Men’s Volleyball: Penn State Dominates Indiana Schools
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - The Penn State men’s volleyball team had a fantastic showing over the weekend, beating a ranked Ball State team and a scrappy IPFW team in straight sets. The more dominant performance was against the Cardinals of Ball State.
Entering the match, Ball State posted a 3-1 record and were ranked 14th in the AVCA poll. The Cardinals were led by outside hitter Brendan Surane, who amassed 20 kills in a match earlier this season.
Ball State looked confident early as they scored the first point of the match, but after that, Penn State started to control the set. The hitters for Ball State were unable to attack the Penn State blocks and saw most of their swings either fall out of bounds, blocked, or drew a hitting violation.
The Nittany Lion defense contained Surane, as he only mustered eight kills and had .190 hitting percentage on the night. Surane was not the only Ball State player that struggled offensively, as the Cardinals hit .211 for the night and lost in straight sets, 25-15, 25-18 and 25-19.
Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik thought the serving from his team was the cause for the poor hitting of Ball State.
“I attribute the poor hitting percentage to the serving,” said Pavlik. “Our servers hit the balls in places where it made them very predictable.”
The offense for Penn State was anything but predictable as Jalen Penrose and Chris Nugent combined for 26 kills on 40 swings. Penrose had the more productive night with 15 kills and believes his performance was helped by other teammates.
“Taylor [Hammond] kept making good passes to me and I was just being athletic and taking good swings,” Penrose said.
The second game of the weekend was against an IPFW team that posted a 2-3 record. The Mastodons rely heavily on opposite hitter Andrew Sellan, as he is a very capable server and attacker.
Penn State struggled early with IPFW as the Blue and White committed a few hitting errors and their swings were getting blocked back by the middle blockers of IPFW. The Nittany Lions were able to squeak by in that first set with the score being 28-26.
The match started to change when Andrew Roberts subbed in for Penrose in the middle of the second set. Roberts is normally a serving specialist, but he provided the spark that Penn State was looking for as he registered five kills in the set.
“Andrew came into the game and kind of gave us a right-side attack that they really had to honor,” Pavlik said.
The second set was controlled by the Nittany Lions after the substitution as they won 25-17. The momentum carried into the third set.
The Mastodons were unable to handle the duo of Nugent and Roberts and lost the final set 25-15. Nugent had a team-high 17 kills on the night, but liked the attack that Roberts brought to the match.
“From my end, it was really nice getting the pressure taken off,” said Nugent. “It got me single blocks and it really helped me.”
The great performance by Roberts not only helped Nugent, but also helped setter Taylor Hammond make great decisions.
“I try to take a little look beforehand to see what the block is doing,” Hammond said. “See if they’ve made any adjustments on them and then sometimes, you just have to feed the hot hitter. When Andrew came in, he’s got three or four kills in a row, you just go right back to him. It doesn’t really matter what the block is.”
Penn State had another stellar performance defensively as the Mastodons hit only .167 for the match and Pavlik believes the serving had something to do with that.
“Yeah, I think we serve tough,” said Pavlik. “I also think from what we’ve seen on video, I didn’t think they were as effective with their quick middle attack as they have been.”
The Nittany Lions had a successful weekend against Ball State and IPFW and look to ride that momentum into their next game against St. Francis (Pa.) next Saturday.
Joseph Esquivel-Murphy is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.