By the DigNittanyVolleyball.com Staff
Thank You Ariel, Deja, Katie, Erica, Maddie and Maggie
“We all know it will be hard to replace the class that bookended their collegiate career with Big Ten and National Championships.” Penn State Head Coach Russ Rose quoted in Penn State Women’s Volleyball Booster Club Newsletter, Volume 24, Issue 2.
Bookend Championships -- 2010 to 2013
Bright Future, Hold the Shades
“The incoming class was recognized as the nation’s finest by both PrepVolleyball.com and Volleyball Magazine, and I hope they are right as we need to replace 10 years of All-American recognition among Ariel, Deja, and Katie, as well as the many contributions from Erica, Maddie and Maggie. Throw in an entirely new staff and it goes without saying that we will have our work cut out for us this season.” Penn State Head Coach Russ Rose quoted in Penn State Women’s Volleyball Booster Club Newsletter, Volume 24, Issue 2.
Well, Maybe Not an Entirely New Staff
OK, we’ll give Coach Rose that a lot of talent has graduated, and he had to replace his entire staff, adding new Associate Head Coach Salima Rockwell (pictured at left) who is starting her second stint as an assistant to Coach Rose, after having earned the AVCA’s award as 2013 Assistant Coach of the Year, and new Assistant Coach Stevie Mussie (pictured at right). But sharp-eyed fans will notice one very important returnee: Coach Rose himself. It’s safe to say, that’s significant. Here’s Coach Rose on the outlook for the B1G in 2014:
I feel the Big Ten is going to be very strong once again, with Illinois, Wisconsin and Nebraska returning the most starters from last year’s teams and everyone else, like us, hoping to replace veteran players with new faces. I think the winner this season will really have to perform well, as the conference schedule has some imbalance to it.
2014 Outlook by Position
Setting: Who's Back (Who's Not)
Other returnees on the roster who are listed as potential setters are 6-2 Jr. Megan Courtney and 5-6 So. DS/S Taylor Krause. Although Courtney is a dynamic athlete who certainly could play the setter position, she started the past two seasons at OH and we look for her to start the 2014 season at Opposite/Right Side. (We include her bio in below in that section.) Krause played in 10 matches as a true freshman last season as a defensive specialist, and will look to expand her role in 2014. (Her bio is included in the DS section, below.)
Although Coach Rose tinkered with a 6-2 in 2006 with Alisha Glass and Jessica Yanz, and last year during the pre-season with Hancock and Courtney, we think it is unlikely (though not impossible) that we will see this from Penn State this season. What will be seen is a highly competitive 2nd team, led by an intense Weiskircher, pushing the starters day in and day out for playing time. And, in contrast to 2013 — when we never saw Hancock come off the floor — we also expect to see Weiskircher sub in from time to time to give her experience. Quality depth will be a welcome asset for Penn State in 2014.
#12 Micha Hancock, 5-11 S, Sr. Edmond, Oklahoma
The Buzz on Micha: As Washington and Wisconsin learned in the NCAA Tournament, Hancock’s serve can be a game changer. Will be counted on to provide senior leadership as Penn State looks to blend the highly-touted freshmen with a solid core of returning players.
The 2013 season saw Micha Hancock continue her steady maturation as a setter and the improvement in her overall game. With Hancock leading the way, Penn State registered a .305 team attack percentage — good for first in the B1G and fifth nationally. She averaged 11.22 assists per set (oddly, exactly the same as her average in 2012), 1.02 kills/set (on .331 hitting), and registered 289 digs (fourth best on the team), and 74 total blocks (fifth best on the team). Here’s an interview with Micha at the 2013 AVCA All-America Awards Ceremony:
Micha Hancock's Career Set/Serve Statistics
Micha Hancock's Career Attack Stats
Micha Hancock's Career Blocking Stats
Micha Hancock's Career Dig Stats
2013 (Junior): NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player; AVCA 1st Team All-America; Volleyball Magazine 2nd Team All-America; Big Ten Setter of the Year; All-B1G Ten. Continued her record-setting performance from the service line, averaging 0.65 aces/set — good for 2nd overall in NCAA Division I and 1st in the B1G — which upped her career total to a Penn State career best of 254 service aces (breaking the previous record held by Ellen Hensler, who starred for the team from 1983 to1986). Other highlights from the season included:
- posting 45 assists and 13 digs in a 3-2 win at #24 Purdue on October 5th, earning B1G Ten Setter of the week honors;
- setting a new personal best with 67 assists, to go with four kills and eight digs, in a 3-2 win at #11 Minnesota on October 9th;
- leading Penn State to a hard-fought win at #19 Wisconsin on October 12th, followed by her second consecutive B1G Ten Setter of the Week award;
- totaling 48 assists (with five kills, an ace, nine digs and five blocks) in a 3-1 comeback win at #17 Michigan on November 1st;
- directing Penn State’s offence to a .451 team attack % in a 3-0 win at #14 Michigan State on November 2nd, followed by her third B1G Ten Setter of the Week award;
- breaking the Penn State career service ace record, and registering 63 assists and nine digs, in a 3-1 win over Northwestern on November 22nd;
- totaling 52 assists and nine digs, as Penn State clinched a share of the B1G title in a 3-1 win over #20 Illinois on November 23rd, followed by her fourth B1G Ten Setter of the Week award;
- leading Penn State to a tough 3-1 win over #10 Nebraska in Lincoln on November 30th, registering 49 assists, and nine digs, followed by her fifth B1G Ten Setter of the Week award in the 2013 season;
- helping lead the Nittany Lions to a comeback 3-2 win over Stanford on December 14th in the NCAA Tournament Regional Finals, with 58 assists and 15 digs;
- setting the Nittany Lions to a gaudy .488 team attack % in its dominating 3-0 win over Washington on December 19th in the NCAA Semifinals (adding 39 assists, five kills, and six digs and putting together service runs in the first and second sets that caused Huskie Head Coach Jim McLauglin to burn both his time-outs in those sets);
- came through with a clutch, match-ending service run in the fourth set, to lead Penn State to a 3-1 victory over #12 Wisconsin on December 21st in the NCAA Tournament Final, totaling 48 assists, five kills, three aces, 16 digs and two blocks.
