First Serve: Excerpt from the DigNittany 2015 Season Preview

We’ve managed to get our staff into gear, and they’re busy working on the DigNittany 2015 Season Preview, but it will be a few more days. In the meantime, here’s the opening section.

Micha Hancock
Micha Hancock

First Serve

Though Micha Hancock excelled in so many aspects of the game, it was her serve that generated the most media buzz and fan reaction (“boom”).  And why not? She ranked 1st in NCAA D1 aces/set in 2014 (best in the 25 point scoring era, starting in 2008), and she holds both the Penn State and B1G records for aces in a single season (126), and for career aces (380).  So trying to replace (or come close to replacing) her part of Penn State’s service game would be a very tall order, even if all the other top servers returned from the 2014 team.  But they don’t.

As shown in the table below, three of the top four servers from 2014  — Hancock, Dom Gonzalez, and Nia Grant — who were responsible for 169 of the team’s 243 service aces in 2014 (69.5%), have graduated.

So among the many “to do” items for Coach Rose in pre-season practice, is to retool the team’s serving.  Of the returning players, 6-2 So. OH Ali Frantti showed promise (28 aces), as did 5-6 So. DS Lainy Pierce (11 aces with 8 service errors).  Incoming 6-3 Fr. Opp/RS, Jelena Novakovic, reportedly has a very good serve (and, coincidentally, is a lefty).  But to expect her to replicate Hancock’s production is unfair.

Although we don’t know who will be Penn State’s top servers in 2015, we do know two things: 1) for the players, opportunity is knocking . . . loudly; and 2) Russ Rose has always emphasized serving tough.  There is no reason to think that the graduation of Hancock, Gonzalez, and Grant will motivate him to change his approach this season.

Who's Back or Not Back: 2014 Serving

 Name '14
Cl.
SPMP
(MS)
SASA
/S
SE
Not BackHancock,
Micha
4/Sr.12739
(39)
1260.99110
BackFrantti,
Ali
1/Fr.12239
(39)
280.2341
Not BackGonzalez,
Dominique
4/Sr.12739
(0)
260.2043
Not BackGrant,
Nia
4/Sr.12539
(39)
170.1434
BackPierce,
Lainy
1/Fr.6130
(0)
110.188
BackCourtney,
Megan
3/Jr.12739
(39)
110.0912
Teamn/a12739
(39)
2431.91291
Opp.n/a12739
(39)
610.48242