Weekend in Haiku
Turtle-slow first set
Lions prowl in 2, 3 4
Ugly wins count too
Upset win for Geoff
Lions testify again
No taking the fifth
Q&A with Talking Head
DigNittany: We’re talking today with Talking Head, who played D1 volleyball and has coached for many years. After grabbing a win against the Maryland Terps on Friday night, 3-1 (21-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-18), Penn State traveled to Ohio State last evening with high hopes for a weekend sweep. It was not to be, as the Nittany Lions dropped a tough 2-3 loss to the Buckeyes (23-25, 25-15, 25-19, 22-25, 16-18) in St. John Arena. Once again, Penn State had trouble on the road against a quality opponent, and had trouble closing out a match. Before we get into specifics, what are your general thoughts about the team and where it stands?
Talking Head: Even though they lost Saturday night, the team played a little bit better, a little cleaner, against Ohio State than it did against Maryland on Friday night, but not nearly where it needs to be. It’s difficult to point to one single thing, but it seems as though the team’s confidence and swagger, if you will, has dropped off in the last couple of weeks. And that’s confidence from the serving line, confidence in passing, confidence in setting, and confidence from several of the hitters. What that translates into is hesitation, which with the high speed that the game is played at this level, is a problem.
DigNittany: Leaving aside the talents of specific players — for example, National Player of the Year setter Micha Hancock was obviously a great, great player, and it would be unfair to hold her up as the standard of comparison for this year’s setters, Abby Detering and Bryanna Weiskircher — what would be the one thing that in your mind distinguishes this team from, say, the 2013 and 2014 NCAA Championship teams?
Talking Head: A big difference is on the 2013 team, you had players like Paulin Prieto Cerame and Aiyana Whitney coming off the bench if a starter was going through a rough patch or needed a breather. And on the 2014 team you had Simone Lee. This year, no front row player has really established themselves as someone who can come off the bench and provide the spark when it’s needed. It’s somewhat analogous to baseball, where a team would be hard-pressed to win a playoff series if it had no relief pitchers and no pinch hitters. It might win a game or two, but for a series? That team would have problems.
DigNittany: With six NCAA championships from 2007 to 2014, Coach Rose set a standard of success that may never be equaled (though never is a very, very long time). Some casual fans have been highly critical of the team’s performance this season and last, although prior to Saturday night’s loss to Ohio State, the Nittany Lions were ranked #10 in the country — a ranking also achieved by the Penn State football, which has sent the football fans over-the-moon. Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, we favor the argument that Coach Rose and his staff have done a good to very good job of coaching. Your thoughts?
Talking Head: Given the lack of an established RS/Opp, with the lack of impact front-row players on the bench, with the question marks surrounding the setter position, I think that’s a fair statement. I think many of us knew, deep down, that this was a team that was going to have to overachieve, that to enjoy season-long success, they would have to play above themselves all year long. And that is a really tall task for any coaching staff. But having said that, there are still four matches to go in the season. There’s time for Penn State to get its swagger going again, and to play with confidence. If they can do that, they’ll be OK. I like this team. I am confident they all work very, very hard. I know one thing for sure: no team will look on this group of Penn State players as a pushover in the NCAA tournament. They have weaknesses, but if they get hot, they can do some real damage come December.
DigNittany: Thanks very much. We appreciate your time.
- The image for Talking Head is by Dan Dailey Studios, of a work by Dan Dailey (glass artist). This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
- The Poetess Sagami, attributed to Tosa Mitsuoki, 17th century, ink and color on silk, Dayton Art Institute. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.