Joe Sunder Returns as Penn State Dominates Cal-Baptist

Story posted February 6, 2012 in CommRadio, Sports by Mike Esse

Penn State men's volleyball followed a Friday sweep of Mount Olive with a 3-0 win over Cal-Baptist on Saturday night at Rec Hall.

The match marked the return of senior outside hitter Joe Sunder, who had missed Friday's match with a knee injury.

The story of the night for Penn State was its ability to get kills quickly off the serve and not give the Lancers an opportunity to return any easy shots. Sunder, Nick Goodell and Peter Russell all contributed eight kills for the Lions and Edgardo Goas had 30 assists.

In the first set, Penn State let Cal-Baptist hang around late in the set mainly because of eight service errors and then the Nittany Lions went on a six to nothing run led by Sunder and Peter Russell to get the score to 21-15. After trading points back and forth up until set point, Sunder had his fourth kill of the set to give Penn State a 25-19 win in the first set.

After switching sides, Penn State used all of their momentum from the first set to dominate in the second with a 25-11 win. The storyline in the second set was the Nittany Lions’ ability to hold Cal-Baptist’s best player, Kristopher Johnson, to only one kill in the set. Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik said that this was in part because of the ability of the coaching staff to scout Johnson the night before against Ohio State and notice his tendencies.

“We turned them into a single dimension type of offense,” said Pavlik. “When you force a team and know where they are attacking from it forces their hitters to do more with the ball. When you take away tendencies it is difficult to go against them.”

A big reason why the Lions were able to dominate the second set was because they split their number of service errors in half, only having four in the second set. Sunder and Nick Turko led Penn State with seven kills and Goas added eight assists.

The third and final set was a mixture of the first and second sets. Penn State looked to be pulling away early, until service errors allowed the Lancers to hang around and even get the score to 17-15. Five of the Nittany Lions’ final eight points were off of Lancer attack errors, including the 25th point which allowed the Lions to complete a 3-0 sweep and improve their record to 6-1.

Overall, Pavlik and the rest of the Nittany Lions were happy with their performance in their last match before conference play opens on Friday and their confidence continues to build.

“Our confidence keeps growing every day in the practice gym,” said outside hitter Peter Russell. “We have a really deep team, so whether I am on or off the court I know I am right there with them.”

The return of Sunder was very important in Saturday’s win against Cal-Baptist and his health later in the season will be very important during post-season play. Sunder told the media in a post-game press conference Saturday night that his knee shouldn’t be an issue for this season, but surgery might be discussed after the year is over.

Pavlik made it clear that he will continue to monitor Sunder’s health, but in case of an injury to Sunder or any other player Pavlik is confident with his team’s depth.

“I think that we have said we have depth and we proved it this weekend,” he said.

When asked if his team made a statement this weekend, Pavlik, without hesitation, said that he wasn’t looking for any statements this weekend, he just wanted his team to get better.

“This was an opportunity to get better,” he said. “I’m not looking for statements, it’s February.”

Penn State’s schedule will tighten up this weekend as EIVA play opens up on Friday at Rec Hall vs. Rutgers-Newark and Saturday vs. NJIT. Both games are at 7 p.m. on ComRadio.


Mike Esse is a freshman majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email