Senior libero Alyssa DíErrico has had an extremely successful four years as a member of the Penn State womenís volleyball team. She played in every match during her freshman year and has been part of four Big Ten titles and three straight NCAA Tournament championship victories. Along the way, the Nittany Lions had a record 109-match winning streak, partly due to DíErricoís strong defense and serving. Onward State got a chance to talk to DíErrico before the post-season begins on Friday against Niagara.
Onward State: Itís been an extremely successful four years for you at Penn State. How would you describe your experience?
Alyssa DíErrico: So far, unbelievable. I grew up in western New York, coming down to Penn State for club tournaments, camps, volleyball matchesÖthe whole deal. It was my dream to come here. I didnít really think that I would be as much of a contributor until I started getting recruited. Being able to participate and be as heavily involved in the program as I have is just a great honor and just something I never really would have expected, especially in my younger years.
OS: Over these four years, you have won four Big Ten titles and three national championships. Do you have a most memorable moment?
AD: I would say that itís the Texas championship from last year. Itís just one of those things that, still looking back on now, gives you chills. Itís hard to believe that it actually happened. Being down 2-0 to a team like Texas, with as many skilled and gifted players as they had in such a highlighted national spotlight match, and coming back to win that is just an experience youíll never forget. I donít think that anybody that was at that match or played in that match will ever forget the feeling at the end of the game when we won.
OS: You have not been a part of too many losing matches. Has this season been a challenge for you?
AD: For sure. I think with every loss comes a new lesson, a new change, new idea. Thatís part of life. You arenít always going to win at everything. Youíre not always going to come out on top with everything that you do. Thatís one of the things that is the best part of this program. Coach [Russ Rose] teaches you about life too, not just about volleyball. So itís obviously been a challenge, but we are looking to the future right now. We are hoping that, game by game, we are bringing our best match to the table and can move as far as we would like to in the tournament.
OS: Speaking about the tournament, you get to host the first four rounds here at Penn State. Are you optimistic about your chances?
AD: For sure. We like playing at home as most people would know. Rec Hall and Penn State is just a great support system for us. Weíve had success here before and itís just one of those comfort thingsÖbut it doesnít guarantee us success. We have to bring our game to the table and play the way that we know how to play. We have to bring our style and our Penn State attitude to every match that we step into. I think that we canít be tentative and we have to be aggressive with our game and hope that gets us to where we want to be.
OS: Speaking about aggression, you are known for your jump serve. How and when did you start doing it?
AD: I started to try to jump serve when I was in eighth grade. My mom was my coach, so I was always trying new things and she was always trying to teach me different things. When I went and played with the 18-and-under team my freshman year, the coach had seen me hit and said, ďYou could probably jump serve.Ē So I worked on it. It didnít really become a consistent part of my game until my sophomore year of high school. From then on, it has just been building strength and trying to get some more speed on it, and obviously in college, a huge aspect of the game is speed and power.
OS: As a libero, you are responsible for defense and serving. So which is more exciting for youÖgetting a really good dig or serving an ace?
AD: I would say getting a really good dig. Itís kind of a deflator for the other team when their best hitter comes up and takes a huge rip at the ballÖand if you dig it up and your team gets a kill off of it, itís just one of those momentum changers. Itís for sure fun to be able to dig the best in the country and have a chance to play against the best of the country. In the Big Ten, we have that opportunity. I think itís awesome!
OS: As a senior, you are put in a position of leadership. Did that come naturally, or did you have to work at it?
AD: When I was younger, it came naturally because I was the best player on my high school team and on my club team. People kind of gravitate toward the best players as leaders. It was the same thing last year with Megan Hodge. When it was time to lead last year, we looked to her to do things, and thatís a trait of leadership. For Penn State, itís definitely something different. Itís a different type of leadership for me. Iím trying to be more vocal and more helpful to teammates rather than just playing my own gameÖnew things learned along the way the entire time.
OS: With volleyball season almost over, what are you going to do with all your free time?
AD: Hopefully Iíll get a little bit more accomplished in the class room! Volleyball is such a huge part of the fall semester for us with traveling, practices, lifting, training room, and video. We have so much on our plates. Iíve become [accustomed] to a lot on my plate moving from freshman year to senior year. It will be nice to have some more time to focus on schoolwork. Iíll definitely be bored out of my mind not knowing how to spend my afternoons, considering every afternoon Iíve been in Rec Hall playing volleyball or conditioning since I was 18 years old.
OS: What are your plans for you future? Will you stay with volleyball?
AD: I would love to stay with volleyball as long as there [are] opportunities to. As soon as the opportunities die out for me, I would love to start coaching. My mom coached me and Iíve been around coaching since I was born. I coach a club team now. I love just being around the sport and I donít think that it will ever not be a huge part of my life.
OS: In the spirit of gender equality, do you think the men should have to wear spandex shorts as well as the women?
AD: I think itís hysterical when they do! They have worn them before for lifting when weíre down in the weight room. Our guys team is just silly and crazy, so they have the personalities to pull that off. But, I think itís okay that they wear shorts. It would be funny if, every once in a while, they had a throw-back match and wore some spandex!