2012 (Sophomore): AVCA 1st Team All-America; Volleyball Magazine 1st Team All-America; West Lafayette Regional All-Tournament Team; Big Ten Setter of the Year; All-Big Ten; Big Ten Player of the Week (9/3); Big Ten Setter of the Week (9/3, 9/24, 10/1, 10/22, 11/5, 11/19); AVCA National Player of the Week (11/6).
2011 (Freshman): AVCA Mideast Region Freshman of the Year; Unanimous Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection; Big Ten Freshman of the Year; Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week (11/14, 11/21, 11/28). Guided Penn State to a .267 hitting percentage (12th nationally); averaged 10.54 assists per set (sixth in the Big Ten).
High School: Two-time Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year; 2011 PrepVolleyball.com Top 50 Recruit and Senior Ace; member of the 2009 USA Junior National Championship All-Tournament Team; named to Volleyball Magazine’s “Fab 50”; Best Setter Award in 2010 USA High Performance International Championship Tournament; selected to the 2010 Youth Olympic Team; 2010 Under Armour All-American.
#21 Bryanna Weiskircher, 6-1 S., Fr., Loves Park, IL
The Buzz on Bryanna: A well-skilled and polished setter, with good location and solid awareness of the position. Weiskircher is smooth and confident and can be a great asset to the Nittany Lions — not only this year but well into the future. John Tawa of PrepVolleyball.com has described her as “a ferocious competitor oozing with Division I talent in every phase of her game.”
High School: PrepVolleyball.com’s #13-ranked Senior Ace (and a 2013-14 Under Armour First Team All-American and 2013 Mizuno Honorable Mention All-American), Weiskircher finished her senior season at Boylan Catholic as a three-time captain and team MVP, leading her team to a 32-2 record and recording 341 assists, 239 kills, 232 digs, 51 aces and 43 blocks. With Weiskircher as the setter, Club Fusion (which included fellow freshmen 6-1 OH Ali Frantti and 6-1 OH Simone Lee) won two AAU championships.
Here’s a video of Bryanna from October 22, 2011 in a match against Winnebago. In the video, Boylan’s Maddy Guyette makes a save from a Winnebago attack, and Bryanna (No. 1) ends the rally with a kill:
Gone from 2013 are 6-1 Sr. Deja McClendon, 6-2 Sr. Maddie Martin, and 6-2 RS So. Paulina Prieto Cerame. Add in the distinct possibility that 6-2 So. Megan Courtney moves to Opposite/Rightside (which is where we have her listed in this Season Preview) and it’s clear that Penn State has lost a lot of firepower at the outside hitter position. In fact, as reflected in the table below, if you include Courtney among the departed outside hitters (which we do — we think she’ll be at Opposite/Rightside), then Penn State loses three of its top four outside hitters from 2013, representing 764 out of a total of 806 kills contributed by the four leading outside hitters. As in 94.8% of the outside hitter kills.
Who's Back: Outside Hitter Attack Leaders from 2013
Another concern is the loss of the incredible defense McClendon and Courtney brought to the outside hitter position for last year’s National Championship team. As shown in the table below, that tandem ranked second and third on the 2014 team in Digs, respectively, by a healthy margin. When you couple that with their offense, it’s clear that the outside hitter position has lost an enormous amount of touches.
