Megan Courtney likes Lions, so combined with the school environment and volleyball program, she naturally wanted to become one.
One year ago, Courtney was attending Archbishop Alter High School in Dayton, Ohio and was the No. 4 recruit in the country. Since then a lot has changed.
Fast-forward ahead 365 days and shift roughly 400 miles to the northeast and you have the new lifestyle that Courtney is living.
She’s a true freshman outside hitter for Penn State –– the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament (29-2, 19-1 Big Ten) –– and has had a season that has earned her the accolade of Big Ten Freshman of the Year. But despite the recent recognition, Courtney still has her eyes on the bigger picture.
“It just feels really good in the end knowing that your hard work has paid off, but an award is just an award,” Courtney said, thanking her teammates and coach Russ Rose for believing in her. “I’m really thankful for it, but it’s not the one that I want. I want to get the national championship.”
The Lions are six wins away from grabbing that national title and bringing the fifth crown to Happy Valley in the past six years. If the squad hopes to achieve its preseason goal of winning that title, it will need Courtney and the rest of the team to keep performing at high levels.
So far this season, Courtney ranks fourth on the team in kills (209), assists (29), and digs (193). She has started in all but one of the Lions matches and has helped to anchor a defensive unit that is ranked in the top 10 in terms of blocks per set, along with Katie Slay and Nia Grant.
Courtney leads the squad in solo blocks with 25 and is fourth on the team with 85 total blocks. She has made many contributions to the Lions this year and Rose has noticed her development since the squad’s first match of the season against Morehead State.
“I wouldn’t trade Megan for any of the other freshman in the conference,” Rose said. “I thought Megan had a good year, she played all the way around on the team that won the championship and played a major role.
“She was a primary passer and a couple matches she led us in kills and a couple matches she led us in blocking, and her strength is her volleyball IQ. Her numbers don’t jump off the chart, but certainly from my standpoint I thought she had a good developmental year in the Big Ten.”
The Lions have noticed Courtney’s maturity during the 31 matches the team has played this season and admit her presence on the court forces opponents to respect the team’s offense even more.
“I think having another gun on the left side and on the court in general has really helped diversify our team,” junior outside hitter Deja McClendon said of Courtney. “It makes it a lot harder for other teams to stop us if we have her coming and scoring really big points as well.”