1. Freshman Dominique Gonzalez has demonstrated her defensive quality over the
past few matches. Gonzalez, who coach Russ Rose calls the team's best passer,
has moved around energetically in the back row. The defensive specialist
hustled and dived for balls, and tallied 8 digs against Northwestern and a
career-high 14 against No. 1 Illinois. She likely has earned, and deserves,
more playing time with her recent performances.
2. Grant has also shown talent in the back row, even despite her middle hitter
position. Her defensive skills are an asset to the team, as Rose doesn't have
to sub her out every time she rotates back. However, her front row skills are
truly what is making her stand out. Grant has hit very well in her last two
matches, with 15 kills and only two errors. She also has blocked well. Grant
provides an important fourth offensive option for the Lions behind sophomores
Ariel Scott, Deja McClendon and Katie Slay.
3. Against Illinois, the Lions struggled to score points when Scott and
McClendon were in the back row or subbed out. While Slay is an efficient
threat, she doesn't get enough sets or attacks to carry the team offensively on
her own. Freshman Aiyana Whitney was asked to do so in Scott and McClendon's
absence, but it became clear that even Scott attacking from the back row was a
better option than the struggling Whitney who hasn't found her groove. If the
Lions can't develop a third go-to threat capable of scoring points as the main
option on the floor, the team will be prone to long runs by the other team
while Scott and McClendon are out, like Illinois was able to accomplish.
4. Micha Hancock's serve was brutally effective against Illinois. She had seven
aces and no errors, and countless more serves disrupted the Illini's offense.
The freshman said she was just feeling it and hadn't made any changes to her
serve, but if she can continue that serving form, she'll be a major weapon for
5. Every team Penn State has lost to is ranked in the nation's top 16. The
Lions of this season may not be up to par with Rose's previous teams yet, but
don't count them out. They haven't lost to any bad teams yet, and there's no
reason to expect them to any time soon. If they can develop more chemistry,
especially with Hancock's setting, and more young players can step up like
Grant and Gonzalez have done, this team could be a major postseason player.