS/S Taylor Krause.  Although Courtney is a dynamic athlete who certainly could play the setter position, she started that past two seasons at OH and we look for her to start the 2014 season at Opposite/Right Side. (We include her bio in below in that section.)   Krause played in 10 matches as a true freshman last season as a defensive specialist, and will look to expand her role in 2014.  (Her bio is included in the DS section, below.)

New to the mix will be 6-1 Fr. Bryanna Weiskircher (pictured at right), who PrepVolley.com ranked as the #13 Senior Ace for 2014, and who has the ability to compete with Hancock .

Although Coach Rose tinkered with a 6-2 in 2006 with Alisha Glass and Jessica Yanz, and last year during the pre-season with Hancock and Courtney, we think it is unlikely (though not impossible) that we will see this from Penn State this season. What will be seen is a highly competitive 2nd team, led by an intense Weiskircher, pushing the starters day in and day out for playing time.  And, in contrast to 2013 — when we never saw  Hancock come off the floor — we also expect to see Weiskircher sub in from time to time to give her experience.  Quality depth will be a  welcome asset for Penn State in 2014.

Below is a brief rundown on Hancock and Weiskircher:

#12 Micha Hancock, 5-11 S, Sr. Edmond, Oklahoma

The Buzz on Micha: As Washington and Wisconsin learned in the NCAA Tournament, Hancock’s serve can be a game changer. Will be counted on to provide senior leadership as Penn State looks to blend the highly-touted freshmen with a solid core of returning players. 

The 2013 season saw Micha Hancock continue her steady maturation as a setter and the improvement in her overall game.  With Hancock leading the way, Penn State registered a .305 team attack percentage – good for first in the B1G and fifth nationally.  She averaged 11.22 assists per set (oddly, exactly the same as her average in 2012), 1.02 kills/set (on .331 hitting), and registered 289 digs (fourth best on the team), and 74 total blocks (fifth best on the team). Here’s an interview with Micha at the 2013 AVCA All-America Awards Ceremony:

Micha Hancock's Career Set/Serve Statistics

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
Asst
Asst
/Set
SA
SA
/Set
SE
20133/Jr.1273636142511.22820.65102
20122/So.1253636140311.22810.65113
20111/Fr.1213333127510.54910.7576

Micha Hancock's Career Attack Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
K
K/S
AE
TA
Hit
%
20133/Jr.12736361291.0236281.331
20122/So.12536361251.0032260.358
20111/Fr.12133321100.9134246.309

Micha Hancock's Career Blocking Stats

Yr
Class
SP
MP
MS
BS
BA
TB
B/S
BE
'133/Jr.1273636569740.588
'122/So.1253636868760.616
'111/Fr.1213332554590.499

Micha Hancock's Career Dig Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
RE
Digs
Digs
/S
20133/Jr.1273636--2892.28
20122/So.125363612982.38
20111/Fr.121333242792.31

2013 (Junior): NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player; AVCA 1st Team All-America; Volleyball Magazine 2nd Team All-America; Big Ten Setter of the Year; All-B1G Ten.  Continued her record-setting performance from the service line, averaging 0.65 aces/set — good for 2nd overall in NCAA Division I and 1st in the B1G — which upped her career total to a Penn State career best of 254 service aces (breaking the previous record held by Ellen Hensler, who starred for the team from 1983 to1986).  Other highlights from the season included:

2012 (Sophomore): AVCA 1st Team All-America; Volleyball Magazine 1st Team All-America; West Lafayette Regional All-Tournament Team; Big Ten Setter of the Year; All-Big Ten; Big Ten Player of the Week (9/3); Big Ten Setter of the Week (9/3, 9/24, 10/1, 10/22, 11/5, 11/19); AVCA National Player of the Week (11/6).

2011 (Freshman): AVCA Mideast Region Freshman of the Year; Unanimous Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection; Big Ten Freshman of the Year; Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week (11/14, 11/21, 11/28). Guided Penn State to a .267 hitting percentage (12th nationally); averaged 10.54 assists per set (sixth in the Big Ten).

High School: Two-time Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year; 2011 PrepVolleyball.com Top 50 Recruit and Senior Ace; member of the 2009 USA Junior National Championship All-Tournament Team; named to Volleyball Magazine’s “Fab 50″; Best Setter Award in 2010 USA High Performance International Championship Tournament; selected to the 2010 Youth Olympic Team; 2010 Under Armour All-American.

