Check out the highlights from Tuesday’s media availability featuring head coach Russ Rose, freshman defensive specialist Jenna Hampton, and freshman right side Jonni Parker.
The ninth-ranked Nittany Lions return to Rec Hall for the first time in over a month Friday when they host Maryland at 7:30 p.m.
Coach Rose on Nia Reed’s return:
“I think Nia brings certainly a more physical presence to our lineup than when she’s not on the floor. She’s certainly more experienced and I just think she poses a physical presence — both as an attacker and as a blocker — that is much needed for this young group.”
Coach Rose on Gabby Blossom’s development:
“I think Gabby’s been making good progress. There are different lineups that we use at different times that gives her more opportunity to do things. I think there’s been times where she’s gone in to set, there’s been times where she’s gone in as a server, and there’s been times where she’s goes in as a defensive player. I think all of the above are positive things. She plays really hard. She’s got a good energy to her. I’m sure she’s the one person we would never put a microphone on [on the court].”
Coach Rose on the team’s balanced offense:
“I guess the positives, if one were to look at it from a sabermetrics standpoint, would be that you have fewer players in categories that would make them worthy of recognition. The upside, of course, to not having that would be teams don’t know which of the players is going to have a great match when everybody’s kind of at a lower level.
“I think the bigger question is, ‘What are we doing about hitting .100 percentage points lower?’ I would say the teams in Major League Baseball that are hitting .100 points lower than they did last year, their season ended weeks ago. That’s a challenge that we have. Rally-score games, there’s a high correlation with point-scoring. We have to find ways to generate points.
“The last couple of years, where we were hitting over .300 and towards the top in the nation in hitting, was a reflection of how good Haleigh [Washington] was, because she was always first or second in the nation in hitting. Our passing was great, and Simone [Lee] and Ali [Frantti] and Heidi [Thelen] all hit for high averages. Now, with this new group of people, I think Serena [Gray] and Kaitlyn [Hord] are starting to pick up their hitting percentages. The ability of our outsides to hit at the clip that some of the veterans did last year, that’s been a work in progress.”
Coach Rose on Maryland:
“I would say the one thought that has my attention is they beat Ohio State and Ohio State beat us. My thought would be that if we don’t play well and change some of the things that we didn’t do well when we played Ohio State, we’ll be in a match where Maryland will have the same opportunity to have success as Ohio State did.
“There are some things that you’re responsible for on your side of the net and there are some things that the other teams do. Everybody has a plan. Part of the equation is you want to expose the things you do well, hide the things you don’t do so well, and try and expose the things the other team doesn’t do so well. With a young team, there’s just not a specific level of consistency in their ability to do those things on a day-to-day basis.”
Jenna Hampton on reuniting with high school teammate Amanda Phegley:
“I love it. She’s a great teammate. She’s really fun to play with. She’s super aggressive and she works hard. That’s what I love about her.”
Jenna Hampton on the freshman class:
“We’re a really strong and powerful freshman class. I think what’s really special about us is how hard we work and how much we love the game. We’re getting better and that’s really good, too. We bond really well.”
Jenna Hampton on Kendall White’s mentorship:
“Kendall’s awesome. She talks to me all the time, which I love. Since we play the same position and she has more experience, she knows what to tell me. It’s been really fun playing with her. I feel like I’ve learned a lot from her. She’s a really good player-coach in a way.”
Jenna Hampton on attending Rose’s Juniata camps:
“Those were fun. What I liked about them was the camp is like how it is here. A lot of camps you go to, you just play and do the little stuff. They do workouts with you. You get to play with the players, which is really fun. It’s a lot different and that’s what I liked about it. It shows you how hard it is to be here and how hard you’ve got to play here.”
Jenna Hampton on growing up watching Penn State:
“I’ve always loved watching Penn State since I was in seventh grade. Then I came to camp and I knew right away [I wanted to play here].”
Jonni Parker on the lengthy stretch of road matches:
“It’s nice being able to play in our gym after being on the road for so long. The older girls have been really nice and helping us to adjust to the traveling, keeping up with school work and scouting reports and stuff like that. As a freshman, it’s kind of been a little bit of an adjustment. It’s exciting being able to try something new.”
Jonni Parker on returning to her home state to face the Buckeyes:
“I had a lot of family and friends there, especially friends from my high school, as well as teachers and other administrators like that.”
Jonni Parker on rooming with Gabby Blossom at the Under Armour All-America Match:
“It was cool, especially since we kind of knew each other, but since I committed late we weren’t extremely close yet. It allowed us to get closer and just talk about what the future would bring. It was a great time. She brings a lot of energy to the court no matter what she’s doing, whether she’s setting, whether she’s playing defense.”
Jonni Parker on playing with hearing aids:
“It’s allowed me to do different things. It’s allowed me to be aware of the court in different ways that most people don’t understand or see.”