Teams face many challenges over the course of the season, both on and off the court.
On the court, teams are challenged to perform at a high level consistently by rallying to close a deficit or maintaining a lead to close a game. Off the court, however, athletes must overcome challenges like keeping themselves healthy and fit to play.
“I just think we need to get a little more of our energy back and a little more confidence,” coach Russ Rose said. “Obviously, everybody at this time of year some people start to get a little dinged up and they need to get a little better handle on proper rest and nutrition.”
With four weeks and eight matches left in the conference season, No. 11 Penn State (17-6, 9-3 Big Ten) is now not only struggling to overcome challenges on the court — as the team has lost its last three consecutive matches to No. 17 Michigan, No. 3 Wisconsin and, most recently, No 2 Minnesota — but also trying to overcome fatigue off the court.
This weekend, the Nittany Lions are facing the No. 1 team in the country, Nebraska, at 8 p.m. on Friday and then turning over to play Iowa less than 12 hours later, so fighting that off-court fatigue will be vital in the two, “impactful” games.
Knowing how to get the necessary rest and nutrition they need to sustain themselves through a season may not be a problem for the older girls on the team, who have figured out how to both push past the physical fatigue in order to play consistently. However, because they are playing their first collegiate season, the freshmen on the team must adjust to the physical demands of both playing at a higher level and playing through a longer season.
“I think everyone has the same problems with overuse and injuries,” Rose said. “[In] the top teams, what you find is those guys — part of being one of the top teams is the ability to make good decisions all the time.”
Rose said there are a lot of challenges with freshmen athletes at this point in the year, as their “biological clocks are accustomed to slowing down.” This is because the high school volleyball season is ending and the girls are relaxing before they have to ramp back up for the club season.
Rose said starting freshman libero Kendall White works hard both in the games and in practice, but might be starting to feel the fatigue of the long season.
“The Big Ten still has four weeks left of competition, so we’ve got eight really important matches left for us to try and navigate,” Rose said. “Certainly, [White] being a freshman and playing all the time, you know we’ll have to monitor her energy level.”
However, outside hitter Simone Lee said the team trains in the off-season to prepare themselves to push through the long season the conference has “put in front of” them.
“I think that we’re a really good team and we’re physically designed to be able to push through all this,” Lee said. “I don’t think it’ll be a problem, especially going into the second half of the Big Ten season.”