#21 Bryanna Weiskircher, 6-1 S., Fr., Loves Park, IL

The Buzz on Bryanna A well-skilled and polished setter, with good location and solid awareness of the position.  Weiskircher is smooth and confident and can be a great asset  to the Nittany Lions — not only this year but well into the future.  John Tawa of PrepVolleyball.com has described her as “a ferocious competitor oozing with Division I talent in every phase of her game.”    

High School: PrepVolleyball.com’s #13-ranked Senior Ace (and a 2013-14 Under Armour First Team All-American and 2013 Mizuno Honorable Mention All-American), Weiskircher finished her senior season at Boylan Catholic as a three-time captain and team MVP, leading her team to a 32-2 record and recording 341 assists, 239 kills, 232 digs, 51 aces and 43 blocks. With Weiskircher as the setter, Club Fusion (which included fellow freshmen 6-1 OH Ali Frantti and  6-1 OH Simone Lee) won two AAU championships.

Here’s a video of Bryanna from October 22, 2011 in a match in which against Winnebago. In the video, Boylan’s Maddy Guyette makes a save from a Winnebago attack, and Bryanna (No. 1) ends the rally with a kill:

Outside Hitter

Gone from 2013 are 6-1 Sr. Deja McClendon, 6-2 Sr. Maddie Martin, and 6-2 RS So. Paulina Prieto Cerame.  Add in the distinct possibility that  6-2 So. Megan Courtney moves to Opposite/Rightside (which is where we have her listed in this Season Preview) and it’s clear that Penn State has lost a lot of firepower at the outside hitter position. In fact, as reflected in the table below, if you include Courtney among the departed outside hitters (which we do — we think she’ll be at Opposite/Rightside), then Penn State loses three of its top four outside hitters from 2013, representing 764 out of a total of 806 kills contributed by the four leading outside hitters.  As in 94.8% of the outside hitter kills.

Who's Back: Outside Hitter Attack Leaders from 2013

#
Name
'13
Cl
SP
MP
MS
K
K/S
AE
TA
Hit
%
18McClendon,
Deja

4/Sr.126
36
36
378
3.00
117
953
.274
17Courtney,
Megan
2/So.12035342972.4796740.272
9Prieto
Cerame,
Paulina,
1/RS.
Fr.
66297891.3536210.252
14Whitney,
Aiyana
2/RS
So.
32213421.311295.316

Another concern is the loss of the incredible defense McClendon and Courtney brought to the outside hitter position for last year’s National Championship team.  As shown in the table below, that tandem ranked second and third on the 2014 team in Digs, respectively, by a healthy margin.  When you couple that with their offense, it’s clear that the outside hitter position has lost an enormous amount of touches.

Who's Back: Recept/Dig Leaders from 2013

#
Name
Class
SP
MP
MS
RE
Rcpt
TA
Rcpt
Pct.
Digs
Digs
/S
4Gonzalez,
Dominique
3/Jr.127360--571.9914163.28
18McClendon, Deja4/Sr.1263636--857.9813632.88
17Courtney,
Megan
2/So.1203534--466.9703012.51
12Hancock,
Micha
3/Jr.1273636--6.6672892.28
33Fuller,
Lacey
3/Jr.118360--271.0001411.19
Penn State
Total
n/a1273636492061.976180914.24
Opponentsn/a12736361662736.939163212.85
The good news is that even though the Nittany Lions lose a lot at outside hitter, all is not lost.  6-4 RS Jr. Aiyana Whitney  returns — an imposing and veteran player who can play all three front row positions, blocks and attacks at a high level, and brings a very potent service game. Coach Rose will be counting on her to provide a strong physical presence on the front row.

Joining Whitney will be three highly-touted freshman, all of whom are all listed on the 2014 Roster as outside hitters:  6-1 Ali Frantti (#2-ranked PrepVolleyball.com Senior Ace), 6-1 Simone Lee (#8-ranked PrepVolleyball.com Senior Ace), and 6-2 Nia Reed (#12-ranked Prepvolleyball.com Senior Ace).  Of course, prep accolades do not necessarily translate to  success on the court.  Still, the cupboard is not entirely empty. Here’s a quick rundown on each of those players:

 

Aiyana Whitney #14 Aiyana Whitney, 6-4 OH, RS Jr., Norwood, NJ

 The Buzz on Aiyana: A very physical front row player who blocks and attacks at a high level, Whitney brings an intriguing combination of size and athleticism to a position of need for the Nittany Lions in 2014.  Although she is listed in our outside hitter section, she is a versatile athlete who can play all three front row positions, and could see time at opposite/right side or at middle blocker. 

