Penn State captures 16th straight EIVA title
It was a celebration at Rec Hall on Saturday night, as the no. 12 Penn State Nittany Lions (24-6, 13-1 EIVA) swept the Princeton Tigers (16-10, 11-5 EIVA), in straight sets (25-23, 25-19, 25-18), to win their 16th straight EIVA Championship. With the win, the Nittany Lions secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament, which will be played over the next two weeks, in Chicago.
Despite the dominant Penn State sweep, the match was much closer than the score would suggest. Princeton battled with the Nittany Lions throughout the three sets, coming closest to winning in the very first period, where the Tigers held a 22-21 lead late.
“We gutted out a win in game one,” said Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik in the post-match press conference. “I think that’s just a testament to the way that the guys compete.”
Despite ultimately losing the set, Princeton was more successful on the attack, registering .259 hitting percentage compared to Penn State’s .194 mark.
The Nittany Lions committed nine hitting errors in the first stanza, while the Tigers only registered five. Penn State junior outside hitter Nick Goodell was charged with three of the hitting errors in the first set, as the Ambridge, PA, native got out to a slow start.
“I felt like we were in control a lot of the match,” Goodell said after the match. “A lot of the points that they scored early were just our errors; thing that we could control.”
Goodell quickly broke out his slump however, ultimately finishing the match with 15 kills and 7 errors on 31 attempted attacks, and winning the EIVA Tournament Most Outstanding Player award.
“It feels great, but it’s hard to get without six other guys on the court, and the second team that pushes us.” Goodell said when asked about the honor after the match. “It’s one step, and we’ve still got much more to do.”
After taking the first set by a score of 25-23, the second and third sets were more of the same for the Nittany Lions. After struggling to pull away from the Tigers in the first period, Penn State showed their talent late by winning the third and fourth sets by six and seven points, respectively.
It was the service game that helped the Nittany Lions to eventually defeat the Tigers. After a bizarre second period in which Princeton committed six service errors, and Penn State committed three of their own, EIVA Player of the Year Aaron Russell, closed out the match with three straight service errors.
“On the first one, I was just trying to do what my goal is every time,” Russell said after the match. “The second one, the toss was good too, so I was looking for the same thing. The third one, I was thinking, ‘I want an ace again.’”
Russell was named to the EIVA All-Tournament team after the match, and finished his night with 14 kills, and five service aces.
After the celebration had ended, both Coach Pavlik and the Nittany Lions players had nothing but good things to say about the way that Princeton had competed.
“This was not a match that we took lightly,” said Pavlik. “They’re gonna be back and better next year, and hopefully we will be too.”
“You saw in Princeton’s eyes that they thought they could win,” said sophomore setter Taylor Hammond. “The way they played Thursday nigh was big, they knocked off a really good Harvard team. They made us play tonight.”
Princeton’s Cody Kessel and Pat Schwagler were both named to the EIVA All-Tournament team for their performances throughout the weekend. The pair finished with 12 kills each on Saturday night.
As a result of the win, Penn State will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, and will travel to Chicago to compete on either Tuesday April 29th, or Thursday May 1st.
Uriah Tagle is a junior majoring in communication arts and sciences and economics. To contact him, email email@example.com.