When Kendall White arrived at Penn State, she was naturally explosive and had a knack for making plays on defense. Now, the sophomore libero is starting to anticipate where the ball’s going before it gets there.
Senior middle blocker Haleigh Washington has taken notice of her teammate’s impressive development in year two with the program.
“I think Kendall’s court IQ has been an interesting thing to watch develop, because she came in with natural defensive and serve-receive skills, so seeing her get an eye for the game has been cool,” Washington said.
White has been Penn State’s starting libero since day one, bringing an added layer of grit to Russ Rose’s lineup. After tallying an even 500 digs and Big Ten All-Freshman recognition her first season on campus, the Indianapolis standout is better prepared for what the conference schedule will throw at her.
“She always plays hard,” Rose said. “I think she’s much more mature as a player this year. Last year, she was just flying all over the place. I think she’s a lot more disciplined now.”
There’s a reason Rose recruited her, and it centers on her ability to block out the noise, even on the biggest stages. After dropping an agonizing 3-2 match to Nebraska in the Sweet 16 last December, White and the Nittany Lions are focused on taking care of the finer details this fall, one match at a time.
“She knows one speed, whether it’s practice, a game, or, I have a feeling, in life. I think she’s got her blinders on and that’s just the way she probably was raised,” Rose said.
White, a kinesiology major, isn’t afraid to put her body on the line, either. The bumps and bruises are simply reminders of the blue-collar mentality Rose instills in his players. Sometimes, she wears a Nike padded sleeve during practice just like fellow Indy native Tommy Stevens.
Simone Lee recognized early on there was something different about White and the enthusiasm she brings to the gym each day.
“Kendall’s great. She’s so fun, really energetic all the time,” Lee said. “On and off the court, she always has a smile on her face. She wasn’t that nervous freshman who you typically hear about. She was loud, going after balls, putting herself out there.”
White was quick to heap praise on Penn State’s high-flying outside hitter, saying of Lee: “She’s definitely a weapon. She’s awesome. We love her.”
This year’s roster is loaded with senior leadership, but White is every bit as outspoken as her veteran teammates. There’s a different chemistry surrounding this bunch in general, stemming back to the team’s trip to Brazil over the summer.
“It was the first time I got to go out of the country,” White said. “I probably never would have been able to if we didn’t get that opportunity. But the volleyball was really different — different kind of ball, different kind of players — so it was really interesting to see a different culture of volleyball.”
While White said there isn’t a go-to song in the locker room just yet, Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” has been a mainstay on the pregame playlist.
Penn State and Minnesota are currently tied for the No. 3 spot in the AVCA Coaches Poll. The Nittany Lions host Illinois Friday at 7:30 before welcoming Northwestern to Rec Hall the following night after the football game.