Aiyana Whitney's Career Attack Stats

Year
'13
Cl
SP
MP
MS
K
K/S
AE
TA
Hit
%
20132/RS
So.
32213421.311295.316
2012RS----------------
20111/Fr.652401131.7451320.194

Aiyana Whitney's Career Blocking Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
BS
BA
TB
B/S
BE
20132/RS
So.
32213012120.383
2012RS----------------
20111/Fr.65240322250.384

2012 (Sophomore):  Whitney started three matches in 2013, and played in a total of 21. High points included:

2012 (Redshirt Season): Redshirt season

2011 (Freshman): Whitney had some good performances in 2011 — 15 kills vs. Texas (9/10), nine kills on .353 hitting against Nebraska (9/21), nine kills and three blocks at Minnesota (11/4), 12 kills with only one error in 24 swings (.458 attack percentage) against UCLA in the Sweet 16. For the season, in which she played in 24 matches and 64 sets at outside hitter, she totaled 113 kills (.194 attack percentage), 14 digs and 25 blocks.

High School: Whitney was a 2010 Top-20 Prep Volleyball Senior Ace and a 2010 Under Armour/AVCA First Team All-American. She led Old Tappan to 25 straight wins over New Jersey opponents that season, which was capped off by Old Tappan’s first-ever state championship when it won the finals of the Tournament of Champions. 2011 New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year.

Here’s Aiyana Whitney’s “Meet the Freshmen” video from 2012:

 

Frantti#5 Ali Frantti, 6-1 OH, Fr., Spring Grove, IL

The Buzz on Ali: One of the top offensive players to come into the program in the past few years.  Touching in the 10-5 range, Frantti has a great arm from both the front and backrow and has a smile and relaxed attitude that make her easy to be around.  Brings a high level of compete, is a good passer and defender, with six-rotation potential.

High School: Ranked by PrepVolleyball.com as the #2 Senior Ace, Ali Frantti arrives at Penn State after a stellar prep career in which she was named a 2013-14 Under Armour First Team All-American, a 2013 Mizuno First Team All-American, and the 2013 Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year. All this after earning 1st Team All-State honors and Chicago Sun-Times All-Area honors in 2012.  Frantti was Richmond Burton High School’s MVP three-times, and its captain two times.  She helped lead Club Fusion (where her teammates included fellow freshmen 6-1 OH Simone Lee and 6-1 S Bryanna Weiskircher) to back-to-back AAU titles, being named MVP in 2012 and making the all-tournament team in 2013.

Here’s a link to a video of Ali (and Simone Lee and Bryanna Weiskircher) from the 2012 AAU Volleyball 16U Open Final featuring the Milwaukee Sting vs Fusion 16 Black:

 

Simone Lee#22 Simone Lee, 6-2 OH, Fr., Menomonee Falls, WI

The Buzz on Simone: Strong, physical net player — who touches in the 10-5 range – Lee has the ability to block at a high level as a freshman.  Lee also could see time at rights ide/opposite 

 

High School:  PrepVolleyball.com’s #8-ranked Senior Ace, Lee was named a 2013-14 Under Armour First Team All-American, a 2013 Mizuno First Team All-American, and the 2013 Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year.  She started all four years for Menomonee Falls High School (which won the Wisconsin WIAA state championship in 2011 and 2012) where she was twice named the team captain.   Lee was a member of the 2012 (first-place at the NORCECA U18 Continental Championships) and 2013 (second-place finish at the FIVB U18 World Championships) USA Girls’ Youth National Teams.  Her club team, Club Fusion, won two AAU Championships, while she was named four times to the AAU all-tournament team.  A dedicated athlete, Lee drove two hours each way to Club Fusion practices.

Here’s a video interview with Simone Lee from 2013:

 

Nia Reed#6 Nia Reed, 6-2 OH, Fr., Fort Lee, NJ

The Buzz on Nia: An imposing athlete with a great smile, Reed reportedly touches close to 10-9.  She has all the tools and energy to develop into a terrific net player.  

High School: The #12-ranked PrepVolleyball.com Senior Ace, started all four years at Immaculate Heart Academy, during which time the Blue Eagles won four consecutive non-public state championship titles.  Reed’s coach, Maria Nolan, has stated that Reed may be the best volleyball player in New Jersey history, and some observers view her as having potential similar to that of former National POY candidate — and fellow Immaculate Heart Academy alum – Ariel Scott.  Though it remains to be seen how Reed’s potential will play out in her college career, she certainly has earned her share of accolades, including 2013-14 Under Armour First Team All-American; Mizuno First Team All-American; New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year in 2011, 2012 and 2013; Star Ledger Player of the Year in 2011, 2012 and 2013; and Bergen Record Player of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Here’s a video interview with Nia Reed from December 2012:

 

