12-2-16: NCAA Team Previews: LIU, Pitt, Dayton (Q&A with Talking Head)

untitledTo the chagrin of many volleyball fans from other schools, Penn State received the #16 seed in the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament (Click Here for NCAA Interactive Bracket), and thus the right to host the first two rounds, starting tonight at 7:30 p.m., when the Nittany Lions (22-9) face off against Northeast Conference champions LIU Brooklyn (16-14).  If Penn State wins, they will take on the winner of Dayton (30-1) vs. Pittsburgh (24-8) on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 6:30 p.m.

At the left are the matchups for the entire Nebraska Regional (which includes Penn State).  Below is the roster for LIU Brooklyn, followed by a Q&A with Talking Head, who previews LIU Brooklyn, Dayton, and Pitt.

LIU Brooklyn Roster

# FULL NAME POS. HT. CL. Hometown/Previous School
2 Emily Magee DS 5-8 Fr. Jacksonville, Fla. / Mandarin
3 Alex Larsen OPP 5-11 Sr. Cary, Illinois / Cary-Grove (Northern Michigan)
4 Natalia Rivera L 5-4 Fr. Cayey, Puerto Rico / Radians School
6 Nicole Hopton S 5-9 Sr. Chester Springs, Pa. / Downingtown East
9 Katharina Krepper MB 6-1 Fr. Linz, Austria / Georg von Peuerbach Gymnasium
10 Jiayi Zhang OH/OPP 6-6 So. Beijing, China / Sandy Spring Friends School (Md.)
11 Mengdi Zhao MB 6-3 Sr. Beijing, China / Beijing 101
14 Sonja Vukosavljevic MB 6-0 Jr. Belgrade, Serbia / The Sixth Belgrade Grammar School
15 Alexandra Lilliquist OH 5-10 Jr. Vero Beach, Fla. / Vero Beach (Indian River State College/FIU)
16 Filippa Hansson MB 6-2 Fr. Ystad, Sweden / ProCivitas Privata Gymnasium
17 Viktoria Fink OH 5-10 So. Vienna, Austria / Polgarstrasse
27 Amanda Hubbard S 5-10 Fr. Hillsborough, Calif. / Saint Francis High School




Q&A with Talking Head


DigNittany: So, despite it’s RPI of 26, the NCAA Committee awarded Penn State the #16 seed.  That stirred-up a whirlwind of outrage among a certain segment of volleyball fans, who argued (with some justification) that the Committee hadn’t followed its own criteria for getting into the tournament — RPI having been touted as a significant factor.  A counter argument is that Penn State was, unquestionably, one of the top 16 teams in the country, according to the Rich Kern Poll (#11), the Pablo Rankings (#5), and the AVCA Poll (#13).  Still, there is a case to be made that the Committee should abandon “regionalization” (trying to keep teams in some kind of geographic proximity to each other — a goal sometimes honored more in the breach than the observance) and instead go to a system where all 64 teams are seeded.  Your thoughts?

Talking Head: The quandary is distance and money.  We all love the direction that the women’s game is moving in terms of more resources, more funding, increased recognition by universities, and greater exposure in the media generally, and expanded coverage on television and streaming media — it’s getting into more living rooms.  But there are some serious financial hurdles to climb in order to justify flying 20, 30 or more teams all around the country in order to implement a 64-seed tournament.  There is a legitimate concern about finances that has to be taken into consideration.  That’s certainly part of the reason that Penn State is hosting despite its RPI, but I am in the camp that believes they truly deserved to host.  As you mentioned, the Rich Kern Poll (#11), the Pablo Rankings (#5), and the AVCA Poll (#13) all confirm that Penn State is well within the top 16 teams in the nation.  The 4th best team in the best league in the country this year, with the three teams ahead of them being the top-three seeds in the tournament.

DigNittany:  Your thoughts on LIU Brooklyn?

Talking Head: LIU Brooklyn has a nice player in 5-11 Sr. Opp Alex Larsen.  She’s their main gun, followed by 5-10 Jr. OH Alexandra Lilliquist.  Those two players get the most points for LIU.  Six of their 12 players are from foreign countries (plus one, Natalia Rivera, from Puerto Rico).  So it’s an international team, as we experienced in the 2013 Tournament.  Their Head Coach, Ken Ko, does a great job with the resources he has.  Looking at this matchup, you really have to take Coach Rose’s approach, in that you respect the game, and you approach every opponent the same way.  I’m hoping the Penn State players continue to build on their performances in the last three matches of the Big Ten season, which were really good.

DigNittany: Switching direction here, the setter position has been somewhat unsettled this season, with 6-0 Jr. setter Abby Detering being replaced on a few occasions by last year’s starter, 6-0 RS So. Bryanna Weiskircher.  Yet after the Northwestern and Illinois matches last weekend, Detering named Big Ten Setter of the week.  Your thoughts on how Abby Detering has been playing?

Talking Head: Abby played very well — and I’m not grading on a curve.   She played at a high level, and she set a good tempo fast ball.  I thought she made the right decisions, trying to force the middle when she could, and when the middle closed up because Illinois is so strong there with 6-3 MB Ali Bastianelli, she found our pins.  And alot of times it was with reverse flow — where the ball was going to one side of the court and Abby set it to the opposite side of the court.  That, to me, showed alot of control.  I thought her placement of the ball was good, and I thought our hitters timing with her was very good.  In my mind (and clearly in the minds of the Big Ten coaches), Abby made a big jump in the quality of her setting and her decision-making.  She continues to be excellent — and I mean excellent — from the service line.  Her ability, with just a slight left or right turn of the wrist at the last moment, is consistently catching people off guard.  I know she’s missed some serves, but not many of them were her first or second serve, they were her third or fourth or fifth serve.  I like where Abby is at right now, and I’m excited about what she may be able to do in the Tournament.

