2014 Fall Sports Media Day: Women’s Volleyball
Still, coming as it does after long (and by all accounts, grueling) pre-season practice session, we’d say Rose, Grant, Gonzalez and Courtney did a fine job.
The takeaways? As DigNittany contributor PhillyTom noted “None of them really loves being on camera the way, say, Deja did.” Other than that, not much new information:
1) Nia Grant, Dom Gonzalez, Megan Courtney, Lacey Fuller, and Micah Hancock will again play key roles. No surprise there.
2) Ali Frantti and Simone Lee have played well (there are several positive mentions of the freshmen group as a whole).
3) A few players aren’t cleared to play (presumably due to injuries — hopefully relatively minor).
4) Dom gives a great answer to a question about the large number of defensive specialists on the squad (nine). Rose follows up by saying it is a lot of defensive specialists, and asking, deadpan “Would you like some?”
Take a look:
Meet the Newcomers: Parts I and II
Part I features Skylar Dykstra, Nia Reed, Lainy Pierce and Heidi Thelen. Part II features Ali Frantti, Simone Lee, Bryanna Weiskircher, and Haleigh Washington.
Here are the videos (courtesy of GoPSUsportscom), followed by bios of each of the players:
#9 Skylar Dykstra , 5-9 Fr., Redondo Beach, CA
The Buzz on Skylar: Skylar has good skills and comes from a volleyball family. Her success will be based on her ability to get back into the gym and train.
2013 (at UCLA): Redshirt season.
High School: Started for four years at Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, California, where she earned First Team All-CIF honors, was named the 2012 California Gatorade POY, and was the #54 Prep Volleyball Senior Ace. Her father, Jerry Joe Dykstra, played basketball at Western Illinois, where he set an NCAA record for consecutive made free throws that stood for 19 years, was drafted by the Phoenix Suns and played professionally in Europe.
The Buzz on Nia: An imposing athlete with a great smile, Reed reportedly touches close to 10-9. She has all the tools and energy to develop into a terrific net player.
High School: The #12-ranked PrepVolleyball.com Senior Ace, started all four years at Immaculate Heart Academy, during which time the Blue Eagles won four consecutive non-public state championship titles. Reed’s coach, Maria Nolan, has stated that Reed may be the best volleyball player in New Jersey history, and some observers view her as having potential similar to that of former National POY candidate — and fellow Immaculate Heart Academy alum — Ariel Scott. Though it remains to be seen how Reed’s potential will play out in her college career, she certainly has earned her share of accolades, including 2013-14 Under Armour First Team All-American; Mizuno First Team All-American; New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year in 2011, 2012 and 2013; Star Ledger Player of the Year in 2011, 2012 and 2013; and Bergen Record Player of the Year in 2012 and 2013.
#8 Lainy Pierce , 5-8 DS, Fr., Eden, NY
The Buzz on Lainy: A player with lots of experience at various positions, who will be counted on to serve, pass and defend.
High School: Played on four New York State Championship teams, was the New York State Class C MVP in 2013 and 2012, a New York Gatorade Player of the Year finalist in 2012, and played for Niagara Frontier on WEVA Regional Championship teams from 2008 to 2013. Both Lainy’s parents were scholarship athletes at Penn State (her dad, Robert, Robert Pierce set the men’s volleyball team single-season service ace record with 47 aces, and held it until 2007, and her mom, Kiernan, ran the 800 meters for the women’s track team — anchoring the sprint medley to a 3:53.20 finish, which stands as the fifth-best in Penn State history).
#19 Heidi Thelen, 6-2 MB, Fr.,Edgewood, KY
The Buzz on Heidi: A long-limbed middle blocker that plays hard and is not intimidated by the step up in competition.
- 2013-14 Under Armour Honorable Mention All-American;
- AAU Nationals All-tournament team in 2012 and 2013 as a player with Tri-State Elite;
- AAU All-America in 2011;
- Kentucky Class AAA All-State in 2013;
- Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association (KVCA) All State in 2013; and
- 2011 and 2013 KVCA Region 9 Player of the Year.