Opposite/Right Side (We know – Megan Courtney was an OH)

Who's Back: Opposite/Right Side Attack Leaders from 2013

#
Name
'13
Cl
SP
MP
MS
K
K/S
AE
TA
Hit
%
1Scott,
Ariel
4/Sr.11535313833.33103971.288
17Courtney,
Megan
2/So.12035342972.4796740.272

Who's Back: Opposite/Right Side Blocking and Points Leaders from 2013

#
Name
'13
Cl
SP
MP
MS
BS
BA
TB
B/S
BE
Pts
Pts
/S
1Scott, Ariel4/Sr.1153531391940.829432.53.76
17Courtney,
Megan
2/So.2035342859870.7314355.52.96

In 2013 and 2012, Ariel Scott was the go-to terminator for the Penn State Nittany Lions.  Those days are over.  A. Scott  has graduated, taking her 3.33 kills/set (1st on the team), .82 blocks/set (tied with Nia Grant for 2nd on the team) and 3.76 points/set (1st on the team) with her. There are several players who will be vying to take her place, but our guess (and it is no more than that) is that 6-2 Jr. Megan Courtney will be there on opening day, so we’ve treated her as a “returning player” for purposes of the statistical tables above.  Other players who may see time at the position include 6-4 RS Jr. Aiyana Whitney and 6-1 Fr. Simone Lee, both of whom are discussed in our Outside Hitter section.

Of course, all of this is speculation on our part, and Coach Rose may have something entirely different in mind.  But until the season begins, we’re left with speculation.

If  Courtney does end up at Opposite/Right Side, she’ll bring some different things to the position.  For one thing, she is a better defender than Scott – and that’s not a knock on Scott.  Courtney is a six rotation player.  Scott was not.  And, arguably, Courtney will provide better out-of-system offense than Scott, even though she doesn’t have quite as big of an arm.

6-2 Fr. Simone Lee and 6-4 RS Jr. Aiyana Whitney are both viable options here too.   As mentioned in the Outside Hitter section, Whitney has seen time in previous seasons at all three front row positions, and Lee gained international experience at right-side when she was a right-side starter on the 2013 USA Youth National Worlds finalist team.  Whether either of these players will see time at Opposite/Right Side for Penn State in the 2014 season remains to be seen. But at the very least, the fact that they seemingly are comfortable at multiple positions can only be viewed as a positive for Penn State moving forward.

Below is a quick rundown on Megan Courtney:

Megan Courtney#17 Megan Courtney, 6-2 S/OH, Jr., Dayton, Ohio

 The Buzz on Megan: Outstanding athlete with a terrific volleyball IQ, we have Courtney starting at Opposite/Right Side, but she could easily end up at Outside Hitter.  As in 2013, she is one of the keys to a successful season in 2014.

Megan Courtney's Career Attack Stats

Year
'13
Cl
SP
MP
MS
K
K/S
AE
TA
Hit
%
20132/So.12035342972.4796740.272
20121/Fr.12036352402.0088632.241

Megan Courtney's Career Blocking Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
BS
BA
TB
B/S
BE
20132/So.12035342859870.7314
20121/Fr.120363532691010.848

Megan Courtney's Career Recept/Dig Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
RE
Rcpt
TA
Rcpt
Pct.
Digs
Digs
/S
20132/So.1203534--466.9703012.51
20121/Fr.120363522----2371.98

2013 (Sophomore): Courtney came up big in some very big matches in 2013:

2012 (Freshman): In 2012, Megan Courtney was named AVCA Mideast Region Freshman of the Year; was a unanimous selection to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team and was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. She started 35 out of 36 matches at outside hitter, ending the season fourth on the team in kills (240 — an average of 2.00 kills per set), digs (237 — an average of 1.98 digs per set), and blocks (101 — an average of 0.84 blocks per set, including at least one block in 33 matches, and 27 matches with multiple blocks).

High School: In 2011, Courtney capped-off an exceptional high school career by garnering 2011-12 First Team AVCA Under Armour All-American honors and being named the #4 high school player in the country by PrepVolleyball.com. For the season, she registered 451 kills (.603 attack %), 426 assists, 316 digs, 52 blocks and 36 service aces. On December 14th, she was named the 2011 Gatorade Ohio Volleyball Player of the Year.

