Nia Grant wasn't your typical college freshman when she arrived at Penn State University to be on the nationally ranked volleyball team.
Nervousness wasn't in her vocabulary, which would explain why the 6-foot-2 outside hitter had 11 kills and eight blocks in her first collegiate game against Southern California.
"I just went out and had fun," said Grant, a Howland High School graduate, who is now a sophomore. "I wasn't nervous and just played."
The Penn State sophomore volleyball player impressed her coach, Russ Rose, with her performance.
"That might be the best game she's played," Rose said. "I'm not surprised, but I'm hopeful we'll see more of that as the season continues and into the future."
Grant said Rose expects, well, perfection. It's no wonder why. This is a Penn State volleyball team that won 109 straight games. During that streak, the Nittany Lions won NCAA National Championships from 2007-10.
College Corner: Nia Grant
Alma Mater: Howland, 2011
Sport: Volleyball, outside hitter
2012 season statistics:?163 kills; 10 digs; 98 blocks; 215.5 points; .382 hitting percentage.
2011 season statistics:?107 blocks; totaled 151 kills; .346 hitting percentage.
"He always wants us to be the best that we can be," Grant said. "There's no slacking. You just come in and work hard, help our teammates. Everything you could imagine as the perfect teammate, that's what he wants. He has seen perfection so he doesn't want anything less that what he sees because he doesn't coach average.
"As a team, he wins championships. That's what he does. He doesn't want anything less than a championship."
Rose said his team, which is 27-2, 17-1 in the Big Ten, needs to be more of a cohesive unit.
"I think part of it is we need to be healthy," Rose said. "The players all need to work a little harder at the things they're not as strong at. When we were winning the consecutive national championships, we started the day as the most physical team in the country. When you throw in the fact that we were very competitive and had the skills, there was a great deal of separation between us and the rest of the teams when we played well.
"This team doesn't have that same dominance over people. They have to be committed to being a better team, so we try to be a more successful unit."
Grant's father, African, played defensive back for the Miami Dolphins during the 1990 season. He was also a standout at the University of Illinois.
"She's a terrific athlete," Rose said. "Comes from a supportive and athletic family. Her father was a football player and understands hard work. He and his wife have high expectations of her to work hard. Those are important contributing factors."
Rose would like to see Nia grow into a better player.
"Her strength is she's quick. She's off the ground fast," Rose said. "She's still learning the game at the highest level. When she can slow things down and make good reactions, she's very strong. She needs to get stronger. She plays a position that being physical is a strength. She really hasn't demonstrated that she's committed in that area.
"She's improving as she learning. I think as her and the setter get better and better, they have the chance to get better. There's no surprises. If you want to be good, it's a full-time commitment to be good. That's how I look at it. Nia has the potential to be an exceptional player and a lot of it is in her court.
Some of our best matches have been when she's played really well."
Nia said for her team to achieve their goal of another national title, they have to not be self defeating.
"The biggest pressure comes from ourselves," she said. "We know we can do it. We have to buckle down and keep working hard. We can't let up for a second."
Editor's note: This is the first of a weekly series published each Monday profiling local athletes now participating on the collegiate level.