Penn State Claims First Place in Conference With Win Over George Mason
In a clash between the top two teams in the EVIA, the Penn State men’s volleyball team (11-3, 5-1 EIVA) knocked off the George Mason Patriots 3-1 (25-21, 25-20, 21-25, 25-22) Friday night at Rec Hall. With the win, the Nittany Lions move into first place of the EIVA.
Penn State received stellar performances from the Russell brothers and senior Tom Comfort. Comfort paced the Nittany Lions with 18 kills and Peter and Russell recorded 15 and 13 kills respectively.
Unlike past seasons where Penn State has seemingly walked through the conference schedule of the EVIA, the conference now boasts numerous teams that are competitive with the likes of the Nittany Lions.
“It’s a lot easier to get better when the guys across the net from you are making you get better,” said Peter Russell, who celebrated his 21st birthday tonight as well. “With the EIVA being as good as it is, it really makes us better.”
The two teams traded off the first four points of the match before Aaron Russell reeled off consecutive aces, sparking a 6-0 run that put the Nittany Lions up 8-3. George Mason senior Andrew Dentler recorded an ace of his own, but a foot violation abruptly gave serve back to Penn State at 13-9.
Mason head coach Fred Chao called the team’s second timeout of the set after Penn State extended their lead to 15-9. The Patriots countered with a run of their own cutting the lead to 19-17 forcing Penn State into their first timeout of the set. However, Mason would get no closer and Penn State took the first set 25-21 following Aaron Russell’s fourth kill of the match.
Momentum shifted quickly to the Patriots as they jumped out to a 5-2 lead to open the second set. Penn State answered quickly and returned to their first set ways with a 7-1 run that resulted in a 9-6 lead. Comfort’s ace extended the Nittany Lions’ lead to four at 13-9, their largest of the set.
The Patriots clawed back to within one, but numerous hitting errors and miscommunication plagued Mason down the stretch allowing Penn State to take a two-set lead.
After being dominated in the first two sets, it was the Patriots who jumped out to a lead coming out of halftime. After being tied at seven, Mason strung together four consecutive points to give them their largest lead of the match at 11-7. Down 20-16, the older Russell, Peter, recorded a kill followed by an ace to cut the lead to 20-18.
Mason junior John Jepson extended the lead to 23-18 after his serve bounced off the top of the net and softly landed on the Penn State side. Head coach Mark Pavlik called the team’s first timeout of the set and after cutting the deficit to 23-21, Mason won the next two points and with it, the third set.
Penn State regained their first half dominance in the fourth set. The Nittany Lions never trailed in the match-clinching set and behind ten kills between Comfort and Peter Russell, Penn State won the fourth set 25-22.
“I wouldn’t really say it was adjustments,” Pavlik said regarding what was different about his team in the fourth set compared to the third. “We can only control what we do, it doesn’t matter what they do.”
The Nittany Lions return to action tomorrow night when they take on Princeton in the South Gym of Rec Hall. The match is set for 7 PM and can be heard live on ComRadio.
Matt Lawrence is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and economics. To contact him, email email@example.com.