Who's Back: Recept/Dig Leaders from 2013
Joining Whitney will be three highly-touted freshman, all of whom are all listed on the 2014 Roster as outside hitters: 6-1 Ali Frantti (#2-ranked PrepVolleyball.com Senior Ace), 6-1 Simone Lee (#8-ranked PrepVolleyball.com Senior Ace), and 6-2 Nia Reed (#12-ranked Prepvolleyball.com Senior Ace). Of course, prep accolades do not necessarily translate to success on the court. Still, the cupboard is not entirely empty. Here’s a quick rundown on each of those players:
#14 Aiyana Whitney, 6-4 OH, RS Jr., Norwood, NJ
The Buzz on Aiyana: A very physical front row player who blocks and attacks at a high level, Whitney brings an intriguing combination of size and athleticism to a position of need for the Nittany Lions in 2014. Although she is listed in our outside hitter section, she is a versatile athlete who can play all three front row positions, and could see time at opposite/right side or at middle blocker.
Aiyana Whitney's Career Attack Stats
Aiyana Whitney's Career Blocking Stats
2013 (Sophomore): Whitney started three matches in 2013, and played in a total of 21. High points included:
- a six-kill performance in the 3-0 win over Syracuse on August 31st (.455 attack %), with three digs and two block assists;
- three kills and one dig in the hard-fought 3-0 win over then-#19 Wisconsin on October 12th; and
- two kills in Penn State’s fifth-set comeback victory in the NCAA Regional Finals against No. 7 Stanford on December 14th.
2012 (Redshirt Season): Redshirt season
2011 (Freshman): Whitney had some good performances in 2011 — 15 kills vs. Texas (9/10), nine kills on .353 hitting against Nebraska (9/21), nine kills and three blocks at Minnesota (11/4), 12 kills with only one error in 24 swings (.458 attack percentage) against UCLA in the Sweet 16. For the season, in which she played in 24 matches and 64 sets at outside hitter, she totaled 113 kills (.194 attack percentage), 14 digs and 25 blocks.
High School: Whitney was a 2010 Top-20 Prep Volleyball Senior Ace and a 2010 Under Armour/AVCA First Team All-American. She led Old Tappan to 25 straight wins over New Jersey opponents that season, which was capped off by Old Tappan’s first-ever state championship when it won the finals of the Tournament of Champions. 2011 New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year.
Here’s Aiyana Whitney’s “Meet the Freshmen” video from 2012:
#5 Ali Frantti, 6-1 OH, Fr., Spring Grove, IL
The Buzz on Ali: One of the top offensive players to come into the program in the past few years. Touching in the 10-5 range, Frantti has a great arm from both the front and backrow and has a smile and relaxed attitude that make her easy to be around. Brings a high level of compete, is a good passer and defender, with six-rotation potential.
High School: Ranked by PrepVolleyball.com as the #2 Senior Ace, Ali Frantti arrives at Penn State after a stellar prep career in which she was named a 2013-14 Under Armour First Team All-American, a 2013 Mizuno First Team All-American, and the 2013 Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year. All this after earning 1st Team All-State honors and Chicago Sun-Times All-Area honors in 2012. Frantti was Richmond Burton High School’s MVP three-times, and its captain two times. She helped lead Club Fusion (where her teammates included fellow freshmen 6-1 OH Simone Lee and 6-1 S Bryanna Weiskircher) to back-to-back AAU titles, being named MVP in 2012 and making the all-tournament team in 2013.
Here’s a link to a video of Ali (and Simone Lee and Bryanna Weiskircher) from the 2012 AAU Volleyball 16U Open Final featuring the Milwaukee Sting vs Fusion 16 Black:
#22 Simone Lee, 6-2 OH, Fr., Menomonee Falls, WI
The Buzz on Simone: Strong, physical net player — who touches in the 10-5 range — Lee has the ability to block at a high level as a freshman. Lee also could see time at rights ide/opposite
High School: PrepVolleyball.com’s #8-ranked Senior Ace, Lee was named a 2013-14 Under Armour First Team All-American, a 2013 Mizuno First Team All-American, and the 2013 Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year. She started all four years for Menomonee Falls High School (which won the Wisconsin WIAA state championship in 2011 and 2012) where she was twice named the team captain. Lee was a member of the 2012 (first-place at the NORCECA U18 Continental Championships) and 2013 (second-place finish at the FIVB U18 World Championships) USA Girls’ Youth National Teams. Her club team, Club Fusion, won two AAU Championships, while she was named four times to the AAU all-tournament team. A dedicated athlete, Lee drove two hours each way to Club Fusion practices.
Here’s a video interview with Simone Lee from 2013:
The Buzz on Nia: An imposing athlete with a great smile, Reed reportedly touches close to 10-9. She has all the tools and energy to develop into a terrific net player.
High School: The #12-ranked PrepVolleyball.com Senior Ace, started all four years at Immaculate Heart Academy, during which time the Blue Eagles won four consecutive non-public state championship titles. Reed’s coach, Maria Nolan, has stated that Reed may be the best volleyball player in New Jersey history, and some observers view her as having potential similar to that of former National POY candidate — and fellow Immaculate Heart Academy alum — Ariel Scott. Though it remains to be seen how Reed’s potential will play out in her college career, she certainly has earned her share of accolades, including 2013-14 Under Armour First Team All-American; Mizuno First Team All-American; New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year in 2011, 2012 and 2013; Star Ledger Player of the Year in 2011, 2012 and 2013; and Bergen Record Player of the Year in 2012 and 2013.
