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Penn State Women’s Volleyball Freshmen Proving Crucial Through Big Ten Play

No. 11 Penn State women’s volleyball is out to make a name for itself this 2022 season. Not only does the team have a number of new players and transfers, but it’s head coach Katie Schumacher-Cawley’s first year at the helm.

The team started off 12-0, being one of only three teams still undefeated at the time. But, a turning point came after the Nittany Lions’ first loss of the season against Michigan in September.

The rotation became inconsistent, and Schumacher-Cawley knew that changes needed to be made regarding the flow of the lineup.

Then, in stepped freshmen Gillian Grimes, Mandi Morioka, and Alexa Markley.

Grimes has served as a starter since the beginning. Starting at the top of the rotation as a defensive specialist and consistently holding the first serve of the game, she has become a huge asset to the back of the court this season.

The defensive specialist has 17 service aces on the season, the fourth most on the team. Grimes also has 143 digs and averages 1.88 digs per set, which is huge in terms of Penn State’s serve-receive approach and hitting defense.

Grimes also acts as a huge emotional presence on the court when the team is successful but can also be a calm and positive attitude when things aren’t quite going the Nittany Lions’ way.

Morioka is another addition to the backcourt this season, and while she may not have the numbers Grimes does, she has come up big when the Nittany Lions have needed it most.

Perhaps Morioka’s most notable moment of the season was against Wisconsin when she came cold off the bench and registered a service ace to keep the team alive in set three of the game. The Nittany Lions ultimately lost, but Morioka was a huge spark in the 31-29 set.

Unfortunately, Morioka is currently out for an undisclosed amount of time due to a foot injury.

On the offensive side of things, Markley has been hitting her stride on both sides of the court. The Georgia native has accounted for 62 kills in only 36 sets, which adds up to about only half of the season.

The hitter’s flexibility to hit from the outside, as well as the right side, also allows for more of the bench to get involved in the lineup. This can make for an offensive powerhouse when there are combinations such as Zoe Weatherington and Kashauna Williams with Markley.

Getting Markley involved is all the more important now that the team recently announced the season-ending injury of junior middle blocker Taylor Trammell.

“So sad to see my season end early, but I am having so much fun being here in the first season as a Nittany Lion,” Trammell said.

Since then, Markley has gotten even more playing time. She even found herself in the starting lineup against Rutgers on Sunday.

With 10 more games left in Penn State’s conference schedule, five of which are currently slated as ranked matchups, these freshmen have plenty of time to continue making their mark.

The Nittany Lions, who were upset by unranked Illinois on Wednesday, will play No. 6 Ohio State at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 29, at Rec Hall.

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About the Author

Mara McKeon

Mara is a sophomore staff writer majoring in English and public relations. She loves all things sports and anything that has peanut butter. You can usually find her obsessing over country music and counting down the days until she gets to see Luke Combs at the Linc. Feel free to reach her on Twitter @MckeonMara, and for more formal affairs, her email is [email protected]

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