Q&A with Talking Head
We’re speaking today with Talking Head, who played D1 volleyball and has coached the sport for many years.
DigNittany: Real quick — thoughts on Saturday night’s Rutgers match, which Penn State won 25-5, 25-9, 25-9.
Talking Head: Any question raised by Coach Rose after the Indiana match about our kids’ ability to “write a term paper,” so to speak, that meets the rubric, was answered. Even though there were a few mistakes here and there, everyone on the Penn State team brought their “A” game, and generally it was as clean of a match as you could want — especially on the road against a Big Ten team that has 12 scholarship players, and on their Senior Night. Outscoring your opponent 75-23 is significant.
DigNittany: On the subject of Senior Night, Rutgers did something that I don’t remember seeing before — they gave every one of the eight Penn State seniors a bouquet of flowers, and announced them one-by-one.
Talking Head: I know I’ve seen that in other programs in other sports, but I’m not sure I’ve seen it in Big Ten volleyball. That was pretty cool, and certainly a nice gesture.
DigNittany: Any other thoughts on the Rutgers match?
Talking Head: Coach Rose almost emptied the bench — he used 16 different players. That’s hard to do in a game that’s going so quickly, where before you know it, Ali Frantti is running nine, ten serves in a row. It’s hard to get kids in a match like that, let alone 16 players. But two takeaways: you’re happy the team executed at a high level, and you’re happy no one was injured and they’re healthy.
DigNittany: Turning to the next two matches, against Wisconsin on Friday, November 24th in Madison, and against Minnesota on Saturday, November 25th in Minneapolis. Your thoughts?
Talking Head: I’m very much looking forward to these matches this weekend. I would think everyone involved — the Wisconsin and Minnesota programs and the Penn State program — are looking forward to these matches.
DigNittany: Wisconsin swept Northwestern on Sunday at Evansville, so they’ll be going into the match on a high note, after some recent disappointments in November (getting swept by Purdue in West Lafayette and losing to Ohio State 3-2 in Madison). Taking down #1-ranked Penn State would certainly cap their season in a big way. Your thoughts?
Talking Head: That’s certainly true, but Penn State certainly won’t underestimate the Badgers, and I wonder if maybe some doubt has crept into that program after what most would agree has been a disappointing season for them [10-8 in the B1G and 19-8 overall]. I don’t think they’ve played a team since mid-October, when they beat Nebraska 3-1 in Madison, who is playing as well as Penn State is right now. And when Wisconsin beat Nebraska, they were feeling pretty good about themselves, their freshmen weren’t starting to slow down — although Dana Rettke continues to have a great season, and has a long pro career ahead of her, in my opinion — and they weren’t questioning their pin hitters. I don’t think they’re in the same mindset right now. Another thing is that this Penn State team travels as well as any Penn State team I’ve seen in a long time. It seems that they really enjoy being on the road, and they play at a really high level on the road. In a way, it’s almost troubling to me that they seem to play better on the road than they do at home. I hope they change that [laughs]. I think this will be a really nice test for Penn State. We’ll see which team shows up — Penn State or Wisconsin. I think the Badgers have been inconsistent of late, so even with the home court advantage, and the incentive of wanting to take down #1, I like Penn State’s chances.
DigNittany: Regardless of the outcome against Wisconsin, Penn State will travel to Minnesota for a match against the Gophers the next evening. Last season, Penn State lost both matches in that back-to-back [3-1 to Wisconsin, and 3-0 to Minnesota], although in 2013 and 2014, they won both [3-0, 3-0 in 2013, and 3-0, 3-1 in 2014].
Talking Head: It definitely will be a challenge. But I think this team is really built to play on the road. It’s mature — lots of seniors — and I think they’ll be looking forward to the competition. I think they’re looking forward to tying for the best record in the Big Ten.
DigNittany: Looking at Minnesota, the Gophers lost 3-1 on Saturday night to Illinois at Illinois. They feature a couple of freshmen standouts in 6-2 RS/Opp Stephanie Samedy and 6-3 OH Jasmyn Martin, along with a host of other stars, like 5-11 Jr. setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson, 6-0 So. OH Alexis Hart, 6-3 Sr. MB Molly Lohman, and 5-9 Sr. libero Dalianliz Rosado. What’s your take on the Gophers?
Talking Head: I go back to some of our early conversations on these teams, where I thought that Minnesota was maybe playing a bit above themselves, and that as the season progressed, things might start to slow down and they might very well end up with four or five losses [they are 25-4 overall]. That said, they are still a very, very good team, and they have some excellent players. But they are a pretty young team at significant positions, and I think more pressure has been put on Rosado to carry the passing load. Being at home, and playing against the #1 team, I’m certain they will be very excited for the opportunity to compete — as will Penn State. If Penn State is able to jump out early, it will be tough for Minnesota. So we’ll see. Nothing is guaranteed, and Minnesota, like Wisconsin, poses a big challenge to Penn State — particularly on the road. But I like our chances.
DigNittany: Thanks, as always, for your time. We appreciate it.
Below are selected Conference-only team and individual stats for Penn State and Wisconsin. Statistically, Penn State looks very good. But statistics with an unbalanced schedule, and two away matches? Who knows.