Here’s a video interview with Nia Reed from December 2012:
Opposite/Right Side (We know – Megan Courtney was an OH)
Who's Back: Opposite/Right Side Attack Leaders from 2013
Who's Back: Opposite/Right Side Blocking and Points Leaders from 2013
In 2013 and 2012, Ariel Scott was the go-to terminator for the Penn State Nittany Lions. Those days are over. A. Scott has graduated, taking her 3.33 kills/set (1st on the team), .82 blocks/set (tied with Nia Grant for 2nd on the team) and 3.76 points/set (1st on the team) with her. There are several players who will be vying to take her place, but our guess (and it is no more than that) is that 6-2 Jr. Megan Courtney will be there on opening day, so we’ve treated her as a “returning player” for purposes of the statistical tables above. Other players who may see time at the position include 6-4 RS Jr. Aiyana Whitney and 6-1 Fr. Simone Lee, both of whom are discussed in our Outside Hitter section.
Of course, all of this is speculation on our part, and Coach Rose may have something entirely different in mind. But until the season begins, we’re left with speculation.
If Courtney does end up at Opposite/Right Side, she’ll bring some different things to the position. For one thing, she is a better defender than Scott — and that’s not a knock on Scott. Courtney is a six rotation player. Scott was not. And, arguably, Courtney will provide better out-of-system offense than Scott, even though she doesn’t have quite as big of an arm.
6-2 Fr. Simone Lee and 6-4 RS Jr. Aiyana Whitney are both viable options here too. As mentioned in the Outside Hitter section, Whitney has seen time in previous seasons at all three front row positions, and Lee gained international experience at right-side when she was a right-side starter on the 2013 USA Youth National Worlds finalist team. Whether either of these players will see time at Opposite/Right Side for Penn State in the 2014 season remains to be seen. But at the very least, the fact that they seemingly are comfortable at multiple positions can only be viewed as a positive for Penn State moving forward.
Below is a quick rundown on Megan Courtney:
#17 Megan Courtney, 6-2 S/OH, Jr., Dayton, Ohio
The Buzz on Megan: Outstanding athlete with a terrific volleyball IQ, we have Courtney starting at Opposite/Right Side, but she could easily end up at Outside Hitter. As in 2013, she is one of the keys to a successful season in 2014.
Megan Courtney's Career Attack Stats
Megan Courtney's Career Blocking Stats
Megan Courtney's Career Recept/Dig Stats
2013 (Sophomore): Courtney came up big in some very big matches in 2013:
- posting a career-high 17 kills in the 3-1 comeback win at #17 Michigan on November 1st, to go with nine digs and seven blocks;
- registering 15 kills (.400 attack %) and 11 digs as the Nittany Lions swept then-#14 Wisconsin on 11/1/13;
- totaling 14 kills (.312 attack %), 12 digs) and four blocks in Penn State’s 3-1 win over No. 10 Nebraska on 11/30/13;
- posting a team-high 17 kills (with an eye-popping .556 attack %) in Penn State’s 3-0 win over Utah in its 2nd-round NCAA Tournament match on 12/7/13;
- totaling 10 kills and 14 digs in the NCAA Regional Semifinal match against MSU on 12/13/13;
- contributing 9 kills, 14 digs, and two key solo blocks in Penn State’s fifth-set comeback victory in the NCAA Regional Finals against No. 7 Stanford on 12/14/13;
- putting down six kills (with a .545 attack% — which on this night, was only 4th best on the team), nine digs and two blocks in the 3-0 sweep of #3 Washington in the NCAA national semifinal match on 12/19/13; and
- leading the team with five blocks, tied for the team lead with 20 digs, and added five kills in the Nittany Lions’ 3-1 win over No. 12 Wisconsin in the NCAA Finals on 12/21/13.
2012 (Freshman): In 2012, Megan Courtney was named AVCA Mideast Region Freshman of the Year; was a unanimous selection to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team and was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. She started 35 out of 36 matches at outside hitter, ending the season fourth on the team in kills (240 — an average of 2.00 kills per set), digs (237 — an average of 1.98 digs per set), and blocks (101 — an average of 0.84 blocks per set, including at least one block in 33 matches, and 27 matches with multiple blocks).
High School: In 2011, Courtney capped-off an exceptional high school career by garnering 2011-12 First Team AVCA Under Armour All-American honors and being named the #4 high school player in the country by PrepVolleyball.com. For the season, she registered 451 kills (.603 attack %), 426 assists, 316 digs, 52 blocks and 36 service aces. On December 14th, she was named the 2011 Gatorade Ohio Volleyball Player of the Year.
