Tori Gorrell Delivers In The Clutch For Penn State Volleyball
After starting the last two seasons at middle blocker for Penn State women’s volleyball, Tori Gorrell was relegated to a backup role this season behind a pair of heralded true freshmen.
Instead of letting her diminished playing time affect her mindset, the redshirt junior stayed patient and waited for her opportunity. She finally earned that chance in Serena Gray’s absence over the weekend, helping the Nittany Lions advance to the Sweet 16.
Gray missed both matches against Howard and Syracuse with an apparent injury, and it’s unclear whether she’ll be available for the team’s showdown with Washington Friday at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, California.
Gorrell tallied 16 kills and eight blocks during Penn State’s consecutive sweeps of the Bison and Orange while playing alongside All-Big Ten second team selection Kaitlyn Hord. She led the Nittany Lions with a match-high 11 kills Saturday night at Rec Hall in the final home match of the season.
“She hit .500, so she was the leading hitter in the match offensively, but I thought she served great and I thought she blocked well,” head coach Russ Rose said. “She was certainly a very calming presence out there. It was really critical for us that Tori played as well as she did.”
In a somewhat similar situation to what Jalen Hurts and Alabama went through in Saturday’s SEC championship game, Gorrell showed her ample experience on the biggest stages shouldn’t be discounted. It looked like she had been starting all season long.
“I just love playing in front of Rec Hall,” Gorrell said. “It was the last one of the year, and I just love playing with these girls. I’m just here to have fun. I think we have great setters on this team who allow us to cover high percentages.”
Syracuse boasts two of the more physical middle blockers Penn State has faced this season, and she was a crucial reason why the Nittany Lions were able to pull off a sweep. Gorrell has refined the other aspects of her game this year and is no longer just a factor above the net.
“She came in when we needed her,” libero Kendall White said. “She wants the spot permanently, and she’s going to come out and play her hardest. That’s what we do here. I think we push each other and I love that. Her pushing our other middles makes them better and makes us better.”
Gorrell’s played all three front-row positions in practice and has spent significant time working on her passing, which she showcased with a tremendous diving save against the Orange. The Oakville, Ontario native is one of only four current Nittany Lions who saw the floor in last season’s Final Four loss to Nebraska.
“She’s always kept a really positive attitude,” Rose said earlier this season. “I think she’s really done a nice job of trying to help the team in any way she possibly can.”
Gorrell echoed that sentiment, further demonstrating her team-first attitude regardless of whatever stands in her way.
“I’m just here to do whatever coach needs,” she said. “I don’t really care what I have to do. I’m here to help the team win.”
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