In the post-match press conference, after Penn State’s 25-17, 25-18, 25-19 sweep of Missouri on Friday afternoon, Missouri’s 6-2 Sr. Opp Kira Larson said that Penn State was “probably one of the toughest serving teams we have seen all year. They just knew where to put the ball and they put it there every single time and I think as passers, it was really difficult because they were moving us all around. Some were dropping short, then they’d hit us deep, and they clearly had a game plan to serve really tough and we struggled passing and that’s honestly what did it for us tonight.”
That, and some really good hitting by 6-1 Sr. OH Simone Lee (15 kills, .500 hitting %) 6-1 Sr. OH Ali Frantti (11 kills, .455 hitting %), 6-3 Sr. MB Haleigh Washington (9 kills, .500. hitting %), and 6-2 RS So. MB Tori Gorrell (5 kills, .500 hitting %).
Penn State hit .432 for the match, held Missouri to .212 hitting, and totaled 6.0 team blocks. 6-0 Sr. setter Bryanna Weiskircher recorded a match-high 24 assists, with 2 service aces and 6-0 Sr. Opp/setter Abby Detering registered 13 assists and a match-high 10 digs.
Penn State will face-off against Michigan State on Saturday night — the 18th NCAA Regional Final for the Nittany Lions.
Q&A with Talking Head
We’re speaking today with Talking Head, who played D1 volleyball and has coached the sport for many years.
DigNittany: What was your take on the match?
Talking Head: I thought the type of volleyball Penn State is playing right now, together with the atmosphere at Rec Hall, would be a little too much for the Tigers, and that certainly appeared to be the case in game 1. And all our kids came to play. Our hitting was so good. I thought Missouri played really hard, and never gave up, but I think we were stronger at every position and we played at a very high level today.
DigNittany: Right-sides 6-2 Sr. Heidi Thelen and 6-0 Sr. Abby Detering were fairly quiet against Missouri. Was that a function of how well everyone else was hitting?
Talking Head: I think our middles were outstanding, so we were going to get them the ball whenever we could. I think our passing seemed to go a little bit more line-drive, and I think that’s a tough ball to reverse to the right side. So the easier ball and the safer ball is to go outside. And Simone Lee and Ali Frantti were doing there job from the outside — Simone hitting .500 and Ali hitting .455. Why would you not set those players?
DigNittany: What did you think of the Michigan State – Illinois match?
Talking Head: I wondered with the travel affected Illinois — having to go out to the Pacific Northwest, and then come all the way back here to Pennsylvania. You can’t think that they were the sharper team. But hats off to Michigan State. I’ve thought all year they were the stronger team of the two. We’re going to have our hands full on Saturday night — it will be a real battle, just like the other two matches this season. They’re a good serving team. Lots of energy. They’re really happy with their win. But I think we match up well with them. We’ll see what happens.
DigNittany: Thanks for your time. We appreciate it.
Post Match Quotes
(Head Coach Russ Rose, Haleigh Washington, Simone Lee, Ali Frantti)
Opening Statement by Coach Rose
I would first like to congratulate Missouri on their season. To beat two ranked teams to get here is a great recognition of a strong team and program and we knew that we were going to have to play well to advance and I thought we hit really well. I thought our serving was good. We had some lapses in passing but I thought we had a good game. Certainly Ali [Franti], Simone [Lee] and Haleigh [Washington] did a great job attacking tonight. It was a good match, the ball was spread around pretty well and we’re thrilled about the opportunity to advance.
Q. What do you think was the key to the team’s success today?
HW: I think the service pressure that we had was really important and it kind of caught Mizzou off-guard and also made it easier for us to put the block out in front of them. So, I thought that our serving was really good and then I thought we did a really good job attacking as well, which is something we have been working on.
Q. Did it make it easier for you guys with the errors they were making constantly throughout the game?
AF: Yeah you know like Coach said, our passing could have been a lot better tonight. But, we got lucky with some plays and when we go to the elite eight we can’t have that happen. So, we have to clean up some of the errors that we’re making but overall, I thought the team did pretty well tonight.
Q. Do you think that key play in the third set here, where Haleigh went up with the kill and after you guys go on that run, do you think that was the key for the comeback?
HW: Somewhat, yeah. I think volleyball is a big game of momentum so when teams get momentum, if you can stop it early and then kind of steal those points back it’s big time. But I don’t think it’s just that one swing. I think we had a lot of big swings by Simone. We had a lot of big plays made by Ali and our back row people were digging balls so I think it was a combination of that, not just the one turning point, but you definitely see a shift of momentum with those plays.
Q. Was the serving a point of emphasis for you guys? You served very aggressive and they were out of system a lot. Was that a point of emphasis going in?
SL: I feel like you always have to serve tough, especially when you get into the tournament. I mean, it’s just something that we have to do and we work on serving every single day so we should be able to serve tough in big matches and we did tonight or this afternoon.
RR: I mean if you don’t serve tough, you’re going to be at the mercy of the other team’s offense. Nobody gets this far without having good offensive players. The impact of the serve was great. The most important component to this serving is we only had one service error. That was really the best part of the equation from where I was sitting because when you’re getting good pressure and not making mistakes, it certainly enhances your chances of being in the game point scoring. I thought we did a real nice job with that but they’re a very resilient team. They’re good, they’re relaxed, they play hard and Missouri didn’t disappoint from my standpoint. On the videos that I looked at of them winning last weekend, I knew they were very strong and they played matches against two teams that were top seeds, like we are, so they weren’t going to be altered by the fact that we’re a top seed. We needed to go out and play our game and not get caught up in anything other than doing the things we needed to do to be successful.
