Penn State Downs Sacred Heart in Rec Hall South Gym
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Nittany Lions came into Saturday night’s battle with Sacred Heart having yet to allow a single set victory to the opposing team on the floor of Rec Hall’s south gym. Despite the best efforts of the Pioneers, the Nittany Lions were able to continue that trend.
With set victories of 25-22, 25-21 and 25-23, the Nittany Lions certainly found Sacred Heart to be a worthy opponent. Including yesterday’s 3-0 victory over Harvard, Penn State now finds itself at 6-6 overall and 3-0 in Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association conference play.
“This wraps up a pretty successful EIVA weekend for us,” Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik said. “We did a good job of controlling what we could control. Both nights, we didn’t allow either team to get on rolls of points.”
A large reason for Penn State’s success came from excellent play at the service line. The Nittany Lions recorded eight service aces and 12 service errors, outclassing the Pioneers in both categories, who recorded just three aces and 17 errors.
One standout for the Nittany Lions was redshirt freshman libero Will Bantle, whose nine digs versus Harvard and eight digs versus Sacred Heart created numerous kill opportunities all weekend long. According to Bantle, his stellar defensive play is simply an outcome of following instructions.
“Scouting definitely helps,” Bantle said. “They tell me where to stand and more often than not, it just comes to me. If their block is well formed and I can see the hitter, they’ll hit that and I can just stand in the way.”
A pair of redshirt juniors, Luke Braswell and Jason Donorovich, combined for a strong offensive attack. Braswell’s 18 assists allowed Donorovich to go 4-for-4 on kill attempts. Donorovich also succeeded at the service line, recording four aces which is now a new single-game high for Donorovich.
“I’ve played with Jason for four years now,” Braswell said. “Him and I have a good connection. I know where he’s going to be most times, and he knows where I’m going to put the ball.”
Penn State’s back-to-back home victories come after a brutal four-game road trip in which the Nittany Lions recorded only one set victory in 13 attempts. This weekend’s six set sweep helped to build confidence, according to Bantle.
“The teams we played out in California and Chicago are top 10 teams,” Bantle said. “We were honestly a little down on ourselves, but we realized we were back home, and that’s where we tend to thrive.”
With the women’s gymnastics meet taking place in the main gym, Saturday marked the third time this year that the Nittany Lions played in Rec Hall’s south gym. If anything, the Nittany Lions have found this change in location to be a boon, as they’ve swept every opponent they’ve played in south gym this season.
“I love south gym,” Braswell said. “It’s always loud in there. When we’re in main [gym], it’s usually not too crowded, but in south, it’s a lot more compact, and the fans get really loud. I love the energy.”
Penn State now embarks on a brief road trip, as bouts with George Mason and the University of Charleston are set to take place on Friday, Feb. 22 and Sunday, Feb. 24, respectively. The Nittany Lions will return home on March 1 to take on Princeton in Rec Hall’s main gym.
DJ Bauer is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.