Ali Frantti Adds Different Dimension To Her Game
It didn’t take long for Ali Frantti to make her mark at Penn State.
The junior outside hitter was named AVCA DI National Freshman of the Year in 2014, leading the Nittany Lions in kills with 391 as they captured their record seventh national championship. Frantti, who hails from Spring Grove, Ill., has worked hard on the other aspects of her game to become a more well-rounded player on the defensive end.
“I think her passing has been really good,” head coach Russ Rose said. “I think she’s had some hot and cold matches offensively. She’s always a really good kid. You don’t have to worry about her making bad decisions away from the gym. She takes her academics seriously. As I said at the beginning of the year, our best volleyball happens when she’s playing at her best.”
Frantti discussed her official visit to University Park and what it was about Penn State that made her instantly feel comfortable. “When I first got to Rec Hall, the girls were warming up about to play. I just felt at home,” Frantti said. “I couldn’t really describe it. The whole atmosphere at Penn State, it’s such a beautiful campus. It’s one of those things — in your gut, you just know.”
She arrived in Happy Valley alongside a pair of familiar faces in Bryanna Weiskircher and Simone Lee, both of whom suited up for the same travel team as Frantti — Club Fusion. “Bryanna and I have played club volleyball together since we were 15. She lives about an hour away from me, but we definitely played against each other in high school too.”
“I came into this program really naive. I grew up in a small town, so coming here was a huge adjustment,” Frantti said. “I was a happy-go-lucky kid. I had no idea what stats were freshman year at all. I think that’s kind of an advantage I had that. I just think I’ve matured a lot and realized things I can and can’t control.”
Frantti had the opportunity to learn from one of Penn State’s most decorated players in program history — setter Micha Hancock.
“Freshman year, when I had Micha, honestly she was just such a great leader. She was the alpha female on our team. She took me under her wing always,” Frantti said. “I just felt, whenever I was on the court with her, she always had our backs. No one was gonna beat her out. She’s such a competitor. She’s probably the most beast competitor I’ve ever met in my life.”
She also had the benefit of learning from fellow outside hitter Megan Courtney her first two seasons on campus. Frantti touched on the leadership both Courtney and Hancock showcased each day, but admitted she prefers to take a quieter approach to her new role as a veteran.
“We play the same position. She helped me out so much the last two years, just growing as a person — off the volleyball court and on,” Frantti said. “They’re very vocal people and I can definitely say I’m not the most vocal. I don’t talk as much but I would love to lead by example. They just told me to find my role and what I can contribute.”
No. 15 Penn State (19-9, 10-6 Big Ten) is in uncharted waters as the regular season looms to a close. With three home tilts left on the schedule before the NCAA Tournament, the Nittany Lions haven’t dropped this many matches in a single season since 1987. Frantti knows she and the rest of the upperclassmen will be tasked with showing young guns like Kendall White and Tori Gorrell the ropes.
“They haven’t been in these pressure situations yet. It’s gonna get a lot tougher, especially in the postseason,” Frantti said. “We definitely have to help them out. I think they’ll be perfectly fine. They’re a strong group.”
After bringing home AVCA Honorable Mention All-America honors last year, Frantti is inching closer to a major Penn State milestone. She currently sits at 913 career kills, just 87 short of joining Courtney as the 26th Nittany Lion ever to reach 1,000.
You can catch Frantti and the Nittany Lions in action this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. in Rec Hall as they take on Purdue.