October 22nd Quotes: Coach Rose, Kaitlyn Hord, Keeton Holcomb

Penn State women’s volleyball held its eighth weekly media availability of the season Tuesday afternoon prior to practice at Rec Hall.

Head coach Russ Rose, sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord, and senior defensive specialist Keeton Holcomb fielded questions before a Wednesday night home match against No. 17 Illinois. An interesting tidbit: Gabi Bailey and Lauren Clark showed up early for practice and got about an hour of extra swings in courtesy of Gabby Blossom.

Coach Rose on the passing of longtime Big Ten volleyball coach Mike Hebert:

“Forty years of memories — from when I first came to Penn State in 1979 and he was working with the men’s and women’s teams at Pitt. I’ve had a lot of interactions with Mike over the years. I consider him a good friend. He was a great mentor for coaches — young coaches and veteran coaches. The young people that he coached and interacted with are very, very bright, very articulate, very caring. It’s a terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”

Coach Rose on how Penn State stacks up so far in the Big Ten:

“So much of how you look at the first four weeks of a 10-week schedule, you compartmentalize by looking at how does one’s schedule shake out. Are you playing most of your matches at home or on the road? Are you playing most of your matches against the veteran teams versus the more inexperienced teams. Or the teams that are expected to challenge at the top versus some of the teams that are more similar to your own. Certainly I would say Wisconsin with their early performances by beating us, Nebraska at Nebraska, Minnesota, and Illinois have certainly identified that they’re playing at the highest level at this point in time. But I’ve seen Nebraska on TV a few times and they looked very good the last few matches I’ve seen. I think Illinois is very good. In fact, the last match where they went five games with Wisconsin is a great indication of how well they’re playing. They went four and four with Minnesota, so I think Illinois is a very good team. They went to the Final Four last year. They’re a veteran team with one of the top outside hitters in the country in Jacqueline Quade. I think the top three or four teams are probably as predicted. My pick at the beginning of the year was I thought Wisconsin was the team to beat in the conference. I could be wrong, but after the first four weeks I would say that’s still how I would see it, but injuries and other things can play into how seasons play themselves out.”

Coach Rose on what stands out about Illinois:

“They’re a really aggressive serving team. When they’re getting the impact of their serve, their block is good. They’ve got really good size. I thought their block last year was one of the top blocks in the conference. They graduated [Ali] Bastianelli, who was one of the top players, but I thought the other middle last year had a better year. They graduated a setter. [Jordyn] Poulter went to the national team and is making a great impact with USA volleyball. You don’t just move on and pretend like you didn’t lose one of the top setters in the country, but the fact that they have all the other hitters returning certainly allows them to be in system and do a lot of the things that they’ve done previously. Their hitting percentages are down because Poulter was terrific, and certainly Bastianelli always hit for a really high hitting percentage. For us, our challenge is how aggressive they serve and the fact that they’ve got great size at the net. You have to be able to sustain the impact that Quade is getting 12, 13 swings a game, and that’s a lot of swings.”

Coach Rose on the most rewarding part of seeing his players succeed after college:

“Well, I think the answer is in the question. The successes and the battle that takes place when they’re in college and getting them to understand the importance of balancing the challenges of being a student-athlete and working hard and recognizing that there’s a lot of different demands on their time and what contributions they have to make. Sometimes the demands and the contributions they have to make change based on graduation or based on injuries. Players have to step up and do different things and that’s just like life. I think probably the greatest success stories that I can appreciate from the players are the ones where the players have to demonstrate the resilience that they had to demonstrate when they were in college, and that they can do it with their head held high and just realize that that’s part of life. [They] realize that they have to find a solution and not get distracted by the problem.”

