Every Wednesday we'll take a look at whose stock on the Penn State women's volleyball team is rising, falling, or flat. Here goes:
Aiyana Whitney - Rising: Whitney, a freshman, got her first significant playing time of her budding collegiate career against Texas and may have just earned herself more time on the court. Whitney hit .367 with 15 kills on 30 attacks against the Longhorns, making her one of the only Lions to play well in the five-set loss. The freshman said she's willing to do whatever it takes to help the team, and it seems likely that coach Russ Rose will soon be asking her to do more of whatever that is if she keeps her level of play up.
Deja McClendon - Flat: Everyone knows McClendon can play; the question is if she can do it consistently. The talented sophomore hit .380 against Texas, tallying 25 kills, a vast improvement over her .100 hitting percentage against Stanford the night before. McClendon had 12 hitting errors on 50 attacks against the Cardinal, a disappointingly high number. As the team's go-to offensive threat, it's becoming apparent that as McClendon goes, the Lions go. She needs to bring it every time against top opposition if the Lions hope to pull out those big games.
Katie Slay - Rising: The big sophomore middle hitter hit .409 against Stanford with 11 kills on 22 attacks and .333 the next night against Texas. Those numbers contribute to her .378 hitting percentage on the season, which leads the team among players getting a significant (read: more than seven) number of attacks. Slay has been the one untainted bright spot for the Lions this season, justifying her coach Rose's preseason evaluation of her importance.
Darcy Dorton - Falling: Dorton, who missed all last season with a torn ACL, was expected to come back this season and be a major contributor (just look at the team's 2011 poster) after an impressive freshman year two seasons ago. However, those hopes haven't materialized. Dorton hasn't worked her way back into the playing shape that competing for the No. 5 team in the country demands, and continues to adorn the bench. Dorton has provided her signature fiery leadership from the sideline, but as of now, that's all she's done.
Micha Hancock - Flat: Hancock, the Lions' freshman setter, started the season on a tear but her play has leveled off since. She's still trying to find chemistry with her hitters and back row, and her surprise second-ball attacks haven't been as effective as of late. That may be because teams are now expecting it or because of the top-caliber opposition the Lions faced last weekend, but Hancock's momentum has subsided nonetheless. As her chemistry with her team improves, however, it's possible that Hancock will rediscover her old form and even improve it.
The Nittany Lions - Falling: Beating then-No. 2 USC in the second match of the season may have masked the true nature of this team. Losing to both then-No. 3 Stanford and then-No. 10 Texas was a harsh unmasking. Right now, the Lions are struggling with chemistry, leadership and sloppy play, and don't look like the No. 1 team in the country their preseason ranking suggested they were. The squad has one more weekend of non-conference play before starting Big Ten play with a tough trip to No. 10 Nebraska. After that match, we'll know a lot more about whether the Lions have what it takes to continue their run of conference dominance.