Here’s a video of Katie Slay interviewing Megan Courtney (if we see something more recent, we’ll replace this):
As a three-year returning starter, 6-2 Sr. Nia Grant is the odds-on favorite to nail down one MB slot (even though she is listed — as she was in 2013, and in 2012, and in 2011, as an OH). But with the graduation of 6-6 All American Katie Slay, competition for the other spot will be fierce. 6-0 Fr. Kelly Robertson returns, after appearing in three matches in 2013, registering six kills (on 9 attempts for a .556 attack %) and four blocks. And the much-heralded 6-3 Fr. Haleigh Washington will make her debut, as will 6-2 Fr. Heidi Thelen. Based purely on prep-rep, Washington — PrepVolleyball.com’s #1-ranked Senior Ace — would win this battle over Thelen — PrepVolleyball.com’s #61-ranked Senior Ace. But playing time isn’t won based on clippings or high school accolades, and Thelen certainly will be in the mix at the MB position.
Regardless of who ends up winning that competition, they will need to step up right away in the blocking department. As reflected in the table below, the three graduated seniors — 6-6 MB Katie Slay, 6-4 Opp/RS A. Scott, and 6-1 OH Deja McClendon — ranked 1st, tied for 2nd, and 5th on the team for Penn State in 2013:
Who's Back: Blocking and Points Leaders - 2013
The Buzz on Nia: Dynamic athlete who continued to improve during the 2013 season, earning AVCA All-America honorable mention honors. With Katie Slay having graduated, the Nittany Lions will be looking for a big season from Grant, and the word is that if she continues to work hard and train at a high level, she can deliver.
Nia Grant's Career Blocking Stats
Nia Grant's Career Attack Stats
Nia Grant's Career Serving Stats
2013 (Junior): Highlights for Grant in the 2013 season included:
- earning AVCA All-Northeast Region honors;
- earning AVCA All-America Honorable Mention;
- posting a .350 attack %, good for 5th in the Big Ten (second on Penn State);
- ranking 2nd on the team with 38 aces in 2013;
- tying her career-high of 11 kills in a 3-0 win at Northwestern on October 20, 2013.
- Again tying her career-high of 11 kills, this time in a 3-1 win over Northwestern on November 22, 2013;
- Registering four kills and four digs in the comeback 3-2 win over Stanford on December 14th in the NCAA Tournament Regional Finals;
- Totaling six kills, one ace, two digs and four blocks in Penn State’s dominating 3-0 win over #3 Washington on December 19th in the NCAA Semifinals; and
- Recording four kills, one dig and four blocks in Penn State’s 3-1 victory over #12 Wisconsin on December 21st in the NCAA Tournament Final.
2012 (Sophomore): Academic All-Big Ten; ranked second on the team in total blocks (120) and blocks per set (0.97); averaged 1.65 kills per set, hitting .376 for the season. 2
2011 (Freshman): Nia Grant debuted in impressive style in 2011 against USC (8/27), with 11 kills on 17 swings (no errors), and eight total blocks (good for second on the team). ranked second on the team with 107 total blocks and 0.91 blocks per set; totaled 151 kills with a .346 hitting percentage.
High School: Team captain at Howland High School in Warren, Ohio; named to Volleyball Magazine “Fab 50”; four-year letter winner in track & field.
Here’s Nia Grant being interviewed by Deja McClendon during the 2012 season:
#15 Haleigh Washington, 6-3 MB, Fr., Colorado Springs, CO
The Buzz on Haleigh: PrepVolleyball.com’s #1-ranked Senior Ace, Haleigh is a fantastic offensive player with a high contact point (reportedly touches in the 10’10” range) and great energy. A good blocker and a player that will have lots of pressure to play out of the gate.
High School: Among the highlights from Haleigh’s high school career were:
- 2013-14 Under Armour First Team All American;
- 2013 Volleyball Magazine Player of the Year;
- 2013 Mizuno First Team All-American;
- Two-time Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year from 2012-13;
- Leading Doherty to the Colorado State 5A championship title in 2012;
- Setting Colorado state record with 48 kills in a five-set win against Grandview in a rematch of the Colorado State 5A title match; and
- Team Captain of the Doherty Rockets’ in 2012 and 2013.
Here’s a video from 2013 featuring Haley, her coaches, and her mother:
#23 Kelly Robertson, 6-0 MB, So., Allentown, PA
The Buzz on Kelly: Following a freshman campaign in which she appeared in three matches, Kelly will apply her solid work ethic to compete for playing time at the middle blocker position.
Kelly Robertson's Career Blocking Stats
Kelly Robertson's Career Attack Stats
- totaled three kills and two blocks in a 3-0 win over Albany on September 20, 2013 in the Penn State Classic;
- posted three kills in a 3-0 win over Iowa on October 26, 2013;
- recorded two blocks in a sweep of Indiana on November 9, 2013.
High School: Won four letters and served as team captain at Parkland High School in Allentown, Pa.; helped her team to three Lehigh Valley Conference Championships, three district championships and one state championship; All-State Tournament MVP as a junior; PrepVolleyball National Junior of the Year finalist and Senior Ace; Under Armour 1st Team All-American, Max Preps 2nd Team All-American; Mizuno 3rd Team All-American; Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year; earned Honor and High Honor Roll recognition at Parkland High all four years; a District XI gold medalist in the triple jump.
