Nittany Lions Clinch EIVA Title
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Penn State Nittany Lions captured another outright EIVA regular season title, taking down the Sacred Heart Pioneers in four sets on Senior Night.
“This match historically has been one of switching gears early. Going from the emotions of Senior Night and honoring the guys who meant so much to this program over the last couple of years, to getting into a competitive mindset,” said Head Coach Mark Pavlik.
To start the game, both teams settled into very clean and consistent play. The two sides hit and served well, forcing the opposing team out of system.
Both teams attempted to replicate one another on the floor. As Penn State (18-8, 11-1 EIVA) incorporated the block into its repertoire, Sacred Heart (6-16, 4-8 EIVA) matched and did the same.
But Sacred Heart was doing more right to start off Senior Night in Rec Hall and Pavlik called his first timeout with the score noted at 11-7 in favor of Sacred Heart.
Out of the timeout, the Nittany Lion block became the force that fans are so used to seeing. Lee Smith and Matt Seifert teamed up for a few blocks to cut the lead to two.
The Pioneers continued to be difficult to handle from the service line though, with aces and serves that made it difficult for senior Taylor Hammond to spread the ball around. But as the set wore on, Pavlik’s squad began to adjust to what Sacred Heart was bringing to the table. Kills by Matt Callaway and Chris Nugent, as well as an attack error from Sacred Heart forced head coach Gregory Walker to call a timeout with the score 17-16.
When the Nittany Lions tied up the score after leaving the huddle, the score remained tightly contested for the remainder of the set. But a couple few net violations and strong middle attacks from Seifert pushed the Nittany Lions over the edge and gave Penn State the 25-20 first set victory, ending on a serving run by specialist Andrew Roberts. Three players for Sacred Heart had at least four kills, while the Nittany Lions were led by Nugent’s .625 hitting percentage.
“It was really nice to play well for these guys so they could have a good Senior Night,” said Nugent on his performance.
With the second set, it was much of the same as the first. The two traded kills and errors and kept the game as a slugfest.
Neither team found themselves happy however with some very questionable calls from the referees. Some of the net violations were possibly called on the wrong team a few times, upsetting all.
Poor referees were not affecting the outcome of the game though, with calls going against both teams. Midway through the second set, with the Pioneers and Nittany Lions trading points consistently, Pavlik called a timeout to try and shift the momentum toward his team.
His first timeout did nothing to change momentum in Rec Hall, and the two teams continued to trade points, with Sacred Heart maintaining a consistent two to three point lead. As the set wound down, Pavlik used another timeout with the score at 22-19.
The Nittany Lions fought till the end, including staving off a few set points for the Pioneers. But when the dust settled, Sacred Heart took the second set with a score of 25-23. Sacred Heart took the set in part to the trio off Trent Thompson, Michael Comens and Austin Arcala. Those three were instrumental in the first set and continued their consistent play to help win the set. Penn State however, saw few contributions from players that were not Nugent.
After the break between the second and third sets, the match took a different turn. Penn State began getting contributions from Smith and Seifert again, and Sacred Heart found themselves getting a host of attacking errors. As Penn State opened up a 10-6 lead, Walker called a timeout to slow the momentum of the Nittany Lions.
The hitters of Penn State were unphased by the timeout and opened up the lead to an impressive 14-8, and Sacred Heart called another timeout.
But it was too late, as Penn State continued to cruise to a 25-18 third set victory. The workload rested primarily on Nugent again, bringing his kill total to 20 by the end of the third set.
In the fourth set, Penn State was determined to end it quickly. An 8-3 lead opened up and was never given back by the Nittany Lions. As they cruised to victory, Pavlik decided to allow his seniors to enjoy their senior night and got as many in the game as possible. Parik finished out at setter, with Sauter and Roberts as the outside and opposite respectively. When the final whistle was blown, Penn State had captured another outright EIVA regular season with a fourth set 25-18 win.
Nugent led all players with 21 kills and a .645 hitting percentage. Smith also had a noteworthy night, with eight kills, 12 digs and three solo blocks.
“I think I just had a pretty good week in the practice gym and with Ohio State,” said Smith on his performance.
Penn State will now get to host the EIVA tournament and has taken steps toward their ultimate goal of winning the National Championship in Rec Hall. But the season is not over yet, with business still to be taken care of against Charleston (WV) and George Mason on Friday and Saturday.
David Arroyo is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.