Q&A with Club Coach on 2012 Penn State Season; B1G Awards

Q&A with Club Coach

We’re talking again today with Club Coach, who has coached numerous collegiate and club volleyball players, about the Penn State Women’s Volleyball team’s 2012 season (so far!), and the Big Ten Awards and unsung heroes.  Take a look:

About the 2012 Season 

DigNittany: This Friday Penn State kicks-off what it hopes will be a six-match run to the Finals of the NCAA Tournament (and hopefully, a sixth NCAA Championship for the Nittany Lions and Head Coach Russ Rose).

Prior to the start of the season, the Big Ten coaches voted Nebraska #1, Penn State #2, Purdue #3, and Minnesota #4. Penn State ended up winning the Championship with a 19-1 league record (and being ranked #1 in the final AVCA poll), while Nebraska and Minnesota tied for second, both going 15-5 in the league.

Did Penn State, as a team, meet or exceed your expectatations for the Big Ten, and what would you view as there area of biggest improvement over last season?

Club Coach: I would have to say that PSU probably exceeded expectations to some degree. I thought going into the season they would win the league, but not as convincingly as they did. Last season they often played at a high level, but to do that with such consistency this season was really impressive.

The biggest improvement from last year to this is certainly the great strides they made in passing and defense. I know their spring season was focused around improving in those areas and the hard work paid off.

PSU in my opinion has always been underrated in those areas, because it gets overshadowed by the net play of so many great athletes. But defense and ball control have always been the cornerstone of PSU volleyball.

About Awards and Unsung Heroes

DigNittany: The Big Ten announced its post-season awards on Tuesday, with 6-4 Jr. Opp/RS Ariel Scott, 6-1 Jr. OH Deja McClendon, 6-6 Jr. MH Katie Slay, and 5-11 S Micha Hancock named All Big-Ten.  A. Scott was named Big Ten Player of the Year, Micha Hancock was named Setter of the Year, 6-2 Fr. OH Megan Courtney was named Freshman of the Year, and Russ Rose was named Coach of the Year.  [Editor’s Note: see the story on these awards, below]

Any thoughts about those awards, and if there were an “Unsung Hero” award for each team, who would you name for Penn State?

Club Coach: Although Penn State had a great team, Rose getting COY is an acknowledgement by the coaches of how hard it is to dominate a league that is so difficult to win matches in.

Nebraska is the overall 4 seed in the tournament, and they lost five matches in conference.  Going 19-1 in the Big Ten, as Penn State did, is impressive.

To me, Scott is the best player in the conference.  Although  her numbers aren’t eye popping, her play — particularly in critical points — is outstanding.

Hancock, while not the greatest pure setter, does things from that position that put a lot of stress on opponents.  No setter in the league had as much impact on matches as she did.

Courtney was a little bit of a surprise, but her play has been very good throughout the season — and great as of late.  PSU doesn’t win the league, or earn 1 seed, if she doesn’t come in and do what she did.

Dom Gonzalez would be the unsung player on this team.  She isn’t a flashy defensive player, but her passing really anchors their sideout game.

DigNittany: As always, thanks so much for your time.

B1G 2012 Awards

From BigTen.org:

The Big Ten announced its postseason volleyball awards on Tuesday, with student-athletes from two schools earning recognition following the conclusion of the 2012 regular season. Penn State’s Ariel Scott has been named the Big Ten Player of the Year by a vote of the conference’s coaches, while teammates Micha Hancock and Megan Courtney were named Big Ten Setter of the Year and Freshman of the Year, respectively. Michigan’s State’s Kori Moster earned Defensive Player of the Year honors, while Penn State’s Russ Rose was tabbed Coach of the Year by Big Ten coaches and media.

Read the complete release at BigTen.org.

The statement in the release “with student-athletes from two schools earning recognition following the conclusion of the 2012 regular season” is interesting for two reasons.

First, it’s inaccurate (or at least misleading).  Although Penn State and Michigan State were the only two schools whose student-athletes won any of the B1G’s four individual awards — Player of the Year, Setter of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Freshman of the Year, as shown in the tables below, nine schools were represented on the All-Big Ten First Team and seven schools were represented on the Big Ten All-Freshman team:

2012 All Big Ten First Team (Unanimous Choices in ALL CAPS)

DIXON, TORIMBJr.6-3Minnesota
HARMS, KATHERINEOppSr.6-2Minnesota
HOLE, MARIOHSr.6-0Ohio State
SCOTT, ARIELOHJr.6-4Penn State
WICINSKI, LAURENOHJr.6-1Michigan State
Cook, LaurenSSr.5-8Nebraska
Cross, JenniferMBJr.6-4Michigan
Erwin, LexiOHJr.6-1Michigan
Hancock, MichaSSo.5-11Penn State
Holthus, StephanieOHJr.5-11Northwestern
McMahon, LizOppSo.6-6Illinois
Slay, KatieMHJr.6-6Penn State
Werth, HannahOHSr.6-1Nebraska

2012 Big Ten All-Freshman Team (Unanimous Choices in ALL CAPS)

MORALES, TIFFANYLibero5-6Michigan
Drews, Annie (tie)Opp6-4Purdue
Peterson, Halle (tie)S5-10Michigan State

But the statement does reflect Penn State’s dominance in the league this year (we generally shy away from words like “dominance,” but when you when the title by four matches in a 20-match season, that’s dominance).  As noted in the Big Ten Release, Penn State has dominated the Big Ten awards in recent years.  Ariel Scott, who led Penn State with 3.68 kills/set and 4.10 points/set in conference play, is the seventh Penn State player to win the Big Ten Player of the Year award in the last eight years.  Micha Hancock is the first Penn State player to win the Big Ten Setter of the Year award — but this is the first year the Big Ten has given out that award.  Megan Courtney is the tenth Penn State player to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in the past 11 seasons (Penn State players have won the award 11 times overall).  Head Coach Russ Rose has been voted Big Ten Coach of the Year 11 times by his fellow coaches (five of the past six years).

Of course, none of those awards have anything to do with how the Nittany Lions perform in the NCAA Tournament.  We suspect Coach Rose and the Penn State players would trade them all in for another NCAA title.

Go Lions!