Coach Rose on his philosophy of coaching this roster:

“This roster is a challenge. This roster is more of a challenge, just because we don’t really have the prototypical balance of players at specific positions. We’ve kind of had to do some hybrid things where we’re having our middles hit a lot on the outsides. But that’s coaching. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what I don’t have. That’s it. Sometimes you’re fortunate that you have an abundance of talent and you have to worry about, ‘How do I balance playing everybody and dealing with that?’ I’m not feeling that this year. But we have a lot of different people and we’re trying to find certain things that they’re all capable of doing, so that they can contribute and help the group. That’s probably been the big challenge. I don’t think we’ve been consistent at a high level, but to be able to win both matches on the road last weekend at Michigan and Michigan State, there’s been years where we lost both matches or either match to those teams. Both of those teams have really good players. Both of those teams are well-coached. Both of those teams had large crowds. For us to be able to still find a way to succeed was a very positive outcome for the road trip to be able to win with the team and the players that we have.”

Coach Rose on using two-person reception patterns last weekend:

“We’ve had two-person reception patterns a lot of times over the years when we’ve had players that I thought were good enough to do that. I think Kendall [White] is good enough to do that, but it might be a little more of a stretch with how aggressive Wisconsin’s serve is. I think Wisconsin can really jam you up with the velocity of their serve. It may be a little bit tougher to do that, but Kendall’s a really good passer. I think Jenna [Hampton’s] a good passer. I think Keeton [Holcomb’s] a good passer. Part of our lineup is to try and enhance our ability to pass. Again, we don’t have the plethora of hitters that allow us to just say, ‘Don’t worry about passing, we can hit our way out of trouble.’ We don’t have the team that can hit ourselves out of trouble. We’ve had teams in the past where passing wasn’t a big deal. We could hit ourselves out of trouble. This is a team where we need to pass pretty well because we have to get the ball to Kaitlyn [Hord] and Serena [Gray].”

Coach Rose on Macall Peed’s performance against Michigan State:

Macall Peed

“I thought she played really well. She served aggressive and it was good. Jonni [Parker] was a little under the weather and Katie [Schumacher-Cawley] said, ‘Hey, go with Macall.’ I put Macall in and she looked great. Katie made a great call.”

Coach Rose on how he decides on substitutions:

“Part of them are pre-established just based on a certain player goes in for a certain player, but sometimes it’s just based on how many substitutions we have and whether or not we want to take a chance and go three rotations without making that sub and save it for later in the game. Because you have to decide do you want to risk having a big person in the back row late in the game or a small person in the front row late in the game versus early in the game. There are times when you might want to try and sneak somebody around without the other team taking advantage of it. But predominantly, I want the good servers going in for the weaker servers. Back-row players are there every day. They have three hours a day to get good at serving, passing, and playing defense. I think if you do that every day you should get good at it. So, to me, it’s on the players to get good at it, and if they get good at it, then they get a chance to play. If they’re making a lot of mistakes, then it doesn’t make sense for me to put them in. Because the people that are in the game are trying. It’s not like if I were to say to you, ‘Hey, do you want to go in?’ And you say, ‘I’ll try.’ I’ll be like, ‘Hey, listen, she’s trying. She might be failing miserably, but she’s trying.’ I want it to be like, ‘Hey, you’re really good. If you can do really good in practice and cause us problems, then the hope would be that you’ll go in the game and cause the other team problems.’ We have a number of back-row kids, and if each of them can find one thing they can do really well — Macall went in and served really well, but she’s a good server. She’s a good defensive player. She’s tough. I think those are good traits.”

Kaitlyn Hord on whether she has experienced ghosts or the supernatural:

Kaitlyn Hord

“Not with ghosts. I think with aliens. Does that count for paranormal? I can’t remember if it was a dream or real, but it felt real and I remember it. I think I was 4. I heard this thing from downstairs, so I get up and see this green blob. It’s leaving slime as it walks and then I go downstairs and it’s in the kitchen, so I grab a pan and I just bang it. I don’t remember what happened after that.”

Kaitlyn Hord on her biggest fear:

“Spiders. Spiders and flies. The noise they make, I don’t like that noise. That’s a no.”

