Jenna Hampton Provides Jolt Off The Bench For Penn State Volleyball
Jenna Hampton may not have earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman Team like Jonni Parker and Kaitlyn Hord, but her impact this season for Penn State women’s volleyball is unquestioned.
The defensive specialist from Tampa is one of only three freshmen to play in all 32 matches so far for the Nittany Lions, joining Parker and backup setter Gabby Blossom.
Hampton won a state championship as a senior at Berkeley Prep alongside current teammate Amanda Phegley and was ranked the No. 31 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting class.
Although she’s playing in the back row for Russ Rose’s squad, Hampton was an accomplished outside hitter in high school. She showcased those skills when she finished off a kill following Bryanna Weiskircher’s ridiculous kick save against Ohio State. It checked in at No. 9 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays that night.
“I like the fact that she plays really hard,” Rose said of Hampton. “She’s a no-nonsense player. She’s not afraid to fly into the crowd to get a ball. She’s been a real valuable person off the bench.”
Hampton was initially drawn to softball growing up, but said her youth coach identified she had all the tools to be a great volleyball player and suggested she give it a shot. She first knew she wanted to play for Penn State in seventh grade after attending one of Rose’s camps at Juniata College.
Hampton is Kendall White’s protégé and will likely be her successor at libero in 2020 when White — who’s on pace to break Penn State’s career digs record — graduates after next season. The pair has gained a reputation for making the spectacular saves look easy.
“I think the two of them playing together provides us with three rotations where our defense is really strong,” Rose said. “Jenna is as good of a back-row player coming in as we’ve had in years.”
Hampton is also effective from the service line. She’s currently second on the team with 27 aces heading into Friday’s Sweet 16 showdown against Washington. If the youthful Nittany Lions advance to the NCAA quarterfinals, Hampton and White’s defense will be a big reason why.
“Kendall’s awesome,” Hampton said. “One of her main things is, ‘Nothing touches the ground.’ She goes hard every ball. I feel like I’ve learned a lot from her. She’s a really good player-coach in a way.”
White, who was recently named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, noticed Hampton’s competitive nature from the first day she stepped on campus.
“She’s very aggressive, and you can’t really teach that,” White said. “She’s impressed me kind of how all the other freshmen have — coming in and wanting to work hard. I think that being a freshman has nothing to do with it. I think she’s a good player period.”
Hampton said senior outside hitter Taylor Leath has also been especially helpful in her development this season, working with her on the intricacies of serve-receive and her communication.
Hampton is fifth on the team with 176 digs entering this weekend’s trip to Stanford, California. When asked where her hustle and tenacity comes from, Hampton couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but was quick to point out it’s been a part of her game for as long as she can remember.
“I think it’s something I’ve always done and it’s something that the program is known for,” Hampton said. “I’m just keeping the tradition.”
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