The Penn State Nittany Lions Volleyball Teams are some of the hottest teams who compete in the NCAA tournaments. This team proves their skills by having an amazing 9 tournament championships. To understand why these are the teams to watch in the upcoming tournament season, you have to start from the beginning.
Let’s learn about where Penn State Volleyball came from.
The History of Penn State Volleyball
The Men and Women’s volleyball programs both began in 1976 with their first coach, Tom Tait. Tom Tait was a marvel of a coach who coached both programs from 1976 to 1979. After 79, Tait took over the men’s program, which he handled until 1989. He was later named a USA Volleyball All-Time Great Coach in 2007. When you look at what the team did under his lead, it’s easy to see why.
The Men’s Volleyball program at Penn State went on to earn championship in the regular conference in 1981-1983, 1986-1987, and again in 1989. But both teams made their marks in the tournament race with a combined 49 conference regular season championship runs. Fans of college volleyball always expected to see the blue and white of Penn State’s Nittany Lions at the top of the rankings every year.
The program becomes real interesting after Tom Taits’ run. So let’s take a look starting with the Men’s Program.
Nittany Lions Mens Volleyball History
The name to know on the Men’s team is Mark Pavlik who has been the head coach for the team ever since 1995 after serving as an assistant coach since 1990. Before 1990, he was a team manager, where he served during the mens team first appearance at an NCAA tournament in 1982.
The team had a strong showing during that tournament that ended when UCLA swept them in a home game during the final. UCLA was led by future Olympic gold medalist Karch Kiraly, which helps explain why the team was defeated.
But the best teams learn from their defeats
After this defeat, the team continued to struggle and work to become better and better leading to their historic victory in defeated then defending champion UCLA in a five-set match. This victory helped put Penn State on the map as they became the first non-California Men’s volleyball team to win the championship.
Awards and Honors
Over the course of the programs history following this amazing upset, Penn State went on to such accolades as a 15 year streak of NCAA Final Four appearances (1999-2013).
The team has also earned two National Coach of the year awards, awarded to Mike Pavlik in 2008 and his predecessor Tom Peterson in 1994. The team also earned two National Player of the Year awards awarded to Matt Anderson in 2008 and Ivan Contreras in 1997.
But one of the biggest achievements of the program is in earning 83 AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association) All-American honors. These honors began with Trevor Zahniser in 1971 and was most recently earned by players Chris Nugent and Calvin Mende in this past year.
But let’s take a look at the illustrious history of the women’s volleyball program.
Nittany Lions Womens Volleyball History
After Tom Tait left the women’s volleyball program to focus on the men’s program, Russ Rose took over and has served as the head coach ever since. His coaching style and leadership has helped give the team a solid .862 win percentage and a record of 1246 wins to 196 losses through the 2017 season. This makes him rank highest in NCAA Division I history and certainly standing out as Penn State’s most successful intercollegiate athletic coach.
With this strong leadership, it’s easy to see how has led the team to seven NCAA National Championships and an undefeated conference record while the team played in the Atlantic 10 conference from 1983-1990. But let’s look at some of their particular stand out successes.
A Legacy of Excellence
In 1990, Russ Rose’s Nittany Lions entered the NCAA Championships with an amazing 42-0 record, where they proceeded to sweep through Purdue and then Big Ten champion Wisconsinb efore losing to Nebraska in the final. Their 44-1 record during that year included 40 sweeps, which was a school and national record. This record also earned Rose his first AVCA National Coach of the Year honor.
The Lions would later do the impossible again in 1998 where they made it through the regular season with a 30-0 record with 28 coming in three sets. Penn State became the second team to ever close the Big Ten schedule with a perfect 20-0 mark. They then swept past Bucknell, Clemson, Louisville, and Brigham Young to earn a spot in their fourth national semifinal. But just like their previous year, the team just came up short against Long Beach State losing after coming back from an 0-2 deficit to force a fifth game.
The team showed a consistently strong performance record, posting perfect seasons several times in the regular season and sometimes finishing with the same flawless victories that had become a mark of the Penn State Women’s Volleyball Program to include three of a four year streak of championship runs from 2007-2010.
Awards and Honors
You can imagine that with such a strong showing year after year has earned numerous awards. These awards branch back as far as the teams early runs in the Atlantic 10 and continue in their current spot in the Big 10.