Q. At what point do you bring in a power hitter in terms of the serving? We saw Simone on her serve and the crowd was saying, “oohs” and “ahhs” and Mizzou was trying to get the heck out of the way when she served the ball. At what point do you bring that power serve in the game?
RR: I mean, I thought she had a great serve and they nailed it and ran a one-ball and I said, “we’re not doing that again,” so that was that. I thought she hit the ball well. Unless you have some sort of tail to the serve, unless you’re moving to a certain area, you’re just playing pepper from 60 feet away. We had a great server a few years ago and she could really put the ball with some sort of Bernoulli effect as they say. Simone’s (serve) right now, she just whacks it hard and she also had good impact with her float serve. I thought Lainy [Pierce] did a really nice job of serving. We’re going to have to get a couple more people coming in off the bench and serve. I’d like to get Nia [Reed] in there offensively because I think she can help us. So we’ll practice tomorrow, we’ll know who we’re playing and we’ll come up with a game plan against teams that we played earlier but everybody is hot at this point in time, so you’re playing people when they’re in the same mindset as you are.
Q. All three of you, has it set in that tomorrow is your last game in Rec Hall?
HW: Not really. It crossed my mind as we do a warm-up run around Rec and it crossed my mind. But the thought was, “I only have one more of these runs, thank God.” It is the final game that we will play in Rec Hall tomorrow and we’re hoping to come out with a positive result and end our career here on a high note.
Q. Heidi Thelen and Abby Detering were relatively quiet and your outsides had pretty big game. Was there anything connected there? Is it in their defense or is that just how it ended up?
RR: Well I mean, that would be a question for the setters. I thought we were setting more to these three individuals than the other three individuals that could’ve been getting the ball. So, part of it was they weren’t terminating when they were getting opportunities but, we would prefer to have a little more distribution.
Head Coach Wayne Kreklow, Sr. Opp Kira Larson, Sr. OH Melanie Crow
WK Opening Statement
Obviously, we are disappointed with the outcome. We knew coming in it was going to be a tough task. Coming in here and having to square off against the number one seed, but they are number one for a reason. They are really good. They have a lot of good players out there that do a lot of really good things and I think it’s a little disappointing because I think we all felt that we could have played a little bit better. I don’t think that was our best, but they had a lot to do with that. They did a lot of really good things. they served very aggressively, kept us out of system a lot, and just made it tough to mount any consistent offensive attack. We were playing defense a lot more than we were on offense and that’s always a tough thing when you are playing somebody that has the kind of offensive weapons that they do. I was really proud of the way that we battled. Even though at times we executed as well as we could have or should have, but I was proud of the season that these guys have had. Prior to the match, I all of a sudden looked at the date, December 8, and five months ago on August 8, we started and it’s a long, grueling season. It’s really tough for these guys trying to do this and go to school and juggle a million different things. It’s a tough thing to do and I am very proud that they were able to get into very elite company. There’s only 16 teams playing this weekend and we are one of them and they have earned it and just very proud at what they were able to do over the course of a long season.
Q. How tough was Penn State’s serves as far as letting you guys stay in system or get in the system?
KL: Honestly, I think that was probably one of the toughest serving teams we have seen all year. They just knew where to put the ball and they put it there every single time and I think as passers, it was really difficult because they were moving us all around. Some were dropping short, then they’d hit us deep, and they clearly had a game plan to serve really tough and we struggled passing and that’s honestly what did it for us tonight.
Q. How frustrating was it for you guys that you couldn’t get a sustained offensive run other than a small run in the third?
KL: Yeah, it was definitely frustrating and I think I kept looking to the girls and I said, “Ok, just one. Focus on one.” The problem is, it wasn’t the one, the two, and the three point runs that they would get. It was the five point, six point runs that were really killing us. We kept saying we got to stop these runs, stop these runs. We would make runs, but they would be too far in front of us to come back.
Q. Defensively, Penn State really didn’t have one big person taking a lot of swings. It seemed like all of them were getting success. How tough was that for you guys, defensively, to track those?
MC: You are going up against big people that are hitting hard and especially high hands. So, you can put a block up there and they are going to see that, and know to hit high hands. They are a number one team. They are going to distribute the ball well, and I think we definitely saw that tonight, but they definitely know how to use the block to their advantage and I think that what they did.
Q. Maybe an unfair question, but can you compare Penn State to Florida?
WK: If they end up squaring off, I think it’s going to be a really good match. Florida, I think is very physical. You got a 6’8 [Rachel Kramer] in the middle and [Rhamat] Alhassan in the middle. I think they have the physicality that would make it interesting. I think they are going to have to play well. I think anybody is to beat Penn State. You are going to really play well, they got two really really good physical outside hitters that bail them out a lot. When they get in trouble, you have two athletic middles. I was impressed with their bigs, I mean I call them bigs, but their bigs and their ball handling. I thought that was one of the differences in the
match. We were hustling and really working hard, we were keeping balls off of the floor, we weren’t getting the same quality of swings in transition I think that is the difference. If you don’t continually attack them, they just tee it up and then you are trying to defend everybody. I was impressed with their ball control for their size.
Courtesy of GoPSUsports.com