Here’s Kelly’s “Meet the Freshmen” video, courtesy of GoPSUsports.com:
#19 Heidi Thelen, 6-2 MB, Fr.,Edgewood, KY
The Buzz on Heidi: A long limbed middle blocker that plays hard and is not intimidated by the step up in competition.
- 2013-14 Under Armour Honorable Mention All-American;
- AAU Nationals All-tournament team in 2012 and 2013 as a player with Tri-State Elite;
- AAU All-America in 2011;
- Kentucky Class AAA All-State in 2013;
- Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association (KVCA) All State in 2013; and
- 2011 and 2013 KVCA Region 9 Player of the Year.
Here’s a video of Heidi and her Notre Dame Academy teammates vs. Mother McAuley in the 2012 Asics Volleyball Challenge:
Who's Back: Recept/Dig Leaders from 2013
Dominique Gonzalez, Lacey Fuller, Kendall Pierce, Lara Caraway, Laura Broerman and Carley Muller all return from the 2013 team. Joining them will be 5-9 RS Fr. transfer Skylar Dykstra and true Fr. 5-8 Lainy Pierce. It’s a solid and deep group, and competition for playing time will be intense.
Still to be determined is how the graduation of 6-1 OH Deja McClendon (2nd in digs/set and 5th in blocking in 2013), 6-4 RS/Opp Ariel Scott (tied for 2nd in blocking in 2013) and 6-6 MB Katie Slay (3rd in NCAA DI in blocks/set) will affect the defense. Those three (and their collective big-block) were integral parts of a defensive unit that allowed the fewest opponent aces/set of any Penn State team in the past 12 years. Take a look at the table below for the year-by-year averages:
Ace Defense: Team Serve-Receive Stats from 2002 to 2013
As Head Coach Russ Rose said in the opening section, the staff and the 2014 team obviously have their work cut out for them. Here’s a quick look at the players who will be competing for back row playing time in 2014:
#4 Dominique Gonzalez, 5-6 L, Sr., San Antonio, TX
The Buzz on Dom: A team Captain in 2013, Dom is a calm and steadying presence on the court, with a superior first-touch on serve-receive. Passing is a strength and her defense is solid. Will be looking to build on a standout 2013 season, in which she led the team with 3.28 digs/set.
Dominique Gonzalez's Career Recept/Dig Stats
Dominique Gonzalez's Career Serving Stats
2013 (Junior): Among the highlights from 2013 were:
- Leading the team with 3.28 digs/set;
- Totaling 19 digs, two assists — and . . . a kill! — in a 3-2 win over #11 Minnesota on October 9th;
- Leading the team with 18 digs in the 3-1 comeback win at #17 Michigan on November 1st;
- Registering a team-best 11 digs in the 3-0 win at #14 Michigan State on November 2nd;
- Posting three assists and 24 digs in the 3-1 win over Northwestern on November 22nd;
- Totaling 15 digs in the comeback 3-2 win over #7 Stanford on December 14th in the NCAA Tournament Regional Finals;
- Tying (with Deja McClendon) for team lead with 13 digs in Penn State’s dominating 3-0 win over #3 Washington on December 19th in the NCAA Semifinals; and
- Helping secure the Nittany Lion’s sixth national title (and fifth in seven years) with 20 digs in the 3-1 victory over #12 Wisconsin in the NCAA Finals on December 21st.
2012 (Sophomore): Started all 36 matches at libero (125 sets); ranked first on the team with 457 digs and 3.66 digs per set; in the NCAA Tournament, she registered a match-high 12 digs vs. Kentucky (12/7), topped the squad with 20 digs vs. Minnesota (12/8), and totaled 22 digs vs. Oregon (12/13).
2011 (Freshman): 29 matches (six starts), totaling 123 digs for the season (1.46 digs per set).
High School: a PrepVolleyball.com “Frosh 59”, “Soph 79” and a Top 100 Senior Ace (#70); Volleyball Magazine “Fab 50”; two-time All-Texas Team member; member of the National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society, Math National Honor Society and the National Society of High School Scholars.
Here’s a video interview with Dominique from 2012:
#33 Lacey Fuller, 5-6, DS, Sr., San Diego, CA
The Buzz on Lacey: Plays fast, hard, with seeming disregard for life and limb. Competes all-out for every point. Passing and defense have improved each season.
