To an uninformed set of eyes, Dominique Gonzalez is the weak link for the nation's top-ranked women's volleyball team.
Gonzalez has accounted for two of the team's 870 kills, 43 of the team's 801 assists and zero of Penn State's 168.5 total blocks.
Despite all this, she is the Nittany Lions' starting libero, though the stat sheet does not even glamorize that -- because of the nature of volleyball scorekeeping and the libero position, she has officially started zero matches.
But in replacing last year's starting libero, Ali Longo, who sought tropical Hawaii as her new college, Gonzalez may have a more difficult job than any of her teammates.
And she's doing it well, according to the Lions' sophomore setter, Micha Hancock.
"I feel like Dom's stepped in really well and has done what the team needs," Hancock said. "It's been different, but it hasn't been that huge of a change."
With both Hawaii and Penn State more than halfway through its 2012 schedule, Gonzalez is averaging 3.29 digs per set, while Longo is a clip below her, averaging 3.25 digs per set.
On top of the similarity in the numbers, both Penn State and No. 8 Hawaii (14-2) are two of several teams in legitimate contention for a national championship.
Gonzalez said Longo was a good teammate last season, but added both bring different qualities to the game.
"This year's team is different than last year's team and ... we're doing our best to work together as a team," Gonzalez said. "Of course there's changes, and Ali and I are two different players."
While Hancock praised Longo's communication skills, Lions' coach Russ Rose said Gonzalez excels in the same field, as well as passing and toughness.
"I think she's capable of directing traffic with her teammates which is a pretty important intangible," Rose said. "I think she does some really important things."
While Penn State has appeared to make a seamless transition in replacing its libero during the course of an offseason, the Lions' upcoming opponent, Purdue, had to learn the importance of the libero the hard way.
The No. 17 Boilermakers (13-4, 4-2) entered this past Saturday as a heavy favorite when hosting Iowa (10-9, 2-4).
After Carly Cramer, Purdue's starting libero and former preseason All-Big Ten performer,sat out the match against Iowa with an apparent injury, the whole ship sailed south.
True freshman Amanda Neill replaced Cramer by starting two sets and something was clearly off, as the Hawkeyes swept the Boilermakers, 3-0, on Purdue's home court.
Following the loss, Purdue head coach Dave Shondell told PurdueSports.com that his team "certainly showed signs of confusion playing without Cramer."
Cramer's status for this weekend is unknown.
When asked how his team would fair if Gonzalez were lost for a match, Rose said his deep bench could provide some help.
"It's a competitive conference with good teams and nobody feels sorry for anybody if a player gets hurt," Rose said. "You've got to play."