October 8th Quotes: Coach Rose, Jonni Parker, Tori Gorrell, Serena Gray

Penn State women’s volleyball held its sixth weekly media availability of the season Tuesday afternoon prior to practice at Rec Hall.

Head coach Russ Rose, sophomore outside hitter Jonni Parker, redshirt senior outside hitter Tori Gorrell, and sophomore middle blocker Serena Gray fielded questions before a pair of weekend matches against Maryland and Ohio State. The Nittany Lions will wear their pink jerseys against the Buckeyes for their annual Dig Pink match.

Coach Rose on the team’s recent starting lineup:

“It really wasn’t a change in who the starting lineup was, it was just a change in who went in for whom. The rotation remained the same, so that’s really the only change. Jenna [Hampton] and Keeton [Holcomb] were still the two primary people going in. Macall [Peed] goes in sometimes and Emily [Sciorra] goes in as well. I’d be open to somebody else going in if they could serve and pass and play defense and make us better.”

Coach Rose on limiting errors and why stats don’t always tell the whole story:

“A lot of times, successes are based on doing what you do well and limiting the errors. Rally score volleyball is certainly one of the sports where that’s a real big factor, since there’s a point scored on every serve. But we’ve had matches where we’ve won the statistics and lost the match, and we’ve had some where we’ve been outperformed in all the statistical areas and won the match. Sometimes the statistics are all messed up because the stats are a reflection maybe of one or two games that were lopsided and they are just presented at the end of the match to make it look one way when it really was just one or two games that messed it up. Clearly we know the importance of how errors play into games. We were hitting over .400 against Iowa and the score was 21-19, so the fact that we were missing five or six serves a game is the same thing as Iowa getting five or six more kills a game. If you’re giving the other team five or six points, that makes the game close. If you’re serving really tough and you’re missing long, that’s one thing. If you’re serving the ball into the net or the bottom of the net, that’s a really bad reflection of the type of error that’s going to give you a chance to succeed.”

Coach Rose on what it’s like to coach while losing:

“The whole experience is disappointing. I’m not naive to the fact that losing isn’t an option every time you play because I’ve been doing it for 45 years, so therefore I’m not naive to think that there’s not two sides to the coin. But I always try to separate the fact that you really want to judge the effort. You really want to judge how close are people playing to their maximum effort. How close are they to playing together as a group and how are they communicating as a group? Because there are times you’re playing against people that are better than you and there are times when things are just out of wack and you’re playing your best but things aren’t going the best. You just have to hold your head high and keep battling out there. I would say my greatest disappointment while sitting there is when people lose their head and the rest of your body soon follows.”

Coach Rose on playing Maryland Friday:

“Luckily they’ve beaten us before, so we don’t have to worry about that being one of their calling cards. The Maryland coach, [Adam Hughes], spent a lot of years working with our program. He grew up in State College and is very comfortable bringing his team here and being here. I have great affection for him and his family. I think Adam will be really relaxed and will come here and his team will be relaxed. They’ll play really hard. They beat Michigan State and I’m sure they’re excited about beating Michigan State. Can Michigan State beat Penn State? For sure Michigan State can beat Penn State. Everybody in the Big Ten can beat everybody in the Big Ten, in my opinion. What you have to do is separate that there are 20 matches in the conference schedule. They all have the same value and you need to be ready to play. I’m not picking teams on anything, you know. I’m happy when Adam’s team wins because, as I said, I have a personal bias for Adam and his family.”

Coach Rose on whether Amanda Phegley will continue to play more:

“Yeah. I thought Amanda did a real nice job [against Iowa]. She’s getting healthier. She hits a hard ball and she’s quick off the floor. She provides a lot of instant offense for us, so yeah, we’ve been trying to get her into the lineup. So much of the challenge with Amanda is keeping her healthy. I’d like to get her in the game more, for sure.”

Coach Rose on defending Maryland’s Erika Pritchard:

“She’s really good. She’s one of the leading hitters in the conference. I don’t think you can get distracted when they do something really good, because they’re really good. You just have to recognize that the top players are going to get theirs and you have to have a game plan to try and get the points necessary that your team needs to be successful. She is a really talented kid, as is Katie Myers, who’s also another really talented player. I think they’ve got a number of kids with really good arms. I think it’s a really strong offensive team.”

Coach Rose on Penn State’s biggest advantage:

“I don’t know what our biggest advantage would be. If we’re healthy, I think we’re a good passing team. We have good strength in the middle. Our middles are good. I think there are other teams that have other areas that are stronger than [ours]. Every team is different. I think the top teams in the country and the top teams that we’ve had since I’ve been here have been strong in all areas, but it doesn’t really make sense to worry about what you don’t have in life. We have to get better at the things we need to get better at and continue to try and improve.”

Jonni Parker on hosting the Gallaudet Bison last Saturday:

Jonni Parker

“I think it’s awesome that they were able to come out and come to a game, especially a home game. Support from anybody is amazing, of course, but to see them there, it meant a little bit more to me. Their coach has always kind of kept in touch with me over the years and it’s nice to have a familiar face in the stands. It was awesome to be able to talk to the girls.”

