UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The No. 2 Penn State women’s volleyball team return to Rec Hall for their home-opening tournament, The Penn State Classic, on Friday, Sept. 15 — Saturday, Sept. 16, where they will host Yale, Wake Forest, and Ohio.
Friday night’s matches will feature Wake Forest versus Ohio in the 5 p.m. match, and the Nittany Lions will face off with Yale in their home opener at 7:30 p.m.
On Saturday, PSU will open the day with a 10 a.m. match against Wake Forest. Ohio and Yale will face off at 1 p.m., and then Penn State will take on Ohio at 4 p.m. The Penn State Classic will close out with a 7 p.m. match as Wake Forest and Yale round out the competition.
Q&A with Talking Head
DigNittany: We’re talking today with Talking Head, who played D1 volleyball and has coached the sport for many years. So, it’s the opening home match of the season after three straight weeks on the road. Your thoughts?
Talking Head: It’s going to be a great weekend on campus — above and beyond the volleyball team. There are so many teams doing well for Penn State right now, and it should be great weather. So it should be a lot of fun. Looking just at the volleyball team, I think attendance will be very good, and the energy level will be high. I think the team is really looking forward to that, I think they worked really hard on the road, and I think they deserve a great welcome home.
DigNittany: The team is 7-0. The mood must be pretty good right now.
Talking Head: I think compared to the past two seasons, they definitely are more comfortable and definitely appreciative of coming home, being able to play in front of their fans, and really show what kind of team they’ve become. There’s been a lot written about the new 6-2 system, but going back to an interview we had in the Spring, Coach Rose is putting players in positions where they feel comfortable and have the best chance to succeed. And the team also is developing a real confidence in each other. So maybe something doesn’t work out the first time, or the second time, but they have confidence it’s going to work out because they’ve seen it work out in practice and in matches.
DigNittany: That does seem to be playing out in matches — two five-set wins, which definitely is better than last season.
Talking Head: Definitely. This season, there have been bad games, but there has also been serious resilience, because no matter what, the players aren’t afraid to keep doing what they were doing. Simone Lee is a great example of that. She may start out slow, but you just keep feeding her, and she just gets stronger, and stronger, and stronger. In the second match against Stanford, they hung with us, and hung with us, until eventually in the fourth and fifth sets, we just wore them down. And guess what, Simone Lee was a huge part of that.
DigNittany: Did we change anything up in those last two sets?
Talking Head: We really didn’t change anything at all. We didn’t flip rotations. We didn’t make a lot of substitutions. We didn’t even flip the dial on serve. I think the girls believe in their identity — this is who we are, now try and beat us. And different players are stepping up throughout matches to take the lead, which is really nice to see. Bryanna Weiskircher taking over a match with her serve. Abby Detering taking over a game or a match with her hitting. And a kid like Kendall White, who absolutely just keeps plays alive. And that’s who we are. That’s our identity.
DigNittany: You were very high on the coaching continuity prior to the season. Your thoughts three weeks in?
Talking Head: Our coaching staff is pretty darn special right now. You have a staff of veterans. They know who they are as coaches. The assistants aren’t looking over their shoulders to see if Coach Rose is questioning what they’re doing. Everyone is on the same page. And that includes the volunteer coach. Coach Rose has given this staff a bit of latitude — he trusts what they are doing, and the players trust them too. All three of these coaches (Associate Head Coach Salima Rockwell, Assistant Coach Craig Dyer and Volunteer Coach Dennis Hohenshelt) are head coach material. But selfishly, I don’t want that to happen. I want them all to stay here FOREVER! But let’s enjoy this season, and celebrate the coaching gold mine that we have.
DigNittany: Any thoughts on the opponents this weekend?
Talking Head: Yale has had a great schedule so far. They’ve beaten Clemson and U.C. Santa Barbara, and are 4-2. I’m really impressed with what Yale’s Coach, Erin Appleman (former Penn State assistant) is doing. She’s testing her players. Their losses are to two good teams — Arkansas and U.S.C. — so they’re right there. Looking at their roster, 13 out of 17 players are from California or Texas. So those two volleyball hotbeds are well-represented.
I’m really excited to see us play Wake Forest. They have a great coach in Bill Ferguson. I have a lot of respect for Bill. He was the head coach of the U.S.C. men’s team for several years, and one of the top junior coaches out in California. They’ve played a nice schedule so far. They’re coming in with a 7-2 record, so I think Bill is doing some nice things there, and it should be a fun match. Their top player to watch is #12, 6-2 Sr. OH Kylie Long. She’s averaging 3.67 kills/set and had two matches already where she had 17 kills and 18 kills, respectively.
Ohio comes in with a 6-5 record. They’ve beaten Oklahoma. They’ve beaten Marshall. They lost to Dayton and they lost to Georgia and Virginia. So they’re not a powerhouse, but they can be dangerous.
The great thing is that all three teams are coming in with winning records. I’d predict we win all three matches 3-0, and I expect us to execute at a high level. With the mature, experienced team we have this season, and the excitement they have for what they can accomplish, I don’t think the players on this team will allow us to have a bad game. I think they’re going to take care of business.
DigNittany: From your lips to the volleyball gods’ ears. Thanks so much for your time. We appreciate it.