Atlantic 10 Awards
The team has earned eight player of the year awards during their time in the Atlantic 10 from Lori Barberichs back to back awards in 1983-1984 to Michelle Jaworski’s award in 1990. The team also earned four rookie of the year awards for four years straight from 1986-1989. Russ Rose earned five of six Coach of the Year awards handed out from 1984-1989 losing only the 1986 award.
But what’s important to note is that these awards cover nearly the program’s latest membership within the Atlantic 10, which lasted from 1983-1990.
Big 10 Awards
When the team joined the Big 10 after their 1990 season, they went on to earn an unprecedented amount of awards and commendations. These include 14 player of the year awards from 1992 to 2017, 12 Freshman of the year awards from 1996 to 2017, and five combined positional awards for setters and defensive players from 2005 to 2017. This also follows the 15 awards that Russ Rose earned for coach of the year from 1992 to 2017.
But two prestigious awards go to Lauren Cacciamani and Megan Hodge who won Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year awards in 1999 and 2010 respectively.
The amount of other awards that the program has earned is too long to list, but there are a few standouts that should be noticed. The AVCA All-American list includes at least one player named from Rose’s team in all but one of his seasons. This gives Penn State 33 different AVCA All-Americans who earned 73 certificates. This includes 42 First Team selections and an amazing record-setting six AVCA All-Americans named in 2008, of which four were on First Team.
With this kind of pedigree backing the history of both teams, you might be wondering who’s set to play for the 2018 season. Let’s find out.
The 2018 Penn State Roster
The Roster for the two programs, as listed on the Penn State website, shows a surprisingly higher amount of players for the men’s program than the women’s program. The photo below shows what the women’s roster looks like with Rose leading a team of 10 to what will surely be an explosive season record.
While the photo below shows that Pavlik will be leading 21 players to what is believed will be an impressive year.
But what do these two rosters tell us? You have to dig a little deeper to understand what these two rosters tell us to expect from this coming season.
Men’s Roster Analysis
Aidan is one of the Lion’s promising Outside Hitters for this coming season. This senior, started as a three-year letter winner at Old Bridge High School and served as team captain during his senior season. He collected Greater Middlesex Conference All-League and MVP honors during his two final seasons. This earned him naming as the 2013 N.J. Player of the year.
His career with the Lions started with him serving as a Redshirt Freshman where he started eight matches and made his debut with two kills, two blocks, and one dig against Saint Francis. He would go on to start 93 of 95 sets during his Junior 2017 season, posting three kills against UCLA, 13 kills against USC, and a career hitting percentage of .520.
This tells a story that Aidan is a seasoned player who excels at racking up points for Penn-State.
This year, Will Bantle joins the roster as an incoming freshman who was a two-time letter winner for Loyola High School, a CIF champion in 2016, and a State/National Champion in 2017. He was also named as an All-American and All-League player in 2017.
Analysts are interested to see if Will’s earlier start in athletics compared to Aidan will help him reach similar heights of statistics and records, but one thing is certain, when Aidan graduates, the Lions will have a strong player in Will for some time to come.
Women’s Roster Analysis
To help us see what we can expect from this year’s women’s Tournament season, we have decided to examine two of the players on the roster; Kathryn Cather, a senior and Cami May, a Sophomore.
For the women’s team, we can look to Kathryn Cather as an example of what to expect from the women’s volleyball program. This athlete was a Varsity Team Captain in high school who led Hoover to their first appearance in the finals and finished as runner-up in 7A in 2014. She was named to the All State Tournament Team and was named Team Captain for the Birmingham Volleyball Club.
Once she started playing for Ole Miss in 2015, she quickly earned a penchant for success by being named to the SEC All-Freshman Team. She would later, in her sophomore year, lead the team and rank eight in the SEC with at .351 hitting percentage. This comes even after she had to miss eight games due to concussion symptoms.
What this tells us is that Penn State has a proven and seasoned leader at the helm who shows a remarkable ability to bounce back from injury to amazing results. But how does this compare to the youngest player on the roster?