#5 Ali Frantti, 6-1 OH, Fr., Spring Grove, IL
The Buzz on Ali: One of the top offensive players to come into the program in the past few years. Touching in the 10-5 range, Frantti has a great arm from both the front and backrow and has a smile and relaxed attitude that make her easy to be around. Brings a high level of compete, is a good passer and defender, with six-rotation potential.
High School: Ranked by PrepVolleyball.com as the #2 Senior Ace, Ali Frantti arrives at Penn State after a stellar prep career in which she was named a 2013-14 Under Armour First Team All-American, a 2013 Mizuno First Team All-American, and the 2013 Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year. All this after earning 1st Team All-State honors and Chicago Sun-Times All-Area honors in 2012. Frantti was Richmond Burton High School’s MVP three-times, and its captain two times. She helped lead Club Fusion (where her teammates included fellow freshmen 6-1 OH Simone Lee and 6-1 S Bryanna Weiskircher) to back-to-back AAU titles, being named MVP in 2012 and making the all-tournament team in 2013.
#22 Simone Lee, 6-2 OH, Fr., Menomonee Falls, WI
The Buzz on Simone: Strong, physical net player — who touches in the 10-5 range — Lee has the ability to block at a high level as a freshman. Lee also could see time at rights ide/opposite
High School: PrepVolleyball.com’s #8-ranked Senior Ace, Lee was named a 2013-14 Under Armour First Team All-American, a 2013 Mizuno First Team All-American, and the 2013 Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year. She started all four years for Menomonee Falls High School (which won the Wisconsin WIAA state championship in 2011 and 2012) where she was twice named the team captain. Lee was a member of the 2012 (first-place at the NORCECA U18 Continental Championships) and 2013 (second-place finish at the FIVB U18 World Championships) USA Girls’ Youth National Teams. Her club team, Club Fusion, won two AAU Championships, while she was named four times to the AAU all-tournament team. A dedicated athlete, Lee drove two hours each way to Club Fusion practices.
#21 Bryanna Weiskircher, 6-1 S., Fr., Loves Park, IL
The Buzz on Bryanna: A well-skilled and polished setter, with good location and solid awareness of the position. Weiskircher is smooth and confident and can be a great asset to the Nittany Lions — not only this year but well into the future. John Tawa of PrepVolleyball.com has described her as “a ferocious competitor oozing with Division I talent in every phase of her game.”
High School: PrepVolleyball.com’s #13-ranked Senior Ace (and a 2013-14 Under Armour First Team All-American and 2013 Mizuno Honorable Mention All-American), Weiskircher finished her senior season at Boylan Catholic as a three-time captain and team MVP, leading her team to a 32-2 record and recording 341 assists, 239 kills, 232 digs, 51 aces and 43 blocks. With Weiskircher as the setter, Club Fusion (which included fellow freshmen 6-1 OH Ali Frantti and 6-1 OH Simone Lee) won two AAU championships.
#15 Haleigh Washington, 6-3 MB, Fr., Colorado Springs, CO
The Buzz on Haleigh: PrepVolleyball.com’s #1-ranked Senior Ace, Haleigh is a fantastic offensive player with a high contact point (reportedly touches in the 10’10” range) and great energy. A good blocker and a player that will have lots of pressure to play out of the gate.
High School: Among the highlights from Haleigh’s high school career were:
- 2013-14 Under Armour First Team All American;
- 2013 Volleyball Magazine Player of the Year;
- 2013 Mizuno First Team All-American;
- Two-time Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year from 2012-13;
- Leading Doherty to the Colorado State 5A championship title in 2012;
- Setting Colorado state record with 48 kills in a five-set win against Grandview in a rematch of the Colorado State 5A title match; and
- Team Captain of the Doherty Rockets’ in 2012 and 2013.