Here’s a video of Katie Slay interviewing Megan Courtney (if we see something more recent, we’ll replace this):

Middle Blocker

As a three-year returning starter, 6-2 Sr. Nia Grant is the odds-on favorite to nail down one MB slot (even though she is listed — as she was in 2013, and in 2012, and in 2011, as an OH).  But with the graduation of 6-6 All American Katie Slay, competition for the other spot will be fierce.  6-0 Fr. Kelly Robertson returns, after appearing in three matches in 2013, registering six kills (on 9 attempts for a .556 attack %) and four blocks.  And the much-heralded 6-3 Fr. Haleigh Washington will make her debut, as will 6-2 Fr. Heidi Thelen.  Based purely on prep-rep, Washington – PrepVolleyball.com’s #1-ranked Senior Ace — would win this battle over Thelen — PrepVolleyball.com’s #61-ranked Senior Ace.  But playing time isn’t won based on clippings or high school accolades, and Thelen certainly will be in the mix at the MB position.

Regardless of who ends up winning that competition, they will need to step up right away in the blocking department.  As reflected in the table below, the three graduated seniors — 6-6 MB Katie Slay, 6-4 Opp/RS A. Scott, and 6-1 OH Deja McClendon — ranked 1st, tied for 2nd, and 5th on the team for Penn State in 2013:

Who's Back: Blocking and Points Leaders - 2013

#
Name
Cl
SP
MP
MS
BS
BA
TB
B/S
BE
Pts
Pts
/S
16Slay,
Katie

4/Sr.1273636301772071.6319392.53.09
1Scott, Ariel4/Sr.1153531391940.829432.53.76
7Grant,
Nia
3/Jr.11835331285970.8212285.52.42
17Courtney,
Megan
2/So.2035342859870.7314355.52.96
18McClendon, Deja4/Sr.12636362255770.616438.53.48
12Hancock,
Micha
3/Jr.1273636569740.588250.51.97
Penn Staten/a1273636107561387.53.05712367.518.64
Opponentsn/a127363638369222.51.75661638.512.90

Nia Grant#7 Nia Grant, 6-2 OH/MB, Sr., Warren, OH

The Buzz on Nia: Dynamic athlete who continued to improve during the 2013 season, earning AVCA All-America honorable mention honors.  With Katie Slay having graduated, the Nittany Lions will be looking for a big season from Grant, and the word is that if she continues to work hard and train at a high level, she can deliver.

Nia Grant's Career Blocking Stats

Year
Cl
SP
MP
MS
BS
BA
TB
B/S
BE
20133/Jr.11835331285970.8212
20122/So.124363691111200.9711
20111/Fr.117323213941070.914

Nia Grant's Career Attack Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
K
K/S
Att
Err
TA
Hit
Pct.
20133/Jr.11835332081.7664411.350
20122/So.12436362051.6552407.376
20111/Fr.11732321511.2944309.346

Nia Grant's Career Serving Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
SA
SA/Set
SE
20133/Jr.1183533230.1933
20122/So.124363600.001
20111/Fr.1173232130.1117

2013 (Junior):  Highlights for Grant in the 2013 season included:

2012 (Sophomore): Academic All-Big Ten; ranked second on the team in total blocks (120) and blocks per set (0.97); averaged 1.65 kills per set, hitting .376 for the season. 2

2011 (Freshman): Nia Grant debuted in impressive style in 2011 against USC (8/27), with 11 kills on 17 swings (no errors), and eight total blocks (good for second on the team). ranked second on the team with 107 total blocks and 0.91 blocks per set; totaled 151 kills with a .346 hitting percentage.

High School: Team captain at Howland High School in Warren, Ohio; named to Volleyball Magazine “Fab 50″; four-year letter winner in track & field.

Here’s Nia Grant being interviewed by Deja McClendon during the 2012 season:

 

Haley Washington#15 Haleigh Washington, 6-3 MB, Fr., Colorado Springs, CO

The Buzz on Haleigh: PrepVolleyball.com’s #1-ranked Senior Ace, Haleigh is a fantastic offensive player with a high contact point (reportedly touches in the 10’10″ range) and great energy. A good blocker and a player that will have lots of pressure to play out of the gate.

 

High School: Among the highlights from Haleigh’s high school career were:

Here’s a video from 2013 featuring Haley, her coaches, and her mother:

Kelly Robertson#23 Kelly Robertson, 6-0 MB, So., Allentown, PA

The Buzz on Kelly: Following a freshman campaign in which she appeared in three matches, Kelly will apply her solid work ethic to compete for playing time at the middle blocker position.

