Tori Gorrell: Penn State’s Maple Leaf Middle Blocker
When you think about Canadian sports, hockey is obviously the first thing that comes to mind. But for Penn State middle blocker Tori Gorrell, it was on the volleyball court where she found her passion.
She didn’t know that it would take her from Oakville, Ontario, to Happy Valley until one fateful computer search.
“I kinda joked around with my dad a little bit, just asking what the No. 1 school was,” Gorrell said. “He looked it up on Google cause he had no idea. It said Penn State had just won the national championship and I was like, ‘I’m gonna go there!’ Years later, I started talking to coaches and Penn State would always be in the back of my mind.”
“My mom used to work in the NHL and my dad played and now works in the CFL. Hockey family? Yeah. Volleyball family? No. I fell in love with volleyball when I was probably 12 years old. I got in the gym and was like, ‘I wanna keep playing, I wanna keep playing, I wanna keep playing.’ I think that’s how it is for most girls.”
The 6-foot-2 Gorrell spent last season learning from the sidelines, absorbing as much of Russ Rose’s philosophy as possible. The redshirt year paid off in spades for Gorrell, who’s started all 29 matches for the Nittany Lions in 2016. It all began with plenty of hard work this offseason.
“Last spring season, we got our butts kicked in the gym and fitness room. It was just great. The upperclassmen showed us that we have to work harder all the time if we want it in the regular season,” Gorrell said. “Spring season’s a time to work on everything.”
Coach Rose gave a little background on how the Nittany Lions first discovered Gorrell and the strides she’s made since arriving on campus.
“Tori’s club team (Leaside) attended the Happy Volley Tournament during the summer when she was probably a sophomore,” Rose said. “She was on the radar at that point in time. We’ve recruited some Canadian players in the past. I think Tori’s making good progress in her year and a half here.”
She and junior middle blocker Haleigh Washington have helped hold opponents to a mere .165 hitting percentage on the season — good for second in the Big Ten behind only No. 1 Nebraska (.142). Gorrell discussed a few of the things Washington has taught her over the last two years.
“Just to have a love for the game still. She’s just so energetic and really a great mentor. I love playing with Haleigh,” Gorrell said. “Her attitude is constantly something I wanna strive to have. She’s always positive, always encouraging others, always [working] to get better. That’s what I wanna do for the team is be able to help others even when I’m down is what Haleigh really knows how to do well.”
Gorrell currently sits in fifth place on the team with 174 kills, but her efficient .369 hitting percentage is second to just Washington among Nittany Lion starters. Washington and Gorrell are one heck of a blocking duo to boot, with a team-leading 120 and 105, respectively. No. 15 Penn State (20-9, 12-6 Big Ten) has just two more regular-season matches in Rec Hall this weekend against Northwestern and Illinois before awaiting its NCAA Tournament fate.
Gorrell and the Nittany Lions will put it all on the line for their three seniors — Carley Muller, Laura Broerman, and Taylor Krause. While she and freshman libero Kendall White will still be the youngsters of the bunch next season, when the six-deep now-junior class graduates, it will be Gorrell who takes the reins.
For now, she’s happy going about her business on and off the court, roaring alongside her teammates after every big point.