Penn State Sweeps Bearcats in Emotional Matchup
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Host Penn State (3-2, 0-0) was able to overcome a slow start for its second home win of the season, sweeping the visiting McKendree Bearcats (1-2,0-0) with ease.
The Nittany Lions cruised to a 24-19 lead in the first set, with a first set victory all but secured. McKendree would not be deterred, however, fighting back with a 5-0 run that would tie things up at 24. Penn State would ultimately fight back to win the set 27-25, but the emotions from the Bearcats’ players were quite apparent.
Just four days prior, a member of the McKendree team, Kirk Jackson, was found dead in the front yard of an off-campus apartment complex. In what was just their first game since his passing, the Bearcats came out with intensity.
“No matter what tragedy happens in your life, you have to keep going,” McKendree head coach Nickie Sanlin said. “There was no question that we were going to be able to play this weekend.”
Despite a first set that saw a notable difference only in kills, the next two saw a greater disparity in talent and overall play. Outside hitter Cal Fisher turned in a phenomenal showing, notching four kills as part of a perfect second set. Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik couldn’t contain himself when speaking of Fisher.
“He’s explosive. He’s played the game long," Pavlik said. "I think he’s just somebody who doesn’t get overwhelmed, he understands what his body can do."
The Nittany Lions would win the second set 25-17, outhitting the Bearcats 13-8. The energy that flowed from McKendree in the first set had all but dissipated by the second, and coach Sanlin was aware of the decrease in quality of play.
“I think there was a small let down. With emotions running so high, they made a couple of great plays at the end [of the first set]. There were some mixed emotions.” coach Sanlin said.
Penn State would win the third set, 25-19, getting the sweep in a less dominating fashion. The Nittany Lions made seven service errors in the final frame, as well as 18 in the match. However, it would not be a fair assessment to say that the serving issues are a result of the team’s youth, rather it was quite the opposite.
Players such as redshirt junior opposite hitter Henrik Falck Lauten noticed the impressive play of the many young teammates, recalling that he can’t remember the last time a Penn State freshman got such substantial playing time.
“I think it’s really cool to have that many young kids on the team," Falck Lauten said. "Just seeing them step up on the court and do what they’re doing, I think it’s amazing.”
While Penn State was able to convincingly win an early season, non-conference win, there were obviously some greater issues at hand in this game. Coach Pavlik remarked how tight-knit of a community the volleyball world is, and to lose a member such as Jackson is devastating.
“I can’t say it enough, that our hearts go out to McKendree and the friends and family of Kirk [Jackson]. Anything like that happens to one of us, you feel it. Our thoughts, prayers, and feelings are out to them.” coach Pavlik said.
Earning an early season victory is always important, but sometimes, there are things greater than sports. Tonight's match proved to be both a perfect and horrid example.
Andrew Destin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.