Penn State has built a strong reputation for having an all-around high-class volleyball program. Not only is the men’s team known globally, but the women’s team has just as big of a name for itself.
The Penn State women’s volleyball team has garnered popularity and a presence on campus. With coach Russ Rose recently just finishing his 40th season at the helm, the accomplishments that are brought to mind equally represent the intensity of its program.
Rose has won seven national championships and 17 Big Ten Championships during his time at the helm of the women’s program. In the fall, Rec Hall is roaring and packed to the brim with fans trying to get a glimpse of the magic people have experienced when watching six Penn State women take the court.
Coach Mark Pavlik of the men’s volleyball team speaks proudly on how both the men’s and women’s programs are thought of so highly at the school. Rose is one of the most impressive coaches in collegiate volleyball, and his teams have set a high example which Pavlik’s team can learn off from -- and vice versa.
“I think it is one of the biggest advantages we have. I know when our guys watch the women play in the fall their precision, their success, their effort does not go unnoticed,” Pavlik said. “I think there is a pride that exists from anybody — male or female — that has ever put on a Penn State volleyball uniform here that we learn from each other. I marvel at the success of Russ has had, and how he does it. If we can get close to what [Rose] does, then I would be extremely happy.”
The program Rose has established itself within State College all starts with the talent he recruits into it. There have been multiple Olympians, AVCA All-Americans and Big Ten conference players that have cycled through Penn State to leave a lasting impact for the generations to come.
Redshirt senior Matthew McLaren values the bond these two teams share with each other. To be friends with people who have a similar mindset and push through similar problems is something that the team never takes for granted.
“Most of us are friends with most of the women’s team. It is a pretty cool thing to have. They have a very good program obviously, and just being around other people that share the same thing and work hard is kind of cool. They rub off on us in that way,” McLaren said.
In the United States, volleyball is considered a female-dominated sport. Women’s volleyball has almost twice as many collegiate teams compared to the national program for the men’s, and it is easy to subject oneself to thinking that this sport is easy because it is mainly played by women.
Sure, the game may be simple. Serve, pass, set and spike all to achieve a single point. The game itself seems as if anyone can do it.
But it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. To acquire the five most prominent skills of the game — serving, passing, setting, hitting and blocking — can take around 50,000 hours to accomplish. But good just will not cut it.
“If we have people who want to model somebody whose motor is always going and the effort is always there, I think it is real easy to choose someone from the women’s side to do that,” Pavlik said.
The need to be perfect in every one of those aspects can be daunting to think about. Even more so with a name that implies consistent perfection that demands to fit a typical women’s sports mold.
Yet the women of the Penn State volleyball program defy this idea as to how women should be in sports. They strive to be champions fearlessly in their own way, not the way that society deems makes them a winner
“The women have a great sense of, ‘If you want to be champions, here is what you have to do to do that,’” Pavlik said.