Jonni Parker on limiting errors as a team:

“Going into this weekend, I think, as a team, we’re really focused on managing our errors a little bit better, but also not letting one become two. If we make a mistake, we’ve got to move on and keep our heads high. If we begin to kind of get in a slump or the other team goes on a run, we’ve got to maintain our composure and not get down on ourselves, but make sure we stay up and have the confidence to keep competing at the highest level we can.”

Jonni Parker on playing in loud environments in the Big Ten:

“Sometimes it definitely gets overwhelming, but I think just with the experience and everything, you eventually kind of get used to it. Sometimes it’s awkward if it’s not there. But at the same time, I feel like once you’re on the court you’re kind of zoned in to just that moment, too, with your teammates and your coaches, of course.”

Jonni Parker on playing with Gabby Blossom:

“I love her enthusiasm on the court. She’s always a go-getter. She’s like, ‘Alright, let’s do this. Let’s try this.’ Last year, too, being able to work with her, she was able to help me with different things. She’s definitely a good leader on the court. She definitely knows what to do. She knows how to be vocal with everybody and knows what each of us needs, especially as hitters. She’s always a good communicator. Gabby’s just very outgoing on the court. She’s going to be loud. She’s a very good, supportive teammate. I love playing with her on the court.”

Jonni Parker on what being a good leader looks like to her:

“Being a leader I think, to me, is not only being able to take care of yourself, but more importantly being able to help out your teammates and helping them succeed. I think it’s really important if maybe I’m not so much having a good game, I can still help my teammates and make sure they’re succeeding. Sometimes when Macall will come in for me, I’m going to try and help her the best I can and make sure she plays at the potential she can play at. At this point, we have a lot of young people on the floor, but we can’t be afraid to step up and make sure we all take that leadership role.”

Tori Gorrell on the best part of being a student-athlete and representing Penn State:

Tori Gorrell

“Just the great atmosphere and all of the great things that come with being an athlete. There’s so much support from the school, the faculty members, and even the professors are so willing to work with you. When I got to go to Europe a couple years ago and represent the Big Ten, I got to represent Penn State volleyball and that was a really amazing experience. Just being able to represent Penn State volleyball on a bigger scale is one of the most amazing feelings.”

Tori Gorrell on Penn State’s biggest advantage:

“I think an advantage is we have a lot of really young players and we’ve got quite a bit of depth. We can just have girls come in off the bench and add so much to the team. For me, being a senior, I feel like I get to teach the younger kids and that’s a really good opportunity for both sides to learn.”

Tori Gorrell on what she feels she needs to work on:

“Something I personally need to work on, after being a middle for my entire life and I’m now playing outside and right side, there are a lot of things that I need to work on. Every day you get to come into the gym and get better. Every game is an opportunity to prove that you are doing those things in practice. I need to work on everything because every day you can get better.”

Tori Gorrell on whether she plans to play professionally after college:

“I would hope so. My goal since I was 12 was to play professional volleyball and I knew that I wanted to come to Penn State because I thought it would give me the best opportunity after school to play professional volleyball.”

Tori Gorrell on younger players who are standing out to her:

“Obviously Jonni Parker always stands out. She’s such a great person and she’s so mature. She plays like a senior, which is amazing. Her leadership is really awesome. Kaitlyn [Hord] and Serena [Gray] are just such great hitters and blockers that they’re unable to be matched in any other conference, so that’s really awesome. I love watching them. I love all of our young players. Gabby [Blossom] is doing such a great job of being a sophomore setter and trying to lead the younger girls as well as the older girls.”

Serena Gray on Amanda Phegley’s performance lately:

Serena Gray

“I think Amanda is really starting to prove her position on this team. She’s working hard in practice and she’s just really trying to prove to Coach [Rose] and to the team that she can be relied upon and that she has what it takes to be on the court and be in those tough matches. Especially to go in not only when we’re ahead but during tough times, she’s still going to take a big swing, because she’s just that fearless kind of person.”

Serena Gray on the best part of being a student-athlete:

“I would say it’s seeing people in your classes who are volleyball fans and they’re like, ‘Good job on Saturday!’ Or they’ll start talking to you and talk about how they played volleyball in high school and you can relate to the other students. As an athlete, sometimes you’re a little closed off, so it’s nice to make friends.”

Serena Gray on what’s been working well so far:

“I think this season something that’s been working for me is just being up and ready for Gabby, because Gabby is a pretty ballsy setter, so she’ll set you from anywhere on the court. I’ve been very trusting of her knowing what she can do and I think just always being up and ready for the ball is something that’s really benefiting our team this season. Kaitlyn, too. She’s always up in the air and that’s really important.”

Serena Gray on what she admires about Haleigh Washington:

“I’ve talked to her a couple times when she visits. Just watching her play as a prep player when I was younger, just seeing her competitiveness and her fierceness for the game, she’s not afraid to cheer and get in her teammates’ faces and scream. I think that’s amazing how she can really pump up her teammates — not only by example but also by encouraging them through her energy that she brings onto the court. That’s contagious.”