Simone Lee Takes Her Game To A Whole New Level
Junior outside hitter SImone Lee is arguably the most improved player in the Big Ten. The Menomonee Falls, Wis., native leads the Nittany Lions with 302 kills on the season, good for fifth in the conference.
She immediately put the Big Ten on watch in Penn State’s third match of the season. Despite dropping a hard-fought 2-3 battle to then-No. 19 North Carolina, Lee blew her previous career-high of 14 kills (set at Northwestern last season) out of the water with 23. She currently checks in with 102 digs and 39 blocks. The 6-foot-1 Lee put together an outing for the ages against the Golden Gophers on Oct. 5. Russ Rose’s bunch blew the top off Rec Hall in an electric 3-2 upset over then-No. 1 Minnesota, and Lee was front and center with 30 kills — another career-high.
Her record performance marked the first time a Penn State player had ever eclipsed the 30-kill threshold in the 25-point rally scoring era. NIttany Lion great Nicole Fawcett did post 31 in 2007 against Cal Poly before the new rules were instated. For her effort, Lee joined libero Dominique Gonzalez (2011-2014) as the lone blue and white volleyball standouts to ever be named espnW National Player of the Week. She and junior Abby Detering were also recognized as the Big Ten’s Player and Setter of the Week, respectively.
Fresh off its first conference loss of the season, a 2-3 setback in Ann Arbor, No. 10 Penn State (17-4, 9-1 Big Ten) will travel to Lee’s native Wisconsin for an enormous showdown with Lauren Carlini and the fourth-ranked Badgers this Friday at 9:00 p.m. ET on Big Ten Network.
“It’s exciting to play against people from your home state, that’s for sure,” Lee said. “We’ve performed well against Wisconsin in the past, so we just wanna continue that tradition — we wanna make sure we’re doing everything possible to pull out a victory.
“I have my family, my friends, my former teammates, family friends — I have a lot of people [coming],” Lee said. “I’m really excited. I haven’t seen them for a long time.”
Lee and middle blocker Haleigh Washington are a big reason why the Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in hitting percentage with an outstanding average of .316 per match. Washington, a 2015 AVCA First-Team All-American, is far and away the conference’s most efficient player. The Colorado Springs, Colo., native is swinging a ridiculous .468 heading into Penn State’s biggest stretch of the season, with its next two matches coming on the road at Wisconsin and Minnesota this weekend.
“Everyone plays best in their home gym, so we need to make sure we’re able to perform right out of the gate, from the first whistle to the last whistle,” Lee said.
The Nittany Lions have exuded their signature passion and commitment to detail this fall, and Lee has clearly taken her leadership to new heights. She explained what lights her fire night in and night out in the nation’s toughest conference, which features eight teams ranked inside the Top 25.
“Just seeing the faces of my teammates. Every time we get out on the court, I’m like, ‘I wanna play for you guys.'”