Penn State Women's Volleyball: Nittany Lions Take Aim at Returning to Top of Volleyball Mountain
A change in attitude needed to occur after last year. Penn State, the power that has transcended volleyball in the East, bowed out in the third round of the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament, an unsettling feeling for a program coming off its fourth straight national championship.
So, coach Russ Rose pushed his team harder in the spring. More running, setter Micha Hancock said, so that it knows how to fight through physical fatigue. Maybe more important, Hancock explains, was that it was done talking around the edges with each other.
“We got together and talked about hard things,” she said. “We have to dig deeper. We have to hold each other responsible. Showing up early, coming in for extra reps, saying, ‘Hey, you’re not working a lift. Pick it up.'
“You gotta be a little rude sometimes.”
It cannot be scientifically measured that such an attitude change directly results in a 29-2 record and No. 1 overall seed for this year’s tournament. Yet there’s no denying this is the position Penn State finds itself heading into Friday's opening round match against Binghamton at 7:30 p.m. at Rec Hall. The winner will face either Yale or Bowling Green at 7:30 on Saturday night at Rec Hall.
Likewise, there’s no denying Penn State is armed with the Big Ten Player of the Year (Ariel Scott), Big Ten Setter of the Year (Hancock), Big Ten Freshman of the Year (Megan Courtney) and Big Ten Coach of the Year (Rose) heading into the single-elimination tournament.
All of them decided to come to Penn State to compete for national championships. Rose, the architect of it all, made the choice more than 30 years ago and is a big reason why the players have followed. He does not deny that some programs have little chance of winning six straight matches this time of year. Penn State is no stranger to being included among the favorites. And last year's exit, early by this program's recent history, won't be forgotten as it shoots for a fifth title in six years.
"In some programs, if you don’t compete for the national championship, the perception is you’ve underachieved," Rose said. "That's it."
Such is life when playing at Penn State. That reality, sometimes, can be a little rude, too.