Q&A with Talking Head
Following Tuesday night’s 3-0 Penn State win over Ohio State (see Match Recap, below), we’re talking with Talking Head, a Penn State fan who both played the sport at the collegiate level and has been a coach for many years.
DigNittany: The past three weeks have seen a new lineup for Penn State, with 6-4 RS Jr. Aiyana Whitney at RS/Opp, 6-3 Fr. Haleigh Washington at MH, and 6-2 Jr. Megan Courtney (who started the season at RS/Opp) at OH, along with 6-1 Fr. Ali Frantti. It appeared to take some time during the previous three weeks for the players to become more comfortable with their positions and the players that were playing next to them. Focusing on just Aiyana Whitney, how do you think she’s doing now?
Talking Head: There seemed to be a collective gasp in the Lion Nation, as many fans wondered why Coach Rose was making a significant change to the lineup when things seemingly looked ok, but it is apparent to me now how right he was in his overall vision as to what was best for the team. After three weeks, the flow, chemistry and energy that the team is bringing on a nightly basis is electric and the past three outings (wins over The Michigans and The Buckeyes) confirm this.
Aiyana Whitney is putting together an All-American caliber season and is literally hitting at a higher plane than most everyone on the floor. To think that she has one more year to develop her gifts makes me giddy and must make into B1G opponents at least a bit nervous too. When given a good set, Whitney has become virtually unstoppable anywhere on the floor — and especially on the rightside.
What is impressing me even more is her ability to score now not only with her high seam shot but with a hard cross and a blistering line shot — which she has added to her toolkit on a regular basis in recent weeks. Good luck to opponents to defend this. Anytime you have an athlete with her size, movement skills and textbook arm swing, they are going to present serious problems to the opposing team.
Aiyana Whitney is on track to becoming one of the great attackers in PSU history, and if she continues to progress, can have a great pro career ahead of her.
DigNittany: 6-3 Fr. MH Haleigh Washington came to Penn State as the #1 ranked recruit from PrepVolleyball.com, but started out the season sitting on the bench due to an injury. She’s now playing significant minutes, and to our inexpert eye, brings quickness and skill that are very impressive in a true-freshman and appear to help her teammates perform better as well. Your thoughts?
Talking Head: “Live Wire” Washington is just flat out getting better and better every time out and just loves to beat the drum loudly with physical and mental presence that exudes confidence. I can’t even imagine how good she will be in three or four years. Haleigh Washington is a flat-out force who is now beginning to show an array of shots and angles that are eyebrow-raising. She is beginning to explore areas that most Middles just aren’t able to attempt. She is one of those Freshmen who wants to do very special things, and my bet is that she will accomplish her goals over the next four years.
DigNittany: Megan Courtney moved to the RS/Opp position at the start of the season, after having excelled at the OH position the previous two seasons – including having been among the very best solo blockers in the country. At times this season, she has appeared to struggle on offense, but she has continued to perform very well on defense. Now she’s back at OH. How do you think this move has affected the team, both on offense and defense?
Talking Head: It is pretty evident that Megan needed to work on her left side offense, but it is well on its way and it was a pleasure to see her take some nice rips at the ball against the Buckeyes and to transition better (instead of the one step snap roll). She ended up with a .250 average and 8 kills. But for me, the team’s greatest areas of development and improvement have been passing and defense. A significant contributor to that improvement, in my opinion, has been Courtney’s move back to OH. Megan has increased production in her block and defensive stats over the past three weeks, and that clearly is a major reason why Coach Rose thought the move would help the team.
Megan ‘s off-blocker defense has really helped the team — something Penn State wasn’t consistently getting from 6-1 Fr. Simone Lee (and that’s not a knock on Simone Lee — she’s a true freshman and that’s a tough job). Lee does, however, give the team that all-important physical presence off the bench — which I predict will come into play at some very crucial times later in the year. In addition to that, we’re seeing better movement and flow from 5-6 Sr. libero Dom Gonzalez and significant and crucial production from 5-6 Sr. DS Lacey Fuller, who have settled in very nicely with Megan in providing back row defense.
DigNittany: Anything else that jumps out at you from the Ohio State match?
Talking Head: If you watched the game, you saw that it was very well-executed and that 5-11 Sr. Setter Micha Hancock did a much better job locating the ball than she did last weekend. The team’s speed and energy was in 5th gear most of the match and OSU knew it was in trouble. All Penn State’s hitters were above .250, players were diving for balls into the stands and 50 feet away, confident smiles were on their faces and balls were being delivered with ferocious tenacity. That type of play leads every player and coach to want to play every day and makes them hungry for the next opportunity to show their stuff.
Last night, Penn State showed what kind of team it can be, and that is very exciting.
DigNittany: Thanks very much. We really appreciate it.
Match Recap: Penn State vs. Ohio State
GoPSUsports.com: No. 6 Women’s Volleyball Blanks No. 17 Buckeyes
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – No. 6 Penn State women’s volleyball (21-3, 9-2) recorded its 18th straight set victory of the season with a dominant 3-0 win (25-15, 25-22, 25-12) against No. 17 Ohio State (16-7, 7-4) Tuesday evening at Rec Hall. Senior Micha Hancock paced the offense to a .372 hitting percentage, tallying five kills on seven errorless swings to go along with four digs and a season-high seven blocks. With 31 assists, Hancock eclipsed the 5,000 career assists mark, making her the sixth Nittany Lion in program history to reach the milestone. With 5, 010 all-time assists, she is the first to accomplish the feat since Alisha Glass (2006-09).
Six different Nittany Lions recorded at least three kills in the win, led by freshman Ali Frantti, junior Megan Courtney and redshirt junior Aiyana Whitney, who all led the team with eight kills apiece. Freshman Haleigh Washington finished second on the team with seven kills on .462 hitting, while also finishing tied for first on the team with seven blocks, including a trio of solo stuffs. Senior Nia Grant also recorded a multi-block performance, putting up five blocks, while also serving up a pair of aces.
For the complete release from GoPSUsports.com, Click Here.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Despite a solid individual effort from Elizabeth Campbell, the No. 17 Ohio State University women’s volleyball team fell in three sets on the road at No. 6 Penn State (25-15, 25-22, 25-12). Campbell attacked .292 on 24 swings for a match-high 12 kills while digging eight balls defensively to pace the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes move to 16-7 overall and 7-4 in Big Ten action while PSU goes to 21-3, 9-2. These same teams meet again Friday night (Oct. 31) inside St. John Arena. First serve for the Buckeye home match is slated for 7 p.m. ET.
For the complete release from OhioStateBuckeyes.com, Click Here.
Match Stats (Courtesy of GoPSUsports.com)