Lacey Fuller's Career Recept/Dig Stats
Lacey Fuller's Career Serving Stats
2013 (Junior): Among the highlights from Lacey’s Junior season were:
- Averaging 1.19 digs/set (fifth-best on the team and second-best among the defensive specialists);
- Helping Penn State bounce back after it’s shocking loss to Michigan State on September 27th, totaling seven digs, an assist and an ace in the 3-1 win over Michigan on September 28th;
- Registering an ace, an assist and five digs in the hard-fought 3-0 win over Wisconsin in Rec Hall on October 12th;
- Posting one ace and three digs in the 3-0 win over #14 Purdue on November 8th;
- Coming up with six digs and one assist in the B1G title-clinching 3-0 win over Ohio State on November 27th;
- Recording eight digs in a 3-0 win over Utah on December 7th, as Penn State advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16;
- Recording eight digs in the 3-1 comeback win over Michigan State in the NCAA Regional Semifinals on December 13th;
- Setting a new season-best with nine digs in the fifth-set comeback win over #7 Stanford in the NCAA Regional Finals on December 14th;
- Posting a dig and an ace in Penn State’s dominating 3-0 win over #3 Washington on December 19th in the NCAA Semifinals; and
- Registering five digs in Penn State’s hard-fought 3-1 victory over #12 Wisconsin in the NCAA Finals on December 21st.
2012 (Sophomore): played in all 36 matches (119 sets) ranking fifth on the team with 169 digs (1.42 digs per set).
2011 (Freshman): played in 30 matches, totaling 59 digs (0.88 digs per set — seventh on the team); was second on the team with a career-high 13 digs vs. Texas (9/10).
High School: won four varsity letters at Torrey-Pines High School in Carmel Valley, California, as her team won the 2007 CIF Championship and the 2010 League Championship; 2007 Defensive Player of the Year; her club team won the silver medal at the Miami Junior Olympics in 18-Open in 2009 and finished fifth at the Reno in 18-Open in 2010; four-time Scholar Athlete.
Here’s an interview with Lacey from 2011:
#2 Lara Caraway, 5-4 DS, Jr., Evans City, PA
The Buzz on Lara: A hard worker and competitor, Caraway will be looking to earn playing time as a serving specialist and defensive specialist.
Lara Caraway's Career Recept/Dig Stats
Lara Caraway's Career Serving Stats
Lara Caraway, a 5-4 DS from Evans City, PA, won four varsity letters for the Mars Area School District (she was homeschooled), and served as the team captain. She earned 2011 First Team All-State honors and was a first team All-WPIAL first team selection, recording 291 digs during the 2011 season.
2013 (Sophomore): Among the highlights from Lara’s Sophomore season were:
- Recording an assist and two digs in a 3-0 win over Florida Gulf Coast University on September 14th;
- Posting two digs in a 3-0 win over Yale on September 21st;
- Registering a dig in the 3-1 win over Northwestern on November 22nd;
- Nailing her first service ace of 2013 in the 3-1 win over #20 Illinois on November 23rd, to help Penn State clinch at least a share of its 16th B1G title; and
- Appearing in Penn State’s dominating 3-0 win over #3 Washington on December 19th in the NCAA Semifinals.
2012 (Freshman): Played in 16 matches (24 sets) with three aces and five digs; debuted against Morehead State (8/24).
Here’s Lara’s “Meet the Freshmen” video from 2012:
#3 Kendall Pierce, 5-6 DS, Jr., Eden, NY
The Buzz on Kendall: Nearly tripled her playing time in 2013 (appearing in 83 sets compared to 29 in 2012),and will be looking to improve on that showing in 2014. Good teammate with a good volleyball IQ.
Kendall Pierce's Career Recept/Dig Stats
Kendall Pierce's Career Serving Stats
2013 (Sophomore): Among the highlights of Kendall’s Sophomore season were:
- Notching a dig in Penn State’s tough 2-3 loss to #6 Texas in the Nike Big Four Tournament on September 7th;
- Recording a service ace, as the Nittany Lions bounced back with a 3-0 win against #8 Florida in the Nike Big Four Tournament on September 8th;
- Recording three digs in the 3-0 win over Yale on September 21st;
- Posting two digs in the 2-3 loss to #15 Michigan State on September 27th;
- Notching a service ace and a dig in the 3-2 win over #11 Minnesota on October 9th;
- Recording an ace and two digs in a tough 3-0 win over #14 Wisconsin on November 15th.
- Posting three digs in Penn State’s B1G title-clinching sweep of Ohio State on November 27th;
- Totaling three digs in the 3-0 win over LIU Brooklyn on December 6th in Penn State’s NCAA Tournament opener;
- Recording a dig in Penn State’s 3-0 win over Utah on December 7th, as the Nittany Lions advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16;
- Appearing in the fifth-set comeback win over #7 Stanford in the NCAA Regional Finals on December 14th; and
- Playing in three sets in Penn State’s hard-fought 3-1 victory over #12 Wisconsin in the NCAA Finals on December 21st.
2012 (Freshman): Played 18 matches (29 sets) as a serving and defensive specialist; recorded nine aces and seven digs, with two aces vs. Illinois (11/8) and two aces against Bowling Green (12/1).
High School: Won three letters and was a two-year team captain at Eden Junior-Senior High School in Eden, N.Y.; led her team to the State Championship three times; two-time All-WNY First Team honoree; MVP at State Championship in 2011; President of the National Honor Society and the Student Council.
Here’s Kendall’s “Meet the Freshmen” video from 2012:
#24 Laura Broerman, 5-4 DS, So., Colorado Springs, CO
The Buzz on Laura: Another hardworking kid who brings good quickness, coverage and defense. Will be in the mix for playing time in 2014.
