Posts tagged ‘women’s volleyball’
How excellent to open my New York Times this morning and see this centerpiece sports story on the women’s volleyball team, its 98-match winning streak, its quest for a third straight NCAA title, and its one-of-a-kind coach, Russ Rose.
The reporter, John Branch, gets Rose exactly right, from his magnificent disregard for propriety to his penchant for sweaters (my husband and I have always thought the Young Men’s Shop should offer “The Russ Rose Collection”) to his low-key sideline demeanor. If you’ve ever wondered why Rose is always scribbling in a notebook rather than, say, watching the match or giving instructions to the players, this article will introduce you to his shelves of three-ring binders and arcane system of statistics.
Of course, Rose never misses anything. Assistant coach Kaleena Davidson, a former Penn State player, told the Times, “He knows everything you’d want to know. And everything you don’t want him to know.”
A subhed in the print edition sums up Rose really well: “Under Coach Russ Rose, the Penn State women’s volleyball team has not lost a match since September 2007. He will leave it to others to care.”
Enjoy the story. And weigh in on the Times’ college sports blog, The Quad, on how the Nittany Lions’ 98-game winning streak ranks in NCAA sports history.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
I knew the email would be waiting for me this morning, and so it was: A question from my Alumni Association colleague (and former Nittany Lion distance runner) Jayson Jackson ’99, wondering why I hadn’t already blogged about the women’s cross country team claiming its first Big Ten Conference title.
Here you go, Jay.
Led by senior Bridget Franek, who torched the 6,000-meter Blue/White course Sunday with a winning time of 20:03, the host Nittany Lion women edged runner-up Illinois to capture the conference crown. It was a great showing on a weekend full of them by Penn State student-athletes. Running through the highlights:
-The men’s soccer team moved into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten standings with a 2-1 win Saturday over Wisconsin. It’s been a rough couple of years for Coach Barry Gorman’s squad, but now that they’ve finally had some luck avoiding injuries, they’re reminding the rest of the league what they’re capable of.
-The women’s soccer team seems fully recovered from its slow start to the season; they’re unbeaten in eight games after Sunday’s 4-0 thrashing of visiting Purdue. I was there, and was lucky enough to see one of the nicest goals I’ve ever seen in person, at any level of soccer.
With Penn State up 2-0 early in the second half, senior left back Tara Davies made a great overlapping run, tearing nearly the entire length of the field from the left, then lofting a shot from virtually no angle into the far corner of the Purdue net. Everyone at Jeffrey Field, including the players (not least the unlucky Purdue goalkeeper) looked momentarily shocked before the crowd erupted in cheers. Davies celebrated the goal — the first of her college career, coming in her final regular-season home game — with a flipping summersault before being mobbed by her teammates.
Junior Danielle Toney, a player more accustomed to scoring, tallied her 11th and 12th goals of the season to claim the Big Ten scoring lead.
-As Lori and Jessie already documented, the top-ranked women’s volleyball team extended its own NCAA record Friday with its 88th straight victory, a 3-0 sweep of Minnesota.
-And after a slow start, the football team looked pretty good Saturday at Northwestern. Ohio State is next. The tents at Paternoville should be popping up shortly…
Ryan Jones, senior editor
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
We knew that volleyball All-American Christa Harmotto was spending most of the spring semester student-teaching in England, but we didn’t know about her latest travels: Last weekend in Cairo, Harmotto starred for the U.S. Women’s National Team in a victory over Egypt. Harmotto led the Americans with 18 points won and 16 kills.
