Blue White Illustrated

September 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 48 of 67

S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 3 4 9 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M P enn State women's volleyball coach Katie Schumacher-Cawley had a matter-of-fact response when asked recently about the awk- wardness that the transfer portal has brought to college sports by creating the possibility of a rival player suddenly becoming one of your players. As far as the second-year PSU head coach is concerned, there is no awk- wardness. If a would-be transfer has the competitive ability and the desire to be a Nittany Lion, it doesn't matter if she was a Buckeye or a Wolverine or a Boil- ermaker the year before. She's going to fit right in at Rec Hall. "I want them to be in the best position they can be in," Schumacher-Cawley said. "We don't make it weird at all. We want players who want to wear the blue and white and are proud to be Penn Staters and compete and be great teammates." The Nittany Lions' inclusiveness figures to serve them well this year. They landed four transfers during a busy offseason, and several of those players are expected to have key roles in Penn State's efforts to build on a 26-8 finish in Schumacher- Cawley's first season as head coach. Senior Mac Podraza is the biggest name among the newcomers. She spent the past four seasons at Big Ten rival Ohio State, culminating her tenure by claiming the league's Setter of the Year award last year. Podraza is a three-time first-team All- Big Ten honoree and earned second-team All-America notice last season after total- ing 1,299 assists in 32 matches. There were no hard feelings in Co- lumbus when the Ohio native decided to leave. With a four-player freshman class coming in, and five veteran players want- ing to use their bonus year of eligibility, the Buckeyes didn't have enough schol- arships to go around. Podraza, who has amassed 4,001 career assists, headed east. The Nittany Lions also landed senior outside hitter Jess Mruzik, a first-team All-Big Ten honoree last year and an honorable mention All-American in 2021 while attending Michigan, along with se- nior right-side hitter Camryn Hannah from Clemson and graduate setter Ally Van Eekeren from High Point University in North Carolina. Both Podraza and Mruzik received preseason All-Big Ten recognition in July. Their presence on Penn State's ros- ter was one of the reasons the league's coaches picked PSU fourth in their pre- season poll behind Wisconsin, Nebraska and Minnesota. When the Nittany Lions open their sea- son Aug. 25 against Florida at the Road 2 Tampa Bay Invitational, they'll have some additional transfers on their roster. Super senior outside hitter Zoe Weather- ington arrived from Utah last year, while senior middle blocker Taylor Trammell came from Purdue. Trammell is back to full health after suffering a season-ending injury last October. Schumacher-Cawley said she envi- sions Penn State's roster-construction process shifting away from the portal to- ward more high school recruiting in the years to come. Indeed, that transition is already underway, with four true fresh- men on this year's team. "We always want to get the best play- ers, and I always want players to be here for their entire career," Schumacher- Cawley said. But the portal will continue to supply talent. When Penn State finds players who fit the team's needs, the coach- ing staff — which now includes former PSU great Megan Hodge Easy — will be happy to bring them aboard. The Nit- tany Lions did just that this year, and players are excited to see the results on the court. "The day we found out we got these new transfers was a day of celebration," Weatherington said. "Our team just keeps getting more and more talent, and I'm really excited for the season." ■ OLYMPIC SPORTS During her first season as head coach, Katie Schumacher-Cawley guided Penn State to a 26-8 record and an appearance in the regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. PHOTO COURTESY PENN STATE ATHLETICS Trading Places Transfers have once again bolstered the Penn State women's volleyball roster M AT T H E R B | M A T T. H E R B @ O N 3 . C O M

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