Facing two Top 10 teams in back-to-back nights can be a daunting task, especially for a young team. However, the Nittany Lions embraced the challenge and were successful knocking off both national powerhouses Stanford and Texas in the Nike Big Four.
No. 2 Penn State (5-0, 0-0 Big Ten) improved two spots from last week’s poll and saw big plays made from some young Lions. Both sophomore defensive specialist Lacey Fuller and freshman outsider hitter Megan Courtney had a big weekend for the Lions and helped to keep the team’s record unblemished.
Despite Fuller not getting much playing time on Friday, head coach Russ Rose spoke highly of the sophomore’s ability to utilize her time on the court.
“I really thought the key player for me was Lacey. I thought she came in and was tough and made some great plays and had good energy,” Rose said after the 3-2 win over the Cardinal on Friday. “She didn’t play a lot and had 10 digs in a match that we needed her to make some big digs, so I thought she did a good job.”
Of the 12 Lions that appeared in the match, Fuller had the fourth highest amount of digs and helped transition the Lions defense into offense.
Against the Longhorns on Saturday, she continued her productivity and led the squad with nine digs.
Courtney also played well against the Longhorns as she posted eight kills, eight digs, and had a service ace.
“I thought she passed well. She’s a very relaxed passer, she took some good swings,” Rose said after the 3-0 win over the Longhorns. “She’s young and you have to worry about certain things, but I’m sure she hit .530 and didn’t have any hitting errors, so that’s a good thing. We needed her to do that, we needed other people to step up. We can’t send Deja [McClendon] and A[riel] Scott every ball.”
Thus far, Fuller and Courtney have done just that. Of the 17 total sets the Lions have played this season, those two have seen action in all but three of them. They both have contributed too, as Fuller ranks fifth on the team in digs with 24, while Courtney is fourth on the squad with 25 kills.
Rose learned a little bit more about his team after this weekend and talked about how building depth can help give some players an opportunity to get a breather.
“Lacey can really make a lot of great contributions,” Rose said. “So I think I know more than I knew last week because I think this weekend Lacey stepped up and really solidified an opportunity to impact the outcome of some matches and give some people a rest.”