Penn State Women’s Volleyball’s Veteran Core Sets Team Up For Success

Penn State women’s volleyball has had a hectic offseason complete with significant departures and notable pickups. However, the Nittany Lions are poised for success thanks to their talented lineup of returning stars.

The team began returning its student-athletes to campus earlier this summer. With just a few more weeks until the season could potentially begin, let’s take a look at how the Nittany Lions’ roster stacks up.


Despite losing middle blocker Tori Gorrell to graduation this offseason, Penn State should have little trouble putting points on the board thanks to its talented returning core. The Nittany Lions’ dynamic juniors — Jonni Parker, Kaitlyn Hord, and Serena Gray — will undoubtedly continue their already-impressive careers when they resume their roles as starters this fall.

Last season, Hord garnered national attention after she hit .440 on the season, ranking third in the country among qualified players. Her partner in the middle, Gray, hit .382, good for 31st in the country. Together, their accuracy and firepower helped Penn State claim the ninth-best hitting percentage in the country at .287.

While a bit less accurate than Penn State’s middles, Parker should have little trouble building on her incredible sophomore season. She ended the regular season with a team-high 431 kills, smashing her freshman total of 351. It’s not far-fetched to imagine she’ll continue finding success with less competition for playing time.

Additionally, Penn State acquired a number of strong arms through the transfer portal this offseason. Memphis graduate transfer Hannah Flowers, a 6′ 2″ right side, will compete for playing time (and likely earn it) alongside the aforementioned trio. She previously totaled 1,005 kills with the Tigers and will use her final year of eligibility for one last ride.

Another newcomer, Anastasiya Kudryashova, should also help boost Penn State’s offense. The Rutgers transfer has totaled 134 career kills with the Scarlet Knights and will likely compete for time alongside incoming freshmen Annie Cate Fitzpatrick and Macy Van Den Elzen.

Of course, no offense would be complete without a dynamic setter laying down the groundwork. Thankfully, Gabby Blossom will return to the court and work to build on an impressive debut season as the team’s starting setter. In 2019, Blossom posted 1,332 assists — the most of any Nittany Lion since Micha Hancock in 2014.

At this time, Penn State may also need to replace outside hitter Allyson Cathey, who’s no longer listed on its 2020 roster. Currently, she’s entered the NCAA transfer portal and could leave the program for another team. Cathey posted 292 kills in her two seasons in Happy Valley and would certainly be tough to replace should she leave for good.


No matter how this season shakes out, it’s safe to say Penn State’s defense will sorely miss Kendall White. The most decorated libero in program history, White’s departure leaves a tough void to fill for the Nittany Lions.

Luckily, Penn State retained many dynamic defensive playmakers. Jenna Hampton, a junior defensive specialist, will likely take up the mantle and succeed White as the team’s libero. To date, she’s collected 365 digs while averaging nearly two per set.

Although Hampton clearly has the resume to become the Nittany Lions’ next libero, it’s important to remember nothing is guaranteed under head coach Russ Rose. Headed into his 42nd season with the team, Rose has built a reputation for fostering competition among the roster and never guaranteeing spots or playing time.

But Hampton has one key characteristic of White’s that should help her earn a spot on the floor: grit.

“I love scramble plays,” Hampton said last season. “That’s one of my favorite parts of the game is a crazy play where you have to go make a diving save like that, because it really gets the crowd going, gets your team going, and it’s a really good energy booster. You’ve got to play hard.”

Liberos aside, Penn State’s middle blockers will be a force to be reckoned with come August. Hord and Gray, who combined for 237 blocks in 2019’s regular season and both earned All-American nods, should easily control the net against opposing offenses.

Additionally, newer faces will certainly make an impact defensively. Flowers is arguably the most dynamic new addition, as she totaled 281 digs and 185 blocks in her three seasons with Memphis. Returning defensive specialists Macall Peed and West Virginia transfer Keatan Broughton should also add depth to the roster. Peed totaled 29 digs as a freshman last season, while Broughton racked up 250 digs as a Mountaineer.

Season Prediction

If Penn State plays this fall (and that’s a big “if”), it will undoubtedly be set up for success. The Nittany Lions’ ridiculous core of Parker, Gray, Hord, Blossom, and more should pay dividends toward another impressive season.

However, the Big Ten choosing to limit fall sports to conference-only schedules may not work in Penn State’s favor. The Big Ten is historically a notoriously good volleyball conference, and that’s certainly not going to change anytime soon. The elimination of “easy” wins against non-conference opponents will force the Nittany Lions to get serious from the get-go.

Nonetheless, I’m confident Penn State will come out hot and play well en route to another successful season. If nothing changes, I’m putting the Nittany Lions down for a second-place Big Ten finish and yet another NCAA Tournament Elite Eight appearance. Book it.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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