 

Kelly Robertson's Career Blocking Stats

Year
Cl
SP
MP
MS
BS
BA
TB
B/S
BE
20131/Fr.3300441.330

Kelly Robertson's Career Attack Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
K
K/S
Att
Err
TA
Hit
Pct.
20131/Fr.33062.0019.556

2013 (Freshman):

High School: Won four letters and served as team captain at Parkland High School in Allentown, Pa.; helped her team to three Lehigh Valley Conference Championships, three district championships and one state championship; All-State Tournament MVP as a junior; PrepVolleyball National Junior of the Year finalist and Senior Ace; Under Armour 1st Team All-American, Max Preps 2nd Team All-American; Mizuno 3rd Team All-American; Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year; earned Honor and High Honor Roll recognition at Parkland High all four years; a District XI gold medalist in the triple jump.

Here’s Kelly’s “Meet the Freshmen” video, courtesy of GoPSUsports.com:

 Heidi Thelan#19 Heidi Thelen, 6-2 MB, Fr.,Edgewood, KY

The Buzz on Heidi: A long limbed middle blocker that plays hard and is not intimidated by the step up in competition.

High School:

  • 2013-14 Under Armour Honorable Mention All-American;
  • AAU Nationals All-tournament team in 2012 and 2013 as a player with Tri-State Elite;
  • AAU All-America in 2011;
  • Kentucky Class AAA All-State in 2013;
  • Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association (KVCA) All State in 2013; and
  • 2011 and 2013 KVCA Region 9 Player of the Year.

Here’s a video of Heidi and her Notre Dame Academy teammates vs. Mother McAuley in the 2012 Asics Volleyball Challenge:

Libero/Defensive Specialist

Who's Back: Recept/Dig Leaders from 2013

#
Name
Class
SP
MP
MS
RE
Rcpt
TA
Rcpt
Pct.
Digs
Digs
/S
4Gonzalez,
Dominique
3/Jr.127360--571.9914163.28
18McClendon, Deja4/Sr.1263636--857.9813632.88
17Courtney,
Megan
2/So.1203534--466.9703012.51
12Hancock,
Micha
3/Jr.1273636--6.6672892.28
33Fuller,
Lacey
3/Jr.118360--271.0001411.19
Penn State
Total
n/a1273636492061.976180914.24
Opponentsn/a12736361662736.939163212.85

Dominique Gonzalez, Lacey Fuller, Kendall Pierce, Lara Caraway, Laura Broerman and Carley Muller all return from the 2013 team.  Joining them will be 5-9 RS Fr. transfer Skylar Dykstra and true Fr. 5-8 Lainy Pierce.  It’s a solid and deep group, and competition for playing time will be intense.

Still to be determined is how the graduation of 6-1 OH Deja McClendon (2nd in digs/set and 5th in blocking in 2013), 6-4 RS/Opp Ariel Scott (tied for 2nd in blocking in 2013) and 6-6 MB Katie Slay (3rd in NCAA DI in blocks/set) will affect the defense.  Those three (and their collective big-block) were integral parts of a defensive unit that allowed the fewest opponent aces/set of any Penn State team in the past 12 years.  Take a look at the table below for the year-by-year averages:

Ace Defense: Team Serve-Receive Stats from 2002 to 2013

Year
W
L
SP
Opp.
Aces
Opp.
Aces/
Set
2013342127490.39
2012333125970.78
20112581221130.93
2010325123960.78
2009380122650.53
2008380116710.61
20073421221140.93
20063231141151.01
2005313111790.71
2004293109860.79
20033151291210.94
20022581121141.02

As Head Coach Russ Rose said in the opening section, the staff and the 2014 team obviously have their work cut out for them. Here’s a quick look at the players who will be competing for back row playing time in 2014:

Dominique Gonzalez#4 Dominique Gonzalez, 5-6 L, Sr., San Antonio, TX

The Buzz on Dom: A team Captain in 2013, Dom is a calm and steadying presence on the court, with a superior first-touch on serve-receive.  Passing is a strength and her defense is solid.  Will be looking to build on a standout 2013 season, in which she led the team with 3.28 digs/set.   

Dominique Gonzalez's Career Recept/Dig Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
RE
Dig
Dig/S
20133/Jr.127360--4163.28
20122/So.125360194573.66
20111/Fr.84296101231.46

Dominique Gonzalez's Career Serving Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
SA
SA/Set
SE
20133/Jr.127360180.1435
20122/So.125360260.2134
20111/Fr.8429680.1021

2013 (Junior): Among the highlights from 2013 were:

2012 (Sophomore): Started all 36 matches at libero (125 sets); ranked first on the team with 457 digs and 3.66 digs per set; in the NCAA Tournament, she registered a match-high 12 digs vs. Kentucky (12/7), topped the squad with 20 digs vs. Minnesota (12/8), and totaled 22 digs vs. Oregon (12/13).

2011 (Freshman): 29 matches (six starts), totaling 123 digs for the season (1.46 digs per set).

