‘Dream Come True’

Penn State alumna and two-time All-American Katie Schumacher-Cawley (left) was introduced today as Penn State women’s volleyball’s head coach. Schumacher-Cawley discussed her new role after welcome remarks by Penn State VP for Intercollegiate Athletics, Sandy Barbour (right). Photo credit: John Patishnock

Katie Schumacher-Cawley looked happy Tuesday afternoon at Rec Hall. That made sense. She was standing in a building where she built an impressive career as a two-time All-American for Penn State, totaling 1,310 kills, 772 digs, and 299 blocks. She was speaking on behalf and for her alma mater (2002), for a program she helped lead to a national championship in 1999, a program she returned to after nearly a decade away.

Simply put, she looked like she belonged.

“Coming back here was a dream come true. Being a part of Penn State, no matter what position I was in, I was fortunate to have that,” said Schumacher-Cawley, who returned to Happy Valley four seasons ago as an assistant after serving as a head coach for the previous nine seasons at Penn and Illinois-Chicago.

“I think that this is a place that has always been home to me, and to even have the opportunity to go through the interview process was something special.”

Schumacher-Cawley returned to State College four seasons ago after serving as a head coach for the previous nine seasons at Penn and Illinois-Chicago. Photo credit: John Patishnock

Shortly after Schumacher-Cawley gave that response, we asked her what about Penn State and State College, beyond the volleyball program, transforms this place into home for her. Here’s what she said:

“We are surrounded by a community within this athletic department and neighboring people in town that want to see these women become so successful. And not just women’s volleyball, but Penn State Athletics as a whole. I’m lucky to be a part of it. I know that these players are and continue to take advantage of the opportunities that they have to help them be successful; not only on the court but also their next step in life, whether it’s professional or grad school. They’re all really intelligent and have big goals and dreams. I know everyone here can help them with that.”

You can watch Schumacher-Cawley’s entire press conference on Penn State Athletics’ Facebook page. The head coach begins her comments at the 7:45 mark. You can also learn more about Schumacher-Cawley, a Chicago native and Chicago Cubs fan, on GoPSUsports.com.

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Kicking off the fall sports season

Junior defensive midfielder Devon Olive attempts a shot on goal during the Penn State women’s soccer match against La Salle on Aug. 22 at Jeffrey Field. The Nittany Lions won 4-0 to improve to 2-0 on the season, following up their victory the previous Thursday, the first Penn State Athletics sporting event of the fall semester. Photo credit: John Patishnock

And just like that, we’ve launched off the starting block.

“We’ve” in this case is referring to the Penn State Athletic varsity programs, though even broader, it also applies to the entire State College and surrounding community. After 18 months of watching the Nittany Lions sports teams on TV and live streams, alumni and fans once again soaked in the sights in person, with the Penn State women’s soccer team getting everything started last Thursday with a 3-1 win over UMass at Jeffrey Field. The Nittany Lions followed that up with a 4-0 blanking of La Salle on Sunday, also at Jeffrey.

Head coach Erica Dambach has achieved so much success that such victories are commonplace (though should always be appreciated), and also noteworthy was the tangible start to what can, and hopefully will be, a mostly healthy fall sports season at Penn State.

Penn State VP for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour mentioned Dambach’s team’s opening match in her welcome remarks with the media during a conference call last Saturday, saying:

“So, we’re off and running, and it really is about looking forward, but forward is always informed by the past. Certainly, it’s been a challenging and difficult year and a half, but as an optimist, I think you look at it as how much we’ve learned, and we’ve learned a lot.”

Barbour said it’d be “a huge mistake” not to bring lessons learned into this new sports season at Penn State, mentioning health and safety standards and other things that she and her colleagues have learned about themselves and each other and society.

Keeping with the soccer theme, I used my question to ask Barbour about Dambach, and what Barbour sees from her behind the scenes and away from the field that leads to so much success for the national champion (2015) and two-time Olympic medalist (2008 Beijing, gold; 2020 Toyko, bronze).

You can watch Barbour’s entire press conference on our YouTube channel. My Q&A with Barbour begins around the 36:05 mark.

Dambach’s squad is back in action Sunday at Jeffrey Field, with a 5 p.m. start time against Hofstra. You can view all the sports schedule’s at GoPSUsports.com. All you need to do is hover over the “Teams” tab at the top and all the varsity sports programs’ links for schedule and roster will appear.

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