Tori Gorrell Heating Up At Just The Right Time For Penn State Women’s Volleyball
It’s been an up-and-down year for Tori Gorrell.
The redshirt senior began the 2019 season as one of Penn State women’s volleyball’s seven starters but eventually found herself coming off the bench as the Nittany Lions attempted to change things up and invigorate an offense that occasionally struggled more than it should.
Now, in her final few weeks with the Nittany Lions, Gorrell is hitting her stride once again.
The Ontario native put together an impressive stretch of performances to close out the regular season, racking up 42 kills over her past three matches — 12 against Rutgers, 13 against Wisconsin, and a career-high 17 against Minnesota.
“I thought Tori played really well last weekend,” head coach Russ Rose said. “I thought that probably the greatest takeaway was how well she played last weekend in two big matches against two top-10 opponents, so I felt really good about her effort last weekend.”
Gorrell currently ranks as Penn State’s fourth-highest offensive producer with 229 kills on the season. The mark is already her best in her four seasons with the Nittany Lions and a stark contrast from her total of 74 in 2018.
Gorrell moved from middle blocker to outside hitter earlier this season to accommodate the team’s needs. Standout sophomore middles Serena Gray and Kaitlyn Hord’s established their roles as Penn State’s starters quickly into their tenures, while the offseason’s departures of Nia Reed and Taylor Leath left the Nittany Lions with a hole at outside hitter.
Despite shifting away from middle blocker, Gorrell is tied for third on the team with 64 total blocks on the season and is still seeing plenty of action at the net. She’s also contributed 48 digs, 11 service aces, and five assists.
The transition wasn’t always easy, but Rose is impressed with how she’s grown into the position.
“I just think she’s really continued to expand certain parts of her game,” Rose said. “I think she’s just really working hard and hitting the ball hard and high. She’s doing as much as she can to help the team. I think that’s what you would want from a fifth-year senior and somebody who’s played as much as she’s played previously… She’ll have a real big impact on how we do heading forward into the tournament.”
Heating up toward the end of a season certainly isn’t anything new for Gorrell. She played an integral role in guiding last year’s team throughout the 2018 NCAA Tournament after Serena Gray missed the majority of the postseason due to injury.
Now, she’s prepared to do the same as the Nittany Lions gear up for this year’s postseason.
“It’s always good to play better at the end of the year, but I should have been doing this all year,” Gorrell said. “I had a tough beginning of the season. I think I just get excited. I want to fire my team up. I want to win. I want to put us in a better spot in the tournament. We have a great team and we have a really good opportunity to go into this tournament at a really good time.”
Gorrell’s recent hot streak isn’t to say she hasn’t contributed in other ways throughout the season. The redshirt senior has stepped up as a crucial leader in Penn State’s young locker room, guiding the Nittany Lions’ 15 underclassmen through the ups and downs of Big Ten play.
“[Gorrell’s] also an ex-middle [blocker] and she helps teach these young girls little things that, even though she’s a smaller middle, she has to learn how to give shots,” senior libero Kendall White said. “[She has been] helping them learn new shots, too. She’s a good teacher when it comes to things that they don’t know and they haven’t learned yet.”
Penn State will kick off this year’s NCAA Tournament at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 6 at Rec Hall against Princeton. There’s a lot of room for uncertainty when it comes to a 64-team tournament, but one thing is clear: Tori Gorrell will be a crucial component of the Nittany Lions’ success throughout the postseason.
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