Kendall White Cementing Herself Among Penn State Volleyball’s All-Time Greats

Kendall White is well on her way to becoming the most decorated libero in Penn State women’s volleyball history.

The junior from Zionsville, IN, surpassed 1,000 career digs during the first weekend of the season and is on track to break Kaleena (Walters) Davidson’s program record of 1,957. White is also the first Penn State libero since Davidson in 2005 to be named an AVCA All-American, earning a second-team nod last December.

Head coach Russ Rose has routinely praised White’s confidence and competitive nature since she stepped foot on campus and won the starting job as a freshman in 2016. Two years later, she’s providing a key veteran presence on a team that features 10 newcomers.

“She’s been a great match for Penn State,” Rose said. “If the ball is close to going in the crowd, she’s not going to slow down. She’s going to fly into the crowd to save the ball, and that’s always been the style of play I like to see in Rec Hall.”

White (3) and setter Bryanna Weiskircher talk strategy.

If you ask White or one of her teammates what quality of hers has contributed most to her success, you’ll likely hear a common response.

“I would say I’m kind of crazy. That’s the best part of my game. At least coach says he likes that about me,” White said. “You have to be a little bit crazy to play defense. Wanting to get hit in the face all the time is the name of the game.”

White, who’s averaging a little more than 16 digs per match, showcased her tremendous athletic ability in a sweep of Temple, laying out for a rare libero kill that easily should have earned a spot in SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays.

Outside hitter Nia Reed and setter Bryanna Weiskircher are the only two players on this year’s roster who own a national championship ring. The duo redshirted in 2014 when the Nittany Lions won their seventh NCAA title in a sweep of Brigham Young in Oklahoma City.

While White has yet to jump in on a championship dogpile at midcourt with her teammates, she’s played in her fair share of big matches.

She’s done everything from upsetting the No. 1 ranked team in the nation to earning a Big Ten title and a Final Four appearance. Albeit in a tight 3-2 loss, her career-high 32 digs came against top-ranked Nebraska at Rec Hall her freshman year.

White’s experience, as well as that consistent intensity, is what skyrockets her value for a team like the Nittany Lions with more freshmen on the roster than upperclassmen.

“Kendall’s presence is very steady. Every game it’s the same,” Reed said. “Kendall’s crazy, but we need that. We need that steady force on the court — someone who’s always focused, always knows what’s going on — and that’s Kendall.”

White serving against Missouri in last year’s NCAA tournament.

There’s no doubt White and the Nittany Lions will be ready when the Cornhuskers come to town on October 13. The last time Penn State beat Nebraska was November 29, 2014. Since then, the Huskers are 7-0 against Rose’s squad.

“We live for that,” White said of playing on the biggest stages. “We have Penn State on our backs. That’s why we came here. We came here to win a national championship. We came here to win always.”

Nebraska has eliminated Penn State from the NCAA tournament in heartbreaking fashion each of the last two seasons. In 2016, the Nittany Lions were a point away from sweeping the Huskers in the Sweet 16 before eventually losing 3-2. Last December, Nebraska won its fifth national championship after beating Florida in four sets.

White and the Nittany Lions celebrate punching their ticket to the 2017 Final Four.

As has been the case the last five times these two programs have met, White will be flying all over the court, diving for digs only she can reach. The 5-foot-5 spark plug goes way back with one of Penn State’s touted freshmen, right side Jonni Parker. The two were club teammates with the Munciana Samurai in Indiana.

Just like White, Parker’s been a starter since day one for the Nittany Lions, who brought in eight freshmen to secure the nation’s top-ranked 2018 recruiting class this summer. When Penn State won its then-record seventh national title, a mark that has since been tied by Stanford, the team featured — you guessed it — eight freshmen.

“We’ve always had talent here. Talent’s not the problem,” White said. “What we need is team chemistry. What we need is a team that’s going to play hard, with heart. Talent only gets you so far. This team, I think, has what it takes. We just have to find it.”

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About the Author

Ethan Kasales

Ethan’s a senior journalism major who grew up in Lemont, a few minutes from campus. When he’s not covering Penn State sports, you can usually find him golfing or teaching snowboarding at Tussey Mountain. Feel free to email him at [email protected].

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