High School: a PrepVolleyball.com “Frosh 59″, “Soph 79″ and a Top 100 Senior Ace (#70); Volleyball Magazine “Fab 50″; two-time All-Texas Team member; member of the National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society, Math National Honor Society and the National Society of High School Scholars.

Here’s a video interview with Dominique from 2012:

Lacey Fuller#33 Lacey Fuller, 5-6, DS, Sr., San Diego, CA

 The Buzz on Lacey: Plays fast, hard, with seeming disregard for life and limb.  Competes all-out for every point.  Passing and defense have improved each season. 

Lacey Fuller's Career Recept/Dig Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
RE
Dig
Dig/S
20133/Jr.118360--1411.19
20122/So11936121691.42
20111/Fr.6730013590.88

Lacey Fuller's Career Serving Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
SA
SA/Set
SE
20133/Jr.118360120.1018
20122/So.119361190.1618
20111/Fr.6730070.106

2013 (Junior): Among the highlights from Lacey’s Junior season were:

2012 (Sophomore): played in all 36 matches (119 sets) ranking fifth on the team with 169 digs (1.42 digs per set).

2011 (Freshman): played in 30 matches, totaling 59 digs (0.88 digs per set — seventh on the team); was second on the team with a career-high 13 digs vs. Texas (9/10).

High School: won four varsity letters at Torrey-Pines High School in Carmel Valley, California, as her team won the 2007 CIF Championship and the 2010 League Championship; 2007 Defensive Player of the Year; her club team won the silver medal at the Miami Junior Olympics in 18-Open in 2009 and finished fifth at the Reno in 18-Open in 2010; four-time Scholar Athlete.

Here’s an interview with Lacey from 2011:

Caraway, Lara#2 Lara Caraway, 5-4 DS, Jr., Evans City, PA

 The Buzz on Lara: A hard worker and competitor, Caraway will be looking to earn playing time as a serving specialist and defensive specialist. 

Lara Caraway's Career Recept/Dig Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
RE
Dig
Dig/S
20132/So.24210--60.25
20121/Fr.24160050.21

Lara Caraway's Career Serving Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
SA
SA/Set
SE
20132/So.2421010.043
20121/Fr.2416030.124

Lara Caraway, a 5-4 DS from Evans City, PA, won four varsity letters for the Mars Area School District (she was homeschooled), and served as the team captain. She earned 2011 First Team All-State honors and was a first team All-WPIAL first team selection, recording 291 digs during the 2011 season.

2013 (Sophomore): Among the highlights from Lara’s Sophomore season were:

2012 (Freshman): Played in 16 matches (24 sets) with three aces and five digs; debuted against Morehead State (8/24).

Here’s Lara’s “Meet the Freshmen” video from 2012:

Kendall Pierce#3 Kendall Pierce, 5-6 DS, Jr., Eden, NY

 The Buzz on Kendall: Nearly tripled her playing time in 2013 (appearing in 83 sets compared to 29 in 2012),and will be looking to improve on that showing in 2014.  Good teammate with a good volleyball IQ.

Kendall Pierce's Career Recept/Dig Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
RE
Dig
Dig/S
20132/So83340--210.25
20121/Fr.29181070.24

Kendall Pierce's Career Serving Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
SA
SA/Set
SE
20132/So.8334070.089
20121/Fr.2918190.316

2013 (Sophomore): Among the highlights of Kendall’s Sophomore season were:

2012 (Freshman): Played 18 matches (29 sets) as a serving and defensive specialist; recorded nine aces and seven digs, with two aces vs. Illinois (11/8) and two aces against Bowling Green (12/1).

High School: Won three letters and was a two-year team captain at Eden Junior-Senior High School in Eden, N.Y.; led her team to the State Championship three times; two-time All-WNY First Team honoree; MVP at State Championship in 2011; President of the National Honor Society and the Student Council.

Here’s Kendall’s “Meet the Freshmen” video from 2012:

Laura Broerman#24 Laura Broerman, 5-4 DS, So., Colorado Springs, CO

 The Buzz on Laura: Another hardworking kid who brings good quickness, coverage and defense.  Will be in the mix for playing time in 2014.

 

Laura Broerman's Career Recept/Dig Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
RE
Dig
Dig/S
20131/Fr.550--20.40

Laura Broerman's Career Serving Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
SA
SA/Set
SE
20131/Fr.55010.200

2013 (Freshman): Laura came up with a dig in her first action for the Nittany Lions in the 3-0 win over Syracuse on August 31st.  Also appeared in the 3-0 win over Florida Gulf Coast University on September 14th, registered a dig in the 3-0 win over Albany on September 20th, and tallied the first service ace of her Penn State career in the 3-0 win over Indiana on November 9th.

