There have only been three head coaches at Penn State volleyball in the last 46 years. That is because legendary head coach Russ Rose has been with the program for 42 of them and led the Nittany Lions to seven national titles, 1,309 wins and 17 Big Ten championships. Katie Schumacher-Cawley just became the third.
Schumaher-Cawley is pretty familiar with the program. She not only served as an assistant coach under Rose for four seasons, but she was also a national champion and All-American Penn State volleyball player. So to say her journey has come full circle, taking over the head coaching position for one of the most dominant programs in the country, is an understatement.
"It was unbelievable. Super exciting and no one can replace coach Rose and I'm just really fortunate to have had the opportunity to come back and not only play for him but to coach with him and to be a part of it," Schumacher-Cawley said in an interview with NCAA.com.
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Schumacher-Cawley helped lead the Nittany Lions to the 1999 NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship, the program’s first national title, and three Big Ten Conference crowns during her career. She was a two-time All-American, three-time All-Big Ten selection and three-time AVCA All-Region selection. Schumacher ended her career with 1,310 kills, 772 digs and 299 blocks. She did it all under coach Rose, who she learned an immeasurable amount from.
"I think coach worked so hard and did everything he could for this program and I just saw it every day and I admired that about him," she said. "Every day it was making efforts to make this program better to help the athletes. He's Mr. Penn State and did everything he could for this program and it's something that I saw every day and I cherish that"
As far as what big piece of advice she has taken from him, there is not just one thing, but one thing he always said was for Schumacher-Cawley to stay true to who she is. She wants nothing more than honor the traditions and the legacy that he built, but with so much new, she will make her mark as well.
"There's a lot of new things going on with student-athletes these days and then the bigger picture — winning and also being part of the community and NIL and just academics," Schumacher-Cawley said. "I think they have a lot on their plate. And so I think for me we're gonna continue the tradition of the volleyball excellence, but also, maybe make a bigger impact in the community and want to win again. I think it's getting the student-athletes here that want to be at Penn State because it is such a special place."
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So she wants players and athletes in her program that want to be there. And front and center on a lot of fans' minds is the fact that a lot of the faces we saw on the court last season are no longer with the program. This year will feature a lot of new. I asked Schumacher-Cawley what fans can expect to see this year, and she said you're going to see players that are going to go hard and enjoy the game and be aggressive. That is the core group that she says are there, right now.
"They want to be the best they can and they want to be ready to compete by fall so we're working on things on and off the court that are gonna get this team to gel," she said,
So for anyone that says this year might be a rebuilding year for Penn State, Schumacher had one response and one label for it.
"Noise," she said, right away. "I don't think it's fair to say that to the players that are here and I think that they're working very hard and we're gonna put some pieces together and I know we're gonna do all that we can and put forth the best effort with this group."