DigNittany Preview: Alabama

Here’s DigNittanyVolleyball’s preview of the Penn State Women’s Volleyball Team match with the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Active Ankle Invitational:

Time and Place: August 29, 2009, 1:00 p.m. CT at Chaifetz Arena. This on-campus facility seats 10,600.

Media Coverage: The match will be available on GameTracker.

Last Year

Penn State didn’t play Alabama last season. Alabama, which went 16-13 overall (9-11 in the SEC) did defeat Iowa 3-1 on August 30, 2008. That victory gave Crimson Tide Head Coach Judy Green 600 career victories. Iowa finished the 2008 season with a 14-18 overall record, going 6-14 in the Big Ten, which was good for 9th place.

The Skinny: Alabama

According to the Alabama Women’s Volleyball 2009 Season Preview, the “ongoing theme” for the Alabama Women’s Volleyball Team in 2009 “can be summed up in three simple words: Strength in numbers.”

We’re not sure we fully understand that theme (is Coach Green borrowing a page from the USC Women’s Volleyball Team, which, according to the 2009 USC Women’s Volleyball Team Preview, returns 13 of 16 starters from the 2008 season? [Note to PacTen Officials: In 2009, carefully count the number of USC players on the court at any one time.]

Actually, the answer appears to have more to do with cohesiveness and team chemistry than with actual numbers of players (perhaps we should have known that from the beginning).

As Coach Green explains: “This team’s commitment to having oneness as a group and its evolving commitment for the team to be as successful as it can be is definitely stronger than in the past.” She also says the 2009 team “is more competitive in team situations than in individual situations. That’s a great benefit because we all know having solid team chemistry is a characteristic of any championship team.”

The 2009 team “is more competitive in team situations than in individual situations”?

We’re sure that’s CoachSpeak for something meaningful about the importance of teamwork and determination. Beyond that, we’re not going to speculate.

The Crimson Tide returns eight letterwinners from last season, including Seniors Brooks Webster (6-0 OH), Elizabeth Salstrand (6-3 RS), and Jennifer Weber (5-6 L/DS). Green also is looking for continued improvement from last year’s freshmen — Ashley Frazier (6-1 OH), Leigh Moyer (6-2 MB), and Stephanie Riley (5-7 S) — and for significant contributions from junior college transfer Kayla Schmidt (5-10 Jr. S).

Coach Green is particularly upbeat regarding the Tide’s incoming freshman class, which was ranked #27 by PrepVolleyball.com. Two members of that class — Kelsey Anderson (5-8 L/DS) and Kayla Fitterer (6-0 OH) — were PrepVolleyball.com High School All-Americans.

Alabama has talent. The question is whether it has enough talent to compete successfully against this year’s Penn State squad. The Nittany Lions will be favored, but could find themselves in trouble if they view the match as an opportunity to rest up for their evening match against St. Louis.

The Skinny: Penn State

This will be the second match of the 2009 Season for the Nittany Lions. They’ll be favored, but they can’t afford to look past the Crimson Tide to the evening match against St. Louis University.

Here’s Penn State’s 2009 Roster

The Coaches

Alabama: Alabama Head Coach Judy Green is heading into her 14th season leading the Crimson Tide. After consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in 2005, 2006 and 2007, 2008 was a disappointment. However, she continues to strive to make Alabama a perennial challenger for the SEC crown, and hopes her recent recruiting success will help her achieve that goal.

Penn State: Russ Rose begins his 31st year as Penn State’s Head Coach. He has been named the AVCA National Coach of the Year four times — 1990, 1997, 2007 and 2008 (more than any other Division I coach) — is a member of the AVCA Hall of Fame, and is one of only three coaches in the history of NCAA Division I women’s volleyball to win over 900 matches.

The Mascots

Penn State: The Nittany Lion

Here’s the Nittany Lion dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller:

Alabama: Big Al

Here’s Alabama’s mascot, Big Al, doing the Hokey Pokey:

Hokey Pokey? Thriller? Sorry Big Al, the sauve and debonair Nittany Lion comes out on top!