Micha Hancock’s Replacement Emerging In Bryanna Weiskircher
Though one of the best collegiate women’s volleyball players ever has graduated from Penn State, not all is lost. The Nittany Lions never have to rebuild their roster, they just reload.
Setter Micha Hancock led the Lions to their second-straight National Championship last December, just a few hours away from her hometown of Edmond, Oklahoma. Hancock ranks among Penn State and NCAA leaders in numerous statistics. She was an integral part of Russ Rose’s team each of the last four years and replacing her won’t be easy, but the way Penn State recruits, it just might be possible.
Three matches into the 2015 season, Penn State is unsurprisingly 3-0. Buffalo, Stony Brook, and Villanova all opened the season at Rec Hall for the Penn State Classic, and the Nittany Lions swept all three teams (although Villanova kept it close and won more than 20 points in each set). Penn State matches aren’t a matter of who will win, but how. Through one weekend of play, the answer to that question is beginning to emerge — off of the sets of freshmen Bryanna Weiskircher and Wilma Rivera.
Rivera, a true freshman from Carolina, Puerto Rico, helped lead her high school team to multiple tournament wins while piling up individual accolades along the way. She came into Penn State with standard high expectations, just like redshirt freshman Weiskircher. She sat out the 2014 season and was able learn from and practice with Hancock, and was along for the ride to the National Championship. Now, the duo and their very different backgrounds are competing for the starting setter position, and after the first match against Buffalo, head coach Russ Rose wouldn’t hint towards who he thought was the better player. Since then, however, Weiskircher has been the go-to setter, but both played well and are supported by their teammates.
“Of course there’s a difference, because everyone has a different touch on the ball,” Aiyana Whitney said. “It’s about getting in the gym, getting reps, and getting comfortable.”
“Each setter has a different game, each setter has a different way that they play, so when anybody comes on the court there’s always a different dynamic,” Haleigh Washington added. “Regardless, you still have to play the game and take care of things you can take care of. If Bryanna comes out, it’s still volleyball. Still pass-set-hit. If Wilma comes out, still pass-set-hit.”
In the Buffalo match, Rivera played the first set and tallied eight assists, but from that point on the offense was mostly Weiskircher’s to run. She played the next two sets and totaled 18 assists, then added 30 more against Stony Brook and 37 against Villanova. Rivera added five assists in the Stony Brook match, but sat out against the Wildcats.
“I thought Bryanna looked a little more comfortable out there than Wilma,” Rose said after the Buffalo match. “That’s why you play matches like that at home first, you don’t really know the unknown… A work in progress for sure, a long way to go.”
Though it doesn’t seem like the team has all of the answers yet, they’ll need them soon. Only one week of practice lies between the Nittany Lions and the upcoming Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge. Rec Hall will play host to No. 24 Colorado on Friday and No. 2 Stanford on Saturday, in what might end up being Penn State’s toughest weekend of the season. The top-ranked Penn State team will need to finish plays if they want to stay No. 1 — and if they want to finish plays, they’ll need Weiskircher to start them.
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“I knew my mom did it and I knew I was going to finish, but having her there pushing me, talking to me, and keeping me occupied definitely took my mind off the pain.”
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