Cami May played for Cinco Ranch High School where she placed second in the National 17u in 2016. She was named as one of volleyballmag.com’s Top 50 Seniors around that time as well and also earned a mention as one of volleyballmag.com’s Top 50 underclassmen to watch. Organizations such as Prep Volleyball have also called her one of their Top 100 Senior Aces, likely due to how she was named Lone Star Vaolleyball All-State.
What this tells us about Cami is that while she doesn’t have Kathryn’s experience playing for intercollegiate sports, she does have a frequent record as being a player to watch, which means that analysts already see her as being a strong player and a worthy addition to the Lions Roster.
2018 and 2019 Recruits
The world of intercollegiate volleyball is an intense spectacle of athleticism and skill, but the race for the tournament title begins in the annual recruiting phase. Even right now, this early in 2018, many upcoming students have given verbal commitments to join Penn-State for the 2019 year.
Jenna Hampton will be a Nittany Lion starting in the 2018 season. She has a video of her signing day ceremony at Berkley Prep that you can view at this link. But here’s what we know about this promising recruit.
In her 2017 season, she was named #31 on PrepVolleyball.com’s Senior Ace list and was named to the site’s 2018 Feb. 50 team. She was also named as the 2017 Hillsborough Player of the Year and was noted as standing out because of her consistency as an outside hitter who does great work converting points.
With a record of 224 kills, 44 aces, and 344 digs for a team that went 30-2, it’s believed that Jenna Hampton is going to provide great results for her team once she hits the court.
Lauren Clark of Minnesota’s Armstrong High, has been cited as giving verbal commitment to join the Lions for their 2019 season. As a 6-1 outside hitter, she led the Falcons with 444 kills in her recent season. She has been recorded as having a 32 inch vertical, which makes her an excellent blocker.
An article detailing why she’s such a prime pick for the Lions calls her a force to be reckoned with. Coach Bryan Borgos calls her a stud who’s fun to play against and says that any coach that signs her will have a far easier time doing their jobs.
We have no doubt that Lauren Clark will prove to be a valuable addition to the squad, helping to replace the seniors who leave after the 2018 season.
How Do I Get Involved?
Now, if you’re interested in joining this amazing roster in your athletics career, there are several things you can do to give yourself the best chance at being recruited. To help you, we are going to go over the top three best tips that give you the strongest chance of joining these amazing squads.
To make this easier, we’ve compiled a top three tips list for what you can do to join this prestigious club.
Top Three Ways You Can Be Recruited as a Nittany Lion
Number One: Keep Up the Pressure
This is the number one tip for staying in the sights of PSU’s recruiting coaches. But what does it mean exactly?
First, you always want to work on your skills. Don’t settle for practicing only after school when you can take time at the gym to keep yourself fit, strengthen your strengths, and limit your weaknesses. Also, look for and ask your coaches for ways that you can improve and take their advice to heart. Most coaches want to see their team excel.
Finally, if you want to join the Nittany Lions, it’s perfectly alright to keep up with them. Call or email after any reasonable time between contacts so that your name is at the forefront of their minds. If you have the skills and can back up what you say, there’s no reason not to get on friendly terms with your future coach and squad.
Number Two: Work with your coaches to make a rock solid recruitment video
With so many high schools, showcase camps, volleyball clubs, and tournaments to visit, it’s almost impossible to expect that a recruiting coach will stumble upon you without a little effort on your part. Thankfully, you don’t need to do anything more but to create a highlight reel of your best performances.
The trick is to remember the Three E’s of a great recruitment video.
Edit your videos so that the coach doesn’t have to wait too long to see your best digs, kills, and sets. Use high quality recording Equipment, since a grainy cell phone camera video won’t put you at your best light. Make Effective use of technology by keeping in contact with recruiting coaches through email or phone calls.
When you follow these steps, you’ll be sure to make a better first impression.
Number Three: Participate in Summer Volleyball Camps
What better way is there to prepare for playing at PSU then to participate directly in their instructional volleyball camp. More than any other method, this tip will get you in close direct contact with your potential future coaches who will be able to train you in the exact skills that they need from you.
Best of all is that you’ll be working with fellow rising students who may join you when you are recruited into the Lions. Even if you aren’t recruited and end up joining another team, there’s nothing wrong with getting trained by one of the NCAA’s top volleyball programs.
So there you have it. Everything you need to know about one of the hottest volleyball programs in the country. How do you think they’ll do this year?