Kaitlyn Hord on who has helped her mix up her shot selection:

“Coming in and working with [Chris] Rose and Dennis [Hohenshelt] because they’re always available. You just say, ‘Hey, can I come in and work with you?’ And they’re like, ‘Of course!’ They help you with different angles, blocking, all of the above. And then Gabby [Blossom], just her mixing up sets and her forcing to set the middle makes me have to work on my shots, because people start to recognize that I’m getting set more, and then they’re going to be up to block. I’m having to work around that.”

Kaitlyn Hord on this week’s match schedule:

“Honestly, I kind of like the Wednesday-Saturday schedule just because you get a little break in between. With the Friday-Saturday, it’s kind of just like wake up and you’ve got to do it all over again. I like the Wednesday-Saturday because you get a little bit of a breather.”

Kaitlyn Hord on her impression of Illinois:

“Illinois runs a very fast-paced offense. They’re one of the faster teams that we’ll play this season, so just getting used to that and seeing what that’s all about — up close instead of just on TV.”

Kaitlyn Hord on the craziest rally she remembers playing in:

“Honestly, I’m not really a part of many rallies. I’m always on the bench when the cool ones happen.”

Keeton Holcomb on whether she believes in ghosts:

Keeton Holcomb

“I don’t know if I really believe in it, but I grew up with my parents watching those TV shows like Expedition Unknown and stuff like that. I love those kind of TV shows. I used to watch those all the time. When I was younger, I think I definitely believed in [ghosts]. My teammates make fun of me because when I was younger, when the Harry Potter with the werewolf came out, that scared me so much. Still, if there’s a full moon, I sprint inside. I know werewolves aren’t real, but I don’t like full moons. They always make fun of me. They’re like, ‘Oh my god, Keeton, there’s werewolves tonight.'”

Keeton Holcomb on her biggest fear:

“I really don’t like open water. If I’m in a lake, and I know this is super unrealistic, I hate that I can’t see the bottom, so I’m like, ‘What if a shark comes and gets me?’ I know there are no sharks in lakes, but I don’t like the big fish and stuff like that.”

Keeton Holcomb on how it feels to be starting and playing a significant role after being away from the team last season:

“It’s really cool. I came back with the mindset that I’d do whatever I can to help the team, whether that’s being on the court or whether that’s cheering from the sideline. I think it’s cool to be in such a gym where you’re competing every single day. It’s not a comfort thing. Everyone’s good. We compete every day for our spots, it’s not handed to us. But yeah, it’s nice to come back and kind of feel like I’m helping and bringing something to the team after being away. It’s a really rewarding experience for me.”

Keeton Holcomb on the excitement of a Wednesday home match:

“The mid-week matches definitely make the week go by faster, but it kind of throws me off, because by Friday I don’t know what day it is. But it’s cool. The anticipation for the weekend sometimes when it’s a Friday-Saturday or Friday-Sunday, you’re waiting the whole week and you just kind of want to play. It’s cool on Wednesdays to be there and play. We started off the week in main gym, which we never do. We’re always usually in South. We’re spending the beginning of the week in main gym and all of that, and it’s really cool to have that. It makes the week go by faster.”

Keeton Holcomb on the rigors of Big Ten play:

“To me, the best thing about the Big Ten is whether or not a team is ranked or unranked, every team in the Big Ten is good. We prepare the same way for every single team. Whether it’s a team that’s ranked in the top 10 or it’s a team that’s not ranked, you have that respect for every team in the Big Ten. It’s such a competitive conference and it’s cool to play at that level all the time.”

Keeton Holcomb on what she’s noticed about Illinois on film:

“Illinois is a really good team. Obviously their outside hitter, Quade, is really good. I think I’ve played against her every year that I’ve been here, which is kind of cool. I think we’re really excited to have another top 25 match. That level of competition, it will be really cool to have it at home. Every time we go to Illinois, their student section I think rivals our student section. It’s really fun. I always enjoy playing Illinois.”