Allie Holland and Mac Podraza will share captain duties for Penn State women’s volleyball during the 2023 season, head coach Katie Schumacher-Cawley announced during her pre-practice press conference Tuesday at Rec Hall.
Schumacher-Cawley and her coaching staff didn’t formally name a captain during her first season in charge of the Nittany Lions in 2022, though they received ample leadership from setter Seleisa Elisaia and several others.
“I think Mac is a great leader,” Schumacher-Cawley said. “I think she knows the game well and is always trying to help players around her… I think Mac will create some opportunities for our attackers to score.”
Podraza, a fifth-year setter, and senior outside hitter Jess Mruzik, who has two seasons of eligibility remaining, were recently recognized as preseason All-Big Ten selections. Podraza was a unanimous pick by the conference’s head coaches, joining Nebraska’s Lexi Rodriguez and Purdue’s Eva Hudson. Big Ten Network’s Emily Ehman ranked Podraza and Mruzik as the third- and fourth-best players in the conference heading into the season.
Holland was a first-team All-Big Ten standout as a junior for the Nittany Lions last fall, flexing her blocking prowess against the conference’s top offensive threats and improving her own shot selection and scoring. She graduated from Penn State in three years this spring and is now pursuing her master’s in international affairs.
“I think Allie’s done a really good job of leading in different ways,” Schumacher-Cawley said. “She’s super competitive and she wants to win. She does what it takes in the weight room and in the gym to put herself in the best position. I think she had a great season last year, and it only motivated her to get better this offseason and preseason.”
Fellow starting middle blocker Taylor Trammell was complimentary of Holland when asked what stands out about the Hilliard, Ohio, native Tuesday before practice. Trammell and Holland are one of the stronger middle blocker tandems in the nation.
“Obviously, I love Allie,” Trammell said. “I think that last year she had a really successful season. I hope that this year the same thing happens… She’s a great leader, on and off the court. I’m just excited for the season, me and her, the duo.”
Holland and Podraza are both proud Ohioans who are continuing the Penn State women’s volleyball program’s strong tradition of acquiring talent from the Buckeye State. Podraza hails from Sunbury, Ohio, and arrived at Penn State as a three-time AVCA All-American and the defending Big Ten Setter of the Year. She helped turn Ohio State into a serious contender in the conference during her decorated career in Columbus.
Holland played for Hilliard Bradley High School and Elite VBTC on the club circuit, while Podraza represented Big Walnut High School and Mintonette Sports. Podraza spent the spring working with Mintonette’s setters and imparting some of her vast knowledge of the position.
“I’ve known Mac for a couple of years and played against her in high school, too,” Holland said at Big Ten volleyball media days. “Instantly on her visit, Mac and I just clicked. We’ve known each other, but not been super close. She came and I remember I called the coaches and I was like, ‘Yeah, Mac and I clicked.’”
Holland and Podraza’s connection appeared comfortable in Penn State’s scrimmage against St. John’s last Friday at Rec Hall. After months of waiting, they will finally have the chance to play a real match Friday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN+ when the No. 8 Nittany Lions face No. 11 Florida in the Road 2 Tampa Bay Invitational. They play No. 20 Georgia Tech the following night in another highly anticipated match on the same streaming service.
Podraza discussed what it means to her to serve as a role model for the next generation of girls and boys who look up to her and her teammates, saying it wasn’t long ago that she was the one admiring Penn State greats like Micha Hancock and Alisha Glass Childress.
“It’s kind of a surreal thing,” Podraza said. “I can remember looking up to girls who were in the Big Ten when I was younger, and now, I am one of those girls who’s in the Big Ten. It’s definitely a surreal feeling, and not something I take lightly.”