STATE COLLEGE — The history of the Penn State women’s volleyball program loomed over new coach Katie Schumacher-Cawley on Tuesday afternoon with the program’s seven national championship banners hanging from the rafters at Rec Hall.
Schumacher-Cawley knows it well. She was a two-time All-American at Penn State under former coach Russ Rose, who retired after 43 years last month. She helped win the first of Rose’s seven national titles in 1999. She returned four years ago to sit on the bench next to Rose as a top assistant coach.
The program is Schumacher-Cawley’s now. Penn State vice president of intercollegiate athletics Sandy Barbour laid out what the expectations are — “Success is defined by national championships, it’s defined by Big Ten championships,” Barbour said — but Schumacher-Cawley didn’t need reminding.
When she was asked whether it was “daunting” to take over for Rose, Schumacher-Cawley acknowledged the obvious.
“Oh gosh, yeah. Of course,” Schumacher-Cawley said at her introductory news conference Tuesday. “There’s never going to be another Coach Rose. There’s never going to be another coach that has been able to do what he’s done in his time period, so yeah. I’m excited about it, though. It doesn’t scare me, and it doesn’t scare this group. We’re ready to get to work and take all the lessons that I have learned from him as a player, as a coach, and as a mentor.”
Penn State women’s volleyball has existed for 46 years, and Schumacher-Cawley is only the third coach in its history. Rose held that role for the past 43 years and met unprecedented success. He won 1,330 games and captured seven national titles. The Nittany Lions have been to every single NCAA Tournament in the sport’s history — that’s 41 in all.
After Rose announced his retirement, Barbour said there was “an abundance of exceedingly qualified candidates who coveted the opportunity” to coach at Penn State.
“No candidate embraced that opportunity — which some may call a challenge — no candidate embraced that opportunity more than Katie Schumacher-Cawley,” Barbour said Tuesday. “From the minute Russ began talking about retirement, Katie stepped forward and made it clear that if that time had indeed come, that she was the right person to carry forward the legacy of success of Penn State women’s volleyball that was made prevalent during the Russ pink era.”
Schumacher-Cawley came to Penn State in 2018 as an assistant coach after spending the previous nine seasons as a head coach at Penn and Illinois-Chicago. In her return to State College, Schumacher-Cawley said her goal wasn’t to succeed Rose, but she wanted to provide the current Nittany Lions with the same experience she had in her playing days in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“Coming back here was a dream come true,” Schumacher-Cawley said. “I think being a part of Penn State, no matter what position I was in, I was fortunate to have that. I think that this has always been home to me and to have the opportunity to even go through the interview process was something special and I’m just — I’m overjoyed it was me.”
Still, Schumacher-Cawley is looking at how she can put her own stamp on the Penn State program. The Nittany Lions announced the hirings of Daniel Gwitt, a former Penn State men’s volleyball player who was most recently an assistant for the Indiana women’s volleyball team, and Brian Toron, who spent the past two seasons as Penn State’s director of operations, as Schumacher- Cawley’s assistant coaches.
With the new staff in place, Schumacher-Cawley said she’ll explore “new ideas in the gym, new ideas with the strength training and conditioning,” but the overall mindset and identity of the program won’t change much from the one that defined the program under Rose. Schumacher-Cawley wants to use the foundation that Rose constructed as her program’s base and then build on top of it.
“I’ve been fortunate to be in other programs and different types of athletic departments that I have learned a lot, and I’ve been able to kind of mold myself into learning from every individual that I have been in contact with,” Schumacher -Cawley said.
Schumacher-Cawley knows what the standard is at Penn State. She knew what it was when she arrived as a player in the 1990s and when she returned as an assistant in 2018. And as she stood in Rec Hall on Tuesday, she explained that her internal expectations are the same as the external ones.
“The goal? It’s always to win here,” Schumacher-Cawley said. “You can ask every single player that’s here. Their goal of coming to Penn State is always to win. Of course, that is my goal is to always win and be successful, but I think we start attacking every day and getting better, then the wins and all of that is going to come. My goal is to have the best team that we can and do our very best as coaches to put them in the right position to be successful.”
Daniel Gallen covers Penn State for Penn Live. He can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram and facebook. Follow PennLive’s Penn State coverage on Twitter, facebook, Instagram and YouTube.