DigNittany: Your thoughts on Pitt? (Roster is below):

Pitt Roster

1 Markewycz, Hanna SO L 5-7 Oak Brook, Ill./Timothy Christain
2 Ellis, Adeline SO OH 5-11 Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley Northwest
3 Akeo, Kamalani SO S 5-7 Kapolei, Hawaii/Kamehameha
4 Horner, Emily SO MB 6-0 Mission Viejo, Calif./Providence
5 Watkins, Ellie SO S 5-9 Weldon Spring, Mo./Lutheran High School
6 Levers, Kylee FR S 6-0 Washington, Pa./Chartiers- Houston High School
7 Van Buskirk, Layne FR MB 6-3 Windsor, Ontario/Holy Names Catholic High School
9 Dreier, Alix FR OH/RS 6-1 Palm Desert, Calif./Xavier College Prep
10 Bell, Mariah JR OH 6-1 Moorpark, Calif./Moorpark High School
11 O’Neill, Kelsey JR MB 6-1 Skokie, Ill./Loyola Academy
12 Perosa, Avery FR L 5-7 Orefield, Pa./Parkland High School
13 Williams, Stephanie RS FR OH 6-0 Eastlake, Ohio/Notre Dame – Cathedral Latin
14 Potts, Jenna RS SR MB 6-3 Bernville, Pa./Xavier
16 Seman, Angela RS SO L 5-9 Cranberry Twp., Pa./Seneca Valley
17 Markovic, Nika FR RS 6-0 Braslovce, Slovenia/Gimnazija Celje-Center
18 Faki, Zoi FR OH/RS 6-1 Athens, Greece/The Moraitis School
28 Genitsaridi, Maria SR OH 6-0 Crete, Greece/11th High School of Heraklion

Talking Head: Pitt is a good team.  They are 24-8 with a 9-3 away record.  That means they handle the travel well.  We’re going to have to pay attention to whomever comes out of that Pitt-Dayton match.  In 6-3 Fr. MB Layne Van Buskirk and 6-3 RS Sr. MB Jenna Potts Pitt has two players who are hitting well over .300.  As a team, Pitt is hitting .259, which is respectable.  They have a couple nice wins — at Colorado State, they beat Santa Barbara, they beat Michigan, and they went 15-5 in their league.  So if Penn State gets to Round 2, and Pitt is the opponent, the Nittany Lions will really have to pay attention to the Panthers.

DigNittany: Thoughts on Dayton? (Roster is below):

Dayton Roster

# Name Year Pos. Ht. Hometown / Highschool
1 Megan Giardina R-Jr. S 6-0 Pickerington, Ohio / Pickerington North
2 Amber Erhahon Jr. MB 6-0 Albany, Calif. / Albany
3 Maggie Schutter Jr. DS/S 5-9 Dayton, Ohio / Centerville
4 Jessica Sloan Jr. OH 6-1 Marietta, Ga. / Walton
6 Brianna Pittman R-Fr. RS 6-5 Burgaw, N.C. / Pender
7 Julia Brown Fr. DS/L 5-6 Westerville, Ohio / St. Francis de Sales
8 Brooke Westbeld Fr. S/RS 6-2 Kettering, Ohio / Fairmont
9 Jordan Albarran Fr. OH 6-0 Yorkville, Ill. / Yorkville
10 Jamie Peterson Fr. MB/OH 6-4 West Liberty, Ohio / West Liberty-Salem
12 Jane Emmenecker Jr. S 5-10 Perrysburg, Ohio / Central Catholic
15 Kendyll Brown So. MB 6-1 Mechanicsville, Va. / Lee-Davis
16 Olivia Dubay Fr. MB 6-4 Lake Elsinore, Calif. / Our Lady of the Mountain
17 Sierra Pla Fr. MB 6-3 Macedonia, Ohio / Nordonia
19 Laura Hubacek Jr. DS 5-11 Fremont, Calif. / Irvington
21 Margo Wolf So. DS/L 5-8 Cincinnati, Ohio / Mount Notre Dame
22 Lauren Bruns So. OH 6-1 Versailles, Ohio / Versailles

Talking Head: Dayton continues to be good.  They are 30-1, very well-coached team, they were 11-0 on the road.  Their main gun is 6-1 Jr. OH Jessica Sloan, who took 300 more swings this season than anyone else on the team.  Her .212 hitting % isn’t great, but clearly she’s a point-scorer.  She scored 472 points on the season, and the next-highest was 6-0 Jr. MB Amber Erhahon, with 381.  Erhahon has a .420 hitting %, which is impressive.  They are a tall team [four players 6-3 or taller].  Both their middles do a pretty good job in terms of hitting % [6-4 Fr MB/OH Jamie Peterson hit .286, with 2.30 kills/set], and they hit .282 as a team.  They may be a bit middle-heavy, but Sloan is the player who will get the most looks.  Bottom line, any team that gets through a season with only one loss — I don’t care who you’re playing — that’s pretty good, and that’s something you better take note of.  And most of those wins — I’d say around 3/4 of them — were 3-0 wins.  Dayton is definitely a good team, not a cupcake at all.  Thankfully we’re at home, and if we can continue to build on what we’ve been doing, and 6-1 Jr. OH Ali Frantti can continue to step forward, and Abby Detering can continue her level of play, I think Penn State poses a real obstacle for whomever we run into.  I think this team can do some damage.

DigNittany: With that in mind, we’ll put our mental energy on tonight’s match with LIU Brooklyn.  Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us.  We appreciate it.