Becoming the No. 2 team in the nation takes a lot of work.
When dealing with a young team full of key players adjusting to the national college spotlight, shaping a roster into a winning team could put added stress on the shoulders of a coaching staff.
For Penn State women’s volleyball head coach Russ Rose, this is the task at hand.
“We don’t have the same roster of great talent that some other teams may have,” Rose said.
Rose, now in his 34th year at the helm of the women’s volleyball program, laid out his focus from day one of the 2012 season: be conscious of errors, compete daily and play cohesively as a team.
“This team has to play well as a team,” Rose said Saturday following a win against Stanford. “I thought we did that tonight.”
Penn State’s eldest players and only seniors are Marika Racibarskas and Kristin Carpenter. While the two are looked at as leaders, evident by Carpenter’s role as co-captain, they fail to see the playing time younger players are getting.
Meanwhile, No. 1 Nebraska has five seniors and No. 3 UCLA has three seniors — all of three have started at least one match in 2012. Racibarskas and especially Carpenter have seen time off the bench, but have yet to start a match this season.
While juniors and members of the 2010 national championship team, Deja McClendon, Katie Slay and Ariel Scott, have all put forth great performances in 2012, some of the key moments through the first five games have come from players previously flying under-the-radar.
Rose sang the praises of the trio made up of the young starter, freshman Megan Courtney,, the young role player, sophomore Lacey Fuller, and the young leader, sophomore Dominique Gonzalez, for their performances during the weekend.
Courtney seems to have made a seamless transition into NCAA play, averaging 1.8 kills per set and 1.6 digs per set.
“Tonight I just felt really comfortable, and all the girls are so helpful with … telling me where to go and helping me out and calling shots,” Courtney said after Saturday’s win against Texas.
During the weekend, Rose spoke of how the team is coming together, having been characterized by Courtney’s mention of the help she has received from teammates. He also touches on the hours spent practicing that fail to show up in a box score, and the will to have a ‘get back at ‘em’ type attitude.
“It’s how you bounce back the next day. That’s why playing in the Big Ten, when you have to play back-to-back nights, is a big challenge,” Rose said.
This quote rang especially true considering the match against Stanford took two hours and 57 minutes to complete.
In comparison, the Nittany Lions’ first three matches of the season took a combined four hours and 15 minutes to play, or one hour and 25 minutes per match.