Harmotto is also the answer to a trivia question posted on the weekly women’s update on USAVolleyball.org: “Which U.S. Women’s National Team player has not been part of a losing match since Sept. 15, 2007?” Fans of the back-to-back NCAA champion Nittany Lions should have had no trouble with that one.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
A few months ago, they were winning championships as Penn State student athletes. Now, these former Nittany Lions are into (or on the verge of) promising pro careers. A story in this week’s Centre Daily Times tells us that Nicole Fawcett, the women’s volleyball All-American featured in our current cover story, is now playing professionally in Puerto Rico. Apparently, Fawcett played her first match for Tus Gigantes de Carolina two weeks ago, just hours after she landed in San Juan. “It was a little weird coming off the plane and taking an hour nap and then going and playing right away,” Fawcett told the CDT.
Closer to home, Penn State held its annual Pro Day on Wednesday. It’s sort of a smaller, localized version of the NFL combine, where pro scouts and coaches show up with stopwatches and tape measures in hand to get a close-up look at the Nittany Lions’ NFL prospects. Based on today’s coverage in the CDT and Harrisburg Patriot-News, defensive end Aaron Maybin and wide receiver Derrick Williams were sufficiently big, strong, and fast enough to solidify or improve their stock for next month’s draft.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
I thought you’d enjoy seeing a few photos from a shoot we did yesterday involving the Penn State women’s volleyball team, who recently won their second straight national title. The photo shoot was great fun—the players loved it and we loved it—and the results will appear in our March-April issue.
The idea goes back to December, when the Penn State women had just won the national championship and we were talking about how we should cover them in the magazine. This is a team that had gone through the season undefeated and some people were calling them the best women’s volleyball team in the history of the sport. We felt we ought to do something, but not an ordinary season wrap-up. For one thing, any story we did would appear a full three months after the national championship game.
Somehow, I don’t remember how, we got the idea to do a photo-driven story. We hired Bill Cramer ’85 as the photographer—he’s done a lot of great work for Philadelphia Magazine, and for us too—and asked him to do almost a Vanity Fair-type glamor shoot, one that also captures some of the team’s playfulness and spirit. Bill came up from Philly yesterday, along with two assistants and a makeup artist (a first for us!); the players showed up in their dressy clothes; and Bill spent about three hours shooting them against a white backdrop on the main gym floor at Rec Hall.
We’re still not sure exactly what the story will be called, how it will look, or what the copy will say. But I know we got some great photos yesterday.
Oh, and one player couldn’t be there for the shoot—Christa Harmotto is student-teaching in England—so we hired a photographer in England to shoot her against a very similar backdrop, and we’ll somehow stitch her in. (We’ll include a note to this effect in the magazine, I’m sure; we have no interest in deceiving anyone.)
Below is a one-minute video clip I shot of Bill choreographing just one of the shots; the players in it are Kelsey Ream (in the blue shirt) and All-Americans Megan Hodge (red shirt) and Nicole Fawcett. Fawcett was the national player of the year.
Tina Hay, editor
My four-year-old son is fairly obsessed with superheroes, and that obsession fairly dictates how he spends most of his free time — and, being four, pretty much everything outside of sleeping constitutes free time. That obsession also helped determine his closest playmate at the wonderful daycare he has attended for the past two years: another four-year-old who shares his love of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man and all the capital-M guys who dominate their thoughts. They are, as much as four-year-olds can be, best friends, to the extent that one usually pouts when the other is picked up first in the afternoons, and that my son occasionally looks sad in the morning at the thought that his buddy MIGHT not be at school that day.
So I was really, really bummed when one of my many Google News Alerts, assigned to tell me anytime “Penn State” appears on the Web, informed me that Salima Rockwell ’94 was leaving her job as an assistant coach for the women’s volleyball team to take a similar position at the University of Texas. Salima (then Davidson) was an All-American setter during her playing days, and we were in school at roughly the same time. A few years ago, Salima came back to Happy Valley to join Russ Rose’s staff; she helped guide the team to the past two NCAA championships, including 2008’s remarkable unbeaten run.
Did I mention Salima’s little boy is my son’s best friend?
I can only wish Salima and her family the best of luck—but she really should’ve run this by my son first.
Ryan Jones, senior editor