No. 9-ranked Penn State women’s volleyball is red hot to start the 2022 season with an 11-0 record that includes wins over No. 21 Oregon and No. 5 Stanford.
But, a whole new season begins on Friday with the start of Big Ten play.
The Big Ten is nothing short of dominant when it comes to women’s volleyball, with five of the top 10 teams being from the Big Ten in this week’s AVCA Division I Coaches Poll.
The first challenges will come at home this weekend against unranked Indiana and Michigan. But, despite those two being unranked, the in-conference competition is so strong that there’s really not much room for error. Head coach Katie Schumacher-Cawley spoke about the constant challenge of conference teams present.
“There’s nothing like the Big Ten,” Schumacher-Cawley said. “This is a new season now, and obviously, the preseason was great, and I think we learned a lot. But, you know, the Big Ten is relentless every night.”
While the early-season schedule has allowed the team to work together and warm up to the more intense part of its schedule, there has been a lot of travel and work being put in by the team.
“We’ll watch a lot of film, you know, [to] be as prepared as we can be in helping them to know what’s going on on the other side,” Schumacher-Cawley said. “I think it’s just being able to control what we can on our side.”
The powerful starting lineup is full of transfers and returning upperclassmen. However, a huge part of the team is true freshman Gillian Grimes.
The first-year defensive specialist already has 10 service aces on the season, as well as 77 digs, which is the third-most on the team behind libero Maddy Bilinovic (157) and setter Seleisa Elisaia (82).
“It’s been a dream brought here,” said Grimes. “Playing against our first opponent, [Indiana]that’s just like a dream for me.”
While Grimes is able to hold it down on the defensive side, the commanding offense is just as intimidating.
Utah transfer Zoe Weatherington and Long Beach State transfer Kashauna Williams are a force when it comes to kills, as the duo has totaled 210 of the 523 kills from Penn State this season.
The bench runs deep for the Nittany Lions, too, with Taylor Trammel, Angelina Starck, and Allie Holland all providing a spark for the undefeated Nittany Lions.
Starck, a sophomore outside hitter, talked about the togetherness that the team possesses.
“[We have] a lot of trust in each other, and I think we always have since we got on the court,” Starck said.
The Nittany Lions will start their Big Ten campaign at 7 pm on Friday at Rec Hall against Indiana followed by a 7 pm first serve on Saturday against Michigan. Penn State will then hit the road to visit Wisconsin at 9 pm on Friday, Sept. 30. The Badgers are currently ranked No. 6.