High School: Won four varsity letters in volleyball (10 total letters) at St. Mary’s High School and served as team captain in her senior year; four-year member of the honor roll.

Here’s Laura’s “Meet the Freshmen” video:

Muller#10 Carley Muller , 5-7 DS, So., Manhattan Beach, CA

 The Buzz on Carley: Brings experience, good passing and defense, and a nice feel for the game. Will compete for time as a defensive and serving specialist. 

 

Carley Muller's Career Recept/Dig Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
RE
Dig
Dig/S
20131/Fr.770--0--

Carley Muller's Career Serving Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
SA
SA/Set
SE
20131/Fr.7700--1

2013 (Freshman): Saw action in the 3-0 win over Syracuse on August 31st, the 3-0 win over Central Arkansas on September 14th, the 3-0 win over Florida Gulf Coast University on September 14th, and the sweeps of Eastern Kentucky and Yale on  September 21st.  Also appeared in the 3-2 win over #11 Minnesota on October 9th, the sweep of Iowa on October 26th, and the 3-0 win against Indiana on November 9th.

High School: A two-year team captain at Mira Coast High School, where she was named Bay League Libero of the Year after her senior year; helped her club team to third-place at the 17 Open division Junior Nationals and second-place at the Las Vegas Classic in the 17 Open division. Was on the honor roll in all eight semesters.

Here’s Carley’s “Meet the Freshmen” video, courtesy of GoPSUsports:

Taylor Krause#13 Taylor Krause, 5-6 DS/S, So. Allentown, PA

 The Buzz on Taylor: Can set, pass, and defend. Will have the opportunity to compete for a variety of roles as the season progresses.

 

Taylor Krause's Career Recept/Dig Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
RE
Dig
Dig/S
20131/Fr.10100--50.50

Taylor Krause's Career Serving Stats

Year
Class
SP
MP
MS
SA
SA/Set
SE
20131/Fr.101000--0

2013 (Freshman): Posted a dig in the 3-0 win over Syracuse on August 31st, her first match for Penn State.  Appeared in the 3-0 win over Florida Gulf Coast University on September 14th and the  3-0 win over Albany on September 20th.  On September 21st, recorded two digs in the 3-0 win over Eastern Kentucky and one dig in the 3-0 win over Yale.  Appeared in the 3-0 win over #24 Ohio State on October 23rd and in the sweep of Iowa on October 26th, when she posted a dig.  Also saw action in the 3-0 win against Indiana on November 9th, and played in her first NCAA Tournament match in the 3-0 win over LIU Brooklyn on December 6th.

High School: Taylor was team captain and won letters all four years at Parkland High School in Allentown, Pennsylvania. During those four years, Parkland won three Lehigh Valley Conference and district championships and one Pennsylvania state championship. In 2012, Taylor was named a Max Preps All-American, an Under Armour Second Team All-American and a Mizuno Third Team All-American.

Here’s Taylor’s “Meet the Freshmen” video, courtesy of GoPSUsports.com:

Dykstra, Skylar#9 Skylar Dykstra , 5-9 Fr., Redondo Beach, CA

The Buzz on Skylar: Skylar has good skills and comes from a volleyball family.  Her success will be based on her ability to get back into the gym and train.

 

2013 (at UCLA): Redshirt season.

High School: Started for four years at Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, California, where she earned First Team All-CIF honors, was named the 2012 California Gatorade POY, and was the #54 Prep Volleyball Senior Ace.  Her father, Jerry Joe Dykstra, played basketball at Western Illinois, where he set an NCAA record for consecutive made free throws that stood for 19 years, was drafted by the Phoenix Suns and played professionally in Europe.
Here’s a video of Skylar from 2012:

Pierce, Lainy#8 Lainy Pierce , 5-8 DS, Fr., Eden, NY

The Buzz on Lainy: A player with lots of experience at various positions, who will be counted on to serve, pass and defend.

 

High School: Played on four New York State Championship teams, was the New York State Class C MVP in 2013 and 2012, a New York Gatorade Player of the Year finalist in 2012, and played for Niagara Frontier on WEVA Regional Championship teams from 2008 to 2013.  Both Lainy’s parents were scholarship athletes at Penn State (her dad, Robert, Robert Pierce set the men’s volleyball team single-season service ace record with 47 aces, and held it until 2007, and her mom, Kiernan, ran the 800 meters for the women’s track team — anchoring the sprint medley to a 3:53.20 finish, which stands as the fifth-best in Penn State history).

Here’s a video of Lainy from 2013:

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