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?
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
Final Stats: Set/Serve Leaders - 2012 vs. 2011
Final Stats: Recept/Dig Leaders - 2012 vs. 2011
Final Stats: Blocking and Points Leaders - 2012 vs. 2011
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 PrepVolleyball.com, 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 10-21-15)