Tuesday Quotes from Head Coach Russ Rose
On former players going into coaching
The fact that the players still have a passion for the game is one of the rewards that coaches feel when their former players go into coaching. I’ve been here for so long, we probably have 50 or 60 kids stay involved in the game, whether it’s at the high school, club or college level. I think it’s great that they want to stay involved in the sport. No matter what level you’re at, it’s a commitment of time, and you’re dealing with people, and it’s great they want to venture into that fray.
On being ranked #1 in the AVCA Poll
There have been four or five teams that have been there, so it’s not like I’m moving furniture around. There are five teams in the Big Ten that have been in the top 10. We’re there [ranked #1] based on a couple of factors. One of them is that the #1 team lost. Kentucky played great against Florida. Florida has had a terrific season to-date. There are a lot of teams that are really good, and there are a lot of teams that are good that on any given night can beat any of a number of teams that everybody thinks are the leading candidates [to win the national championship.]
I think it’s nice [being ranked #1.] I think the players might find some excitement in that. But it’s October, so it’s really not that big a deal. If it was your first time ever [being ranked #1], it would be great. Kentucky [beating Florida] — that was the first time ever beating the #1 team in the country. We’ve been beaten a number of times as the #1 team in the country. A different scenario [laughter in background]. Both of them are part of the process. I think the players might have a different twist on it than I do.
I just look at it as a lot of factors go into play. My vote — for me it was tough to vote, because if anything, I think I should vote us ahead of Stanford, because we beat Stanford twice. But that doesn’t mean I think we’re better than Stanford. We lost 3-0 to Nebraska. A week ago, I was voting Nebraska ahead of us, because they beat us. It’s fair to pick a team that beat you 3-0 ahead of you. But they lost [to Wisconsin at Madison.]
At least in our case, in our conference — and I can’t comment on other conferences because I’ve only coached at Penn State for the last set of years — this conference is really difficult. I expect there to be more and more teams winning and losing each weekend that may surprise people. It’s not a surprise to those of us on the inside that know that every team has good players, and every team is supported well and coached well, and will seize the opportunity, especially if the visiting team isn’t ready to go.
On the challenges of playing on the road
Every time we go to Purdue, it’s sold-out, so that will be Friday night. And Indiana plays in a smaller facility that’s always challenging. Then we’re home with Wisconsin, and then we’re at Illinois, and Illinois is one of the best teams in the country that is not ranked. The schedule is what it is. The coach is responsible for the pre-season schedule, the conference is responsible for the conference schedule, and the NCAA Volleyball Committee is responsible for the post-season schedule. I don’t waste time on the things I don’t control. We’ll do our best week-by-week and match-by-match to try to put game plans together and be ready to go.
On whether the road games at Texas A&M and Illinois helped prepare the team
I’m not sure. We could have lost in both of those venues. We could have lost to A&M — A&M was playing really well and we were pretty gassed after our four-game match with Stanford. The match at Illinois with Stanford was also very tough. They’re all good venues, to be sure. The Big Ten, as always, is leading the nation in attendance. You know wherever we go there’s going to be a pretty strong fan base. We have some older players, so I’d like to think they’ve been around the block, so they know what to expect. Hopefully, they’ll be ready for the challenges of being on the road.
On the team’s service pressure far
I thought we’ve had some matches where we served pretty well and we’ve had some matches [we didn’t serve particularly well]. I think we played a really good match against Michigan on Saturday. I thought that was one of our more complete matches — against a team that beat us the year before. Every team needs to have good service pressure because that can really cause you a lot of problems. So service pressure is on everybody’s scouting report against every opponent. So we’re no different in terms of coming up with a report that says “We need to serve tough.” We need to serve tough because we’re not a great blocking team. Illinois would be a team that I think is a really strong blocking team.
Every team has different strengths. We need to pass the ball well enough in order to get it to our key attackers, and hope that they can carry the weight.
On Simone Lee’s recent aggressive serving style
Simone came in and she had a good serve like that as a freshman. We’re asking so much of Simone as a hitter and passer and blocker, that [my concern is] having more pressure on her trying to generate points via her serve. There’s times in a match where I might ask her to go for it and there’s times where [we might ask her to go with the floater]. It was the same thing when we had Micha Hancock. Micha Hancock’s serve might have been one of the top serves in the country. But when she was standing on the ground hitting the floater it was still our second best serve. Simone’s a good server. When she’s really healthy and strong, we’ll give it some wiggle room to see if she can go out there and generate some points.
On whether the team is dependent on any one hitter
I don’t think we’re necessarily dependent on one hitter, but certainly if you can have more balance, you’re taking advantage of running a two-setter offense. If you’re going to run a two-setter offense and always set the same hitter, you might as well run a one-setter offense. We’ve had some matches where Ali [Frantti] has been terrific. I think last weekend was a really good weekend for Ali. I thought she played well in both matches. Certainly we need her to continue to do that. And I think Abby [Detering] has been playing well. She had a tough match-up with [Michigan State’s RS Brooke Kranda] Friday night, but everybody has a tough matchup with Kranda. Michigan State’s an incredibly physical team, and they serve tough.
Every weekend you’re going to deal with some teams that do some things that are going to challenge you. Purdue has the leading point scorer in the conference with Cutino, who’s leading the conference in kills per game. She was an All-Conference player at middle, and now she’s playing outside. She’s hitting balls that nobody on our team, including our staff, can replicate what she can do. And when the game starts you go “Oh yeah, that’s a lot different than you even said it was going to be.