Russ Rose will say it over and over again. His team has flaws.
After every match, no matter how convincingly his team bludgeons its opponents in the box score, the five-time national championship coach will pick at his team’s problems.
This weekend’s Penn State Classic was no exception.
The No. 4 Nittany Lions improved to 10-1 after recording 3-0 sweeps of Portland (6-8), Duquesne (10-5) and Eastern Illinois (3-9).
“I thought the serving was terrible,” Rose said Friday after his team swept Portland.
Following Saturday’s victory against Eastern Illinois, Rose again said, “I think serving is bad. I think communication is bad. I think [both] are big problems.”
Micha Hancock, who has excelled this season, handled most of the aforementioned serving. Two weeks ago, Hancock won Big Ten Player of the Week and her 0.62 aces per set ranks 3rd in the country.
Hancock struggled in her role as the lead server Friday, committing five service errors while Portland, as a team, committed just three.
Junior Katie Slay , who was named the Penn State Classic Most Valuable Player , said she believes the serving troubles can be solved with an attitude change.
“I think that we have a lot of great servers on our team, and a lot of them … I can see them making my serve if they needed to save my life,” Slay said. “They need to have that same confidence when they step behind the line because we do it every day in practice.”
Hancock rebounded in a major way Saturday night, leading the team with 36 assists and committing one service error, while also chipping in six digs and an ace.
However, Hancock saw a little less time serving on Saturday than Friday and some of the players called on to serve in her place faced adversity, tallying an additional seven errors.
In total, Penn State committed 25 service errors this weekend compared to opponents’ eight.
The Lions, however, executed their attacks well, as their team attack percentage never dipped below .320. Meanwhile, none of their opponents delivered an attack percentage higher than .100 in a single match.
Slay was partly responsible for the domination on offense, while Deja McClendon contributed a team-leading 15 kills against Portland.
Following Saturday’s match against Eastern Illinois, Rose singled out Megan Courtney and Slay for their great play, as the two tied Ariel Scott for the team lead in kills (9).
The Lions will practice today and tomorrow in preparation for their Big Ten opener Wednesday at home against No. 1 Nebraska (8-1).
“If we practice like we play, then there’s not enough time to fix the problems,” Rose said. “I’m a realistic guy, I’m not gonna blow smoke up their butts and tell them everything’s great and I don’t care what anyone thinks [about] what I say.”
Redshirt sophomore Erica Denney agreed with Rose that the team has to work tirelessly leading up to the match against Nebraska.
“There are times, especially this weekend, where it felt kinda choppy, felt like we were in-and-out and kind of ugly,” Denney said. “If we could really get the flow going Monday, Tuesday and flow it into Wednesday, it’ll really help us out.”