One thing I can assure players is that they may not always win, but they won’t lose because they are tight.
Head Coach Russ Rose prior to the Missouri match on December 8th
Side-by-Side Stats: Penn State and Michigan State
Coach Rose Comments: Michigan State Matches
October 31, 2017: pre-East Lansing Match
On facing Michigan State for the second time this season
The team that traveled the first week of the season, when they beat Wisconsin and Minnesota 3-0 on the road is probably the best play that any of the teams in the conference have put together. The match [in Rec Hall] was a very tough match, and we benefitted by being the home team in the same way I would expect them to benefit being the home team [on Wednesday night]. They have six seniors on the floor. They’re leading the conference in service aces. They have the #1 and #2 players in the conference in service aces. If we can do well in the serve-pass game, then we’ll have a chance, and if they run points against us like they did other teams, then it’s tough to come back.
Pre-Rec Hall Match
[Michigan State] is one of the surprise teams nationally. We’re tied with them. To this point they’ve beaten the #1 team at Minnesota and Wisconsin twice, who was ranked in the top-5 in the country. They start six seniors. Certainly, I would say they’re the most physical team in the conference. They’ve got a great setter. They’re a top-10 team for a reason.
Post-Rec Hall Match
I thought it was a representative match of two of the top teams in the conference battling it out. We knew that Michigan State was very good based on the results they’ve had to date, and they certainly didn’t disappoint with how they played and competed. I think they’re terrific. I’m really pleased that we battled back after a pretty meek second game performance. I thought Heidi Thelen played really well in that third game [6 kills on 13 attempts in the third game, with 1 attack error] and Simone Lee really turned it on in the fourth game [6 kills on 9 errorless swings], and Haleigh Washington was her typical efficient self [14 kills for the match, on 30 attempts with 1 attack error — .433 hitting %].
Talking Head Comments – Michigan State Matches
Pre-East Lansing Match
DigNittany: Turning to Michigan State. We slugged it out with them at Rec Hall. What do you see playing them in East Lansing?
Talking Head: We’ve had a history of playing pretty well at Michigan State and I think this team travels very well. That’s due in part to the preparation of the coaches, but it’s also that this is a senior-loaded team. They’ve got their studies under control. They clearly have a purpose. They clearly like each other. And they’re older — they’re 21 and 22. Those are all small things, but they add up. It’s a nice package to have going on the road, because that’s where championships are won.
DigNittany: What’s your prediction [for the match in East Lansing]
Talking Head: My prediction is very similar to Illinois. I think Michigan State is as good or better than Illinois, but I think we match up really well. In the first match, Abby Detering had a tough match offensively against 6-6 RS Sr. Brooke Kranda, but we were able to expose other areas. We really took it to their 5-10 RS Sr. OH Autumn Bailey. So I would say comfortably 3-1, with the caveat that we have to play well. There are no easy matches in the Big Ten.
Post-East Lansing Match
DigNittany: Penn State showed great resilience in the first game — down 19-22 and coming back to score 8 of the next 11 points, and win the game. That seems to be part of this team’s identity too.
Talking Head: For sure. A few things go into that. Serving is an important part. The pressure our servers are putting on teams is huge. Against Michigan State, even though we had 11 service errors, being on the road, going up against the home-court advantage and the home crowd, I think that’s acceptable. Michigan State actually seemed to play things a bit safe with their serve. I’ve seen a couple of their servers go after it a bit more with their serves than they did Wednesday night against Penn State. If you look at our serves, we were getting Michigan State out of system a lot. They were having a lot of trouble with Kendall White’s serve, and with Bryanna Weiskircher’s serve, and with Lainy Pierce’s serve. I’d love to have seen the stat that showed how many times we got Michigan State out of system, because I think that number would be very high.
DigNittany: In the fourth game, Penn State was up 13-6, then all of a sudden, Michigan State had run off eight straight points, and Penn State was down 13-14. What happened there?
Talking Head: At that point they had taken Simone Lee out, and point Keeton in — which normally would be a stabilizing move. It just didn’t work out. We had a couple of poor passes in a row, and a couple of poor swings. And give credit to Michigan State. They could have rolled over, but they didn’t. And maybe we got a little bit lackadaisical, or lost focus. It was one of those things that can happen in a volleyball match, where mistakes just compound. But the important thing is, we recovered. Coach Rose did a really good job — that may have been one of his best coached games — his timeouts helped change momentum, and his challenges were effective — even though they weren’t successful.
October 12, 2017 pre-Rec Hall Match
Dignittany: Michigan State comes into Rec Hall this weekend, giving Penn State another tough challenge in the very challenging B1G. Your thoughts?
Talking Head: Michigan State has nice size — in fact, Michigan State is bigger than Penn State — [it has] had nice wins, and [it has] put together an impressive season — especially with its wins over Wisconsin and Minnesota. Penn State will need to bring their “A” game . . . in order to defend the house. Having said that, [Michigan State] is [not] an offensive juggernaut. [But it does have] four offensive weapons who are dangerous — 6-6 OH/RS Brooke Kranda, RS Sr. 5-10 OH Autumn Bailey , 6-2 OH Holly Toliver and 6-4 Sr. MB Alyssa Garvelink. 6-2 Sr. setter Rachel Minarick is very good too. Michigan State is also a very good serving team, and in their big wins, they’ve done their job to keep their opponents out-of-system. I do think that we have more offensive weapons than some of the teams Michigan State has beaten, so I don’t think we need to be perfect with our passing against the Spartans, but where we have to be perfect is in free-ball or easier contact digs, so that we can get our middles involved. If we rely on a wholly outside and right-side attack, we’re going to be in trouble. Any opportunity where we can get them a little out of system, and get an easier ball, that pass has to be perfect, so our setter doesn’t have to move and has all her options available.
DigNittany: Michigan State is a power team — big and strong. How can Penn State deal with that?
Talking Head: From what I’ve seen, Michigan State is a team that thrives on quick points. They want short points quick, done, over. They’re big, they hit hard, they’re straight-on hitters, and they want to block some balls. But they don’t want to play the ball control game. They don’t want the ball going back-and-forth. They don’t want you to touch balls — they want the ball cleanly to the floor. The longer the rally goes, they get frustrated, and they’re going to lose points. But again, our players have to come in with the attitude that “I’m not going to get beaten in the front row; I’m not going to let this ball touch the floor.” If we can contest most of Michigan State’s offensive plays, we have a very good chance of winning against Michigan State. But if we let them get clean swings, and we don’t work hard on that first contact, and we give up on plays, then we’re going to be in for a long night.
DigNittany: Autumn Baily is a bit undersized, at 5-10, for a B1G OH. Tell us about her.
Talking Head: She’s a fun player to watch. Any time you see a kid who moves like that, and jumps like that at 5-10, it’s fun.
DigNittany: Thanks, as always, for your time. The DigNittany community appreciates it!