Laura Broerman's Career Recept/Dig Stats
Year Class SP MP
RE Dig Dig/S 2014 2/So. 18 n/a
0 3 0.17 2013 1/Fr. 5 5 -- 2 0.40
Laura Broerman's Career Serving Stats
Year Class SP MP
SA SA/Set SE 2014 2/So. 18 n/a
2 0.11 n/a 2013 1/Fr. 5 0 1 0.20 0
2013 (Freshman): Laura came up with a dig in her first action for the Nittany Lions in the 3-0 win over Syracuse on August 31st. Also appeared in the 3-0 win over Florida Gulf Coast University on September 14th, registered a dig in the 3-0 win over Albany on September 20th, and tallied the first service ace of her Penn State career in the 3-0 win over Indiana on November 9th.
High School: Won four varsity letters in volleyball (10 total letters) at St. Mary’s High School and served as team captain in her senior year; four-year member of the honor roll.
Here’s Laura’s “Meet the Freshmen” video:
#10 Carley Muller , 5-7 DS, So., Manhattan Beach, CA
The Buzz on Carley: Brings experience, good passing and defense, and a nice feel for the game. Will compete for time as a defensive and serving specialist.
Carley Muller's Career Recept/Dig Stats
Carley Muller's Career Serving Stats
2013 (Freshman): Saw action in the 3-0 win over Syracuse on August 31st, the 3-0 win over Central Arkansas on September 14th, the 3-0 win over Florida Gulf Coast University on September 14th, and the sweeps of Eastern Kentucky and Yale on September 21st. Also appeared in the 3-2 win over #11 Minnesota on October 9th, the sweep of Iowa on October 26th, and the 3-0 win against Indiana on November 9th.
High School: A two-year team captain at Mira Coast High School, where she was named Bay League Libero of the Year after her senior year; helped her club team to third-place at the 17 Open division Junior Nationals and second-place at the Las Vegas Classic in the 17 Open division. Was on the honor roll in all eight semesters.
Here’s Carley’s “Meet the Freshmen” video, courtesy of GoPSUsports:
#13 Taylor Krause, 5-6 DS/S, So. Allentown, PA
The Buzz on Taylor: Can set, pass, and defend. Will have the opportunity to compete for a variety of roles as the season progresses.
Taylor Krause's Career Recept/Dig Stats
Taylor Krause's Career Serving Stats
2013 (Freshman): Posted a dig in the 3-0 win over Syracuse on August 31st, her first match for Penn State. Appeared in the 3-0 win over Florida Gulf Coast University on September 14th and the 3-0 win over Albany on September 20th. On September 21st, recorded two digs in the 3-0 win over Eastern Kentucky and one dig in the 3-0 win over Yale. Appeared in the 3-0 win over #24 Ohio State on October 23rd and in the sweep of Iowa on October 26th, when she posted a dig. Also saw action in the 3-0 win against Indiana on November 9th, and played in her first NCAA Tournament match in the 3-0 win over LIU Brooklyn on December 6th.
High School: Taylor was team captain and won letters all four years at Parkland High School in Allentown, Pennsylvania. During those four years, Parkland won three Lehigh Valley Conference and district championships and one Pennsylvania state championship. In 2012, Taylor was named a Max Preps All-American, an Under Armour Second Team All-American and a Mizuno Third Team All-American.
Here’s Taylor’s “Meet the Freshmen” video, courtesy of GoPSUsports.com:
#9 Skylar Dykstra , 5-9 Fr., Redondo Beach, CA
The Buzz on Skylar: Skylar has good skills and comes from a volleyball family. Her success will be based on her ability to get back into the gym and train.
2013 (at UCLA): Redshirt season.
High School: Started for four years at Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, California, where she earned First Team All-CIF honors, was named the 2012 California Gatorade POY, and was the #54 Prep Volleyball Senior Ace. Her father, Jerry Joe Dykstra, played basketball at Western Illinois, where he set an NCAA record for consecutive made free throws that stood for 19 years, was drafted by the Phoenix Suns and played professionally in Europe.
Here’s a video of Skylar from 2012:
#8 Lainy Pierce , 5-8 DS, Fr., Eden, NY
The Buzz on Lainy: A player with lots of experience at various positions, who will be counted on to serve, pass and defend.
High School: Played on four New York State Championship teams, was the New York State Class C MVP in 2013 and 2012, a New York Gatorade Player of the Year finalist in 2012, and played for Niagara Frontier on WEVA Regional Championship teams from 2008 to 2013. Both Lainy’s parents were scholarship athletes at Penn State (her dad, Robert, Robert Pierce set the men’s volleyball team single-season service ace record with 47 aces, and held it until 2007, and her mom, Kiernan, ran the 800 meters for the women’s track team — anchoring the sprint medley to a 3:53.20 finish, which stands as the fifth-best in Penn State history).
Here’s a video of Lainy from 2013: