Penn State schools Princeton in straight sets
Revenge was sweet for the #13 Penn State Nittany Lions (16-6, 7-1 EIVA) on Friday night, as they swept the EIVA conference rival Princeton Tigers 3-0 (25-19, 25-13, 25-20) in straight sets at Rec Hall. The Nittany Lions win avenged a 3-2 loss to the Tigers from one month ago; Penn State’s only conference loss of the season. Although Princeton played inspired volleyball in February, it was clear from the outset that the Tigers did not bring their A-game to Happy Valley.
“I think it could be said from both benches tonight; that wasn’t the team that we played a month ago,” said Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik after the match.
The Nittany Lions looked poised to begin the match, jumping out to a 14-6 lead on the Tigers, before Princeton head coach Sam Shweisky called a timeout. Following the break in the action, Princeton went on a run of their own to close the gap to two, but it was not enough as Penn State took the set, 25-19.
Although the Nittany Lions ultimately won the set, neither team played their best volleyball in the first period. The two squads combined for nine hitting errors in the first stanza alone, a mark that compounded throughout the course of the match. When it was all said and done, Princeton finished with 19 hitting errors and 12 service errors, while Penn State ended the match with 12 hitting errors, and nine service errors.
“Tonight, nothing really seemed to click all at once, and we had different things going on at different times,” said Princeton outside hitter Cody Kessel after the match. “Volleyball is one of those sports where if things aren’t clicking, it can look really bad.”
Kessel had a rough night for the Tigers, finishing with a .037 hitting percentage, after registering eight kills and seven errors on 27 attempts.
It was outside hitter Nick Goodell who led the attack for the Nittany Lions in the first set, registering seven kills in thirteen attempts. The 6-4 junior from Ambridge, PA, is no stranger to the Tigers, as he registered a season-high 25 kills against Princeton during the loss from February. Goodell finished the night with 13 kills, and a .241 hitting percentage, propelling a dominant Penn State attack.
By carrying momentum from the first set and capitalizing on unforced errors from Princeton, Penn State dominated the second period, winning 25-13. In the third and final stanza, the Tigers battled with the Nittany Lions for the majority of the set, before Penn State pulled away near the end. Considering the sloppy execution from Princeton all night, it seemed appropriate when the match ended on a service error into the net from 6-7 Princeton middle blocker, Junior Oboh.
After the match, Penn State sophomore middle hitter Matt Seifert discussed the Nittany Lion mindset heading into the night.
“We were told to leave no doubt,” Seifert said. “It’s a little bit of bad blood from when they beat us when we were at their place, but we knew if we did what we’ve been doing the last couple of weekends, that we’d be fine.”
The home crowd was energetic throughout the match, and only added to the emotion of the players on the floor. Playing in their first home match since February 22, the Nittany Lions were happy to be back in Rec Hall.
“I think we were just ready to be back home, and playing in front of the home crowd is like nothing else,” said Nick Goodell in the post-match press conference. “We go to these other schools and they get big crowds when we play against them, but it’s nothing like playing in front of your home fans.”
Penn State will host their last home match of the season on Saturday, against the George Mason Patriots (10-10, 4-4 EIVA). Coach Pavlik looked forward to the matchup during the postgame press conference.
“We’re 1-0 after tonight, we have to be 1-0 after tomorrow night,” Pavlik said. “We’ve got to maintain the same focus, the same energy level, and the same attention to detail we did here tonight.”
The Senior Night match is scheduled to begin in Rec Hall at 7 p.m.
Uriah Tagle is a junior majoring in communication arts and sciences and economics. To contact him, email email@example.com.