Women’s Volleyball Team Continues to Roll
Ah, the scouting report. Of everything that changed for Cathy Quilico and Alyssa D’Errico when they moved from high school volleyball to collegiate powerhouse Penn State, that’s what stands out. They’d never seen anything like it. The first time you try to read it, said D’Errico, a junior defensive specialist for the two-time defending NCAA champions, “it’s like gobbledygook.”
It’s got all of the opponent’s traditional volleyball statistics. It’s got the opponent’s tendencies broken down by every player, every rotation—the coaches watch up to 10 games of each opponent to make sure they’ve seen every single thing they can see. It’s even got statistics that Coach Russ Rose and his staff have, essentially, invented.
Nothing is left to chance, not even the presentation of the information. The team digests the scouting report in multiple ways. Via video, for the visual learners. With walk-throughs, for those who learn better by doing. And in printed form, for the players who need to see things written down.
There’s one statistic not accounted for, however: consecutive victories. And that number is astonishing: with their victory over seventh-ranked Minnesota on Friday night, the top-ranked Nittany Lions increased their winning streak to 88.
That tied them for the fourth-longest streak in any NCAA sport with one of the greatest teams in collegiate history: the 1971-74 UCLA men’s basketball team, coached by the legendary John Wooden.
Rose hates to focus on anything but the next match, but even he entertained a question about the streak, saying, “If you’re in coaching and your name is in a conversation and John Wooden is in the conversation, you pinch yourself.”
Rose and Wooden have more than the 88-game winning streak in common. Wooden was known for his undemonstrative behavior on the bench during games; he always said his job was preparing his players during practice, and that he didn’t want them to look to him for answers during a game. Rose is equally low-key; you’ll never see him jumping up and down on the sideline. He spends much of the game scribbling in a notebook, compiling the figures and trends that help him to prepare the team and make adjustments as needed.
Oh, and making sure that the players are positioned where the scouting report indicated. “If you’re in the wrong place,” Quilico said, grinning, “he will tell you. Very loudly.”
Rose and his players don’t get caught up in the hype; neither D’Errico nor Quilico has any idea how many games the team has won in a row or, for that matter, what its record is this season. (24-0, 12-0 Big Ten, for the record.) They don’t look behind. They look ahead only as far as the next game.
Friday night, that took a nearly superhuman effort. There were plenty of distractions.
It was Halloween, so lots of fans came in costume; the big winner at the “halftime” contest was someone dressed as the Pixar character WALL-E, which you can see on the left in a photo by our graphic designer, Jessica Knuth, who took all of the pictures here. The golden pharaoh in the background was also a crowd favorite. The men’s soccer team wowed everyone with a “volleyball” game during the break; the players batted the ball back and forth with their feet and heads.
And the record? Joining an elite club with the UCLA men’s basketball team? That wasn’t anything the Nittany Lions were concerned with. Quilico, a junior defensive specialist who hails from Southern California, knew only that Wooden has a basketball court named after him at UCLA. D’Errico knew that her mother, who coaches a club volleyball team, makes her players read Wooden’s insights on competition.
“He was a big reason that team was able to do what it did,” D’Errico said of Wooden. “Just like Coach is for us.”
Lori Shontz, senior editor